It starts with a look. You meet eyes with someone and before you know it that light that has been gone for so long becomes ignited.
Or maybe it’s a compliment made by a complete stranger in the line at Starbucks. A compliment as simple as, “You have beautiful eyes,” but one he hasn’t said to you in over six months.
Or perhaps a text from an ex-boyfriend reminding you that you haven’t always felt worthless in a relationship.
So, you entertain these situations and realize you aren’t happy here anymore. You aren’t happy with him anymore. You are tired of playing the role of a woman you never signed up for, with a man who turned out to be the opposite of who he displayed on your first date.
For me, leaving my ex-boyfriend didn’t start with a late night Instagram DM, it wasn’t a night out with too many drinks where the flirty words had an open door to come rushing out, it WAS a look, but not with another man.
It was a look in the mirror.
My once bright blue eyes were raw from many nights of crying myself to sleep in the realization of another day I was wasting with the wrong person. Tears of fear, but also tears of anguish as I truly did want to make it work. My thick blonde hair was falling out in handfuls, and on the rare days I had enough energy to wash it, it lived in a messy bun. (And not one of those Pinterest worthy buns, but one that says “Hi, I may or may not be hiding small birds in here.”)
My clothes didn’t fit like they used to, and I retired my skinny jeans for sweats, since they were more forgiving of the ten pounds I managed to put on. I had been living like this for over six months, but on a cold morning in January, I decided to leave my boyfriend. My boyfriend with whom I shared a home, a 9-month-old puppy and finances with. I left him for someone else…
In retrospect, there were a lot of red flags that I managed to ignore in my relationship with Mr. Small. (He definitely wasn’t the Mr. Big to my Carrie Bradshaw.)
A couple months into our relationship, I was already moved in, we had bought a puppy together and felt like my days solely depended on his schedule. What most people would see considering the fast pace as, “Well when you know you know,” was Mr. Small working in a manipulative and controlling way that would take me almost a year to see.
What started out as a few degrading comments, in the beginning, turned into him tracking my phone and social media, accusing me I was cheating on him when I was at the grocery store, to inevitably being thrown across our bedroom because of a post on Instagram I was tagged in.
Many of my days were spent in an ongoing abusive cycle of, “I’m so sorry babe, I’ll get help,” to getting pushed out of a moving truck because we ran into a guy I dated before him at a local bar.
After Christmas of 2017, nine months with Mr. Small, I was reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle and it was the catalyst that made me pick up my life and move back home to my parents.
Some women get sidetracked by other men who feed something in their hearts, that their significant other has stomped on. Sometimes it’s the extra compliments you get that haunt you while you’re being called names by the man you’re making dinner for.
And other times, like with the help of Glennon’s book, you realize that you, as a woman, were created as a WARRIOR.
Leaving Mr. Small for no one but myself was the first step in my healing process.
There is no one more valuable in your life than yourself to remind you of your worth. Breakups can happen because you miss someone else, and for me I did miss someone else immensely every day.
And that person was me.
I missed the woman I was before he turned my strength into a weakness. I missed what living, and not existing in fear felt like. And most of all, I missed the little girl inside of me that I failed to protect.
What we as women need to understand and accept is that it is OKAY to want your own happiness. It is okay to put yourself first, and to care for yourself the most, and to do what’s beneficial and healthy for you. It is okay to leave an abusive or not abusive relationship to better yourself. It is not only okay but mandatory. I want to share a quote that rings true for me every day.
“You are not obligated to sit there and smile and swallow every bit of shit everyone heaps on you. You are more than furniture, you’re more than window dressing, you are not a shiny toy. You’re human and have the right to say, ‘Let me feed that back to you, tell me, how does it taste?’ You have the right to protest your own mistreatment and set boundaries for respectful interactions. The rest of the world doesn’t realize you have this right and they will act offended and appalled when you exercise it, but it’s yours.”
I am learning that there is power in experience. Power to learn, power to grow and power to share. The power that comes from the experience isn’t always grand.
Because no matter how big or small the experience, power is never measured. When I packed up my car that cold day in January and loaded my puppy in the front seat, the empowerment I felt was unmeasurable.