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Marriage, Our Story

A Perfectly Imperfect Love Story: Part 2 – The Pain of Pornography

October 22, 2014

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part Series. Read Part 1 here.
This post was originally published on the FOCUS Blog.

We ended the last post with us saying our goodbyes and gearing up for our new long distance relationship. The care-free days of dancing on rooftops while singing High School Musical songs were over. (Yes that actually happened)

Here in this post we want to share the second part of our story – where we transitioned from a budding new relationship into something more serious. We will take turns telling the story back and forth like last time as well.

Here we go.


The days of summer were gone. Our new normal became Skype dates a few times a week and occasional phone calls in between.

In September Jonathan came to visit me in Champaign, IL and we had a wonderful visit. We went to an apple orchard, drank beers on rooftop with friends, enjoyed Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and visited a farmer’s market. We were falling in love…but it was still wayyy to early to admit or express that! 🙂

I do remember explicitly having a conversation about “how things were going” in the relationship. Nothing too serious but we both agreed things were going well. We established that neither of us were just hanging around just to keep going on dates, talking on the phone, or traveling for kicks. There was a point now…to discern marriage. But it was still very much an individual discernment at this stage in the game….a conversation in prayer, spiritual direction or with friends…not with one another yet.

A book I’d read during this time was “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk.” The most memorable concept from the book was that everyone can be awesome for about three months…and then facades begin to fade away and the real person starts to emerge. Our relationship was going well, and we’d just passed the three month mark…could things be too good to be true?


Things were going really well. Until the next visit. Amanda came out to New York City to visit me, and while we were walking around the city, a cab with an ad for a strip club passed by. Amanda said something about how gross that was, and then asked if I had ever looked at pornography.

This was the moment I had been dreading.

I told her we should go back to my apartment and talk.

I knew this conversation had to happen before the relationship went any further. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.


Words can’t express my horror and disgust with Jonathan when I found out about his pornography use. I ran to a bathroom, fell on the floor, and cried for what felt like hours. I went back and forth between hating him and feeling sad for him.

When I finally emerged from the bathroom, I wanted to hear everything. No holding back. Now or never.


I wish I could have said, “No. Porn wasn’t ever really an issue for me.” I wish I could have said, “I looked at it a little bit when I was younger, but when I realized what it was, I stopped.” I wish I could have said, “It was an issue, but I sought out help, I got help, and I haven’t looked back since.”

But I couldn’t say those things. I had to say, “Yes. I’ve had a porn habit for about ten years. I didn’t know what it was when I started, and before I realized I needed to stop looking at porn and masturbating, I was hooked and haven’t been able to stop. I have been too proud to tell myself I can’t do this alone. I have not seriously reached out for help. I am still in this swamp.”


Jonathan told me everything right then and there. It took a couple hours to talk through and there were a LOT of tears and shame. I realized he’d been held captive by this for literally a decade and despite going to Confession, it had never really been fully brought to the Light of Christ.

There was no turning back and I knew then this would either make or break our relationship. I walked to the place I was staying that night in a state of numbness. I couldn’t cry anymore…there was nothing left.


I had just hurt the person I cared about most in the world. It felt like I was towing an 18-wheeler with a bungee cord. Even stopping, right now, will do nothing to keep the truck from running us over.

We talked for a very long time. Then, Amanda left.


Emotionally I was a complete mess. I went back to Illinois and felt haunted. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was a nervous wreck at all times of the day. Thoughts raced through my mind constantly. Maybe Jonathan is looking at porn at this very moment….What can I do to stop him….Who can I talk to about this….

After a few weeks, Jonathan wasn’t getting help like he said he would. He had been falling back into porn use and I refused to be in a relationship where he wouldn’t combat his addiction like he said he would.

So I broke up with him out of respect for myself. It was a hard choice but I had to get some distance so I could start functioning again.

A few weeks went by…and I thought of Jonathan often. I decided to pray a St. Therese novena and ask specifically for red roses and white lilies if I was supposed to marry Jonathan. I never ever ask for flowers when I pray novenas. I don’t like that magical thinking. But this time, I had to ask specifically. My emotions were so erratic and I needed St. Therese’s help big time. If I was about to miss my vocation…I needed her to tell me.

