Everything I Learned From Leaving My Abusive Relationship

Trigger warning: Domestic abuse

How do you tell a girl who’s been hurt countless times that she will find love again? That not all men are the same and that the pattern she created for attracting losers into her life had deep, irreparable wounds she never thought she would be able to heal.

Mentally and physically abused, I thought I’d never manage to put the pieces back together for someone to love me the way I wanted. I learned to believe that love was hard to find and that I wasn’t worthy of it.

I’ll never forget that night in Paris when I learned what love is not. Lights on Champs-Elysées, shoppers leisurely strolling down the busy avenue. And one pretty heavy punch in the stomach that I did not deserve.

The night I confronted him on the balcony of a famous city hotel when I heard him say to his wife that he would be home in two days. The words that turned my knees to water and my gut into a churning mess. He. Was. Married.

Overwhelmed with the feelings of betrayal and helplessness, I pleaded with him to tell me what was happening. Anger raged in me as I demanded, and instead of an explanation, I got a big fat slap on the cheek. And then another one. And when he couldn’t smack my face anymore, he kicked me in the stomach, after which I crumpled to the floor and prayed for my life.

I couldn’t breathe. The initial shock of what was happening left me breathless, and after the air escaped from my lungs, I found it even more difficult to breathe.

I needed to scream. I wanted to hurt him. My heart was urging me to fight, but my brain told me to keep calm in order to live.

So, I stayed quiet.

Silent tears streamed down my cheeks as his vague words and faint promises blurred my clouded mind. As moments passed and his anger dissipated, I came back to my senses, but I knew I had to get out of there.

Trying to avoid him for as long as I could, I stepped outside onto the balcony. Through a teary gaze, I stared at the Parisian landmark twinkling in the nearby distance, feeling resentment and sorrow. All I wanted was to fly back home, scrub the touch of his hands off of every part of me, and crawl into the comfort of my bed.

It took many months to replay what had happened in Paris and learn why I allowed a creepy narcissist to treat me like that. I was a mature and responsible adult who came from a loving family and always cared for others. What was wrong with me? And why did I deserve this?

My fairytale ended, crumpling down, and I fell into the abyss with it. Only, it took time to realize it wasn’t a fairytale at all. It was a delusion. I was in love with a fantasy—an idealization of who I wanted him to be while turning a blind eye to the truth of who he essentially was.

The bruises on my body healed within weeks, but my wounded heart and reeling mind kept me restless.

For the longest time, I hated Paris. Not because it didn’t meet my expectations, but for the experiences I had with the wrong person while I was there. I wanted romance. Long walks along the Seine while holding hands. A stroll around the cobblestone streets of Montmartre where Monet and Renoir found their inspiration.

Instead, I lived through a nightmare no woman should ever have to go through.

Deep down, I knew real love was effortless. Not in a way that you don’t have to work for it but in a way that all anxiety, worry, and bullshit disappear when you’re with the right one. And I know this because I felt it. I lived it and I am still living it now.

After months of recovery and healing sessions, I finally moved on with my life. I swore my fidelity to bettering myself and got clear on what I wanted out of a relationship.

And just like that, when I least expected it, he showed up.

A confident, caring, and sexy-as-hell man. The one I thought would never want a broken girl like me. The one who showed me before we even met in person what a woman should be treated like.

One email led to another and soon we found ourselves chatting daily in different time zones. He wanted to meet straight away, but I somehow delayed our date because I unconsciously tried to protect myself. I was safe behind my words, but I wasn’t ready for disappointment. I wasn’t ready to learn that he wasn’t the one. I wanted things to stay as they were—rosy and magical. 

So, one early winter morning, I arrived in New York City. I didn’t tell him I was flying in so early because I wanted time to rest before we met. Surprisingly enough, the hotel I was staying at mixed up my booking dates and I was left without a room for most of the day. Of course, you can never be bored in New York, so I visited the public library and a few of my favorite places before I went to meet him in front of the fountain in Bryant Park.

The park was busy as usual, even on a freezing winter day. A brief thought slipped my mind that we might miss each other in the crowd, so with intentions of changing our meeting place, I phoned him. From a payphone on the corner of 42nd and 6th. And just before I hung up, he was right behind me, greeting me with a smile.

Years later, we’re married and still head over heels in love with each other. And no, things aren’t always rosy and carefree, but we make it work. We go through storms together and find ways to make our love grow. And we sure as hell protect the magic we created.

We continued to travel and explore the world, and one day, we visited Paris. The city that had a whole new flavor to it this time. We kissed, we hugged, and we made love as the city bathed in shimmering lights in front of us. It was the city of love I wanted to be in. With my man.

I know you were hurt too, and maybe you’re still hurting. You want the pain to go away, but you just don’t know how to deal with it.

I hear you and I feel you.

But here’s the truth.

You’re a fighter and you won’t settle until you find what you deserve. The relationships I had in my past shaped me and taught me priceless lessons—to always trust my gut and never undermine my worth.

Today you might be stuck on the page you don’t want to turn. I know how hard it is to turn the page, but your body and mind need you to move on. You must close the chapter that destroyed you and maybe even burn the book. Then open up a fresh page and start writing the way you want it to be. You can’t correct your past, but you can create a magnificent future.

No matter how hard you’re hurting right now, know that you’ll get through this. Forgive yourself. Forgive others who hurt you in the past. Then keep going. You owe it to yourself. Healing from trauma takes time, but it’s possible and it is something you have to do for you.

One step at a time.

And one day when you realize what it took to dig yourself out of that dark hole they once buried you in, you’ll never want to go back to what broke you. Because one day, the darkness will only be a distant memory and the light will be your now.

Rejection is protection because something greater is on its way to you. Your soulmate, ideal partner, that swoon-worthy real-life romance novel hero or whatever you want to call it exists. And you will find him. Just know what kind of person you’re looking for. Write it down. Feel the feelings of how you want him to make you feel. Live it daily and give it time. You’re both on the right path, moving toward each other. And when the time comes, you will meet.