The Truth About Marriage

*** I have permission from my husband to discuss our issues.

Do you ever just think back to your wedding day to the exact moment where you said your vows and wish that you could scream at yourself “Run bitch! RUN!” I would like to say that that thought has never crossed my mind, but that would be a bald-faced lie. The truth is that as much as I love my husband, I sometimes wish that we never got married. People always told me that marriage is hard, but I always brushed off their warnings. I always thought that my husband, Stephen, and I were solid. That our love was strong enough to fight against any hardships. I was naive and ignorant to ever have that mindset. 

This past month and a half have been difficult. I have been dealing with an internal crisis that has taken over my life. Before I left for Salem I felt myself shifting. I felt myself pull away from my marriage more and more, and I felt like that need for eternal love and partnership started to dwindle away. Before I go any further, let me just preface this by saying that my feelings about my marriage might seem sudden, but they aren’t. Unfortunately, there have been substantial issues in my marriage for quite some time and I think I finally just hit a breaking point. I think the biggest problem is that Stephen and I are fundamentally different in what we need to feel fulfilled in life and in a relationship. I grew up with a family that was troubled, but one thing that we excelled at was communication. No one ever had to wonder what each other was thinking, because we were never afraid to say what was on our mind. My family is VERY affectionate, to the point where it almost can feel smothering sometimes. But at the end of the day, at least you know that you are loved and cared for. Not only did my family teach me communicative skills and how to wear your heart on your sleeve, but my many years of therapy also reinforced the importance of speaking your truth, no matter what the content is. Stephen, on the other hand, grew up differently than I did. Or at least that is what he has told me. Apparently he didn’t grow up expressing emotions or thoughts or having a ton of affection, which is totally fine, but it is different than what I am used to. Due to our different backgrounds, it has made our relationship extremely difficult and challenging. 

Back to what I was saying before I needed to do a preface, I knew that I was already shifting away from my marriage before I left for my solo trip. For years I have begged Stephen to help me work on two things that I feel are significant to our marriage, and that is communication and intimacy. I have carried the weight of our relationship on my shoulders since the conception of our partnership, and I have grown tired. I have always been the one to make sure that he was happy. Happy with himself. Happy with me. Happy with us. Happy with life. If I could sense that something was off, I always try to be the person to help rectify whatever was wrong. I would tend to him and put his needs before my own because I thought it would be selfish to view my needs and desires even equally to his. I did everything that I could to make sure that he felt like his life was everything that he ever wanted it to be, all while I was drowning and gasping for air. When it comes to intimacy, I don’t just mean physically. Although our sex life was lacking, and not because of me, we were also lacking in all aspects of intimacy. In my eyes, we became glorified roommates. Not even best friends. Maybe just acquaintances. Stephen would never want to have meaningful conversations with me. Everything was just so surface level. We would laugh about memes on Facebook and talk about games, but we very rarely had conversations that were full of depth. We would sometimes talk about our dreams for our future, but those conversations were always short because I am much more of a visionary than he is. Even when something great would happen to me, I was always hesitant to tell him because his reaction to everything is “that’s cool Bebe.” When you are really thrilled about something, you want your partner to be just as excited as you are, and then when they aren’t it just kills some of your enthusiasm.  

So we were lacking in communication and intimacy, but we were also lacking in our sex life. (Quick side note to my parents and in-laws: Sorry for what you are about to read. You might just want to skip ahead.) I have a pretty standard libido. I would say having sex two or three times a week would be sufficient. And to be frank, I don’t even need to “make love” all of those times. Honestly, sometimes I just feel so wound up that I need to just have sex to release some of that tension. I think that having that connection with your partner during and after sex is such an incredible feeling and it kind of makes you feel more connected with them. Like both of your energies become intertwined and you feel absolute euphoria. That feeling, that connection, is essential for me to feel completely fulfilled in my relationship. Stephen doesn’t need sex as often as I do, so that has caused another issue in our marriage. And over time, when you are the one constantly initiating sex, you start to feel doubt that your partner is attracted to you. Or if they even love you. 

So with me being the one to try to have meaningful conversations, keeping the spark of our relationship lit, and initiating sex, I became overwhelmed and resentful. Keep in mind, we have been together for ten years and we have been married for three years, (ironically I am writing this the day before our four year anniversary,) so having done all of the heavy lifting I started to look at Stephen differently. I became tired of having the same conversations and fights with him about our issues. I hated that even if I had nothing to apologize for I would still do it so that the arguments could be over. I became sick of being in the same loop that I have been in for so long, and out of nowhere I had an epiphany: I could leave. 

I wanted to run. I dreamed of packing up all of my stuff and my furbabies and buying a plot of land with some tiny houses and just living my life the way that I wanted. I didn’t want to worry or think about Stephen and his feelings and our relationship. I just wanted to worry about me and what I needed. By the time I left for Salem, I was feeling so emotionally taken advantage of that I could barely look at Stephen without feeling some form of anger. You see, Stephen has this cycle that he puts me through and this is how it goes: I express that I wish that our communication, intimacy, and sex life was better, we fight, he deflects, I apologize so that the fight ends, he realizes that he needs to work on things, he tries for a week and then right when things start to feel good he stops trying and reverts back to how it was before. I feel taken advantage of because I think he knows that he can stop putting effort into our relationship and I will still be there. So in some ways, it is my fault because I have taught him that I will stick by his side even if he stops trying in our marriage. But at the same time, he makes a conscious choice to stop putting in the work, so he needs to own his part of the issue. 

