Written by Girl Birthday Gift
Relationships. Tricky little buggers aren't they? They are the one thing we generally obsess, lose sleep, and get sick over, in both good and bad ways.
I think about love and relationships a lot. I am the girl who watches downright pitiful romcoms and reads those awful chick lit books, and I actually like it! I don't know, I suppose it's some sort of mindless entertainment and the endorphin rush of a happy ending. (I believe that's also called an addiction.)
As far as living the moments in those stories, I'd say I've had my fair share of experiences with romance and relationships, but probably more specifically what not to do in a relationship.
You see, once upon I time I was the girl who came with a small serving size of crazy. Sure, I am still absolutely nutty, but in a different way — a better way. The type of crazy solely attributed to mothers. You know what I am talking about, but this story isn't about being a mom. This story begins in the foolish, clueless world of 14-year old Abbey.
Fresh out of braces and newly learning of the powers of a solid pair of tweezers and a tube of mascara, I went from a shy, buck-toothed little girl, to a young woman in her teens coming into her own. (As evidenced in comparing my 8th and 9th grade school pictures, which cannot be shown because my yearbooks are nowhere to be found — probably on the account of wildly inappropriate things scribbled on the pages). With a new surge of confidence in my physical appearance, boys become a hot topic of interest. (You know, puberty and all of that rubbish.) I suffered from mild social anxiety — and still do to some degree, but that's another story for another day — and was used to flying under the radar. But, that was all beginning to change.
I started receiving approaches from boys, and we all know how irrational and dumb teenagers are, specifically teenage boys. Looking back on it, the attention was primal and purely hormonal, but I didn't care. I relished in it after years spent on the sidelines.
With the shiny, new attention came boyfriends, which were terribly embarrassing as many first boyfriends are. But above all that there was that one boy, the one whom I just absolutely, positively loved, because that's what a teenage girl's brain tricks itself into doing; it creates a frenzy and proclamation of undying, true love!
I remember the first time I saw him. He was riding around the school gym parking lot with a mop of messy, bleached hair. All the girls adored him. He was a relentless flirt and had a magnetic sense of charm, which was pretty impressive for a 15-year old boy to possess. You know, the type of guy who knows how to flatter endlessly, and it somehow comes across that you are the only girl in the world, although you are, like, the tenth girl he's said those same things to that day. The writing was blatantly on the walls! But, I didn't know any better. I was so fragile and innocent, drinking up the flattery, and he knew it.
The whole process was exhilarating. Butterflies can hardly describe how I felt. It was more like a thousand fireworks exploded in my head and my chest, setting fire to emotions I didn't even know existed. And let me tell you right now that that type of emotion coupled with an unpredictable teenage girl spells out D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. And oh, did it ever. It blew up all over the place for the next six years of my young and impressionable life.
I firmly believe learning how to build romantic relationships is largely molded from the framework of the first "real" relationship. For many, this starts in adolescence when impulses and overly-emotional behaviors are at the forefront. I mean, this is an incredibly fragile time when the brain is still working on developing, and the experiences that occur in those years are laying the groundwork for the way the brain wires itself to behave and perceive later in life.
And unfortunately for many young girls these days, there is a distorted image of how a female should look and act based on this very principle. There is an intense pressure to utilize misrepresented sexuality as a main component of relationships. I've talked about body image a bit, and it sickens me how the media exploits women and attempts to condition us to accept unrealistic physical appearances and sexual behaviors as the norm.
The kid I was enamored with had a a lax upbringing, a stark opposite to my strict, Mormon household, and his parents didn't really bat an eye at scantily clad pinup girls on the walls and other media. A lot of his friends seemed to have the same types of things in their possession, too. Over time as I entered into my later years in high school and furthered my physical transition into womanhood (which, in retrospect I was still a young girl, but thought and felt like I was 25), I found myself mentally obsessing over how to look like them.
My breasts were far too small. My thighs touched when I stood with my legs together! Gasp! I didn't have a perfectly tanned and flat stomach with hip bones jutting out. And how was I to achieve that voluminous, blonde hair and dramatic, smoky eye makeup?
