Translated by Ekaterina Baburina
Edited by Paul Michna
First published in The Heir magazine
Many boys and girls think they must lose their virginity as soon as possible, as if it were something unnecessary and unfashionable. They boast of their “first time” among themselves. And the one who “hasn’t yet” is often mocked in a company where the rest “already have”. But for a believer, it is very important to keep chastity not only during teenage years, but until marriage. Sex affects your future, the life of your partner, as well as the lives of your children. For those who tell their stories here, these are more than just words; their experiences have given them important knowledge.
I was 13 when I first fell in love, and it lasted for many years. In many respects, it affected my whole life. Andrei and I met at our friend’s birthday party. I spent the whole evening talking to Andrei, and shared my first romantic dance with him. I discovered a smart, diffident and very charming boy behind a mask of feigned self-confidence. There was something very dear to me in him, something that words could not express. And I felt he was my true love.
But we didn’t communicate much since then. At first, we would greet each other, but I was too shy to initiate a conversation, fearing that he might ignore me. And he was always surrounded by girls, dating one or another. So while my friends experienced their first love affairs, my life was made of occasional meetings with him, or rather of distant glances. I watched Andrei with pain, trying not to betray my feelings. It was like the song: “To walk without a slightest glance along the edge of your world.” Despite everything, I hoped that soon we could be together. For he also looked at me with a hidden sympathy, as it seemed to me, as though he just he didn’t dare to come and talk to me.
This lasted throughout our school years. I realized it was foolish to be in love with a stranger who I could not even speak with. But I couldn’t help it. When I tried to forget Andrei, I saw an image of him in my dreams – and my feelings for him returned. In despair, I prayed God to show me His will: either bring us together, or give me strength to forget Andrei. I had almost finished school, and I never kissed a boy. I was convinced that I needed no one but him.
Eventually, out of desperation, I talked to Andrei as I met him near his house. Even though many years had gone by, he remembered my name! We were standing face to face, all those years of waiting and tears behind me. By my timid mumbling of a “personal talk” to him, Andrei understood everything and said with a flattered smile. “You know, we can’t be together. I’ve got a girlfriend that suits me well,” he said.
“You’ve got it wrong. I meant quite another thing,” I said, my pride making me look straight into his eyes and inventing some other reason. Soon we said goodbye. He went his way, and I went my way, crushed. Fortunately, it was already dark and no one saw my tears (I hate being seen crying). It was all in vain, all these years of hope were in vain!!!
But there was a blessing: I mourned over my love, and then buried it. Even later, when Andrei got married, I asked God for guidance: “Lord, but what for did You torture me with this ill-fated love through all these years?” As ill luck would have it, I continued having dreams of Andrei every time I began to feel affection towards a boy and tried to take a chance. As a result my relationships with any other boy failed time after time without growing into a love affair. I could not understand why God dealt with me this way, what it is aimed at, or if Andrei and I can never be together.
I was a student when Denis entered my life. A tall, blue-eyed, fair-haired man, resembling an elf, he was smart, good-natured, with a sense of humour, a good psychologist. But something was wrong about him. It appeared that Denis couldn’t date a girl without taking her to bed, and it all was very easy for him. There was a period when he was dating three girls at the same time! Moreover, he was very self-seeking, he estimated every girl whether she suited him and “adjusted” her drawbacks to himself.
But I noticed that inside Denis there was something pure and very beautiful showing from behind his light-headed way of life. Maybe this is what is called “to see image of God inside a man.” I sensed his potential to be a better person. He also confessed that he had never had been so frank with a girl before, and revealed some less savoury truths about himself.
Once Denis said: “You know, I’ve got a girlfriend now, but our relationship is in deadlock. I want to leave her to be with you.” Before that, I was asked out by guys who were no more than just friends to me. It was the first time this way. But how to tell him that I only date without sex? I took a deep breath, bracing myself: “You know, I like you too. But I only accept dating without sex. I am a believer, and I really don’t want it before marriage”. Denis was perplexed. He said he had never met girls like me, and wondered why I was mystifying the loss of my virginity. I understood I could not find words to explain him why. To me, losing my virginity must happen with a beloved husband, and because Denis was a womanizer, my “first time” with him would mutilate my life.