I have been with Stephen for almost half of my life, and before being with Stephen I was with my parents. I have never been alone, and I have never learned how to be truly independent. So when I went to Salem, I got a taste of a life that I never knew I craved. I was completely alone and I did everything for myself. I was laughing again. I was smiling. And, to my utter shock and surprise, I was interacting with people. I was happy. Like blissfully happy. I missed my furbabies, but I didn’t miss anyone or anything else. I think the biggest thing that Salem taught me was that I am capable of living an amazing life on my own and having that knowledge gave me a thirst for independence that I have never felt before. I already felt detached from Stephen, and in my mind, I think I was prepping myself for what my future might end up looking like. Just me and my furbabies. Alone in our tiny houses. That was the life that I now wanted. 

When I came home from Salem Stephen knew something was different. I think that to some level he was scared. He even said that he could tell that I was “checked out” and had “one foot out of the door.” So one would think that if he could pick up on the shift of our relationship that that would motivate him to put some effort in, but of course it didn’t. The fact that he didn’t do anything at all just confirmed that I was starting to think properly. Leaving was going to be the next step for me and my furbabies, and I didn’t care if it hurt him. 

I was so serious about leaving that I was talking to my therapist about what to expect emotionally from the separation. I was researching divorce law and looking into lawyers. I was figuring what I could afford for an apartment. I was done. I didn’t hate Stephen, but the sight of him made me sick. After all of these years of begging him to help me fix our relationship and him always coming up short, I was filled to the brim with resentment. I feel like I was completely justified in my feelings. I felt like he completely sucked me dry of every ounce of energy that I had. And when I started to feel depleted, he would continue to siphon energy that I didn’t have. I expected that in our partnership that he would help keep us afloat, but that wasn’t the case. Here is the thing. The notion that a partnership is fifty: fifty is complete and utter bullshit. A partnership will never be equal when comes to both of you contributing equally. It could be sixty: forty, or even eighty: twenty. It all depends on what each individual needs at that moment. But here is the catch: those percentages are supposed to fluctuate. If you are feeling like you can’t give as much to your relationship for a while that is fine, but eventually, you are supposed to put forth the effort that you have been lacking. That hasn’t been the case with my relationship. Emotionally speaking, it has always been me putting in eighty-five percent of the effort and Stephen putting in fifteen percent. I was tired. 

While I carried the weight of our emotional relationship, Stephen has always been the sole provider financially, and for that, I will always be grateful. Stephen has a tremendous work ethic. He works hard and he is efficient. He gets promoted quite often, and I am never surprised. I have been told by a couple of people that he gets a pass on helping me with our relationship because he works full time and because of how hard he works, but to be blunt, that is fucking stupid. Yes, he does work hard. Yes, he does work forty hours a week. Yes, he does provide a great life financially for me and the furbabies. With that being said, most people work, and if everyone used that excuse for not putting effort into their relationship than there would not be any relationships. This is a partnership. Like I said previously, the effort will never be equal, but both parties need to responsible for keeping the relationship healthy.

After feeling this immense amount of toxicity for so long, something miraculous finally happened. Stephen finally understood that he was losing me, and something clicked for him. He finally agreed to go to individual therapy, and he has been putting effort into us. I never expected a full change from Stephen. All I have ever wanted was some sort of progress. Something that showed me that he cared enough to try to help us. So now that he is showing me that he is willing to try, I am willing to give him another chance.

Listen. Typically I am a pretty humble human being, but I just need to say that I know that I am smart. Really smart. So I am going forward with our relationship cautiously. I am still fully prepared to pull the plug because I know what I deserve and what I have been given in the past is unacceptable. I don’t fully trust Stephen when it comes to him changing. I am taking it one day at a time with him. But I do embrace every step forward that we take as a couple, and I remain hopeful that we will continue to grow and heal and build our strength as a unit. 

I think the one thing that I want to make known is that you should never feel like you owe your partner anything. There has been a couple of individuals who have stated that I should give Stephen a break because he works, but there is no excuse for someone to take emotional advantage of their partner. I don’t owe him anything. I am living my life, and if I feel like I am not getting what I deserve then I have every right to make it known. I am in charge of what I want my life to look like, and if I am unhappy with my partnership then I have every right to leave and rectify the situation. I felt stuck for so long, and it is refreshing to realize that I don’t need to feel that way anymore. I can change anything that brings me unhappiness. 

Stephen is a great human being. He makes me laugh harder than anyone in the world. He loves our furbabies more than anything. He is honest. He works hard. He doesn’t have a cruel bone in his body. He has faults that have made our relationship extremely challenging, but it is not like I am perfect. It must be difficult for him to be in love with someone who deals with clinical depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD. I also am lazy. Like really lazy. I am flawed too. 

I don’t know if we will be together forever. I have my doubts. But I am still going to try.

Salem: Part Two

After the plane touched down in Boston I was completely elated. I kept looking at the itinerary that I made for myself on the plane and was ready to embark on my new adventure. After gathering my luggage and walking for what seemed like fourteen miles to the rideshare pick up lot, I met with a lovely man who just so happened to be my Lyft driver. On the way to Salem from Boston, he showed me awesome looking buildings with such enthusiasm, and it gave me reassurance that I made the right choice with choosing Salem for my first solo trip.

