Hmm… relationships. Those things that either make us or break us emotionally.
They’re good, bad, in-between. And they can take a toll on us if not carefully tended.
I’ve been thinking back a lot lately, not really sure why – but possibly just because it’s my age, my kids ages, and my grandsons birthday coming up… I feel old – and I’m sorting through the memories, good and bad, in my mind.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on other blogs, mostly because of SITS and trying to build my readership. Every now and then I come across one that has a very profound effect on me emotionally. It evokes a passionate memory that has lain dormant forever – probably something I didn’t even realize I remembered.
In this case – I stumbled across a little blog called He Loves Me, But… and as I sat reading this young womans words, and entire century of my life flooded back. The century in which I was with That Guy. We spent 11 years together. The first two were total bliss, we were young, and stupid, and really had no clue what we were doing, so it was all good. But I grew up, he didn’t. But I stayed, and stayed, and stayed.
At first our relationships “hard parts” started with small arguments that barely got off the ground before one of us had apologized and we’d make up and be all good. But, around year three, something changed. He started being more controlling – not allowing me to wear shorts out in public, having fits if my bra showed even a tiny bit under my tank top. Little things, that said – I’m insecure about you, and I don’t want other guys to see your assets. By the end of the year, it was no makeup, no skirts, no dresses, no low cut tops, and never ever a bathing suit.
I tolerated it, in the name of love and I moved on with the relationship.
In year four, I got pregnant. Year four was also the first breakup. Before I found out I was pregnant, we broke up, and I left. Moving from our home in Tampa, back to my parents in Fort Myers, 150 miles south. For over a year we didn’t speak, didn’t see each other, were not even aware of the other.
Then one day in late spring, when my baby was about 9 months old I saw his mother. She took one look at my daughter and knew. She told him. He came to see me. We talked about what had gone wrong in our lives, and we vowed to make it all better and raise our daughter together. We got back together and I moved back to Tampa with my kids.
Year Five of our relationship was fairly smooth, we were reveling in our new found love and couldn’t be bothered with trivial issues. But by year six things were back to the way the were before, only now things escalated to an all new level – I was sleeping with every single man I spoke to. I was sneaking out at night to screw around on him… I was doing all these things… and I never even knew it. Seriously… I put up with it because he was a good dad, and when we were good – hot damn we were GREAT. But the bad? Hoooboy… the bad was really, really bad.
In year eight the screaming matches escalated, and I broke his jaw for slapping me.
In year nine, I had a broken nose and chipped tooth.
In year ten, I had a fillet knife held to my throat (blade side away) so hard it left a bruise like a thin chain. My seven year old daughter cried and begged her daddy not to hurt me.
I left the next day, and never looked back.
Often people ask me why I stayed. Why did I let this man control my life in such a way? When did I lose myself? HOW could I put up with it??
Well, I can answer all those questions and many more with just a few simple words. I had no sense of self-worth.
In the ten years of our relationship he slowly and methodically conditioned me to believe that I didn’t deserve any better than what I got. After all, if I was a better girlfriend, then he’d be a better boyfriend. It was my fault that I got hit. It was my fault I wasn’t allowed to have a job, I might meet someone else.
He lived in terror (although I didn’t realize this for YEARS) of me finding someone who would treat me better, so he refused to allow me to have any contact with other people. Sure, we’d hang out with his friends – ONLY if they had a girlfriend/wife who could keep me occupied (read: babysit me) while he partied it up with the guys.
If his friends said anything to him about the way he treated me he defended himself… saying they just had no idea what I was capable of.
If his friends said anything to me about leaving him, or finding someone else, or concern for my well being – I got screamed at, or hit. Somehow, his friends wouldn’t feel sorry for me, if I didn’t make them… weird. Eventually, he stopped taking me around them – the heat got too bad, they knew he was abusing me, and they didn’t like it. But I wouldn’t admit it to them, or myself.
I lost a lot of things in that relationship. Things I would give the world to get back. Things I never, ever should have given away to begin with. Starting with my power. I gave him control, out of the goodness of my heart. I did what I was asked, I catered to him like a mom, and I never, ever complained about anything. I conditioned him to take advantage of me. When he realized this, he started doing just that. It started small, and by the time I woke up, it had gotten really bad. I almost DIED. In the name of love.
I woke up, I got out. I got my shit together and I made a new life for myself.
I realized my own value, and the value of my contributions to any relationship. I relearned my own strength. I vowed to never again allow a man to control me.
I vowed never again to get so ingrained in someone else that I lost sight of who I was.
And you know what? It’s working. I am a fearless woman. I have the ability to do anything I set my mind to. I am valuable, lovable, and enough. And nobody can take that away from me. Ever.