Maleeka Hollaway was trapped in her own decision. At an age where she should have been enjoying her life and discovering herself, she found herself instead running head-on into a relationship and marriage that soon turned abusive. Only until she was divorced and on a journey solo did she find her true purpose and love for herself. Let’s find out how her past led her to her true destiny.
Many young women can relate to that first real “heart tussle” with love and the blinding symptoms it can cause in the midst. When you look back now how would you say your definition of the relationship has evolved from what you would have said at the time? Looking back, I can honestly say that my definition of love then is 100% different than it is now. The crazy part about my situation is that I knew going into it that it would be volatile; but some part of me told me that I would be the “different” one. Had I listened to my first mind, the relationship would have never been…meaning, the marriage would have never happened. I was deep in lust.
For our young readers, describe your dating experience prior to this relationship? What was the relationship between your parents or their significant others molding you in how you viewed or handled relationships? Prior to this abusive relationship/marriage, I had few examples of healthy relationships. Many of the women in my family were single parents, some by choice. The men that I did have around me in my family set great examples concerning manhood and how a men and women should get along. I had been in a relationship from 14-20 with one guy, who many would say was the “perfect” guy but in my opinion, everything was predictable. I didn’t want to look up and think “Where did my life go?” He was a great guy but we were two different levels because he was a few years older than I was. Before 20, I knew I wanted to have successful relationships, I was just never really taught how to make it happen. I come from a line of string type A women!
What made you elope–what created the rush to “adult” and keep it from your family? I “eloped” because I knew that my family would never approve and I didn’t want to give them the chance to tell me not to do it. I was stubborn and thought I was proving a point..proving my adulthood. But when it all happened, I ended up hurting my family more by hiding it and making a decision of that magnitude before I was ready.
Did you see signs of the abuse-that you missed a t the time- such as isolation tactics to keep you from family and friends, possessiveness etc? Believe it or not, the “typical” signs weren’t ever a factor. Initially, there were no mood swings, no control, no isolation. And even as things played out, as the abuse escalated, he still never became controlling. I do remember walking on eggshells when he’d be around. For example, if I was on my phone too much, he’d suspect I was talking to another guy. So, I wouldn’t touch my phone when he was present. If he was upset about something, I learned to let him feel whatever he felt, and try to act as concerned as possible as my “lack” of care set him off. I knew he didn’t have many channels of directing his feelings and emotions to where they needed to be so our relationship became the battleground of him expressing his internal frustrations.
What was his first excuse for the abuse ? And what was your first excuse to yourself for accepting it? Excuses..that’s exactly what they were. The first time he put his hands on me, I flipped out and I told him to leave. He cried and told me he was sorry and all the things you see on TV that abusers do. The “honeymoon” act was real. I told myself that maybe it would not happen again. That was my excuse. I was in shock and had no clue of how to deal with him or how I felt. I was stunned that I had been hit by a man….
Why did the person he showed you even as you fell for him seem appealing at the time? At the time, I craved excitement. I craved exploring the unknown. He gave me that. Every day was an adventure. We laughed. Stayed locked up in the bedroom. Skipped out on work and sometimes on life. We just stayed locked up in “love.” I had never experienced that before. He was ambitious. He could sing and wanted a career in entertainment and I loved having a creative man! I suppose being young and looking at things through a rose glass made me see things how I wanted to and not for how they were.
What made you not be able to put your life and the life of your child above the hope that he could change? Did you feel the need to make it last due to the way you rushed into it almost proving to others in a sense that you had made a wise decision? YES! I really wanted to prove to my family and others that I could make it work even as they said I could not. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I had made a mistake. My own selfishness made me stay. I didn’t want to be a single parent. I didn’t want to be a divorcee. I allowed all the things I didn’t want cause me to forget what I deserved…and that was a life of freedom and love- a life where I didn’t have to wonder if the man I loved would snap and kill me one day.
What was your breaking point? Who filed for divorce and if it was you did he fight it? I like to say that my marriage went through everything but death. The ultimate demise of it came from his infidelities. He had an outside child during the marriage and then had an affair with a completely different person. And this person just happened to be someone I let into our home. After that, I realized that I could not do it anymore and that I didn’t have to do it anymore. I believe he was in denial at first but eventually gave in.
Now, looking back surely you recognize the nonsense in your mind that kept you there like for one worrying about what people would say or think or judge versus whether you would in an even more embarrassing abuse news headline ? What did it take for you to love yourself above what others would say or think?