I was staying in downtown Salem, and boy was it different than what I had been expecting. It was small. Like incredibly small. There was one section of the town where my hotel was that had older cobblestone, so the only vehicles that were allowed to drive on it were delivery vehicles. As a first impression, Salem left me in awe. The town seemed quaint and adorable, which was shocking to me due to the morbid history that took place on its very land. There was a cemetery that was a two-minute walk from my hotel, museums galore, and homes that were centuries old. There were shops and small restaurants everywhere, and they were incredibly enticing. I was so excited to start exploring and to learn as much as I could possibly learn about the place that I had always wanted to visit. 

My hotel, Hotel Salem, was hands down the best hotel that I have ever stayed at. I saw the same people basically every day and had pleasant conversations with one person in particular. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and the hotel was GORGEOUS. I checked in early, and my room had just been cleaned and set up for my arrival, so the door was sitting open waiting for me to occupy what was inside. When I saw my room my jaw literally unhinged itself and involuntarily opened. I stood there, in shock and in amazement at how perfect the room was. I actually left my room just to make sure that I was in the correct spot, and to my excitement, I was. When I travel, which is rare might I add, I usually stay in Holiday Inns or places like that. So I was expecting the same old same old with my hotel, but what I got was so much better than anywhere I have ever stayed. The ceilings were tall. I am not great with measuring heights and whatnot, but I would estimate probably like twenty-five-foot ceilings. I had a king-sized bed with multiple pillows, (which I got extra excited about because I was going to have that all to myself) and I immediately wanted to curl up in it and take a happiness nap. My bathroom was probably the most beautiful bathroom that I have ever seen. There was this stunning dark blue tile on the walls and in the shower, which I immediately told my husband I wanted for our bathroom. The tub was huge and it looked like I could easily unwind in it, and the shower was pure magic. The shower was huge, and every day after exploring I would just hibernate in the shower for a bit to unwind. That hotel made me comfortable and relaxed, and I will stay there every time I go back to Salem. Oh! And I simply can’t forget to mention that my room had an interesting little bonus feature to it. I am pretty convinced that a spirit lingers there. One of my dresser drawers kept opening as if my little friend kept trying to prank me. One night it kept opening and every time I would turn my back after closing it would open right back up. I was (am) still so convinced that it was a spirit that I set up my phone on video to try to catch it in action, but I think my spirit was too smart to be caught. Sneaky little bastard. 

Anyways, after seeing my room I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before and from traveling, so I simply ordered some lunch and took a much needed two-hour nap in my ginormous comfy bed that I could actually sleep on diagonally. It was a spiritual experience having that kind of restful slumber. When I awoke from my nap I was so out of it that I had to remind myself where I was. I got up, splashed my face with some water to help wake me up more, and then I grabbed my jacket to go explore my temporary home. 

I feel like I started exploring at the perfect time. It was chilly, but not too chilly. And the sun was starting to go down. As I mentioned before, there was a cemetery that was about a two-minute walk from my hotel room. So I decided to make my way towards that spot. When I arrived at the cemetery I was shocked that it was actually one of the places that I wanted to explore. I was at Old Burying Point Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Salem. It was beautiful. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but man it still took my breath away. The gravestones were incredibly old, and just seeing them was very humbling. You know I am not oblivious to the fact that one day I will die just like everyone else, but even with that knowledge there still is that sense of invincibility. I know that I will die, but it is still hard to process that. But seeing all of these graves, all of these people whose ages ranged from a year old to people well in their eighties, it reminds you of the fragility of life. The cemetery was the most peaceful spot in Salem in my opinion, and I could easily spend hours there. But the sun was almost completely set and everything was starting to shut down, so I headed back to my hotel for some rest. 

I actually went back to Old Burying Point multiple times during my time in Salem because of the peace that I felt almost became addictive. I loved looking at each gravestone and paying my respects to the people who are there. I felt such a magnetic energy pulling me to Old Burying Point, almost as if the spirits of the people that were residing there were trying to keep me there to tell me something. Call me crazy, but I do believe that spirits are a real thing. And I think that when we die, we learn everything that there is to learn about the universe and about life. Every single secret becomes common knowledge, and I think the people on the other side are screaming at us to listen to them. They want us to know these secrets, and maybe we just aren’t listening. Anyways, now that you guys know that I am crazy, (hi, I’m Brookana) Old Burying Point is as breathtaking and beautiful as they come. It is hands down my most favorite part of Salem. 

Luckily, adjacent to Old Burying Point was the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This particular memorial was for the victims of the witch trials, and it was truly moving. The memorial had large stones with each of the victim’s names engraved onto them, and it seemed as if that was Salem’s way of trying to apologize to each of the people that they executed. Some of the stones even had flowers on them, which I found beautiful. It is important to remember that despite how fascinating the history of the trials is, there were still innocent lives that were taken and we should always remember who they were. I visited the memorial three times while I was in Salem, and each time I felt a tremendous amount of sorrow for the souls whose lives were stolen from them.