I thought that if I could look like these digitally edited, unrealistic, adult women, my boyfriend would love me more and have a reason to be proud that I was his girlfriend. Yes, I was convincing myself that I needed to be a trophy in order to be of any value and worth. After all, that's what I thought his idea of a "sexy" female looked like.
You can imagine all of the mental and emotional issues this type of relationship would wreak of; mainly physical, with an unattainable expectation. I made myself into an object.
I had no self-respect and subsequently, no self-esteem. I learned the hard way that people will treat you the way you let them treat you. Which was terrible. I wanted so badly to simply be adored that I practically did anything to keep my boyfriend happy. I would flake out on my friends and family routinely. I dressed, looked and acted the way I thought he liked. I even made up excuses for the couple of times he became physically aggressive with me. Obviously it takes two to tango, and I contributed my fair share of insulting behavior to the relationship, but I basically became his puppet, his play thing. There was no love — only lust, manipulation and distrust on both ends. And honestly, looking at it in retrospect, we were both extremely immature and ignorant to what any of these toxic behaviors were.
But, one day after six years of dealing with this oppressive relationship, I had a life-changing wakeup call. Perhaps it was a small miracle that it happened, but it felt like someone literally slapped me in the face and said, "Stop being so stupid, Abbey! Live your life for you, and above all else, love yourself!" I like to think Iris Simpkins had something to do with it. I found myself some gumption! Nancy Meyers was my unofficial hero, I suppose, now looking back. So, thank you, Nancy! You helped to guide my path to a better life!
Now, we had 20-year-old Abbey, living in the heart of Provo, Utah. A complete one-eighty in every aspect of life. I was learning to do my own thing and live without the approval of what my male counterparts thought of me. This world was a clean canvas and I could reinvent myself into the woman I desperately wanted to be.
A few weeks later, a goofy Mexican kid walked into a game night at which I was hanging out. Apparently he liked what he saw, because he immediately started pursuing me. But, I wasn't interested. Perhaps it was because subconsciously I thought he only liked me for my looks, which is what I was trying to get away from? (I'm getting all armchair psychoanalytic here, bear with me.)
Eventually he stopped acting like a stalker and started acting like a normal human being—ha! Which is when I finally agreed to go on a date.
First of all, I didn't really know what normal date etiquette was. When he went to open my car door for me, I got nervous and didn't really know how to handle it. Guys actually still did that? Then when he took me to a putt-putt course and played silly arcade games with me, I could not believe how happy it made him to see me being goofy and weird. We talked about ideas and family and aspirations. It was incredibly refreshing to be comfortable in my own skin with a guy who actually seemed to like me for my soul and intellect. But then I started to question.
Is he only treating me like this because he expects something in return? Guys are never this nice unless they are trying to get some action.
My perspective on relationships was terribly warped. I knew only about the anatomy and structure of an unhealthy relationship. I mean, how pathetic is it that I couldn't let a guy treat me with respect and show me a harmless night of fun without thinking he had ulterior motives? It makes me tear up looking back on how vulnerable and damaged I was.
We continued to date, and I turned myself inside out resolving my issues. We almost didn't make it, but I learned to love and respect myself, and discovered what trust and true love is.
One year later, I married that goofball by the name of Matt, formerly known as Rod in our dating days.
We definitely stumble over rough patches, but he is my other half. I am happy to say he treats me the way I let him treat me — with the utmost respect. He treats me like a queen, even when I am acting like a witch. He makes me feel like I can conquer the world and elevates my goals and dreams. I trust him and have never once felt any pang of jealousy or inadequacy. We connect on an emotional and intellectual level I never knew possible. I am completely myself with him and I don't ever feel stupid, degraded, or judged for doing so. He would never harm me—there isn't a cruel bone in his body. He tells me daily how lucky he is to have me as his wife. And he thinks I am the most beautiful woman—curves, dimples, blemishes and non-thigh gap aside.
That is what a healthy relationship looks like. I am immeasurably grateful I found someone who was able see my broken, cracked pieces and helped to put them back together, piece by piece, through pure love.
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