Ever since I was young, I’ve undeniably been a hopeless romantic.
Romantic comedies were my favourite to watch, and I was in a constant state of daydreaming about that moment when I would meet “The One” and just know it was true love.
Even Disney told me, from when I could first understand the media I was watching, that true love was supposed to be found in a sliver of a moment, and that love can overcome all.
That if you fight hard enough for someone, you can change their heart.
That if you stick around long enough, you can make everything better if only you love enough.
It is that exact narrative that brings along with it a dangerous twin — the narrative of unrealistic, damaging expectations.
I fell victim to every hopeless romantic trope I believed when I first fell in love — and it led to my being in a terribly abusive relationship and not leaving as soon as I should have.
Sadly, I know this experience of mine is not unique — many have fallen into this trap. And here is why it’s so easy for well-meaning hopeless romantics to find themselves in abusive situations:
You’re more likely to look past red flags indicating the fit just isn’t right.
Relationships take work.
Relationships can be hard.
Relationships take sacrifice.
Continually repeating these mantras to ourselves over and over again was a belief seasoned in light-hearted love stories on the big screen.
Times get tough, but the love interests you’ve been rooting for persevere and eventually it all works out!
Because if movies and unrealistic portrayals of love in media have taught us anything, it’s that love can fix all.
Truth is, a majority of the romantic entanglements we find ourselves in won’t work out in the long run.
That’s just the reality of how complex companionship can be, and the odds working against us.
And yet we convince ourselves that if we just work hard enough, and believe strongly enough in the power of love, we’ll make it right and will see the happily-ever-after ending we’ve always wanted.
That’s just not how love works… yet we keep telling young, impressionable people the opposite message.
You’re easier to manipulate and control — the perfect target for a potential abuser.
If there’s one thing I have heard time and time again from fellow women who survived abusive partners, it’s that we were all hopeless romantics.
We entered that relationship with innocence, and hope.
We were the perfect target for an abuser, because our sincere belief in love and making things work despite the obstacles made us easier to mould and control.
A few words about true love, and sacrifice, and overcoming this obstacle was all it took for us to forgive and strap ourselves in again with optimism brimming in our hearts.
And thus we would find ourselves, again and again and again, watching the pattern of abuse, and then apologies and then empty promises roll through time after time.
Because all we were waiting for was that climax where love would conquer all, and our truest dreams for happiness and healthy companionship would come true.
But with an abusive partner, that hope was forever doomed.
That sort of happy ending, that we all truly deserve, would never come.
Your beautiful, rare gift of sincere optimism will be used as a weapon against you.
You can give all you have.
All the love in the world. Every fibre of your being, and all the strength you’ve ever carried in yourself.
You can dive in as innocently sincere as humanly possible… and it will never be enough if you are with the wrong person.
I used to truly believe that love could fix and mend anything… make right any wrong. When I gave my whole heart, and things still were sticky and uncomfortable and off, I would routinely blame myself.
Over and over and over again, I couldn’t get off that merry-go-round. That perpetual habit of blaming myself entirely for the downfall of a relationship.
But the truth of the matter is that relationships must be 50/50. You can give your entire 50%, hell even times you can give 60 or 70% to pick up the extra slack — sometimes that happens in relationships.
But if your partner continually fails to meet even their allotted 50% of the relationship, in whatever capacity, then you are doomed to fail.
Your relationship is a seed, in need of water and sun. You can be the water, and overwater to tend to that plant, but you will eventually drown it. Or you can be the sun in the relationship, but without water, that plant will dry up and die.
Relationships require both necessary sides to contribute towards the wellbeing and survival of your precious plant — one cannot see this plant flourish and thrive without the other.
Hollywood would have us believe that if we try hard enough, we can be the sun AND the water, the moon AND the ocean.
That’s a pretty thought, but it’s not at all realistic. Or healthy.
There are people who will notice your gift of unconditional love, sincere optimism and unwavering kindness and will see only an opportunity to take advantage. See something that they can gain and benefit from.
The type of people who see this beauty and treasure it, or even see it as a reflection of their own hearts, are few and far between.
But those very people are worth waiting for, because there’s no fixing needed to be done — because you are safe to be as hopelessly romantic and vulnerable with them as humanly possible.
Because they will celebrate your beautiful gift of love — not see it as something to drain you of for their own selfish gain.
The tricky part is recognizing the right person when they come along, and even harder, recognize the wrong people when they come along.
Regardless, know that you are worthy, and valuable, and loved and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
If someone refuses to offer you that which you deserve, show them the door as soon as possible.