 

 

Another great memorial that I visited was Proctor’s Ledge, which was where the victims of the witch trials were hung. I found this memorial even more moving than the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. I felt as if I could feel this heaviness to me. I was grieving the loss of these innocent people, people who lived many centuries before me. I can’t imagine the fear and the agony that they felt, and the pain that their families felt when they were taken away from them. When I learned about the witch trials back in middle school they never really talked about the humanity behind the victims that were executed. They never talked about the repercussions that the families had to face or the torment that the victims had experienced. But seeing the place where the majority of the victims took their final breath is an indescribable feeling. It is a chilling feeling. A feeling of pure terror and disgust. And it makes you respect the trials even more because of the people who had their lives wrongfully stolen from them. 

I also paid a visit to the Salem Witch Museum. This was a cute little museum that consisted of two exhibits, and I feel like I definitely learned a lot about how the trials had begun and the hysteria behind it all. The first exhibit was basically the story of the trials told over a loudspeaker and the second exhibit talked about the history of witchcraft. It was a very interesting experience, and I am happy that I went. 

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Past six o’clock at night there isn’t really much to do in Salem since all of the shops pretty much close down, so I decided to embark on a walking tour through Salem Night Tour. The tour meeting spot was a shock to me. We met at a store that sold Harry Potter merchandise, and I knew that I was about to have a wonderful evening. I even purchased my very first wand. The tour was a lot of fun. I was in a smaller group, which I loved because it gave me an opportunity to ask the tour guide questions when one would arise. They were very knowledgeable about Salem’s past, and I found myself to be intrigued throughout the entire tour. We walked by where the prison used to be during the trials, we walked by Salems Town Hall where the movie “Hocus Pocus” had filmed a scene, we walked past Old Burying Point, and we walked by the house that the board game “Clue” was based on. The stories that the guide told us were equal parts scary, horrifying, and enthralling, and despite the chilly weather, I had such a great time gaining more knowledge on Salem’s past. 

The Witch House. There is not enough time to discuss how much I loved Witch House. The Witch House is a home that was owned by Jonathan Corwin, who just so happened to be a judge during the trials. I was told that eighty percent of that house is original, and I could feel that that was true. I did a self-guided tour throughout the home, where I was fortunate enough to see many pieces of furniture that are dated back centuries. Throughout the home were various papers that had intriguing facts about how people lived back in the 1600-1700s, and it was totally captivating. There was something about the house that had a similar magnetic energy to the energy that I felt at Old Burying Point. I felt oddly comfortable in that house. Like I never wanted to leave. It felt peaceful and welcoming, and like a place where I could learn so much. It was one of those places where you could feel the history, and it just made me feel like I went back in time and experienced what it was like living in that house back then. But it wasn’t just the history that made me feel like I never wanted to leave. There was the sweetest woman who worked there that was incredibly knowledgeable about not just Witch House, but Salem as a whole. I definitely monopolized her time for upwards of forty minutes, just asking her questions about the home and about Salem. She answered every question that I had and was eager to share the history of Salem with me. She even showed me markings around the house that left me in awe. There were builders marks and marks of protection etched into the walls and ceilings of the house, and it made me feel as if I found a time machine and when back to the 1600s when the house was built. I was fascinated, and the house still has me fascinated to this very day. I would say that Witch House is my second favorite place to visit in Salem. There is so much to learn about the trials and about that time period, and the house helps you understand the history so much more.

 

A fun little activity that I decided to do was get another tattoo. There was a tattoo shop that was about a minute walk from my hotel called Witch City Ink, so to commemorate my first solo trip, which happens to be my most favorite trip that I have ever been on, I got a witch hat with a couple of sprigs. The shop was incredible, and my artist was so talented, and I constantly catch myself staring in awe at my newest addition.

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There are a ton of really adorable shops in downtown Salem, but my favorite shop hands down has got to be Emporium 32. They have a fantastic collection of oddities and just cool items that range from books, art, alcohol cups, absinthe spoons, jewelry, and hats. Everything was so unique and breathtaking, and I spent more money than I would like to admit at that store. My wallet is going to be in trouble for when we buy our house because I found out that they ship artwork and I plan on utilizing that convenience

There is so much to see, do and learn in Salem. Everything about Salem is so special to me. I loved the feeling that I felt in Old Burying Point and Witch House where I felt like I could feel the history. I loved learning about everything that happened there and why everything happened. Even though downtown Salem was adorable and beautiful, the history of the land is unscathed, and that morbid feeling that you get from that pain and suffering also turns into appreciation and gratitude for the generations that have lived before you. It truly is a magical town filled with magical curiosities.

Salem: Part One

I always think about traveling. A lot of times, just for fun, I hop on Expedia and plan trips that I know I will never be able to take. I plan out the flights, the hotel, and the activities. I look at restaurants and I deep dive into the history of where “I am going.” There are so many places that I could only dream of going to when it comes to international travel, and there are places within my own country that I have always wanted to explore. So when the opportunity presented itself for my very first solo trip, I jumped on that quicker than a cheetah going after its prey.

The good news was this: I was finally going to be able to go on a trip! But the dilemma was this: I am literally the most indecisive person that has ever existed, so choosing a place to travel to put me in distress. (Wow, what a problem to have you spoiled brat.) I briefly thought about the pacific northwest, but ultimately decided to pass on that. If I were going to go on a domestic trip I wanted to make sure that I chose a place that I have always wanted to go. I then narrowed it down to three choices: Washington DC, New Orleans, and Salem. I decided that I wanted to save Washington DC so that one day I could go with my dad, so now it was between New Orleans and Salem. New Orleans has always intrigued me, and during my time in Texas, I always wanted to go on a road trip there. My husband had been there many years prior to our relationship and wasn’t a fan, so he never wanted to go with me. Salem is a place that I have often thought about. Its deep and morbid history always seemed to have some sort of calling to me, so I finally made the decision to make my way east.

