GUEST POST: Hillaria Juliana on what makes a man a man

RiriHillaria Juliana is a 22-year-old living in Adelaide, South Australia. She is working casually while waiting for her Australian de facto visa to be approved.

I didn’t let him be a man

I would like to tell you a story about losing myself, falling into depression, and finally finding the right person. I understand that it’s long, but I promise, it will be worth it like a Disney movie. 😀

I was almost 18 when I started dating this guy. We were in a long distance relationship: I was in Adelaide and he was in Perth. I remember one day we were Skyping and he commented, “If only you had flatter abs, you’d be a perfect woman.” I didn’t know how to react at first, but unfortunately it didn’t end there. He constantly told me that if I lost weight and smiled more that I’d be perfect. Growing up as a chubby girl with Asian beauty standards, I was always insecure about my physique, however with him I started to feel even more insecure and that I HAD to lose weight. We were constantly fighting and after just 5 months, he broke up with me, but then begged me to take him back the next week. He flew to Adelaide, begging. We got back together a couple of months later.

I moved to Perth for my internships (2nd and 4th Uni semesters) just to be with him. We had our good times, sure, but things didn’t really get better. We were still constantly fighting over small things. I would yell and he would avoid eye contact and smile, which only made me angrier.

I was working two jobs at the time – at a casual restaurant in the afternoon and at a fine dining restaurant at night. Getting exposed to alcohol and late nights was inevitable because of my career in hospitality. However, that wasn’t what he thought. He was frantic every single time I came home late or drank a single drop of alcohol. We would fight almost every Friday night when I would have one beer with my colleagues. I felt that he was being irrational. Every single time I asked why I couldn’t drink my beer in peace, he would always tell me that alcohol was bad for my baby (??, no I wasn’t pregnant). Since it wasn’t a very good excuse, I fought for my beer rights. I tried to explain that this was just how it is in hospitality, that I needed to socialise if I wanted to make it. He would then get disappointed because I didn’t follow his orders.

He was never happy if I stood my ground – he felt that I wasn’t letting him be a man if I did so. I was “too dominant” in his perspective, and that made him feel like he was less of a man. I tried to tell him that my dominance had nothing to do with someone’s manhood; if he wanted to be the dominant one then he had to be more dominant than me. It was that simple. But every single time we fought, he would always bring it up and say, “Well you’re not letting me be more dominant than you!” to which I replied “That’s because I’m still more dominant than you; I don’t think you’re getting the concept of dominance here”. In the end, he insisted that he knew what was best for me. I relented and let him decide on things and I would succumb when we fought, letting him ‘be the man’.

As I was working two jobs, slaving away making money to be able to afford all of our dates and all the food that I cooked for him, he would complain that I didn’t have enough time for him, that I should spend more of my afternoons making him lunch at his University. So, sometimes I did. Most of the time, I felt that he was bothering me because I had to take care of him like he was a 5-year-old. Hell yeah I was the dominant one, since he was acting like a little princess! Sometimes I asked myself what the point of our relationship was if it was just making my life harder, but then I thought perhaps it wouldn’t always be like this, just while he was studying. That real love needs real work, right?

July 2013 I went back to Adelaide to finish my last semester. We planned to move to another city and each continue with our Masters afterwards. I was going to finish my degree December 2013, and he would finish his mid-2014. He insisted to choose the city because I had to let him be a man and make the decision.

October 2013, time was ticking for me. I asked him if he had made his mind up yet and he snapped. He told me that I was pushy and wasn’t supportive. That I wasn’t letting him be a man. That I disrespected him as a man. That I should just move to Perth (solely to accompany him like a housewife, nothing else) until he finished his degree. He wanted to decide later.

I had enough, so I decided to stay in Adelaide to continue my studies. He wasn’t happy. We fought for like 8 hours and he decided to break up with me. A few days later, he begged me to take him back again and kept harassing me for a whole week. I finally had the courage to tell him off. He wasn’t a horrible human being; I guess he might be a good partner for someone, just not for me.

For those 2.5 years we were together, he succeeded in making me believe that he knew what was best for me. He made me believe that I had to be less of what I was just to make him more of a man. Bit by bit, without me realising, I had lost my confidence, ambitions, opinions, and everything that makes me me. He turned me into a puppet. He took my personality away. I was lost.

I didn’t realise that it had affected my whole life until months later I was constantly getting anxiety attacks, uncontrollable suicidal thoughts, to the point that I hid in a wardrobe talking to my pillow, crying, and laughing. I was depressed. But I was not depressed because he left me; I was depressed because I lost myself. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I felt that I should just fake it until I made it.

If you knew me, you’d know that I have a sunny personality. But that didn’t mean that I was okay. Every single time I told someone I was depressed, they laughed at me and said, “No you’re not! You’re so happy and cheerful! You’re SO not depressed.” I was dying inside. I started to push everyone away, using humour as my defence mechanism.

Riri and Shawn

Shawn and I being our usual silly selves

Four months later (early 2014), Shawn convinced me to be his girlfriend. We started going out and I started to feel a little happier. Even though I was with Shawn, I didn’t have much hope in love. I didn’t think it was real anymore. The first year with Shawn, I tried to break up with him at least 10 times. Every single time he would hug me tight and shout “NO!” That’s when it hit me; it was the first time that someone had so much faith in me, even when he did not understand what was going on in my head.

I struggled with depression by myself for almost 2 years until one night I had a massive break down in front of Shawn and told him the truth. I finally told my sisters too and everyone was surprisingly supportive.

This year is the year that I have overcome my depression. I never realised that the world has so much colour! Being with Shawn for over 2 years now, I realise that a healthy relationship is when you can argue without hurting each other’s feelings. I realise that love is not demanding. And the most important thing, I realise that I don’t have to be less of what I am just to make someone more of a man.

Riri quote

by Michael E. Reid

I saw this quote by Michael E. Reid, and I cried. I understand now that my ex just didn’t know how to handle my ‘crown’, and my mistake was to go easy on him just to make him feel better about himself – making me feel that I only deserved a mini crown. On the other hand, Shawn accepts my dominance and my feelings, and never once has he pointed out my weaknesses. He tells me he loves me, that I’m beautiful, and that I am the best thing that ever happened to him – on a daily basis.

He has helped me believe in myself, and made me realise that, HELL YEAH, I deserve a humongous crown filled with rubies and emeralds! Shawn CAN handle me with my crown, no matter how big it is; and that’s what I call a true man. For once, I feel good in my own skin (and in my crown) even though I’ve gained 25kgs in the process. And for once, I want to lose weight not for a guy, not to meet a beauty standard, but for myself.

IMG-20120922-WA014Just like a random quote I found in 9GAG, “Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably shit.” Yes, you need to work for your relationship; but if you’re doing it right, it’s definitely not the one with constant fighting and arguments that hurts each other. For whatever reason you’re depressed, you are never completely alone. You might not have the courage to reach out right now, but believe me, there is someone wanting to listen. And also, gurl, go make an enormous crown for yourself. If someone can’t handle you, screw it, you don’t need them! The universe is saving a man with enormous hands for you.

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