Dating and Relationship Advice

I can still remember waking up in a twilight sleep, in the early hours of the morning. With my eyes closed, I was only beginning to gain awareness of my surroundings. Sometimes I even smiled in this half asleep, half awake dream-like state. But when I finished stretching and opening my eyes, I gazed towards the right and there he was, my emotionally abusive husband. My smile went away the second I saw him snoring away. This happened every morning for eight long years.

My then-husband — let’s call him Prentis — and I met when I had just turned 21. He didn’t possess any of the qualities I normally looked for in a partner. Nevertheless, I fell hard and I fell fast — thanks to my young age and naivety.

Have you ever been in a relationship where your SO makes you question your own sanity? During my marriage with Prentis, I constantly questioned my own instincts; he made me feel guilty when he was the one who did something wrong. Nothing I did was ever good enough for him. He never took my feelings into consideration when he criticized, manipulated, and lied to me.

I knew I couldn’t spend my entire life with him, but I didn’t know how to end the relationship, either.  I’m a codependent person who loathes hurting people’s feelings. When I finally mustered up the courage almost two years ago to ask for a divorce, I was afraid he would start crying.

Prentis did cry, and he did beg. He made promises, practically promising me the world and all. I didn’t fall for his tactics, I couldn’t let myself get drawn back in.

I’m in a new relationship now. My boyfriend — let’s call him Joe — and I have been together for eight months. I refuse to repeat the same mistakes I made with Prentis.

The most important things I still need to work on are: communication, setting and sticking with boundaries, not allowing my former marriage to affect my new partnership, and resolving conflicts rather than avoiding them.

There are many days where I fall short. I’m stubborn sometimes and I don’t adjust well to change. On several occasions, I wanted to communicate — actually needed to communicate — but ultimately failed. In these moments, I remind myself that I’m not perfect, and I can always try harder the next time.

Joe suffers from bipolar disorder, and I live with crippling anxiety. Relationships can be challenging when one, or both, partners are mentally ill. He and I work hard on improving our life together because of this.

I’m happy finally. Joe is understanding of my limitations and he doesn’t push me too hard. If I’m experiencing heightened anxiety and back out of a date we planned, he’s understanding. There are days when he feels depressed, and most of the time, he doesn’t know the reason. I support him, love him, and remind him of his worth.

There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. We have our fair share of arguments. There are times when I’m left in tears and he’s enraged, and sometimes it’s the other way around. With that said, we both put in the necessary effort to avoid heated moments like that.

For myself, I know that voicing my feelings is crucial — if I don’t speak up when something is bothering me, I let negative emotions fester inside of me until I eventually snap. Both communication and prompt resolution are key to a healthy relationship.

I found a boyfriend who I adore, yes, but I also found myself again – my worth and value. I lived with low self-esteem and little self-worth for so many years because of Prentis' demeaning words and actions. Now, I can genuinely say that I am growing to love who I am as a person.

As for Joe, I love him unconditionally, but I won’t allow myself to be verbally or emotionally abused again. As long as our relationship stays on the same path… I can see us getting married one day and spending the rest of our lives together — he makes my life better by being a part of it.