I had been to Massachusetts once before, and it was probably the best trip that I have ever been on. A week after my twenty-first birthday my best friend and I went to Boston to visit her sister, and it was such a memorable trip. We saw the Freedom Trail, we went whale watching, and we drank like fish. It was incredible and I remember it fondly. I always talked about making my way back to Massachusetts, so when I made my final decision about traveling alone to Salem, I was beyond excited. Like, embarrassingly excited. The moment I booked my flight and my hotel, my body became mostly adrenaline and I couldn’t stop telling my family and friends about the plans that I had just made. After a couple of hours of nonstop talking, jumping, and screaming, “I’m going to Salem!” I finally wore myself out and needed to go to bed. It is safe to say that I made the right choice.

When I woke up I was still massively excited, but for another reason other than the vacation aspect of it. Of course, I was incredibly eager to visit a place that I have always wanted to visit; however, I was also excited because I saw this solo trip as an opportunity to explore self-love. You see, as independent as I like to think that I am, I still think that there is a part of me that relies on others for certain things. Take New Orleans for example. I never road tripped there because my husband never wanted to go with me, and I honestly don’t think I ever thought about going on my own. When it comes to big things such as travel, I have always had it in my head that if I can’t find someone to go with me then I just won’t go at all. But after thinking about that mindset, I started to become upset with myself. This is my life. This is the one chance that I have to learn and to explore and to do things that will bring me happiness. So why have I always thought that I couldn’t do something as incredible as traveling on my own? Why have I put aside the places that I wanted to experience just because I couldn’t find another person to experience it with me? So when I booked this trip to Salem, a place that I have always wanted to go to, but no one else that I was close to was interested in, I started a new chapter in my life. The chapter where I actively make an effort to do things for myself that will bring me joy.

I think that there is a difference between being selfish and making sure that you are being kind to yourself. So far in my life, I have never seen myself as a priority. My husband, my animals, my family, and my best friend have always been the most important to me. I became so used to being shut down when it came to experiencing things with the people that I care about, that whenever I asked someone to do something with me I became numb to the feeling of my desires being put to the side. But the funny thing is, I never had to do that. I have had the power all along to follow through with the things that I have wanted, but I guess I just never saw it that way. I suppose I thought that experiences such as traveling would be more meaningful or special if it was experienced with someone you care about, but then that made me think, “Wait a minute, I care about myself. I could do with some quality time alone.” And the moment I had that epiphany was the moment that I changed my life for the better.

I didn’t really have any fears about traveling alone. Although my family, my husband, and my best friend were worried about my safety, that was never a concern of mine. My two biggest concerns were being away from my animals and, as silly as this may sound, eating alone at restaurants. Yeah, the thought of possibly getting hurt in a freak accident or being sliced and diced by a stranger never crossed my mind, but eating alone… Frightening. I am proud to say that I conquered my fear of eating alone like the true champ that I am, but leaving my animals and not having control over their safety is still anxiety-inducing. But whenever I get too worried, I just have to remind myself that they are safe and are in good hands and that I am allowed to enjoy myself while I am away.

I booked my trip pretty last minute, so the seven days between booking the trip and leaving were filled to the brim with buzz and eagerness. I spent hours upon hours planning out the areas that I wanted to explore, looking into tours, browsing the shops, and researching nearby restaurants. I wrote out everything that I wanted to do and figured out how far it was from my hotel. I made an organized list of each place with the addresses, hours, prices, and what kind of activity each place was. (Everyone, meet Brookana. She is type a.) The more I planned, the more ready I was to start this new adventure.

I woke up at four in the morning the day that I left, and all of my excitement turned into anxiety and sadness. I couldn’t believe that I was going to go to another state all by myself. What if something happened to the animals? What if something happened to my husband? What would I do if someone got hurt and I was a thousand miles away? What about eating alone?! I looked down at my dog, Luna, as I was about to leave and just saw betrayal in her eyes, and I felt immediate guilt. All these fears and insecurities crept back in, and they kept intensifying the closer I got to the airport. While I was sitting at the gate, I spoke to my husband on the phone as he was driving to work and all I felt was longing for him. I missed him and the furbabies already. For a moment, just a brief moment, I thought about leaving the airport and going back home. But then I realized that I was allowing my fears and my doubt to control the amazing thing that I was about to experience, and I shut it down as fast as I could.

When I boarded the plane I was feeling pretty confident and I felt my excitement starting to creep back in, but I was still slightly worried. But with that being said, the moment the plane started to accelerate down the runway and I felt that we were off of the ground, I caught myself smiling.

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The Fear of Co-Dependency and Lack of Individuality

I have a fear, and it is something that I think about constantly. This particular fear of mine dictates how I navigate my marriage and how I live my life. This fear is so terrifying to me that I make an extra effort to make sure that it never comes to life. So what is this fear? I am afraid of losing my individuality and becoming co-dependent.