I prayed the novena and felt more and more peace every day. I knew I made the right choice in gaining some distance and telling Jonathan he needed counseling….but I started to feel like breaking up with him was the easy out and I was actually supposed to stand beside him in this battle. On the ninth day of the novena, I was back home in Omaha getting ready to speak at my home parish about the work I do with FOCUS before Thanksgiving. I walked into the chapel and there were at least a dozen large arrangements around the alter…every single one of them was comprised of red roses and white lilies.

I knew then than we’d be back together and were supposed to get married.


Before all this happened (especially the breaking up) I had agreed to drive out to Omaha with a friend for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to leave them alone with the 24-hour drive, so I went anyway. I stayed with a friend, had Thanksgiving with his family, and hoped I’d get a chance to see Amanda.

My friend and I went to Mass on Thanksgiving, and what do you know, out of the dozens and dozens of parishes in Omaha, and all the Masses offered that day, Amanda was there. We met up in the back of the Church after Mass.

My iPhone had been the way I was looking at porn, but I had a hard time getting rid of it because 99% of the time it was really useful and handy, especially getting around New York City. Jesus tells us “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Well, my iPhone was causing me to sin, so I plucked it out. And by “plucked it out,” I mean “smashed it with a hammer.”

I gave Amanda the processor as a sign that the phone had been killed.

We agreed to meet again later that night and talk.

We met up, talked, and with signs of me taking concrete action in my fight, we got back together.


We were back together and I knew the road wouldn’t be easy but it was God’s will for us. Jonathan got into counseling. He got a group of men to surround him with accountability and prayer. He got rid of temptations and circumstances that led to temptation. Trust began to heal.

I knew we needed some in person time to continue making a good discernment of marriage. Over winter break we scheduled it so we could spend time with one another and our families over a three week window. Dating long distance can be fun but you don’t really get to know someone over fun-filled weekends in NYC seeing Broadway shows. Anyone could have a good time doing that. We needed “real life” to make good discernment choices. Being with one another around families for a few weeks was perfect.

We started falling in love again.


Yes, I entered into counseling for my addiction to porn and masturbation. And it saved my life. It took a little bit of time, some adjustments to habits, and LOTS of fasting and prayer (by myself and others), but I made amazing progress.

That spring, I got the go ahead for proposing from Amanda’s dad.

I planned it all out and starting laying the groundwork for the proposal.


Spring was really good to Jonathan and I. Thankfully Jonathan’s counseling was going so well that the porn issue was falling farther out of sight as he healed. We continued visiting once a month and I remember sometime over Spring Break Jonathan said I should probably begin praying more specifically about engagement.

I took that as a cue that he had discerned to propose to me and was giving my slow melancholic heart time to process before springing it one me.

I asked the Religious Sisters in town if I could have a Saturday morning alone in their chapel to pray. I went there for five hours, praying specifically about marrying Jonathan. By the end of my time, it was clear as day that if Jonathan asked me to marry him, I would say “yes!” So much peace filled me with that decision and I felt like God was right there with me. I scheduled Spiritual Direction and talked it all over with a priest. He thought I did a great job in setting aside time to hear the Lord’s voice about the next steps.

I told Jonathan about my time in prayer and that I had come to my own decision about our relationship and he was free to pursue the next step whenever he felt it was time.

Tune in next time for the engagement story and how we prepared for marriage! 🙂

For those who want the bullet points and meat, here are the lessons we learned at this stage in our relationship:

  • For those who are long distance – you have to have more than short weekends where all you do is stay up late, laugh, and have fun. This won’t be enough to make a good and solid discernment. Get longer stretches of “normal life” around one another.
  • A couple months into dating is the time to bring up any struggles, weaknesses, or addictions. Too early on is going to crush growth but too late will crush trust or discernment.
  • If there are any “big” issues that require counseling to overcome, get in as soon as possible. You can’t be one another’s counselors.
  • Same goes with accountability partners. You can’t provide this in dating relationships. Accountability partners for any area of sin or weakness should be same gender friends or a Spiritual Director.
  • Spend time with one another’s families as much as you possibly can while discerning marriage. This is where people are typically most “themselves” and you will be spending a lot of time with this person’s family for the rest of your life if you choose to marry them. Get used to it now! 🙂
  • Make sure to really discern your vocation in prayer and Spiritual Direction…don’t just haphazardly react to options. This will prevent you from doubting later on or from the enemy getting you to question your discernment years down the road.
Marriage, Our Story

A Perfectly Imperfect Love Story: Part 1 – First Impressions & Second Chances

October 21, 2014

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series.
This post was originally published on the FOCUS Blog.

