I used to say your name under my breath, because I liked the way it so effortlessly rolled off my tongue. Our relationship seemed just like that. Effortless. You loved my quirkiness and my need for adventure, I loved your humor and your devotion. You had your downfalls, like your anxiety-driven anger and your need for routine, but I was able to look past all that. I loved you and I put you on a pedestal, and you loved that. But when you left for college everything changed. I still craved you and the comfort you brought me, so I looked for it elsewhere in your absence. I admit, that was wrong. There was no excuse for cheating. But did I deserve all that came after? I don't think I did.

You told me that if I didn't play by your rules, you would leave me. You said, "It feels like you don’t belong to me anymore." I told you that I didn't think that was how we should fix things, but you said that it was the only way you would stay with me. And afterwards you asked, was that so hard? Like you hadn't just scarred me. Like I wasn't going to look back on that night for years to come and cry at the thought that you owned me. Like I wouldn't have to look my husband in the eye and say that when he touches me with love, all I see is you touching me, threatening to leave. So at the time, no, it wasn't hard. But the aftershocks shook harder than the earthquake. And yet, in response, I thanked you. I thanked you for showing me mercy and not leaving me.

Our relationship was toxic after that. Did I deserve all the names you called me? Your parents and even my family agreed with you. Hell, I agreed with you. But your words would be how I defined myself, sometimes even now. Because in my mind, as long as I can still remember what happened, I am a slut.

But you know what? If you had loved me, you would never had let that word escape your lips. Because when you love someone, you don't intentionally hurt them, even if they hurt you. And when you define someone by one demeaning term, you limit them. You put me in a box that made sense to you, so that you wouldn't have to acknowledge that I was a person who had hurt you. Because you can’t be hurt by a slut, her behavior is just to be expected.

Why didn't you just break up with me? You knew that you weren't going to forgive me, but you were selfish. You saw how raw and desperate I was, and you wanted me to suffer. I understand your feelings of betrayal and hurt because you forced me to understand. But you never did try to understand me.

Even now, your subconscious shadow follows me. Even at my brightest, the shadow is almost enough to dim my light. It probably would, if your shadow brought only fear, but it brings more than that. It brings anger. A slow burning rage that I hide, and can never truly smother. I’m angry that you made me feel worthless. I’m angry that you saw me as property. I’m angry that you used my innocence and love for you against me. I'm angry that you convinced me that I deserved it, and that it took me so long to realize what had happened. I’m angry that you are still in the back of my mind, tarnishing the loving relationship I’m in now, when you don’t even deserve my attention.

They say that time heals all wounds, but I disagree. Eventually as time passes, you just accept them. You stop trying to hide them. If there is one thing that I learned from you, it's that I am strong. I am stronger than your manipulations, stronger than your words, and a hell of a lot stronger than you. I hope to God that you never make another girl feel like an object.

J. Harris