… He’s not the best for you, says Kristin Fry from Beyond the Swipe. This little yet monumental piece of advice is one that took years for me to grasp.
Today’s blog post is centered on this ideology, stemming from a recent response I received to an Instagram story that featured my boyfriend, Barrett. One of my followers graciously noted that our relationship set a role model symbol for one that was healthy and supportive. She also mentioned we reminded her of Kasey Perry-Glass and her husband, which is the ultimate compliment in my book. Thank you, @redferndressage, for prompting inspiration and a post that needed to be written.
During our chat, she stated that every woman needs to know their worth, and how they should be treated, especially in the horse world. I couldn’t agree more. What I share with you today stems deep from my personal experiences and churns emotions I spent many a month working to flush away. Because I have finally reached a place where I am the happiest I’ve ever been with my life and myself, I find my history easier to explain. I view the past as a necessary stepping-stone to where I am now.
As an older teenager, I set the mental checklist of characteristics I wanted my future husband to retain. I was homeschooled beginning in 7th grade through my sophomore year of college, making the decision to skip the brick and mortar university route. Sororities, partying, and college life in general was something I couldn’t have cared less about. I loved my little online school, shout out to Liberty University Online, and I loved my horses. Due to this personal decision, my dating life was virtually nonexistent, another aspect of public school I didn’t particularly mind missing out on. I was purely focused with dressage.
However, things changed when I turned eighteen. I entered into my first relationship doe eyed and naïve; a relationship that would go on to last for four long years. My partner could do no wrong in my eyes, despite countless nights where alcohol would be something he battled. He was older in numbers but younger in maturity. Pointless arguments, hurtful words, and the sting of salty tears were slowly becoming my new normal. Being as young as I was, I hid all of the emotional turmoil from my friends and family, painting a picture of hearts and roses and love and romanticism. The support of my dressage career was there, but it’s key to remember that support means more than just words. Actions speak much louder.
Barrett considers Leah his own... and nothing makes my heart happier.
After I turned twenty-one, a mutual friend pulled me aside while I held my face in my hands, tears seeping through the spaces between my fingers. We were at a ranch rodeo in the middle of nowhere, Hill Country Texas. My partner had vanished from my side, choosing whiskey on ice and the dance floor over my offer to drive him safely home. I’ll forever be grateful for this evening, despite the circumstance I just described. Our friend encouraged me to remove myself from this relationship, insinuating how unhealthy the situation was becoming and how I never deserved much of anything that had been dealt in the cards. He saw right through the front I worked so hard to keep sturdy. I’m not saying I was a perfect girlfriend during this relationship. We all know it takes two to tango. However, our scale was terribly unbalanced. I knew deep down I couldn’t handle anymore.
It took an outside opinion to violently shake me from the perfect-life fantasy I had portrayed. I ended this four-year relationship feeling invigorated. I ended this four-year relationship with insecurities that would take several years to defeat. Looking back, this period in my life was a double-edged sword. I learned more about myself than I could have imagined, but I felt as if I lost crucial time in a young woman’s early adulthood.
The only direction I could go was forward, so that’s exactly what I did.
Growing into my early 20’s, I dabbled in the dating scene after moving from the country to the city. My track record continued to prove I had horrid taste in men. Sure, they were nice, but lacked substance or personality or a common interest in what I truly lived for… horses. Rejection sank heavily into my reflection in the mirror. I was “ghosted”, I was stood up, and I was even bailed on hours before a Valentine’s Day dinner. Being a single girl was a tough job, man… Sitting around a fire with friends one spring evening, I was introduced to someone who fit the mold of of a man I saw myself doing life with. His personality captivated anyone in a room, and his charismatic humor was intoxicating. Quickly, we began the process of navigating a long distance relationship, splitting time between his destination and mine.
Looking back, this relationship would be my biggest lapse in judgment.
Seven months into serious dating, I received a phone call that rendered me speechless. My horses had been no source of issue, no root of stress, or at least this was the impression I was fed. The box was ticked on my checklist; he was onboard for my “lifestyle.” I sat in utter disbelief as I heard the words spewing from the other line in a series of anger fueled run-on sentences. Leah was nothing but a careless expense, and that I would never be allowed to ride if we were to marry. Should we have children, they wouldn’t be enrolling in riding lessons as this sport was entirely out of the question. Mornings at the barn instead of at the office were not to be tolerated.
