I've always been an overachiever in life, excelling in whatever it was I poured myself into. When it came to my love life, it was no different.
Or so I thought.
I had this notion that if I followed all the steps and did everything right on my end that everything would fall into place. Little did I know, that's not exactly how life goes, especially regarding love.
Love is patient, love is kind, but what happens when you aren't?
What happens when you choose to jump ahead of Cupid, and he uses you for target practice instead of his primary target?
I'll tell you what happens; you end up settling.
I was nineteen years old in a relationship with a man ten years my senior.
I know what you are thinking and looking back on it, you're right. But things happened, and here I am. We started off as friends, and it evolved into something more.
I was a freshman in college and had little experience in the dating world outside of high school puppy love. He pulled out all the stops in the romance department and not having experienced anything else I was impressed. I remember him continuously saying to me that he was a rare find and no other man would treat me as good as he did. Being young and naive in all departments of life, especially love, I believed him.
However, in accepting what I was fed, I never once felt that spark, that blissful feeling of happily ever after; you know like you see in the movies. I brushed it off and labeled it as a phase and told myself, "This is as good as its probably going to get for you."
My second year of college, I got pregnant. I'll admit that I wasn't too thrilled because it wasn't a part of my plan.
The kids weren't supposed to come until two years after I'd graduated, but he treated it as if he was checking something off of his list of shit to do before reaching thirty. My parents were divorced, and his had been married for thirty plus years. In his head, it was what was supposed to happen at the right time for him and that was his primary concern. Upon us telling friends that we were expecting, it was mentioned that we should get married. He was on board; I was hesitant.
I knew I wanted to get married, but even after all this time dating this man, I never once saw myself growing old with him. We talked about it more, and he sensed my hesitation in not wanting to do it. He then started to remind me repeatedly that he was a rare find and no other man was going to treat me the way he did. He even took it a step further and told me how lucky I was that a man like him wanted to marry me and this is what was best for our child.
I agreed and stood before a judge in the courthouse of my hometown and married the man who didn't make me happy.
One year later, I began to change. Every day, I was going through the motions to just get through the twenty-four hours. I wasn't happy and felt undone in many areas of my life. I came home to a man who complained about me not generating income and suggested that I get a job. I didn't know how I was supposed to balance a job going to school full-time, maintain a 3.0, and take care of a baby who was only in daycare for my school hours. His nagging went on for a while so I had to quit school to get a full-time job in hopes that if I made him happy, I'd be satisfied.
The problem with that theory is I didn't know at the time that I was responsible for my happiness.
It wasn't until we moved to Florida for his job that everything started to sink in. I found myself depressed and married to a man who didn't notice anything outside of his own needs. I didn't want him to touch me at all, so when we had sex, it was out of obligation and not passion. Every day became harder and harder to cope with life.
I was miserable.
I would go to the bathroom and shut the door for my daily crying session. One day, that was interrupted by my two-year-old son who had walked in. I didn't notice him at first until his tiny frame pressed against me and held my face so he could wipe away the tears. In that moment, I found a piece of myself that wanted better for the eyes staring back at me.
When my husband got home that night, I told him I was leaving. He wanted to know why and I told him everything I'd been feeling and have felt for the past couple of years. He seemed confused and began to regurgitate that same manipulative phrase over and over again. When he realized it no longer worked, he grew angry, then he spouted off hateful words about how ungrateful and undeserving I was to have a man like him. He was right; I didn't deserve a man like him, I deserved better.
I deserved a man that I loved, and he wasn't it.
I made the ten-hour drive back to my home state with my son in tow and never looked back. I remember pulling into my mother's driveway and having the feeling of relief wash over me. After that, I struggled with forgiving myself for being that naive nineteen-year-old girl who was falling for any and everything because she didn't know who she was. It became a burden, and I lived my life for a while full of regret and what-ifs. It wasn't until my mother and I had a very real conversation about my choices, she told me to stop feeling sorry for myself, and that the lessons from my choices help shape the person she knows is deep down inside. I asked her if she knew that he wasn't the one for me. She said "yes" and then told me, "As a parent, you allow your children to make their own mistakes and figure it out."
That's what I did.
I figured my life out. I immersed myself in my faith and found God in the dark places of my mind that I thought I'd never escape. It was then I discovered that I wasn't prepared to fall in love with anyone because I hadn't yet fallen in love with myself. That was the very reason why I'd always sold myself short on what I deserved. If I wanted to get anywhere in life, I had to change this.
I started by looking in the mirror every morning and telling the reflection that was looking back at me that I am proud of the woman she is and who she is becoming.
I told her that she was beautiful, kind, smart, and worthy of a fairytale love.
Telling myself those things was the easy part, believing them was hard. I kept at the routine until I started to believe everything I was saying. In that belief, I found my worth, which changed how I viewed love. I now view love as sacrifice. You have to be willing to sacrifice for the other person. At this point in my life, I'm only willing to do that for my son, so I've chosen to take a break from dating for now and focus on my passion, which is writing. I want to show my son that no matter what you go through in life you can always change it and find a way to follow your dreams.
However, while I'm on my break from the dating world, I'm still navigating through exactly what I want in a potential partner. While doing this, I've decided to remain celibate because I value my body now more than ever. Whenever I decide to jump back into the dating game, I want to be prepared and know that I am now dating with a purpose. That purpose is to find someone who I'll be willing to sacrifice for and receive the same in return. I'm taking my time and observing my mistakes because although they don't haunt me anymore, I'm still working on forgiving myself for making them.
In the meantime, I'll be living a life of fulfillment and passion.
I'm going back to school in the spring to study my craft. I will continue to work on myself because I now understand that it is okay to be a work in progress and a masterpiece. I had to learn how to love myself, and know my worth before I can expect someone else to. In determining my value, I move differently in life, especially regarding love.
Settling doesn't live here anymore.
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