Hi. I guess I'll just start with that.
I'm 18 years old, in college studying chemistry, and I'm in a long-term, 100% monogamous relationship with a man whom I hope to marry. No, seriously. He bought me an engagement ring already, though he hasn't popped the question. We had it fitted before we left for break, and he says he wants it to be an actual "surprise." I'm not sure how he'll pull that one off! He's nearly 20 and he cannot stand waiting for "surprises." He doesn't mind waiting for things he knows about, but if I say, "I have a surprise for you!" I sure as hell better get it to him, within the next hour (otherwise, he's worse than a little kid on Christmas Eve).
Many people I know don't understand us. I cannot count how many times I've had people ask me, "Don't you want to see what's out there?" People give me the tired, "You're only young once!" which is only a small step above the ever-popular "YOLO LOL XOX #LIVINLIFE" that is plastered all over Facebook these days. I always try to respond respectfully. "Yeah, I know I'm only young once, and I want to spend my 'youth' living with my honey!" or "Oh, I definitely want to see what is out there, with my SO, of course!" The truth is, I have seen a lot of what is out there. I may be young, but I have had my fair share of relationships. I've had 'em of all varieties - younger than me, older than me (by nearly 10 years), shy, loud, smart, stupid, handsome, handsome in their own special way, larger, stick-thin, long-distance, short-term, even, dare I say it, ginger. As far as knowing who I want and what I want, I've tasted enough out there to know when I've found the perfect forbidden fruit.
The one comment that I hate more than anything, though, is this one: "You're so young! How can you know that you truly love him?" What makes it worse is this frequently comes from so-called "friends" who have either never been with anybody longer than two weeks, or are getting engaged after only two weeks. Normally, I just shrug and say that I just know, and I leave it at that, but they are never quite satisfied.
How can one so young love the way I do? I ask myself this question nearly everyday. Sometimes, people ask me when I began loving my SO, and I typically say, "I loved him before I met him."
Is that melodramatic? I don't mean that I was in love with him the same way I am now. Instead, I mean that I love each person. If you're reading this right now, I love you! If you're not reading this right now, I love you! I'm young; I still believe in love and hope and trying my best to love the way that Jesus did. But, when I tell people that I started loving my Honey before I knew him, I also mean this; each day of my life, leading up to right now, gave me exactly what I needed to love him the way I do.
Before I was in high school, I had a close male friend who was a few years older than me. Consider him my first sexual mentor, if you want, but he was also my best friend. He began dating a girl who was stick-thin, and in my tween-age mindset, I thought he didn't love me because I was too fat. In a long spiral of events, I suffered an eating disorder. I started cutting myself. I found a guy who promised me a lifetime of love and happiness, he raped me, and then I discovered he was intending to go to prom with my "best friend" (a female) the entire month we were together. I shrank into a hole physically, but emotionally, I gave love to anybody who wanted it! I became involved with somebody so far away from me, he could never touch me, never hurt me, but I could pretend like we had love, to keep myself happy.
I'll stop now. I think you get the idea, and you probably don't care to hear those details. These are things I dare not tell anybody. So when people ask me how I can love my SO the way I claim I do, what am I supposed to say?
The first time ever I saw his face, I felt peaceful. Perhaps it was his small smile. We would pass each other multiple times a day, and each time, I couldn't bring myself to say hello. Apparently, he would try to say hi to me, too, but couldn't speak loudly enough. One morning, I was reading one of my chemical magazines when he walked into the room and passed by me. I looked up, and he looked down, as if to say something. He claims he said hi, but I heard nothing. I don't believe in love at first site, but in that moment, I knew I wanted to love him. I haven't stopped since.
Call us juvenile, if you want. I won't disagree that we are very young. His mom even referred to me as "jailbait" the first year we were together. Maybe our love is juvenile, too. What I do know, though, is that loving him has never been haphazard. I know I love him because I want to love him. Even on the days that he makes me angry, I never lose that desire to love him. If that's truly juvenile, then we could all use a dose of juvenile love in our long-term relationships.