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What I Learned After Being in an Exhausting Relationship

"I had anxiety attacks because of the relationship."
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Ria* was 17 when she got together with Vince*, three years her senior, in March 2007. At first, they were only "friends with benefits." The relationship was a casual one for Ria, and it was Vince who fell in love with her first. After he told her he loved her, she developed serious feelings for him, too.

But their romance was a rocky one. Just a month after they hooked up, Ria's parents found dirty messages in her phone inbox and asked Ria and Vince to part ways. They got back together after a few weeks. Three months later, Vince dumped Ria because he fell for a girl he had been meeting behind Ria's back.

"When he broke up with me, he made me wait for over three hours. It turned out he was with the girl, and they had already become a couple before he met with me to tell me it was over. I got home late because I was crying behind one of our school buildings—I remember coming home with mosquito bites and rashes on my legs."

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Vince and his new girlfriend soon split up because she was leaving the country. He then asked to get back together with Ria. She agreed. Before long, she found out that Vince had gotten someone—not his previous partner, but yet another girl—pregnant. He started avoiding Ria, then confessed that he was still in love with his ex. Both times, Ria stubbornly decided to stay with him. That Christmas, she spent P5,000 to make him a video that featured all their friends wishing him happy holidays and saying how great he and Ria were for each other.

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Although Vince kept cheating on Ria, she kept taking him back because she loved him, and because she wanted to prove to their detractors that she and Vince could make their relationship work. Eventually, though, she started to fight back by flirting with a guy friend that she liked. "I would run to him after Vince and I fought or almost broke up. Like some knight in shining armor, he had always come to the rescue, but I didn't realize his presence would cause further trouble." Vince would blow his top whenever he learned that Ria was in contact with the other guy.

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The pair broke up again because Vince couldn't be sure of his feelings for Ria. Still, she refused to give up on their relationship, and even resorted to dramatic measures to keep him.

"I tried to run away several times, just so he would worry and realize I meant a lot to him and he didn't want to lose me. It was such a pathetic way to gain his sympathy, but I was really desperate."

By this time, Ria and Vince had been an on-and-off couple for a year and her health suffered because of it. "Every time he would hint that perhaps he didn't really love me, or that he still loved his ex, or whenever we had any relationship issue, my heartbeat wouldn't be normal," she says. She had been asthmatic since childhood, so she assumed the episodes were normal asthma attacks. Soon, she realized they were actually anxiety attacks. Ria neither saw a doctor nor took medication, thinking she could overcome the attacks with willpower and a change of mindset. "And I did, actually.

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"The anxiety attacks happened less often when I started to care less about the relationship. It was during those times when I told myself that whatever happens—even if he breaks up with me—I'll be okay about it."

But things were still not going smoothly for Ria and Vince. They broke up then reconciled a few more times. In April 2010, after realizing Vince had cheated on her for the nth time, Ria "vowed never to be with him ever again."

Because the couple had developed a genuine bond despite everything they had been through, Ria confesses feeling lonely now that they have parted ways for real. "Our relationship may have had a lot of drama, but there were a lot of good things, too. That's what I miss." She adds, "I tried to contact him several times after we vowed never to see each other again, but he kept rejecting my calls. One time, he did pick up—but just to tell me to leave him alone. I've been keeping myself busy so as not to feel so lonely."

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Ria admits that she regrets prioritizing Vince over her studies. She didn't graduate with honors—her academic average was just .02 short of making the cut. This was disappointing for Ria because she had always been an achiever.

"Those nights I spent consoling him or agreeing to his demand that I stay up with him, I should have spent studying instead."

She also says she will not take Vince back right now, if he asked. "I'm so emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted from the three years of my life that I wasted on him. I'm not ready for any sort of relationship at all and I think I need time to heal and find myself again."

*Names have been changed.

This article was originally published in Candy's September 2010 issue.

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