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Trigger warning: Mentions of self-harm and sexual harassment.

When people hear this line, one of two things pass through their minds—she was groomed or she is a honeytrap. When I was 14, I dated a guy that was exactly 3 years, 5 months, and 27 days older than me (17 for those that get bullied by math). Everything before, during, and after our relationship was mutual albeit not necessarily healthy. Our relationship ended after 2 years and 9 months to the day. Assume what you will about what I have to say. This is my story and my experience. I hope that as my readers, you are able to learn from my experiences to have patience, self-awareness, empathy, and above all, self-love.

Meet-cute

August 2015, I tried out for my high school’s volleyball team. I quit after the third day of tryouts. That was the same day for the Art Club interest meeting where I met F* (This is the first letter of his last name, not a grade for what kind of person he was. Though, I’d give him a B-/C+). He strolled into the classroom with his friend D* as if he owned the place. It immediately put me off of him, though I was attracted to him physically. I avoided eye contact with him, and instead had a nice chat with D. F came around next to us after he hugged everyone else in the room. He introduced himself to me and actually shook my hand. I mean, what high schooler does that?

Through the next two weeks, F made an effort to conveniently meet me outside my classroom and walk me to my next class. This is not as easy as it sounds, folx. Our high school was composed of over 1200 students, nearly half of that were freshmen that year—the halls were packed. You couldn’t move without bumping into someone, but he did it consistently. He asked me questions about myself and related to some of my answers. It felt nice to have someone interested in me. It was new. Eventually, we exchanged contacts, talked some more, and he asked me to be his girlfriend.

The Good

F made me feel safe from myself.

At the time, it was only six months since I had last tried to unalive myself. Because he made himself available to listen to me, I felt seen and less alone in the world. He would give me reassurances and compliments even as I doubted myself. Over the three years of our relationship, I felt as though I owed my life to F because he has brought me back from the edge. He told me sweet nothings that filled my leaking heart.

I loved F.

Despite the challenges, we tried our best to make it work. Remember when I said he was an older guy? I was a freshman in high school; F was a senior. Off the bat, people didn’t think we would make it past a month. Some people were spreading rumors about me—his friends thought that I was nonchalant; that I would make the relationship harder because I ‘didn’t know myself;’ and people in my grade thought I was just doing it for the sex. Mind you, I didn’t hear about these rumors directly, only from F.  I was also a straight-A student and introvert who didn’t know how to talk to people unless they were asking for answers. 

Though, the rumors weren’t the hard part. My mom was. I kept F a secret for three months…which he didn’t like…but somewhat understood… at the time…*heavy sigh* I’ll explain later. Before when I mentioned I went to an Art Club interest meeting, I truly was interested in it. We learned how to make pottery and do things with our hands (get your mind out of the gutter). F and I would stay after school with his friends, who eventually became my friends too. My mom and I weren’t on good terms at that point in time, so it started getting suspicious with how late I was staying after school. Art club ended at 5 pm. I was telling them to pick me up at 7 pm. I know, I know. I was in deep. When my mom found out (through a series of asking my aunt and her teacher-friend at my school to get the dirt on me), F didn’t waiver. My mother intimidated him, threatened the police and all, but he didn’t show that it bothered him in front of me. He wanted to continue giving me the love he knew how to give.

Note that I said it was the love he knew how to give.

F was the first person to say “I love you.” It was an accident because we had only been dating for two days at that point. He said it because I wrote a little story that was inspired by us where the two main characters were love birds. There was little angst and smut here and there, and F actually enjoyed it. He tried to take what he said back, and I felt so sorry for him that I said it instead. Part of me meant it, but that overthinking part of me doubted it. I was so caught up in my insecurities and craved validation that I latched onto him, despite my own anxieties.

My love languages are touch, quality time, and affirmations. F did all three for me, and I did all three for him. And because it was young, naive, and desperate love, it was easy to eventually mean and feel that love. The stories became a routine thing, and it expanded into exchanging love letters, videos, sweet texts throughout the day. When we saw each other at breakfast, I would sit on his lap or we would sit next to each other and just huddle for warmth in the cold cafeteria. He carried my bookbag for me, sometimes taking it by force because he didn’t want me to do any unnecessary work (plus my bookbag was HEEEAAAVY! I was not complaining. WHEW CHILE!). He texted me goodnight and good morning and stayed on the phone until we went to sleep.

Yes, I admit it. We were a Wattpad couple.

