The first summer we lived in the east coast state, I experienced my first real boyfriend. There had been playmates who played with me like we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but that had been really child’s play. There was genuine attraction between this guy and me. I reveled in the pleasant feelings, but it wasn’t a healthy relationship, even at that young stage. When we were alone together he often treated me special, told me he really cared, and was affectionate towards me. However, when we were with other members of the youth group or in public, he often was cruel and cold. I had no respect for myself (even genuinely hated myself), so how could I expect (let alone require) respect from a boyfriend. There was the added issues that I had no personal boundaries and had no teaching or example to follow (I’m quite certain my parents were not ready to deal with me being old enough to have a boyfriend, and I didn’t enlighten them).
This was somewhat tempered by my blossoming Christian faith which was flourishing while I was spending so much time (2-4 hours every afternoon) alone with my Bible and prayer journal. After several months of growing in my feelings for this guy, I felt convicted that the relationship I had with my boyfriend was not in line with God’s best for my life so I broke it off.
My second dating relationship began on June 3 of my first year living in the new state. At first I didn’t share his interest, but a friend from school encouraged me to at least give the guy a chance, so I prayed and told God that if this relationship was part of His plan for my life, then I was willing but He would have to put the feelings in me because they just didn’t exist on my own. The next time he came over to my house to hang out I did indeed feel some attraction, and so began a three year long relationship that ended in tragedy.
My parents really didn’t like this guy, and my mother would frequently say that if she ever found out I was going steady with this guy, she would make certain I would never see him again. They kept close tabs on the amount of time we talked on the phone and the time we spent together. However, we were permitted to be alone together in the basement of our home (which was partially finished and had a pool table and ping pong table in it as well as a family room) and other members of the family were told not to disturb us.
This guy was genuinely sweet to me, and my affection for him grew fast. Within months we were struggling to control our passion for each other. About that time there was an episode on my favorite soap opera where a teenage girl and boy wanted to be married before he left for his enlistment, but the weekend they set out to get married a huge snowstorm hit and prevented the preacher from getting to the chapel, so the couple said their vows to each other without anyone else being present – just them and God. This seemed to my boyfriend and I a very good solution to our problem so we, too, said our vows to each other before God, and in our minds we were married from then on.
In the summer of our second year of dating, he enlisted in the Navy. This was very traumatic for the many of me, and we would count the days until he would next be home on furlough.
When I was 16 I became pregnant. We were actually thrilled. We waited until he was home again to have the pregnancy confirmed. The morning sickness was past and it was getting harder to hide my enlarging belly. Our thought was that we would go together to get the pregnancy confirmed at a clinic, then tell our parents who would be very upset at first but then let us get married, and I would be able to go back and live with him on base and we would live happily ever after.
We skipped school one day to go to the clinic. The people at the clinic took the test early on, but then they took a great deal of time trying to convince us that this was a tragedy and would ruin our lives if we didn’t get an abortion. Their words fell on two sets of deaf ears, even when they separated us and individually tried to get us to see it their way. Eventually they gave up, but then they told us that the pregnancy test had been negative. We were shocked and baffled, even though they assured us that these things happened sometimes. As I was putting my coat on one of the clinicians approached me with a glass of water and a pill. As she handed them to me she told me the pill was to get my period started; then she waited for me to take the pill before she left us.
My boyfriend dropped me off at home and left. A few hours later I got the worst cramps of my life, and then the hemorrhaging started. The bleeding was extremely heavy and the clots were huge. I was literally doubled over in pain, and no amount of feminine protection was sufficient to absorb it for more than a few minutes. I ended up abandoning feminine protection altogether. It wasn’t too long before it was impossible to deny what was happening. In my opinion, I was murdering my baby; and my self-contempt was too great for words to express. I wanted desperately to die – I deserved no better. (Years later it became evident that if I had not been a multiple I would have indeed died; but God had other plans).
I never told the baby’s father about what had happened. He went back to where he was stationed, never knowing anything. We kept up daily letter writing (and mailing letters out twice a week), but we (the many of me) stopped eating and became very depressed.
My boyfriend and I planned and prepared for me to run away from home to go live with him on base. Our plan was to tell the Sergeant that I was 18 and we had gotten married while he was home so that my boyfriend could get a house on base where we would live together until I truly was 18. Then we would secretly make the marriage official. About a week before our planned event, he was unexpectedly sent over seas, so our plans were postponed. While he was gone one night, while I was doing my daily devotions and prayer writing, God struck me with the realization that I had allowed my boyfriend to become my god and He was giving me a choice. I would have to choose to turn back to Him and break up with my boyfriend or else proceed with my plans to live with my boyfriend but know that in doing so I was turning my back on God. At that time my love and hopes with my boyfriend were the only thing standing between me and suicide and I knew it very well. How could I continue to live with myself if I broke his heart by breaking up with him? It was almost more than I could bear, but I wrote a letter breaking up with him and sent it off in the mail.
Before that choice I was going days with no food and several days and nights with no sleep; but after I mailed that letter God’s Presence overshadowed me day and night for one exact month. Never once during that month did I feel upset or hungry or tired or pain of any kind. I was at a constant level of peace and tranquility and I thanked God for it almost constantly, all the while praying for my boyfriend and his response to my letter. It took about 2 months before I received a letter in reply. It said simply, “Here’s a dime. Go call someone who cares.” And a dime was taped to the letter. I new this was his way of protecting himself from the hurt he felt, and I saw it as being very kind to me.
