I may be haunted by my past relationships, but it is not forever

I was in the type of relationship that seemed normal until I got out. I thought conflict, mistrust, and jealousy were typical hindrances of a relationship. I began to believe that manipulation, secrecy, and emotional distress were hurdles every couple had to overcome. This may seem illogical, but I am thankful it got as bad as it did. I needed to hit rock bottom because then there was only one direction to go: up. I needed to completely lose myself in order to find myself.

Rebuilding was difficult, but I survived to tell the tale. I became more self-reliant, confident, and strong. Nonetheless it took some time for me to let others back into my life. Slowly I began to step out of my shell and recognize that there are good people in the world. Yet as I gently opened my heart, I came to realize there was still shrapnel from my past. It has been many years since we metaphorically cut the relationship string. But in reality, I still am not completely free from the aftermath. Even after all my time soul-searching, I find that some things still continue to haunt me.

He never wanted to share his feelings. So now: I have difficulty asking, even with someone who is open and forthcoming.

He made me feel over-emotional and dramatic. So now: I struggle to express myself.

He never complimented me. So now: I have a hard time believing them.

There is a certain level of trauma that still exists, even after my relationship ended. It seeps into my everyday life and creates issues I didn't even know I had. There is a lot I lack and a lot I struggle with. Trust, affection, emotional capacity.  I second guess and over-analyze. Sometimes I push away sincerity and kindness from kind and sincere people. I literally choke on my words when trying to express true emotion. I actively try to find flaws in a perfect man.

I used to say all these behaviors were caused by emotional damage. But this experience has taught me that damage is not the right verbiage; damage implies that there is no repair. But even scars heal and fade in time. The scars from my past remind me that I have grown. I refuse to believe I am at an impasse because time and patience are on my side. Over time, I will retrain my brain. I will positively redefine what it means to be in a relationship, what it means to be in love. I will be patient with myself and others. I will accept that this process is a marathon, not a sprint. And I will indeed make it to the end.

Samantha Clark