We have all experienced hard times in our lives. No one’s life is perfect, and everyone has seen their own brand of tragedy and regret. Some people let the bad times rule their lives, while others take heart and use them to fly higher than before. The latter are people who rule their lives, sometimes even the world.
I have seen many trials in my short life, but the ones that seem to affect my current life the most have occurred over the last six years. Surprisingly, the tough time I’m going to talk about here deals with a relationship. Usually I talk about college and career when discussing huge, life-altering choices, but before all that… I was a really dumb girl who thought she would marry by age 22. [I’m not saying it’s bad to get married by age 22, but I was foolish in thinking I SHOULD be married by that time.]
Right before I turned 17, my high school boyfriend broke up with me. A few weeks later, a new guy came in and swept me off my feet. Without getting into too many details, I was head over heels. We were the same age, and we held a lot of the same Christian beliefs – so I thought. He ran his own small business, and despite being a bit of a delinquent, at 17, I thought he showed promise.
However, it wasn’t long before I felt myself changing. I became more introverted, when I had always been outgoing. I spent less time with my friends. He was possessive and jealous, which I thought was cute and showed his true love for me. Bad things became worse, and for two years, I stayed. The relationship was toxic. Everyone could see it, and so could I, but I refused to believe it.
Eventually, I tried breaking up with him and dating other people, but I always found myself crawling back, either because he wouldn’t let me go, or because I felt like I had messed up and I would never find someone who loved me like he did. Of course, there was always a lot of horrible name-calling too – comments made to make me feel lesser than I was. Yet I stayed.
When you find yourself in a possessive relationship, you start to make up excuses like, well at least he’ll never cheat on me, or, at least he wants me around all the time. …Anything to make yourself feel better about putting up with a bunch of bull crap and being treated like dirt. Friends pleaded with me to leave. Family refused to be around him. I was a fool.
The relationship turned into a constant battle of me trying to run away to me turning back to something that felt comfortable. This dragged on for nearly four years. Around year three, I met Mike (my fiance). He was also trying to escape a bad relationship and we became great friends. We comforted each other. Stood by each others’ sides when we felt weak and wanted to go back. We were not into each other at the time; we were just wonderful friends. Of course, you might know the rest of the story…
Mike went to Afghanistan and then we fell in love… but we’ve both brought baggage from our bad relationships. We’ve actually come to value those bad times because it helped us realize who we really are at our core. Because they were serious relationships, we learned what we did and did not want in a relationship.
But that’s honestly not the point of this post. The point is, I went through some really low times in that relationship, and every time I tried to escape, I did something (even if it failed) that made me a little bit stronger. For example:
I tried dating another guy after the initial break-up. It didn’t last, but it taught me that another relationship wasn’t going to fix my broken self or make me forget about my ex. I ended up hurting another person trying to help myself.
I moved to Maine to pursue a passion. I stayed in Maine for ten months, and while it didn’t last, it helped me know that I could live without that person (even though he still bothered me there). It showed me what the world had to offer.
I rented an apartment in Kansas City. For a small town girl, that was a huge venture… Living in the city and attending college changed my entire perspective on life and what I could become. It gave me hope.
Who would have thought a crappy relationship could motivate and push me to do so many things? I have scars from the relationship, and every now and then, I find myself thinking about my ex and what he would think of me now. I’ve realized that none of it matters. What matters is all those horrible times made me into a stronger person – someone who can provide and care for herself. Someone with the confidence to make decisions and move on.
Yeah, the tough times suck. It’s absolutely no fun going through them, but when we finally wake up and smell the coffee, or things do take a turn for the better, we walk out stronger and more comfortable with ourselves.