I thought tonight, being November, coming up to White Ribbon Day (25th), I would start sharing the story of my first husband.  To understand things though, I think I need to start with my history.  So I am beginning by sharing about my boyfriends before Andrew.

I’m not sure if he counts as a boyfriend, but my first “boyfriend” was a little boy I was friends with before I even started school when we were both 4 years old.  Like a lot of first “boyfriends” of little kids, he was my parents’ close friends’ son.  My parents used to be involved in running a soccer club with this other couple. They went to our church and their son was in my soccer team from when I was 5 years old until 9.  He also went to primary school.  Jason was a nice boy when we were little kids (I’m sure he probably still is nice but I haven’t had contact with him since I finished primary school).  Every birthday and Christmas until I was around 8, he’d give me a beautifully apple scented shampoo that I loved.  Even now I adore things that smell like that shampoo.

When we were in grade 1, he’d protect me from bullies sometimes and we used to go exploring in the bush in the school playground together.  As we got older, and boys suddenly discovered “girl germs”, he was the only guy on my soccer team who would still pass me the ball.  I really appreciated that he judged me on my playing ability, not on the fact that I was a girl.  Half way through primary school we drifted apart, and then when I moved to a different high school, we never stayed in contact.  But he was a sweet “first boyfriend”.

When I was in upper primary and in high school, most people just assumed I was too much of a geek to be interested in boys.  One of the most hurtful comments was from a leader at a group I went to about a friend’s son that she was going to introduce to another girl in the group because I “wouldn’t be interested in dating a boy”.  It’s not that they thought I was a lesbian, it’s just because I didn’t gush over every boy I met like most teenage girls, everyone just assumed dating didn’t interest me.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  I wanted to meet a nice boy who was mature, caring, intelligent and shared my life values.  Not just throw myself at a supposedly “hot” guy and not worry about his personality or values like so many of the girls I knew did.

When I was in high school, I did have a few crushes for a short time.  They were guys who were intelligent and funny (two qualities I like in a man) but I quickly realised they weren’t very nice or mature – except one – who turned out to be gay.  I don’t know what it was, but there just weren’t any guys at my high school who were really people I considered suitable to date.

And sadly the guys at my church weren’t much better – the only guy at my church who I would have even considered dating, never would have considered me – he was a nice guy that my parents kept trying to push me to date, but he was six years older than me, and I was the same age as his little brother, and even today I’m sure he sees me as just a little kid like his little kid brother.

When I was in year 11, I had my first “real” boyfriend, Shane.  I met him through school work experience.  He seemed so kind and caring and at the time, I was in the very early stages of what would end up a severe depressive episode in year 12, I didn’t know many caring guys, and he swept me off my feet with his kindness and his interest.  We dated for a few months, we held hands and even had a hug and a kiss on the cheek (which was a big thing for me).  He was such a flirt, but I should have released he was dodgy.  He used to say all these big exciting things about his life which at the time I just accepted, but I should have realised that the chances of them being true were remote.

After he stood me up a few times and a friend of mine told me he’d flirted with her, I broke up with him.  I eventually found out he’d been hitting on all my female friends behind my back, even ones who had boyfriends.  That is when I first woke up to the fact that not all guys are honest people, so I was a little more cautious after that.

After that, my best friend at the time, Nicky (not her real name), tried to set me up with a few guys.  One from my martial arts class, I did have a crush on as he was nice, funny, intelligent and we shared a lot of interests.  But I was so hurt from my breakup with Shane, that I decided not to act on it.  In the end he ended up dating another friend of mine and even though I was a little jealous at first, I realised that he and I didn’t share the same values about sex and marriage and that it was a good thing we never dated because we’d have eventually broken up because of not sharing those values.  The next guy she tried to set me up with was actually Andrew’s best friend.  Despite the fact she tried very hard to get us together (because she was dating Andrew at the time and liked the idea of double dating), I was interested because I don’t believe in sex before marriage, and he didn’t believe in dating girls who wouldn’t have sex early in the relationship.

