A good guy friend recommended that I read Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m about a decade behind most of Chbosky’s readers but I finally got my hands on a copy and am loving it. It’s the coming-of-age story of a high school freshman boy (which initially made me wonder how I would find any connection to it…slightly narrow minded in this case).
I can’t put it down.
There’s a statement made by one character to the narrator which threw me into silent, pensive pondering.
He says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
When my abusive relationship finally came to a train-wreck end, I was left to try and sort through what had just happened. Where had I been for the past year? Since I still wasn’t understanding the abuse I had been subjected to, I “comforted” myself in the knowledge that it had all been my fault. Which led me to wonder, “Will I ever be able to have a healthy, happy relationship? If I ruined this one, won’t I just ruin the next one?”
In that relationship, I accepted the love I thought I deserved.
Now I know, I deserved 100x better than he was willing to give me.
I went out with a few different guys in the year or two that followed. But deep down, I was petrified that the awful cycle would start back up again and I wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it. In my mind, a dating relationship that included me could only result in depression and heartbreak.
When I did finally get to a place in the healing process where I knew that the abuse hadn’t been my fault, I had a new fear: “How can I trust myself not to date another jerk?”
Well, a year ago I met a guy and we really hit it off. He asked me to be his girlfriend. I didn’t experience all the happy, giddy feelings that I had at the beginning of my other relationship. But I was happy and looking forward to whatever God had planned for us. It was nice to feel calm and confident.
It was a grand three months.
(Yeah…I kind of almost don’t count that as dating but whatever.)
Lesson: I don’t ever need to carry the full blame for an ended relationship. This guy was really nice but, in hind sight, he was too much of an emotional roller coaster to really be trusted. It was nice that he’s so great at changing his mind…saved me lots of time and energy.
I can experience a happy relationship. Those few months helped me get over my fear of becoming someone’s girlfriend again. It gave me that final “umph” I needed to feel (almost) completely confident about whatever relationship might come my way next. It allowed me to exercise the personal confidence and spiritual contentment I had gained from the abusive relationship.
I should never settle for anything less than the love I deserve. Maybe you’re wondering the same thing I did for almost three years: will my future relationships be tainted by my past hurts? Can things be better if I ever do date again? I truly believe they can, for me and for you. It was not your fault that he/she was abusive or treated you as anything less than you deserve. One failed relationship does not doom you to a life of failed, painful relationships. I forget that sometimes, especially when I get lonely. It’s the truth, though. I deserve to be cherished and nothing less.
An abusive past doesn’t guarantee an unloving future.