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Joan Didion once famously wrote that, “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.”  For me, the opposite is true.  It has been years and I am still not sure when exactly things began to go wrong. All I know now is that they did go very wrong and stayed that way for quite a while.

I was under-experienced and eager for experience, eager to be paid attention to.  I still like to think that his motivations were similar.  We paired up uncautiously and, for a few months, things went well despite the insecurities and miscommunication that comes with being 19, 20, 21.

There were fights and although I thought it was unfair, I never said anything about how I was always the one made to plead for forgiveness.  No mutual detentes, few concessions or actual conversations.  In retrospect, there were plenty of warning signs, but those warning signs were sprinkled with inside jokes , kind gestures, friends of his that had become friends of mine, with things that when you don’t know any better seem healthy and happy.

But some things will never be healthy.

It will never be okay to grab your partner when they don’t want to be touched.
It will never be okay to grab someone other than your partner when they don’t want to be touched.
It will never be okay to laugh off your partner’s reprimands for 1 and 2.
It will never be okay to get angry, make your partner go to bed with you and then scold them for being a “dead fish”.
It will never be okay to make your partner go to bed with you.  
It will never be okay to threaten to send private photos to other people.
It will never be okay to insult other people’s bodies simply because you are angry and hurt.   

Of course, this isn’t the most extreme story of dating violence.  None of what happened to me is the kind of violence you are warned about by elders or public service announcements.  There are no strangers waiting behind bushes or oversized sunglasses needed to keep your secrets.  All there is, to the outside world, is a couple.   

My experiences with my partner will never be the worst times of my life, but they have proven some of the most confusing for my sense of self-worth.  Even though I knew his words were untrue, it can take years to unlearn what we’ve been told about ourselves.  I wish I could say that I re-arrived at that sense of self-worth on my own, but I didn’t.  It took moving to new cities, tackling separate challenges, the astounding love of friends, finding a vocation, and, scariest of all, other partners to understand what I am finally beginning to grasp.

I am not responsible for their poor choices.

A loving relationship shouldn’t leave you feeling small or misunderstood on a weekly basis.

I did the best I could with what I knew and felt at the time.  There’s no use berating myself for not leaving the relationship sooner.  

There are plenty of ways to disagree with your partner and still be respectful.

It’s okay to want to remember the good things about the relationship fondly, even if everything feels tainted the negative encounters.  

Respect and kindness (or at least attempts towards them) should be central in every romantic relationship.  This especially applies on the inevitable bad days and after the relationship is over.  

Processing this kind of experience can take time.  That same time can also hold amazing accomplishments, friends, adventures, challenges and even new relationships.   

This story is about one contributor’s experience with dating violence.  Dating violence is a form of Domestic Violence that includes controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination. To learn more about dating violence and access resources visit , call their hotline at 1.866.331.9474, or text “loveis” to 22522. 

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