“Don’t let love change you, let it help you to grow and change from the growth.”
I heard that somewhere before, and it always resonated with me. Now for the life of me, I can’t remember where I got it from. However, I never really understood it until I met one boy that changed me – literally.
I grew up with a bit of an inferiority complex, that most likely came about from childhood bullying. This inferiority complex left me anxious, confused, and always seeking approval. At the same time, I always wanted attention. Because of this “approval seeking”, in essence I was always changing myself so that I could blend in. I could be part of the “in crowd” and be what everyone else wanted me to be.
This led me through a maze of phases: label conscious, angry rebel goth, someone who didn’t have a care in the world and someone who didn’t give a damn about the world. I was changing, but I wasn’t growing. This all culminated in disrespect for myself.
At 17 my life was split down the middle. I was stuck between being comfortable in my own skin and craving attention and change. I was angry, but I didn’t know why. But all this changed when Daniel stepped into my life.
I met Daniel in the summer time, and yes, I give you full permission to roll your eyes at this “summer fling”, because quite simply, that is what Daniel and I had. But of course, at 17 you don’t think about those things. You see beyond the imperfections and the impracticalities.
I thought that Daniel was perfect, and I thought that he and I were invincible.
Just two weeks into our relationship we already planned out how our senior year was going to work since we didn’t go to the same school. He would get his license first and come to see me, and once I got mine, we could go to all the places we wanted to go to, splitting the drives.
Daniel, at first, made me feel special. All this inferiority complex stuff? It didn’t exist when I was with him. He put me first, he took care of me, and best of all, he told me every night that he loved me.
At least, I thought he did.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I see now that I was left with a false sense of security when I was around him. Thinking that my inferiority complex was gone was actually false – it was actually worse than it ever was.
Daniel changed me, beginning with my friends. As our relationship began to progress, our activities went from large groups to small groups, and from small groups to even smaller groups, to the point where we were alone most of the time. And being alone wasn’t really the issue – in fact, I enjoyed the privacy from time to time. But the fact that he wanted to be alone with me – and only me – at all times was suffocating at times. When I wanted to hang out with other people, he would question my fidelity. If I was tired, he would ask whether or not I really loved him.
So I followed, and the inferiority complex followed close behind. I wanted his approval. I had his “love”, and I wanted his approval even more.
But what I failed to see was his double standard – when he wanted to do something with his friends and I complained, he called me whiny, When he was tired and I asked, he called me needy.
Even with these inconsistencies, I listened and followed. And this continued even as his character changed further, to the point where I made a 180 turn. I changed and changed until Daniel showed his ugly side.
Daniel loved to drink and party. Drinking led to getting drunk, and getting drunk left Daniel emboldened to experiment new things. He would try his luck at touching me, making moves and getting me to drink. Worst of all, he tried to make me have sex with him.
For the first time, I said no to him. Saying no to him, in the long run, was the best thing that I could ever do. However, at the time, it was a nightmare.
Daniel clearly did not like the word no. In fact, he probably never heard that word before. But saying no to him and standing up to him made him upset, so upset to the point that he had begun to hurt me. He called me unfaithful, useless, and unloving. And even worse was the fact that I let this happen. We got into the vicious cycle of fighting, taking breaks and getting back together again, never really discussing our differences, or what hurt me the most, or our expectations. We continued to sweep things under the rug, pretending like nothing happened after we kissed and made up (literally). But the ugly pile of discrepancies continued to pile and pile until one day, he had enough with his pathetic girlfriend.
He told me that he started dating me because he wanted something more in a relationship that his previous girlfriend didn’t give him. He wanted physicality. He wanted sex. And at that moment, I realized that we had nothing in common other than the fact that we breathed the same air and we were both right handed.
All of the commonalities that I thought we had were suddenly forced and non-existent. It was reminiscent to the times when I feel desperate to come up with things in common in a Venn diagram at school: I can bullshit all I want, but at the end of the day, my grade will still be mediocre. But somehow, in my mind, none of that mattered until he outright told me what he wanted. And that was something that I never asked for, partially because I wanted to give him benefit of the doubt, but also because I was afraid. I was afraid that he was going to pass me by once I told him what I wanted and what I valued.
Shortly after, he broke up with me, citing “irreconcilable differences” and the fact that I wasn’t “fulfilling the physical needs of a relationship”. Sad but true, and despite the fact that I knew that he was bad for me, I was hurt beyond belief. I missed him, but at the same time, At the time I hated him for changing me, but even more, I hated myself for falling in love with him.
I tell this story not for pity or for everyone to help me gang up and find Daniel so that I can beat him up. Daniel is a part of my past, and while unfortunate, has taught me something incredible valuable.
It took me a long time (about 18 months, to be honest), to forgive him. It took me just as long to forgive myself and learn that I, along with everyone else (even Daniel) deserves a person that will love you for who you are. And at the same time, people will naturally change – we all need to find a person that will not only change with us, but grow with us. Someone who facilitates our growth, and not hindering it.
Love is all about growing with one another, embracing the change and helping the other person become the best person that they can be. Stay true to yourself and know who you are first. Realize that change is healthy, but if someone is forcing you to do something that you aren’t comfortable with or someone that you are not, then that person does not truly love you.
It may feel like the end of the world when you part ways with someone, but know that standing up for yourself will help you in the long run.
To this day, Daniel and I have never talked and I don’t intend on ever doing so. But I thank him for helping me learn (the hard way) about how love is blind, but true love waits.
And I hope you remember that too – you are valuable and deserve the best in the world. Never settle for anything less, and never let people (or things) change you into someone that you are not.