I’ve always wanted to be married. Honestly. I would look up at my parents giving each other a good night kiss every night and think, I want that. I want that kind of love. The kind of love that is always growing stronger, burning daily, unwavering.
As a young girl I made “love” my priority. I wanted to feel special. I remember having little crushes on boys in the beginning. Once, as a tween, I hid under a chair because I was so nervous to interact with a boy who was interested in me. I ran away from this same boy (literally) after school one day. We “dated.” And although our relationship was prepubescent, I did feel for this person and know they felt perhaps something for me. He definitely felt something when I had my “friend” at the time “break up” with him for me. Yikes.
I was so uncomfortable with feelings, that I could not even have a face-to-face interaction with this boy I had been interested in. Poor boy. I used to look back at that and be embarrassed. Now I critique myself for being so cowardly — that person deserved better.
As a teenage girl, I was pretty boy crazy in the sense that I fell hard when I thought I “liked” someone, even “loved” someone. I knew what love looked like because of my parents, but what did it feel like? At the time, I thought it felt like trying to be someone I wasn’t, trying to get attention through whatever ways possible, and letting myself be treated poorly. I didn’t realize what true love, romantic love felt like and I did not realize I was allowing myself to do these things.
I thought I knew love once I hit 16. I thought, I’ve lost my virginity to most wonderful human being, this is love. This is what mom and dad have and hell, maybe I’ll end up with this person.
But we were teenagers. Life doesn’t work like that. And teenage boys and girls have wandering minds.
So then I’m 16 and I’m “single” (that word at such a young age left me feeling stained, yet, it could have been such a wonderful tool to encompassing my life) and I’m depressed beyond belief because my first “true” love found another girl. And she’s pretty, she’s skinny, she’s younger and cooler than me. I’m nothing.
I remember this is when I began to drink pretty heavily for a sixteen-year-old.
And then it was onto the next one: I fell for another boy. And this boy was already a mutual friend, this boy was wonderful. He made me feel special. He made me feel warm, comforted. His laugh was infectious as was his demeanor, a young- fresh faced, bright-eyed dreamer. Then I wasn’t special anymore. And then that ended.
And I again, I turned to partying as a way to fill the void of love I wanted and thought I lost.
I had a cycle. I tried to fill up this empty space in my heart with “romance” and when that didn’t work out, I turned to alcohol. I wanted so deeply to be validated by boys, that I stopped trying to love myself and allowed them to treat me in a toxic way — and I allowed myself to become toxic, too.
This cycle continued into college. I “dated” a friend on and off. It destroyed our friendship.
I wanted to fix him, help him grow. He wanted to be single and experience life that way. I couldn’t take the hint and didn’t realize he obviously was not worth my energy.
I had a tendency to chase boys that were completely “just not that into me.” I had a tendency to attach myself to boys who were emotionally unavailable and immature.
I had random flings. I recycled lovers – falling back into pattern with our pasts – thinking Hey! Maybe this time it’ll be different. It never was.
I met a boy at work and thought I could fix him. I remember being hesitant to commit myself to someone who I had only really interacted with while drunk. But I did it. He loved me! He did.
But he didn’t.
And this was the lowest, low. I let myself go. So much so I was drunk three fourths of the week. I was angry. I wasn’t taking my progress in therapy seriously and I was not taking my meds. I let “love” hypnotize me into letting abusive actions from my partner become normalized. I let his angry outcries shower me in “love.” I let his addiction become my addiction. I did so many things during this time that I have blacked out from my memory. I don’t know who I was.
I’m not sure if the love I always dreamt of was ever present in any of the relationships I’ve had in my lifetime.
The idea of love to me in these relationships was more important than my self-worth. I thought that having a boyfriend was the fix-all to this continuation of loneliness, frustration, anxiety, and depression within my soul. When my last relationship ended, I told myself I was done with all the chasing and destroying myself.
I become more aware of my drinking habits and homed in on those. I broke away from toxic people I had been surrounding myself with. I threw myself into my studies. I focused on loving myself. I loved myself so hard – I still do.
And then one day in grad class I locked eyes with my now fiancé. And I danced with the idea of being the one to reach out to him and make a new friend. I changed my way of thinking – this is a person I’m interested in as a human being. I want him in my life as a friend. So, I made it happen. We developed a beautiful friendship and from there our love blossomed naturally. I have never felt this loved before in my life. But that is a story for another day.
This story ends with the idea that self-worth should come first in any relationship. When I was so blinded of filling this void within myself I let anybody treat me however they wanted. I didn’t care what happened to me as long as I had someone to hold me at the end of the day. The idea of someone being interested in me was enough to forgo worrying about their actions.
That is no way to live a life. I know this now. And although all that pain was so hard to process, and still is, I wouldn’t change my trajectory in life. I’m becoming comfortable with the idea that we go through pain to come out on top. Pain helps us grow. And that’s all I’ve been doing since I started loving myself: growing.