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Author Topic: Need to Talk
Andromache
Neophyte
Member # 31005

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Hi. This is something that's been bothering me low-level consistently for months, and which has occasionally caused me great emotional distress. I don't have any friends of the sort I could properly discuss this with, and counseling's not an option - I couldn't afford a private practitioner, and the on-campus counselors I've rejected for reasons I'll elaborate on later.

I'm 16 and a college freshman. I left home two years early because I was academically prepared to do so but also largely because my homelife had detracted from my ability to concentrate on my schoolwork, but was also making me generally miserable. My parents understood and approved of my choice. Unfortunately, I arrived at the school I now attend deeply inexperienced socially; not only was I younger, I'd been reticent all through high school, and had never had close teenage friends - I'd been emotionally quite old, so I identified with older students, but was never fully included in any groups. So, socially, I was out of my depth. I had also never had any relationships romantically - I'd struggled both with my emerging bisexuality all through high school and the fact that boys my age didn't find me attractive - I was always working up the nerve to ask them out, and they were always saying no. I was never brave enough in high school to approach girls.

When I arrived at college, then, I was utterly unprepared for the male attention that suddenly swung my way. It being a small, mostly self-selected school, these people were intellectually much more my peers. So, the past social obstacles that had blocked relationships in the past were removed. However, I'd no experience with any casual dating before, and didn't know what to make of all the attention. Where my instincts swung one way, my "head" told me to ignore them, because I'd ingrained in myself the idea that I was fundamentally unattractive, that men simply wouldn't like me "that way".

At the icebreaker party of the year, an older student I'd met while visiting the college and whom I'd reintroduced myself to upon matriculating made advances toward me which I interpreted very badly. The entire atmosphere of the party was predatory - called "Seducers and Corrupters", freshmen wear white and upperclassmen wear black; everyone "knows" that the party's true intent is to attempt to get the freshmen girls drunk and then laid. The college community accepts this, the administration knows about it, but it's tradition and so has gone unchallenged. Am I bitter? **** yes.

Anyway. Ben. My friends, who I'd gone to the party with the agreement that they'd look out for me, teased me about how we were flirting. I hadn't frickin' NOTICED that it was flirting until it was pointed out to me. Not that the buddy-system did me much good; I'd forgotten my key in my room, my roommate had hooked up with a guy very early in the evening and was "unavailable", and I had no way to get back into my building. Because I was so new to the school, I believed it when someone told me I'd need student ID to have security let me in, which turns out to be false. So I was feeling screwed about where I was going to spend the night.

To make a long-ish story short, I left the party with Ben some way into the evening, and with him and some of his friends went up to his room. They had something to drink; I did not - I don't drink for various personal reasons.

His friends leave. He plays me a few songs that we'd been chatting about earlier in the evening. He kisses me. This is the first time any man had ever touched me. I'm a little floored, particularly because I hadn't been even vaguely interested in him sexually up to that time.

Skipping the details, on the one hand because of TMI and on the other because it's ******* painful to type, the evening went *very* fast. Because I didn't have my keys, I felt trapped like I had nowhere to go, and I also felt scared to assert my boundaries and say "no" - particularly because, once it progressed beyond a certain point, I got caught up in all these feelings that, because I'd have to spend the night there, if I refused him sex he'd get angry at me. All through the evening I never once said yes to anything, but I didn't say no, either. And he never asked for permission.

So, next few days, I'm bloody traumatized. I was sixteen, I'd just had sex with someone I barely knew after having no sexual experience before, and he'd treated me a little oddly the day after (par for the course from him, but I didn't know how to interpret him then. I didn't KNOW him.) So eventually I go to see one of the counselors at the school because I'm not sleeping. And this woman - this WOMAN - tells me that I have "control issues" stemming from the homelife that I'd fled when I came to college early (with the full approval and understanding of my parents), because of course, being upset about having sex you didn't want when you'd only been at college a week and didn't know the guy is about wanting to control everything!

This is getting long. I'm sorry. The next few weeks were weird - I got into this mindset where I decided that I was determined to make things WORK between me and Ben, so that I wouldn't go through life forever regretting my first time. It was both a poor and a wise decision - it kept me sane then, but it haunts me now. It took me several months of dating him for me to tell him how much this was ******* me up; I didn't sleep for days on end.

