I had Eve in mind to write this post for a long time now. She mentions this in her post, but once upon a time when Eve still lived in Iowa (boo- come back!), she and I worked with the youth together. She gave a lesson one time to the teenage girls and asked “Do you think it’s easy to fall in love?” And thinking the answer was going to be, “No! Marriage is HARD!” They all chimed, “No” And Eve was all “Heck yes it’s easy to fall in love!! It’s hard to STAY in love.” I think this is SUCH an invaluable lesson for young girls to know lest they think the first time they fall in love that’s it for them (ok- I’ll stop writing this post for her now). So I asked Eve to write this post because she is an EXPERT at reaching teenage girls (they LOVE her) and she’s pretty much bomb.com all around. And AND our picture from our header and sidebar she took- she’s an amazing photographer. – Celeste
Hello, my little one. You are not yet even four years old and you have so much of your life ahead of you. One day (soon!) you will start school. You will make friends, you will have amazing people come into your life, you will learn and grow, and eventually, you will fall in love. Perhaps many times. Many times, you ask? Yes. I write this letter to you now so that you will have this to reflect upon in a number of years so you can see that there is a big difference between falling in love and truly loving someone.
I wish I had listened to the warnings I felt and had heeded the red flags I saw in him. He was controlling and very insecure. He hated it if I hung out with anyone other than him. I thought it was cute at first because I thought it was a sign of his love. Within a few months of dating he began making me cry – on purpose – just to get a reaction out of me. Soon he belittled me and called me names every day. And after that he tore me down constantly. It was common for me to hear that I was fat, dumb, slow, lazy, a jerk, and an idiot. One time, nearing the end of our relationship, I counted how many times he called me names in one minute. I counted 20 in only 60 seconds. That’s how bad the abuse had gotten. I cried every day and prayed for relief. Eventually he stopped telling me he loved me, but if I ever threatened to break up he would apologize profusely, cry, sing me a sweet song, tell me he didn’t know what got into him, and vow to never hurt me again. One time he even threatened to commit suicide. This cycle continued for two years. Those years were the hardest ones I had experienced up to that point because he was abusive to me and I allowed the abuse to continue. He never hurt me physically, but he did do substantial emotional damage. But how could I leave him? I was 20 years old and we had planned on getting married. What if no one else wanted me? After all, I was dumb and fat and stupid (according to him). I felt like I needed him (which is what abusers want you to feel), and because of him I had lost every other friend I had. I felt like I had no one and my life had no direction. I was confused and depressed and never saw an end to the terrible cycle of abuse.
And then a miracle happened. I was able to break away and move over 500 miles from him. I surrounded myself with friends. Real friends. Friends who made me feel good about the person I was and who never tried to change me into something I wasn’t. But that fear was always there. What if I never found anyone else? All my life I had wanted to become a wife and a mother. Were those dreams now dashed and hopeless? What if my chances of finding real love were now gone because of the previous two years?
Finally my roommate sat down with me and asked me what I even wanted in a future spouse. By this point in my dating life I didn’t even know! And you know what she had me do? She had me make THE LIST. What’s ‘THE LIST, you ask? It’s when you write down the attributes, traits, and characteristics of the person you want to marry. Is making the list for everyone? Nope, but it sure helped me discover what I really wanted. It helped me hone in on the traits that were important to me and to filter out the men who didn’t have the things that I wanted. I made sure I was very specific and didn’t leave anything important out. Less than two weeks later, guess who asked me out on a date? Your dad. That first date was the best date I had ever been on because of how we could talk about things that were important to me, how I could just be myself around him, and how good I felt about myself by just being in his company. A number of days after our first date I referred to THE LIST and he had EVERY SINGLE TRAIT I had written down. I had never even known someone with all of those specific things and didn’t even know if such a person even existed. But I did know that I was never going to settle for anyone again. I finally realized that I would be happier being single than being with someone who didn’t cherish me, hold up their own standards, and respect other people.
I have seen a number of people settle for the person they marry for fear of being alone. I have seen these people fight with their spouse to no end and then have their marriages end up in misery or divorce. Difficulties in marriage can happen to any couple, no matter how compatible they are at the beginning of the relationship. However, overcoming difficulties or challenges in a marriage is much easier when you only date and then marry someone who is committed to the same standards and values as you are and by improving those qualities in yourself.
Dearest Emma, you are of SO much worth. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not someone you want to have in your life. Never let anyone bring you down, and surround yourself with people who uplift you and see your true worth. Be the kind of friend and spouse you want to have. Buoy up others and be a light to those around you. Never settle in life. You have the potential to have the best kinds of relationships possible.