if i knew then, what I know now: relationships

I recently was talking to a friend, and I said something along the lines of “I wish I was the person I am today, but like 10 years ago”, to which he responded, “You would have had no friends if you were like this in your early 20’s”.

That got me thinking. I mean, he’s probably right to some degree. I for sure wouldn’t have had the same group of friends, and I most certainly wouldn’t have been in the same relationships.

Teenager Alicia/Early 20’s Alicia was timid, eager to please, scared to voice her opinions, and just overall a submissive person, who was self-conscience and lonely. The people that know me now, that didn’t know me then, are probably like “whattttt”. My actions then and the way I thought, was so focused around how do I make myself more appealing to the people around me. I was never fully myself, because often being myself was not liked, especially by boyfriends. I tailored who I was for them. Over the years, that got worse, and I feel at some point I just completely lost who I was.

If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I’d tell her it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be alone. If it (he) doesn’t make you happy or comfortable just don’t do it.

I will say, around my family, I was more myself. They can’t remember a time where I wasn’t blunt and to the point about what I was thinking or feeling. Go ahead, just ask them!

For some reason that didn’t translate into relationships. I didn’t start dating until high school, and when I did, I was that “long-term” relationship type of gal. ‘Boyfriend 1’, honestly, I don’t remember that much. This was my first everything boyfriend and I think at this time, I was just happy that someone wanted to be with me. I never focused on, was this someone I wanted to be with. This relationship was by no means bad, he treated me well, and there were good times, but after a couple years I knew this wasn’t what I wanted. I saw this person as a friend, not a love interest. This is the first relationship I ended, and it felt shitty.

Almost immediately after came ‘Boyfriend 2’. I did have a connection with this boy, an unhealthy one (I didn’t see that at the time). I was still in high school during this time, he wasn’t, he was older by a couple years and was already out of school. I met him while working in a mall and I just remember feeling happy and excited. It was the relationship that started chipping away at me. When things were good, they were great. But when things were bad, they were the lowest of the low. He’d build me up, and then tear me down. He’d cheat, he’d lie, and then he’d beg for forgiveness and act like the man I fell for. This went on for 5 years. It destroyed friendships, it cost me my job at the time, it mentally broke me down. I remember times where I refused to leave bed for days at a time because I felt sick to my stomach over him. He’d disappear for weeks, and then demand to be let back in my life, until finally I had enough. I built up the courage to say no. That, unfortunately was not the end. Me standing up to him, only brought out rage. He started to stalk me. He sliced my tires multiple times, cut our cable lines, called me all hours of the night. It was nonstop and it got scary. Quick. Out of fear, I started reporting these incidents to the police, and eventually he was arrested for stalking, and had to legally stay away from me. After going through that, I never saw him again.

The time following this, I dated here and there, but it was my early 20’s and I spent these years in the bar scene with my friends. I hated it. I didn’t like going out drinking, but it’s what everyone was doing at that time, so I followed. I usually drank too much, to try to forget how uncomfortable I felt.

I don’t know how it started, but the next serious relationship I had, we’ll call him ‘Boyfriend 3’ was a friend, someone I’d been friends with for years. When I reflect on this one, that’s exactly what we should have stayed: friends. I can’t recall how we started, or who initiated a more romantic side of our relationship, but I remember it starting off just fine. I mean when you’ve known someone for years already, it’s easier. We had a lot of fun, exploring life together. We both had big goals, and big dreams, and were similar people in a lot of ways. I’d love to tell you, that this stayed a positive relationship, but sadly it didn’t. We had a few issues that never went away, but I think the biggest issue was, romantically, we were not a connection. Which led to a lot of resentment on his part. I remember thinking that you couldn’t have it all. You had to choose, do I want to date someone I get along with, like a best friend or do I want to date someone I have this passion with. I now know you can have both, but at the time, with my experience, I was like who do you settle with. And so, I kept trying to make this work, for years. In the beginning I can remember plenty of fun, happy times, but this started to become another emotionally abusive relationship after a few years. I was constantly criticized for not being “sexy enough” for the way I dressed, the way I acted, and for the weight I was. I started to feel self-conscience in every decision I made whether it came to food or clothing. I tried to dress sexier, I yo-yo dieted. I desperately tried to look a certain way, thinking it would help us. It didn’t. He had a wandering eye, not one he’d act on, but he was constantly obsessing about other girls, and how sexy they were. Then he’d come home to me and be angry I wasn’t them or at least that I didn’t look like them. Despite acting like he didn’t want to be with me, he was also jealous of every action I made. He didn’t want me around certain people, and was always thinking I was going to cheat. More friendships lost in this time. There are a lot of dark times in the end of this relationship, things I don’t feel comfortable talking about. But I will talk about how I felt. I felt dead, shut off, like a shell of a person. I can’t tell you how many times I’d just stare off, blank with nothingness. Every year that passed got worse, until finally we parted ways and he moved out.

The year or so following, there were a mix of “relationships”, and by that, I mean people I sort of dated. I can’t say it was all bad, but obviously it didn’t work out, so it wasn’t great either. ‘Almost Boyfriend 4’, was someone that I really liked, but the history and circumstances made it impossible to pursue, but the time we spent together was all positive, and I don’t regret giving it a go. Then we have a string of dating app contestants. Whoa. Those weren’t great. I was lost. Trying to move past my issues, but never actually dealing with them. I was still drinking my way through discomfort and still doing things I didn’t like … for what?!

Now remember that blog about how I met my husband, the great butterfinger kitkat debate., well I’ll elaborate on why we start to date, and why I broke it off. When I met him, I freaked out. He was super into me, and it wasn’t until spending time with him that I realized I just wasn’t ready for another boyfriend. I broke it off, because I realized in that moment I shouldn’t be dating at all. I spent a lot more time alone after that breakup. I still went out with friends, but eventually I started tapering off from everyone. And when I said out of the blue I reached back out to Richard, I mean that. I remember the night so clearly, I was literally sitting on my couch, watching tv, and I remember he just popped in my head. I remember thinking, I wonder how Richard is, and so I texted him. And the rest was history.

Now do I still have some emotional scars? Of course, I do. Do I still get insecure? YUP! But here’s the difference between then and now. First, I took some time to find myself and having support helps me stay true to myself. Richard, since day 1 has never asked me to change who I was, how I looked, or what I do. He has accepted me as is and supports me unconditionally. When you don’t have someone tearing you down, it’s allows you to grow. It allows you to take the time to find yourself.

I don’t feel lost anymore; I feel confident in who I am inside and out. I just wish I knew this existed back then. I wish I knew I could have it all, and I shouldn’t settle with anyone that makes me feel the way those relationships made me feel. And I know they say our experiences make us who we are today, but I’d still go back and give young Alicia a warning, because no one should have to go through that.

And if you are reading this, and you’re lost and can relate to any of this, know you deserve more. It’s out there, I promise. I can’t go back and warn young Alicia, but I can tell you: it’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to be alone, and if it doesn’t make you happy or comfortable just don’t do it.

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