I was raised by a conservative family. My parents did not allow me to date until after college. This was probably the reason why I was too eager to start dating and jump into a relationship when I graduated from college. I was naive and in love, more with the idea of romance than with the person. Even before I entered the world of dating, I was already in love with my ideal man in mind.
My first boyfriend was not my last
I had my first boyfriend (let’s name him Ben) when I turned 21, just two months after getting my college diploma. I loved receiving and reciprocating the affection and attention I’m getting from Ben. We would watch movies together, dine in fancy restaurants, and give each other gifts. We did what regular couples do. I began imagining that Ben and I would get married after 3 years.
However, things did not happen as I imagined nor planned. He was offered a type of job that gives a fat paycheck. I never believed in long-distance relationships, but because I felt I loved him then and I believed that we would get married in a few years’ time, I held on to him. Before he left for another country, he proposed to me and said he’ll come back to marry me after 2 years.
That marriage never happened because just after 2 months, he dated someone else while we were still in a relationship. It was accidentally discovered by my best friend who cared enough to tell me about it. Ben at first denied it, as any man caught cheating would do. But he eventually admitted cheating on me. I was hurt and helpless. I wanted to hurt him too but I knew it wouldn’t do us any good. I decided to break up with him, despite his persistence to restore our relationship. What helped me get over him was the belief that a cheater will always be a cheater. It also helped that we were thousands of miles apart.
The Rebound was the Worst
I craved the sweetness, the attention, and the affection that I experienced from my first relationship. I was a hopeless romantic and it did not take long for me to find a new boyfriend. The very next guy (let’s name him John) who showered me with sweet messages and pampered me with gifts won my heart easily. I entered into a new relationship just a month after breaking up with Ben.
I met John at work. He was the type of guy who would give you everything you wish for. He would give you his all just to make you happy. He would take me home each day, never complaining about the long commute hours. He would buy me things and take me out almost daily. He was spoiling me and I enjoyed it at first. Little did I know that he was doing these things to “own” me.
Soon, the relationship became suffocating and toxic. He became extremely jealous of any guy whom he thought was interested in me. He prohibited me from speaking with my male friends and co-workers. He even threatened some of them, to my utter embarrassment. I couldn’t take his possessiveness anymore so I decided to break up with him.
When I first attempted to break up with him, he told me he had a serious, congenital heart illness and any emotional stress can trigger a heart attack. John started to manipulate me through guilt and fear. When there are no apparent signs of his illness, he would scare me by attempting to hurt himself. When he didn’t get his way, he would threaten to hurt me physically. Many times, these threats became real. He would drag me or raise his voice at me in public. I felt helpless and humiliated and I began hating myself for letting him control me this way. It went on like this for about a year. It was starting to affect my relationship with others and when it started to affect my own career, I knew I had to start doing something about it.
I knew it wasn’t possible to break up with him by talking to him. I needed to escape, and I needed to do it subtly—I never specifically told him I’m breaking up with him. I just had to show him that I am already turning away from the relationship.
First, I told myself that I would not be responsible for him if something happens to him due to his health. I wasn’t the cause of his illness. I made excuses about staying really late at work or meeting up with my girlfriends each day so he wouldn’t need to take me home. I enrolled in weekend classes so he wouldn’t find me home and I returned all his gifts. I ignored his threats and I protected myself by informing my family and my friends about his threats. I let him know that everyone in my circle is aware of his threats. Soon, he started to back away. Adding to all these red flags, he found a new girl to “own” just barely a month after that subtle breakup.
Taking a Break from Romance
I took a break from romance but not from love. Breaking up, after all, does not entail taking a break from love because ending relationships that don’t work means loving yourself more. I focused on my own growth and nurtured healthy relationships with others. In my pursuit of happiness and growth, I also attracted happy people with healthy self-esteem. I realized, in any relationship, you must love and respect yourself first so you’ll know how to love others the right way.
It took me years to enter into a new relationship, and this time, it was with my husband-to-be. He’s a man who loves me for who I am and encourages me to be the best I can be. He’s imperfect, but he compliments me perfectly. We are now happily married for 3 years.