My mother raised me to treat every woman as if they were my sister. No matter the dynamic of the relationship, from stranger to friend to lover, my mother always enforced the principle that all women deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion — to treat them with love as if they were my sister.
When I started to date, it was, again, my mother, who had the infamous ‘talk’ with me. To say that the conversation was awkward is a gross understatement; it’s not a conversation that any pubescent boy wants to be having with his mom. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Son, I know your dad will screw this up so shut up and listen.” Straight to the point. Unwavering. That’s my mother. Awkwardness aside, it was a pivotal moment in my life; a defining moment that laid the foundation of the sexual values that I would hold.
She was, in my opinion, unnecessarily thorough; she taught me about sexual organs, sexual attraction, dating, and protection. She showed me how a condom worked on a banana, and told me that for my first time, I should probably have a towel ready for bleeding — yikes. Finally, we talked about the value of sex. She told me, “You will never pay for sex. Adding a dollar figure to sex is a sin against intimacy. I have no problems with women who use their sexuality to make a living, but I have every problem with men who pay for sex.” Those were words that I never forgot because she spoke them with such intensity and focus that I was legitimately scared at that moment, scared of what may happen in the future if I were to violate her terms — it seems that most moms have that ability. So, this is where we begin my story.
I had been dating this particular girl for 8 months. At this point, I was definitely in love with her. Everything about her was perfection to me; the way she smiled, the way she would giggle in the middle of telling a story, the way her hair smelled after a shower, the way she would only eat half of her plate knowing that I would probably still be hungry after my own meal. This girl was everything to me. She had an intuitive sense about my emotional state; she knew exactly how I felt despite me never explicitly stating anything.
There were times when I felt like my entire being was directed towards creating a life together. I would find myself sitting in the library, trying to find the motivation to study. My eyes slowly closing, the pen slipping out of my hand, my head slowly nodding back and forth. My mind would begin to wander, and I would begin dreaming of all the incredible adventures that I wanted to have with her, all the beautiful places in the world that I wanted to experience with her. Fulfilling that dream required money which required a good job which required a degree which required a high GPA. That was all the motivation that I needed. She was my goal.
Maybe it was unhealthy that I felt this strongly about her, but I was a 20-something in love for the first time. What did I know about healthy or unhealthy love? I was just happy to be able to care about someone and have that someone return the feelings. She knew everything about me, including the talk that I had with my mom. She vehemently agreed that sex was sacred and should be an expression of real intimacy. I loved that we shared those same values. Then things changed.
I remember sitting at home, studying for a test about Entity-Relationship Diagrams. I was feeling a tad upset that I had decided to take this particular class because the professor was rather terrible. While I was wallowing in my own self-pity, I received a DM on Instagram from a friend whom I hadn’t talked to in ages. He was an old friend from high school that I had grown apart from due to his excessive partying lifestyle. After a while of trying to stay in touch and hanging out every so often, we started to drift away from each other. So, for him to randomly send a DM seemed strange. I actually ignored his message at first; I thought that it was a promotional message inviting me to a club event or a party.
After my study session, as I was laying on my couch scrolling through Netflix, I remembered the DM. I checked it, reading it while half of my attention was focused on trying to decide if I should commit to a new series or not. However, as I moved through the message, my attention quickly shifted. In a nutshell, my friend was with some people at a club that my girlfriend worked at. One of those people recognized my girlfriend from Seeking Arrangement, a site that connects Sugar Daddies to Sugar Babies — he had actually talked to her. The group of them started to laugh about it, my friend included, talking about sugar babies and sharing misogynistic quips pertaining to their own stories about other girls. It wasn’t until my friend realized that it was my girlfriend that he began to inquire about the situation. He was concerned that this had happened recently, and that I was being played for a fool. It had, in fact, happened just prior to the beginning of our relationship; I would estimate a few weeks before we made things official.