One thing, that I nor my friends appreciated though, were the times I would be in the middle of a conversation, and he would kiss me in front of them. He was heavy on PDA because he wanted the world to know I was his. He was so infatuated with me that it made him oblivious to common courtesy. I appreciated the gesture, but I was still an introvert. I didn’t want people in my business, and I wanted to save all the good stuff for myself. That was one of the things that started to boil underneath the surface.

The Bad

Now I know what you’re thinking: Damn. Only two good ones? Must not have been that good of a relationship. In reality, we had young love together, but we had old trauma apart. 

Co-dependency

We became codependent on each other for validation and support. Sometimes I felt selfish like I was being one-sided, taking advantage of all the good feels. When we got into arguments, I would develop a train of thought where I didn’t think he loved me or thought I was beautiful anymore. When I would express those thoughts, F would get frustrated at having to repeat the same things over and over. 

Who wouldn’t? How could you expect to receive love from someone who didn’t truly love themselves?

After F graduated in May 2016, we ended up having a long-distance relationship and school was still a priority for me as work was a priority for him. I had untreated depression and still sought validation from F. I couldn’t see past my own pain to realize he sought validation and comfort from me too. When I would wake up, I grew accustomed to those good-morning and good-night texts while he wanted them, expected them. We got into arguments about whoever woke up early should say good morning first. At night, when I would want to save my phone battery, and I noticed the call was still connected at 3 in the morning, of course, I’m going to hang up and put my phone on a charger. 

It wasn’t logical to expect from someone what they aren’t capable of giving. Even less so to expect them to give it when they struggle to voluntarily receive comfort unless it’s forced down their throats. 

Cheating

Because we couldn’t meet each other’s needs and because, at this point, F and I would take personal issues out on each other, we started to drift apart. He would go to his exes for moral support because he remained in contact with them. At one point, he admitted to me that he was having feelings and wet dreams about one of them.

One summer night in 2018, late after work, he and a few co-workers got cross-faded. Because it was his first time smoking marijuana and drinking at the same time, he was in no condition to drive. So, one of his co-workers who he always enjoyed talking with and complaining about their managers decided to give him a ride to her house…so he could stay the night. I don’t have to go into detail about what happened next—only that he called me afterward, crying. The first thing I heard him choke out was “I’m sorry,” and I knew. F kept alluding to what he was sorry for, not actually saying it. My voice was calm. Smooth. I commanded him to say it. The tone in my voice told him to own up to his mistakes. He complied. One of the stupidest things that he ever told me was that he didn’t even remember if he put on a condom. I guess the universe thought he was sorry enough to not contract an STI…a second time…

We stayed together for another week. The only reason I proposed that we break up was that I was entering my senior year in high school, and I knew (or at least I thought I knew) that it would be a difficult year with academics, financial aid, and graduation. I was wrong. It was the easiest and most fun I had ever had in school. I don’t mean to humblebrag *cough cough* yes I do *cough*, but I started skipping classes and still maintained a 4.0 GPA while F developed a drinking problem. We maintained contact. I was still there to support him, giving him the motivation to stop drinking all while we both still kept saying our sweet nothings to each other: “I love you and I’m in love with you, goodnight, sweet dreams, and I’ll tty in the morning.”

During this time, I had dissociated from the pain and the fact that my first-ever boyfriend and love cheated on me. I kept inserting myself in his life, hoping he’d want to get back together after I graduated (and because at that time I’d be 18, free to date whoever I wanted). Because I thought we were at the stage where we could have conversations without judgment or harsh retorts, I wanted to talk to him about it. I was wrong, yet again. In 2019, seven months after our break up, he told me, out of spite, that he had a girlfriend because when I wanted to talk to him about how I felt about his cheating, trying to work through my thoughts and the situation with him, he thought I was blaming him all over again and telling him how much I hated him.

Because I still cared, I stuck around and made myself available for him. Lo and behold, when he had a problem with his girlfriend or his girlfriend’s niece and nephews or his car or his job or his girlfriend’s ungrateful sister, he would talk to me for moral support. It was a pattern, I realized. When he was with me, he spoke to his other exes for the same moral support. Since F’s girlfriend have the same three letters in our first names, I would wonder sometimes who he thought about when he moans “Aly-” or “baby.” Too bad all the wet dreams he had about me, even after he asked her to marry him, kept coming and coming and coming.

Just to let you know, they were all from HIS imagination and HIS own curiosity; we never had sex.

