Flashback to my 14 year old Mind
When I was 14 years old, I casually shared with my older cousin that I wanted to be in an abusive relationship. At the time, I'm sure I didn't know what that truly meant. However, I'd witness all of the women in my family self-destruct in abusive, unhealthy relationships. I simply thought it was an act of love. The cycle of loving a broken man, throwing physical and verbal blows at one another, then loving him all over again was appealing to me. I'm sure the physical pain that the relationship caused was not attractive to me. However, the fact that a woman could make a man SO angry to the point where he'd put his hands on her yet STILL love her, was admirable to me. So many women are in unhealthy, abusive relationships because they witnessed this kind of behavior as a child. You can tell a child many things, but she will only believe what you show her. Thank God that I've never been in an abusive relationship. I pray for the women that have.
When I was born, my father was incarcerated. For the next 22 years, he would be released from prison and reenter shortly after. My mother raised three children on her own while obtaining college degrees, maintaining two jobs, and purchasing her own home. Sounds like Superwoman right? Of course! However, this was the life of every young girl and boy in my community that I encountered. Living in a single parent household was very normal. I did not think that my father was a bad guy, although as a child I'd witness him physically hurt my mother. All of my closest friends' mothers were raising three to seven children on their own. In my mind, the result of living in a single parent household: AMBITION! I'd seen my mother sacrifice while juggling her personal and professional life. There was not ANYTHING in the world that I could not do. I ALWAYS wanted more. I was a book worm that spent my time day dreaming about traveling, attending college, and becoming successful.
The Realization Stage
It wasn't until I studied abroad in Andalusia, Spain at the age of 17 that I received that first glimpse of the impact. I lived with a host family: a mother, a daughter, and a father. I'd watch my host father run around the apartment playing hide and go seek with my host sister and I. He'd also bring flowers home and surprise my host mother. The most impactful scene of it all: he cried when I left to head back to America. I'd never in my life seen a man cry, especially not over his love for me. On the plane back to the United States, I wrote a letter to myself wondering if a man would ever truly love me and express it the way that he had. Fast forward to my freshman year of college in psychology class, my professor began discussing the impact that a father's presence and love has on a young child. I left the class in tears.
The Understanding Stage
I began to research the effect that the absence of a father's love had on young girls. I would always read that fatherless daughters were promiscuous and were attracted to older men. I didn't identify with that. Since the age of 14, I'd been in long-term relationships. I would find a young guy and "fix him up." My ambition would motivate him to become a better person. However after much research, I understood that I constantly stayed in relationships because these young men filled a void in my heart. No matter how unhealthy and destructive these relationships were, I was comforted in believing that there was a man that loved me and wanted me.
As a single parent, my mother did not allow random men in our space. Frankly, I don't recall my mother dating throughout my childhood. Therefore, aside from the early images of abuse that I'd witness, I'd never experienced a healthy relationship. My idea of love included ideologies from television and books. My foundation of how a man treated a woman was not sturdy, my father hadn't taught me what to accept and what not to accept. Therefore, when a man entered my life romantically, it was very easy for him to shake the foundation of what I thought love was. I had nothing to stand on. I would either remain in relationships longer than I should have or leave a relationship too abruptly because my unrealistic expectations of a man were never satisfied. I was always searching for a distinct feeling or person. I've loved before because I am a passionate person whose heart sees the good in everyone. However, I'd never been in love because my soul was waiting for the love that I'd lay in bed imagining since I was 7 years old. That distinct, special, one of a kind love of a father.
The Healing Stage
Today, I continue to use research and intimate discussions to heal. I am determined to understand the impact that the lack of my father's love had on my personal growth. More importantly, I am in the process of unlearning the beliefs, ideoligies, and unhealthy behaviors that I adopted growing up. Since I have become more self-aware, I am able to be a better partner and communicator in relationships. For example:
- When I was younger, I would constantly overhear my father say that I was not his daughter. This resulted in me cringing at the slightest form of rejection from anyone. His actions made me question my self-worth and identity. Now, when I interact with someone and feel rejected, I can check myself and understand those emotions.
- I also found that I needed my partner to constantly reassure me of his love. I would often break up with my significant other, simply to see him jump through hoops to prove that he loved me. This is emotionally draining and extremely unhealthy.
I am thankful that I took the time to realize and understand my heart, mind and soul. I love me. I love my journey. I love my story. It has made me powerful and it has helped me blossom.