I met him when I was 17. I had never been in love before I met him. He was my first experience for everything. I didn't know how much he would mean to me at the time. Our first memory was of us sharing a pretzel. We split it in half and we never even thought about the significance of this until we started dating. We had nothing in common. Different friends, different nationalities, different career goals, different perspectives of love. He wanted a full, wholesome love. I just wanted our feelings to grow through our time spent together. I told him I had never been in love before. He tried coaching me, teaching me his philosophy about love. I catered to his ideas because I had no experience. I let him show me his idea of love and I adopted it.

I was vulnerable. I gave him the full power over our definition of love. I never learned what love was for me. I only learned what our love was, his version of love. I wanted nothing more than for us to be together, for us to work. I let him tell me I was wrong. I let him corner me and tell me I needed to change. I let him force me to think I was never good enough.

I never noticed how much pain I was in. He left me so many times. I left him just as much. But we always came back to each other. Because I was comfortable. Because I had chosen comfort over genuine happiness. I cried when we were together. I cried when we split apart. It became hard for me to tell which broke me more. But still I kept going back because I needed him. I needed him. I always told myself he was everything I needed. I knew I loved him so much, I gave him the most vulnerable part of me. It was not enough.

In college, everything changed. We grew apart. We stopped talking everyday. We stopped seeing each other everyday. I asked him to visit me; he said it wasn't worth his time. Still, I was determined to make it work. Because after all, I needed him. I drove to him. I stayed out late, disregarding homework and family just to spend a couple hours of my day with him.

I neglected the most important things in my life for him. And that is never okay. He never prioritized me the same way, and yet I always suggested the most convenient solutions for him. My parents became worried for me. They urged me to stop seeing him. My friends told me it was unhealthy. I never listened to their advice.

Finally, I couldn't stay quiet about it anymore. I confronted him about all my fears and my internal conflict. I told him I didn't understand why I wasn't a priority in his life. I asked him why he never let me meet his parents. I asked him why he neglected to visit me, despite his previous promises to make it work. I needed answers. I wanted to know if he loved me still.

We fought. He told me I had no valid arguments. He told me he makes an effort, even more so than I do. He told me meeting his parents was so important, he needed more time with us together to introduce me, because a year wasn't good enough for him to assess if he loved me enough for that. He told me he didn't understand why I was bringing this all up. He told me everything he did was for me. He listed off all of our memories together. Every single one of the moments we spent together. He turned them into chores. As if I forced him to say yes to only please me. I couldn't respond. Then he said one last final thing. The most recent memory of us, our intimacy, giving him all of me. He told me he did it for me. Those final words. For me. As if it meant nothing for him.

I cried that night. I cried out of hate for myself. I cried because I didn't understand. I cried because it broke me.

When we talked again, I asked him for clarification. I thought, if I could just see his reasoning, I can fix it. I can fix us. He told me everything I never imagined hearing. He told me he was vulnerable when it happened. He told me it was temptation, despite him making the decision months before I was ever ready. He told me he wished he had never done it. He told me he was robbed. And I did the robbing.

I was so broken. Never had I imagined things turning out like that. I was prepared to fight until he couldn't stand to let me go. I was ready to argue against everything just so we could stay together. But I had nothing to say. How could I, when he had just told me the very thing that I thought would bond us forever, made him full of regret.

I ended it. I cried while saying it. I cried while he told me he still wished the best for me. I cried when he hung up the phone. I couldn't stop crying. I was ashamed. Something so special to me had just made me so vulnerable. I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to feel so broken, but it consumed me. I couldn't sleep, the night dragged on as my tears cascaded down my face, my neck, right onto my sweater.

When it was early the next morning, I walked over to the mirror to see the damage done. My tears left a wet mark on my sweater, just beneath my left collarbone. My eyes were swollen and red, my face irritated from my excessive rubbing. I had taken the full night to process everything, and even then I couldn't take in the full meaning of those words.

I didn't hate him. But I didn't love him. I couldn't love him. He had broken me.

I didn't hate him but I didn't love him. This was the first time I had ever been able to say it. To truly mean it. It's funny how broken you have to be to realize that you were wrong. I wanted so badly to be with him. I never really realized how toxic it had become for the both of us. I never thought it would take something like this to show me, to give me a push in the right direction. I was heartbroken. I didn't understand how broken I would be after he left me. But I also didn't understand how healthy it would be.

I needed something as devastating as this to make me realize I deserved more. I deserved happiness in my life. I deserved to rebuild myself without the influence of another man. I deserved to be happy by myself. I deserved all of it. I thought I was being punished. I thought I was losing the most important thing in my life. But the truth is, I had lost the most important thing in my life a long time ago. I had lost myself in that relationship. I wasn't able to fully be happy with where I was at with him.

It's okay to be setback. It's okay to be sad. It is always okay to be selfish and do what is best for you. It's okay to not realize how unhappy you are. But it is not okay to let someone hold you back from your happiness. If you are consciously aware of how unhappy you are, there needs to be a change.

Love is a complicated topic. It's not black and white. There are no guidelines. There is just happiness and content. If you are truly happy, you deserve to be. If you are simply content with love, it's no longer love. It is tolerance for comfort.