#MemberStories is a new ongoing series where The Shift members share real, unfiltered stories of hope and change. Some of the information discussed can be sensitive, therefore reader discretion is advised. *All names have been changed.

For the first of this series, I sat down with *Crystal. Here's her story on getting over her fear of being alone.

"I grew up in a single-parent home. My mom was always hyper-independent. She'd work three or sometimes four jobs to take care of my brothers and me. In regards to relationships and dating, we never talked about that stuff. When I did start dating and, I'd look to her for guidance, her advice was always along the lines of there's other fish in the sea."

She adds, "While that's true, and it might've been well-intentioned, that didn't teach me how to have a healthy relationship."

NIKO

"Niko was my first boyfriend. We got together when we were 13. It was young love and it felt good at first but it wasn't long before he started showing interest in other girls."

Crystal goes on to say how, at that age, most of her friends were going through similar experiences so she thought it was normal.

"He eventually became home to me. I was fighting, sometimes physically, to win him, to keep other girls from having him. I wasn't worried about how I was being treated or my mental health. I needed to be number one, I needed to be on that pedestal, I needed people to know that it was me he wanted. It wasn't about love or him being a great person, I just needed to win."

The relationship lasted nine years, continuing into their twenties.

"He literally cheated on me over 20 times. I found out about girl after girl after girl. He had his main ones who he'd have actual relationships with but he'd always come back to me and I was okay with that."

She adds, "He was abusive, mentally, physically. We physically fought a lot but, because we were so young, I never viewed it as domestic violence, in my head we were just two kids fighting. As we got older, I still didn't see it as domestic violence because it had become normal by then."

"He was very controlling. He'd never outright say don't do this or don't go here. But if I did go out and do things, he'd act cold when I got home and be passive-aggressive. That was his way of punishing me. So I stopped going out because I didn't want to deal with his backlash."

"We finally broke up when he tried to get with one of my best friends. That was the last straw for me. Honestly, had it not been my friend, and just been some random girl, I might not have cared, but my friend? I couldn't have that. It's like he knew no limits."

"I don't recall many of our good times but because we were so young when we got together he was like a pillar in my life, he was my comfort zone. I had no real reason to stay or go back to him but I kept doing it."

"To this day I don't understand why I kept going back to him. I'm sure it has something to do with not having my dad in my life."

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#MemberStories: When self-awareness, patience and love collide