*-not his real name
“So many people want a wedding but no one wants to be married.”
My parents, had my father lived, would have been together 45 years this year. By the time he died, they had been together about 20, 25 years. When I think of all the things they had experienced in that time, I am overcome. I cannot help but think how my mother managed to hold herself together in the midst of what she needed to do, on top of whatever my father and her got into. It is the backdrop of their love affair, that I try to find a map and a light to all of this here.
From my mother’s recollection, she and my father met in the late 1970’s, like 1975 or so. I was born in 1981, and 2 siblings followed. In their 20-some year relationship, I had seen my mother cry over fights they had. I saw her tend to us, her extended family, and work. Somehow in there, she completed her BSN.
I still really don’t know how–until I became a working mother trying to go to school. Yet, that is another matter…
What I saw, and what I know is–my father loved my mother. He loved her with all his might! He, and how my father loved my mother, gave me the blueprint on what to expect from a man that said he loved me:
I expected to be treated well.
I expected to be valued.
I expected to be cared for.
I also expected to be heard, not ruled!
I expected to be given the respect of a difference of opinion! I expected to be valued beyond by ability to cook, keep house or rattle sheets! I knew that when grown folk get together, it’s not always smooth–people are different! In relationships, we can have some similarities, yes. But we were not to be the same person. I knew relationships would have disagreements, arguments, slammed doors every now and then! I knew that there would be struggles to preserve us in the midst of the chaos in the world. But, I knew relationships weren’t supposed to be more chaotic than the world outside!
Yet, I knew this one thing: that if a man hit you, you were supposed to leave. I knew that abusive behavior and addictive behaviors were not to be tolerated. I knew those things were deal breakers. And from the template of my parents, I think I can pinpoint what it means to be in ‘struggle love’, and just how one gets to any point of accepting this.
I truly believe this idea of struggle love comes from the need to be loved. The desire to be chosen, seen to be something special. From that hunger, from that want to be loved, we (men and women) will accept anything! We say to this person–through our accepting/accommodating behavior–that the want of being chosen is more important than a real working relationship!
Let me tell you about me and mine. It was this this guy named *Darius. I met Darius when I was 19. I lost three years to this man, to this relationship. After being with this man, sleeping with this man, and having an abortion after this relationship–at 22, I was hurt. I was angry. But from this vantage point of age, I can deduce why I stayed. From that, I believe you can have some idea of how it start–and continues.
I wanted to be loved. I loved Darius. I stand 5’10” and he was 6’8″. No lie. And I felt so safe when he hugged me. In the words of Toni Morrison the sex ‘was as good as it could be from never knowing any other before.’ I loved how I felt when I was with him! I was his girl! I had someone that wanted me! He was there, there for me, and after the loss of my father 2 years before? It was a nice escape to just go and be with him…and be his. No matter what time of day (or night) it was.
I wanted to be special. I wanted to show Darius how good of a woman I was. He was a dedicated weed smoker, and I would put money into my working budget to buy weed for him. I helped him take care of his son–that he barely saw! He disappeared on me twice–leaving no phone number or address. He didn’t work, and his life was a constant source of stress! I wanted him to see that life with me would be easier! I wanted him to see that I could hold him down, lift him up and be that superwoman I knew I could be to him.
Being with him, being in his life, was more important that tending to anything that I wanted. I was going to be with him, because I wanted what he said we were going to do together. Regardless of what that meant. We would make it through anything, if I would just be there.
FULL STOP. This is where the cycle of “I’ll take anything, because he is my everything starts.” RIGHT. HERE
I dealt with him not working. I dealt with him not acknowledging how hurt I was being pregnant and sneaking off to an abortion clinic. I dealt with having to pay or everything. I dealt with it, because he told me I was his soulmate. I dealt with it, because he said he loved me. It was because he loved me, and I felt special when we were together was enough.
I wanted it all to be real. I was in love with him. I loved him as best I could. And I wanted to hang on to him! I had given him my time, my body, my familial relationships–and lost a child. By the time it was over, when I really knew it was over was him being more concerned about how he was going to feel–rather than me crying while I was at work. At work. Let that sink in. I had worked all day (from 6 AM!, and wouldn’t be off until 8PM!) and he said, “How can I go the rest of the day like this?” I cannot even my remember what I said in response to this. But it was over…and I cried in a locker room. Before I had to go back to work.
I fought to make him pay back my time, my tears and my love with becoming the man I wanted him to be. I stayed with him 3 years. I endured this for three years. Three and a half, really. But what I really wanted was validation. I wanted the same love I gave him–to be given back to me! And it wasn’t happening. I stayed with him, because I wanted a return on my investment. He was my investment! Of all I gave him…I left with nothing of the woman I was before.
This is the price of struggle love! It costs you everything! It will convince you that to work for something that should be given to you–freely. Struggle love will always COST you something. Love is never a debt–love pays! It pays completely! I paid for this love, and was left with debt and heartbreak. I was left thinking “What is wrong with me? Why didn’t he want me?” See how crazy that is? Struggle love will have you thinking that you–the person trying to hold something together–is the problem. If you would just do something else better, sexier or faster, it would be better. Struggle love is gaslighting!
The bad thing is, once you see this happening–once you know what it is–it is often too late to redeem what you invested.
Guard your hearts, dear ones. Guard them from the world that wants to break them–or the wolves that will eat them.