I have this friend ….
Her story isn’t uncommon, but it certainly bears repeating. Or rather, the lessons she learned should be shared to the millions of young women caught in her situation. Thankfully, she is allowing me to share her story, but of course, complete anonymity is required.
My friend was madly in love with this guy who we’ll call “Brad.” Brad was everything she thought she wanted, and was sure she needed. Brad was gloriously attractive with his dark hair, green eyes, and muscular physique. A military man, he appealed to her primal sense of protection, security, and danger. Brad attended college briefly, but soon realized that structured education just wasn’t for him. He dropped out, and opted for a life of adventure. An autodidact, he was well read in philosophy, the arts, law, and the sciences. He was strong in his political opinions and was eloquent in his defense of them. Loved in his extensive circle of friends and his adopted family, he was unlike anyone she had ever met.
He was a rebel.
My friend was very much infatuated with Brad, and she made sure he knew it. She sent him daily messages detailing her intense feelings. He did not reciprocate. His reaction (or lack thereof) confused her to no end. Although he was a military man with a brutal affection for guns, war, and heavy metal, he was sensitive. He regularly shared pictures of himself coddling small animals which would include captions with words like “love” or “cool” and what not.
And he would also share adorable mannerisms with her. Smiley faces, hearts, and xoxoxo. So she could not ascertain why their communication was so stunted.
You see, he would rarely speak with her, and when they did converse, it was mostly through a screen. And the conversation, which began innocently enough, would quickly spiral into a sexual exchange. She was suspicious of this; in the back of her mind, whenever she got a notification from him, she knew it was because he wanted her goodgood. But she would always respond. Always.
When the inevitable truth set in that she was being used, she couldn’t cope. She stayed deep in denial, making every excuse that she could possibly imagine that could cogently explain his actions. Some of the excuses were seemingly convincing; he was a military man after all, and maybe emotional connections don’t come easy to him. Or because he was adopted, it was harder for him to develop trust in a potential partner. She fantasized that he absolutely adored her, but he did not know how to tell her, and thus, the overt sexual dialogue was his way of keeping her close.
Slowly but surely, reality set in. The excuses were wearing thin. And given the insights from her friends, her denial eventually waned. She knew what she was into. She knew that their “relationship” was not equal, and that he used her for sexual pleasure. But she continued engaging with him, desperately hoping that he’ll change. Like many women before her, she believed that with enough sex, he’ll eventually see that beauty inside her; that he’ll respect her intellect, foster her ambition, and develop a mutual lifelong emotional bond.
So she kept clinging, with more and more intensity. Her intensity was ferocious, and it drove him farther away than he already was. In time, he ignored her completely.
She realized what she was doing, but control is a hard action to master. With the support of her friends, she eventually moved on, but there’s a part of him, or the idea of him, that she cannot let go. She still checks his Instagram, still rereads old text messages, and still finds herself thinking about him from time to time. He has a girlfriend now, and she wonders what his girlfriend has that she doesn’t. She compares herself to his girlfriend, and to her detriment, she finds her self-esteem crippled.
My friend’s story is tragically frequent. Many people believe that they can alter the actions of others if they try hard enough. And through this erroneous process, they lose sight of themselves. They compromise their values.
What’s even more devastating is the personal damage that is hard to remedy. How we view ourselves is the most important attribute for advancing humanity. People must love themselves if they wish to create an emotional attachment with others. Once personal love is gone, it’s extremely difficult (hell, maybe even impossible) to establish an empathetic relationship with another person.
And we must also remember the spirituality behind sex. Although sex has been thoroughly commoditized, there is still a natural element behind it. Sex isn’t as “easy” as many would like to think. During sex, we’re at our most vulnerable, our emotions are unraveled, and our abstract core is unabashedly revealed. Such a phenomenon shouldn’t be had with just anyone. Not just anyone deserves such a storm of emotion. We must choose carefully who we decide to (literally and figuratively) expose ourselves to.
My friend is slowly getting better. Although she still thinks about Brad and tries to analyze that entire situation, she understands that there is nothing she or he could’ve done differently. They are both individuals whose constitutions did not align. She views the Brad Situation as a learning lesson; an experiment about love in young adulthood. And she wishes the best for Brad and his new relationship, although sometimes, she does feel jilted and envious. She’s resisting the urge to check up on him, but of course, she’s not perfect.
And I’m always here for her, giving her advice she asks. I’m not a religious zealot, but there’s one biblical saying that I plead with her to remember:
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.