At seventeen I lost my virginity to a nineteen year old that had just moved to town. Despite his having had a girlfriend for a couple of years prior to moving, he claimed never to have slept with her. His story was that she had never been ready, and I bought that hook, line, and sinker. I did not realize how foolish I had been until four months later he went to visit his hometown, and I got a phone call in which he sounded completely distressed.
“What’s wrong?” I had pressed.
“It’s just that some things have gone a bit sideways here,” he mumbled into the receiver.
“Well what’s happened?” I continued to press.
“Turns out I’m going to be a father.”
Gut check moment – Nope, he’s not referring to me. All I managed was, “With who?”
“Cherise,” his ex-girlfriend.
“Well when is she due?”
Quick mental math moment… he’d gotten her pregnant after we had started dating! Holy fuck!
That was my first experience with giving myself to a man in a physical sense, which I had irrationally assumed meant that we were committed and emotionally invested.
When you have been cheated on it is very difficult to tell yourself that it was not your fault, that it is a failing of the other person to be honest with their partner. I was crushed. I questioned what I could have done to prevent it. Perhaps I was not attractive enough? Perhaps I had not been good enough in bed? Rebuilding my self-confidence was a massive project that initially involved a further spiral downwards before climbing back up.
Over the course of the next few months I would sleep with three more guys, bringing my pre-graduation total to having slept with four partners. I was desperately searching for someone to commit, as I felt that would be the sole measure of my self-worth. If only I could find someone to love me, perhaps I could find value in myself.
Leaving my hometown to attend an out of province university was the best decision I could have made at that time. I was no longer surrounded by the people and places that reminded me of those that I felt had used me up and thrown me away. I found strength in being able to rebuild my identity in a new place and through that I was able to re-establish my self esteem.
I picked up another piece of baggage upon my breakup with the guy I dated for most of university. Our relationship had been deteriorating for quite some time, so by the moment I said the words, “This is over,” I had already been grieving the loss of the relationship for an extended period. Shortly after our breakup I began seeing a guy named Rob who was in my faculty. We were going on dates, exchanging emails, and meeting up between classes.
Several weeks into my new fling my ex showed up at my door with a stack of emails I had written to Rob. At some stage I must have logged into my account on my ex’s computer and accidentally saved the password. He demanded to know what was happening between me and Rob, but he refused to admit that he had hacked into my account. As the altercation progressed I noticed that he knew a lot about my weekend – when I had come and gone, who I had left with, & who I had arrived with. We yelled until he admitted he had been waiting around my house watching Rob and I come and go over the past weekend.
The fight ended with him storming off yelling about how he was going to go kill himself and see if that taught me a lesson. At that stage, I was barely 21 and had zero idea what to do. I called his family back in our hometown and told them he needed help. They took action and got him the assistance he needed.
His actions made me deeply question whether I should have initiated the breakup. In that moment it seemed like I had ruined his life. Maybe things had not been that bad; was I being selfish in ending the relationship?
Breaking up is never an easy thing for anyone to do, but after seeing the reaction I had caused with my ex I began to justify my actions by reasoning that, whatever the task, it was what others wanted from me. I would put myself in positions that were outside of my comfort zone and schedule to ensure that others were happy. Saying no became extremely difficult, and there were people in my life that took advantage of my inability to refuse their requests for time, emotional support, and financial assistance. This included friends and lovers.
Today I am much better at knowing when to say no and when it is appropriate to compromise or lend a hand. However, I still find that I am occasionally stressed, emotionally and financially, when I have forgotten that I cannot properly support anyone when I am not secure in the commitments I have made.