Here is a confession: I am 22 years old and I have never been in a “real” relationship.
I suppose I should outline what I mean by “real”. It’s hard to define, but for starters it would be a relationship where when you go out and someone asks, “Who’s this?” you respond, not with an awkward pause, but with, “This is my boyfriend/girlfriend”. I’ve never had that.
I believe this to be for several possible/probable reasons including the following:
1) I have crippling trust issues mingled in with some hard core daddy issues. (Yeah, I’m that girl.)
2) I have an over inflated sense of self worth, or as my best friend likes to tell me, I’m too picky, which I don’t necessarily consider a bad thing.
3) The majority of adult figures in my life, like 97% of them, have all gotten a divorce, which leads me to fear of commitment which also ties into my fear of failure.
All of these mean one thing to me: I have an enormous fear of intimacy. Or you could call it a fear of being hurt, vulnerable, open; it all boils down to the same thing, I don’t let people get close. Not emotionally, not even physically. I’m not a cuddler, I’m not that girl that hugs everyone. Just don’t touch me. Don’t get me wrong, sex, “hooking up” is good, great even. But for me to enjoy sex it has to be completely free of any emotional attachment. I can’t handle physical closeness with someone I have somewhat romantic feelings for. It’s too much.
Its not that I am above feeling attracted to someone, but the second it gets past that point of initial attraction, I back peddle and sabotage. For example, when I started to really like this guy, what did I do? I went as hooked up with a random guy at a party that we were both at completely ruining the chance of it moving any further.
When did this all start? I go back in time and have to pin point it to around middle school. I met a boy, who for some reason reminded me of Ricky Martin, who I was obsessed with at the time, and he was older and cute and I was in love. In my thirteen year old heart and mind I genuinely thought I was in love.
So then, to fuel years and years of teenage angst, my older cousin thought it would be funny to humiliate me by telling him, in my presence, that I had a crush on him. Never one to be a coward or take the easy way out, instead of denying it, I confirmed it. I stood up, unashamed and said, “Yeah, I do like you”. He responded in the vein of the typical 14 year old boy, and he laughed, right in my face. He made fun of me.
Outwardly, I shrugged it off. I laughed and joked back. Inwardly, I was crushed. I learned that letting people in, exposing yourself rings pain and cruel mockery.
All of this brings me back to my original point, my lack of “real” relationship experience. While I may not have been in a “real” relationship before, I have been in a “fake” one, and it taught me a lot about myself. How was it fake? It had all the responsibility and restrictions of a relationship without actually being one, without the title. He had a kid and soon the three of us were going on outings together, I was making breakfast. We were two (sort of) adults playing house. We were always together, so much so that friends started lumping us together as a single item.
And he was fine with it, he liked it. He was open and physically affectionate and if I would have given the slightest inclination, we would have gone from “fake” to “real” in a heartbeat.
But I couldn’t do it. I began to feel smothered, like I couldn’t breathe when he was around. He had crossed that line and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to mesh or be an item. I just didn’t want to be touched, in any way. I had grown too used to it being just me. I liked having things separate and compartmentalized. It was safe. It was tidy. Having another person suddenly in that space was disturbing, chaotic. I had to get away. I withdrew. I sabotaged.
Am I sad and depressed with my constant state of singleness? No, I don’t think so. I don’t know how to be anything else. Do I admire those willing to offer up their jugular in the name of love? Always. The thirteen year old girl in me still remembers how much courage that takes.