By Anabel Kane
After getting out of a relationship that took everything out of me, being filled with love and then having it stolen from me in one quick breath, I learned that my worth should have never been justified by a man's approval of my physical appearance. Knowing that it was a man that I had once loved and admired was heartbreaking, it was verging on traumatic, but when I took a step back and recognized the weight of his words throughout our relationship, I realize how flawed his love was. He was replicating abusive tactics I had read about, but never thought I'd encounter myself. His words may have knocked me down, but my epiphany saved me. He had no love for himself, how could he ever give me the love I deserved? The love that I hold so deeply in myself?
It all ended with a phone call. I was finishing up a banana milkshake when I answered the phone and it was *Clay. I knew it must have been important, because that was the first call I’ve gotten from him in two days. I could tell by the tone of his voice that it was coming, but I never would have expected for it to go down in the manner that it did. The first thing I asked when I picked up the phone was, “is everything okay?” Clay sighed and said, “no, Anabel, it’s not.” I immediately respond, “Are you breaking up with me?” To which he answered, “yes I am.” Taken aback I asked why? And the answer he gave was something no one should ever hear.
Clay explained, “Anabel I just got out of church and the pastor was telling us about Jesus and how he was an honest man, and I haven’t been honest with you.” I was completely confused and asked, “What do you mean?” He responded by saying, “the reason I have been a bad boyfriend for the past six months is because I find you physically unattractive. And I can’t be with anyone that is physically unattractive to me.”
My jaw dropped.
I could not believe what I was hearing. It was surreal. The guy I have spent the past year and a half dating, the one who has seen me with no makeup on, my hair in its natural wild form, in sweatpants and in swimsuits just told me that the reason he is breaking up with me is because I am physically unattractive.
I went through all the stages: denial, depression, shock, anger, and finally all that was left was realization. They always say that hindsight is 20/20 and I should have been able to see this coming from miles away. I did not recognize the malevolence we shared, for our love seemed to be solid gold, but as I reflect back on this tumulus time, it is simply gilded.
I recall several incidences where Clay made comments about my appearance and would try to make me feel guilty whenever I ate food that he deemed unhealthy. He would go from one day telling me how cute I was, to completely tearing me down the next.
It took some time, but I realized that being told I was physically unattractive by the person I loved was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It taught me that I can’t seek validation from another person, and in turn, taught me how to completely love myself. It has taught me that I will never put up with being treated less than I deserve. That I will make sure the next person I’ll be with won’t be afraid to let me know how beautiful I am inside and out.
Most importantly, it taught me how to look for early signs of abuse. If someone you are with makes negative comments about your appearance, gives you an ultimatum or makes comments on your eating habits, that is abusive behavior. Your happiness should never be dependent on someone else. Thank you Clay for helping me realize that I am more than just a number on a scale, and that there are people out there who can see beyond that. That is not my defining characteristic – it is only one of many.
I got out of an unhealthy relationship to understand how important it is to cherish my entire being. I got slapped with a sentence that no one should hear, that could destroy someone forever, but I don't want to be ruined by someone who doesn't deserve a place in my life. I am stronger, more full of love, and capable of unpacking abuse earlier, now. I didn't ask for this, but I learned from it, and that's all you can do when your trust is broken and neatly packaged in a phone call.
*names were changed for the sake of privacy