I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation, recollecting the intimate details is something I never care to do again.
Instantly, my face flushed and I felt sick to my stomach. The man I thought I knew had flipped into a total stranger like an empty room going from light to dark in a flick of a switch. Our relationship as I had known it to be was over for good. No man was ever, ever, going to make me choose between my horse and my relationship. No man was going to make me give up my passion for his affection. The horse will always triumph. After this breakup, something shifted deep down inside of my heart. I had opened my soul and world to glorified strangers, allowing my relationship status to define my persona. My self-esteem plummeted to an all time low. Standards were something I thought I had set for myself, yet there I was, blatantly ignoring them. My faith had dwindled and I felt farther away from Christ than ever before.
I dated to fill some sort of metaphorical void created by my first toxic relationship. In turn, this only made me realize how unhappy I was with myself, pathetically wishing someone would come along to remedy that.
Once I accepted reality as it was, I worked to make the changes I so desperately desired. At age 24, I signed the lease on my first rental home away from my parents. I threw myself into my career and focused even more so on developing as a dressage rider. When I’d come home in the late afternoons, I’d pour a glass of wine and enjoy my newfound alone time with my miniature dachshund, Tinkerbell. My Bible became a staple on my side table, and I diligently began re-studying my daily passages. I prayed and prayed and prayed… prayed that whomever God had planned for me next would be my future husband. A bit of a stretch, but this was the mentality I forged in my brain. Gone were the days of pointless dating and disappointment. In simple terms, I was over it.
This photo was taken during my self-renewal period. Clearly, it was working!
Time elapsed, and the more my routine established itself, the more opportunity I had to focus on self-love. For the first time in a long time, I was happy. I didn’t need a significant other to use as an artificial crutch for my emotional wellbeing. My mother always taught me that in order to be happy in a relationship, you had to be happy with your inner person. This motto got me through some of my loneliest times. I live by it today.
Last January, a girl friend stopped by the house for a glass of wine on a Wednesday evening. After reminiscing about our dating fiascos, she pulled the classic “hey, I have someone you should meet” line. My knee jerk reaction got the best of me, quickly responding with a “hell no, I’m not dating anyone right now! Don’t even think about it,” of which she rapidly disregarded. Her fingers worked feverishly over the screen of her iPhone, pulling up Facebook to show me pictures of her friend named Barrett. “He rides horses and ropes, you’ll like him!”
I’ll admit I was slightly intrigued but also bitterly skeptical.
Without my consent, my friend dialed his number, and his crisp voice sounded from the phone speaker. She gabbed about who I was, funny enough, Barrett was a realtor at my family’s company too… I had never heard of him. Nice, Maddie. The matchmaker I unknowingly hired suggested he shoot me a message, sending him my number in return for a “sure, why not,” on the other end of the cell.
Not five minutes after their conversation, my iPhone buzzed with a text. It was Barrett, and this was how our first conversation played out: B: “How’s wine with Erin?” M: “It’s fun!” *sends shameless picture of the bottle we’re drinking* B: “Haha nice, well, I’m taking you to dinner on Saturday.”
Team roping memories, ft. Brandon and Lauren's son, Knox.
Excuse me? … Bold move, a man taking such initiative with nothing but a picture to use as a foundation, I thought. What was I doing! No! Men, bad. Men, very bad. You’re not done focusing on yourself. This is a mistake. Ugh, but he’s really cute and likes horses. But he’s a team roper. Blech. Don’t even. But what if this is something good? Just do it, you pansy!
I replied with a simple “Alright, sounds good.”
The next day, Barrett had texted me around lunch, suggesting I meet up with him at a local restaurant bar for a drink after work. I obliged, not putting much effort into my appearance other than some concealer, mascara, and an oversized sweatshirt with skinny jeans. Of course, I forced my friend to come with me… It was the least she could do after orchestrating the production.
This night would be the night in which my world would be completely transformed for the better. I pranced into Fuzzy’s Taco Shop feeling carefree; I set little to no expectations about the man I was about to meet face to face. Sliding into the wooden booth, my heart pitter-pattered when his piercing green eyes met mine. His vibrant red hair peeked from underneath his Wheeler’s Feed Richardson Hat, and his thoughtful smile made me feel all sorts of warm and welcome. Just drinks elapsed into dinner; our group growing in size as more mutual friends joined the table. I remember leaning over, quietly mentioning to Barrett that I wanted to meet his horses sometime. Ha! Go figure, right?