Guilt-tripping

April 2016, it was late after school ended, and I was waiting to get picked up. I was feeling upbeat that day and decided to wear a flowing sundress with a triangle cut over my cleavage, and pumps. It showed off the curves of my body as I walked to sit down outside. I wanted to sit by myself, so I had to walk past a group of girls and guys to the farthest concrete seat outside. One of the guys followed me. It was one of the longest ten minutes of my life. 

I didn’t tell him immediately that I had a boyfriend because I didn’t want to upset him. I wanted to give him short and dry responses, hoping he’d be disinterested or one of his friends would ask for his attention. As you remember, my high school had an overall atmosphere of toxic masculinity. The last thing I needed was for him to get angry at me for dismissing him. I am 5’2”, fluffy, and have never been in a fight—I wouldn’t be able to handle myself. None of my nonverbal cues of disinterest worked, and his friends knew exactly what he was trying to do. As time passed, he became more explicit with what he wanted from me, saying that he could “f**k [me] in the tennis court” and that he didn’t “need permission. [He] could take me if [he] wanted to.” 

When I told F about it, he didn’t ask if I was okay. He didn’t apologize that I went through that (not that it was his fault). He didn’t sympathize with me as his significant other at that time. Instead, he wanted to know what was my rationale for not immediately saying “No. F**k off. I have a boyfriend.” 

I wasn’t surprised at the disconnect he had with comprehending that I was afraid and I had to do what I knew how. This is, after all, the same person who once told me that LGBTQIA+ people lack the mental stability to save another person’s life in the military. He never knew I was also attracted to women and now identify as a non-binary woman. It is funny though. He didn’t think we could save other people’s lives, but he wasn’t even around to help me out, yet I digress.

The Ugly

Second-hand trauma

July 31, 2018, the start of the year of our breakup, I told him something. He replied that I either tell my mom or he would tell her. Then, he said I shouldn’t have ever trusted him.

At the time, I didn’t know what second-hand trauma was, and it didn’t occur to me that I could lie to him. But the #MeToo movement did not lighten the load on his already heavy mind.

Every aspect of your life, including your actions, thoughts, emotions, expressions, is in your control. I know that now.

He married his girlfriend…

…but would only talk to me when she wasn’t around. I never brought it up to him, even after we stopped talking. I realized one night that he had me on a carefully laid out schedule when he would call me at 7, every Tuesday and Thursday after he got out of his night classes. Then at 7:15, after 15 minutes of talking about his car, I could hear him unlocking his front door, letting me know he made it home. But he’d start lowering his voice in the receiver, telling me that he’d call me later (always next Tuesday at 7) so that his wife in the background wouldn’t hear. 

I got in a situationship with one of his (now former) friends, J*

I posted some pics of myself that I was feeling, and J (who had recently followed me those few weeks before) commented. I texted him back and we hit it off for a bit. For context, F, J, and I all went to the same high school around the same time and ran in the same friend groups. F and I broke up in July 2018. I hadn’t spoken to J since December 2016. I got in personal contact with J in October 2021.

I admit that once F graduated high school in May 2016, I was feeling a little lonely, and J was nice to me. I realized that I was attracted to J when we went on a camping trip with the robotics team at our high school. I rationalized that it was because I missed F, but my feelings of attraction lingered. So I kept my distance from J, and we lost contact; we were never deep enough friends back then. When I saw J follow and interact with my account five years later, I decided that I could try to put myself out there, and it was a plus to try it with someone I felt I could trust…again.

One Friendsgiving night of 2021, three days after talking with J, F texts me, drunk. He gets reminiscent again, saying how sorry he was for messing up and that I’m such a good person, etc. Well…I’ll let you be the judge of it:

[F is italicized. I respond in bold.]

Just went to a bar for the first time. 

I’m a little buzzed. 

Drunk, I’m kinda drunk. 

But, how are you?

Worried if you have a safe ride home

I’m already home

My friend drove but he drank less

Please if I ever drove drunk in my car, I’d definitely have an accident.

That’s good

Never worry for me, I don’t deserve it

What’s going through your mind for you to say that?

I was irresponsible with you and I wasn’t what you deserved back then, I can’t forgive myself really but for my own reasons 

[…] 

I miss you as a person.

I don’t think I understand what you mean

It’s ok, just know that you’re great but I wasn’t the right guy

I couldn’t be in the same city as you and be your friend and I’m sorry about that.

I think you were the right guy, just not the right time. And that’s okay

Why did you apologize for not being in the same city?