We began to decide what to do, as we both were longing for each other. At last he said, “Let’s stay friends. To tell the truth, I am afraid to get attached to you, I like both your appearance and inner self. You don’t need to change. But I won’t do without sex, and I shall be unfaithful to you and feel I am a bastard. It’s better not to try.”
“I can’t be just a friend to you,” I confessed silently. And we parted. I felt like a character in a teenage magazine: they liked each other, but she refused to sleep with him and he was gone. When I came home, I prayed for a long time, though I was awfully offended: he changed me not even for another girl – for sex itself. This is my sacrifice to You, Lord, I wanted so much to be with him… But we belonged to different worlds. In his world, they favor free love and wild parties, smoke pot, and do not believe in You. People like me are an odd type for them.
A few months passed, but my wounded self-respect didn’t heal. So I decided to send him an SMS, invited him to go for a walk, for it was summer. Denis was glad to, and suggested meeting the very next day! We walked in the downtown talking about all sorts of things. I knew he left his girlfriend and was single. I wanted so much to make him appreciate the person in me and go away first this time. His brightened eyes told me I managed to do it, even if we were not to see each other once again.
But Denis didn’t disappear. Quite the contrary, he called me himself and sent nice messages. We continued meeting. Strange as it might seem, we were good friends, despite all the differences. With Denis I felt good and pleasant. When he flirted with me, I countered with a smile. I was determined not to let myself be fascinated with him, to let him break me down as he did to other girls.
After a month or so of our friendship I suddenly had a premonition. Before a meeting with Denis, I started to pray: “Lord, not for my sake, but for his sake, let me awake his real self hidden inside him. If there is Your will for it, let us be together! I will do my best to keep my chastity, just help me!” And then I came to my senses. What a strange thought; Denis and I are just friends!
But the premonition wasn’t false. Denis remembered the last time we parted. He sighed with disappointment: “Now I can’t change anything, no matter how I try.” I answered with a slight bitterness, that everything was gone, wasn’t it what he wanted? And he asked me to be his girlfriend! And he did in a very shy manner. “But I won’t sleep with you,” I said. “It’s not what I want from you” he answered. “That is why you dated those three at a time.” I replied, mockingly. “I actually searched for something that is in you, and couldn’t find! I accept your terms.” “I don’t believe you. Why you should need me?” “I do need…” he trailed off, looking straight into my eyes with such hope and emotion that I could not but trust him. I never saw him so excited. “You are absolutely unlike my former girlfriends. And I wish to be with you so much.” These words were the last straw. I smiled timidly. “I agree.” It was like a fairy tale, my cherished dream suddenly came true, and I finally became his girlfriend.
When we were saying goodbye, he kissed my cheek, then kissed the other. And I was staring at nothing, submerged into the thought of our romance. Only after a while I understood: he wanted to kiss my lips as his girlfriend’s, but he saw I was not ready for it, so he held back. I was touched by his consideration.
We went to the countryside for our first date. Denis wore a mysterious smile and kept silent. “What’s up?” I wondered. “I hold myself in check in order not to say what I should not and not to alienate you.” When we went hand in hand along the street, all the passing-by girls devoured Denis with their eyes. And I was triumphant: finally I was rewarded for all my lonely years! At the same time I was terribly embarrassed to be so inexperienced, not even having kissed a boy. How are we to date then?
…We sat on a hill near the river. He said: “Did you notice that we haven’t kissed yet?” I nodded shyly. “Then let us try now?” His voice suddenly sounded so strange that I flinched. He was obviously confused. “So why did you agree to date me?” “I didn’t mean it.” I started to explain that for a couple a kiss is an expression of their feelings, especially the first one. Denis didn’t understand. “It makes no difference to me be it the first or the last.” Since he made an attempt to understand, I let him kiss me. There was only desire in his kiss, with no hint of tenderness. I was awfully disappointed. And this was my first kiss! But since then he never kissed me without permission. Not once.
The worst thing for me was that our relationship went nowhere. There were moments when Denis showed the beauty I saw before, but it was instantly erased by his usual grin… His numerous past romances burned the ability to feel out of him. We both knew that we would part. Denis said it once and killed my hope for him being my Only One. That is why he began to annoy me from time to time. For him, it was a game instead of real feelings! But I held back by convincing myself that he was trying to change in his own way. I mustn’t demand more. And all the more he is not ready for a marriage, this is his right. Denis is up to the mark, unlike most guys he is truly trying to learn how to feel.
