Sometimes you give the best advice when you don’t even know it. I was in an abusive relationship. At the time, I wasn’t comfortable sharing what I was going through. Through love and openness alone, I gained the confidence to leave.
My college had small groups you could become a part of to help connect and meet people, but I hadn’t gone before because my boyfriend wanted me to spend all my time with him. But I was so lonely and unhappy that I decided to start meeting with one of the women’s groups.
It was only when I became friends with the girls in my group that I realized just how toxic my relationship was. I had always measured my value according to how happy my boyfriend was with me. But by surrounding myself with a group of really great girls I started to see my own self-worth.
One time one of the girls got a knock on the door while we were all there, and a flower company dropped off flowers and chocolates for her. The card said, “just for being you, because you are always worth it” from her boyfriend.
I almost cried because although you don’t need a man to do something that extravagant for you all of the time, I had realized that my boyfriend had never written me a sincere letter for no reason other than that he loved me. It opened my eyes. Although I don’t need flowers and extravagant gifts, I realized I wanted a man who loves me like that.
I also noticed my new friends were all strong independent women whose boyfriends were their partners, not their masters. They shared with me how their boyfriends encouraged them to pursue their own lives outside of the relationship, that they didn’t have to do everything together.
At that time I was on a strict schedule with my boyfriend. He wanted me to call him anytime I left my apartment, every time I got out of class, and every time I got home. If I forgot or was 30 minutes late on a call he would get very upset. I would tell myself he’s just looking out for me.
In my experience, the guys in my life always wanted to direct me and tell me how I should live and spend my time. Because this was pretty much all I had experienced I didn’t realize it wasn’t what a relationship is supposed to look like.
I saw these girls who could make their own plans and live their own lives, and their boyfriends just fit into their world. They didn’t try to center their world around whoever they were dating. A man should enhance your life, not dictate it.
I realized my entire identity was wrapped up in my boyfriend. Without him, I didn’t know what my purpose was and all my plans and aspirations were out the window. I started to see just how unhealthy this was. I wanted to get to a place where I didn’t need a guy to feel complete.
My boyfriend could be belittling and pressure me into things that I didn’t want to do. I couldn’t make any excuses for any of his behavior anymore. Not only should a guy never do those things, he should also treat you like you are the only girl in the world.
Even though they didn’t know what was going on, the example my college girlfriends set was enough to show me that I deserved so much more. Thanks to these women I was able to build up the courage to break up with that abusive boyfriend and work on loving and taking care of myself for a while. If I had known these women a few years earlier, maybe I would have recognized how bad my relationship was sooner. It made me realize that having a group of great friends around you is so important.
Since then, I’ve become more open about what I’m going through with other people. When you keep struggles to yourself you allow your insecurities to creep in, and you make yourself feel much more alone than you really are. It is important to share your struggles because not only will you realize you are not alone and that everyone has struggles, but you also can gain insight and great advice from others who have been there and been through it.
That group of women taught me no matter what stage of life I am in, I need great friends around me.