Dear Janice, I grew up in a conservative religious family. When I was 21 years old I fell in love with a guy whom I adored. He pressured me to have sex. But, I explained I was religious and a virgin and I wanted to wait until I got married. But, he didn’t want to marry me. He wanted sex so he left me and found another girl. I was devastated. I never found a guy I loved as much, and at 30 I gave up my virginity to a guy I met who seemed okay. I wasn’t in love with him but at the time it didn’t seem like I was going to find someone I loved. The guy I gave up my virginity to ended up being abusive. I left him. But, all my boyfriends afterwards were wrong for me. Most were abusive.
Now I’m almost 40 and can’t find love. I keep thinking all my problems with relationships and men started when I refused to give up my virginity back when I was 21.
What do you think? Any advice?
Janice responds: The truth is this: until we find that forever love, we will never love anyone as much as we love our first love. And even if you’d given up your virginity to your first love at 21, chances are he would have left you anyway. In fact, losing him might have been even more traumatic if you’d slept with him.
Still, I understand why you regret not sleeping with that first guy. He’ll always seem like the one who got away, won’t he? But remember, if you had slept with him, I’d probably be saying the same thing only it would look something like this: I understand why you regret sleeping with that first guy. See the difference? The absence of the word “not”.
You see, your horrible taste in men has nothing to do with you not sleeping with Jerk #1. (He left you because you were 17 and didn’t want to give up your virginity. That makes him a jerk by even the most generous of standards.) Jerk #1 was just as wrong for you as the subsequent jerks you’ve encountered, including the jerk you gave it up to at age 30. And while Jerk #1’s abuse wasn’t physical, it most certainly was emotional.
Maybe you’re choosing the wrong men because you keep trying to replace Jerk #1. That most of your boyfriends after him were abusive is very telling. The first thing you need to do is disabuse yourself (disabuse – see what I did there?) of the notion that Jerk #1 was a great guy. He simply wasn’t. So stop trying to replace him!
The next thing you need to do is some serious self-examination. You may even need professional help for this one. Yeah, I’m talking therapy. For some reason, your sense of self-worth is so low, you think you deserve this horrible treatment. In fact, you seem to be drawn to guys who will treat you badly. And guess what? Because that’s what you think you deserve, that’s what you’re getting!
What happened in your past to cause you to think so little of yourself? I ask this out of love. Because you are a queen, deserving of nothing less than royal treatment! That you would ever accept anything less tells me that you simply don’t realize your own value. Someone in your past has made you believe that you are unworthy. I want you to figure out who did this to you, and why.
Once you’ve discovered the source of your low self-esteem, you need to work really hard at undoing it. I mean, really, really hard. Again, you might need professional help for this. Otherwise, you will keep falling for the same guy (an updated version of Jerk #1) for the rest of your life. And you deserve so much better.
You, my love, deserve to be treated like the queen you are. You can start treating yourself like one by letting go of your regrets about Jerk #1. Personally, I think you dodged a real bullet there. You were 21 and a virgin. He left you because he’s a jerk who couldn’t keep it in his pants, not because you did anything wrong.
So stop beating yourself up over the past. Focus on your future by doing the work it will take to make sure you only enter into relationships with men who are worthy of you. If it means getting a good therapist, then please do so. You will only experience the real and true love you crave when you really and truly love yourself.
That last line bears repeating for all my sisters out there. You will only experience the real and true love you crave when you really and truly love yourself.
In the meantime, next time you find yourself drawn to a man who is even remotely like Jerk #1, run for the hills!