When I was sixteen years old I got engaged. It was my first relationship and I dove headfirst into it with every confidence in the world that we would last and do what was right because we were Christians, and therefore we couldn’t possibly fail. It wasn’t that we were better than anyone else, but if you know scripture, a chord of three strands is not easily broken.
I was so young. I was so incredibly naive. There were many red flags in this relationship and yet I continued to press on because I had bought into the idea that we had to make it work. Even before we were married I thought of breaking it off because I wasn’t happy at the rate the physical relationship was moving. I didn’t always feel comfortable. I didn’t always feel heard.
But we pressed on. In the two years before we got married we dealt with our fair share of fights, emotional outbursts, issues with intimacy and trust, and yet I thought this was normal. I was willing to work through anything I thought. He was the first person to love me and pay attention to me. He made me feel safe.
I think it’s important to note that I come from a history of failed relationships. I grew up without a dad, my parents divorced when I was a toddler. My mom and step-dad divorced when I was eleven. Both of these divorces were due to the failures of the men, not my mom.
So I am a sixteen year old girl with no father and a history of sexual abuse – to put it in perspective – who is being pursued by someone who claims to be a Christian (I instantly put him on a pedestal) and who I think will love me forever and there is no way my relationship is going to go down the toilet like my parent’s marriage (sorry mom). As I said, I was young, dumb, and naive. I thought I had it all figured out.
Very early into our marriage I knew I made a mistake. I was not happy, but I tried to be. I sought out attention from other people, which resulted in me having an emotional affair with one of our close friends. We tried to move past it and kept trying to make the relationship work.
Over the next few years we continued to stay in the relationship although it was becoming more and more clear neither of us was happy. We stayed out of obligation more than anything. Divorce is not taken lightly in the Christian community. Throughout our relationship many encouraged us. They said we would grow up together. And grow up we did, but we grew apart.
Every relationship is extremely personal and can’t be completely hashed out in a single blog post. There were so many trials we went through. There were so many personal failures we dealt with. My heart grew tired and I couldn’t stay in a place where I felt like I was not enough. I was tired of being betrayed repeatedly and so my heart hardened and I retaliated and filed for divorce.
What I learned from those nearly five years of marriage is that no love story is perfect. You shouldn’t stay with someone out of fear of being alone. You deserve both love and respect. No one is perfect and no relationship is either, but a relationship should be generally free of drama. It’s not normal to have three hour long fights everyday.
You should feel like a partner in your relationship. You should not be made to feel less than. You are not a doormat. You are not responsible for someone else’s failings. You should be able to express your thoughts and feelings without being told you are crazy or irrational.
When I look back now I see it as a learning opportunity. I know what works in a relationship and what does not. I know what I am willing to take in a relationship and what I won’t stand for. I learned so much about myself too. I learned what my weaknesses are. I learned what makes me strong.
I have now been happily married for nearly seven years. My marriage with my husband is one of choice and not obligation. Every day I happily choose to be with him. We love and respect each other mutually. We are partners in this life. We are family and together created a family. He has never made me feel like I am not enough. He has never shamed me. He is gentle and kind and patient with me. He has shown me what a good man and good husband should be.
The point I want to make is that if you experience a failed relationship, it doesn’t need to define you. Take what you can learn from it and move on. Living in the past and dwelling on failures is more harmful than helpful. We are all human. We all make mistakes.
I have two daughters. Someday they too will likely find themselves in a relationship. When they are with someone I want it to be because they choose to be. I don’t want them to get validation from their relationship. I want them to go into it with confidence and know that they are enough with or without that person. I never want them to feel trapped. And anyone they end up with will have some big shoes to fill. They have a great example of a man, husband, and father in their dad.