I had the best “first love” guy ever! I don’t think there’s another man like him on this earth. He could give lessons to those of you who need to learn how to make your “best girl” feel special and adored.

He wrote me handwritten letters (every day when we were at different colleges); he sent me flowers for no reason and he gave me thoughtful gifts. He was constantly surprising me. I was a country girl who had moved to the city. He taught me proper etiquette at restaurants (my family had only eaten at home) and how to dress in more flattering, modern ways.

After one semester, I transferred to his college. Our relationship got even better and we were certain that we would be together for life. The chemistry between us was electric, but I had been raised in a strict, religious home. Our biggest obstacle became waiting to have sex until we were married. He honored my wishes and we waited. But it was extremely difficult.

During spring break of my junior year, I went to California to visit family. During that week, I was raped by someone I didn’t know, but who was a family acquaintance.

Rape is an act of control and cruelty – there was nothing enjoyable about one second of that experience. I was not equipped emotionally to handle that event (who is?), but was too ashamed to tell anyone for many years.

When I got back to college, I broke up with the love of my life, having decided that he deserved better. We had been waiting for that special, intimate encounter for years, but I could only see myself as damaged goods. In my view, my life had been ruined forever. What was even worse was that I also broke his heart without giving him any explanation.

I carried around a heavy burden of double guilt. Guess I thought if I ignored it long enough, it would go away. It didn’t.

By the time I sought the help of a therapist, lots more damage had been done. I had shut down emotionally.
Although I might have faked a smile on the outside, I was crying internally. The wounds have now healed some, but the scars are permanent.

So I got married, believing that might be the solution. But I chose the wrong man, because I wasn’t willing to open up my heart again. Ten years later (surely I had learned enough lessons?), I got married again. But no, I chose wrong a second time, for the same reason.

Recently, I contacted my “first love” (who is now married with children) and told him why I had broken up with him 40 years ago. Talking with him, I realized that if I had told him what had happened, he would not have abandoned me and would have insisted that I get help as soon as possible.

I think I cried for a month after meeting with him, mourning the loss of what could have been, but it opened my heart. I had no idea what a healing, freeing impact this conversation would trigger for me. Now I feel everything…

I had forgotten what hope feels like…

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