All I hear about these days is how glorified being a "ride or die" is. She is considered a top shelf standard partner that every woman should strive to be. No matter what happens, how much she has to sacrifice, or how much she is put through, her continuing to ride is the gold standard.
But the thing about being a ride or die is a part of you will actually die. Even if the rest of you rides.
Essentially, I am the same woman I was when I started out, however, I am definitely a different woman on the inside. The human being that I was, is gone forever. Somewhere between the call I received from another woman from his phone number, and the child he had outside of our marriage with a totally different woman six years later, I lost myself.
The woman that I was, is buried with the son that I lost.
Hindsight is always 20/20. You're always going to look back and chastise yourself for the mistakes you made and every time you were weak. Hell, there were so many weak moments that I lost count.
There were the times I saw other women driving my car. Then, of course, all of the calls, emails, and pictures that were sent to me by other women that showed him smiling and happy with them, even though I couldn't get him to pose in a picture with me. By the end, I was out of tears. I was used to the disrespect, the lies, and the loneliness. I had stopped being the woman I once was, and he had stopped being the man I fell in love with. The two of us were mere shadows of ourselves, broken bones in human skin. We were hopelessly entangled in something we called love, but at the bare minimum, was tolerance.
When I think back, I can count all of the opportunities that I chose to forfeit. I met men who were willing to risk it all for a taste of me. Men who wanted to make me part of their lives and who they were willing to take me home to their mothers. I wasn't a secret to them, I was a prize being squandered by a fool.
Turning them down felt like a knife I was turning into my own stomach, even if it was the "right" thing to do. After all, I was married and wanted it to work. Then I'd log on to Facebook a few months later and see that same man happily boo'd up with a woman who was smart enough to say yes. A woman who I knew benefitted from the fact that I said no. His heart was ready to love me, but because I wasn't ready to be loved, it instead was poured into someone else. I'd tell myself that I was happy for him, as I looked at the once again empty space in the bed next to me. "Happy." Sure.
I held on for the sake of holding. Where else was I going to go? I'd ask myself. I became a paragon of virtue: the patron saint of riding and dying. Women in my life, from best friends to acquaintances, would text me, DM me, email me, pull me to the side and say, "Teach me how to stay. You are such a good wife, you value your marriage and stand by your husband no matter what. Teach me your way."
And I'd wince as if they'd slapped me. It was as though they were telling me to stick my head into a tank full of snakes. I'd swallow hard, take a deep breath, smile, and then honor their request. I would teach them to be quiet and turn their heads the other way for the sake of not being photographed together. I'd tell them how I knew in my gut that I was doing the right thing and because I loved him so much, there was nothing he could do that would make me leave.
But I felt like I was betraying them. Lying to them. Putting them up to be fools like me: riding and dying until the wheels fell off, and then running the rest of the way. I wanted to tell them to run in the other direction as fast as they could, that he was never going to change, and that the only result of this would be crashing and burning. I knew this because I had the scars to prove it.
Still, I told them to stay, and most of them did. I envied the ones who found the courage to move on, that was until I ended up becoming one of them.
It took 12 years until I finally decided I was done riding. Done dying.
That shit wasn't cute as a teenager or in my 20's, but by my 30's, it was intolerable. Love was no longer enough. I realized that love is not all we need to get by.
As the mother of two daughters, it took seeing them shaking their heads in pity at me for me to finally wake up and say no, this is it. What kind of example am I setting by letting someone, even if it is their father, even if it is someone I tried to ride for, even if it was the man I was with since I was 19, make me look and feel like a damn fool whenever he felt like it? What does love have to do with self-respect, self-worth, and setting examples for those looking to us for guidance? Nothing.
I try to remind myself that this is in the past. I know I cannot live there. Did I make mistakes? Yes. I still do. Life is all about making mistakes, but growth means not making the same ones repeatedly. You know what they say about hard heads? They make soft asses.
I've gotten my bruises and moved forward. What I did or why I did it is no longer important. I am here today, and know that it could all be gone tomorrow. I'm learning to value life and time, starting with my own.
You have to be willing to learn from the past so that you don't repeat it. Learn to establish boundaries. Love and value yourself so that you're not putting yourself on sale for the next man that window shops in your direction.
You are top shelf. If he's not willing to reach up there and get to you, then tell him to keep it moving. You don't have the time. Own your time, heart, and mind. Your inner peace is more important than merely existing to be loved by someone who doesn't know your worth.