As a 21-year-old who had almost all her friends and acquaintances getting engaged or married, you can only imagine how eager I was to get that part of my life checked off my list of things to do before I graduated college. I had the image of being graduated with my degree, married to the love of my life and hopefully getting ready to travel the world and have some kids all by the time I was 25. Stupid, right? I didn’t think so.
I met the prince to my story last year when I was emotionally at my worst. I had just gotten out of a breakup and my mind was shaky with the start of mental health issues. I thought I needed a man to come save me, but as the relationship unfolded in such a gruesome way, my mental health and self-confidence had only fallen apart. A year later, I am still picking up the pieces.
Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite love stories. I’ve always been an image of Belle, brown hair, brown eyes, beautiful. She was always the Disney Princess I identified myself with. So at 21, I was like “Of course I want a relationship like beauty and the beast!” I knew it was a bit unrealistic, but I did end up finding a man who was the beast in my life, and I got to live through the horrible reality of this fairytale.
Disclaimer, I love beauty and the beast. I saw the new movie 3 times when it came out. I realize how toxic these relationships can be to a person, and I think a lot of young adults realize this when it is too late. These stories are fairy tales, and that's what they are meant to be. They are not meant to leak into our reality. I think a lot of people lose sight of that, forgetting that there is so much more to life than finding your prince and getting married. We don’t think about what happens after that. This is why I share my story with you.
He was an army veteran and no disrespect that that title. He was proud of his time serving, and I was proud of him, but as everyone else underestimates with someone who was strong and served our country, he had some demons of his own after he had left the service. We do too little for our veterans. I think most of his problems would have been resolved if our country took care of them. He struggled not only mentally but financially too. He often spoke about his wishes to go back, I feel like he had lost himself when he had left. He also had a wife who he was not yet divorced from. He had lied to me and said they were divorced, when the reality was he was drowning from divorce court finances and he had only been separated from her for a very long time. She knew about me, and I often feared her. I saw her as the villain in my story when I should have looked at the reason why she was not with him anymore. I should've known that I was too young and immature to have someone in my life with so much baggage, but he was kind to me and he made me feel like a princess the first few months of our relationship. I was happy.
Things took a turn when the “honeymoon stage” had ended, he started to become angry. Remember in the movie when the beast did nothing but yell at everyone and was a cold hearted mess? That was him. That was my reality, and it was heartbreaking and exhausting. I didn’t realize it was emotional abuse until my own mother pointed it out after hearing a fight we had. I denied it, blaming it on his bad day, but this type of yelling match happened every day. It did not motivate me to love him more if anything I wanted to run away. I know now why Belle made that bolt into the woods almost getting eaten by wolves. I can also understand why she came back to him. He would apologize, swear he would never do it again, tell me how much he loved me and after the tears were done I would finally be able to sleep knowing that I was loved when our relationship was not loving. I know everyone hears this often in the case of an abusive relationship, but it happens literally ALL the time. Listen to your loved ones, and follow your gut. That would've saved me a long time ago. He needed help. He needed more help than I could ever give him. But of course, I believed that I could save him, just like Belle had been able to tame her beast. When the reality was, I needed someone to build me up, not tear me down. I needed someone who was my equal in a relationship, not someone who wanted to call the shots and control every aspect of myself. The sad thing has I let him do it. I came back to it every time. It’s almost if I was asking for it.
Like Belle tried to change her beast for the better, I also tried to change him. Which in a relationship, that isn’t something you try to do. I always tried to get him to get a better job, always giving him options to things he would enjoy. I always sent him links to organizations with his interests, and even tried to get him to move close to me since I lived in a city and he was in the country. I tried to get him to communicate with me more so that we wouldn’t have our screaming matches, but he refused. We both made our own mistakes in the relationship. We were both trying to make each other something that we were not, which is not love.
Nowadays, I feel stupid comparing our relationship to Beauty and the Beast. I thought it was so romantic at first, but when I looked at the man who I had fallen in love with, I realized I only loved him because I felt like I would be nothing without him. I was trapped, even though I had the freedom to go wherever I wanted, physically. My emotions were kept captive, I suffered from anxiety and depression, I was on medication and going to therapy so I could get outside help and thank god I was doing that for myself because without that I would probably not be here today. If I showed a sign of weakness or let my disorders get the best of me, it would only make him angry. My flaws would only be pointed out and cause a fight. I don’t know how many times I cried myself to sleep those last few months with him, wishing that he would stop yelling at me, wishing that he would be my lover and not my owner. Anytime I had a moment of “I can’t do this anymore” just because my brain was telling me, I almost could guarantee you it was a fight and he would emotionally manipulate me to make me feel worthless, but I stayed with him. I wanted that fairytale, Disney movie relationship, and I sure did get it.
I eventually found out he was still married, and of course, I was angry, but he convinced me that he loved me and that he was nothing without me. He claimed that was his old life, that he had changed because of me. He was better because I loved him. He didn’t change because of me, he was still just as angry, just as broken. I was tired. My grades started slipping, I started getting sick emotionally and physically. It didn’t matter to him, as long as I wasn’t causing him any sort of stress with it. It is almost if I became numb, and I realized that when I caught him cheating on me. I was angry, but I took my things and left his house that day. He begged and pleaded for me to come back. I only mourned for the loss of myself later that day. I was a shell of a person, and now I had my escape. It was my chance to run into the forest and almost get eaten by wolves. but just like the movie, I did go back once I saw how broken he was without me.
He then turned it around on me. He claimed it was my fault. If it wasn’t for my anxiety, depression, and stress from university, he wouldn’t have to cheat on me. The reality is school was the only thing that freed me from the beast. If it weren’t for my parents and endless support system, I probably would of dropped out just so I could make him happy. In December, almost a year of being together is when he finally broke up with me. I wish I would've been strong enough to do it myself. I was too broken for him, I wasn’t the beauty he had fallen in love with nearly a year previous. Even after we had broken up he still continued the emotional abuse. He blocked me from everything, giving me no closure on the end of our relationship. He still haunts me today, his words coming back to me in my doubtful moments. I was lucky. I was lucky that he had left me. I was finally set free.
Anyone who is looking for this type of relationship, realize what the reality is. I think our society does a horrible job at portraying what love really is. You want a partner who is your best friend, who you can call at any point of the day and be able to depend on for anything. Your love should be your best friend. It sounds cheesy, but that is the best kind of love out there. But first of all, you need to find yourself before you can find a partner who will compliment who YOU are. If it wasn’t for me being so dead set on my career, then I wouldn’t have been able to get a hold of my life and myself after our break up and during our destructive relationship. I can’t imagine what horror it would of been if I depended on him for everything like some women that are in my similar situation do. Love yourself, because me and my beast did not love ourselves enough to love each other. Be the kind of Disney character who lives life to the fullest and for themselves.
-Written by the Beautiful Brittany Faye