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Filmmakers and Hollywood directors have a tendency to amplify romance in movies, completely fabricating how it actually works in the real world. Well, for most not all. They have a tendency to raise your expectations on how romance and love should work. Like first love.
You know what movie I'm talking about. You're watching your protagonist, in any genre, have that one, slow motion scene where you see him or her looking longingly at their love interest. You have intense, slow cute music playing in the background and you're not sure if the love interest actually likes them back? But in the end they end up together so its works; you end the movie thinking and now they are happy together forever! It's this exact movie that blinded my expectations of love.
People usually believe that there is one true person out there for them, and I believe that too. Usually though, people want think that it's the first person that they have a true connection with. Not the person they've talked to for three weeks but is now dodging your calls; the first person you let your soul open for.
Yeah, I found that person too.
It was the exact same set up as a few romance movies I've seen that I don't remember the name to. I was a city girl who moved to a small town in the sixth grade in the middle of the first semester. I made a few friends and was getting used to my new life.
And then I met Tyler.
He wasn't the popular guy that everyone wanted nor was he the hottest. He was just average looking, and he was a huge nerd who was smaller than I was. Everyone in middle school was awkward, still trying to fill into their bodies and discover who they were. Tyler had asked me out a week after we moved... but I said no. It wasn't anything against him, I just didn't want to date guys yet. I simply just wanted to keep reading my books. Despite rejection, we remained friends and hung out a lot together. Each year though, he would ask me out and my answer never changed. Our friends told him that "I was out of his league" and that "it would never happen."
Truth be told, it wasn't like I was hot or anything. I had no figure in middle school and didn't get my boobs didn't even show up until summer right before freshman year. So came high school, and we didn't see each other at all since I had field hockey training and he ironically had summer baseball camp.
It was the first Friday after freshman year officially began. I didn't have any classes with my friends, but we all decided to meet up for the homecoming dance that was that night. I swear it was like a scene out of a movie; our eyes connected and it felt like electricity was pulling me to him. I got closer, getting lost in his ocean blue eyes and a strange feeling happened. My heart wouldn't stop pounding and I was noticing so many things about him, as if I was truly seeing him for the first time.
Tyler was taller than I was now... he was now at 5 foot 9 and I remained at 5 foot 1. I giggled, not able to remember being taller than him. For a freshman, he was well built, like really weirdly considering we were only 14. He definitely grew out of his awkward body phase. Well then again, so did I. I was in such awe of him; we've been friends for so long, I had no idea why I was suddenly so shy to talk to him. But my legs moved instinctively closer to him as he moved to me. He gave a smirk that reminded me of how playful he was, yet it was all new at the same time.
He held out his hand and I just couldn't stop giggling, feeling a bit less nervous recognizing his goofy tendency.
"Shall we dance?" He said with a grin. I laughed, surprising him as I took his hand.
"Dance, we shall."
It was his first yes from me, and I smiled as he suddenly went all bashful on me. His arms pulled me gently closer to him as we danced. We laughed, sang, and danced all night together. The last slow song of the night was playing, and Tyler stared into my eyes, almost shaking.
"I know this is going to sound crazy," he said with a nervous chuckle. "But I've been in love with you since the day I met you." My cheeks burn and in that moment, my heart was pounding wildly. He wasn't the goofy kid that I knew from middle school, he changed a lot. He was more confident and sure of himself while I melted inside.
"Will you go out with me?" he asked again, still shaking he was so nervous. A smile grew on my face and the moment just felt right. I reached up as best I could, or more so pulled him down to me by his tie. I pressed my lips against his, and I couldn't lie I felt fireworks. I had never kissed a guy before, I didn't know what the hell I was doing! I have never been this bold before, or at the time this was pretty huge for me.
We parted lips and I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding. His eyes were wide in a blissful disbelief, and I giggled at his goofy grin. Nothing more needed to be said, and we danced the rest of the night away.
If this were a movie, then at this point it would be ending. Story is over and everyone assumes that I found my happy ending. I mean, it definitely started that way. From freshman up until halfway through Junior year, it was amazing. We went on plenty of cute dates, cheered each other on as we both go our licenses, celebrated all of our achievements in school and sports together. Our families had gotten close, often celebrating the holidays together now since we all knew each other since we were in middle school.