With all this talk about dating and relationships, Jonathan and I wanted to share our story with you.


Since we have the most perfect love story ever written.


We totally don’t have the perfect relationship and that is why we want to share our story. We will be tag-teaming this post, switching back and forth between our two perspectives as we tell the story and discuss lessons we learned along the way.

Let’s go back to May 2008…


There I was, freshly graduated from college and a brand new FOCUS missionary. I was embarking on a one-year dating fast and to be honest I was very excited about it.

I had just come off a discernment roller coaster the previous year. It’s a long story but I had seriously discerned both marriage and religious life in college and was hoping Jesus would call me to be his bride even though it wasn’t looking like he was going to. #CatholicGirlProblems! (PS – Don’t be afraid to discern religious life, it’s awesome!)

It was the very first week of FOCUS New Staff Training and I remember vividly walking up a hill towards the building we would learn about how to fundraise our income. I was scared out of my mind and could feel butterflies in my stomach. To my right I begin to hear music…”For The Love of Money” (money money money money, mo-ney!) began to get louder and louder. I peered over my shoulder and this guy had his computer propped on his shoulder like a boombox playing this song. He danced up the sidewalk without a care in the world. The I noticed the long pony-tail…down to his elbows.

I was not impressed. Mr. Jonathan Teixeira was immediately filed into the “friend” zone and that’s where I intended to keep this goof-off who couldn’t take life s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y.


That summer, too, was my first year as a missionary with FOCUS. My only memory of Amanda from that summer was one afternoon near the end of training during which I played Korean rock-paper-scissors (think of regular RPS but with a layer of deception and slapping each other built-in) with a group of people which included Amanda. She was pretty competitive, and she slapped hard.


Fast-forward two years to the summer of 2010. My spiritual director had recently told me I was “beating a dead horse” in trying to make Jesus call me to religious life and I needed to move on. With that clarity, I felt a great deal of peace that I was finally ready for whatever God wanted to do with my life, even if it differed from what I thought I wanted.

That summer, Jonathan and I were at yet another FOCUS New Staff Training. This time around, we are both part of a smaller leadership group and finally had opportunities to actually get to know one another instead of making passer-by judgements.

We were at one of the smaller gatherings when it was time for some intercessory prayer. All of a sudden as I am deep in prayer, I hear a male voice start praying enthusiastically. I peaked one eye open and saw it was Jonathan Teixiera. What?! I thought that guy was a joke…but there was definitely a serious side, and it was clear he passionately loved Jesus and the Blessed Mother.

I instantly crushed.

But wait? We didn’t really know one another…so how do I get to know this guy without being a creepster or emasculator?

Naturally, I threw a party at my house for 30+ people and invited Jonathan in hopes I would end up getting to talk with him one-on-one. I was confident that once he saw the real me, that’s all it would take to get him to reciprocate feelings.

Brilliant plan…


So, there was a party for all the missionaries going into their third year with FOCUS. I went to the party and agreed to go a little early to help set up. Amanda picked up me and the other helpers and took us to the house.

Later that evening, I got into a conversation with a group of people and what do you know, Amanda entered into that group. Before I know it, the rest of the group was gone, and Amanda and I had been talking for 90 minutes.

The party wound down, and since I helped set up, I figured I’d help clean up. Later, it was time to head back to the dorms, and Amanda and I walked to her car. Turns out, everybody else who had gotten a ride to the party for Amanda had already left. It was just Amanda and I in the car. Alone.

We’re chatting, and in the middle of a sentence, a HUGE lightening bolt streaks across the sky. At the same moment, we both let out a “OH WOW! COOOOOL!” exclamation noise. It was at that moment, when Amanda allowed herself to have such a genuine, impromptu, childlike reaction that I first though, “Hmmmm, there may be something to this Amanda girl. hmmm…” That night, I figured I might try to get to know her a little better.


