When I was 16 years old, I fell in love with a boy. He was headed to college in a few months, but that never altered my feelings for him. I was determined to make the relationship work at all costs. As time went on, things between the two of us continually got worse; there was a lot of rampant fighting, a lot of crying and general deterioration. A few of my friends and even my mom tried to step in and help me see what was happening. After much time, I realized that it was clear there were warning signs, but I couldn't see them.
1. My friends did not like him and he did not like them.
As I said before, my friends encouraged me to think more clearly. I kept dismissing their concerns as frustration that I was now dividing my time between them and my boyfriend. I tried very hard to get everyone to bond, but it was a firm no. My friends claimed he hurt me too much and my boyfriend snubbed any attempts I made to introduce him, knowing my friends had reservations about our relationship. It was a terrible feeling to be put in the middle of people I loved. In reality, my friends saw through him before I ever could.
2. My likes/interests were never good enough.
My love for marching band, scholastic quiz and drama club suddenly meant nothing. I could talk about them, but there was always some big "college student" issue or excitement going on that was much more interesting. I would express my passion for a few minutes, only to be told that I would understand once I was in college how there was just so much more going on in the world. I could've won the lottery and still been shut down. I went from enthusiastic to indifferent about the things I deserved to love.
3. My personal life was under his thumb.
On our second date, my boyfriend told me that he could not see a point in going to parties or drinking. Being that I was so young, I thought this was respectable and something that I had a long time to form an opinion on. However, it was no longer my opinion. If I wanted to go out, I had to justify why. A sleepover at a friend's became a long explanation of whether or not there would be drinking, who was going to be there and why I thought it was a good idea. I kept rationalizing his endless series of questions, telling myself that he just "wanted me to be safe."
4. Even clothing choices were no longer mine.
One of the most vivid memories I have of this relationship is also one of the most unhealthy. When I was a junior in high school, I had found a homecoming dress that made me feel beautiful. It was different than anything I had worn before. Even my mom loved it. But when I sent the picture to my boyfriend, his response had me in tears. Not only was he unsupportive, but he scolded me. "The dress was too revealing," he said. Why would I wanna go anywhere looking like that without him? Again, I defended him. I said that he only acted this way because he knew what guys were like. But if his issues were with the guys, why was I the one being punished?
5. He took over my phone.
Perhaps one of the larger signs on this list, I caught my boyfriend reading my text messages without permission. He questioned why I swore in conversations and made me prove to him that all of my contacts were not "suspicious." He forced me to delete almost every guy friend I had on Snapchat. A close friend that I had known for 12 years was "off-limits." I was too embarrassed to tell anyone because even I struggled to justify why he had a right to do this. In reality, he had no right.
6. We had to be in touch at all times.
Whether I was at a softball game or doing homework, I had to answer his texts within what he deemed to be a reasonable period of time. Heaven forbid I would fall asleep without saying goodnight or simply put my phone down for a bit. He would tell me he needed quick answers just because he loved talking to me and that he didn't want to worry. To this day, I still find myself apologizing to anyone who has to wait more than five minutes to hear from me.
7. His jealousy was ever present.
In theme with the clothing and phone control, my boyfriend was always reminding me how bad other guys are. If I was pictured sitting too close to a guy I had known since kindergarten, then I had to be prepared to practically write an essay on what I did wrong and how I would never speak to that guy again. I spent countless hours begging for forgiveness for forgetting to mention if I sat with a guy at lunch. My boyfriend was even disgusted at the thought of me changing in the room next to guys for my drama club production. As usual, I told everyone that inquired not to worry because he just cared a little too much and didn't know how to show it. A little jealousy can be healthy, but this was out of control.
In the year I spent this with boy, I had gone from an independent young woman to a girl scared to express her feelings. I spent many months after our break up wondering how I could have been better and how I could have pleased him more. The truth is, I did more than should ever be necessary in a healthy relationship. I destroyed my happiness and my self-worth for someone that claimed to love me. If he truly loved me, I wouldn't have had to jump through hoops to keep the peace.
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