CW: This post contains talks about mental health (inc. post-traumatic stress, anxiety & depression) verbal & emotional abuse in relationships and sexual coercion. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
Love takes many forms. The love we have for our family is different to that of our spouse. The love we have for our siblings is different to our parents etc.
I like to think I’ve done many things for the people I love. I can’t say I’m perfect and that we haven’t had our arguments, or times when we’ve said and done things we regret. We’re only human and learn from our mistakes. But overall, I want to do good things for the people I love, even if it’s something I don’t like, or isn’t my cup of tea.
For example, I’m not a major video game nut. My boyfriend on the other hand, is. He’s an avid gamer and really knows his stuff about the industry, along with video game makers. While it’s not something I go major for, the craftsmanship and sheer amount of work that goes into these games, and the voice actors as well, is staggering.
I’ve ended up a bit of a fan myself. And I LOVE hearing him talk about the history, or certain creators, because not only is it interesting, it’s one of his interests. It’s something he is passionate about.
Like my writing, particularly erotic stories, this particular genre isn’t something he sees himself doing, but actively encourages my interest, because he knows it’s something I enjoy.
One of my major changes I have made, ultimately for myself, but also to improve my relationship with my boyfriend, is letting go of certain anxieties and ultimately “letting go”.
Keeping in mind, this took a lot of work, both individually and with a therapist and my doctor, after developing post-traumatic stress, severe anxiety and depression, from losing my Nan to cancer and straight afterwards, a nasty breakdown of a previous relationship, a good few years ago now.
As you know, this breakdown of my last serious, yet short-lived, relationship, really fucked me up. I saw another side to my then-boyfriend that I didn’t like, and in retrospect, frightened me.
Also in retrospect, there were many red flags. I just didn’t see them, or hoped they weren’t the case. Of course, they were. Had I stayed, I would have ended up doing things I wasn’t comfortable with and didn’t want to do, emotionally and sexually, for fear of having the ‘trust’ card thrown at me, as often was.
It involved some very nasty, condescending insults thrown my way, when we broke up. I was told everyone agreed with him, I wasn’t ready for a relationship, my standards were too high, that I needed to look at the ‘bigger picture’. As well being told it was his right to have sex with me without protection, because he was my boyfriend. That if I was on birth control, why should he have to?
Protection was something he knew I was ardent about, but he pushed it. Originally, I agreed, though I wasn’t 100% about it. I later changed my mind. I wasn’t comfortable with it at all. What if something went wrong? But that didn’t matter.
This was just some of it. The more full-on, nastier things I don’t wish to discuss and want to keep private. This made me question my sanity and stance on relationships for a long time afterwards. Intentional or not, it was gaslighting at its morbid, disgusting finest.
Having known him closely for a little while before dating, this came as a major shock at the time. He full-on got inside my head and messed around in there, because he couldn’t get what he wanted from me. He loved the idea of me more than me myself.
Now with this being my first ever relationship, it was new territory for me and I made my own rookie mistakes I regret, so I was no angel either. I can’t say I was perfect because I wasn’t. But I never did anything like that. That much I can say. Needless to say, I dodged a nuclear bomb-sized bullet, and it destroyed my feeling completely safe with men for years.
This anxiety really showed itself when I entered my relationship with my boyfriend. As I’ve mentioned before, the anxiety I was experiencing was still there, lurking in the background. Even though I knew I was safe with my boyfriend, my survival instincts were still very much on alert, as if I wasn’t.
I was very easily triggered, and I realised I hadn’t in fact dealt with it. I had pushed it down and locked it away. I realised in order to get better, I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own. Even after the really good therapy I received etc. it took a while more of self-care and love on my part for that help to fully take effect.
We’ve been together for almost four and a half years now, and it’s taken three and a half of those years, until one day I noticed I was completely, 100% relaxed in my relationship. Do I still have anxiety? Of course, namely generalised now, something I have a natural predisposition to and had before all of that happened.
Do I still have anxiety relating to when men get angry? A little, nowhere near as much as I used to. I have a much better perspective of it now and no longer feel the need to hide in a corner somewhere.
Putting this work in myself, along with the much-needed help I received, has vastly improved how I view relationships. Most importantly, my relationship with myself. As well, my boyfriend is much more relaxed, because he (understandably) was so worried about me and wanted me to be ok.
Anyone who says trauma and mental health doesn’t have a knock-on effect with relationships is lying. It affects the people closest to you especially, and surprise, surprise! He is the closest person to me.
I needed to get better for myself. It takes work and help to get there, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re struggling. As precocious as this may sound (truthfully, compared the abyss headspace I was in before, I honestly don’t care if it does.) I needed to get better because I love myself too much to let myself go there again. I have no intention of going back there, if I can help it, and do whatever means necessary to ensure I don’t.
After a long while, that feeling of self-love kicked and recovery, self-care etc. became much more smooth. The therapy and self-care was doing its job. Practicing self-love as a means of self-care was the key for me, so far. Maintaining wellbeing in any capacity has been making sure I’m not too hard on myself, and taking happiness in the little things.
But also, I needed to get better for him. I didn’t want him worrying about me or feeling like he was treading on eggshells around me, which when someone is traumatised, can be like. I didn’t want it to be like that for him, because I loved him, and still do.
That’s what I needed to do for love. For myself and my man. And so far in my life (aside from leaving ex) it’s been the best decision I ever made. I wouldn’t be here without it.