“If you’d be willing to talk about what happened in an honest and open manner,” I wrote to Zakh, “And if we can explain why you wanted it removed in the first place, I’d consider having you as Hunk of the Day again.” The whole thing had been confusing for me, as he had actually been the one to propose himself as a Hunk. To turn around once it was up and immediately ask that it be taken down seemed perplexing at best, rude at worst. When he explained it was his partner who didn’t like it, I understood a little better, but he didn’t elaborate until later.
“Honestly, once I allowed myself to cave about the first Hunk of the Day post, I opened the floodgates,” he begins. “I allowed him to continuously increase his level of control over me; which resulted in me becoming very weak and emotionally hollow. Everything became a weapon, in an effort to make me more dependent upon him. Whenever I’d push back and request more independence, he’d swing back…and hard. He’d demand a complete suffocation of social media and public events. But here are the key parts: I requested; he demanded. Neither of those are healthy. Instead of open communication, transparency and compromise, the relationship spawned lies, gas-lighting, and emotional abuse. The worst part, is you begin to mirror your partners attributes – both positive and negative.”
Suddenly, things started to make sense, even to the casual observer. There was a discernible shift in the tone and nature of his FaceBook posts at the time. Where once was hope and positivity was a series of cynical, almost bitter, and often defensive rhetoric. Some veiled, some explicit, and all of it indicative of a relationship that had turned toxic. That’s easier to see in hindsight, and looking back Zakh marvels at the power that rationalization can have over each of us.
“That was a moment I gave him full control for the first time,” he said. “I rationalized it in my head. I’m smirking a bit as I write this. If I were to read my own words and recollections, I’d think, ‘Wow, this kid is stupid.’ And I was. It’s always harder to see red flags with rose-colored glasses.”
Yet something gave him the wisdom and strength to end it. Some little voice deep within still managed to pull his sense of self back into focus, and realize the destructive turn his relationship had taken. There was terror in that moment, but there was something good too.
“At that moment, I had no means of transportation, no place to sleep, almost no money on my person,” Michael admits. “Normally, I would’ve felt paralyzed; but this time I felt something quite different. I felt free. I felt hopeful. And most importantly, I felt respected (towards myself). My ex’s actions had been a final attempt to tear me down, cripple me to the fullest extent. While he did a pretty solid job at the tangible (no car, no bed, minimal money), he didn’t as much make a scratch at the intangible (my confidence, my hope and elation of finally being free from the situation I’d allowed myself to be placed in). Those intangible “things” were worth more than any of the items he’d just taken from me. A mantra he frequently recited came into my head: “Do not love what is incapable of loving you back”. I looked down at the tattoo on my forearm, gently rolling my fingers over the part which reads “Love Thy Self.” So I took his advice and began loving myself again.
“NCR” (which stands for “No complaints or regrets”) is a philosophy I adopted in high school. I immediately regreted having the first article taken down. I’ve thought about that moment often , as I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to rectify that mistake. It’s become a growth moment that reminds me: you will never afford someone that level of control in the future. So to not only have the honor of being dubbed “Hunk of the Day”, but to right a wrong? It feels empowering. While I was nervous to share my story, I felt it was important. This interview wasn’t done to paint my ex poorly…it actually isn’t about him in the slightest. This interview was done in the hopes that someone else out there can be positively influenced. Whether it be a personal wakeup call, be referenced in their memory’s catalogue at a later date, or help identify unacceptable behavioral patterns, I hope my story can leave a positive message and assure that hope always exists, even when you feel at your weakest.”
Currently, Michael maintains a busy social schedule, and does so with a happy countenance and supportive exuberance that elevates those around him. His smile and his sass are back in FaceBook, and forging ground in Instagram and Twitter, and there are good things on the horizon. The upbeat focus and hopeful outlook has returned, and his words once again ring of revelry grounded in reality.
“I learned a wealth about many areas of my life – from relationships and love to what I want in my future; but most importantly, I learned to see things as they are, not how we wish them to be. It’s no one’s job to save someone . We are not Superman. If we truly wish to be present in someone’s life, the best thing we can do is to love them unconditionally and exactly as they are; not what they have the potential to be in the future or what they were in the past. You can certainly look to the past for some insight, and you can help build one another up for success in the future, but you must love the person who they are at that very moment.”
His smile has returned, and his attitude has shifted – back to a happier plane, but imbued with a greater wisdom, the kind that can only be culled from a great deal of hurt. He has taken the darkness of his past and used it to further evolve.
“Every moment has an opportunity for growth,” he concludes. “While I could’ve been an absolute mess when one of my worst fears (being abandoned without means to help myself), it wouldn’t have done me any good. Instead, I respected the moment and learned all I could. In doing so, I’ve emotionally rebounded very quickly. There’s never been a moment where I actually longed to be back with my ex. I did miss the “us” (the one you paint in my mind) a few times, but that relationship I missed never truly existed. Plus, I’d much rather the split had happened at that moment instead of a year or two from now. Everything about that relationship was a learning moment and blessing in its own way.”
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