Nicole’s Story

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Nicole’s Story

I met Steven when I was seventeen and barely graduated from high school. He was my first boyfriend and my first love. I was a quiet book worm who preferred the library to partying and the dating scene. Steven was the first guy who was attracted to my love of books. We spent hours on the phone debating every topic under the sun. We both loved history, religion, and politics. We bonded over poetry and our favorite books. I thought I had found the man of my dreams. We had similar upbringings. We both were passionate about leaving our neighborhood and becoming successful. He was loving, adoring, and was already discussing marriage.

Steven was perfect. Or so I thought.

Steven confessed early in our relationship that he had joined a faith community that he was extremely proud to be part of. His eyes lit up every time he talked about this community. I thought it was admirable that as a young man he was seeking and had found a place he felt he belonged. I supported his faith journey and even adopted some of his community’s practices.

About six months into our relationship, I was a college freshman and not living in the same city as Steven. He became increasingly possessive and paranoid. He insisted I call him several times a day, which at first I thought was romantic.

It didn’t take long before things took a turn for the worse.

Steven, now a devout follower of his faith, began imposing strict rules for how I should dress, foods I could eat, and places I was “allowed” to go. I became this other person all of a sudden. Now I dressed differently, wrapped my hair (as was the custom for his religion), and altered my diet to try to please him. Our conversations on the phone were no longer about books or world affairs. We rarely laughed anymore. He began grilling me about who I spent time with, even though I attended a women’s college and rarely interacted with men who weren’t my professors. One of our worst fights happened when I mentioned a nice waiter who’d been friendly to a group of us girls who went off campus for dinner.

Our worst fight happened after I returned home for the summer.

I worked two jobs to pay for school and one night after leaving my second job as a cashier at a grocery store, I was just exhausted. Steven and I were worse than ever, fighting every day. This particular night it almost got physical. He picked another fight about a longtime guy friend from high school who’d left a message about wanting to get together. This particular friend was just a friend and we had a strictly platonic friendship, but Steven would hear none of it. He grabbed my wrist and demanded I call this friend and tell him he was no longer allowed to call me. I stood up to Steven, something I rarely had done in our yearlong relationship. As a result, he restrained me, pushed me against a wall, yelled, and threatened me.

That was the moment that I realized I had to leave.

My little brother was crouched in a corner under the dining room table in tears watching this guy, who he loved and respected, almost hit me. I might have stayed with Steven longer if my mother hadn’t intervened. I lived at home ¬†at the time and she had witnessed our many fights.

When my mother heard Steven lose it, she lost it.

She came out to the living room where we were and said, “Steven, it’s time to go. You’re no longer welcome in my house.”

 

My mom looked at me and I looked at her. We both had had enough. Steven left and I never went back. I realized that my relationship with Steven was suffocating me and that I was slowly losing myself. I vowed to never let that happen again.

Life After Breaking Free

The lesson I learned after breaking free from Steven is that when you’re brave enough to shut a door that you know should be closed, there’s always something glorious waiting for you on the other side.

When I shut the door on Steven, I became a focused and confident woman. I excelled in college, became a leader on campus, and learned how to ask for what I need and want in this world. I believe because I blossomed into the woman I was meant to become, I attracted the kind of guys I was not only proud to have in my life, but in my family’s lives. After Steven, I only ever dated men who were secure and truly understood the meaning of love.

I sometimes contemplate how life could have turned out so differently if I had stayed with Steven. After leaving Steven, I’ve only seriously dated two guys. The man after Steven was an amazing boyfriend who I loved dearly, dated for four years, and who treated me very well. The third guy was even more wonderful and he became my husband. I have an amazing life filled with abundant love in all the right places.

I’m so blessed to have found wholeness in myself and to have had a mother who wasn’t afraid to intervene. I found strength in her and today I’m exactly where I should be. Where I felt I was drowning with Steven, my life now is filled with exploration, reflection, and peace.

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