When I hear my peers say they want a boyfriend or girlfriend, I do a “That’s-So-Raven” flashback to the depressing quarantine nights of crying in the shower over my high school boyfriend, and my body feels numb. I hit my friends with my typical line: “You don’t need anyone in college, you’re too busy trying to figure out who you are.” I can never truly tell if I believe that phrase or if I just haven’t healed from the trauma of that relationship, using the phrase as a Band-Aid for my emotional wounds. I walked into college with a false sense of confidence knowing damn well I was not over the breakup, thinking college would solve all of my problems. Spoiler: it did not. The execution of my plan to be a strong ass woman that didn’t care about what her ex was doing did not go as planned. If I wasn’t looking up his Instagram username, I was luring strangers, that didn’t care, into conversations at parties asking them their take on the past year of my life. I knew acting on my thoughts would just prevent me from moving on from him, however, I couldn’t. I realized moving to a new area code away from all of my ex and I’s special places and memories, only helped a fraction of what I thought it would. I was haunted by him everywhere I went.
How can you truly know you have healed from a breakup? Do you ever truly heal from a breakup? I’m not sure. That is why I decided this article would give me the perfect chance to rip off the two-year-old Band-Aid and unpack the good, the bad and the straight up cringey moments of dating in high school to heal myself and to improve my college dating life.
I met my high school boyfriend working at a summer job at Chipotle (you can laugh). I was a rising senior, he was a rising junior, and neither of us connected the dots that we went to the same high school. We had the typical coworker romance of flirting, messing with each other and him offering to do some of my job for me. Being a naturally flirty person, I wouldn’t have acted on our spark unless he did the lighting of the match, and let me tell you, he did. He would text me non-stop, ask to FaceTime and consistently want to hang out almost every day. The honeymoon part of the relationship spoiled me since up until that point, the closest thing to intimacy was a kiss from a guy at a party.
However, the intimate and insecure attachment style we developed was not sustainable, and neither was our relationship. I don’t blame myself for the relationship going the way it did because he was all I knew. The relationship reflected how I felt about myself at the time: insecure. I was warned by my sister that the constant validation and attention was my boyfriend’s way of getting me, and he would release his stronghold when he knew he fully had me. I chose not to take her advice because I felt like I had to go through the relationship on my own and make the mistakes myself, and boy, did I make mistakes. As the relationship progressed, the energy between us shifted, and it felt as though I was holding onto the relationship for dear life. It got to a point where I gave him an ultimatum to change his ways, he chose to opt out, and I was crushed. I put nine months of my life into that boy, only to have him give up.
After our massive quarantine breakup, Call Her Daddy was on constant replay and I couldn’t stop talking about why he did what he did. I would come up with a new theory every day just to try and reason with his impulsivity. I associated relationships and dating with the insecure attachment style I had developed with my ex, and as a result, I felt like a romantic relationship equated to me losing my self-identity. When I began freshman year at UNC last fall, I carried that same mantra and completely rode off boys, especially in the context of dating. I would flirt but not give them any chance to get close to me, protecting myself from another breakup. Flashing forward to the present day, I still find myself training my brain to assume the worst in situation-ships and hookups– looking to Alex Cooper way more than I would like to. Although I am in the process of changing this mentality, going to the root of why I don’t trust men is the first step of healing.
I could go on and on about the things I learned not to do from my high school relationship– however, that would be an injustice to myself and my past relationship. There was a lot of good as well. When you’re in a long-term relationship, you get the chance to learn how you act in a relationship, such as your love language, your sexual desires and even who you are. I learned that I prioritize quality time over any other form of love. Learning this information about myself has gotten me one step closer to fully understanding who I am and what I’m looking for in a partner. In addition to learning more about how I love, dating in high school has allowed me to be happy as a single independent person. After being in a relationship and loving someone, I know that if I did it once, I can do it again, and there’s no rush to hop back on the relationship bandwagon. I am currently fully invested in the college experience of going out with my girlfriends and prioritizing myself first, not a man. I have learned a lot from my high school boyfriend, and even though there are parts of the relationship I would do anything to take back, I am still eternally grateful to have loved than to have never loved at all, paraphrasing Lord Tennyson. Of course, one day I will want to date again, but for now, I am loving the single life. I think I’ll enjoy it for a while longer.
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