By Anonymous (Out of respect for the privacy of myself and the parties mentioned in this blog)
A lot of the time when you hear the words “dating violence,” you automatically think of physical violence. However, often enough when it comes to dating, especially in teens, violence occurs through mental, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse in addition to the physical violence. I’m not necessarily basing this statement on statistics or academic research, but instead first-hand experience and the experiences from family and friends.
Through all of this, I’ve had to learn the hard way about dating and domestic violence. Regardless, they are lessons that will continue to resonate throughout my life. Although I am an artist by trade, my whole reasoning for agreeing to write this blog is to help the CSVANW create more awareness on this topic by sharing my story.
Growing up, I always was under the impression I needed to have romantic relationships to feel successful. I was 12 years old, unbeknownst to my parents, when I had my first relationship, and it only lasted a few months.
This cycle of trying to find someone to love me continued for around 10 years: I’m 22 now, so it has taken me a long time to figure this out. Since this need for someone else’s love was always my goal, I’d find myself in situations where my giving-nature and naivety were always taken advantage of.
When I was 14, I met my first “serious” boyfriend and was with him until I was 17. When I reflect on this time, I realize how toxic and controlling this relationship was. For example, if I did not prove 24/7 my love for him, he would not reciprocate it or say I didn’t even care about him,a form of gaslighting. (Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. via Psychology Today)
Three years, more manipulation and two suicide attempts later, I honestly felt like a was going crazy.
Near the end, I visited a medicine man who told me he and his family were purposely putting this bad medicine on me. He also said to me that only I have the power to make things better for myself. I realized that I didn’t have to live with that pain and what the medicine man said has stuck with me ever since.
Fast forward to more recently, I began my first (actual) serious relationship and moved into an apartment with my boyfriend. We both had strong understandings and respect for one another, so things could not have been any better. We had a beautiful home and are both emerging artists and professionals. Although we both acknowledge our long histories of brokenness, we chose not to heal those wounds. Instead, we started living that #YOLO* life. (An overused acronym for “You only live once.” via Urban Dictionary.) Going out to bars, spending too much money on eating out, and drinking alcohol nearly every day.
This neglect of self-care led us to take out our pain and insecurities onto one another, especially when intoxicated. After roughly a year and a half, we called it quits due to the abuse becoming too much. I really also want to express that both of us, meaning myself included, were abusers. I know most of the time men get the spotlight as being abusers, but women can be too. And I acknowledge, apologize, and take full responsibility for my abusive actions.
Regardless of having called it quits, there still is this powerful connection between us. When other people who I’ve been in relationships with have abused me, I would leave and never speak to them again. However, I could not help but recognize this special bond with this person.
Throughout our relationship, we always would be able to see when we were in the wrong and would own up to it. This understanding of our actions and past has led us to a new dynamic in the relationship. We are no longer live together, in an “official” relationship, are codependent, or drink. Although both parties would like to be “together” again, we equally love and respect one another enough to create distance to work on ourselves and heal.
Today, I have learned how to respect myself and create boundaries with others. I also have learned how to refocus my energy into things that will bring me joy and fulfillment. The most important lessons I have learned through this journey is the more I love and take care of myself, the less I have to worry about someone loving me. I’m not saying that having no romantic partner is the solution, but instead, I no longer have to work for that love.
A healthy relationship is merely sharing space with another person. If both parties are comfortable with who they are as individuals, they don’t have to feel the need to work for one another or make the other work for them. Just to clarify, this is different from an employee/employer relationship.
As my mother always said, “You can’t force someone to love you, but you can enjoy their presence and still be you.”