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October 15, 1999. That was the day my life changed. At the time, I thought it was for the better. Eleven years later, I know it was the beginning of a slow, painful, downward spiral.

That was the day I started dating the “man of my dreams.” He was tall and handsome and the captain of the football team. As a high school sophomore, he was everything a girl could ask for in a boyfriend.

The first 2 years were great. We went to sporting events and parties. We were the stereotypical high school sweethearts. Our senior year we split up. The breakup didn’t last long. Soon he was begging me to come back and I did. He went off to college in a different state, but we still tried to make it work.

Over the next 4 years we broke up and made up quite a bit. I told myself this was due to the college lifestyle. I tried to convince myself that girls flocked to him because he was a college football player. Those excuses I made would lead me into years of hiding my misery with excuses.

In February 2006 he proposed. It was probably the worst proposal imaginable. I was in bed, covered in hives from an allergic reaction. He sat on the end of the bed, handed me a box and said, “You’re gonna be my wife”. Now that I look back on it, it completely lacked any romance and was more of a command than a proposal.

In June 2006, he graduated, moved back home and I started planing the wedding. These plans were short lived because shortly after his return we split up again. He could not put the college life behind him and would stay out all night to party. Once again we made up and on February 18, 2007, we were married.

There was no “honeymoon” period. We started having problems the first week of our marriage. We argued constantly. He lived a completely separate life from me. But, I was expected to be home at all times.

After the first year, the relationship came crashing down pretty quickly. He had been caught numerous times “talking” to other women. He started to control my life completely. He decided who I could be friends with, when I could go out and where I could go. He would degrade me and soon my self esteem was so low that I started to question everything about myself.

It wasn’t until I met up with an old friend and started discussing the situation that I realized it was emotional abuse. He was manipulating everything in my life for one sole purpose – to control me! I decided to put my foot down, to take a stand and hold my ground. This only helped to confirm that abuse I had been tolerating for so long.

During one fight in May 2009, I told him I was done listening to him and that I was going to leave. He took my car keys and cell phone. I told him I would walk to my mother’s house, which was right around the corner. He stood in front of the stairs and blocked me from leaving. He called 911 and told the operator that his wife was overdosing and to send an ambulance. I was in shock. What was happening?

When the police arrived, he refused to answer the door. When I answered and spoke to the cop he said “you don’t look like you’re overdosing.” I told him I most definitely was not. The cop called the dispatcher and canceled the ambulance. After the cops left, I asked him why he did that. His response sickened me. He said “I just thought it would be funny to see them pump your stomach.” At this very moment, I realized what a sick and dysfunctional person he was.

All this time I had been blind. I made excuses to hide my pain. Somewhere deep inside me, he was still the captain of the football team, the man of my dreams. I didn’t let myself see the selfishness, deception, and manipulation. I made excuses over and over. Not for him but for me. I tried to convince myself he was someone else. The man of my dreams.

On June 23, 2009, he moved out and filed for divorce. He had lost his control and he couldn’t accept it. He did not want a relationship with someone who could stand up for herself.

For years I have thought to myself, ”Why can’t I have a do-over?” Why can’t I go back to the first break-up and never look back. Well, this past year has not been easy. It has been the hardest time of my life. Through all the court and lawyers and chaos he still tries to control me. He tries to have the upper hand and make all of the agreements. Everything is a battle. But this time I am holding my ground and standing up for myself!

I am proud to say that I have my “do-over”. I am dating my best friend and everyday he shows me what a real man, a real relationship, is like. He amazes me with his support and understanding. He builds up my confidence instead of tearing it down. After years of living in the dark and not knowing myself, my eyes have been opened and it is my time to shine!