I have to start by saying that everything we had was real. The chemistry, the adventures, the shared values, the common interests, the good memories – it was all real.
But somewhere between the giddy first dates and falling for you, something else happened. I don’t know exactly when, but toxicity crept in. And the self-doubt, manipulation, desperation and rigidity that grew over the next five years – so intense that I completely lost myself – well that was real too. For every high there was a lower low, and the cycle quickly spun out of control.
It wasn’t your fault that I was young, naïve, and didn’t know what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like, but you were supposed to show me. It wasn’t your fault that I let you call the shots, but you were supposed to make me feel like you valued my opinion. It wasn’t your fault that I went through personal challenges in the years we were together, but you were supposed to support me. And you didn’t. Instead I was so blinded by wanting us to be perfect, that I didn’t notice how unhappy I was.
I’m still sifting through the distortions I have, trying to figure out which are my own, and which you put in my head. When I avoid the mirror, is it because my body isn’t good enough for me? Or because it wasn’t good enough for you?
When I turn away from the couple making out on the street, is it because I don’t like PDA, or because I’m jealous that you were never affectionate?
When I bite my tongue from sharing my opinion, is it because I’m unsure of myself, or because I expect to be shot down?
When I shiver seeing abuse on facebook, or in movies and songs, is it because I feel bad for the girl, or because I was her…
Admitting how traumatized I am feels pathetic. Especially since I called you my protector. But here’s the thing, being willing to walk through fire for someone doesn’t mean anything if you’re the one burning them over and over.
You always saw it as looking out for me, as keeping me safe, as validation of your love. But the saying, “it’s the thought that counts” is actually bullshit. In this case, your intentions, however pure you thought they were, resulted in standards I could never live up to, expectations I would never meet, and kept me so confined within the boundaries and rules you set, that I didn’t notice how submissive I’d become.
But when the rose-colored glasses came off and I was able to see the truth for the first time, something clicked. So it may seem odd after all the pain you’ve caused me, but I want to thank you for three things:
First, thank you for showing me how to love. How to be so head over heels for someone that no matter how much they drive me nuts, I still want to wake up next to them everyday. Loving you the way I did enabled me to see exactly what giving myself and the world to someone looks like, and showed me that I wasn’t getting that in return.
Because the problem is, love, dependence and desperation are all different things. I loved you so hard because that’s how I justified how much it hurt. If I could convince myself that it was mutual, then all of a sudden, it was okay. But is love that isn’t shown or felt even real? I’m not so sure. And maybe you did really love me the best you could, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of love that I needed.
Next, thank you for showing me what I need in my next relationship. It took me a while to differentiate being selfish from being honest about what I need. Wanting validation, support and encouragement isn’t selfish.
Wanting to be with someone who makes me feel on top of the world isn’t selfish. And most importantly, wanting to know every single day that I’m good enough isn’t selfish.
Next time, I won’t settle. I won’t confuse double standards for chivalry, rules and restrictions for caring, or jealousy for compliments. Next time, I will again give everything I have, but next time, I’ll get it in return.
So finally, thank you for letting me go. Ultimately it was me who made the decision to walk away for good, and to choose myself in a way you were never able to choose me, but the irony is that it was your hesitation that gave me the space to do it.
Those first few weeks I was furious, I was hurt and I was confused. Now all I can say is I’m relieved. By letting me go, you saved me.
I honestly don’t know if I would have realized the truth if you hadn’t insisted that we break up to see if we really wanted to be together. Maybe it would have stayed buried, or maybe it would have built up until I exploded. Exploded one night, after a fight in your house, the one we built together. Exploded one afternoon, planning the wedding I always thought I wanted, but for some reason I could never quite picture. Exploded one day when it came time to talk about kids, the ones you didn’t want but the ones I know I needed.
This will come as a shock to you, but I haven’t cried. Since the day that you insisted you could change and begged me to let you and I said no, I haven’t broken down. And at first that scared me. I thought something was wrong. But then I realized that plenty of tears have already fallen.
I was grieving the relationship while it was still happening and I didn’t even know it. I was crying for the things I needed that I subconsciously knew I wasn’t going to get, and crying for the things I didn’t want that you gave me all too often.
I really do believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe you were meant to teach me to trust, to let someone in, and to give all of myself to someone else. Maybe you were meant to help me climb to the top of the cliff, so that when you pushed me off and I came crashing down, I would be able to build myself back up again.
I’m stronger now because of you. I’m going to raise my standards because of you. I know what I deserve because of you. Next time, I’m going to love harder because of you. And one day, I’m going to get from someone else the selfless love that I tried so desperately to give you.
I’m still figuring out what’s next for me, but I only have this chance to truly find myself because of you. So while I’m sorry that you were the collateral damage on this journey of self-discovery, you letting me go allowed me to take it, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.