As girls, we are taught that we must marry the right man: successful, handsome, and… that’s pretty much it. Come to think of it, who is making these standards up?! Well, before my husband, I almost married the wrong guy who fit the criteria: successful, handsome, and… that’s pretty much it. We’ll call him Manic. I was just a wee, 17 year old, love sick, school girl (for real, I went to a catholic high school) and Manic was 19. This relationship was a five year, beautiful, masochistic/sadistic, passionate, and educational form of hell. From the very beginning, there were warning signs with very bright lights but as a teenager I confused them for fireworks. As beautiful and sadistic as it was, it really was educational because if it wasn’t for that half a decade relationship, I would have never married the love of my life.

Back in 2004, Myspace was our generation’s Facebook and on one lazy summer day I received a message from a dashing drummer. We had actually known a few of the same people and lived in the same city. Once we met, it was love at first sight. He was already attending the college I had planned on, he wanted to become a Fire Fighter, he was musically talented on the drums, he was close with his family, and was good looking. All in all, he was great on paper. As every new relationship, everything was cupcakes and rainbows. Summer was very kind to us that year; we rarely stayed indoors. We lived very close to New York so we always hopped the train and traveled there just to hang out. No real plans, just, “Hey, let’s go to the city!” Along with going to NY, we would go to festivals and pig out on food, run errands with each other’s families, went to a lot of concerts, went to clubs (when I finally hit 18), and even took a trip to California. Whenever we did spend time indoors it was all about Spongebob and other silly cartoons while we constantly ate burgers, fries, and burritos. When we weren’t munching on junk food, I’d watch him play drums and eventually he began teaching me how to play. We did have a lot of fun because he was easy to talk to about family issues. He was very open about how he grew up, trouble between his parents, sibling rivalries, extended family drama. He was perfect in my eyes: from his home made gifts to his impeccable taste in music.

During all the good, there was a side of him that he kept very well hidden. His ex-girlfriends began reaching out and warning me about him. They really were just telling me how he is a cheater, a liar, and he shouldn’t be trusted. Of course, being young, I ignored it and, of course, they were right. All these random girls started to pop up out of no where and I even had one girl reach out to me and confess they were having an affair while we were dating. Things really began to spiral downward when he finally reached his goal and became a fire fighter. Suddenly, it was as if he had to become this different person, someone who had to prove himself to his co-workers. After meeting his peers at work, I couldn’t tell him apart from the other fire fighters. They all spoke the same, they all acted the same, they all had the same smug attitude that I had grown to hate and resent. All the pride I once had when I would hold his hand in public was blurred out by embarrassment and shame. Even his co workers knew he was cheating and bringing around other girls so often some of them thought I was the side girl. With time, home made gifts turned into shallow “I’m sorry,” designer presents. It felt as though he would apologize his cheating with expensive items: purses, bags, jewelry, clothes, shoes. At one point I remember deciding, “If this is what he wants, I’ll want this too.” I literally sold my self respect to material things.

I hated how I was. The relationship was so toxic; we would shout at each other, ignored problems, I carried all the negativity with me everywhere we went. I would hate him going out with his friends or co workers because I KNEW he would pick up another girl or worse – sleep with another girl with encouragement with whoever he was partying with. The final blow came with him coming home from a family trip and telling me I was lazy and ending it on the same day of our 5th anniversary. I had learned later that month that the real reason was because he had met one of his sister’s friends and knocked her up. He ended up marrying her a couple of months later. He had never placed his hands on me but this was the last kick to the teeth – or rather to the heart. I had nothing else to do but to wallow in my heartache and despair. I had felt like my world was shattered, I had no future, I was nothing but a joke, a stand in for someone else. While I was trying to peel myself off my tear soaked, pink bedroom rug, someone else was thriving off my agony. I remembered the feeling clearly: someone had gutted me open, ripped out my insides and displayed me to the public as a joke for all to see while I tried to catch my breath that wouldn’t come. I didn’t understand. How could someone who said he wanted to spend the rest of their life with me put me through everything he did and then top it off with this? I wasn’t perfect but I didn’t deserve this.