The whole time I dated this second guy, the first guy was hanging out at my house. He spent a good deal of time with my brother and also talking with my mother. A few months after my breakup he took me aside and told me he had never stopped loving me and he knew I was still in love with my ex-boyfriend but he really wanted to help me heal. I suspect he figured my dramatic weight loss and depression were due to the break-up. I never addressed either issue with him so I don’t know for sure. He would take me out to eat or take me to a movie or bowling – anything to take my mind off my ex-boyfriend and get me out of the house (and eating). This went on for months. After his first confession of his continued love for me (to which I responded that there was nothing about me to love), he didn’t talk about his feelings for me until several months later. Gradually he started taking my hand, assuring me that he wasn’t asking or expecting anything in return, and telling me he still loved me and was glad I was willing to let him spend time with me. For a while I said nothing in response at all, but God was doing a healing work in my heart and eventually I would respond with, “Me, too” (meaning I was learning to love myself as well). Over the next year and 1/2, my feelings for him grew and I began saying, “I love you, too” so by the end of my junior year I was again in love. I still didn’t have good boundaries but I never allowed any chance of another pregnancy.
Even though this guy was so sweet in so many ways, at times he continued to be cruel – both in private and when we were with the youth group. He was totally involved in the cruel pranks being played on me, and it deeply wounded me; but I was always quick to forgive and forget. That was a lesson that had been driven home in our family all the years of my life, and I felt I had no other choice.
During my senior year of high school he started college at the college where my parents had attended and met . The college had an excellent accounting program and he was very gifted in that area. He had been instrumental in bringing a small local business from the brink of bankruptcy to the point of being able to open a new store while he was in high school. In response they had given him part ownership of the new store, so he was headed for becoming a huge financial success.
I planned on attending there after my graduation from high school, too. But some significant things changed that year. My boyfriend got very involved with an elite group of students who were very snobbish, especially to the local hillbillies. The summer after my graduation I was in dedicated service to God and my devotion to being His person in His world became very strong.
When I started college my boyfriend had a dilemma. He wanted to continue his relationship with me but his buddies wanted nothing to do with me. His solution was to arrange for his fraternity brothers to hang out with me during all my free time and then he would call me and spend time with me occasionally. While I liked his fraternity brothers and we enjoyed the time we spent together, I was more than distressed over my boyfriend’s choice of priorities. In addition to that it became abundantly clear that I was not going to be able to get the teaching certification from that college that I wanted and needed to do what I believed God was calling me to. So the summer between my freshman and sophomore years we broke up and I transferred to a college near home where I could get the certification I wanted and needed.
All my high school years my mother had wanted me to date casually. She felt it was a good idea to keep dating casual and date several guys at the same time. Going steady was, in her estimation, a bad idea. So my junior year of college I decided to try it her way. There was a guy at my college who was interested in dating, and I found him interesting. There was another guy who was a self-made millionaire in our denomination and wanted to date me (that was exciting and fun). A guy who was one of my ex-boyfriends fraternity brothers was interested in a long-distance relationship, and in my mind and heart my ex-boyfriend was still number one choice, so even though we were not dating I counted him among my “many” dates. That arrangement about drove me batty, and I concluded that God had not included the casual dating gene as part of my makeup.
My junior year I was also employed at a local Christian grade school. I helped the k-2 teachers in their classrooms and also took the students who were struggling to a small area where I gave them help with their lessons and gave them additional instruction. The second grade teacher was doing a unit on careers and was asking the student’s parents to come in and talk about their careers to her class. When the ex-boyfriends fraternity brother (then an executive for Boy Scouts) planned a visit over memorial day weekend, the second grade teacher asked if he would be willing to come talk to her class about being an executive for Boy Scouts, and of course he agreed. I should have been leery of that, knowing this vibrant and sometimes audacious teacher, but I innocently thought it was a good idea. When his talk began I was working with a small group of students but somewhere in the middle of his talk I slipped into the back of the classroom to listen. After his talk he asked for questions, and several hands flew up. There were a couple good questions, and then one of the students asked if he was married. The next question was if he would marry Miss R which was followed by a chorus of “Marry her!, Marry her!” from almost all the students. I was slinking under the student desk I had been sitting on in the back of the room while the teacher was practically rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter and the poor guy was beet red and stammering. The teacher insisted that she had not put the students up to it but I’m certain she had. On the way to school that day (she was my transportation to and from the school most days) she had tried to convince me that I should forget about ex-boyfriend and get serious with the nice young man who was coming to visit. Seriously, what would you think?
The thing was, the evening before he arrived my own mother had said as much to me, which was shocking considering that he was Catholic at the time and she would have never encouraged marriage to someone of a different faith (although we both recognized Catholicism as a Christian religion, it was still a far cry from our denomination). My mother had gone so far as to predict that we would be married within a year’s time. It turned out that we were indeed married almost exactly a year later on Memorial Day Weekend, though my mother had passed away earlier that year