Salem: Part Three

As of recently, I have been experiencing an internal dilemma that I had never really felt before. The idea of being codependent and not being my own person has always been a fear of mine, but I started wondering why I stopped doing things that I have always wanted to do. I realized that if I didn’t have someone to experience certain things with then it wouldn’t be worth experiencing, and that is when I came to the conclusion that I was giving myself an injustice. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to go somewhere or do something but my husband or my best friend didn’t want to experience it with me, so I would just drop it and move on. Suddenly I realized that I have been unaware and oblivious to the fact that one of my biggest fears was coming true. I was allowing others to be in control of my happiness, and that left a pit in my stomach and soul. 

I need to come clean about something. For years I have been allowing my fear and my 

comfortability control what I do with my life. It started when I lived in Dallas. I was virtually alone the majority of the time, and I became used to that feeling. The only time I would ever leave my apartment was for work or doctor appointments, and it became so bad that the idea of going grocery shopping alone would give me an anxiety attack. Even if I needed something I would purposely try to hold off going to get it until the weekend so that my husband could go with me. I don’t think I was approaching agoraphobia or anything, I just think that I had severe social anxiety and it prevented me from doing anything alone. I still have issues with that, but it is not nearly as bad as it once had been. 

My mindset was preventing me from living the life that I so desperately desired. Doing things on my own was never really something that I accepted as a possibility. So for all this time when I could have been doing things to give my life purpose, I just have been easily dropping them when others didn’t want to do them with me. Thinking about that mindset now actually makes me kind of sick to my stomach. How could I have ever been so reliant on other people for experiences or happiness? How could I have ever thought that that was normal or okay? 

All it took was one moment for my mind to switch. It was just one teeny-tiny little moment where I thought: “What the fuck am I doing?” That singular moment in time is the moment that is responsible for changing my life. I realized that I was no longer going to accept that I can only follow through with my dreams and goals if I had someone by my side. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be placing my well-being in the hands of others. Just because I am in a marriage doesn’t mean that I am living our life. No. I am living my life and he just happens to be a great part of that. Even when it comes to my best friend. I love doing things with her, but there are things that I want to do that she doesn’t and vice versa. I will always want to experience and go through things with both my husband and my best friend, but there comes a time where you stop caring if others want to do things with you. And that time has come. I am open and ready to start living my life the way that I want to live it. I am going to do things even if others don’t want to do them or if they don’t understand them. Living your life with people can be great, but living your life for you is exhilarating. And that is one of the first lessons that Salem has taught me. 

When I had that moment of clarity I didn’t just want to think about it. I wanted to live it. I wanted to dive in and I wanted to dive deep. I wanted to push myself to test what I was capable of. Something that I always talk about is traveling, but I have never been in the financial position to be able to do it. Plus, all of the places that I wanted to experience my husband didn’t, so that put a damper on things. With that being said, things have changed. I have some money now, not a lot but enough for a small trip. And I no longer care if my husband wants to do something with me or not. If something is possible for me to do then I am going to do it. So I thought what better way to push myself than going on a trip, somewhat far away, alone, to a place that I have always wanted to go to that nobody else I knew would be interested in. That’s where Salem came into play. 

Although I wasn’t going to be in Salem for long, I still wanted to make sure that it would be okay with my husband. If I am going to be honest, I already knew that despite what he said that I was going to go, but I also wanted to have that respect for him and let him know what I was thinking. He was okay with me going, which made me happy, so I booked my ticket and hotel and planned my little heart away like the type a personality that I am. 

I am not going to lie to you guys. I was super excited all the way up to the morning of my departure. Then when my stepdad picked me up to take me to the airport I started feeling doubt. I was worried about leaving my furbabies and leaving my husband and all of that fun stuff. Luckily, that worry was short-lived. The moment I felt the plane take off all of my excitement and eagerness came rushing back, and I was so ready for this adventure. When I landed in Boston and made my way to Salem my mind was in a whirlwind. I just couldn’t believe that I actually did this. I couldn’t believe that I actually traveled to a place that I have never been to before by myself. Then that disbelief turned into something that I very rarely feel about myself. I became proud of myself and this step that I had taken. I don’t really feel like anyone should have to justify why they might be proud of something that they have accomplished whether it is a big or small thing. Accomplishing any sort of dream or goal is something one should feel pride in. So I feel like some people might think “You went on a trip by yourself. Big whoop.” But for me, this was huge. The only time that I have ever traveled alone was when I would go back and forth from Dallas to Chicago, and even then I still did stuff with people every day. With Salem, I was in charge of making all of my own decisions, getting to the places that I wanted to see, feeding myself, etc. Everything was all on me. At first, I thought that the notion of me being solely responsible for myself would be terrifying, but it was actually the complete opposite. 