I started to notice Jonathan “sharking” around.

What I mean by that is he was always on my perimeter. Whether I was going out to pizza with friends, rafting, playing soccer, or eating dinner, Jonathan was around. He would come up to chat me up at least once or twice. I stayed engaged and interested in our conversation, hopefully letting him know I thought he was interesting and cool. It’s a fine art to master in letting a guy know you are interested without spelling it in the clouds.

I knew the attraction was there and it was only a matter of time until he made his move.


I had crossed paths with Amanda a few times that week. She was always very nice, so I figured I’d ask her out. I got up the nerve and decided to ask her on our first break from classes of the day. The break came, and I made my way over to Amanda. My hands got all sweaty, heart pounded… and Amanda was talking with somebody else. I didn’t want to go over and say, “Excuse me, could I interrupt your conversation to ask Amanda on a date,” so I figured I’d wait until she was relatively alone. Which took ALL DAY.

Finally, after Mass that evening, I noticed Amanda praying in the pew before leaving. I thought, “Oh, a short thanksgiving prayer after Mass. I’ll wait a minute or two, catch her on her way out of the chapel, and talk to her before anyone else gets the chance!” Turns out, it wasn’t a short thanksgiving prayer, but AN ENTIRE ROSARY. 25 minutes later, she finally leaves the chapel, and immediately runs into one of the chaplains and begins a conversation with him! I walked past them and hoped I could catch Amanda after they talked.

They ended their conversation, and Father turned right to go to the rectory. Amanda turned left to go to the cafeteria for dinner. She was alone! “Now’s your chance,” went the voice in my head. “You ask her now, or you’ll never have another chance! Go! Now!” I stroll up to Amanda and start some small talk. We walk towards the cafeteria full of missionaries, and arrive to the entrance of the dinner line. I wish her a good dinner… and turn to leave! “You didn’t ask her, what are you thinking?! You blew it!” I turn around, “Amanda?” I say. “Yes?” she responds. “Would… uh, are you… are you doing anything later to-to-tonight? Would you like to get.. ice cream?” I stammer out. She responds, “Yes!” with a perfect mix of excitement and grace. I respond to her yes by high-fiving her, turning around, and running away! Whaaaat? No details, nothing. It’s a wonder we got together later that night.


He finally asked! 🙂 Of course I ate the fastest dinner of my life, ran upstairs, and had my fabulous roommate dress me up. We went on that ice cream date and had a lazy stroll around the park. That night after our date, I went upstairs, got ready for bed and laid down. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. So nearly an hour after the date, I walked down to the chapel…and what do I see?

Jonathan…kneeling alone, up front, right in front of the tabernacle. When we parted ways, he headed in that direction…which means he went to pray after our date. I knew this guy was a keeper and was excited to keep getting to know him.

And of course I proceeded to hide in the back of the chapel in the dark so he wouldn’t see me spy-praying.


The ice cream date went well, and I was interesting in spending some more time with Amanda, getting to know each other. I asked her on another date, and she said yes.

We had a nice casual first date, but I thought I should put a little more effort into this next one. I researched some fun things to do in town, and took her to do them. This date may have involved digging fake dinosaur bones, drinking vintage sodas, and eating cow tongue tacos. She may not have enjoyed those tacos, but she really enjoyed the date.

I kept asking her on dates, and she kept saying yes. They gave us a great chance to get to know each other. We really enjoyed each other’s company, and had a talk about what we wanted to do with training coming to an end and us no longer living in the same town. We decided to give an exclusive relationship a shot.


Summer training was coming to a rapid end and I was living in Champaign, IL and Jonathan in New York City, NY. We started “interviewing” other couples who made long-distance relationships work. Things we heard were “monthly visits” and “Skype dates 2-3 times a week” in addition to obvious check-in phone calls throughout the week.

With all their advice, we took a leap forward and said our summer goodbyes knowing we would be long-distance from there forward.

Stay tuned for next time, when we talk about growing from a tiny budding relationship to starting to have deeper discernment conversations.