How can someone know if their relationship is real when everything is so artificial—from Facetune to Snapchat filters? How can we know if someone means what they say? These are some of the questions I kept in mind when “talking” to my now-boyfriend.
I’m guilty of it myself. I edit my photos, and when I think I look bad I use Snap filters. I want to present my best self, and I don’t think there should be any shame in doing so. The hard part is trusting that someone will accept every part of you.
It was very hard to trust my boyfriend, Damien. In a world of nudes, sex, and vulgarity, how could I know if he wanted me for my soul rather than my body, especially in college? Because of all this fear and hesitation, I went into “us” with a crappy mindset. I was always on the defense, making sure Damien understood not to mess with me. I didn’t want games or an I-don’t-know-what-we-are situation. I wanted something real. But because I scrutinized everything he said, he started to walk on eggshells around me. Damien didn’t open up to me as much, and I hated it; I wanted him to feel comfortable enough to let me get to know him.
Eventually, my friend Tyler bluntly told me to stop being an ass and just trust that he’s a good guy. After I rolled my eyes, he tried to explain it to me. He told me that Damien is a good guy—and he’s good for me. I’m always very tense and on guard, which results in a ton of defense mechanisms. I took his advice and let my guard down a bit, and Damien noticed. He realized I wasn’t questioning him as much. He asked if his tests were over, and I pretended like I didn’t know what he was talking about. I felt ashamed—why was I being so difficult? But that’s when I realized something: I’m scared shitless of getting my heart broken.
Damien felt my energy and respected it. He understood from the day I met him that I wasn’t “easy,” but I was everything but simple. He hasn’t given up, not once. When we were in the talking phase, we didn’t kiss for weeks. Every time I’d see my friends after hanging out with him, they’d ask if anything had happened. “Nope! The man didn’t even kiss me,” I’d say. I was pissed, but also relieved. At first, I thought maybe I wasn’t attractive enough—but then I got over myself. I realized that if we hadn’t been sexual the whole time and I still felt so comfortable with him, maybe—just maybe—this could turn out great.
So far, it has. I think commitment looks different for my generation—Damien and I have a Snap streak; we’re #1 best friends on the app; we often send each other posts on Instagram.
There’s a constant effort to ensure we respect each other and not make the mistakes we’ve seen other people make—especially our parents. And while we’ve been together, we’ve come to the realization that generational pain is real. We’ve inherited traits that are similar to our parents’ or are the complete opposite. Damien knows he can get jealous once in a while, but he doesn’t like to talk about it because it reminds him of his father. I know I can be hypersensitive to the point of being distant and cold; I inherited that from my mother. Damien and I made a pact that we’ll try to heal instead of passing the pain on. But there’s an issue. How can we change? Almost every day, we try to choose empathy over frustration. The only difference between us and our parents is that Damien and I aren’t allowing things to accumulate; we’re facing issues in the hopes of overcoming them.
We’re hyper-aware of everything around us. We’ve begun to take back control of ourselves. We’re aware of our government’s wrongdoings, our parents’ trauma, and our own mental illnesses. But we’re fighting back—speaking up for what is right and correcting the wrong. And in the meantime, we’re trying to find and express love. Despite how complicated love is, I’m glad I’m doing it authentically. So thank you, Damien, for healing, growing, and loving with me.