When I first started this blog, I was in a very confused and anxious place. One of my first posts was about how uncertainty was ruling my life, but in that post I made a statement to embrace it.
Fast forward to almost a year later; have I done what I set out to do? Well, to be frank, I can’t say that I’m not anxious or confused anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being at least a little bit anxious. And a lot of the fears that I outlined in that first post still exist. But I’m now so much more confident about my ability to tackle the unknown. Ultimately, that’s because I have a lot more confidence in myself.
Part of that confidence has come from being in a loving and honest relationship. M. and I have been together for three years now, which is an insane amount of time to me. We are still extremely uncertain about our future together. But one of the reasons why our relationship works so well, despite all of our fears, is that we talk about it. We are honest with each other about the concerns and anxieties that plague us, whether about our relationship or about our individual lives, and we try to be supportive of one another’s individual goals. We do our best to listen to each other because we value each other.
It took a lot of work for us to get to this point though. Sometimes, I think back to the beginning of our relationship and I am stunned that we are still dating, because, to be honest, I was a total mess. Three years ago, when we met, I was still trying to navigate my way out of a depression that had set in a few years back, and while I was making progress I was still very much in an unhealthy mental state. I was also in the process of acknowledging to myself that I had been sexually assaulted, and by someone I had once considered a friend. (I had even considered him a friend for months after the assault had happened; for months I had denied the truth, partly because the truth was difficult to bear.) That wasn’t even the first time in my life that I had been assaulted by someone I knew.* Suffice it to say, I was dealing with a lot. I hid my pain well when M. and I first started dating, but as the months progressed and we got to know each other better, more and more of my struggle became apparent. Recognizing that I was still traumatized from my experiences of assault was difficult enough on my own, but treading that territory with a partner was even more nerve-wracking. And part of me wanted M. to save me from myself, to be the cure to my depression and anxiety. I would break down when he didn’t fulfill this role of savior, out of a twisted notion that the more of a mess I was, the more likely he’d become the “knight in shining armor,” because there would be no other option than to rescue me from my spiral.
My previous relationships had ended partly because of this behavior of mine. But, amazingly, M. stuck with me. He remained honest and open with me. He remained loving. And, most importantly, he did not give in to my desperate attempts to make him into this cure I was looking for. Instead of feeding into my perception of myself as a damsel in distress, he reminded me that I am strong and that I have the capacity to better things for myself, but he did not do the work for me. Of course, M. didn’t handle everything perfectly; there were certainly plenty of things he got wrong, just as there were plenty of things (as aforementioned) that I got wrong. And I’m sure there were times where he wondered if the pain was worth the time we spent together. There was a lot of yelling, and a lot of frustration, and a lot of moments that I’m sure frightened him, just as they frightened me by my sheer ability to create those moments. But he remained with me.
At some point, as I continued my therapy with a paid professional and came to realize that M. loves me even with all of my flaws, I stopped trying to make M. my “knight.” I began to understand that what I was looking for needed to come from within myself. I broke down less often as I found more self-love. I became less dependent on M. and our relationship grew less turbulent, which opened up more space for us to better care for each other. I felt less like a mess of hurt and more like myself, and in turn I was better able to see M. for who he actually is, independent of my own projections.
I’m not saying all of this in order to advocate staying in a relationship that may be unhealthy for you in the hopes that the other person will change. If M. had a less strong sense of self, and if I had not already been in the process of working through my issues before he and I had met, our relationship might have a different story, one of debilitating codependence. (Even now there are still moments where I want him to be my savior and, unfortunately, I revert to unhealthy behavior.)
I want to say all of this because, in the light of our three years together, it is important to me to recognize that M. is one of the most amazing, patient people I have ever met. He chose to stay by my side while I was at my worst. He saw something in me that I wasn’t yet able to see at that point. He demonstrated a kind of love that I had never experienced before. I am eternally grateful for his presence in my life.
I also want to say all of this to acknowledge the work that I have done on myself, because I am grateful for myself as well. I am grateful that I chose to seek therapy for myself. I am grateful that I didn’t abandon M. when he chose not to abandon me. And I am grateful that I continue to try to improve myself and my relationship with M.
So, here’s to three years. I’m so glad to have met you, M., and I’m excited to see what this upcoming year will bring for the both of us. ❤
—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)
P.S.: This post was partially inspired by the blog Do the Hot Pants. Dana Suchow posts a lot about cultivating a healthy body image, and while my post isn’t directly related to that topic, I was inspired to think about my own efforts towards cultivation of a healthy mental state. I’d advocate checking out Do the Hot Pants, not just for the inspirational posts but also for Dana Suchow’s beautiful outfits/styling and amazing facial expressions.
*I hope one day to write a longer post on the topic of being a survivor of sexual assault, but, for now, I’d like to say that this is still something that happens to many people, men and women alike; it is more common than a lot of people would imagine; and if you are a fellow survivor, I send my love and support to you.