We escaped the crowd to feed Blue and Smoke their dinner… I was a goner.
Our evening together came to close; Barrett walked me to my car, reminding me he’d see me Saturday promptly at 7:00PM for our scheduled dinner date. As I drove back to my bachelorette pad, my mind raced. There was no denying our instantaneous connection. You’d be a fool not to feel it. I couldn’t wait until Saturday.
For the record, during our first dinner date, we politely shooed away the waitress at least six times, too consumed with the conversation that bounced from family to horses to religion to our favorite things and back to horses…
The rest is history, but I need to point out one aspect that set Barrett apart from anyone I had ever considered to be a potential life partner. About a week and a half into talking and spending almost every afternoon together, Barrett sent me a text message that I’ll never forget. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years, and what are your life goals?”
NO SUITOR had ever asked me this simple yet pivotal question. Most men Barrett’s age didn’t even know what they wanted for breakfast the next morning. He’s 28, by the way.
Without hesitation, I put my plans and goals out on the line. I explained how I wanted to build both my professional career and my riding career, how horses would forever be present in my everyday life, and how I wanted a strong marriage/family with Christ as its foundation. To this day, I ask Barrett why he felt the need to dig that deep into my realm so soon into our relationship. His response is a perfect example as to why I love him.
“I wanted to make sure you were worth my time.”
He knew what he wanted.
This isn’t a mushy letter expressing my adoration for my significant other. This is a post designed to set an example for my followers, explaining that every woman deserves to feel safe, secure, and loved in each unique way. Barrett has given me the confidence to use my voice, whereas before, I found myself very passive, afraid to speak up in fear of upsetting my companion. I’m not ashamed to stand my ground when it comes to thoughts, feelings, and emotions, because I know he appreciates that quality about me. Heck! I even told Barrett that he best not waste my time if he didn’t foresee me being in his future; he was either in or out. How’s that for no shame in my game?
He is kind and empathetic, sharing the same moral values, beliefs and passions as I do. It’s really a cherry on top that he fully supports horses and dreams of having many a head at our home in the future. He encourages and fosters my ideas, my drive, my loftiest goals, and my creativity. He is present. He pushes me to be a better version of myself. We balance each other perfectly; his more laid-back nature is the impeccable counterpart to my more OCD side, amongst many other aspects. Our personalities click into synchronicity. There’s never a day that passes where he doesn’t remind me how thankful he is that we have each other.
The most glorious thing? He totally brings out the best in me.
Since God brought Barrett into my life, I feel as if everything has come full circle. I still struggle with my insecurities and bouts of anxiety, but I’ll never have to question if Barrett will be there to reassure me. He irrevocably is. I’m secure with my relationship because I am secure with myself. Due to knowing my worth, I was blessed with a man who identified my value. The period of which I was single helped my mental and spiritual growth, even though at the time, it felt as if no one would ever pursue me with such vigor that Barrett displayed.
I can’t imagine my life without Barrett. He is the missing puzzle piece Leah and I never knew we needed. I’m crazily in love with him, and the thought of our future together sends me into a tailspin of elation.
Thanksgiving 2018 at the ranch.
So, I’m leaving this blog post with an empowering message. Number one, if you’re single and reading this, please do yourself a favor and never settle for anyone. If horses are something you’re not willing to sacrifice for a partner, don’t allow the fear of “being alone” make you second guess everything you’ve worked for. If someone truly wants you in their life, they will never present you with an ultimatum. In addition, alone time is a healthy thing. We all need it in order to reveal our inner beings. Number two, stay true to yourself. Set your standards; appreciate the kind of woman you are. Know just how much you’re worth, and the right person will pay your proper price. Number three, if you have insecurities stemming from past relationships or any other notable memory, that’s OKAY. The person who is ideal for you will respect them, and take steps to reassure in the best ways they can without becoming annoyed. My parents are divorced, and while now happily married to the person God intended, I struggled with trust issues due to this event happening in my childhood. Men also have insecurities too, ladies, helllloooo! Number four; accept the fact that you don’t need a man (or partner) to make you happy. If that’s your M.O., then you’re doomed from the beginning. You are responsible for your own happiness – this is also true once you’re in a relationship.
Last but not least, love yourself first and the right person will love you.
I love you, B.H. Thank you for loving me in the way that you do.