I was shocked, speechless, hurt, sad… you name it. I felt every disgusting and depressing emotion at once. Most of all, I felt betrayed. She knew how I felt about exchanging money for sexual favors, yet she didn’t disclose her personal involvement. I didn’t know how to react, whether to bring it up with her or not. So, I decided to mull over the information and develop a respectable and gentlemanly plan to bring it up with her. Unfortunately, I got a little hot-headed during a tiny argument and all of the hurt just spewed out of me… Definitely not my finest moment.
After a lot of yelling and tears, we managed to move past it. Or so I thought. I don’t think that I was ever able to wrap my head around the thought of the woman that I loved being treated as a product, rather than the beautiful person I knew her to be. I couldn’t understand what circumstances would lead her to do that. Was it a lack of money? A lack of self-esteem? A sense of vengeance towards the men that had objectified her, looking past her soul and only seeing the shell of objective beauty? I desperately wanted to ask her, but my fear of her response prevented me from doing so. My cowardice would ultimately lead me to harbor resentful feelings towards her.
These resentful feelings weren’t constant; they were fleeting. They would manifest themselves at times when I felt insecure about myself or our relationship. I remember one time in particular when her club hosted an event for Dan Bilzerian. She was required to post about the event on her social media outlets which really annoyed me since he is the epitome of everything that I dislike about myself and other men; arrogance, misogyny, materialism, etc. For some reason, maybe because he has publicly talked about paying for ‘arrangements,’ I got really upset. I told my girlfriend about my feelings, but I don’t think I went into enough detail — that the root cause of my anger was her history of receiving money from people like him. She thought that I was being petty; maybe I was.
The ephemeral feeling of resentment never disappeared completely. I found some techniques to mitigate the feelings; however, due to the lack of a definitive resolution, I was never able to work through these feelings completely, either with my girlfriend or by myself. I wasn’t able to reconcile my love with the knowledge that her intimacy had once had a price tag on it.
At the beginning of 2019, after two and a half years with my girlfriend, a good friend of mine suggested that we teach abroad in Korea for a year. Without any hesitation, I knew that this would be the right choice for me. I had just graduated, a lot of my contract work was finished, and I was looking for my next adventure. It was a bit harsh, but in hindsight, I don’t remember taking my relationship status into consideration. It was not a factor in my decision-making process. I don’t know why; it felt like an easy out, a reason for me to leave a relationship that I desperately wanted to be a part of, but one that I knew was fundamentally flawed.
Obviously, this does not serve as a template for the ideal way to end a relationship. It was cowardly and inconsiderate and left the door ajar for her to theorize a future where we ended up together again. It wasn’t until I sat quietly in my room and meditated on our relationship that I realized the true undercurrents that had led me away from her.
I just couldn’t digest her past. It wasn’t like some guys’ apprehension when they find out about their girlfriend’s sexual history and feel repulsed by the loss of some idealistic sense of innocence. For me, it was the fundamental contradiction between my values and the relationship that I was in. I felt the pull of the deep love that I felt for her, but the push of personal values that were instilled in me by my mother so many years ago.
What I Learned
My biggest takeaway from this relationship is that building relationships and planning for their success is similar to any other area of life; the cliché holds that failing to plan is planning to fail. In the sense of relationships, this could mean that before you start dating people seriously, you define the things that you’re uncomfortable with.
Be honest with yourself; and truly honest.
Explore the deepest parts of your psyche to discover those things that you truly need satisfied. Don’t allow yourself to feel discriminatory; your sexual discrimination is yours to own and should remain uninfluenced by the opinions of others. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t questions your biases or prejudices; rather you should search deep within yourself to find those non-negotiables.
Be careful though — don’t get bogged down by preferences. Whether it be a deep-seated conflict of values or a bias for which you do not know the origin, analyze yourself before you get into a serious relationship. Once you fall in love with someone and invest the time to get to know them, it’s very hard to fall out of love with them. Therefore, use this as a preliminary filter so that you don’t get caught in the middle of your feelings and your values. If anything transgresses your filter, don’t try to hyper-rationalize your relationship; stay committed to yourself. You can always find someone else.
It comes down to this. It’s up to you, and you alone, to set the rules for your relationships. Take responsibility for your happiness and set up the best possible environment to foster a loving relationship.