‘NO! I’m not willing to give this up for ANYTHING!’ I thought no one else could love me.’: Woman finds peace after abusive relationship, ‘If your compassion does not include yourself, it’s incomplete’

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of domestic violence that may be triggering to some.

“In September 2014, after a 5-year relationship, I got married. Just over a year later in December 2015, I found myself faced with a divorce. As a little girl, who always believed in fairy tales and happy endings, I never imagined that my experience of marriage would be so short and painful.

What I hadn’t fully appreciated is that my heart had not been healed from all the strife growing up and the fractured relationship I had with my dad. In many ways, marriage was filling a void, a deficiency, an inadequacy that I had always felt, a love that I longed for from my dad. My husband was to be my superhero and make me feel all the things I was desperate to feel about myself. He would reassure me I wasn’t this piece of trash I had always thought I was. Fat, ugly, useless, worthless, unlikable, unlovable – these are the thoughts that often went through my head. He would quench those thoughts with his love, protection, security, and reassurance. The ring would be the reminder that somebody somewhere thought I was good enough to marry. (It really saddens me how many ladies I’ve, since come across that, are seeking the same validation and approval). How I wish I fully appreciated the gravity of what I was entering. How I wish I knew that entering a marriage without being whole would lead to devastation. A life of misery where love was conditional. A life of looking to an imperfect man for validation. I was just grateful that somebody wanted me, so I compromised my standards and integrity. I allowed him to treat me any way he wanted to because sadly it reaffirmed the thoughts in my head that told me I was undeserving of love and I wasn’t good enough to be treated with respect.

There were so many red flags and things began to slowly unravel during the 1-year period we were engaged. I didn’t have peace about entering the marriage and so many things were going wrong but neither of us had the courage (acting despite fear) to walk away. I remember one night after praying and being led to end the relationship, looking up to heaven and telling God, ‘NO! I’m not willing to give this up for anything!’ I thought that this would be my only shot, no one else would love, want or accept me. I can’t describe the pain of having a companion yet feeling so abandoned and alone.

Courtesy of Monica Ezue

It hurt to know that I could only be loved on condition – if I was obeying his commands, fulfilling his expectations, and massaging his ego then I was his. It was a selfish love, one without grace or room to make an error. I wanted to grow in love, and he wanted to beat me into the shape that suited him. I was not enough. My unconditional, sacrificial, redemptive love was not enough. So as a 25-year-old newlywed I found myself dejected and depressed, everything was so dark in my world and I often contemplated ending my life. It’s funny because I would wear the biggest smile on my face to the outside world, yet my eyes told a different story. There were times when I felt like my life was completely over, I couldn’t see a future, and I had lost all hope.

And then I started attending Worship Tabernacle in October 2015! In particular, 2 very profound messages transformed my life. First, a message on self-image; I remember weeping throughout the sermon and then giving up social media for some time to not constantly be bombarded by images. For the first time in ages, I found that I wasn’t comparing myself to all my friends who were in happy marriages and had started having babies. I was finally able to be appreciative of my journey and the beauty in my own story. Second, a series of messages on taking control of your emotions/fight or flight was such a blessing to me. What was revealed to me at that time was so profound? As human beings we often view letting go, walking away, or fleeing as a sign of weakness. How many of us back down from a disagreement? Pride keeps our chest puffed out and ready for war, wanting to get one over or prove a point. How many of us would truly wait on God for that thing we are believing for? A lack of patience, trust and our desire to get things instantly have us meddling with His plans for us and placing our desires above His. How many of us would dare to try something new if a door seems to be permanently shut? The fear of failure; or change would keep us stuck in a fixed position. It took several break-ups, a year of separation and then nearly 6 months of trying to reconcile to see that for us staying to fight does more harm than good.

At first, I was crippled by the thought of disappointing my very traditional Nigerian family and being judged by church folk and then the weight of the guilt and shame got heavier when I became overwhelmed by the thought that I was disappointing God. I felt like going through a divorce process would be making a mockery of God’s institution. I was also scared of any spiritual implications of divorce. Eventually, I began to see that remaining in something so toxic, violent, and unhealthy was not, could not possibly be pleasing God. It took me a long time to realize that walking away takes so much strength and courage (reminder, acting despite fear). The fight of my life was letting go and walking away; giving up on something that I was so desperate for in the beginning. That’s when my journey of healing and self-discovery truly began.

Courtesy of Monica Ezue

People often wonder how I recovered from going through a divorce/abusive relationship at such a young age and honestly much of it is by the grace of God and some messages that impacted my life. However, I am also an advocate for therapy and seeking professional help when it’s needed – both Christ and therapy! One thing I know is that stress kills – repressing emotions can cause chronic pain and a real decline in your physical/mental health so if there’s any motivation to do the work then let this be it. One of the best things I ever did was taking a comprehensive moral evaluation in which I held the mirror up to myself and told myself the raw unfiltered truth – good, bad, UGLY. I had to take accountability for the fact that I chose to marry him and confront the issues causing my lack of self-esteem. I spent 8 months in therapy to develop the tools to do this in a constructive way and it transformed my thinking (especially my thoughts about myself). I learned to control my emotions and take accountability for my actions in a way that didn’t mean constantly berating myself. One of my favorite quotes says, ‘If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.’ I know this to be true!

Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far from this journey of healing and self-discovery:

1. You have to be intentional – small daily actions are a great start.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer – it is a great outlet.

3. Repressing emotions will cause you to implode and act up – feelings buried fester.

4. Negative thoughts and feelings need to be appropriately addressed and not ignored.

5. It is a process/journey – it does not happen in one day.

6. The biggest hurdle is forgiving yourself and not others.

7. Getting outdoors and surrounding yourself with good people helps.

8. Self-compassion and self-love are essential!

So now years later in January 2021, despite all that’s happening in the world, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for all that has now been restored in my life. I thank God because I see now that whilst scars reveal that injury has happened, they also represent healing and recovery, it just depends on how we CHOOSE to view it. I now have an amazing relationship with my dad, he has been one of my biggest support systems. I also met an incredible man and got married in 2019 – he shows me the sacrificial, redemptive, and unconditional love I always desired. We are raising our beautiful 11-month old son and building a beautiful future together. I have purposed to walk in my truth recognizing that I am both a masterpiece and a constant work in progress.

My simple message to women everywhere would be – YOU ARE ENOUGH! Please don’t make the mistake I made by assuming that a man, a ring, materialism, superficial nonsense or whatever it is that is currently filling your void can make you feel the love and acceptance that you are longing for. A very wise friend told me that as human beings we operate in primacy and recency – only remembering the beginning and the end. Social media will show you moments in time – the engagement shoot, the glittering ring, majestic wedding reception, and cute babies that they have been blessed with down the line. It paints an inaccurate picture of married life and the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into getting to that point and sustaining a marriage. Take your time to really assess anyone who comes your way.

Trust me marriage puts a magnifying glass on character – if he is doing it now, he most definitely will be doing it later and possibly on a bigger scale. Ask yourself can I live with this for life? I dedicate this piece to all the beautiful ladies who have been messaging me to talk about the shame they feel after experiencing marital failure like me. So many people cast judgement without knowing the details or internal turmoil one goes through during a divorce, especially for those of us who have experienced abuse. Please never give up – the plan for your life far exceeds the circumstances of today. May God heal you and restore your hope in love!”

Courtesy of Monica Ezue

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Monica Ezue. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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