For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been family orientated. I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve since I began dating, and it’s led me to fall into numerous long-term and toxic relationships throughout the years.
I never really managed to achieve the validation I was so desperately seeking throughout my teenage years. In some way, I imagine my insatiable desire to find a guy to be with was likely me subconsciously trying to rectify that.
I fell into numerous relationships (two years here, three years there), but they always ended the same – with me getting absolutely bladdered for about two weeks straight post-breakup, before I’d meet the next one on a night out.
I was in need of something to break that cycle, something that would allow me to find that validation I was craving so desperately within myself rather than other people.
That came in the form of my next relationship. I fell deeply in love with the most charismatic man I’d ever met. He would walk in a room and people would instantly just look at him, and the feeling that washed over me when I was with him was indescribable. But as brightly as we burned together, months down the line it became unhealthy and toxic. The arguments were intense, scary and sadly sometimes even violent.
Then one evening, a year and a half into this toxic relationship I decided to finally listen to those closest to me and realised that the highs I got from him were not worth the constant lows I was enduring. This was a big step for me, it was something I’d never had the strength to do before.
But he didn’t take it well. The situation quickly escalated, he refused to leave my home. Within hours I was sat in my living room with two police officers, nursing cuts and bruises. I was struggling to decide whether to press charges against someone I was in love with.
I’ve been assaulted before, back when I was a teenager and a drunk stranger jumped me and put me in hospital as I walked to school to sit an exam. But this was different. This was an act that came from someone I loved, someone I adored and someone who I thought deep down couldn’t possibly hurt me.
I’d ignored the vast array of red flags in this relationship, both from his behaviour and my own, and I realised that this was because in some warped way I’d convinced myself that it was better to be in a toxic relationship where I was getting validated, than being on my own.
It felt utterly ironic that my desperation to be loved had led me into a situation where I was getting the exact opposite of that back. How on earth had I found myself in an abusive relationship? Toxic relationships can make you lose sight of what you are looking for. It just didn’t make sense to me at the time, despite having been warned by my friends for months to the point where a number of them had essentially washed their hands of me.
A year later, I’m still single. I’ve spent a lot of time repairing relationships that were damaged during those couple of years from my experience of toxic relationships. I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on myself and those closest to me and avoid toxic relationships with men.
But I’ve not deluded myself into thinking I’m completely fine. I still find myself getting flashbacks to that evening, and I’ve been suffering from anxiety for months as a direct result. The impact of what happened, and the year and a half before it, has made it very hard for me to form an emotional attachment to anyone I date. But I’m trying not to see that as a bad thing. If someone doesn’t want to stick around for long enough, then I shouldn’t let that bother me.
I’ve had a number of relationships in my life, but as I prepare to turn 27, I’ve realised over the past year that the most important relationship of all is the one I have with myself. And right now, it’s better than it’s ever been.
Photo credit: Sandis Helvigs