Finding Something with Chris

Eventually, I met Chris, my first "boyfriend." To be honest, as far as relationships go, what I had with Chris wasn't a whole lot better than my experiences with Tony. However, Chris and I did know each other in person, spent time together, and were even sexually intimate - though that's the only intimacy we ever shared. I can't say that I regret getting involved with Chris, just like I don't regret any other experience I've had in my life. However, I fully admit that the relationship we had was far from healthy, and it's not an experience I'd choose to repeat today.

I met Chris online, partly due to my friendship with his older sister, Tammy. Tammy was a regular member on the BBS I've mentioned before, and was friends with a lot of the people from my college that were involved in the project. Because of mutual friends, the two of us became close. This set the stage for what happened when Tammy invited Chris to join the BBS.

When Chris and I first met online, I didn't know he was related to Tammy. We met in one of the discussion groups - one for religious discussion. Our first interactions were tense and confrontational, holding rather different views about the world, religion, and everything related to religion. However, despite our initial adversarial exchanges, we became friends. Of course, it helped that Tammy mentioned that he was her brother, so I decided to give him another chance.

One evening, when I was visiting Tammy at her home, she was online talking to Chris. At the time, he confessed to her that he was developing a crush on me, which caused her to react wildly. She wouldn't tell either I or Tina, a mutual friend who was also visiting, what she was excited about, explaining that her brother had told her something in confidence and as much as she wanted to, she couldn't spill the beans. This didn't matter, as her initial reaction was strong enough that I was able to pick up on what the big secret was. (Strong emotional reactions around someone as empathic as I am tend to spill the beans even if lips are sealed.) However, I didn't press the issue. Besides, I needed time to mull things over.

I had already been developing my own crush on Chris before that night. Indeed, by this time, my feelings were quite strong. However, I was deeply concerned about the possible undesirable consequences of pursuing a relationship. After all, this was a friend's - nay, my best friend's - brother. Add to that the fact that we lived a state apart from each other, and it was just a frustrating and dubious situation.

Eventually, I managed to open up to Tammy about my feelings. She was actually delighted to hear that I had feelings for Chris, and she encouraged me to pursue a relationship with him. So he and I talked, and we decided that we would get together at the big weekend that the various BBS users were planning on getting together for in a month. We made all kinds of plans, and I created all kinds of fantasies in my mind about what our first meeting would be like.

Sadly, as is often the case, things didn't go as planned. When Chris got there, he realized he just wasn't ready for a relationship. As a result, he avoided every overture I made at physical affection. I remember one time when I placed my hand on his shoulder and he flew across the room. Finally, Tammy convinced him to come talk to me and admit what was going on. I was heartbroken, but we agreed to remain friends and keep in touch.

I didn't give up on the possibility of a relationship, however. Therein lay my biggest mistake. However, I still had feelings for Chris, and it was obvious he had feelings for me. So I figured I'd simply wait for him to be ready. This wasn't an inherently bad idea, but how I went about waiting - and what I allowed to happen while waiting - was unhealthy. Because I was sure that Chris would eventually come around and want to get into a relationship, I allowed myself to get more emotionally entangled with him to an unhealthy degree.

The next six months were an emotional roller coaster where the two of us would get close, only to have Chris get scared and try and put distance between us. This was further complicated by the fact that we eventually had sex during one of the times we got together. Sexual intimacy was the one thing that Chris had no problems with, and I desperately needed any intimacy I could get.

Six months after the first weekend we met in person, Chris called me to tell me we couldn't be friends any more. One of the reasons he cited for it was one night during the last week we had spent together. I had gotten quite manipulative that night and behaved in ways I'm not proud of. While I certainly admit I was in the wrong that week, I always felt that Chris used that incident as a way to blame me for much bigger and more complex problems. In the end, however, it didn't matter. Chris walked out of my life, both breaking my heart and destroying the fragile sense of self worth I had built up for myself based on our relationship.

At the same time - partly because of the situation with Chris and partly because of the problems in our own friendship - Tammy also informed me that she no longer wished to be a part of my life. So in the same weekend, I lost both my first (official) lover and my best friend. And both of them decided to make me out as the villain in the process. I was crushed.

The events of that single weekend put me into a tail-spin much like the one I experienced the weekend before I came out to myself. However, this tail-spin lasted almost a full week. This is partly because for that first week, I accepted Tammy's and Chris's portrayal of me. As I said, I was basing much of my self-worth on how my friends perceived me and how they treated me. So having both of them turn on me in the same weekend and declare me the worst person they knew caused me to question myself.

Finally, I realized that while I had made mistakes - and I have no desire to downplay them - I was being demonized completely and unfairly. At the end of the week, I became quite angry and even wrote an email telling Tammy off. It didn't go over well with me and she continued to attack me - and even threatened me. But standing up for myself and rejecting her condemnation made me feel a great deal better about myself.

More importantly, the whole experience convinced me to start looking within myself to define my self-worth rather than relying on others to do so for me. It was a process that didn't take place overnight, but the journey got a clear a healthy start because of that experience.