I became a Christian when I was 20. When I was 19 I began a relationship with someone from university. Looking back, it is obvious it wasn’t a caring relationship. At the time, however, I was so caught up in being in love that I didn’t realise he never said ‘I love you’ back. That going clubbing without your girlfriend to ‘prove you can resist’ is not normal, that being annoyed when I met other friends without him was not loving so much as selfish.
Desperate for love, I ended up doing things deep down I knew weren’t right for me. I was never bullied so much as persuaded. It is the lack of respect for myself that I regret. The realisation that I had gone too far came when I found myself having unprotected sex, despite knowing that my boyfriend had done just that with other people, including men. A series of thankfully negative tests followed, feelings of shame and the end of the relationship.
I faced an inability to forgive myself for being so reckless with my own emotional and physical health, despite forgiving him, putting the incident behind me and moving on with a busy, exciting life. After becoming a Christian 6 months later, I was given a bible verse by a friend:
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar...
— Psalm 139 —
Only then did I realise that a lack of self respect could be temporary rather than lifelong, that God knew me and my actions and still loved me, that I didn’t need to keep reprimanding myself for something I had done.
It is that love and understanding God shows that I feel should be mirrored in a relationship. A love where no one is made to compromise their morals for the other person, and where each person is honest with what they are comfortable with, what they feel, think and desire. Telling my current (Christian) boyfriend about my previous relationship was hard, but the understanding he showed mirrored God’s love.
I pray that young Christians succeed in building relationships based on God’s love and insisting on love and respect from their partners as well as giving love and respect abundantly. And I pray for support from God as I try to do just that!