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Fear Kept Me Stuck Until I Decided to Do It Afraid

By Lainey Veltri

It’s not easy for me to admit I stayed in an unhealthy relationship for years because I feared being alone. But I did. Until one day, somehow, someway, something from deep inside my soul compelled me to flee.

When I chose to walk away from my 13-year relationship that December day in 2022, I was choosing to save what little was left of me. It was time to finally find myself outside of the repeated betrayals, gaslighting and lies that eroded my self-worth, self-esteem and self-love.

When I met this man, I was one year into singlehood after a 21-year marriage to my high-school sweetheart, who fathered our two daughters. I realize now that a year of being single certainly wasn’t enough time to figure out who I was, who I had become and where I fit into the world. Never had I truly allowed myself to be alone and to be OK with it.

I grew up on a farm with three brothers and in a home with a verbally and physically abusive father, who was unfaithful to my momma multiple times. I learned very quickly how to fly under the radar and to make myself small to avoid the wrath of my father. And I learned very quickly how to comfort my battered momma when she climbed into my bed at night to cry herself to sleep. Unbeknownst to me, the seeds of codependency were being planted in the heart and mind of my 5-year-old body.

Fast-forward to that monumental shift in my life when my high-school sweetheart and I mutually decided to end our marriage. For the first time in my life, I would be single. No husband. No boyfriend. No man in my home to hold me, fix things or dance with me in the middle of the kitchen while dinner was sizzling nearby on the stove.

I was scared to death, forlorn and alone. I wasn’t OK with that. And so, I began to seek another mate. Someone suggested trying online dating. It was a relatively new concept back then. My daughter helped me create a profile and I threw out my hook and began fishing.

I spent hours reading through hundreds of profiles. But only one caught my eye and he was 240 miles away. Weeks of exchanging texts and phone calls led to a first date. I remember whispering to myself the first time I met him in person: “I’m in trouble now.” Those words could not have rang truer as that first date eventually led to a move to his city after two years of long-distance dating. For 13 years, the relationship would be at times beautiful, fulfilling and adventurous and other times riddled with infidelity, lies and broken trust. And yet I could not walk away when many times I should have ran. I was afraid to be alone in a city devoid of family and lifelong friends. In my mind, it was far better to put up with his shenanigans and forgive him than to live a life alone and afraid.

I allowed this one person to shape me into a figure I didn’t recognize. I lost myself somewhere between the love-bombing and the betrayals. Until one day, I woke up. Rising like a phoenix, I stood over him and asked the one question that would turn my life upside down and inside out with his response when I discovered yet another betrayal:

“Is this woman so special to you that you’re willing to lose me and our relationship over it? Can you end it right now and agree to work this out between us?”

He replied: “I have to think about it.”

“Wrong answer,” I said.

I packed a bag, planned to move my things into an apartment and walked away, vowing to move forward despite being afraid, anxious and uncertain about my future.

“Being alone has got to be better than living with a man who can’t be trusted,” I told myself. “It’s time I find out who I am, what I’m made of and where I’m going.”

The solitude, while deafening, has been insightful. I’ve learned so much about myself and others.

I’ve learned:

·       Hurt people hurt people.

·       People can change their minds.

·       Love and loyalty are a choice.

·       Some people are simply unable to empathize.

·       Some people fall in love with a version of the person they hoped they could become.

·       For some, a marriage matters not to the “other woman.”

·       For too many, sex is not held sacred and is simply a means to an end.

·       People aren’t responsible for making you happy.

·       Needing someone is different from wanting someone in your life.

·       Fear can keep you stuck.

·       Sometimes, you must do things afraid.

·       People leave.

·       And some people hang on for way too long.

I held on for way too long. And for that mistake, I lost ground. But taking time to reflect in solitude, endless conversations with the Creator of the Universe and heart-felt prayers ultimately led me to my authentic self. And there I found my footing once again.

I am fierce, independent and wiser. I'm made of grit and grace. I'm walking into a future filled with hope and destiny. And I'm becoming, piece by piece, a better version of myself. If I can walk away from a toxic relationship, anyone can. You might just have to do it afraid. And do it today.

Lainey Veltri is a freelance writer who lives in Greenville, SC. She loves spending time with her three grandchildren, hiking, playing pickleball and having adventures with friends, whether thrifting, playing miniature golf, or exploring small towns.

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