“How I Came to Be” will be a three-part series, exploring the path I took to finding relationship dynamics and styles that are right for me. Each part covers an era in my life defined by my relationships during that time. This story is ever evolving.
Fair warning: part I of this story is the ugly part.
I fucked a near-stranger while on vacation in Texas the summer before I started high school. I was young. Very young. But even then, I didn’t like the concept of “losing your virginity” as some sort of milestone; I just wanted to get it over with. We never saw each other or spoke again, though many years later I heard he’d been killed in Afghanistan.
Months later, my high school boyfriend hated that someone had “gotten to me” before him. Someone other than he had “broken the freshness seal” or some other slut-shaming nonsense. Consequently, Tod and I waited several months to have sex– I think he meant to test me, to see if the whore had any self-control. At fourteen, naïve and sophomoric, I told him loved him and swore he was my one-and-only.
It was what he wanted to hear, because the only love he’d grown up with was in myth and movies. His family was from Southie stock, and he imagined the ugly past with rose-colored glasses, because he needed an escape from the reality of his mother’s health issues and his father’s Vietnam-induced PTSD. I told him what he wanted to hear because I’d learned quickly that when I said things he didn’t want to hear, things went downhill fast.
I never heard the word “codependency” until I was much older, but it was an accurate description for our relationship. We were young, stupid, and desperately insecure. He was controlling, forever afraid that I would stray. In his mind, I validated his fears when I expressed interest in a close friend of mine.
I asked for an open relationship, swearing it was only about the sex. The manipulation, gaslighting, and psychological and verbal abuse started. I retaliated by cheating, first with the guy I’d originally been interested in, and later with several others. I wasn’t “allowed” to break up with Tod, so I carried on as if we weren’t together at all. Eventually I started an entire second relationship behind Tod’s back, which continued until I moved away to college.
Of course I didn’t deserve the abuse, which had become physical by the time we split up, but we were both bastards to one another. I didn’t like the relationship and I didn’t want it, but I was held hostage until I moved away and didn’t tell him where I was going. It was the only way I could end things for good.
The relief that came with the end of my relationship with Tod was tremendous, and it felt like coming out of a fog. Unethical as my behavior had been, I saw the value of dating two people at once. The sexual variety kept that spark alive in both relationships, and I came to understand that one person could never be everything for me. It fit with my outlook on life and my need for independence. I’d been reading about non-monogamy and nodding along in agreement with the principles laid out in The Ethical Slut, and at seventeen, finally free and on my own, I swore off monogamy for good.