A/N: This post contains sensitive topics. If cheating, domestic abuse, or mentions of child abuse may trigger your own traumas, please proceed with caution. Finally, reach out for help if feeling suicidal.
The National Suicide Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress: 1-800-273-8255
“He played his part so well that even after he switched characters, she’d rave about him as a lover, like none of the other stuff mattered. After all, he was considered to be an idealistic human, even when his actions weren’t the slightest bit humane.”
I’m not sure how it’s March. Time seems to fly these days. I have a lot to blog about: a new writing endeavor, health updates, some inspiring ideas I want to share for all my readers. Above all else, I’m eager to share several lessons I’ve learned, all of them the hard way. They’re lessons I wish I could shout from the rooftops. After all, that is the main prerogative behind my blog’s existence.
One in particular is something that’s been on my mind a lot these days. Not only am I seeing some amazing people in less than ideal romances, but I’ve been recently hit with the weight of all I endured in my twenties. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge this, and secretly still blame myself for not making better decisions. It comes from years of growing up with all kinds of abuse. I’m trying to change this, however; to practice self-compassion. So here it is: a glimpse into my past; a look at how my traumas misshaped my beliefs about love. I hope it helps somebody else heal from a similar problem. I feel compelled to share it now, more so than ever before. For me, that often means someone I care for is desperate to hear it.
When I was younger (only five years old), an adult in my family slowly started grooming me: special attention, spontaneous presents, time spent with me, but no time with my sibling. Eventually, it led to inappropriate behavior, including but not limited to acts of molestation. Although I was believed when I finally told someone else, I was also going through extreme abuse of other kinds at home. It went undetected by most other people. My sister and I suffered our entire youths in silence, so much so that “childhood” was fairly nonexistent. Someone meant to cherish us chose instead to disrespect, berate, manipulate, and hurt us through multiple tactics of narcissism.
The extreme narcissistic abuse we endured will undoubtedly appear in many future posts. For today’s post, however, I mention it to set the premise for my backward views on love. Besides the cruelness aimed at us (all of it maternal), my parents also rarely showed each other any love. My father truly loved my mother, but dealt with dysfunctional deficits because of his own tragic past. As such, he was often emotionally vacant. He struggled with adulting, not fully grasping the purpose or importance of many things crucial to family life. This left him open to verbal abuse and daily, unspeakable shaming. He lacked the skills needed to stop it, for himself or for his children.
My sister and I were subjected to watching my father get fat shamed consistently. We grew up thinking marriage meant arguments and hateful words. We thought mothers didn’t like fathers. We knew we weren’t allowed to show remorse towards our father’s afflictions; the only scenario ever deemed none of our business, despite bearing witness to its ugliness each day.
I distinctly remember hearing bedtime stories surrounding how awful my father behaved as a husband. Before I was even in grade school, I knew that my mother did not love my father. I knew she regretted their marriage the same day it took place. I knew about all his addictions, violent acts supposedly committed against other lovers, intimate details that children (especially one who was sexually harmed) should never learn about their parent’s life.
As one can probably imagine, by the time I got to high school, I held a very damaged view of almost all relationships. When I was attracted to someone, they became my main concern, often so intensely it was borderline obsessive. I quickly latched on to the smallest affection, perceiving lots of friendly acts as meaning so much more. When someone didn’t feel the same, I couldn’t accept or move past their rejections. I took everything personally, undoubtedly due to depleted self confidence and constant, verbose degradation at home.
I didn’t date in high school. I couldn’t get a date. I was literally starved for a healthy connection, causing me to make some very unwise choices. Around the time I turned eighteen, I finally realized the key to attention – be it insincere – was through my physicality. I shifted my focus from staring at boys to using my body to sway them my way. The summer I finally graduated, I dated half a dozen different ones. I liked having power for once, although realistically, the opposite was true. Most of these males would move on within weeks, something I didn’t quite care about now that there were others to always replace lust fueled interests.
