Sharing her experience of disappointment and hope, an anonymous contributor describes the transition from high school to university and how it’s affected her perspective on dating. Despite the emptiness of modern day hook up culture and the professional world, our author still leaves us with the impression that there is after all, hope for love.
When I was 14, my first boyfriend wrote me a love letter:
"... I love you. I love you with all of my heart and soul. I truly love you and you mean everything to me. Distance will not stop us but strengthen our love even more. And our love lasted, it is lasting and it will last. We refuse to give up because that's who we are. We are strong, and our love is true and pure..."
We broke up shortly afterward, not because we stopped loving each other, but because we could not sustain a long-distance relationship where we live halfway across the world from each other. Over the years, I have gone on many dates, been in relationships with other people or have casual one night stands. When I meet a new potential partner, I usually go right for the sex because, during sex, everything gets intense and intimate. I'm hungry for emotional intimacy but am way too impatient to develop it organically over a long period of time so the instant gratification of sex can resemble that deep emotional connection I crave for a short period amount of time. Unfortunately, almost without fail, I feel empty afterward.
For some people, sex is an extremely sacred act that they will save for the person they love. For others, it is a way to cure themselves of loneliness and sadness, but it doesn't always go as planned. I have migrated from men to men looking for comfort and affection, always telling myself that someday one will kneel down in front of me vowing to love me and be loyal to me forever like my first boyfriend promised. Reality isn't rose-tinted, however. Every time I seem to trust in a man, open myself up and strip away all superficiality, they become scared and run away. It's a vicious cycle.
To be honest, I blame my first boyfriend for setting the standard so high. My relationship with him back then was platonic and purely emotional, but as I grow up, more factors, such as sexual gratification and the need for career and financial stability are introduced into the equation. Learning to be an adult also means that people have to navigate through an increasingly competitive world for money and for survival, often being afraid of getting into committed relationships to focus on their careers. Being a hopeless romantic, I have gotten myself into a few toxic relationships where it was only at the end when I realized that the men viewed me purely as physical playthings. I would keep probing for meaningful conversations and emotional vulnerability, but people are usually afraid to be vulnerable when they are still at a stage of their life where they do not even know what they truly want to do with their lives yet.
Despite all this, I still look back at the love letter and messages my first boyfriend sent, comparing everyone to him. The idea of him has continued to be an obsession, a drug that I can't seem to wean myself off. I can't help comparing new romantic interests to him because his promise of "true and pure" love has always stood out as a beacon of hope, especially in the age of dating apps like Tinder where the physical indulgence often triumphs over a meaningful connection.
Every time I see somebody who looks remotely like him, I seem to fall in love again. Many years have passed, but there are still nights when I lie awake yearning for him, for anything that remotely resembles what he and I used to have. But I have to be strict and completely honest with myself: I'm in love with the memory of him, but not him. Not anymore. I've only been foolishly feeding off the beautiful but empty promises that he made. In reality, any relationship, even the most passionate and compatible one, will have to end if we as partners cannot navigate time and space to listen to each other and be by each other's side when the other person needs it the most.
I have learned that forever living in an illusion of love is not the healthiest way to go forward. And my journey onwards will start with me addressing my emotional aches fully and truthfully to stop myself from falling back onto toxic dating patterns I've been making. And hopefully, someday I will eventually find someone who is willing to struggle together with me in the journey to self-betterment and unwaveringly pushes me to be the best version of yourself. And he wouldn't need to make any promises about helping me; he would just do it.