The same year of my attack I met the guy who I love today. I was infinitely lucky to stumble into his arms at a party, and even though I was a complete wreck in that moment of my life, we still somehow found a way to grow our relationship into something that I really do think will last forever.
I met him when he was the captain of the basketball team. He was handsome but had grown out a disgusting mustache on his face, kept his hair shaggy, and wore the same rotation of 3-4 shirts during the week to show he DGAF about his appearance.
The first couple weeks we started seeing each other, he surprised me with his kindness, thoughtfulness, and ability to be so incredibly weird without worrying about what I would think of him. I liked him a lot—but mostly in the way you like someone in college. It was a relationship that felt good but we didn’t really know each other.
A few weeks into our relationship I trusted him enough to tell him what had happened to me. It was hard and weird and right after I said it I wished I could take it back. It was too much for him to handle—especially because he had only known me for a month or so. But he was so good. He said he wanted to be there for me.
Looking into his eyes though, I could tell it freaked him out.
Eventually we couldn’t stay together anymore. I was not able to act like a “normal” college, party-going girl and Matt was observing his “senior spring” like most every other college guy desperate to never graduate. He broke up with me and said a lot of the things I needed from him in our relationship were “weird.” I remember that moment so distinctly.
It was the first time my deep down fears were realized. It was so clear to me. What happened to me made me unlovable. The “before” me would have been perfect for Matt. The “before” me would have gone to parties and not needed a lot of stability in my relationship with a boy to be happy. And those thoughts about the “before” me, made me hate the “after” me: an anxiety-driven, emotional roller-coaster of a woman who needed way more from Matt than any one human could give to me. Matt breaking up with me threw me off in a way I don’t even like admitting.
I cried A LOT. I drank A LOT. I thought about Matt A LOT. I was in a deep hole of feeling like I would never ever be loved by anyone again.
Matt graduated and I went home to Wyoming for the summer. That should have been the end of Matt and me.
But some cosmos magic happened and before I knew it we were texting every day and he had bought a plane ticket to visit me in Wyoming. And when he landed in the middle-of-no-where Wyoming it was still hard to try to figure out what our relationship would be like. Honestly, it felt a little bit insane that I was even trying to make it work.
Looking back, I think the reason I was holding on so tight to the possibility of Matt and me was that I desperately needed to prove to myself that I was lovable. I was in all out warrior mode trying so hard to believe that I wasn’t ruined forever by what had happened to me that I don’t know if my wanting Matt was really even about him. I like to think it was, but we didn’t really know each other at this point—not yet.
After the summer ended I moved to Copenhagen to study abroad for the semester. We continued to talk most days but I felt the distance growing between us. He wasn’t ready to commit to me and I needed more than anything for him to do that. We ended up having a terrible FaceTime fight, but I had already bought a plane ticket to see him on my way home from Copenhagen. When I got off the plane in Washington D.C., I was a nervous wreck and was convinced I was so hurt that I wasn’t even going to be able to look at him.
We spent a week together, and this is when we began to really know each other. I was another 6 months away from my attack and he was 6 months more mature. We began to understand each other.
And it wasn’t because I so desperately wanted him to love me. It wasn’t because I was grasping onto whatever I could to believe I wasn’t forever unlovable. It was because I truly did like him.
I liked him because he sang to his dogs and because he read his kindle religiously. I liked him because his family had political arguments at the dinner table and because his sleep dreams were so ridiculously ordinary but his life dreams were shaped by his motivation to help people. I liked him because he taught me so much about so many things I didn’t know.
I began to genuinely love him.
And then he went to Ecuador for 6 months. And somehow, although we were never officially together, we stayed connected and planned my visit to see him. And in that time that we were apart, my trauma wounds healed even more. I began to accept what I could and couldn’t control about my trauma. I began to be fiercely independent and assured in myself. And as I was learning to breathe on my own in my new self, Matt also changed. He read Missoula- a book about sexual violence in a college town in Montana. He talked to me for hours about how we all need to be better at supporting survivors. Something clicked and he was ready to commit to really supporting me.
We finally ended up back in the same country at the same time permanently, and we’ve been together ever since.
Matt and I are now living together. We bought our first Christmas tree together this last December, and as he hung up the last ornament, he turned to me and said, “hopefully this is the first tree of many…” in a really dramatic voice because that’s how he half jokes, half says something really vulnerable to me.
Matt loves me and I love Matt. I’m telling you all of this not to lay out my love story (or conversely to show how incredibly dysfunctional Matt and I were for so long), but rather to tell you a story of a warrior and a supporter. It is imperfect. That is the truth. But it is also so insanely beautiful.
The prospect of supporting me scared the shit out of Matt at first, and even though he is far from a perfect supporter now, he gets better
I look to him for support. He reads, he asks questions, and (I can’t read his mind but I know) he thinks about how to be a better supporter a lot. I thought I loved him when I visited Matt after Copenhagen. And I probably did. But the depth of the love I feel for him and the way he knows me to my core gives me the truest feeling of wholeness I’ve ever felt.
And knowing this makes me feel free.