I went into college a virgin, but not opposed to changing that. All that I learned as a girl about sex was that it was off limits til marriage, unless I wanted to be seen as impure in the eyes of God. Part of the reason I just wasn’t on board had to do with the hypocrisy. Nothing about the relationship between my married parents was sacred, pure, or whole. Therefore, in my mind, the logic was broken. Unfortunately, demons from my past abuse would surface unexpectedly.
I went on my first date with an older guy I worked with. It was only by two years, but he was ten times more advanced. I honestly thought he was God. Things were going perfectly until he moved too fast. I had my first of many “blanks” in the passenger seat of his sports car, more or less black outs about being touched. Although he never forced the issue, he also didn’t understand or care to give it time. He’d moved on by the morning, and I was completely devastated. I realized I was terrified of sex and what surrounded it. All of my experience was via pedophilia, and all my education was from vague, religious lectures.
Hearing I was damaged for as long as I remembered – genetically and mentally were dominating insults – convinced me a husband would not understand or help me through my past. I wanted to conquer my fear before marriage, which was the only end goal I’d been given as an option. I figured as long as I did so in love, premarital sex wasn’t something that left any room for regret. To an extent, I still hold that belief. The trouble with my choice specifically was not understanding the constructs surrounding healthy love. I’d always received it conditionally and thought it was normal to work for affection. I didn’t factor in the equal importance of choosing a partner who also felt in with me.
At twenty, I met someone seemingly perfect, deciding that he was the one. I fell for him hard, so much so that even now, I’ve never once doubted my feelings for him. I loved him in every capacity a heart can adore someone else. It makes zero sense, since he treated me terribly. He’d tell me the things that I wanted to hear, but show me a different person as soon as he got what he wanted. He lusted after my attention, thriving on my praises. He’d seek me out to fill his needs, but had no interest in my own. When drunk or alone with him, things were ideal. In public or sober, he’d often ignore me. All that I’d get was a head nod, as though he didn’t know me. Though it went unspoken, his obvious embarrassment cut just like my mother’s words. Still, he’d be outside my dorm room when it was time for bed.
The constant give and take of his outward displays of affection simply took the place of hers while I was gone at uni. The pit of dread inside my gut would soon return full force, reminding me everyone’s judgments of me would always be my fault. Eventually, I learned the feeling was a common thread, tying young women with pasts of abuse together in false shame. Yet at the time, I just assumed complete responsibility, thinking my inherent flaws had made me damaged goods. This meant I cherished scraps he threw, deciding I was lucky to even be with him for limited time.
The first eighteen months we were dating, he broke up with me seven times. I tried to move on, unsuccessfully. Every time I made some progress, he’d come back and tell me he’d made a mistake. Three months before graduation from college, I found out he’d lied to me right from the start. He wasn’t a virgin before we had sex, lied about being monogamous throughout the entire relationship, was telling his friends all our intimate details, and only intended to use me for sex.
When I found out the truth, I was crushed. Later that night, he informed me that suicide wouldn’t be scary, and I should end my life. His urging for me to give into my struggles with suicidal ideation – often a symptom of PTSD – brought even my mother out to put him in his place. She didn’t have a leg to stand on, given her own verbal beatings, and all that she accomplished was bullying him into penning apologies so she didn’t call his folks. From then on, they struggled for power of me, both just as guilty as whom they accused.
Much like it took me decades to leave behind my mother, I still didn’t leave him, not even after he’d clearly admitted my death would be of no concern. I kept going back to false promises, though nothing was there except a mirage he’d constructed with lies. He convinced me of things that I’d never believe if I had an ounce of confidence or any sense of worth. He told me that one day he’d marry me, but couldn’t even title me his girlfriend until he was ready. He said it was my choice to wait or move forward without him, but every time I tried to, he’d be begging for me back. Because of his insistence that there wasn’t anybody else, guarantees he loved me, and the chaos surrounding the rest of my life, I held on to a fantasy while he did as he pleased.
