By Rose Sweet
Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of real love.
—Karol Wojtyla (St John Paul II)[i]
I fell in love for the first time when I was seventeen.
My girlfriend, Gail, and I had put on some lip gloss, rolled up our skirts at the waist to shorten them, and headed over from our all-girls Catholic high school to the Jesuit all-boys school a few miles away. Casually cruising around the parking lot—with the car radio blasting loudly—we’d pretend to look for my brother, Charlie, who we were supposed to be picking up.
One day we struck gold.
A car door opened and out stepped Bob, tall and handsome and surfer-boy blonde. I was mesmerized. With his long legs and confident swagger, he slowly headed over to join our group.
“Quick!” said Gail. “Get your year-book and you can ask him to sign it.”
My heart was pounding as I sucked in my stomach, tossed back my long, auburn hair, and smiled.
“Hi,” he said.
Oh, God, those eyes.
“Hi,” I replied. “Wanna sign my yearbook?”
Bob scrawled something in his fancy, artistic flair that I couldn’t even read, but I didn’t care. We started talking and he asked if he’d see me at the party everyone was planning for Friday night.
Squee-e-e! I was in heaven.
Bob and I dated all year. At Christmas, my parents and I went to his house for dinner. While the folks were having cocktails, Bob led me downstairs to his room to serenade me on his guitar with the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” Five minutes later my Dad was knocking on the door!
I knew I was too young to get married but at eighteen you do start to imagine. Soon, though, my romantic dreams were overshadowed by the dark side of dating.
Bob began to pressure me, slowly but consistently, to do things I wasn’t ready for. When he showed his frustration with me, I felt so rejected and inadequate. Part of me wanted to please him but I just could not go there. I was so naïve and inexperienced; I never imagined this would be a problem. Wasn’t kissing enough?
One night after dinner, Mom let me have the family car to go visit Bob at Baskin Robbins where he worked at the ice cream counter. He looked so handsome in that white uniform with bow tie and little paper hat. I parked, got out of the car, and looked over the dark parking lot into the lit-up storefront. The place was empty except for Bob behind the counter and a tall, sexy blonde leaning toward him—smiling and giggling and flirting like nobody’s business. And he was clearly flirting back!
I was MORTIFIED.
Before he could see me, I ran back to my car and sobbed all the way home. Eventually he stopped calling and the relationship ended.
I was crushed.
The desire to be attached to what is good is good but is ultimately meant for God—the Greatest Good. Other “suitors” (people and things) will compete for our attention, affections, and loyalty. Since God wired us this way, we will all bind and wed ourselves to something or someone because we were made for union. When our vision of goodness is disordered by immaturity, rejection, pride or fear, we will be tempted to bind ourselves to sin.
With Bob, I knew I might be too young for marriage, but I sure wanted love. Do you recall your first romance? What did you learn from it? Have you watched your daughters struggle with romantic heartache? How have you counseled them?
Decades later I ran into Bob and, if you want to know the rest of the story, I hope you’ll read the rest of the book!
About the author:
ROSE SWEET is a frequent guest on national Catholic radio and TV, a retreat and conference speaker, and author of twelve books on healing and strengthening relationships. Her video series, “Surviving Divorce,” has brought hope and healing into hundreds of parishes in sixteen countries. Writing for all women, her latest book series begins with “A Catholic Woman’s Guide to HAPPINESS.” rosesweet.com
[i] Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2013, originally published 1960)
Excerpt from A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Romance – 2019 TAN Books