I was fifteen years old when Stephen and I first started dating. The aftermath of the sexual assault was still fresh and my relationship with my parents was lacking. I didn’t really have friends, and I felt alone. I was desperate to find love, to find someone who wanted to spend time with me, to just find someone who found me to be somewhat worthy of them. I always envisioned having a partner who I had that special connection with. I used to wonder what it would feel like to have someone hold me, to laugh with me, to tell me that they were in love with me. I was craving it so badly, that when I found it, I gave into it. 

Stephen was everything to me. He was my world, and I became so engulfed in love that I lost myself. I placed all of my happiness onto him, and I became the person that I thought he wanted me to be. I stopped hanging out with the few friends that I had because I wanted every free moment to be spent with him. If I couldn’t see him over the weekend or after school on weekdays I would be devastated. He brought so much light into my world of darkness that all I could see or focus on was him, resulting in me forgetting about me. 

The sad truth is that Stephen never made me feel like he should be my reason for living. That was all me. I think I just got so sucked up into a world where I could finally trust someone. I finally had found someone who was authentic and sincere, and he genuinely cared about me and my well-being. I felt safe with Stephen, and I saw a forever life with him. He was mine. My life was just revolving around Stephen. 

My co-dependency started to become scary when I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. I became increasingly jealous and territorial. When I found out that he held another girl’s hand in band practice, and he didn’t have a choice, I made him delete her from social media. When I found out that another girl had a crush on him and told him and he kept it from me, I wrote an article and printed it on the front page of the school paper. I was ruthless. I was even disgusted with myself, but I was not going to let anyone or anything take Stephen away from me. I had too much to lose. 

Around a year after we started dating, Stephen had reached his limit with me and my behavior and attempted to break up with me. He expressed that he couldn’t handle my jealously anymore, and he didn’t like that my whole world revolved around him. Which, to be honest, is completely understandable. I had a big dose of reality when we had that discussion, and that fog that I was in for the past year finally cleared up. 

I had realized that I willingly gave up everything that I was for this relationship, even though I never had to. Stephen loved me for me, and he never asked me to give up on myself for us. I couldn’t believe that I did that to myself. I put myself this incredibly unhealthy situation, and I promised myself that I would never do that again.

I am truly lucky to have the partner that I have. He never makes me feel like I have to give up any part of myself in order to please him. And if I were to be honest, if he did have that kind of expectation from me that would be a deal-breaker. I am unwilling to change any part of who I am for anyone, even him.

There was a situation that happened not too long ago that was kind of the inspiration behind this piece. As you know, I have a thing for tattoos and piercings, and for a while, I was fixated on getting my septum pierced. I wanted it so badly, but Stephen does not like them and told me no. First of all, no one, not even my husband, is going to tell me “no” about something that I want to do to MYSELF. I will gladly hear and appreciate any opinion that you may have on any matter, but anything that I want to do for myself or to myself will ultimately be MY decision. I didn’t end up getting the piercing because the jewelry that I wanted was going to be way too expensive, but had it been more affordable I would have gotten it done. 

I have this viewpoint about my marriage that I am not sure a lot of people agree with. I am so overprotective about maintaining my individuality that I almost look at my marriage like a separate partnership. I love Stephen so incredibly much, and he means the world to me, but he is not my world. I will never allow myself to do what I did back when we first started dating. The moment I place all of my happiness and everything that I am into his hands is the moment that I will lose myself. So when I say that we are in a “separate partnership,” I simply mean that I want us to make decisions together and live our lives together, but I also want us to be our own people. If I want to travel on my own without him, then I am going to do it. If I want to hang out with my friends without him, then I am going to do it. If I want to do something to my body then I am going to do it. Even if he hates it. He is not my daddy, he is my husband. And I am his wife. Just because you are in a committed relationship doesn’t mean that you need to forget about yourself. 

Like I have said, I am deeply, deeply in love with Stephen. He is an amazing human being and I am lucky to have him as my husband. I respect the hell out of him, and we really are a great match. However, in order for me to live the life that I want to live, I can’t put him and his desires before my own. I am not living our life, I am living my life, and I am trying to make the best of it. Stephen just so happens to be an incredible part of it all.

Personal Boundaries

I have this tendency to love with everything that I have. When I genuinely and sincerely care about someone I will halt my life if they need me, I will make sure that they feel fully supported by me, and I will do anything within my power to help them smile and enjoy their life. When I love I love hard, and that has never been an issue for me until recently. 

I am starting to come to terms with a new life lesson that I am still trying to learn. As much as you might care about someone, there always is that chance that they really don’t care about you at all. And that, my friends, can be difficult to accept. 

I consider myself to be an intelligent being. I consider myself to be very intuitive, and I also feel like I could be considered empathetic. Although I don’t crave a lot of relationships with others, these traits allow me to still be good with other people. I can sit there and listen for hours to someone venting and seeking out advice, I can be a shoulder to cry on when someone is seeking out sympathy, and I can usually understand why someone may feel a certain way. I am just really good with people which is incredibly ironic since I am such an introvert at heart. The thing that I don’t understand about myself is that there are a select couple of people in my life that I am willing to do anything for even though I know that they really want nothing to do with me. Well, let’s clarify that. They don’t want anything to do with me unless it is convenient for them. And I have known this for a very, very, VERY long time, but I still hold on to that hope that one day our relationship could evolve into something that I have wanted it to be. So I keep being there for these people, I keep giving them everything that I have to ensure that they know that they matter to me, and each time that happens I am met with the same feeling that I always feel at the end: disappointment. 

