I almost missed the man who turned out to be the love of my life. Not because of timing but because of my past, mainly my fears and vulnerability of trusting after an abusive relationship.
When my current fiancé and I got together, I avoided eye contact with him. When he used to tell me that I was beautiful, I looked away and felt uneasy. Not that I hadn't heard anyone say that to me before, but never before did I actually trust the words as he was saying them.
I used to avoid kissing him. I used to tell him we were moving too fast, when in reality we hadn't even held hands yet. He was an utmost gentleman, and I almost lost him because the idea of letting down those walls seemed unbearable.
About six months into our relationship, I discovered I had PTSD. I remember sitting on his lime green couch, my head cowering in between my knee caps, shivering and shaking uncontrollably. I was recalling a memory from an abusive past. I felt fearful, unsafe and horrified at what this man next to me had to be thinking.
What he did was hold me. He came up behind me, and wrapped his arms gingerly around my shoulders. He didn't hold me tightly at first because the reminder of arms around me started to upset me. But he stood there, as an anchor, not minding when I needed his body away from me, not getting confused when I asked him to come right back.
He stood, unwavering, right beside me until the trigger was over. He stood by me in the waiting room as I went to therapy to try and pick the pieces of my life back together. He listened to the stories I retold, the ones that shook me. He understood when I freaked out, when I felt helpless. He understood me, and he never left me.
More than a year after my treatment, he stands beside me eager to marry me. He takes me, flawed past and all, and never thinks that what happened defines me as a whole. He understands what has happened in my past will sometimes still overtake me. He understands that what I felt will always linger. It's a part of me that will never truly go away.
In the scale of everything, what I went through doesn't seem like a huge deal compared to the love and safety I feel with my fiancé. Domestic violence is a big deal, one that you should ask for help if you're ever facing it. It's a situation that you should know you're never, ever at fault for.
Learning to love and live again after abuse can be terrifying. The path to learning to trust and to take down those walls isn't easily done, but I truly believe that I wouldn't have been able to get so far without his help, and his unconditional love and support of me.
I'm not in control of what is in my past. I only control what happens in my future. I can control my responses, my emotions, and always continue to learn and accept that things will occasionally slip through the cracks in my life. When you're a survivor of abuse, it's all you can do to try and make sense of what happened.
In many ways, the love my fiancé has given me, saved me. It saved me from a life where I refused to face the realities of my past, and through that, I would have never found peace and happiness in my future.
I thank him for that.