If there are any words of wisdom I can impart, it is to trust your gut instinct. As I reflect on my life experiences and now witness what some younglings are currently going through, that is the advice I would give.
It’s that little voice that sings like a snitching canary. It can ruin your best-laid plans, shatter your hopes and dreams. You can feel it in the pit of your stomach, though, and you must decide. Should I listen to it? I cannot tell you how many times that inner voice warned me. I ignored it. How did I let that happen?
I got married for the first time at age 24. After dating for a few months, we took the drastic step of moving in together. Not long after that, we got engaged, and a year later, we were married. The total amount of time that we knew each other before we exchanged vows and rings was a year and a half. I found myself wrapped in a swirling funnel cloud of wedding plans and trying to graduate from college. Little did I pay attention to the fact that my dreams and interests were being absorbed by his. Although some of our interests were mutual, many were not, and his overwhelmingly became mine. It gets old when it is lopsided, though, and after some time goes by…say 15-years, any relationship is going to have that to some extent.
At that young age, you see all your peers getting married and, or having kids. There is societal pressure on you to make a move and do what you’re supposed to do. As a woman, there is also the biological clock thing. You’re supposed to have babies! Best not delay; the longer you wait to get married, the fewer guys are available, and the “good ones” are getting snatched up. The fiancé was pressuring me, too, proposing so soon after moving in together. I was fit, motivated, had just obtained my degree, and was going to make some money. I cooked and did all the housework. I took care of the bills. Why wouldn’t he get those hooks in me fast and hard? I was a great catch! When there is intense pressure from everyone, from everywhere, you ignore the voice.
What were some examples of the flags I was ignoring?
- trying to isolate me from my family and friends
- how he treated me compared to my friends or family (nice to me; family or friends, not so much)
- losing sight of my personality traits
I started as a strong, independent, young woman. When the controlling began, I didn’t know how to react to it. I was shocked. It came down to ultimatums. “I don’t like you hanging out with your friends. They go, or I go!”
I remember one time (at band camp, ha-ha), we had gotten into a fight. It is strange that I don’t remember the specifics of the argument, only that it was a bad one. It had bothered me so much. I remember running out of the apartment without my shoes on. Repulsed, I immediately had to get him out of my space physically. He followed me out and quickly caught up to me right away. He begged me to come back. He promised he would be better. I remember thinking to myself, “This is it. If I decide to stand my ground, it is going to be over. Do I want this relationship to end?” The answer, at the time, was no. Even though I knew it should have been. Deep down, I knew this was a toxic relationship. But I simply did not want to start over with somebody else. I had come so far with this guy, invested too much. I remember it was a feeling of surrender. I had been with a lot of guys, and I was just sick of it and wanted to settle down. Nobody was going to be perfect. It had to be me. I was too picky! There were some good things about him, and I thought I loved him. I must be in love with him. Right? Right???? Oh, snap. Yeah, no…not when you ask yourself like that.
Looking back, moving in together, so soon was a mistake. It is challenging to extricate yourself from that situation. I didn’t have the money to move to another place and my name was on the lease with him. I felt trapped. What I didn’t realize was that it was okay to break up, even if you were in deep. It is better than getting into a bad marriage. Leaving after marriage is MUCH more difficult, especially when children are involved.
You don’t have to get married so young, or at all. Marriage is tough for the strongest couples. So why get married unless you are sure you should? You love each other, but do you like each other? Do you laugh together? Do you have fun? Can you take each other seriously? Do you honestly care about each other? Do you respect each other? Is it give and take in both directions, or is it all one-way? Too many wrong answers to these questions should have flares going off. A marriage is more than a business partnership. (Oh, by the way, it is also a business partnership). But I digress!
I would also like to submit, while I write this from a female perspective, this same advice applies to men. Some women are controlling narcissists too! Trust your gut. Being by yourself, being on your own, is a much better choice than being with the wrong person. You will know when it is wrong, and you will know when the right one comes along. And if the right one doesn’t come along, that’s okay, too.
I remarried, I am very happy, and without a doubt, it is worth waiting for the right person. You will know because you will answer the questions I mentioned above in the affirmative. The right person will still make you smile at the sight of their face, even after nine years, even when they are growing a scraggly beard in a pandemic. Trust yourself. You know yourself better than you think you do.
By Dawn D
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