Albert Einstein may have had a point with this one. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

I hate myself for this. I am a smart person, and I know that each time I am there for these people nothing will come from it, and yet I still have this need for it to be the way I have always envisioned it to be. I have always wanted a solid friendship, I have wanted trust and that feeling where I could go to them for anything. I have just wanted a friend. I have started to become resentful, which is dumb because I was the one who set myself up for disappointment. I have shown these people that they could take advantage of me because no matter what I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they don’t have to inquire about me because I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they can ask me for literally anything and I will give it to them in the end. I have taught them that. My grasp on hope for this relationship took over my common sense and my intelligence, and now I am left looking like the village fool. 

So what now? Do I keep repeating this cycle? I have spoken to my therapist multiple times about this issue and we have come up with a new challenge for myself: setting up my personal boundaries. I can still care about these people, but I am no longer going to go out of my way to be there for them. I have learned that letting go of the relationship that I have wanted for so long is not an actual loss because it never existed to begin with. If they call me because they need help with something I am allowed to say no. I can say no to whatever I want because at the end of the day they want nothing to do with me unless they need me, and that isn’t a relationship, that is one person allowing another person to take advantage of them. 

Having hope can be a beautiful thing, but holding on to hope when you know nothing will ever change can be incredibly damaging. You are allowed to have boundaries, so don’t let anyone, whether it is yourself or others, tell you otherwise.

Social Media

Back before social media became a big thing, I primarily only used the internet for my school work. I didn’t care what other people were doing, and other people didn’t care about me. Those were the days that were a lot simpler, and those are the days that I sometimes wish still existed.

Back when I was young, the platform that was primarily used was Myspace. Myspace was so much fun, but it basically sucked your soul in. I used to spend hours changing my background, finding the perfect picture to put on my wall, and deciding what song would play on the background of my page. I used to look at other peoples pages, look at their pictures, and look at what people had to say. I would choose my top friends list meticulously, and if you were on the list that meant that you were in my good graces. Myspace was kind of my social media gateway drug, and if I could turn back time, I would have stayed far away.

In high school, I kind of graduated from Myspace and went on to Facebook. Facebook was a lot more sophisticated than Myspace. You couldn’t personalize your home page, and it was just a lot less work to maintain. With that being said, Facebook ultimately became my mind. I know that sounds weird, but allow me to explain. As many of you know, Facebook allows you to post statuses, and in the status box it says “What’s on your mind, Brookana?” And boy, I let everyone know what was one my mind. I would share anything and everything, from going to out dinner, hanging out with my friends, and going to see the gynecologist. (Telling the world that I was going to the gynecologist was one of my more regrettable statuses.) Looking back, I hate the person that social media turned me into. I constantly wanted to show off my pictures so people thought that I was living a thrilling life, I posted statuses about my life so that people would know about it, and I was just completely consumed in the world of the internet.

I kind of figured out why I became obsessed with sharing my life, and I think it was because I wanted attention. Every like, every comment, and every view was just another notch on my self-esteem belt, but little did I know, it was starting to have the reverse effect. Every time I posted a status or a picture and I didn’t get attention from it I would start to question myself. Was I not funny? Was I not wise? Was the selfie that I posted not as pretty as I thought it was? I would refresh my page to see if someone finally paid attention to what I had to say, but every time I would not have a notification it would sting my heart just a little bit more. My self worth became wrapped up in social media, and it wasn’t until recently where I finally realized how unhealthy my relationship with the internet had become.

Listen, I am going to be honest about something. I have 390 “friends” on Facebook, and I maybe have an active relationship with about twenty of them. Most of the people that are on my list are people who I haven’t seen or spoken with in well over five years, and I don’t even know who they are anymore. There are some people who are complete strangers to me and who I have never met, some people that I don’t give two shits about, and some people who I lack the desire to have any kind of relationship with. I know for a fact that I am in those categories with other people as well, so why did I always find it necessary to allow these people into my life? I think it is because I just wanted that attention, and I just wanted people to see me. I never really made an effort to have a plethora of friends, especially since Stephen and Caille had always been more than enough for me, but I still wanted people to like me. I still wanted people to think that I was funny, that I was pretty, and that I was a good person. I just wanted people to care. Looking back at it now, I think it was extremely silly how much I wanted others to care about me, because you can’t force people to like you.

I think the beginning of the end of my obsession with social media was after the last presidential election. I’m not going to get super heavy on the topic, but I’m not a Trump person. I disagree with a lot of his viewpoints, and I was unhappy that he was elected. But the thing is, he was elected, he is our president, and now it is just something that we have to deal with. For about a year after he was sworn into office, everything online was about Trump and Clinton and the election. People were fighting about politics non stop, and people would cut deep with their insults. I sat there and saw people tear each other apart without any mercy because of their opinion, and honestly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I am happy that there are people who are passionate enough to fight for what they believe in, but there is a difference between being passionate and being violent, and people no longer saw that line. Political debates happened within my own family, hell Stephen and I just had one yesterday, but when you are constantly seeing it and watching people go at each others throats every second of every day, you kind of start saying enough is enough. So I slowly backed off of social media because of that, and I am grateful for that because it isn’t that important to me anymore.

