He was handsome, popular, wild, and exciting. When I found out from a mutual friend at the university we attended that he was interested in me, I was intrigued and flattered. We went out for ice cream on our first date and were inseparable from that moment on. Our physical relationship accelerated at the speed of light. We both partied hard and studied as little as possible. Our relationship revolved around feeling and avoiding any responsibility.
Compared to my previous relationship, our romance felt like a dream come true for me at the time. Having just had my heart badly broken by the rejection of my first love, behaviors that my boyfriend exhibited toward me that I now recognize as unhealthy attention and jealousy were, at the time, reassuring to me. I was confident he would never abandon me the way the last guy had, and the “seriousness” of the relationship meant that I had no qualms about us having sex.
But as the months passed, I began questioning a lot of the choices I was making in my life. It started when my mom came into town for a visit. My boyfriend and I invited my mother for dinner at his apartment. I could tell my mom felt sad and uncomfortable, and I asked her about it when we were alone later that night. She told me she had seen our dozens of empty liquor bottles (we were underage) along with my toothbrush in his bathroom. My mother asked me to talk honestly with her about my relationship with my boyfriend, and I did. In return, she described how much she regretted her similar history with men before meeting and marrying my father.
After my heart-to-heart with my mom, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that this wasn’t how I wanted to be living. Partying so hard that I passed out nearly every weekend, sleeping with a guy who wasn’t committed to me for life—it just didn’t line up with the person I really wanted to be. When I thought about my future, I hoped to have adult responsibilities. I wanted to commit my time to maintaining a healthy body, meaningful career, and a faithful marriage with children. I was definitely not on track to get those things I so deeply wanted.
I talked to my boyfriend about the changes I wanted to make to my current lifestyle. Not because my mom threatened me in any way (she didn’t), but because I didn’t want the life I had anymore. I told him that he could make his own choices, and I would still love him. But I didn’t want to party anymore. Even more difficult, I told him I wanted to stop having sex.
I knew it would be a huge change in our relationship, but I was finally admitting to myself that I hadn’t lived up to my own values and wanted to change that. He said he understood, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would no longer share the same social life. That part was challenging, but much harder was trying to keep sex out of our relationship. Often, in the heat of the moment, it would happen anyway and I would be left feeling frustrated. He didn’t share my desire to wait until marriage; so he felt frustrated by losing the intimacy we used to have. He seemed to be just waiting for me to change my mind.
We cared deeply about each other, but we couldn’t resolve our differences. After a few months, he broke up with me. The breakup was complicated, as breakups often are. But I knew that no longer having sex was a big factor. I was sad, of course, but surprisingly not heartbroken. Something deep inside told me this wasn’t the man for me.
He had stayed the same; I had changed. I began searching for a man who would encourage me to be my best self, to be a true partner for the journey. I didn’t want to feel like I was being a drag again or the only one responsible for upholding physical boundaries in the relationship.
Even though I sometimes felt discouraged, I still believed I would meet a guy who not only respected my values but would hold them as his own. It turns out, my gut instinct was right. A few years later I did meet a man like that, and I married him. Our romance is the dream come true I was searching for all along. Not because it’s perfect, but because I know that we truly are committed to each other and accept each other for who we are. And that’s something worth waiting for.