And when I told him - and when I let loose more of my emotions to him subsequently - he listened. He's always listened, and apologized. He's aware of how screwy the power relations were between him and me the first few months we were dating, when I hardly knew him but was sleeping with him once or twice a week, and was too scared to say boo about anything I didn't want. But I got to know him, and got un-scared of him, and I learned to trust him; learned that he's a basically decent person who really does care about me and about others - but that he's even more socially clueless than me. That he's mildly Asperger's, doesn't know how to read subtle social clues (hence him totally failing to notice me freezing up). And so I told him that if he ever sleeps with another woman for the first time again (which, of course, he will) he'd better DAMN WELL ask for explicit consent each and every thing he does with her. And he understands.

And I can tell that he worries about the beginnings of our relationship too, and I care about him so damn much. He can make me feel like the top of the world, and he's kind and considerate and gentle and playfal blahblahblah. But he HURT me. He hurt me badly, and he brought to the forefront of my mind all my neuroses about sex and gender and power between men and women.

And I have no-one to talk to about this. My best female friend here is his EX-GIRLFRIEND, who dated him casually and is on extremely good terms with him still - they're close, tight. The counselors are horrible. My parents - hah.

I just needed to vent. I want this to stop hurting. The first time I talked to him about how upset I'd been, I had blissful catharsis; I had total peace for weeks. But it keeps bugging me. I'll be in his room, and I'll look at his bed, and I'll have flashbacks. Jesus Christ.

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Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Posts: 28 | From: Rhode Island | Registered: Oct 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
CondomMan
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Member # 32823

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I'm not a counselor so I don't feel qualified in the slightest to talk about the inner workings of the psychology behind all of this; but I think anyone who reads this has to applaud and admire the fact that you're talking about it and being honest with yourself. That's really important and I think it's really healthy.

Like I said though I'm not a counselor or an expert in this field so I would recommend you try again to talk to one. I have had experience with college counselors, and my experience has been hit-and-miss. Some of them are great, some of them are clueless. Don't go back to the one who you felt uncomfortable with, try talking to someone else there who listens to you and you feel will be able to help you. That's the only advice I could give you, other than having a lot of admiration and respect for your ability to vocalize all of this to yourself and others.

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Condoms Rock!

Posts: 52 | From: Los Angeles | Registered: Feb 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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You know, Andromache, at the college I went to, we had an early entrants program, and I very distinctly remember a lot of our early entrants having a really hard time with the social elements, to the degree that I had one of them over at my apartment almost weekly due to my maternal instincts.

And more than one of them ran into some REALLY rough sexual/violence/manipulation stuff. (And on one particularly awful occasion, I tried very hard to get our administration and student body to address how bad it was getting, and met with so much resistance and ugliness that it was part of the reason why I left that school.) I can't imagine dealing with it at a more mainstream insitution: the whole tone of that party you're talking about makes me ill: you've every right to feel bitter about it.

It also sounds like that counselor was a nightmare. You went in to talk about what sounded mighty close to a date rape, and she made it about you. I get wanting to step away from counseling for a little while because of that.

I'm concerned, though, that however much you like this guy, and however much he's on the level in many respects, that just being around him a lot is creating some PTSD-triggers for you, and hold you back from really processing this stuff right now. How do you feel about that? Might you consider not seeing him at all for at least a while?

I'd also suggest perhaps looking outside the school for counseling help or support. Some of what you're dealing with here is honest-to-Pete sexual trauma, so you might even find that going specifically to a counselor about sexual trauma is a good start.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Ecofem
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I'm sorry to hear about this, Andromache. My sister also graduated early, was very academically smart but emotionally "young", etc. but she attended a women's college. I don't make to make it sound like it was some sort of shelter, but it did have less of this dynamic. Yikes! I also ran into the same type of counseling situation as you did, and felt pretty discouraged from counseling; this woman reacted totally the wrong way, but someone better could really help. And I can't agree more with taking a break from this guy for awhile at least. I knew a guy who was also a bit socially awkward who did some inappropriate stuff to his female friends on campus; he may not have meant to be bad, but he really traumatized some people and was dangerous in this regard. (Actually I can think of examples from other friends' experiences, too.)

How are things at your college otherwise? (I think I know which one you're going to, as for being small and having a special program.) Are you close to any professors or advisors? Like Heather, I also was someone who tried to keep an eye out for students having trouble, especially as an older student and as a RA. Can you think of a friendly older student who you could go to to talk about this stuff or who could give you guidance/watch out for you?

