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Relationships and how Im at fault

When I was a toddler I was sexually abused and basically prostituted till the age of 15. I then went on to get in a couple of relationships that died out within a year of it starting. whether it be because my partner cheated, or I myself fell out of love. I am currently 19 and am in a 2-year relationship with a guy who is very sweet and am very in love with but our schedules do not align and he has moved farther away from me. I have been dealing with loneliness and depression. Probably because I haven’t been single for the majority of my life since I jump from person to person almost immediately after a break up so I cannot handle the thought of being alone. I have been self-harming and drinking to pass the time at home until I can see him again…
I also have a problem with making friends that are not already in our circle because I’m not the best at picking out my own friends. they either just want to copy my assignments from college or are in it for some promiscuous reason. Nevertheless, I find this guy through my college group chat and we share the same interests in music. I noticed that he started to flirt with me and I let him because it felt nice to hear someone say something nice about me and it made me feel less empty in inside. but because I let him, things got more flirty and sexual. let me be clear, I never sent a nude, I didn’t flirt back but I didn’t say no.
Eventually, my boyfriend found the messages after 2 days of chatting and he broke down crying and I with him. I know I’m at fault and this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Why do I want to seek validation from over people and risk my own relationship… I don’t want to cheat on him, I really do love him. I dont know what to do.

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First off, welcome to the community.

Wow do I feel this. My upbringing was the complete opposite of yours, and I can’t begin to imagine what you lived through. That said, I was never someone girls looked to with desire, someone they flirted with. As a result, my entire adult life has been about seeking validation in women. Even though our backgrounds are completely different, what I can find in common with you is the need for intimate emotional connection and the openness to whatever may stem from it.

I clung to relationships longer than I should have, because I found self-worth in being somebody to someone. However, whenever I was in a relationship, I found more confidence to flirt with other women. Somebody thought I was worthwhile, so I felt confident with a baseline of “worthwhile” and extended myself from there. I finally crossed a line last summer when, 3 months after getting married, I kissed another woman at a party. It felt good. I wanted it to happen, and I let it. Afterward, I felt worse about breaking my wife’s trust than the kiss itself. I love my wife, and we are a great match, but now that I’m once again somebody to someone instead of a nameless, faceless figure, I feel really strong urges to flirt with and make moves on the women around me.

I don’t want to cheat on my wife, and I stop myself by reminding myself of the shaming that would come from it–from my friends, family, my wife herself, and me; but shaming myself into fidelity is the wrong way to go about it. Telling myself I’m a weak-willed dirtbag who’s dishonoring his commitment to his wife doesn’t encourage me to stay faithful.

In specific instances, the best way to not stray is to disengage with the person and remove yourself from the situation. As Gary Chapman put it in a lecture, “You WILL meet someone who gives you the tingles, and when that happens you need to STOP. If you get the tingles when a coworker flirts with you by the coffee machine, by God you don’t drink coffee anymore.” It doesn’t help the underlying craving for validation, but it does keep you from making mistakes in the moment. I had to practice that with a coworker I was making dangerous emotional inroads with. Since I stopped going by her office to visit, I’ve found it easier to discuss work with her without feeling “tingles.” I’m still working with my therapist on figuring out how much validation is enough, but every little victory is still a victory.

I can’t believe I told that story here. I’ve wanted to so much, but have felt so ashamed even here in a judgment-free environment. I don’t know if that helped you any, but at the very least I want to say I get it.

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