At that time, my parents were divorcing, and it influenced my relationship with Denis. My strict father ceased control of me, and I plunged into my first romance. But I didn’t allow Denis anything extra. “Why don’t you let me? That’s not what I am used to.” he argued. “You will get used.” I countered calmly. And he agreed. I was astonished how he rejected his ego for me, how tender, caring, sometimes touching he became with me.
Initially I was living with a feeling that we were about to leave each other, that he wouldn’t stand it. But we were staying together. Denis even was hurt by my looking for a catch. “I am really trying to change, and you don’t believe me.” When I was with him, my soul relaxed, and I was able to forget about my family troubles. Denis was one of those uncommon guys who can listen, not only talk about themselves. I often taunted his habits in relationships with girls, teased and puzzled him. But at the same time I sincerely gave him all the tenderness that I was storing in my heart for such a long time.
There were moments when I tested myself inwardly, it was interesting what I am like in my privacy, what it is like to date a man. And it became clear to me that I would never be ready for intimacy with a man other that my Only One, without a marriage. God really protected me: my soul appeared to be strong enough not to let me loose my head. I was incredibly grateful to God for his trust in me, for his showing me why I must preserve myself until marriage and at the same time with Denis’s help saving me from a hang-up of being too inexperienced. Denis was the right guy for me to become self-confident and to stop worrying that my friends already tried everything. His self-control astonished me, as he really didn’t touch me. On the contrary, he did his best to make me trust him. It was the gift God gave to me, if there were another guy instead of Denis, everything would end in a most sad manner.
We dated for several months. And then Denis suddenly disappeared, vanishing into thin air. He changed his mobile number and stopped answering e-mails. I missed him like I would miss a close friend, for we really were very good friends and shared so much.
Denis reappeared a year later. We met. It turned out that he vanished because he lost control and went on a spree. Afterwards, he was too ashamed to return to me, because he knew my attitude to promiscuity. “You might as well do it.” I answered. “I knew it would happen some day. I accepted you as you were, even though there were things I disliked.” He heaved a sigh of relief and begged my pardon for having made me worry. Today we contact each other from time to time. Denis has been living with a girl for two years already, though he has no intention of getting married. He told me I taught him many things: that girls are worthy of respect, and that besides the physiological aspects of a relationship, there are also emotions and soul, which are more important.
At first it seemed to me that Sergey was just a flame that would leave nothing but ashes in my heart after a useless waiting by the phone, though my feeling towards him was special, unlike previous cases. But this time it turned out to be true! After our first meeting Sergey didn’t disappear. He called me and we began to date.
I eventually understood why God gave me that long and ill-fated first love: the image of Andrei, like a guardian angel, saved me from unnecessary love affaires, trained me to sacrifice my ego for other another’s sake. He taught me a devoting self-sacrificing love. The image of Andrei was a harbinger of my Only One. Now I am grateful to God that this childish love took place in my life.
Sergey is my real man, my dear, my beloved. He impersonated everything I was looking for all that time – strength and tenderness, reliability and trust. Little by little I became sure that he loves me too and will never betray. This feeling is hard to express in words. Of course, it was a hard trial for Sergey, at first I was very suspicious, after all the times I burnt my fingers. But he stood it and wasn’t scared by the role of a husband to be, he asked me to become his wife himself. We waited for a due time period to test our feelings. And this summer we wedded in church. I couldn’t believe in my luck: everything was successful! In the end God made me united with a man whom I was destined to.
I grew up at Soviet time, was a nonbeliever, even wasn’t baptized. But even than God never left me, though I realized it later on. And at that time I observed some traditional principles because that was how I was brought up by my family where love reigned. It revealed in small but important details. For example, father always phoned mother if he stayed on at work in order not to let her worry; they always went on holidays together – and became natural for our family. That is, parents taught by their life, not by words. I was lucky to have such an example.
