They say that breaking up with someone can be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in life, and for many that declaration is more than true. However, just because it seems as though it’s the end of life as you know it, doesn’t mean it truly is. With friends, family and faith by their side, many people have taken that giant leap of faith and ended something that, in the end, led them straight into the arms of God.
Melissa Summers* (Age: 24)
Number of years in relationship: 5 1/2
When Melissa Summers first began dating Jeremy Lance* during her freshman year of high school, she admits that the combination of being both young and laidback in her Catholic faith was more of a recipe for disaster than true love. Because of her unstable home life with two feuding parents, Melissa’s relationship with Jeremy progressed much more rapidly than other high school romances normally do.
“He became my best friend very quickly,” she explained through e-mail to MyFaith. “We were initially attracted to each other for superficial reasons, but also because we had fun together and got along well.” This began to change two years into their relationship, when Melissa began to think more seriously about her Catholic faith and the path on which she was headed.
“I had a slow conversion experience over my last year of high school and I had made the decision that there were certain physical things about my relationship with my boyfriend that I didn’t want anymore,” she explained. “At first he seemed supportive of my newfound faith and my decision about the physical aspects of our relationship, but over time his actions said otherwise, as he would push me to go farther than I wanted and not hold me to the standards that I set for myself.”
The last three years of their relationship was a struggle for both of them, as Jeremy began to get more involved in the “party scene” and less involved in his college studies. Melissa both sensed and witnessed for herself how their priorities were slowly changing from one another’s.
“Looking back, I’m not sure why we stayed together as long as we did. Part of me really wanted to believe that if I just stayed with him that eventually my excitement for the faith would be contagious and he would catch it too,” she explained. “With his words, he kept convincing me that he did care about the faith and about maintaining purity in our relationship, but, again, his actions would eventually show otherwise. Still I clung to our relationship during my first two years of college because we had such a long history together already and he was my best friend in many ways, and I wasn’t ready to let that go yet.” Eventually Melissa did break up with Jeremy the summer of their sophomore year of college. While Jeremy was “crushed” with her decision, her slowly growing faith and her friends helped Melissa stick to her resolution to continue on in her Catholic faith without Jeremy by her side.
“I would love to say that my faith skyrocketed after I broke up with my boyfriend, but it didn’t. Instead it wavered quite a bit over the next six months or so,” Melissa admitted honestly. “I truly believe we are living in a spiritual battlefield every day, and while God was happy that I had removed this obstacle from my path towards him, the devil was not happy at all. He tried many ways to tempt me and block me from turning towards God and for awhile I lived a double life of sometimes seeking to fill that void in my heart with God and at other times trying to fill that void with partying or unhealthy attention from other guys. It wasn’t until I went on a retreat about halfway through my junior year that I realized what I was doing and what I needed to do.
“I needed to give my entire life to God and trust him that only he could fill that God-shaped hole in my heart,” she added.
Because of the long relationship she shared with her high school boyfriend, Melissa, now married with a child on the way, continues to struggle with many issues within herself.
“I struggled with trust and with physical intimacy because of the choices I made with my boyfriend in high school, and I wish I could take those choices back. The biggest lessons I learned from that relationship (is) that a relationship is not going to thrive unless God is at the center, and that we should never be dating someone with the hopes that they’ll change or that we’ll be able to change them,” Melissa said. “I also know now that for a relationship to be successful, both people have to be working toward the same goal and desire to bring the other person closer to that goal as well. For my husband and I, and for our future children, that goal is heaven.
“When he proposed to me, he didn’t say ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ He said ‘I want to spend the rest of my life leading you to heaven.’ That mindset should be at the center of every relationship and I believe that without that, a relationship is not going to work.”
Ellen Vanden Eykel (Age: 25)
Number of years in relationship: 2
When Ellen Vanden Eykel met Jack Hopps* during college, it appeared to be a match made in heaven.
“We really shared our faith very strongly,” she said. “It was the first time I had been in a relationship where faith played a really strong role in our relationship, in our dating experience with one another. It was the first time I had dated someone who went to Mass with me, and we could talk about our faith.
“In that aspect, just sharing struggles, joyous occasions and comparing our faith experiences, and growing together and faith sharing. We shared some retreat experiences and prayer experiences, and I had never shared faith experiences with anyone I had been dating before, so that really played a major role in our relationship,” she added.
However, at the end of their junior year of college, looking past graduation caused them to notice that they both wanted different things in life. Ellen wanted to continue her education and move out of state, while Jack was making other plans.
“I think it was clear to both of us that we were going in different directions, that we just weren’t meant for one another,” she remembered. “God didn’t choose us for one another; it wasn’t part of our vocation to be with one another, and also we were going in drastically different directions. But (Jack) saw that earlier than I did in our relationship, and I really struggled with that, because I really didn’t see it coming.”
Dealing with losing not only a good friend but a spiritual partner as well was a hardship for Ellen, but looking back she can see why it happened as it did. Ellen, who recently celebrated her three-month wedding anniversary with her Catholic husband, credits her relationship with Jack as an important life lesson.
“I think in some ways it really taught me what it means to think about vocation, and what it means to think about the person that I’m dating as a gift from God, and God’s role in our relationship,” she said. “I had never really been very good at bringing my faith and my dating life together, and that relationship taught me a lot about that. Breaking up then – especially when I wasn’t the catalyst in the process, he was the one that brought it up – kind of the emotional impact of that made me step back and take stock in what was going on.
“I do think a lot of times with breakups – in all sorts of break ups and experiences – whether I was the one to bring it up or the man in the relationship was, I think a lot of times it can lead to distancing yourself from God for a little while, especially if I was upset or I wasn’t taking it well,” she said.
“On the other hand, I think there’s so much comfort that can be found in prayer and in the Mass, and I really have learned that through many different relationships and many different break ups over the years, how much comfort can be found in the Mass and prayer, and the communities that you find yourself in, in your faith.”
* Some names have been changed to protect identities.