I’m sorry that I can’t be your friend and be that close.

You are my friend

And you’re there for me in ways you don’t realize

But part of me still loves you

That’s why I can’t be anywhere near you cause I’m afraid of f*****g up 

[…]

Where’s your wife?

Shopping.

[End Convo]

The day after that conversation, F admitted to me that he and his wife nearly broke up twice before the wedding. Because everything started to feel like walls were closing in on me, I asked F if we could set some boundaries because he is married and I was talking to someone I was genuinely interested in. This is where things got messy:

Can I ask something?

Anything

Even though we said we want to stay in each other’s lives, we never defined that nor did we set boundaries. You’re married and I’m talking to someone. I don’t want anyone to feel compromised or as if the other is untrustworthy.

Is he a good guy?

I’ve only been talking to him for 3 days, but you went to high school with him so you would have a better judgment of his character than I would

What’s his name?

It’s J

Are you serious

Yes 

[…] It makes me feel like either him or you maybe could’ve had some feelings when you and me were together, do you see how that looks? And then to talk about boundaries? 

He was supposed to be at my wedding and just didn’t show up and now he’s trying to f**k the girl that I thought I was going to marry back then, the only one I really wanted to have kids with

I didn’t think you and him were still that close. In his defense, I pursued him.

We don’t talk all the time but when we do talk it’s on the same level it was in high school, lifting each other up and talking about goals and s**t

I’m not even sure he remembers me. I understand your anger. Please don’t hold this against us for too long.

He does, that’s why he’s the first to like your pics. I’m not stupid and if you decide that “us” is going to be a long-term thing for you and my former friend, don’t worry about me holding it against anybody, it’s just principle at this point

And to think I was so close to going to therapy and taking my wife with me to express how I still felt about you

Maybe I am stupid

Please still go [to therapy]

Don’t hate him either

I really can’t believe you

But this is what I get, paybacks a b***h

[End Convo]

I didn’t text him back after that. A day later, according to J, F tried to rekindle their friendship in a lil manipulation tactic, hoping J would stop talking to me. I have blocked F ever since.

I admit it—I was naive. Please don’t @ me. I was still new to the whole friends-after-break-up thing and the “principle” of things, but, to reiterate, F and I broke up in 2018; I hadn’t seen J since 2016; and F is MARRIED. I felt exposed for just losing contact with someone who know so many sensitive details about me. Most of all, I was afraid of losing more people in my life. I’m so used to being discarded or trusting people, having ripped myself open for them to see me under the mask, only for them to leave me. F still has that status, even if he is disappointed in me or even hates me. He has seen me under the mask.

Unfortunately, I grew, changed, and created a new one—a new one that he doesn’t recognize nor does he have the privilege of seeing what’s underneath. 

To My Readers

The purpose of me writing this article is because I had this on my chest for a while. I considered him a friend, someone I felt safe to confide in until he added conditions to that and blamed me for trusting him. I don’t hate him. I never have, but I can firmly say that I am no longer in love with him. I haven’t been for months now. Though, I hope F didn’t marry his wife to avoid being alone. I hope he seeks treatment because he sees a problem within himself that needs to be addressed. I hope he won’t be stuck always asking himself, “What if?” or “Why me?” I hope he doesn’t feel obligated to prove a point or preserve a relationship.

I have to admit that I am intimidated by going back out into the dating scene because of the emotional and mental effort that goes into getting to know someone and trusting them. I’m also reluctant because my relationship with F was both full of love and full of trauma, that I’d be afraid of comparing my next partner to him—whether it is because they don’t do the things F did that made me feel special or do the opposite of the things F did that made me feel small. At the moment, I would rather channel my energy towards finishing college, writing my first novel, and not having a mental breakdown every time I get more homework after completing fifty-eleven other assignments. In addition to some much-needed therapy, I am also focusing on redefining who I am and becoming who I want to be.

This is my experience, and I am not the same person I was then or the same person that wrote this article. We’re changing and growing every day. And I can see that you, my dear reader, are taking your steps in the right direction—even if you don’t.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

9 Signs of Codependent Relationships

24 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Sexual Harassment in Schools

* The names of those involved have been changed to maintain anonymity.

A'Lyah Releford

Agnes Scott '23

A'Lyah Releford is a second-year English Literature - Creative Writing undergraduate at Agnes Scott College. Currently, she is working on poetry and short story fiction. Her future career plans are to be a published author and award-winning screenwriter.
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