“I don’t know if I love you, but if I don’t, I know I want to.”
After more than a year of dating, that’s the closest I’d come to having the boyfriend I’d been sleeping with say he loved me. It was a hot summer night, and he was dropping me off at my house after we spent the day together.
You’d think this — in addition to his serious addiction to pornography — would have been enough of a “Get the heck outta there!” warning to back away, but for some reason it didn’t register.
Instead, I wandered inside my house in a daze, wondering what it meant that my boyfriend really wanted to love me. He wanted to (he was good), which meant he couldn’t (because I was bad?), which meant I was unlovable (really bad, then?).
I’m not here to relive sad memories. I’m hoping that hearing this story might show you what could be going on in the life of someone you know. Picture your daughter, or your niece, or your best female friend as a 16-year-old and replay this scene in your head (and believe me, it’s possible. Kids are having sex as early as fifth grade now, and if they aren’t having sex they know someone who is or they’re talking about it). Looking at it now, it’s despicable. It’s ludicrous.
I wish I had a clear answer about what would have turned my path back then. M parents raised me in a Catholic church and I was half-involved with youth activities. But some perfect storm of emotional vulnerability and insecurity left me wide open for the influence of a cute boy who wanted to hang out with me.
What can you do for that person in your life now? I don’t know. Anything I wish my brothers had done (find this guy and beat him up, demand that we stop seeing each other, reveal everything to my parents) would have been very painful and awkward at the time. But I wonder how much it would have helped to have a strong relationship with someone who would have given me the tough feedback I needed to hear.
Here’s a small selection of things I didn’t know then that I know now:
If someone doesn’t love you enough to want you to have a beautiful life and a strong marriage, why do you think they love you enough to be worthy of sleeping with them?
If you have to “do things” in order to keep a friendship or a relationship, you’re better off without that relationship.
As I learned in reflecting on Strange Gods, I don’t pretend it was up to someone else to “save me” from these bad decisions. I moved forward in this relationship because I had no relationship with God. At the time, it felt like it was John or bust. And then a sort of Nightingale Effect settled in and I began to deeply love the one-sided relationship I was having.
So that’s where I’d start. If you’re concerned about a loved one or you want to be a part of the team that prevents these kinds of things from happening, start with God. Start with relationship. And start right now.
Your turn: Where do you think bad decisions come from in the teenage years?
PS Wrote this post to the Casting Crowns channel. My husband loves them! What do you think?