I have never felt more liberated in my entire life. Being completely on my own gave me a sense of freedom and happiness that I never have experienced before. Every moment was intoxicating, and I craved it. I woke up each morning eager for the day to begin, and that is something that I don’t really ever feel. It is such a crazy feeling that not too long ago I couldn’t even go to Target alone without experiencing severe anxiety, and now here I was all alone on the other side of the country. I was talking with strangers and making new friends. I was appreciating the history and background of the beautiful city that I was in. I was self-reflecting and figuring out what self-love really meant. I truly was thriving. I was able to get to know someone a lot better. Someone who I have known for twenty-six years. Me. 

When you put yourself in a small bubble of what you think you are capable of you are doing the worst thing possible for yourself. Because of my assumptions about myself I have missed out on so much living. I have bypassed opportunities and possibilities that would have given me purpose and brought me joy. It is sad to me to know that the feeling that I felt in Salem could have been a feeling that I have felt all along, but I have decided that instead of dwelling on what could have been I am going to focus on what I am going to do about it.

I am going to make a list for myself, and I want to do everything possible to make these things happen. Salem was a dream of mine for so long and I was able to do that, so the way that I see it is that Salem was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I have realized that I am self-sufficient and capable of being the person that I want to be, and I am going to do everything in my power to continue this path of independence.

It is funny how when you have a significant other you think you have to live your life with them. I thought that for so long, and it couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I have figured out that I have dreams and goals for my marriage, but more importantly, I have them for myself. And to me, it is more important to accomplish your own individual goals and dreams rather than the ones that you share with your partner. I know that that might sound selfish, but if you think about it, is it really? If you are longing to do things for yourself that your partner doesn’t want to do then you most likely will expect to see good ole’ Uncle Resentment knocking on your door, and everyone knows we try to avoid him as much as possible. I don’t want to look at my husband one day with hatred because I never was able to live my life the way that I wanted to. What kind of partner can I be to him if I was unhappy with my life and my choices? I feel like in order to be a good enough partner to him I need to be good to myself. So I regret to inform my loved ones, including my husband, that they have all been pushed down on my priority list because I have finally placed myself at the top. 

I do have one bit of bad news that has resulted from my first ever solo trip. As much clarity as I have found, I have also found equal amounts of confusion. I am questioning if I made the right decision by getting married and being in a committed relationship so young. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and I never had that alone time to really learn about myself. I went from relying on my family to relying on my husband, and I never learned that I am capable of being on my own. I feel like I am needing more time for self-discovery. I am yearning for it. I miss Salem, but I miss my alone time more. This scares my husband. He thinks that I have one foot out the door. But this is not what this is. I am leaving. But I am not leaving him. I am leaving the old version of me. I am leaving that girl that was scared and dependant on others. I am leaving the girl who easily gave up on her goals and dreams. I am leaving the girl who put literally everyone else’s happiness before her own. I feel reinvented. I feel like for once in my life I am in charge of myself. I feel incredible. One of my biggest takeaways from Salem is that I can take care of myself both emotionally and physically. I can live a life alone and still feel tremendously happy and fulfilled. I don’t need my husband, my best friend or my family. If everyone was out of my life I would be fine. 

That statement is not a bad thing. I have learned that the people who are in your life shouldn’t be in your life because you need them. They should be there because you want them there. And believe me when I say, I want them all to still have a part in my life because they do bring me so much joy. But it is refreshing to know that I don’t need others to still have a beautiful and magical life. I am capable of providing that for myself. And I have never felt so empowered.

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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.