Dear Teenage Me…
I know your relationship is not always bad. When it is good, it is really good. He is a true romantic some of the time. One Valentine’s Day, he filled an entire couch with stuffed animals, chocolate, and flowers and led you in with eyes closed to find it. I remember he sang you love songs in the car many weekends on the way home from romantic dinners. I remember when you cried because your mom promised you a puppy that she eventually did not get, so he drove an hour away to get it for you. When he is kind, he gives you a high that lasts for days, and you are sure this is where you want to be for the rest of your life.
The community also wants you together. He goes to church, comes from a nice family, and lives in a much better neighborhood than you. He is respectful to adults, 3rd in his class, and participates in academic extracurricular activities. The teachers at your school and his family are supportive of you two being together, and by all outward appearances, it seems this boy is a real winner.
But there is another side of him that makes the relationship more difficult. He became controlling. Initially, it seemed like kindness. He took you to school each morning because he did not want you to ride the bus that he knew you hated. He wanted you to join the same clubs as him because he knew you would enjoy them. He wanted you to take the same classes and spend every waking moment with him because he loved you so much, he could not stand to be away from you. You didn’t like the clothes he picked out for you, but wore them anyway because he thought you were beautiful in them, and that was what you were looking for…to feel beautiful. Things were great until you disagreed with his requests, or shall I say demands?
I warn you that his kindness is a tool. He is manipulating you in an effort to establish control. If you do not leave, there will come a time that he spits on you. He will pull your hair and scratch your face because you went to a gym with your family member. He will rip your shirt off of your body because he does not like you wearing a V-neck. He will call you a whore for drinking out of another guy’s drink when you were thirsty. He will show up at a restaurant when you are celebrating a birthday with your childhood friends, crying and disheveled, because you went without him and he was sure you were cheating. I also remember that in the end, it will be he who strays outside of the relationship, and you will be devastated, but it will be the best thing to ever happen to you.
I wish I could tell you to leave him before he caused so much damage to your self-esteem and future relationships. A controlling partner does not replace a protective father. This is something you must work through. It will take you years to trust again, but please do trust again. I wish I could tell you that all men are not like him, love is not what he has shown you, and you are worthy of a respectful partner. Love should not be hard, nor should it be jealous or fear-inducing. Love is comfortable like a pillow. When life gets hard, your true love will be a place to rest.
My name is Crystal, and I’m in my early 30s. I am in college and have two boys that I hope to raise to be respectful, caring, and supportive gentlemen. I have been in a healthy relationship for 14 years and hope that my story, although mild compared to other people’s experiences, can help another free themselves from the grip of abuse and see the triumph in breaking the cycle.