Everyone in school thought we were the ideal couple. He was huge into baseball and, unlike in middle school, became one of the popular guys. Even though I did field hockey, my main thing was theater or being known as the girl who got permission to skip class to finish her book. He was the classic jock and I was the nerd. Completely like the movies, yet it was perfect. Most relationships didn't last longer than a month it seemed. But we made it work; often I was told how I was lucky to have Tyler and that we were perfect for each other.
He even told me that he wanted to marry me. He promised that when we graduated, he would propose. For the time being, he got me a promise ring; he said he would get me a real one when he proposed on a cruise ship.
I truly felt like he was the one. This is to this day, my first love. And then I learned why they call it a first love... because he wasn't the only love.
The descent from what I knew about love fell during the second half of junior year. Routinely, we ate lunch in Tyler's car... well, more so he ate lunch while I snacked on something while reading one of my books.
"Baby?" He said nonchalantly. "I've been meaning to ask you something."
"What is it?" I hummed. I heard him hesitate, then say:
"Do you think it's about time we had sex?"
I froze as my face turned pure tomato red. It wasn't like I never thought about doing it, it's just I personally didn't think I was ready for that. The idea of sex was exciting and scary for me at the time, and I didn't want to lean towards doing that because he asked. I thought it usually just happened naturally between couples, not this awkward conversation we had.
"W-well, I don't know Ty," I whispered sheepishly. "I'm not sure if I'm ready for that."
"That's okay baby. We can do other stuff if you want?"
I didn't actually want to, but I felt bad that I said no to even sex. So, one Friday afternoon, he came over to my house. We hung out for a bit and just simply made out in my room. I was awkward when it came to stuff like that in high school, so we didn't actually end up doing anything. He said it was okay, and that we could ease slower into it. I believed him.
Monday arrived, and I thought everything was fine up until I was confronted by my friend Josie during fourth period.
"Why didn't you tell me!" She hush yelled while class was beginning to start.
"Tell you what?"
"That you lost your V-card!" My face paled at her words. I honestly thought I heard her wrong. But I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach.
"M-my what card?"
"You-you lost your virginity right?" She whispered slowly so no one could hear. "All the girls were talking about it last period. They said the whole baseball team was cheering for Tyler this weekend about it."
We had never fought before. I wasn't good at confrontation. I told him how during the rest of the day, people said I was a closeted whore and how he kept me under wraps for a reason. He tried telling me that it was only "locker room talk" and he only told him that to get the baseball team off his back. What started out as me yelling at him about what he did turned in a way that I didn't expect.
He made me feel bad for yelling at him. Tyler said he was hurt by what I said that I wasn't trying to understand. I caved and apologized for the things I said. So we made up... more so than I anticipated.
I didn't know what was happening. But as it was going, he told me that it was okay. I went with it, not really feeling it but I mean... we were already going. So I didn't stop us. It hurt, and it was really uncomfortable. I honestly don't think we did it right; we were both virgins after all. So he asked later that same night if we could try again. I said sure, trying to convince myself that maybe I would like it once we figured out how to actually do it.
My stomach just hurt and I wasn't prepared for the blood to happen either when it did. Tyler kept asking if I was alright, and I kept trying to assure him I was fine. We didn't say much the rest of the night til he went home. At school the next day, people continued to call me a whore and a slut. But I didn't have the motivation to fight them on their words. Besides, it wasn't like they were lies anymore.
After that came red flag #1.
I was so naive and young, I can look at it now and say that all the following things that happened from this point forward I was dumb to not speak up for myself. Yet at the time, I couldn't see how wrong our relationship was and the man Tyler was turning into.
After an incident where my older brother decided to throw a college house party when our parents were out of town, I didn't want to be home. As you may have guessed, I wasn't the party type. So I ended up staying at Tyler's house and spent the night, sleeping in his little sisters room with her. That paved the way for Tyler to miraculously convincing his parents to let me spend the night at his house regularly.
I have no idea why they agreed to it. Next came red flag #2.
Tyler would text me every Friday to see if I was going to spend the night which became routine eventually. I still slept in the same room as his sister, though. Senior year rolled around, his parents allowed us to actually sleep in the same room together.
This was also when Tyler started going to parties more. He'd go out every Friday and Saturday. He still wanted me to spend the night Fridays, so often I would be just hanging out with his family, doing homework or helping tutor his little sister. Sometimes however, I didn't feel like spending the night or I would try to make plans with my friends. One night, I was at dinner with Josie when I got a call around 7 PM.
