From a very young age I was taught that being with girls was bad. The first time I kissed a girl was in first grade. I had become friends with Jill (not her real name) at our catholic school. We started writing notes to each other, and one day we decided to meet by the ac unit near the playground to have our first kiss. The fact that we knew we had to do it out of the view of the adults and tattle tale kids tells me today that I had already been taught that there was something wrong with kissing.
I was shown later just how bad kissing really was when the nun confiscated one of my letters from Jill and gave it to our nanny. Now I was in trouble in school and grounded at home all because of my natural curiosity with girls and experiencing things that the big kids did. I was made to feel ashamed… shame that I would carry with me for years to come.
It became worse in junior high. I experimented sexually with one of my friends, Joe (not his real name). He and I were experimenting with our newly discovered sex drive. He had more knowledge and experience so he was showing me what it was all about. The second time we fooled around my nanny caught us in the act. I was made to feel ashamed… shame that I would carry with me for years to come.
I was so ashamed and embarrassed I found a dishonest way to push my friend out of my life. Some of the kids at school knew he was gay and that we were friends, so the rumors started spreading and the teasing began. It was horrible. All I wanted, more than anything, was to be accepted and have some friends in school, and yet I was so ashamed I crawled into a shell. I was afraid to make new friends… what if they knew about what had happened and rejected me. I had a difficult time with rejection so being outgoing and making new friends wasn’t an option. At some point in high school I buried any thought of my experience with Joe. I knew something happened, but I couldn’t remember what exactly.
Shame doesn’t affect us all in the same way. Some people feel the shame to their core and even though they like the way sex feels, they believe it’s bad, so they avoid enjoying it or having it. Many of us are brainwashed into knowing that we’re supposed to wait to have sex with the right person…“The One and Only” …our match made in heaven. I know some people who got married to “The One and Only” and yet have many on the side. I know some people who got married to “The One and Only” four or five times. I know some who are angry at their wives for cheating, but it’s ok for them to have a mistress; others who are ashamed for having thoughts about sex; and even some who hate sex. Most of my shame I buried and some I held on to for a long time. A lot of that shame would disappear when I drank, which enabled me to enjoy guilt free sex.
I don’t know why I’m an alcoholic. I just know that when I was 15 and got drunk for the first time, all the shame and guilt left me for that moment. I had a newfound confidence. I was meeting people and making friends again, albeit not the highest quality of friends, but I was around people and having fun. Any inhibitions I had left me. Alcohol gave me the ability to enjoy my life, to not be afraid of girls, and to not feel shame over sex.
My new fun, carefree life lasted for a few years until I became powerless over alcohol and my world came crashing in around me. Alcohol was my temporary fix. When I started attending Alcoholics Anonymous I was provided with the tools to find my true self. I finally realized that I did many things out of fear. For instance, pushing my friend Joe out of my life because of the fear I had of what others would think about me. But even the 12 steps of AA didn’t have the power to change the narrative in my head about the experience. The shame I had felt was so powerful that I recreated my experience as one in which Joe had taken advantage of me, essentially that he had raped me. I couldn’t remember exactly what happened between us due to the trauma of the rape. I turned something consensual into a despicable act.
It wasn’t until I reconnected with Jackie (we’ve known each other since high school), was I able to honestly look back at my experience with Joe. Jackie and I built a trust with each other that I had never experienced before with anyone. She would share things with me… very personal intimate stories that she had never told anyone before. I would listen. I accepted her for who she is, without judgment. I saw the courage that it took for her to share her past with me and it gave me courage. I would share an intimate, personal story with her, a story that I had been ashamed of. She would listen. She told me she loved me. Our trust grew. We truly love each other unconditionally.
The first time I told Jackie the story of Joe and I, I couldn’t remember the details. I just shared that something had happened, but she encouraged me to try to remember. Each time we talked about it I would remember more. I know today that it wasn’t forced. He and I were best friends and we made the decision together to be intimate with each other. I remember I was nervous, but today I can say I enjoyed the experience in that moment.
I had these two very different sexual experiences as a boy and as a young man. I was ashamed about both. My reaction was to push both people out of my life. I’m so grateful that they’re a part of my life history and that our short time together has helped to mold me into who I am today.
Sharing and remembering my past with Jackie has been such a healing experience for me and has strengthened our relationship with each other. I have friends and others I know who are struggling with their marriage in one way or another. Some struggle with shame from past experiences and it’s affecting their sex life and relationships today. Holding onto shame prevents us from enjoying our lives to the fullest. Honest communication with your partner is so vital to a happy relationship. Try to listen and love your partner unconditionally. You may not know what they’ve been through or the shame they’re carrying. Be patient with them and accept them for who they are. Accept where they came from. Build trust by sharing and acceptance. At the same time, start accepting and loving yourself. You’ll find that shedding the shame and guilt that you’ve held onto comes easier with self-acceptance. When you love yourself, you’re able to love the people in your life more and enjoy your experiences more than ever!
John and Jackie Melfi are married swingers and in an open relationship. They were featured in an ABC News Nightline special report “Getting ‘Naughty in N’Awlins’: Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention” and are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, and Austin and the award-winning blog Openlove101.com with over 20 years of combined experience in open relationships and coaching thousands of couples.