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Andromache
Neophyte
Member # 31005

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To make a long story short, I was a bit of an emotional wreck on Sat. when I posted this, and entirely unintentionally I had a long weepy conversation with Ben about this; I hadn't wanted to discuss this with him simply because there are some things you can't talk about with lovers, you know?

At the same time, the conversation really opened my eyes to some negative patterns in my thought process that staying in my own head hadn't. I think I'm going to grin, bear it, and try my luck with the school counselors again.

As for taking time off from Ben - my campus is tiny; there are only 500 students, and the quad is very compact. As both he and I live on campus, and as we have friends in common, and as we're in a number of extracurricular activities together, I simply could not cut off contact from him wholesale without completely changing my lifestyle and sacrificing a number of social attachments, which I doubt would really help my emotional state.

However, spring break is coming up in only a few days for me - I go home this Fri - and I think I'm going to have a serious "state of the relationship" think by myself. I'm also considering, at the very least, cutting off physical intimacy for a while and creating more of my own space. But I have put a <i>hell</i> of a lot of myself into this relationship, and it would tear me to pieces, after all this work and sacrifice, to have it be for naught.

I guess I hadn't realized before, but a lot of the way I interact with people I care about is to prevent people from getting angry, and when they get angry, to placate them. I grew up with a chronically depressed, occasionally suicidal, sometimes alcoholic mother, and my father's got neuroses of his own; from a very young age I was always the peacemaker in the family, the one who consoled people when they were crying. I've persuaded my mother not to move out of the house while she was stinking drunk at 11:00 at night, and I've held my father while he wept. And as such, I've developed all these reactions to handling people I care about, which esentially involves apologizing for my own emotional needs and always thinking about how asserting my own desires will upset other people. Ben helped point a lot of this out to me when I absolutely fell to pieces on him, but I don't feel comfortable discussing this with him, even though I already SAID most of it to his face, and so I think I'm going to have to give counseling another shot. >.<

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Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Posts: 28 | From: Rhode Island | Registered: Oct 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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I hadn't realized you were still physical.

Long story short: I can't suggest strongly enough that you by all means step away from that. By NO means can you heal from something like this while still sleeping with the person who it happened with.

I know you've invested a lot, but it's no wonder you're feeling like this and being triggered so much. Think about it this way: would you advise a shell-shocked war veteran to go back into war?

Having to step away from something which is, or likely is, unhealthy doesn't make what you pout in it for naught. if you're thinking it does, it might be worth asking yourself what you think the effort is for; what your idea of a desired result for this effort is. Because if it's at least partly (as it should be) to benefit you, then sleeping with someone who -- no matter the scenario -- took your consent for granted at the very least, that's not going to be beneficial, and making a relationship of some quality with that person doesn't heal your wounds. Might heal HIS or make HIM feel better, but I can't see what it does for yours.

I agree: he's not the right person to discuss this with, and it sounds like you're thinking in a smart, healthy direction. I can also see how your history is bound to be playing into this: just being self-aware of that is going to help you a whole lot.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Ecofem
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I'm glad to hear you're going to try counseling again. [Smile]

I also went to a college with a student body that size: You can take a break from interacting with people even if you're running into them a lot... it's different than in a huge place, but you can still do it (believe me, there are other people on campus are doing the same.) You might say friendly-but-curt hello in the dining hall or on the way to class, but you don't stop and talk and you sit apart. If people ask what's going on, you just say you're taking some time for yourself (or whatever)- most people will accept this and just spend time with you individually. You can take a break from attending these extracurriculars for awhile or be present shortly. You can go off-campus to locations like coffeeshops or parks where few fellow students are for a break, too. With your Spring Break coming up, I think taking time apart would be "easy" to fit in. (Most people's minds are already on vacation anyway.)

quote:
Originally posted by Andromache:
But I have put a <i>hell</i> of a lot of myself into this relationship, and it would tear me to pieces, after all this work and sacrifice, to have it be for naught.

Relationships and interactions with people are never just for "naught"; good or bad, we learn from them, and the experience shapes who we are. However, every second you stay in something unhealthy is something people tend to regret when they get out and look back. Continuing something for the sake of not giving up, well, it just doesn't make sense. The difference between a good and bad relationship can hard to recogonize if you haven't had "much" experience. But a healthy relationship is one that you don't have to work extremely hard at or really sacrifice things for; not to say that having done this was wrong, but continuing doesn't make that "wrong" right either.

Good luck getting through this week. I hope you have a fun (or relaxing or studious or whatever) next week planned.

Posts: 3318 | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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