It’s kind of amusing that when we were younger, say in our early twenties, we thought that we had everything figured out. We knew what our career path would be, what kind of person we’d marry, how many kids we’d have, what our dream house would be like, what kind of vacations we’d take, etc… We set lofty goals and never doubted the plans that we were making for our future. Then something really amusing happened. It was called life. Our dreams and plans were slammed by a dose of reality and they began to fall, one after the other, like dominoes that we had carefully set up never expecting them to fall. And when they all fell, we stood there feeling lost, panicked, angry, and, confused. How could this have happened? We planned so carefully…setting up one domino at a time; aligning each perfectly with the rest of our dreams. So we began improvising because what’s the point of planning when we obviously have no real control over anything? We take a job that pays the bills but doesn’t feed our soul. We date one person after another hoping for that spark we had previously dreamed of but have not yet experienced. We live in an apartment that we like but don’t love. We have cats, not kids, to keep us company. We take short weekend trips with our besties but no grand vacations. We begin a relationship with someone for whom we lust but do not love. We don’t realize that at the time because we just want to be in a relationship like our friends are so we settle. He’s intelligent and hot. We could do worse. Or, so we thought. He goes from brooding to sullen. He becomes controlling. His anger flares. His words become cruel. Then he hits you. You contemplate leaving but he comes to you and apologizes over and over again. He swears that it will never happen again. But that is a lie. The abuse begins to happen more frequently and becomes more violent. You go to work with long sleeves in the summer to hide bruises and you pretend to be just fine. You go home, fix dinner, tidy up, and wait. You are filled with dread. He comes in and you can tell from his demeanor that he’s at the tipping point. You weigh every word not once but many times before speaking them aloud. You know that if you say the wrong thing…which could be anything…it will light his already short fuse. You can’t appear too happy because he’s jealous of everyone’s happiness, especially yours, and that will also set him off. You measure every word, gesture, facial expression, question, answer, etc… And just as you begin to think that everything is okay, you say or do something innocuous and the fuse is lit. You don’t even know what you did or said that struck the match. He begins telling you that you’re fat and ugly and that no one will ever love or want you and that you’re lucky to have him. He forces you into a corner. You grab the phone and he rips it from your hand. He stands menacingly over you, raging at you, threatening you. You know that you have to just take it…silently. Knowing that if you say just one more word, any word, you will pay a steep price. But you just have to say that one word. He doesn’t usually hit you. He chokes you. He is strong and powerful with a bodybuilder’s body. You are also strong and you fight back but he easily overpowers you. As he chokes you, you look into his eyes and see nothing but hate. And just when you think that this will be the time that he kills you, he loosens his grip on your neck and then walks away. You lie there, struggling for breath and cry. The rest of the evening is uneventful. It’s as though nothing had happened. This continues for a few years. You learn to fight dirty but you always lose. You feel shame because you “let” this happen. You wonder, at times, if it’s your fault. You can’t tell anyone because you’re ashamed. You finally talk him into getting help. He begins therapy. It helps a little but the abuse continues. You think about leaving but don’t know how you would manage financially. Also, you went straight from your parents’ home to this so you wonder if you can do this on your own. One night, while he’s at therapy, you’re sitting there enjoying the peace and quiet. The phone rings. It’s his therapist. He tells you that he has a duty to warn you that if you do not leave, he will eventually kill you. He also tells you that you can’t let him know that you’re leaving until everything is in place and you’re ready to walk out the door. And you can’t be alone when you tell him. That put your ass in gear. You think about you options and also realized that you’re paying the majority of the bills and could afford to do this. You tell your mom what was happening. She tells to just come home. That won’t work so you begin looking for an apartment and find a cute little 2 story, all bills included apartment and signed the lease. You sit him down and told him you’re leaving. He actually understands and helps you move into your apartment. You don’t take much…the bed, a love seat, a hope chest, your books, a small tv, a VCR, some movies, a boom box, your music, and your personal things. You move in and your life quickly changed for the better. You’re working a full-time job and 2 part-time jobs. You new friends and date a lot. You party hard. Experiment with drugs. You basically do everything in your late twenties that most people had done in their late teens and early twenties. You love the hell out of your new life. You get divorced and begin to toy with committed relationships but you’re gun shy so you hurt some really nice guys. You meet someone that you like a lot but you don’t consider him anything but a good time. He’s good to you. He compliments you…tells you that you’re beautiful and sexy. He sends flowers and cards for no reason. You’re suspicious of his motives because he’s too perfect. There must be an ulterior motive. But you slowly begin to realize that there isn’t one. You start to let go of the past and the emotions that are tied to it. You let yourself fall but instead of falling and crashing into what lies below, you find yourself floating. You begin to believe the things he tells you about yourself. When he asks you to marry him, you say yes for all of the right reasons. Years pass and he continues to tell you how beautiful and sexy you are. He supports your dreams even when he doesn’t fully understand them. He’s been there in good times and not so good times. And, all of those plans, goals, and dreams you had all those years ago that didn’t come to fruition, you don’t really miss them. Occasionally, you’ll look back and wonder what if, but in the long run, you really didn’t miss out on that much. You still have dreams that you’re working to make real. You haven’t given up on or settled for anything. You’re where you’re supposed to be so you’re grateful for all that you have in your life. Life is good.