The crazy thing in my situation, I think, that if you’d ask anyone that knew then and that knows me now, they’ll tell you that I’ve never been one to mind the opinions of others. I’ve always been on forging ahead to the beat of my own drum. But somehow, when it came to this “love thing,” I could not shake the thought of being judged. I’ve heard and even been a part of conversations where people speculated and talked down on an abused person so I knew that people would say those same things about me. “If she won’t leave, she is stupid,” “Well, that’s what she signed up for. She knew he was no good,” or “That would never be ME,” type of dialogues. I get asked all the time “why” I stayed. And my answer is the same…I didn’t want to be stereotyped as the black, single mother. Better yet, I didn’t want to seem weak-minded. Both of those feelings were insane!
I literally had to ask myself if the life I was living was worth my sanity. And my response to myself was more than enough to make me walk away. There was no way I wanted to live life at the bottom of the barrel. I knew in my soul that this crazy situation would not be the end of me.
What was the first thing you did to better yourself once you were “free”? I just knew that I had something great to do with my life. So, I got busy!
Do you have contact with him now and does he now view his own mistakes as just that? Did he ever apologize? He apologized at the divorce table. He even apologized before then. I forgave him but still move on. And I do not regret getting a divorce at all. Once the divorce happened, I went through a period of sadness, but it didn’t last long at all.
How did the marriage and the ending of it push you to your purpose and describe for our readers what that purpose came to be. How do you differentiate the mistake, the mishap and the malice from the motivation? That’s the difference. I got busy chasing my purpose and honestly, I got it. It’s not that I never knew I had a purpose but I could not pinpoint it. I don’t feel like I live in a place of malice. I am not even trying to make up for lost time. I’m just living in my now. Knowing that I have work to do and that I am helping others along the way.
How is 2017 Maleeka different from that scared Maleeka stuck in a relationship that was killing her slowly? The Maleeka of 2017 is qualified to speak to young girls and women who are on the brink of settling for less in life and in love. Because now I can identify and call forth those things that had me seeing what I wanted to see instead of what the reality was. I wanted to prove my ability to make my own decisions then. Now, I know I can the choices I need to make and not apologize for them. Then, I was a girl running a race to be so different that I ended up almost being the same. Now, I am a woman who is confident enough to know that I don’t know it all and that I am growing and learning each and every day.
What advice would you give to young girls and women who may enter a relationship and find themselves also looking through rose colored lenses and rushing into something they may not be ready for? I would tell the next young lady who is so deep in love that she can’t see straight that she should take a moment to breathe then to think-think about all the #RelationshipGoals you want and then see what you’re getting. Ask yourself if its adding up to anything. I’d tell her not to rush into committing herself to another person while she is sill learning who she is and what she wants. I’d tell her to enjoy her singleness and to embrace the life she wants. I’d tell her to wait until she is sure that what she thinks love is, is really what love is.
You surely don’t look like what you’ve been through. So how is Maleeka now–because oftentimes after abuse people on the outside assume you are fine once you’re out or that it wasn’t that bad and you can just shake it off or sometimes simply people never ask–so how are you now in your healing? I am healed. Thinking about the abuse no longer bothers me and it no longer makes me angry. It just reminds me that I have purpose and that I am alive to fulfill that purpose. It reminds me that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as I don’t stop there. My healing came gradually over time and even now, there are moments when I have to ask myself, “Are you sure?” But all in all, I’m healed. I use the hurt I was handed to help heal the next person. Believe it or not, I believe I had to be hurt like I was just so I could see how much healing I needed.
Tell us about your work/purpose (including what led you to it and how fulfilling it is)? I’m a woman of many talents and titles. I am most known for my business intellect and my writing. Really, it was those two things that led me to my current success as a business and life coach and as a writer and editor. When I am able to coach others into pinpointing exactly what it is that is keeping them from getting to their next level in life or in business, it literally gives me chills! People look at me and wonder “how” I’m doing so well after what I went through. And I have to tell them, my mission to connect with others and to help push them into their purpose in life is what drives me. Just like I said earlier, I knew I had to get busy doing something or I’d end up doing nothing. And so, after shaking the dust off my feet, I started writing and things have never been the same for me. Sometimes its even hard to believe that the life I used to live actually belonged to me, I remember a time when I used to hate waking up! But I know that things happened for a reason and that part of my life was just for a season. My hurt and pain were the seeds that were planted and have now been treated and nurtured back into health and wholeness. And I am living an audacious life that I love. I didn’t know how much I really loved my life until I started living it. (Someone will catch that one later.)
Maleeka T. Hollaway is a two-times Best-Selling Author, FORBES Coaches Council Member, Business Lifestyle Coach & Consultant, Editor, Publicist & International Speaker. For more information visit www.theomg.biz
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