I’m a survivor of an abusive relationship. Typing that truth is difficult for me. It’s hard for me to phrase what happened to me in that way. I’ve only said that truth out loud to one other person in my life, my therapist. My former boyfriend was abusive in an emotional way. We were together for about a year and a half. It took me eight active months of trying to get out of it to break free. It’s been five years since that relationship ended.
Even though it’s been five years, our story plays on repeat in my head like a classic projection of black and white film. It plays over and over, pausing on frames of my face in deep, expressive sadness as he scowls in anger. The irrelevance of black and white film is exactly how that relationship appears to me now, as something so disconnected from the present reality. I sit quietly in one frame, uneasy and shy while he extends a fist in rage. When it all becomes too much for me to handle I close both of my eyes hard. I blink them open and bring myself back to the present. Without judgment, I acknowledge my flashback and I let that film go back in storage, collecting dust in a dark and abandoned shadow of my mind.
In the present, I’m thankful every day for my independence and my ability to maintain complete control over my own life. My world is filled with opportunities and choices that overwhelm me on a day-to-day basis. It is a beautiful dilemma to have. Even five years in the future, I know that while I’ve healed in certain aspects, I’m still not one hundred percent yet, and that’s okay.
Connecting with people is harder now than it was before. Relationships are difficult, but that’s not new. The difference is that now I associate relationships with manipulation. When I was with my former boyfriend, I did not have my own thoughts or desires. My energy was tied up with pleasing him and making him happy. I was blind to my own personal emotions and feelings. That idea brings me complete horror to this day. I have an overwhelming fear of going blind again.
After our initial break-up, I engaged in a lot of sex with different partners. I thought that sex with multiple partners would help me reclaim parts of myself that he had taken from me. While I’m not sure how exactly it helped, it was fun. I purposefully made sure to sleep with guys I would not be attracted to on an emotional level. I’ve built myself an army of mediocre, uninteresting guys who are maybe (I’m being generous) average at sex. Okay so maybe I’m being harsh—but now you get the idea of where my headspace is. The last thing I wanted to do was have to deal with a connection.
Then I met you when I was absolutely least expecting it. It was a friend’s birthday and she had a huge blow-out at a club, inviting everyone she’s ever met plus their aunts and 3rd cousins. I was not feeling the club that night, so I opted to sit by the sidelines, sipping on gin and tonic from the comfort of a booth. I watched people meet, talk and dance, or at least attempt. You sat down next to me. You were similarly engaged in the shitshow of drunkenness that was happening on the dance floor. We shared comments and ideas about who would go home with who, who was about to break an actual leg on the dance floor, etc. We both walked home in the same direction, you didn’t even question me when I insisted on walking the hour back to my apartment. You walked with me, asking me questions about my music taste, education, travels and inspirations. I dug deeper, making you tell me your most embarrassing sex stories and the times you almost got in big trouble. I equally served you back with some of my own stories. We got back to my apartment and both laid down on my bed. Continuing to talk about anything and everything, hours going by and conversation never ending. At one point, we both stopped talking. You grabbed my face and kissed me. I don’t know how, but I was not expecting that. For the first time I had a boy in my bed that I didn’t expect to have sex with and leave the next morning. We kissed and giggled under my sheets, and not much else happened that night. The next morning I woke up snuggled in your arms and I knew everything was about to change. “Shit.” I thought.
The next couple months of our dating are all a blur. I fell fast. I didn’t know how to act on these emotions and I didn’t know if you shared them. We did an on again off again hooking up deal for about a year. And then you moved across the world. You literally picked up and moved and left. My heart is aching. Only this recognition of self-reflection is allowing me to move on.
While it didn’t work out, what I want to express is that for the first time since that old relationship, you made me attracted to you, without manipulation or control. I liked you. I got butterflies thinking about you. And that was my own choice. So to you, I want to say thank you. Thank you for flirting with me and kissing me and letting me decide how I wanted to proceed. Thank you for moving slowly and taking me out to get breakfast and making me laugh. Thank you for showing me that I can have feelings and I can have emotional connections that don’t involve manipulation or control. Thanks to you, I feel more healed and more ready. You’ve made more of an impact on me than you know.