I care about what people think about me, but it is the people who matter to me the most whose positive opinion is what I strive for. My family and my friends, those are the people that I want to be proud of me. I sincerely hope that everyone who is on my friends list is living an amazing life and that they are flooded with bliss, but at the end of the day, how much do we all actually mean to each other? I don’t really post much on Facebook anymore, but when I do, I do it for me. Whether people like what I have to say or show them no longer will define my self worth, because my self worth will come from how I perceive myself.

Social media can be a wonderful thing, but before you allow yourself to get completely sucked into it, just be warned.

Regrets

I hate when people say that they live a life without any regrets, but only because I can’t possibly fathom how that could be true. There are times, especially when I am in my “lows,” where all I think about are my regrets, and I wish I could change things in my past. I try to look at everything that I do as a life lesson, but damn, some things that have happened really haven’t taught me anything other than I can be an imbecile sometimes.

Most of the regrets that I think about are from when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a filter, I thought that my opinion was the right opinion, and I acted before I considered the repercussions of my actions. I have hurt people with my words, and I have been punishing myself for those instances ever since the moment the words left my mouth. I graduated high school seven years ago, and I still can’t seem to forgive myself and let go of the mistakes that I made back then. Perhaps this will be an issue that I will have to deal with forever, and to a certain extent, I definitely deserve it. I used to act on my anger and frustration, and when I would do that, I wouldn’t care about what harm my words and actions would cause. When someone hurt or upset me, all I would see was blood, and I wanted to hurt people like they hurt me. It was not wise, I was not being logical, and I was just being mean. Grown-up Brookana definitely wishes that I could go have a major talk with teenager Brookana, because teenager Brookana used to be really superb at turning on the “bitch switch.”

I briefly spoke about this before, but one my biggest regrets was how I treated my mom and step-dad. I punished them for years, and as I got older, I knew how to push their buttons better. I was incredibly vindictive, and I wanted to hurt my mom by withholding a relationship from her. I knew my mom loved me, and I loved her, but I was mad at her and I wanted her to know that I was angry. I would ignore her, I would blow her off, and I would leave her out of things that was happening in my life. For example, junior year of high school the journalism team threw the talent show, and I was going to be one of the emcees. It was a big event for me because I was never into sports and I wasn’t apart of any clubs, so my parents never got to see me involved with any school functions. Well anyways, I didn’t tell my mom about it, and she only found out about it after someone else had mentioned it to her after it had happened. That was deeply hurtful for her, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was so cruel to my mom and my step-dad, and I regret that because I hate that I caused them so much pain for so many years. As I have gotten older and as I have matured, I have been able to see them for the people that they are, and my parents are incredible. My mom will have hour long conversations with me when she is exhausted or has a migraine. Last year, I had to have two major surgeries on my hand and my mom flew down to Dallas both times to take care of me. If my brothers and I were on a railroad track with a train heading our way my mom wouldn’t hesitate to push us out of the way. My mom has a beautiful soul, and I can’t believe that I hurt her so badly in the past. My mom is literally an angel in my life, and I love her so much.

With my regrets, I know that I am basically mind-fucking myself every time I think about them. When I think about them I become borderline obsessive, and it eats me alive. I think about all of the scenarios that those situations could have turned into and how I could have saved myself from hurting others. I think about why I lashed out, and why in some cases I completely overreacted. I wonder if my words haunt the other person as much as they haunt me. I wonder if I should reach out to the other person, or if I should pretend like nothing ever happened. I have confided in Stephen about my regrets, and I truly envy his mindset. Stephen has never really done anything to be sorry for, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have all of these ghosts. His advice is to “stop thinking about it” or “get over it” or “that was so long ago, it doesn’t even matter anymore.” Is it bad that I find those statements to be maddening? Like yeah, that’s great and all, and I really fucking wish that I could get over it that easily, but obviously I’m struggling here. Thanks Stephen for your awesome advice, but my obsessive mind won’t let me forget what I have done.

Please don’t judge me, but there have been times where I was driving myself so completely crazy with my regrets that I once looked into hypnotherapy to see if it could help me forget. It is so odd, I can cope with my bi-polar disorder and depression and I can cope with my diabetes, but these regrets are something that I just can’t shake. I don’t think hypnotherapy would do anything to help me, but in a way I am glad that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would be the easy way out. I made my mistakes, now I need to learn how to forgive myself and to cope with the past.

The truth is, I don’t think that I have ever said or done something that was truly horrible and devastating. The worst thing that I have ever done was to my mom by blocking her out of my life, but we are in such an amazing place right now and we will only continue to grow our relationship. At the end of the day, I actually have learned somethings from what I have done. I have learned how to control my emotions so that if I do need to say something to someone, I can have a clear head space to avoid hurting them. I have learned that not everything that upsets me needs to turn into a battle, because usually when that happens it goes from bad to worse. I have learned that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, because sometimes toxicity will leak into your life that could cause a lot of harm. I have also learned how to reflect on a situation that turned out poorly, and learn what I could do differently the next time.

Honestly, I doubt that people who say that they don’t have any regrets actually feel that way. I mean, if that were true, that is amazing and I would be jealous, but if I were to guess I bet those people just know how to cope with their regrets better than me. I am hopeful that one day I can breath in and then exhale out my regrets, and finally be able to forgive myself, but for now, it is a work in progress.