Fort Worth, Texas: Where it all began
There's something about being physically in the place where my relationship began that's allowing me to reflect on it in a whole different way. And I keep coming back to the word "forgiveness." I'm trying to forgive myself for staying in my relationship that I saw warning signs of a decade ago, right here in this apartment complex in Fort Worth. I've come here early on in my year of Grieve Leave to remember and confront the things I don’t want to admit.
I was 22 and I was in love. We were in love.
I was completely taken by my ex's charisma and charm. I loved his energy. I loved his passion for the world. I loved how handsome he was. I loved how hard-working he was. I loved that we shared a similar experience of growing up in a single parent household in our teens. I loved how much he loved me, and he showed me that in the beginning of our relationship.
My ex gave me love and support during some of the most difficult times in my life. This was my person. He was who I was supposed to be with. You are supposed to marry someone you're so in-love with, right? The person you are with after college is supposed to be your forever person…right?! We just made so much sense together.
All along, though, I remember moments when I felt unsafe with him. Since early on in our relationship, I remember frightening alcohol-fueled evenings. When we'd fight, we'd yell, because that was the norm in each of our households growing up. I'd get so angry in our fights, unlike any frustration I'd ever felt before, and I remember not acting like myself. I felt like if I just pushed him a little harder, he would act differently.
But I just…stayed in the relationship. We had been through so much together, already. He had met my family. We de-facto lived together within months. We got a dog together in less than a year. We got engaged in less than two years.
I didn’t know, but I was stuck on a track. I put my blinders on and charged forward in our relationship, even when the road was rocky...or treacherous, even. I treated the relationship like I had nowhere else to go because I never even saw another path. I literally didn't see it. I ignored the little voice in the back of my head that was scared sometimes, because I thought it just came with this relationship I was meant to be in.
"This is the person I'm supposed to be with," I thought. "I love him more than I've ever loved anyone." I sought comfort from the same person who, at times, I feared. (Looking back now, I wish I had learned how to comfort myself instead of relying on affirmation from men to get me through my toughest times. That's a behavior I'm trying to unlearn.)
In all our years together, our love for each other never faded. What a privilege it is that I got to experience that kind of deep, romantic love. Not everyone gets that in their lives. But at the same time, it is because of that love, and all of my preconceptions that came with it, that I was blinded. I didn't realize I was in a relationship that was bad for me.
The devastating truth that I've learned is that love is not enough to make a healthy, stable relationship. I got sucked in by love and didn't come up for air until my father died…when I was destabilized enough off my track to finally realize I had been trying to sustain a seemingly picture-perfect marriage that was anything but.
I'm working on forgiving myself for staying in this relationship all those years ago, when I started down that track. I made choices as a 22 year old woman in love that I wouldn’t make today, now older, wiser, and honestly pretty worn down. I think this authentic forgiveness is central to my being able to fully grieve the loss of my marriage.
Coming back to Fort Worth, where it all began, has helped me start that process of forgiveness.
I was 22 and I was in love. Now I'm 32 and alone. And that's ok.