The next guy she tried to set me up with was another guy in my martial arts class, Dave.  I knew he’d had a crush on me for a while and with Nicky pushing, I decided to give going out with Dave a chance.  He was a nice guy who always listened.  He was sweet and caring and intelligent and very funny, and even though he was Catholic, he seemed to share most of my values.  The first problem we ran into is I discovered he hadn’t exactly been truthful about his age.  Not that he lied to me, but he didn’t tell me the truth.  My martial arts class was a senior class – with the age of a “senior” being 16 or older.  I naturally assumed he was 16 or 17 as he looked at least that old too.  I was 16 when we started going out.  It turned out he was only 14 and had been moved up to the senior class because of his size and strength.  When I found out, I was a little upset, but we wouldn’t be having sex, so there was nothing illegal or wrong with us just dating.

We dated for 7 months.  Over that time it became obvious that even though he was mature for his age, he was still very immature compared to me.  He’d often forget to turn up on dates because he was too busy playing computer games with his friends. After about 5 months, I had had enough and I tried to gently break up with him.  But he burst into tears and begged me for another chance.  And I knew he really loved me, despite his immaturity.  So I didn’t have the heart to break up with him.  Eventually though, things came to a head when he stood me up for a new years eve party with my best friends.  I called him to ask him why he hadn’t let me know he wasn’t coming, he put me on speaker phone and said nothing when his friends made fun of me so I told him things were over.  He didn’t believe it, said I must be drunk (I’d had two drinks and I hold my alcohol really well) and that he’d talked to me the next day when I was “sober”.  I was completely sober when I spoke to him, so I called him first thing the next day and reiterated that he really was dumped.

Of all my boyfriends (other than John), I think he was the only nice guy I dated.  He had issues – mainly that he put his friends ahead of everyone and everything else, including girlfriends and common sense – but I know he meant well.  He just couldn’t say no to peer pressure.  One of the things I remember about him is that a few weeks after we broke up, I caught up with him one last time to return a few things and exchange christmas presents that we hadn’t been able to give each other yet, and he gave me the most beautiful cross pendant.   I don’t know what happened to it (I think Andrew stole it and pawned it for drugs but that’s an entire ly other story), but it was such a thoughtful gift as Dave knew how much my faith meant to me.

I’ve often wondered what happened to Dave – I’ve looked up all my old martial arts friends on facebook to reconnect with them and see what they are doing with their lives, but I’ve never been able to find any trace of Dave online.  I’m not sure he’d even talk to me as he was devastated when I broke up with him.  The last contact I had with him was when he hacked my main email account when he found out I had started dating Andrew and used it to send emails to a “girlfriend” (I’m not sure if she was even real).  I imagine he matured when he got older (as most teenage boys do) and is probably now happily married.  I always felt terrible for breaking his heart even though he wasn’t the right guy for me.  So I really hope he found happiness. The curious side of me hopes one day we make contact and talk again.

And that brings me to Andrew. I will continue with the story of Andrew and I another night, but what I will say is you’d think after my experiences up until that point, I’d have been more cautious. Especially about men who lie, who flirt with other women and who put their friends ahead of their partner but despite my experiences, I always believed in seeing the best in people and giving people the benefit of the doubt.  Looking back I was always too trusting and naive but even though it meant I got hurt a few times, I wouldn’t change who I was.  I’d rather be too trusting and give people too many chances, than to be too hard and not give people the chances they deserve.

I wouldn’t undo my experiences with dating.  They have made me who I am. I have had my heart broken, I have broken hearts, and they have all ended up where things are now – with John and I happily married and I have two wonderful daughters.  Even if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change things knowing where things have ended up now.  Despite my past experiences (including the truly awful ones with Andrew I am yet to share) I consider myself very lucky to have found real love and happiness.

It’s something I hope everyone finds one day in their life.

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