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A young lady sent me an urgent text and asked to visit. We sat on the front porch and visited for over an hour. 

She shared the struggles she was going through in her current relationship. She had a baby while she was in high school, and her current boyfriend didn't respect the fact that she had a conversion and was planning to save herself for marriage. He was putting pressure on her to sleep with him.

The reasoning he gave her was this. Someone else has already had you; if you really love me, we should be together. He threatened to break up with her if she didn't sleep with him. She was afraid that at her age, she might not find another boyfriend, and she was really hoping that they would be getting engaged soon. What if I don't get married? What if I'm blowing my one chance at happiness? What if my child doesn't have a father around? What if he's right? Maybe it doesn't really matter since I've already blown it once. All of these same temptations can be said for pornography, infidelity, addiction...

Don't believe the lie.

We all believe the lie at some point. We've messed up, so why does it matter if we mess up again? What is the point in trying so hard (and it is hard!) to do the right thing if you have made so many mistakes in the past? What's missing is forgiveness, love, mercy, and the fact that you were made and redeemed for GREATNESS. What's missing is that Jesus Christ loves you and gave his life for you. To the last drop. And if you mess up, he still loves you. 

True love means willing the good of another, doing something about it, and not just leaving them in their mess. It means walking messy step by messy step with someone all the way to the waiting arms of Christ. When you truly embrace the forgiveness that Christ offers you, and you begin to heal and move forward, something will happen to tempt you to look back.

If You Look Back, Look Back at Christ

Do not be like Lot's wife in the Bible who turned back to look at Sodom and Gomorrah. She was turned into a pillar of salt. If you look back on anything, look back on Christ’s forgiveness and his mercy and all the times in your life that he was there waiting for you. Always move forward into the grace of today and the hope of tomorrow.

We have all sinned and fallen short. The good man sins seven times a day. You don't know what grace others have been given. You only know that through the grace of the sacraments, Christ is offering you every drop of grace that you need to live the abundant Llife. Don't believe the lie!

Now, you know what the lie sounds like. When you hear the lie turn to Christ and say, “Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.” Say it over and over and over. Remember, you belong to Christ. Go and sin no more. If you fall (and we all do) then run back and start each day anew. His grace is enough for you.

Have Relationships With People Who See You as God Sees You

How do we begin anew? How do we discern if somebody is a friend walking with us or a foe working against us? A simple rule of thumb: friends build us up and protect us, and foes bring us down. When we feel that we belong, that we are safe, and that we are loved, we are able to look at our life and the choices we make. We are able to understand our worth, our dignity, and we see that we are made in His image and likeness. The only thing more transformative than seeing oneself the way that God sees us is for someone else to do the same.

Friends help us to realize how God sees us. Spouses are especially expected to do the same. As a parent, try to see yourself in the eyes of a child. An infant can especially melt your heart, change your life, make you smile, and make you want to live in a whole new way. Assess the friends that you have. Do they truly lift you up and protect you and help you to see yourself as the incredible person that God created you to be, or do they tear you down like the earlier story in this blog post? 

True friendship is foundational for true intimacy. Many times, we are tempted to skip over friendship and move straight into intimacy. This phenomenon has been termed the "hookup culture." Young women have told me that they have slept with someone before even knowing the person’s last name. Friendship can never be built upon a lie, and it's so hard to go back and restore missed steps in a relationship. Always, beware of someone who wants to go from the front porch to the bedroom without skipping all the steps in between.

These steps are an important part of who we are as human beings, made in the image and likeness of God. These steps are also important to protect our heart from someone who might not see us the way God sees us, but rather sees us as an object, someone for their personal pleasure and fulfillment. It's so easy to be deceived. 

Before he became Pope, John Paul II wrote in his book “Love and Responsibility”, 

“Love in human relationships is not something ready-made. It begins as a principle or idea which people must somehow live up to in their behavior, which they must desire if they want – as they should –  to free themselves from the utilitarian, the ‘consumer’ attitude towards other persons.”

How do we break free from the consumer attitude towards other persons?  It starts very simply with you and me. How do we treat others? Not just members of the opposite sex, but all of our friends and family? If we give so that we might receive, or we say something so that it might be said in return, then we're not actually loving; we’re giving, so that we look better or feel better or are treated better. This is not love; love must be simply for the sake of another. If it is anything else, it's simply egoism and selfishness, not selflessness. John Paul II further said, 

“The love of a person for person must be benevolent, or it will not be genuine. Indeed, it will not be love at all, but only egoism.”

The best way to prepare for marriage is to constantly love without counting the cost, give to those who cannot give back, surround yourself with friends who do the same, and remember that anyone who could be a future spouse should build you up, protect you, and never tear you down. They should never use you, coerce you or manipulate you. They should love you and encourage you to seek the one who is Love himself. You were born for this, you were created for this, and Christ died so that you might live an abundant life.

Surround yourself with friends who are seeking to do the same. This highly increases your chances of marrying someone who will love you for the daughter of God that you are. 

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Mary-Rose Verret and her husband Ryan are the founders of Witness to Love and the authors of Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation Build Marriages that Survive and Thrive. Mary-Rose is a featured presenter in the series “Doors of Mercy” released by St. Benedict Press for the Year of Mercy. Together the Verrets speak on issues regarding marriage, mercy, faith, family, and fertility. Mary-Rose has been interviewed by The National Catholic Register, EWTN, The Catholic World Report, Catholic News Agency, The Gus Lloyd Show, Aleteia, and secular media outlets.