In the spring of my freshman year of college, I read How Could You Do That?! as part of an Ethics class. Written by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the book expands on the many calls she receives on her radio show and her swift judgments regarding the bad behavior of these guests. While I'm not necessarily recommending the book, I vividly recall a short section near the end that dramatically ended my 3-month depression and sexual escapism.
A fan had written to Dr. Laura expressing regret over his lifestyle but not knowing how to make a change. Her response to him was simple: just because you have made a bad choice does not mean you need to continue to make that choice. After reading this common sense advice, I went straight to my boyfriend and told him that I could not continue having sex with him. He didn't hesitate, and from that moment on, we never approached that line again.
In fact, we lived together that summer in Chicago. Slept in the same bed. Every night. But no sex.
In some ways, it was as if it had never happened. It was amazingly easy to stop. I felt like our relationship was strong, to have ridden such a ride in less than a year but to have come out on the other end still together, and in love.
Unfortunately, I realized that summer that I no longer wanted to be in the relationship. We had successfully navigated through a difficult past but I could see that we were headed into two very different future directions. He was driven to move up the corporate ladder, to have an impressive job that demanded long hours but was financially rewarding. I wanted to join the Peace Corps. We didn't discuss these glaring contradictions that summer, but when we returned to school in the fall, I started pulling away. I treated him terribly. I did everything I could to get him to break up with me.
Because even though I knew that we didn't have a future, I stayed because of our past. I stayed because I had given him something that I had intended only for my future husband, and since I couldn't get it back, I felt I could redeem myself by marrying him. My second year of college was even more confusing and destructive than the first, as I wouldn't let my boyfriend off the hook by leaving him but gave him no good reason to stay together. He forgave me countless transgressions and killed me with his kindness.
In January of my second year, I went to Ireland. And the game changed again.