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This is what I want my daughters to know about love and relationships

To: My daughters

From: Mommy (Antoinette Gonzalez) (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To my daughters, 

I spent a lot of my life in darkness. My relationship with myself was dark, and my relationship with others was even darker. 

I want better for all of you. I want your lives to be filled with light. 

I want better for all of you. I want your lives to be filled with light.

As a child, I didn’t have many examples of a good relationship. There was one friend whose parents appeared to have a good marriage. But at the time, my barometer for a good relationship was one that didn’t include violence. My mother and I moved away when I was five years old. Before the age of five, I witnessed so much darkness, so many moments no one should ever have to see – let alone a child. 

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Eventually, my mom got into a relationship with a man I knew as my stepfather. While there was no violence in our home, I knew they weren’t happy. And my relationship with my real father was virtually non-existent. 

I let everybody walk all over me for a long time, whether they were my partner, friend, or co-worker. I didn’t respect myself or set firm boundaries. As a result, I have been in four relationships where men physically abused me. That’s four too many. 

I knew enough was enough after a man I was with punched me in the face one night. When I returned home, he nearly ran me over with his car. And when someone stopped and tried to help me, he pulled out a gun. I finally realized that I deserved more. The next day, I went to work and never went back to him. I turned my phone off. I blocked his number. And with negative $2000 in the bank, I completely started over, living in transitional housing for a little less than a year. 

Finally, I started working on myself. I started healing and focusing on my mental health. While I previously dated the man I am with now, and it wasn’t healthy, we each decided to put in the work to better ourselves. We were two people who came from broken homes, and we were trying to create a whole home together. 

Finally, I started working on myself. I started healing and focusing on my mental health.

Through our growth, I have learned what it means to have a healthy relationship. I learned what it means to live outside the darkness and live in the light. 

We started using different verbiage, always respectfully speaking to each other. We don’t call each other names – even as a joke. If we disagree or are frustrated with a situation, we talk it through and have a conversation instead of attacking each other. Sometimes, we take a break and return to a situation a few minutes later when our emotions are more settled. Also, we try to be thoughtful towards each other.   

I’ve been dying for new pots and pans. Cooking and baking are very therapeutic for me, and I lost my old set when we moved to our new home. I recently noticed he ordered a brand new set for me, which I appreciate.

I want you all to know love is not hurtful or painful. It is kind. Be with people who build you up – not tear you down. Always respect yourself and hold strong boundaries. Trust your intuition – the voice inside your head. If someone or something does not feel right, stay away. Live a life where you can find joy every day. 

Unlike me, you never have to live a day of your life in darkness. Because if you ever struggle to find the light in a partner or yourself, I want you to know you can always find it at home. 

I promise to always give you light by consistently showing you and giving you real and healthy love. 

With love, hope, and strength, 

Mommy (Antoinette Gonzalez)
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