The Trauma Survivor’s Guide to Romance After Wreckage

The butterflies were undeniable.

I mean, look at him. He was extremely handsome, could hold an intelligent conversation, made me laugh until tears came out of my eyes, and was seemingly everything that I ever wanted in a man, but I found myself terrified. Sure, he was all these things, but what about me?

I felt broken and exhausted. I was a single mom of three young boys who had left an abusive marriage less than a year before meeting him. I had dated a few men very casually before him, and that tarnished my self-esteem even greater. It looked at that time as though men only wanted to misuse and mistreat me. They intended to get out of me what they wanted without caring about my heart. Abuse engrained in me that romance was one of those things that you saw in a movie, but in reality, it was disingenuous.

Abuse engrained in me that romance was one of those things that you saw in a movie, but in reality, it was disingenuous.

Over time, this gentleman helped changed my perspective. He is the only man in this life that I have felt like truly loves me with no strings attached. His love isn’t layered with selfish intentions, but instead, it seeks my heart day after day. It’s not a perfect love as Jesus is the only one who can love us in that way, but it’s something that I am so grateful to have.

And suddenly, romance wasn’t just a Hollywood thing.

When you hear the word “romance,” your mind may go straight to sex. Although sex is a major part of romance, it’s only part of it. Sex becomes a physical way to enjoy the love shown in the day-to-day actions. Romance also isn’t just sweeping someone away to a remote location on a fancy getaway as you see on television. Again, it can be a fraction of the whole, but romance isn’t limited to what actors have portrayed.

Surviving abuse, I thought love was more about being loyal to a person who quite honestly didn’t deserve such loyalty. Romance was more about the “honeymoon stage” of the abuse cycle where he was trying to “win me back” after destroying my heart. It felt manipulative, contrived, and calculated. It was self-serving for him more than for me, and it felt cheap.

Romance is thoughtful. It considers the other person at times over itself. Romance plans a date full of quality time and laughter. Romance is a hug that grabs you in the kitchen and holds you tight. Romance is a sweet text message in the middle of a chaotic day that brings a smile to the face. Romance is grabbing your hand in the middle of the grocery store with a gentle squeeze. Romance is praying together or over each other because God is the truest source of love.

Romance is thoughtful. It considers the other person at times over itself.

Some days, romance can be that mushy, gushy stuff you see on the big screen. That man is now my husband, and he blows me away with the dates that he plans (yes, he plans them which is the first time that has ever been a real thing in my life) and the gifts that he gives me. When he kisses me, I still get the butterflies, and romance definitely happens in the bedroom, but I am just as grateful for the little things between us. I love our nights together hanging out on the couch cracking jokes that no one else would think is funny, but we somehow believe that we are stand-up comedians performing for a crowd. As much as I love sex with him, I find just as much intimacy when he holds me and touches my face. Romance is a connection, and there’s no greater bond than when two become one with Jesus at the center.

I say all of this not to brag or give TMI, but I want to inspire that person who has gone through the wreckage in the past that romance is possible. It took me many nights of feeling lonely and tears that kept flowing to finally see what I deserved, but it happened, and if it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone. Your life may not be at times what you thought it would be, but you can turn it into an incredible adventure if you stick with Jesus.

I appreciate the romance that much more because the wreckage didn’t destroy me. It showed me what I should never accept again in my life. I deserve and am worthy of true love, and it feels amazing.

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