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Finding myself

| Friday, December 3, 2021

I’ve thought this over for months, and now, I think I understand.

I believed it was love. I really did.

It felt like the movies: a meet-cute when I wasn’t expecting or anticipating any type of romantic relationship, spending the chilly fall nights riding our bikes around Notre Dame and watching the seasons change with the stars, being there for each other when we encountered the inevitable challenges of the first year of college. Until it wasn’t.

He told me about all of his problems with his parents and siblings, his difficulties with his faith journey and vocation discernment, as well as his self-esteem and acceptance challenges. I was there to support him through all of his rants and tears and frustrations. But my problems didn’t have as much of an importance to him. My problems were irrelevant. My problems (homesickness, loneliness, perfectionism, learning my independence) were so small compared to everything else. And I believed that.

He told me he loved me for the first time when he was crying about how he didn’t feel good enough to be in college. I remember that night so clearly. It felt perfect. Almost.

I saw him almost every day. He didn’t like the COVID-19 protocols my campus had, so most times I would go over to see him. I wanted to go see him. I never thought I was the only one putting in all the effort. He always said how beyond grateful he was that I was there for him. How he had never met a woman who loved him so much. Because I did. I loved him. Until things started to change.

It started with FaceTime calls where he would give “constructive” criticism about my character. How I didn’t need to talk over him, even though he would be the one interrupting me. How I needed to be better on introducing him to my friends. How I needed to go to Eucharistic Adoration and confession more. It turned into criticizing my driving (even though he had gotten his license only a month earlier), making me feel like I was selfish for wanting to see him, spending more time with friends and not telling me, and giving up on promises. It came to a head at the end of March, when it took him two weeks to admit he’d slept with the girl he told me not to worry about. He was apologetic at first, but he wanted to leave the past in the past. He refused to take a break, as I had been advised to do, because we could grow from that. We, not him, because I was also at fault too. Right?

After a couple weeks he acted like it hadn’t happened. I was hurting so badly. I had never been cheated on in my life, and I was expected to continue on with my life like it didn’t exist? I should’ve known then.

I was treated horribly for the next few months. I was always put after his friends. He didn’t have enough time for me. He wanted me to drive him everywhere since he didn’t have a car. He was rude to my family and constantly acted like a know-it-all when it came to anything about the Catholic Church. He focused on the physical part of our relationship, and even though I told him how much I didn’t want it, I felt like I had to so that he would be happy.

I felt stupid, used, unwanted. I cried almost every day, wondering where I went wrong. It was all my fault. My fault he was unhappy. My fault he cheated on me because I wasn’t doing enough. My fault I wasn’t a “good Catholic.” My fault the relationship wasn’t what it was the first month we were together. Everything was my fault.

This past summer was particularly difficult on my mental and emotional health. I was so attached to him that my emotions were dictated by his falling short of promises and distancing himself more and more. Most days I was on the verge of tears. Then he decided to end the relationship on his own. School had just started. And I was expected to pick myself up and continue on like nothing happened. Just like always. I made the decision to get help from others. I wanted to love myself again. I wanted to live for myself and not another person. I wanted my feelings to be acknowledged, not repressed. I wanted myself back. And now I have that.

Lauren Davis

Saint Mary’s College class of 2024

Nov. 22

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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