He’d spend a month or two ignoring me, avoiding my calls and just ghosting. Out of the blue, he’d return and spend a great night “making up” for his absence. When he was around, he was always attentive. He’d take me to dinner and make me feel wanted. The rest of the time, I lived starved while he feasted on whatever flesh was of interest. Sadly, I saw my endurance of loneliness and total isolation as proof that I was worthy of receiving all his love. Under his constant assurances, I thought that once I proved myself, he’d finally choose only me.
I wasted almost seven years, ultimately thinking that for the last two, he’d moved to Chicago for business. He never let me visit him, but told me the reason was company policy. He wouldn’t provide his address, claiming he stayed in hotels, and they changed depending on the week. He’d only call me close to dawn, or during the end of the business day. He stated the reason was Wi-Fi connections being unstable inside his hotel. Looking back, the logic was completely… well, illogical.
I know that some reading may even decide that my blatant stupidity caused all my pain and lets him off the hook. It all goes back to what I thought I actually deserved. I grew up being screamed at, but always required to respond with love when adults in charge felt like loving me. I’d be taken care of outwardly: always sheltered, clothed, and fed. Yet I’d also be torn down for hours each week, often told my mother wished that I was never born. Narcissists excuse their flaws by justifying all their actions; it’s always someone else’s fault, and they aren’t ever culpable. A child being raised like that will learn to blame themselves for absolutely everything, even once they know the difference between wrong and right.
To complicate things further, it was getting increasingly difficult for me to let someone I loved slip away, like my surroundings. I had zero stability. My parents had divorced, and both had drastically gone off the deep end. Getting my degree was literally a miracle. During those years, I was forced to take care of my father as though he was my child. My sister moved away as soon as she was able. My mother sold our home, got rid of our pets, and moved in with her boyfriend. Friends mean well, but they have their own relationships and problems. Once I left college, I went back to virtually nothing. The only “normalcy” I had was an abnormal relationship with a pseudo boyfriend, and I was desperate to hold on to it. He knew that, and he used it to his full advantage.
Following the patterns that my “family” began, my “boyfriend” had answers for everything. Even when doubting an obvious lie, I chose to accept it as truth. I knew that speaking up would only cause more, more pain. It was always me who had to bear the consequences of their actions; my mother, my father, my lover. Therefore, I stayed with him far long after he’d moved on, only a shadow beside where I stood, and even then only appearing when he felt deflated. I thought I’d die without him, even as he killed off parts of me he knew were previously damaged. My low self-esteem was depleted by him. My reclusiveness was multiplied, my depression was amplified, and other potential romantic relationships weren’t ever given a chance.
The end was so long overdue, but also came abruptly. There were too many pieces I couldn’t make fit, despite my desire to cram them together. My soulmate had knocked someone up, someone he’d apparently also been seeing while we were in college. He’d married her and lived with her an hour from my home. He’d only see me when he knew he’d be able to do it without her suspicion, making sure long in advance to keep me from all our mutual friends, so I had no way of discovering things. At some point, he’d gotten too confident though. I found his hidden life. While I was losing everything I never even had, he was off the hook and could continue his alternate life.
After my discovery, I had a nervous breakdown. At least, that’s what I’d call it. I dragged myself to work so I could pay my mounting debt, but spent all the rest of my time hysterical or drunk. Out of desperation, I finally went to a therapist. I’d seen them many times before, but never put the work in. I was at the lowest point I thought a human could be without actually dying. I was overweight from medications, in debt from several surgeries I had without insurance, without a job I cared about – I absolutely hated it, and suffering PTSD from abuse I’d never dealt with properly. As mentioned above, most of these topics are lengthy and need a blog post of their own. There’s one crucial to the discussion here, my struggles with fertility.
