Sex and Relationship Healing is pleased to partner with Lacy Bentley, host of our Tuesday Women’s Sex/Love Addiction drop-in discussion group and our Thursday Women’s Porn Addiction drop-in discussion group, for our Summer of Love (Addiction). This wonderful series examining women, love addiction, fantasy, pornography, and healing is drawn from Lacy’s book, Addicted to Love.
By 15, my eating disorder was out of control. I put all of my energy into looking like the anime girls did in miniskirts and the little black dresses my mother and I would share when we went to live-action role-plays. I would play a seductive, beautiful art curator who happened to be a 125-year-old vampire. Talk about living out my inner world! “Rima Dalv” gave me a way to interact with all the attractive men (whatever their age) safely.
At one party, only us teens were there. And so was the beer. I never drank it because the “you might get drugged” lessons had sunk in well. My crush, DJ, did though. I had been trying to get his attention for a while. We ran around the house, him chasing, me letting him catch up, but heaven forbid I let him kiss me. He told me he was in love with me, had been forever, he was just too chicken to admit it sober. He knew I was just scared. “C’mon, let’s just give it a try.” He was right, I was totally into him. But this was not the life I wanted. Teen alcohol and sex, parties without parents, and turning away from the values I had picked up from church and really did want to learn to live?
My life changed that night as I realized the road I was on. I stepped away, told him I’d see him later, and had a sober friend take me home. That was the most painful walk-away of my life. I literally had to leave a part of me behind so I could move forward. No more parties, no more of this messy romantic drama. No more DJ. I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. I truly cared about him but did not want to join him in his world, as Rima Dalv or anyone else. I didn’t want this to be my world anymore. It was my playground and my worst nightmare. I couldn’t go back. …
Want to know the most insane part? I would have random guys I didn’t know pick me up to go to the weekly meet-ups or parties that mutual “friends” were having. It’s a miracle I survived, coming out relatively unharmed. Even just a year after quitting the insanity, I realized how close I came to be just another missing teen girl. I was absolutely being watched over by unseen angels.
I cleaned up quite a bit in college and started taking life more seriously. I did notice, however, that being attractive and having a ‘59 VW bug got me a lot of attention from the guys in class. And I had no problem trading them free work on my car for dinner! I was so good, I even got them to pay for dinner half the time. It makes me cringe now. If I ever run into the young man who worked on my car so much that his family thought we were dating, I probably owe him a lot of money – and a serious apology. Sorry, Danny! …
Then, at 19, I met and became engaged to a man I truly fell in love with. The world changed, and I realized I was worthy of so much more. So much shifted, and I stopped treating myself like a cheap commodity. We would sit outside his apartment for hours, just talking in the Vegas summer nights. The only conversations I had about football that I ever enjoyed were with him. It didn’t matter what we talked about, just as long as he kept talking. It was when he asked me to marry him with an emerald ring, custom made, with white-gold leaves, just like we talked about, that I could imagine myself happy forever. I used to say I had never seen eternity except when I looked in his eyes.
For reasons I can only guess, we did not get married. His roommates teased me that only a gay guy could refuse me, but it didn’t stop the tears or mend the broken heart. He left for the Navy days after we broke up. Said he couldn’t stand Vegas without me but couldn’t ruin my life by marrying me. I still don’t fully know why, but we both knew we were not meant to be together. I can see some of the issues we had, years later. It was good for both of us that we parted ways. I only hope he has found whatever he was looking for.
Then I met Jon. He was athletic, funny, and could not seem to get enough time with me. We went to plays, on picnics, rollerblading, and danced like crazy people every chance we got. I loved the attention, the way Jon took care of things, and how he was able to handle my complicated emotional states (which were many). … We got married and have been together for over 20 years now. Jon has been an attentive, loving, wonderful husband. We have a relationship that nurtures us both.
I feel extremely blessed. There have been challenges, many of which came from us both having poor and undefined sex-based boundaries. Thankfully, we have moved past the really hard stuff and into a relationship of mutual respect, cherished regard, and incredible trust.
I do need to make a note here. We have come so far, but it is only because he is a humble, responsible man, and forgiveness is my superpower. Actually, we both have that superpower. It works quite well in marriage. We are just careful to not use it to cover up hurt feelings anymore! That was a challenge for a long time. We have both made major mistakes and hurt each other deeply. To some extent, I think that is just marriage, or any important, close relationship. We have boundaries in place that one or both of us must be reminded of occasionally. We took a long, painful walk into marital sex abuse that almost ended us, but we are good now. He was never taught about sexual respect or boundaries, and neither was I. I certainly never learned I could have boundaries, let alone enforce them. Thankfully, we both learned. The increased safety in our marriage, as he has learned to manage himself, coupled with my work on my romantic fantasy and love addiction, has brought us to a place I never thought possible. Forgiveness is nearly complete on both of our sides. …
It has been hard for me to forgive myself for staying distracted while my life went on around me. We made memories, I loved my children the best I knew how, but a part of my heart was always inaccessible to them. That is my biggest regret. Because I know I will need their forgiveness someday, it makes it easier to forgive the hurts I have endured. Plus, I know that I am a whole human being and that no matter what has happened, I can live a full, happy, and beautiful life. The past does not define me. It does not need to define our marriage either. I’ve even forgiven myself for not knowing, doing, or believing better. If anyone deserves compassion and love, it is the lost little girl who was never given the chance to have a boundary and never learned how lovable or valuable she was.
Lacy’s story will continue in next week’s post. In future weeks, Lacy will discuss love addiction, pornography, and more – all from her highly regarded book, Addicted to Love.