I chose to lose my virginity on the night of my high school graduation. The cheesy teen-movie element of that fact is almost too embarrassing to bear, but it’s the truth.
As I’ve written previously, my relationship with my high school boyfriend was a tumultuous one, and sleeping together seemed like the only way I could keep him. I was wrong, and when he left a few months later, I had more heartache than I could have ever imagined.
Rebounding into a new relationship seemed like the best way to move on (it wasn’t until later that I realized what I needed was more counseling), so I settled in with a new boyfriend after only a few months. This guy was in many ways the opposite of my first love, and we got serious really fast. I remember the first time we talked about having sex; he told me that he wanted to marry me some day but that we were still too young. At least he can see us getting married in the future, I thought to myself. The first guy wouldn’t have considered making any commitments like that to me.
We did sleep together, and we broke up a year later. But if I’m honest, I didn’t have sex with him because I thought it would lead to marriage. I had sex with him because it seemed like it didn’t really matter anymore since I’d already lost my virginity. I don’t think I’m the only person to think that way. When I talk with or observe my friends and peers, they seem to share the same attitude. Losing your virginity is a really big deal, and then after that it seems like sex isn’t really that sacred anymore.
I used to feel like there was no reason to maintain physical boundaries in a new relationship because I hadn’t kept them in a past one. But the truth is, it did matter. Because every time those relationships ended I felt less and less whole. Every time I lost someone with whom I had shared the deepest parts of myself, I felt even more rejected, self-doubting, and lonelier than I had before. Recovering emotionally from that repeated sense of loss was a long, painful process for me.
I thought I could fill that hole with a new relationship, but each breakup was only making that hole bigger. Eventually I got so tired of the cycle that I decided not to date at all for at least a year. I took time to learn more about who I was independent of a romantic relationship. I cultivated friendships, journaled, got counseling, spent time with my family, and got involved in a faith community. Slowly I began to feel like myself again as all the heartbreak had time to heal.
I came to terms with the fact that though I once thought sex was an expression of my love for and devotion to the other person, it was actually pretty empty without a lifetime commitment. Essentially I was only expressing affection until it was no longer convenient or comfortable (at which point we would break up). I realized that that is a far cry from the true commitment—the commitment I saw in marriage—that I really craved. After a lot of self-reflection, I realized that I had used sex as a way to feel valued and important. Moving forward, I knew I didn’t want to do that anymore. I needed to know that I was more than what I could offer men sexually. I needed to believe in my value as the smart, kind, and capable individual I was working to become.
By the time I started dating my husband Eric, it had been three years since I had been in a romantic relationship. I was proud of the wholeness and healing I had worked for. We both believed sex involves sharing yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually with the other person. He had never slept with someone, but I had experienced firsthand the loss that comes with giving my body to a person who hadn’t made any promises to keep me in his life. We agreed together to wait until after we married, to wait until we had made a lifelong commitment to each other. Even though I was no longer a virgin, waiting was important to me because I realized sex was a big deal. And I wasn’t willing to give me up to “keep” a guy. I guess you could say I lost my virginity but found myself.