"Baby, where are you?"
"I'm at dinner with Josie-"
"It's Friday," He said urgently. "You were supposed to come over."
"Oh, well I'm sorry. I made plans with Josie and-"
"Friday is when you stay over," he said sharply. "We made these plans already. You said you’d be here at 6.”
“I don’t remember saying that-“
“You don’t remember? Gee thanks.”
“W-we’ll I’m sorry,” I sigh. “I honestly don’t remember saying I’d be there at 6.”
“It’s fine. Have fun without me.”
"I'm just at dinner!" I say exhausted. "Can I not go out on Friday nights too?"
"Whatever," Hh grunted. "Have fun." Hearing the call end, I was so frustrated, I left right after dinner to go to his house. We had an argument on which he insisted I always come over on Fridays. I apologized for making him upset... and then we had sex. This became routine when he didn't know where I was or who I was hanging out with. I ended up not really hanging out with anyone senior year except for Tyler.
Red flag #3.
Senior year was when we made our plans for college and our futures. Tyler had it all planned out; he applied for SDSU in California in hopes of getting on their baseball team. Their coach was Tony Gwynn, and he had been playing his whole life. His dream was to be a professional baseball player, and he wanted me by his side.
"You don't need to apply for college." Tyler pleaded one afternoon lunch.
"I'd need to if I want to become a psychologist." I counter playfully.
"When I go pro," Tyler said with a smirk. "You don't wouldn't need a job. I'll provide for both of us!"
"Ty, I want a job though."
"Don't worry. You'll change your mind later."
And then Red Flag #4. He started getting into a habit of buying clothes for me. Or going with me when I went to the mall and picked out the clothes I should buy. I thought he was just being sweet and engaging, but I never like the stuff he picked out. I just didn't want to hurt his feelings and brushed it off.
It was just clothes after all... right?
He also hated the shows I watched and told me to not read comic books or regular books because he said it was too nerdy. I thought he was joking, but I learned not to read around him anymore.
Red flag #5.
The sign that I should've put my foot down on.
I enjoyed it, but there were nights that I just didn't feel like it. I was starting to spend the night more frequently because Tyler asked me to. Who was I to say no? I just wanted to make him happy. That's what you're supposed to do in a relationship, right?
Everyday, he'd want to have sex. Some nights I did too, but not frequently. We did it so much, I just stopped enjoying it. Tyler made me feel bad for telling him no, saying things like he had a long day.
"Why not?" He'd ask confused.
"Ty, I just don't want to," I try. "I just want to go to sleep."
"Baby, don't you love me?"
"Of course I do-"
That's usually how it would go. Then I'd feel bad and just give him what he wanted. I thought just do it, I'm making him happy. I'm his girlfriend and this is completely normal. Everyone goes through this.
One night on his birthday, I spent the night again and the same conversation played out again. Except this time, I put my foot down. I said no.
"I'm tired Ty-"
"But it's my birthday-"
"I'm sorry! I just don't want to."
It should've been left at that.
I remember feeling sore in my stomach. It was in the middle of the night, and I felt like I was driving on a bumpy road. I groggily opened my eyes and saw Tyler hovering over me. I didn't say anything, but he kissed me when he realized I was awake, proceeding until he finished. The sad part was, this wasn't the only time this happened.
I thought this was normal.
I thought it was normal because we still did cutesy things together. Still went on dates. We graduated, and we even went on that cruise he promised our freshman year. I thought he was going to propose at the front of the ship like he said. But when no question was popped, he said his parents told him to wait. I was thankful, but didn't know why initially.
College began and I spent the night every night. He'd come back to his house around 8 on weekdays, and on weekends it was whenever he was done at a party. He continued his routine texts making sure I was at his house when he got home.
Things didn't end until the end of my first year in college. I attended an extra credit one night presentation with a college friend Kara. We watched a discussion on relationship abuse. I actually remember thinking before the presentation began that I was thankful I wasn't in a toxic relationship.
By the end of the lecture, I was sobbing in the back of the class. Kara stayed with me as we spoke, and I told her everything. I didn't even know her that well. It took a stranger to tell me that no meant no and that what I thought was normal was actually mental abuse in our relationship.
My world shattered.