I was dealing with horrible health complications, one of which turned to be HPV, transmitted to me by this “man” I loved. For years, he wouldn’t use protection, insisting two committed people who lost their virginity to one another had no need for condoms. Meanwhile, he was involved with at least half a dozen other girls. Sadly, when I was informed I had gotten Human Papilloma Virus, the Gaardisil shot was brand new. My doctor pushed it on me, insisting I’d wind up with cancer unless I consented to both the injections. As a twenty-three-year-old who didn’t know I had alternate options, I’d taken the shots, and was left with huge problems. In less than three months, every menstrual cycle went from nonexistent pain to pain so bad that I’d black out. The issues there got worse and worse, resulting in what now appears to be my infertility. It’s still a lot to swallow, knowing my ex had a baby he’d denied ever creating while my reproductive system wound up in shambles because of his lies.
I can’t put one hundred percent of the blame onto his shoulders, despite his deception and cruelty. I always had the option to dissolve things, walk away, not take him back. I never said enough’s enough, that being whatever I was to him was so much worse than letting go. That’s on me, just like choosing to cope with the bulk of my traumas by using self-harm, weed, and alcohol. Back then, everything was dark, and many exploited my less than clear vision. Depression lies, dysfunction breeds, and “better” often seems impossible when stuck in the labyrinth of both. Hopelessness can make it feel like choices aren’t existent, but all of my stories are here to remind you that most of our mountains can be fully climbed; even if you have to claw your way up to the top.
Fast forward to today. I’m sober, married, thriving, and free of my mother’s control. Though there’s still confusion in some monumental life decisions, I’m finally able to say that I love every single part of who I have become. I’m deeply attuned to emotions. No matter what I’m feeling, I feel it all profoundly. I’m passionate, intense, and strong. I broke, but glued my pieces back. I learned how to grow despite all the weeds surrounding me from birth. I’m still a work in progress, and I didn’t get this far alone. I’ve been shown unconditional support, friendship, and love. The only way I found the people offering those gifts was by cleaning out the trash that others dumped into my lap. I had to face the junk I’d swept into a jam packet closet, never intending to deal with those traumas. They say you can’t grow through it if you never go through it. I know that to be true.
I still have bad days where I doubt myself. Shame and depression both still rear their heads. Now, I have tools to combat all the noise trying to drown out my peace. I’ve also learned to recognize the toxic traits I found attractive, only out of habit. Now I make better decisions in all of my relationships, and I try to be less ugly in the way I deal with conflict.
As for my ex? This past August, I passed the eleven year mark of his absence. He’s someone I’ll always be thinking about, even on days where I do it subconsciously. He’s a wound I’ll always have, and it will never heal. I’m finally able to understand tears don’t always line up with unresolved feelings. Sometimes, tears serve to remind us just how awful something was, in order to help us avoid it again. I’m infinitely grateful that he married someone else. Though I hate that he covertly tossed me into his affair, the knowledge that his cheating was a serial addiction and was never about me brings me more solace than anything else. I even feel pity that he’ll likely never know what real love entails. I have my suspicions about why he’s chosen to go down these paths of extreme infidelity. Although I’ll never know for sure, I choose to believe that his past contains traumas, rather than accept he’s simply rotten to the core.
To all my friends looking for love and thinking the issue is being unlovable, that is rarely true. Every single human being succumbs to fallibility. What you do with your mistakes dictates their role in your future. Keep loving yourself, celebrating yourself, commending yourself, and living your healthiest life. No one needs a partner to be happy or secure, but I truly understand the want. The right person won’t need to be chased, kept, or satisfied. If you aren’t enough for them, they don’t deserve any of your love at all. Not only with lovers. It should be a rule in all of your relationships.
Know your worth and never settle. The wrong people look for the spots where you’re weakest and try to settle in, convincing you your value equals anything but priceless.They take advantage of your worst and strive to keep you from your best. On the contrary, the right ones find you at worst and help you reach your best. Shine on lovelies. See your beauty. Never dim your light. Learn to be okay no matter who leaves or betrays you. If you need help to get to that place, you’re far from alone. There’s no shame in admitting your past if it betters your future. Hopefully, you’ll find someone (only if you want to) who sees you for all that you are: uniquely irreplaceable. No matter what you’re working towards, you’re never unworthy of love.