I can remember thinking to myself, despite everything he put me through, I now have the freedom to do whatever I wanted for myself. I could either let this ruin me before I even started living or take advantage that I don’t have anything else to lose. Once I realized that I loved writing since I was a child, I declared my major in English. Why didn’t I realize that before? Why wasn’t I a priority to myself? I became involved in my schools newspaper. I began contributing until I became the sex/relationship columnist. People were actually reading it and were interested in what I had to say. I felt the layers of insecurity finally falling away. I was going to school full time, writing for my college newspaper, and wanted to do more. I decided I needed a job but not because of financial trouble but to become more independent. No one was going to say I was lazy ever again. I held on to this determination to prove not only to myself but to everyone that I am worth more than what he priced me as. I’m worth more than expensive store bought items.

I landed my first job as a part time teller at a credit union where I requested to become full time. I was now going to school full time, working full time, and still writing for the schools newspaper. After a few months, I became the new Editor in Chief of the school’s paper. With recommendations from my professor, who was also the adviser of the paper, I was honored with the title. I had built a strong team that went on to do amazing stories. I had the privilege of interviewing new and interesting people, I made my own friends, and I was making my own life. At this time, I had also entered my final year of college. I was entirely focused on me. Dealing with personal issues, I decided to write them out in the paper since I still held on to the sex/relationship column. I felt good about myself. I was giving myself the attention I deserved.

In 2012, all my hard work paid off. I finally got to wear my cap and gown and receive my college diploma. I had done it. I had planned out my college career by myself, worked full time, became EIC, kept my sex/relationship column, and graduated. I felt as if I had rock climbed my way up a jagged mountain and considering I had started from a labyrinth of a dark forest, the view from the top was breathtaking. I always had someone else controlling my life and leading the path without ever having a voice of my own. I took great pride knowing that I had sat down and wrote out my goals without anyone throwing me suggestions. I earned everything I received and I thought I was happy. Then I met him – Christian – the love of my life.

Despite everything I had been through, I took one look into Christian’s cat like eyes

coloboma1
(seriously, he may have coloboma because his irises are tear shaped)

and I can remember falling instantly hard in love. He pursued me as a gentlemen and never crossed his boundaries and when it came down to having a relationship, I let the fear and baggage from four years ago hold me back. As much as I wanted to start a future with him, I couldn’t let go of everything I had gone through. I was terrified he was going to hurt me the way Manic did. After everything I had achieved, I was still allowing that relationship to control my happiness. I realized I was still giving him power over me and letting those emotions dictate my future relationships. Enough was enough. I was 25 year old and I needed to rip those chains off. I’m entitled to happiness.

When I felt ready, I took the plunge and started a serious relationship with Christian. I took everything I had learned from that past poisonous relationship and applied it to my actions: be patient, look for the positives, show respect to earn it, never settle for less than what it deserved, and always move forward. Whenever Christian and I would argue, I always made sure I would compose myself before the confrontation because the last thing I wanted to do was to lash out. It would have been easy to brush some problems under the rug but I would address them and we’d work them out. Today, we still do the exact same things which made it easy to finally marry him. There was no question, no double guessing, or cold feet. He was the man I wanted to walk towards to spend the rest of my life with. I know he loves me and it feels amazing to finally be on the same page with someone and not have to question his feelings every few weeks.

I thank God nearly every day for blessing me with the life I have had and continue to have. I don’t regret Manic and everything we went through because it taught me how to be an adult, how to be in a real relationship, what I want in a man, what I won’t put up with, and how to have fun. Christian will sometimes say, “I wish we met in high school,” and I am so glad we didn’t because I wasn’t mature enough to be in a relationship and I would have lost him. I could never thank Manic enough for breaking my heart in so many tiny, irrecoverable pieces because if he had never let me go, I would have never met my husband, who generously gave up his heart to replace mine.

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