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You Still Dating That Person Cause Why? Change Your Location -- Part 2

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

October 22, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

I spent almost five years with that man waiting on him to marry me. And looking back, I can't blame nobody but myself. I should have changed my location but I stayed stuck out of my own insecurities. I saw the signs well into the second year, but I kept hoping for change.

He was 25 years my senior. The first three years I thought he was only 12 years older than me. He really did look younger than he was, even though the numbers weren't adding up. Like his education with how long he had been in his field. I remember one day I said, "Man you were doing that thang early. Makin' it happen for you." He just nodded.

The numbers just weren't adding up. But I kept dismissing it, that is, until I learned by accent one day. NEVER dismiss your gut, your inner voice. It's God whispering to you.

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*SMDH* I wasted my freakin' pretty hoping that he would do right by me and marry my ass. I mean, he sure fucked me every chance he got. If he loved the pussy that much, I kept thinking he would love me enough to marry me. I kept thinking, "He certainly can't be ashamed of me."

But looking back, I can see how his relationship with me was easy. Easy because I was so willing to accept whatever he gave, no matter how unbalanced it was, no matter how he controlled my life and he did, with my permission. And even the HIV was easy, condoms do prevent the spread of HIV and we used them religiously. My HIV status was a well-kept secret. Back then, I had only told like four people that I had HIV. He didn't have to worry about people knowing he was gettin' it with a woman who had HIV.

I was in my mid-twenties and I didn't want to press my luck. He was handsome, drove a Mercedes Benz, had a lake view from both his bedroom and living room, he was educated, and successful in his field, I never came out of my pocket for a meal, ever. What more could a girl want? Especially a girl with HIV. It was some crazy thinking. But for sure I was plagued with the need to be loved. I wanted to be loved more than I loved myself.

That sickness, the need to be loved more than self-love came long before I was diagnosed with HIV. HIV just helped the tumor to grow inside of me. Be clear, the tumor of low self worth didn't change over night. I was well into my 30s when I began to understand my worth and in my 40s when I started to protect my worth. They both took years of therapy, prayer and hard work. I had to first learn what healthy was, what caused me to live unhealthily, morn the loss of what I never had (i.e., a healthy life) and and then apply all this newness to my life. It was a long and emotionally painful journey and I did it by trail and error, one freakin' day at a time. It was the rehabilitation that saved me from myself.

I know you asking, so given the fact that I didn't understand my worth and it took years to protect my worth, how was I able to change my location? How was I able to move by ass out of that relationship that was killing what little self esteem I had left, after learning my HIV status. Glad you asked.

You see, it was like this. After feeling a certain way for so long, you must get tried. Only for so long can you live in a relationship that is suffocating you before you need to step out of it to get some air. It's odd that I didn't understand that he was killing my self esteem, but I understood that he was killing my spirit. I was sad more than I was happy and I drew the conclusion that I might as well be sad by myself. I was smart enough to know that you shouldn't be sad with a man. Shit, I can be sad all the freaking time by myself! For Real ... For Real ...

But let me be realllllyyyy honest. Even though I knew that relationship had run its course, I stayed stuck until another fine-ass, upwardly mobile man who was closer to my age and didn't give a damn about my HIV status or the man currently in my life, started to pay me some attention.

Now, I've never been one to step outside of a relationship.

Just on some practical shit, I just don't know how to lie. Also, I don't know how to pretend. If you mess around and get some sex that's better then the sex you gettin', then you in straight trouble. But Lawdddd this man worked my ass. In fact, he saw a worth in me that I didn't see in myself.

I surrendered and Lawd, Lawd he did things to my body that hadn't been done in years. But most importantly, he listened to me. He respected me and my knowledge about politics. At the time I was a senior staff person working on Senator Carol Mosley Braun's first Senate campaign.

This new man was what the doctored ordered. I started to find myself, the independent woman who had surrendered her life over to the control of an older man, right down to the type of panties I wore. *SMDH*

It was also a critical time in my life. At the end of the Braun campaign, I was making a transition to AIDS. The man who I had been with for four years had a hard time dealing with me going public. Me being HIV-positive was OK when it was a well-kept secret, but speaking at local high schools was out of the question and my conversations with him became more demobilizing each day.

The more I saw the other man and the more I started to understand that God had crafted a new plan for my life (i.e., this work that I'm doing now), the easier it became to walk away from him.

I wish I can tell you that I was a bad bitch and I left before he "kilt" my spirit, but I can't. This is the real world and my journey had shaped the woman I was then. By the way, it has also shaped the woman I am now, just in better ways.

But back then, the need to be loved was more important than love of self. Back then I understood my life in terms of a man and the change of location was hard, very hard.

What I know for sure is this; you must ask yourself the hard questions. Does this person add value to my life? But central to this is understanding your own value. If you are not there yet, then ask yourself, Am I happy more than I'm sad? Does he/she makes me smile more than he/she makes me cry. Am I laughing more than arguing? Do I spend more time with them or looking for them? Do he/she supports the things in my life, my goals or do they tear me down?

Love at the cost of you, is not love that is worthy of you ... Change Your Location!

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See Also
Monday Reflection: Change Your Location
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS

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Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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