It would be awesome if we got the chance to wipe away every bad relationship before starting a new one. My life, though, tells a different story. The person I have become after being abused has directed every relationship I've encountered since that horrible time in my life.
The damage has been tolerable—until now. I'm married, and the woman with the broken spirit and persistent baggage must die, and I mean to kill her.
My husband often has to bear the burden of my emotional baggage and leftover emotions from the abuse I endured as a young adult. He's written about it; I've written about it. We talk and pray about it together and individually. It is a huge mountain of pain that doesn't go away just because I am now married to a great man whom I love dearly.
Being a domestic-abuse survivor takes its toll on any partner she or he enters into a relationship with. And unless people evaluate these issues they linger, festering into a huge mess of a person.
I often talk about the bruises and the physical pain, but rarely do I allow myself to retreat into the mental anguish that I went through during that time in my life, and never do I broach openly the subject of the pain that remains.
I think it's high time that I do that.
The first time my partner hit me, he convinced me that I had created that monster in him. It was my fault, he said, and any man would have hit me for what I'd done. I should have kept my mouth shut. I led him to it.
By the time he finished manipulating and blame shifting, I felt dirty and worthless. I actually felt sorry for him and the way I had hurt him. It was indeed my fault. His life had been hard; he had a difficult childhood. He watched his dad hit his mother. Even though I knew he had anger issues, I mouthed off to him anyway. He was on the edge, and I pushed him over.
Of course I deserved to be kicked and pushed and punched like a rag doll. He was teaching me never to do it again. I cried, and I begged him to forgive me.
The amount of self-worth I lost in this one event has taken me years to rebuild—I am still working on it.
Maybe if I hadn't been broken from the death of my father and looking for the love of a man in any form, I would have had the self-awareness to recognize that he was off his rocker. Then, I might have had the wherewithal to pack up my things and leave right then. Maybe I could have saved myself the next seven years of losing myself to him again and again. Instead, I fell—head first—into an abyss of self-doubt and self-hate that's been with me since that day. Sure, I learned to love myself again. Yet, the idea of completely loving another person—a man—scares me to no end. Yes, even after getting married and taking vows, doubt and fear tend to control me.
Needless to say, I take every precaution to protect myself. I've tucked away this place in my head that consumes me when I feel vulnerable. It tells me that all I need is me. It sparks a vacancy in me that separates me from reality. I find solace in this place because it's just me there. In this place of imaginary self-wisdom, I know that no one else can be trusted and everyone, at some time, will disappoint me, hurt me, fail me—but me. If I can't depend on anyone else, I will never fail me.
Fortunately, I've been blessed with a husband who loves me enough to listen and who's confident enough to know that it's not about him. He takes the time to reassure me that I no longer need that dark "me" place.
Women who have been abused and get out of the relationship without dealing with the mental anguish take it with them into new relationships. It is indeed unhealthy. Our inability to forgive ourselves for not being strong enough is what ultimately breaks us. Our refusal to forgive lends refuge to the lack of trust, disbelief in real love and inability to acknowledge self-love.
Oprah Winfrey said it best: "I am a woman in process. I'm just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience, and learn from it. Life is never dull."
For me, knowing that adversity and conflict build character, I accept my imperfections. I acknowledge my shortcomings. I recognize that time in my life where I didn't do what was best for me; my broken spirit clouded my decisions.
Today, I am more interested in mending the scattered pieces of my psyche. I'm working on being whole again so that I can give love without regret or anticipation of failure.
I believe that I have come to a place in my life where there is no going back. I refuse to be in bondage to the pain that owned me years ago at the hands of one very cruel man.
I deserve to be free of the baggage, and so does my ever-loving and tolerant husband.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows and her puppy, Shaka.