Thank you for writing. What I think is that you aren’t ready to be in a committed monogamous relationship. There is no shame in that. I’ve become increasingly concerned over the last few years that teens feel the pressure to be in committed relationships and to be sexually intimate, ready or not. The culture of many high schools demands that people have a girlfriend or boyfriend. The result is often a “serial” monogamy where people see one person for awhile, go through a painful break-up, then find someone new where the same thing happens.
The problem, to me, isn’t about trust or the ability to be in a relationship or sexuality. It’s about the fact that the teen years are supposed to be a time of exploration. This is the period when you find out about yourself and about the type of person you want to be with. That can only happen if you get to know a number of people you are interested in and resist the pressure to “settle down.” 17 is not the age to do that.
I think you “cheat” as a way to give yourself permission to explore other relationships. Unfortunately, since you pledge monogamy, this leaves you feeling bad about yourself and makes the other person feel rejected and betrayed. It would be more honest and healthier for you to tell guys you are dating that you aren’t ready to be exclusive. You may not be ready to have sex with every guy you are interested in either. That’s absolutely okay.
Being up front with your unwillingness to be someone’s one and only for now (and acting on it) will prevent you from feeling like a “slut” and will prevent the guys from feeling betrayed.
I wish you well,