Tonight welcomed in a strange moment for me.
The man I once called my husband, who abased and destroyed me emotionally and mentally and left me fishing for dignity, self-worth, and any remnants of pride in who I am and all I can be… this man was sitting in my living room and we were laughing and holding a friendly (if respectfully distant) conversation.
If you had told me a year ago that this would be happening right now, I would’ve been completely confident that you were wrong.
This is a good and beautiful thing, and redeems a lot of pain for me. It was accompanied months ago by profound and sincere apologies, and has gradually evolved into a confident acceptance that things are over, and done, and were very, very wrong, but that people can change, and redemption can look like moving forward as parents to our son in an amicable and respectful fashion.
This is where things are now. In many ways because I have found myself; found my own two feet, my “balls”, my confidence in my beauty and strength and abilities, again. It took at least 11 months to do so.
Here is where you should probably stop reading, if you’re a very religious person, my parents, a man (this may wind up coming off as male-bashing although this is not the intent) or an interested party.
So basically, if you’re a female, non-lesbian, non-relative, uninterested atheist, this is for you… ha.
Here’s where we get into the gritty, gory, messy details of the rebound confusion and self-discovery phase post relationship.
*God alone is my judge.*
After my ex and I split up last year, I was lost. So incredibly lost.
With the culture I grew up in, all I knew was monogamy… committed, defined, going-somewhere-(and-fast) relationships. The only man I had “known” was my husband.
I was naive, abased, had no sense of value, and no real understanding of the world when it comes to relationships, sex, and male-female interactions outside of monogamy.
Where was I? Where did I want to be? Who did I trust?
It has taken me a while to figure these things out. During that first 6 months of a rebound phase, sex just happened, quite a few times. It really did. But not in great ways.
I went from someone who had waited 23 years for sex to someone who was so stupid and sheltered, she would place herself in situations (a car at night to talk, trusting and agreeing to “just sleep, no sex” in bed with someone, late night outings or isolated movie times at someone’s house) where someone would make a move, I would be taken aback, but then have so little self-value that I simply caved even when I really didn’t want a hookup.
I remember many promises men made “not to f*ck [me]”, many suggestions of interest in a relationship, cards played, mind games, blameshifting, tactics, working of angles to confuse and manipulate me.
I was weak. Lost, unaware of the value I held. I caved. Over, and over. A few times I said no… the kept going, and I simply gave in and felt empty, used, disrespected, stupid, almost like throwing up amidst it all.
There was #1.
He was a “no”. I was in a situation I shouldn’t have been in, sleepy and disoriented and alone with him. He seemed aloof and respectful, and then he wasn’t. And I just didn’t care anymore. I gave in after faint protests.
There was #2.
A few days later, lessons unlearned, the “two adults taking care of each other, no big deal, just sex” card played, taken. I said no a few times this time, I felt dirty and empty… and cheap.
There was #3.
Through a friendship, one I trusted. I didn’t know how to relate to men without sexuality after so long being that for one person… I was beginning to enjoy realizing I was wanted, after the one person I really wanted did not want me…. and it was consensual, but still so empty of meaning.
There was #4.
A player, the best at his game, manipulative, crafty, a liar, and a douche bag. Ignored attempts at asking for respect and the strangest, most awkward engagement so far.
There was #5.
If you count him, some favors given and received after he pushed me to believe he wanted a relationship, and that “men need sex to feel love”. No sex, but sexuality. More emptiness when a few days later, he admitted to zero interest in who I am as a person.
There was #6.
A major front given online, to others, to the world. Supposedly, a man of honor, integrity, who treats women with respect. Who drew me into a situation after months of talking on promise of helping with my career, and pushed physical boundaries, made me feel guilty for saying no. .. and so very stupid when I gave in and realized a day later that I was doing the walk of shame, and that that was all he wanted from me.
Over, and over, and over.. this continued for a while. I was desperately searching for something to mimic the companionship and consistency and intimacy of my first relationship, back at the beginning. I longed for it.
During this time I began to realize a few things about myself and the world. Here they are:
1. Far too many people trust themselves.
Men, and women. Even the good men think they can keep it to “just a kiss” or a cuddle, but any straight heterosexual male who has been in my bed has quickly forgotten those restrictions. I think I can keep them at that door, “keep the wolf at bay”, if you will, but I am weak in certain situations.
2. Wisdom looks like learning to not put yourself in situations where those boundaries and willpower may be tested.
The more I remove myself from those types of interactions, the less drama is in my life and the less regrets I have.
3. Sex has become the H2O of our generation.
People reach for it and ask for it and demand it and feel entitled to it from others like one grabs a bottled water in a checkout line.
4. 90% of men want to f*ck me.
Only a small percent of them are interested in more than just hooking up; a small percent convince themselves it’s not “just sex” so they don’t feel like tools but are completely emotionally unavailable; 10% (at most) and 10% only are interested in friendship or wouldn’t take a chance if I offered it, and the majority have so little value for me or themselves that they’re able to make “convenience store sex” the standard for performance.
5. No means no.
My original instinct is a good one. If I say no once, and that’s blown past, it’s rape. Stop, no, don’t = GTFO.
6. Just because I’m treated nicely or someone pays for dinner doesn’t mean I owe them anything sexually.
Men who work on a give and take system of treating a woman a certain way in order to acquire favors they then believe they deserve are dbag jackasses and not worth a moment of my time.
7. It is possible to have intense sexual chemistry and zero relationship potential.
This was really tough for me to learn because it was so outside of my experience. It was a shock to realize you can have physical attraction and a “spark” without relationship development. Discerning which is which (and if both are present) takes practice.
8. Men are manipulative bastards, even the nice ones (sometimes).
The good ones don’t always mean to, but still find ways to coerce you into intimacy. The bad ones do it on purpose. Sooooo many guys played or tried to play the “it’s just sex, you’re overthinking it” card, the “this will help you heal emotionally” card, the “you owe me because __ card”, the “this is normal and should be expected even outside of anything long-term develping” card, and the “you’re a bitch if you don’t” card. I’ve learned to essentially say “shut the f*ck up and stop playing mind games to get your d*ck wet”. Forgive the bluntness, but it must be said.
9. The best sex involves a marriage of minds and bodies.
Mental compatibility and a desire to explore someone’s mind, emotions, and heart make for some crazy amazing physical connections if there’s also chemistry there. The rest of sex (for me, at least) feels cheap and stupid and very over-the-counter.
10. Save that sh*t.
Screw the 3-date rule, the roadtrip rule, the time frames given or demanded by others or by what society seems to think is acceptable. Take your damn time. Don’t cheapen that type of intimacy by throwing it around. If you let the sexual side of any relationship drive relational development, the rest of the important compatibility departments like respect and fun and friendship will struggle to keep pace.
Take your sweet effing time.
After that first string of empty, unwanted, painful, confusing hookups and some tough life lessons…
There have been a few guys who never demanded it, didn’t expect it. Waited for it. Honored me, themselves.
Made me feel wanted without feeling violated, and respected without feeling unwanted.
As I’ve learned to really value myself again, to own my potential and interest and strength and beauty, I’ve quit frequenting convenience stores. I’m going all gourmet with that *sh. Making it count, making it last, keeping it for the best moments, the best people.
You can judge me all you want, condemn me, preach at me for my casual discussion of sex. But this learning curve of sexuality, of understanding how to take care of myself, but also simply rediscovering that I am WANTED, was a powerful and beautiful thing.
Simple lessons in profound ways, through profound pain and much confusion, but lessons well-learned.