My very first boyfriend was when I was fourteen years old. It was immature and very unhealthy. I remember arguing with him on the phone and he was kicking the dishwasher. He had this temper where kicking, breaking, punching various things in the house was a norm. As a result, there was an intensity to our relationship. If I look back further, I can remember my mother slamming cabinets, screaming, turning music up loudly in the middle of the night, all a result of being angry with my father. This is where the intensity began. Fast forward again to a relationship I had for almost five years…this beginning at a vulnerable age of sixteen. He was, on the outside, what many girls in the school at the time desired…popular, athletic, funny..a “catch.” But, it quickly became abusive in so many ways. I was verbally abused constantly. Emotionally, psychologically abused. I was controlled. And I allowed this to happen. I own it. This intensity was a part of me. And this relationship filled this need for intensity. I will admit there was this quiet part of me that new it was wrong. This was not love. It was hard for me to work through. I equate it to an addiction. I know if I married this man, I may not be alive today or maybe alive but so beaten down that I would be a hollow shell. College years created a forced space between us that eventually allowed me to break free. During this time of breaking free, I met my husband. I remember waiting for him to yell at me. It felt so much healthier than my previous relationship. I was by no means “addicted” to this man. I felt better. I felt stronger. I felt “I can live without this man, but I am choosing not to live without him.” Until one night I remember us arguing. He took my binder of study materials that I had been reviewing for an exam that would culminate the previous five years of hard work. He took that binder and threw it against the wall. The papers falling everywhere. The following day we were looking at potential reception halls. I lied in bed that night thinking “what am I doing?” But I moved forward. I felt this momentum that I thought at the time I needed to roll with. I questioned things in my mind. I gave myself no voice though. There were so many struggles within me that I became paralyzed in my being. So I moved forward on the outside, while the inside stayed paralyzed. Over the years, I tried to blend the inside with the outside. To find some sense of harmony. Today, here is what I know. I need to listen to my inner voice. I don’t deserve to be treated any less than well. I need to be a positive role model for my children, exposing them to positive role models, providing them with healthy lessons in relationships and love, teach them respect and empathy. I need to be this so they feel this. I don’t have blame, I don’t have regret. But I do have the need for change. I do have the need to finally allow that quiet self, that true self to move to the forefront. Yes, the past has shaped me. But I am ready to take charge and use my own hands to shape my present and my future. Are you?