I met Carl when I was in my early 20s. I was at a resto-bar to meet a college friend of mine and Carl happened to be there. He was tall, built like an athlete, and good-looking. He had girls all around him and he had this way about him that made me think "babaero ‘to."

My friend finally arrived and much to my surprise, Carl approached our table. I didn’t realize my friend, Valerie, was friends with Carl. We were introduced. Apparently, he used to be the star of his college basketball team. I wasn’t at all impressed. I found him mayabang and flirtatious.

As I was about to go to bed that night, I received a text: "Hi, Kate. This is Carl, Valerie’s friend. :)" I didn’t reply until the next morning, but my reply was a short "Hi," no smiley. Akala siguro ng mokong na ‘to may gusto ako sa kanya.

In the coming weeks, he kept on messaging me quotes which I ignored. I finally replied to his text again when he said: "Miss na kita. Hope to see you soon." I replied: "How can you miss me? You don’t even know me."
I thought that would discourage him from texting me again. My plan backfired because my kasupladahan challenged Carl even more. He asked help from my friend, Val. Val told him I wasn’t the type of girl who would go for a guy like him. But if ever I would even consider, he should befriend me instead of flirt with me

Carl did just that. He apologized for being too aggressive and flirtatious, and said girls usually went for that. But that he knew I was different and could we be friends? I said “sure.” I had no problem with people wanting to be friends anyway.

After months of exchanging text messages, phone calls, and hanging out as friends, I  changed my mind about Carl. He was a really nice guy, very sweet, family-oriented. He was far from his player persona in real life. It was then when I realized I had feelings for him.

We continued to hang out and in small ways, I let him know that my feelings for him had changed. It wasn’t long until we officially became a couple.

It wasn’t easy being his girlfriend. A lot of girls fawned over him. Women would text him and message him on social media. I knew he was crush ng bayan at his workplace. But that didn’t matter because he was MY boyfriend and I knew he had changed his ways since he met me.
Carl and I were madly in love with each other. As early as our first year as a couple, we were already talking about marriage. He was a constant fixture in my home and my family loved him. I was a constant fixture at his home as well and I was well-loved by his parents and siblings. We were even naming our future kids at that point. I knew in my heart that I had found the man I was going to marry.

Midway into our second year together, Carl proposed and I said yes. Both our families were thrilled about our engagement. I couldn’t believe it. My dream of settling down was finally coming true. But Carl said we needed to save money for the wedding and our life after so we couldn’t get married immediately. I agreed and worked even harder at my budding career.

I thought everything was going as planned when things started to change at the latter part of our second year together. Carl began spending so much time at the office that we barely saw each other. He would promise things that he would not be able to deliver. Many times he would set dinner dates at home and I would cook for him, but he would not show up, telling me something came up at work. When we did see each other, he seemed distant and would always be looking at his phone.

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I confronted him about the changes I was seeing in him but he would always apologize and say it was just because he was pressured at work. I straight out asked him: "Is there someone else?" And he would always say: "Ano ka ba? Wala. You’re being paranoid."
I honestly thought maybe I was being paranoid. I felt like I was going a little crazy, to be honest. That was until his mother called me up. She asked me when we were getting married. I said, "Tita, matagal pa siguro. We have not saved enough money yet." And she insisted that we get married as soon as possible. Of course, that was not possible and I told her maybe she should talk to Carl because I could not make that decision by myself. I found it strange that his mom who used to say we were too young to settle down and that we should enjoy our singlehood would be the one insisting that we get married ASAP.

I knew something was seriously wrong but I didn’t want to keep asking Carl what was wrong. I was honestly scared to hear the truth. I was desperate to hang on to our relationship. So I remained his supportive and loyal girlfriend. I thought maybe this is just a bump in the road. Maybe this is just a phase in our relationship.

But it wasn’t. Two months after we celebrated our third year together, Carl showed up at my house and said the words I has been dreading for the last several months: "I’m sorry, Kate. I think we need to break up."

It pains me now to think about how desperate I was to keep him. In tears, I asked him, "What can I do to make you change your mind? What can I do to make you stay?" He mumbled something about having a quarter life crisis and that he needed time to think about what he wanted to do with his life.

For two months after that night, we remained "friends." He would sometimes come by my house and I would visit his house. Both our families thought we were getting back together. And secretly, I thought we were. I prayed we were.

But my kahibangan finally ended when a common friend of ours called me up and could not stop cursing Carl and saying what a loser he was. I defended him and said he’s just going through a crisis right now. It was then when my friend said, "You really have no idea, Kate? All this time?" I said, "What do you mean?"

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It turned out that Carl had been cheating on me from the first year we were together. There were many women he had affairs with while he was with me.  But the clincher was that now he apparently was in love and that’s why he left me. He had fallen in love with a girl he worked with.
All those times I fought my paranoid and jealous thoughts, I had been right to be jealous and paranoid. I felt dirty. I felt betrayed. I felt like everything I knew to be true for the last three years had all been a lie.

I was depressed for months after I found out. But with the help of family and friends and a renewed relationship with God, I got through that dark time. That experience taught me a lot of things.

I learned that I couldn’t let my life revolve around a person. When I was with Carl, everything I did was for him or about him. When we broke up, I honestly did not know who I was anymore without him.  It took time for me to rediscover who I was, to realize my true worth. But I got there eventually.

I learned that I needed to look past a man’s good looks and charming ways and really find out his character. Looking back, there were many signs that Carl was bad news. But I chose to ignore them because I had already fallen for him.

Lastly, I learned that no matter how painful that experience was, life goes on. I eventually forgave Carl and I let him know that I had forgiven him. It was no use hanging on to the hurt and the hate. Life was moving forward and I was living in the past by refusing to forgive him. When I finally made that decision to forgive, I knew I was ready to move forward, wiser and stronger than I had ever been before.

PHOTO: Pixabay; GIFs: Giphy

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