I’ve never thought of myself as a promiscuous person. I didn’t have a lot of sexual relationships as a teen or young adult…or relationships at all, for that matter. I had a boyfriend throughout most of high school. We had sex for the first time when we were 17 years old…in the winter of our junior year. I remember it very clearly. He had been trying to for months and I kept avoiding it or wiggling my way out of the situation using any excuse I could to not engage. But I lost the battle one afternoon. It just happened so fast and it was over before I could process or protest. He had to leave for basketball practice and as he drove away I saw him give a fist pump to himself. I felt humiliated. I was a prize to him, an accomplishment. I will never forget seeing that.
I went home to an empty house. I walked straight to my parents room and laid on my Dad’s side of their bed and sobbed in his pillow. I don’t know why I went there and not my own room. I felt dirty and cheap. I wanted to die for what I had allowed to happen. It wasn’t at all what I wanted for myself and I was frustrated I didn’t somehow stop him. I wanted to be better than this. I wanted to be different than the other girls in my class, or my older sister, who had a reputation for sleeping around with pretty much anyone.
The only other sexual relationship I had was with my now husband when we were in college. It was a similar situation. I vowed never to allow myself to do that again, to not have sex before marriage, but one night I found myself in a hotel room with him once again being caught up in a pressured situation and failing at my commitment to myself. Again, the feelings of humiliation and shame surfaced the next day. I was so disappointed in my weakness, my failure to speak up for myself.
My therapist asked me today how many sexual relationships I had had before marriage. He went on to say that that was pretty typical…for people to have one or two partners before marriage…but…it sounds like for me, after revealing some things I’ve been seeing from my past, that it’s been a lot more. Something has happened to me since he said that. I know it was not malicious in any respect, but it has had a profound impact on me as I have processed this part of my time with him today. As soon as I started driving away and thinking about his words a feeling of shame and disgust came over me. I felt so dirty and cheap. I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like a liar. I felt like a whore.
If the things I have been talking about with him have actually happened, he’s right. There have been many, many more sexual encounters. Encounters with my father, my sisters, shadows of men that raped me one after another on multiple occasions all throughout my childhood. My desires and efforts to be pure as a teenager were fruitless. I was already used so many times it wouldn’t have mattered. And now I feel no different than my husband and what he’s done to me with the dozens of women he has pursued. I feel like a cheater now. I feel like I’ve deceived him. I feel like I’m not any different than any other woman who offers up her services to countless men who walk the sidewalk strips and choose their indulgence through windows along the dark streets of night.
I don’t want this to be my story. The guilt I’ve felt for the one high school boyfriend before marriage was already something that has weighed so heavily on me. I hated that I did that and continued that relationship with him. And I hate that I did it again with my husband, even though we ended up married. It’s something I still get frustrated with myself about all these years later. That desire to have something special for your spouse at marriage that no one else has shared or experienced was obliterated in that and all those other moments. It’s one of the reasons I stay in my marriage now sometimes. I wonder…who would want me after this? I have nothing left. It’s hard for me to imagine someone wanting to share a life with me after all this exposure. Somehow, I feel like I’m no longer trustworthy or worth anyone’s time or affection.
This reminds me of something else my therapist said several weeks ago. We were talking about my current desire to leave my husband and the consequences and challenges I would face if I choose to leave. I don’t remember the full context of what exactly we were discussing at that point but he briefly mentioned remarriage and said “…I don’t know why you would want to…” I immediately internalized that and began questioning “Why not? Does he think I’m too damaged? Am I no longer marriage material? Do I not deserve it? Is it not safe to ever want to know what real love might feel like? Would no one want me?”
After today, I’m wondering even more now. Who the heck am I?? I feel low. Very low. I feel like I somehow brought this all on myself. I’ve made all the bad choices and let all these bad things take place. I allowed my body to be used. I didn’t stop anyone. I just let it happen. I still do with my husband. My life is so tainted now. I don’t even know how to process that. I don’t even know how to think about myself. I feel like a prostitute. The exact type of woman my husband would pursue other than me. He doesn’t know what my mind is revealing to me from my past. I’ve told him nothing. What would he think of me if he knew? Would he like me better? Would I finally be more appealing to him? Or would he look at me in disgust or discontent? He’s a very jealous man…he holds me to very different standard than he does himself. I hold myself to different standard…and yet I allowed myself to not adhere to it.
I learned today another part of who I thought I was is not actually who I am. I have no idea who this person…me…is. If I accept what I see in my head, I have a new reality, I’ve had more sexual partners than I know, I’ve been touched and tortured and used. I’ve been passed around and enjoyed, just like some lady of the night.