I avoided him for a whole week, spending the night at Kara's apartment to avoid Tyler. I had to turn off my phone since it was blowing up so much. Eventually, I met up with him while Kara waited in the car for me. We met up on my street when I told him I was done. I couldn't take it anymore.
He pleaded for me to stay with him and I told him I still loved him but I hated what our relationship was. I had cut him off, hurrying into Kara's car when he stood in disbelief.
I made the right decision... along with the fact that I found out he had cheated on me halfway through senior year and all during college. I found out a few weeks ago he ended up proposing to her... on a cruise ship.
My first love started amazing, but then I was blinded by the prospect of it. I was so deadset thinking that what we were doing was normal couple things, tricked by an idea that since I found the one, everything he did was justified.
I was naive and just a fucking idiot.
Being single, there was a lot of issues mentally that I had to deal with. It took me a while to even figure out who I was since everything I was had to do with Tyler. I felt like I was nothing without him. Just a lost soul whose only defining characteristic was Tyler.
How do you pick yourself up after going through a relationship like that? What’s horrible was that he was my first love, and I was blind to what he was doing. I excused everything and brushed it off cause I thought it was normal and we were in love and it was all gonna work out. In the moment, I didn’t really see how bad my situation was.
And the truth is, no one ever thinks that they are mentally abused. It’s easy to see on the outside. Hell, even writing this I cringed at how stupid I was when I was younger.
When you see a friend or family member, and if you see anything that gives you cause to think they are being abused, please tell that person. Sometimes, it takes a huge wake up call for them to realize what’s really going on. Continue to support them through it as you help them through this emotional time.
There is a psychological pattern to how these kinds of people are. Just like Tyler, they start out being super sweet in the beginning. This is part of the “grooming process” that these predators do as a way of gaining your trust. It doesn’t stop at their partner, they tend to want to make sure they gain the trust of everyone who your involved with making it hard for family members and friends to really recognize that the emotional abuse is actually happening.
This is NOT me saying that every man or woman who is nice to you is going to be emotionally abusive or that everyone is horrible. However, this is important to look back to and see the subtle differences between someone genuinely being nice and someone who is trying to say all he things you want to hear. I found an article that explained it better than I possibly could:
“Unlike physical or sexual abuse, there is a subtlety to emotional abuse,” Lisa Ferentz, a licensed clinical social worker and educator specializing in trauma, told HuffPost. “It’s a lot more confusing to victims, as it typically is couched in behaviors that can initially be perceived as ‘caring.’”
The following are examples of mental abuse. Not all are used, but many intertwine with one another and not every relationship deals with these issues. If you yourself are in an emotionally abusive relationship, or if you're not completely sure, ask yourself:
- Do you feel like you walk on eggshells to avoid disappointing your partner?
- Does your partner use gaslighting to maintain the upper hand in the relationship? Are they distorting reality in a sense that they typically say things like “you don’t remember?” Or “I never did that?”
- Does your partner require constant check-ins and wants to know where you are and who you are with at all times?
- Does your partner say hurtful things about you disguised as “jokes?”
- Do you find yourself apologizing even when you know you’ve done nothing wrong?
- Do they seem to flip flop on their behavior towards you? (Hot and Cold)
- Does your partner refuse to acknowledge your strengths and belittle your accomplishments?
- Does your partner withhold affection, sex or money to punish you? Guilt trip you in any way to ensure he or she gets what they want?
- Do you find yourself not wanting to be intimate anymore with your partner?
- Do you feel bad for your partner and always sorry? Blaming yourself even when they hurt you?
- Does your partner is always change plans in order to “surprise” you—or so they say?
If any of these apply to you, please talk to someone about what you're going through and please distance yourself away from your partner. Not everything you do is your fault. In a good relationship, there is compromise. The blame in arguments are never all on one person, and your partner listens to understand, not attack. Please understand that you need to take care of yourself mentally and if your partner makes you feel like shit, it’s not worth it.
It will be extremely difficult since they built up so much trust in the beginning of your relationship. And maybe they didn’t start out being so bad and don’t recognize wha they are doing to you. However, that is not for you to fix. The only person you can fix is yourself.
Being in a mentally abusive relationship could leave you potentially with mental health problems in the future, ranging from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, PTSD and substance abuse issues. Separate yourself from your partner if you are experiencing any of these listed and please take care of your mental state. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap and stay in the negative relationship.
I can promise you that when you get out, in time, you will be so much happier and healthier being out of that toxicity.