I was only eighteen when I first thought I was in love. I met a man more than ten years my senior who treated me like I was really something special. He presented me with such freedom, adventure, and a chance to be in love.
We started dating, and still he romanced me. He would take me on surprise picnics, our for extravagant dinners, and to so many places I had never been before. It wasn’t long after we started dating that he convinced me to move in with him.
Once I made that decision, his demeanor toward me completely changed. My life quickly went from romance, laughter, and adventure to a spiral of insults, threats, and name calling. In public he was like a knight in shining armor, and I began to live for the moments he would dote on me in front of other people. But in the confines of our home he would show his true colors. He would lift me up just long enough to make me feel hopeful and then knock me down again. It made it hurt all the more.
The longer I was in the relationship, the more I lost my sense of worth. Little by little, he stole parts of who I thought I was by making me believe I didn’t possess those attributes at all. Each thought I had about myself he would take, grind it down to sand, and blow away.
For example, he would tell me how I was nothing like he thought I was and that I had falsely advertised who I was. He would stay out late, come home and watch pornography, and then blame me for his actions by saying I was crazy, immature, and not interesting enough. The more I heard these comments, the more I believed them.
He would threaten to hit me, but never followed through. Until one day he did. He scared me to death. He had taken away my self-confidence, and replaced it with fear.
It would be so easy to go deeper into the pain I felt at that time in my life, but instead I want to share the empowerment I felt when I decided to leave. I moved out of his house the day he hit me.
Leaving was so difficult at first because my job, my home, and my friends were all tied to him and the life we had made. I felt lost, and it wasn’t long before he begged me to come back into his life. I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider it, but with every phone call I blocked a new number. And with every letter he left at my doorstep, I saw more clearly just how phony he was. Each and every time I stood up to him by refusing to let him be a part of my life again I found a piece of myself I had lost.
I discovered my identity when I learned to stand apart from him. I took the opportunity to do my dream internship; it changed my life. It gave me new life long friends. I discovered I could step out on my own, pull myself back up, and that I could conquer anything. I realized I was a unique person who had a lot to offer and that my whole life was ahead of me blooming with possibility.
Living through the experience of being broken and then putting myself back together again gave me the confidence to go into my relationship with the man who became my husband with higher expectations. Love cannot be found in inconsistent acts of grandeur but rather in strong, stable, and consistent actions. I know now that I deserve nothing less than love, support, dedication and kindness from a man.
I had been so dependent on his opinion of me. I was shocked to find out I was stronger without him. That I could live without his validations. And I found that I thrived when I was no longer under the influence of his volatile attitude of either hostility or indifference toward me. I found freedom in making goals for myself. I found adventure in walking away and forging a new path and life for myself. And eventually, I found love.