New beginning

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On this day two years ago, my life changed forever. I didn't think it was a huge change at the time. My nearly four-year relationship had run its course, and my then-boyfriend and I broke up amicably.

Lots of things led to our breakup. He was disgustingly messy; I prefer order and cleanliness. He had thousands of dollars in debt; I didn't think I could handle a long-term relationship with someone who couldn't manage money properly. We didn't live together, but I knew his cleanliness and spending habits would cause serious problems between us if we did.

There were other seemingly less important reasons, like how he ate so fast I never got my fair share of cheese dip at Mexican restaurants or how he insisted that he was more worldly and intelligent than me because he was a few years older. I thought those were just little quirks, but now I know that behavior was unacceptable.

I didn't realize that until months after we'd broken up. I had started dating my boyfriend Gideon and spoke with his mother about how her husband was abusive toward her and the children. As she described how her husband treated her, I realized that my ex-boyfriend's quirks were actually small acts of aggression.

When he took more than his fair share of cheese dip, he was telling me that he was more important than I was. I had asked him several times to slow down and save some for me, but he never did. He'd tell me it was my fault for not eating fast enough.

He followed the same logic when insulting my intelligence. Before I met him, I cherished my intelligence. I didn't have any problem bragging about how well I did in school or how much I loved to write. He changed all that. From the moment we started dating, he told me that I may have done well in high school but that didn't mean I was as smart as he was.

"You have more generalized knowledge. I've studied one subject in detail," he told me.

I performed better than he did when I started college, prompting him to tell me he would have done better if he hadn't taken Japanese classes his freshman year. He was still smarter than me, he insisted. It didn't mean anything, he told me, that I got better grades than him and higher praise from professors than he did.

He continued to demean my spirit for more than three years, but he did it so subtly that I didn't notice when it was happening. He figured out what upset me and waited until I had a big test to take or a big event to attend to press those buttons. He manipulated me so masterfully, and I'm ashamed I let him do that.

I'd be even more ashamed of myself if I weren't speaking out about it now. Now I know he didn't have the self-esteem he claimed; because of his low self-worth, he felt the need to lower mine. He had to bring me to his level to feel in control of the situation. He had to beat me down to raise himself up.

Today, I have been free of him for two years. Even better, I've been dating a wonderful person who tells me daily how intelligent and articulate and valued I am. I don't advise it, but there's nothing like being in an abusive relationship to make you cherish a healthy relationship.

Though I'm not happy I was in abusive relationship, I am happy that I've risen above it. I am happy that I've reclaimed the relationships with family and friends I lost while dating my ex-boyfriend. I'm a strong person now, and I'm using my voice to help others find their own strength.

If the person you're with doesn't validate your worth, you deserve better. If your partner doesn't respect you enough to split the nacho plate in half, maybe you should find someone else who will. Don't let anybody tell you that you aren't good enough, because you are.

On this day two years ago, my life changed forever. I'm so happy it did.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.