Soviet literature also told us about true love and purity of relationship, maybe it influenced me too. But as I reached teen ages my thoughts were in a complete mess – for my friends talked about quite different things and were far from chaste life. The first time I encountered the problem of chastity was at kayak hike on vacations. My university friend took his girlfriend there, and after it she became pregnant. He left her, she had to have an abortion. And he didn’t care for committing a betrayal: he didn’t think there were any commitments to bind him. He did like her… but not that much. And she had a grave mental condition, she gave up institute. Her life was ruined. My friendship with that guy came to the end, I simply understood that I couldn’t be a friend to such person. That was when I made it clear that intimacy is not to be trifled with, that small reasons lead to the consequences which ruin man’s life. I understood it once and for all that “free love” is not for me, because the most important thing is not only love, but also responsibility for the one you love. But at the same time I was convinced that one mustn’t be chaste with a bride, anyway you’ll get married soon.
I met my wife at a students’ party. And it struck me: it is she. I can’t tell why I was attracted by this very girl. I wasn’t driven mad with love, had no desire to sing serenades to her, didn’t idealize her. What I felt was a tremendous sense of recognizing. As it is sang by the band Korny: “You will tell her among a thousand girls by the image that’s carved within your soul.” She confessed to me later that she had a similar feeling.
We began to date, it lasted for several months. We communicated every day. Still we didn’t even dare to hold each other’s hands. Now I gratefully recollect that distance between us was shortening slower than our feelings were growing. In an opposite case everything might have collapsed. It happens to many couples: people break the distance at once, begin to live together without in fact being ready for it – and in the end they part. We were fortunate to escape it.
Finally one day when I was seeing her home after a walk I said that I wanted to marry her. She answered that she wanted to marry me too. And it was a beginning of real trial for me. I was sure that there was no reason left to postpone out “first time.” But she was brought up in a very strict way (her mother was a believer) and used to simply hit my hands if I trespassed certain limits. When I demanded to explain, she used to answer: “I love you. But that’s how it should be, I don’t want it other way.” At the same time we used to kiss and hug, not always innocently. But simply did not let me to go further, although I tried to persuade her.
My perplexity changed into respect. I understood it clearly that it was related to her moral principles, and deep inside I felt she was right. I think a woman oughtn’t explain anything at all, because she may yield to the convincingness of man’s arguments. She’d rather say: “These are my beliefs. If I have preserved myself for you, then I want to preserve both of us for marriage.”
By that time almost all our peers had already started their sexual life, these matters were widely spoken about. But I never discussed these questions with my friends. When you are serious about relationship with a girl, no way should you let it be gossiped: it is an intimate matter. And if it is discussed, then there is no love, no relationship, only a semblance.
My bride’s friends were not chaste, too. But they respected her decision and never mocked at it. I guess they had what to talk about except intimacy. You know, they are still friends, though more then 10 years have passed. These women came to faith, too, though their way was much harder: unlucky marriages, abortions, and broken hearts. By the way, at Soviet time abortion wasn’t considered something wrong. People just didn’t know that from the very first hours of pregnancy it is a human being, not an inanimate fetus. Women were convinced that abortion is not a killing of one’s baby, only a small operation. They all were to regret it later…
So, we waited until marriage. “But nature is nature, it can’t be left aside. It commands,” – this is a popular argument today. But we a distinguished from animals by nothing but our ability to put will above wishes. In my opinion justifying one’s sexual promiscuity by “nature” is a mere dissoluteness. And the argument that one must acquire sexual experience as soon as possible… I think, trivial skill is much less important than tolerance, caution, care and attention to the girl you love. One can spend a life gaining experience with different women –and never learn how to love.
Moreover, it is unnecessary to have sex at wedding night, when the couple is exhausted by wedding preparations. By the time they get to the bedroom they may be longing for rest only. It’s better to wait until the next day in order not to let the first night become a formality. There is a whole honeymoon ahead. In fact, I still have doubts about what young people should know before marriage. I personally read some appropriate books which were of great use for me. The most important thing I understood is: if you want to feel comfortable, you should take care of the one you love – and both of you will enjoy. And if you take care of no one but yourself, you will end with nothing.
When we got married, we understood: our waiting was not in vain. No, we didn’t pride ourselves upon our keeping chastity until marriage. We just got evidence that love is above all. Pre-wedding continence helped us to realize that intimacy follows the marriage and is its integral part, but it doesn’t rule over relationship. I know it from the example of my acquaintances who didn’t care about chastity until marriage. Those who put sex above love and faithfulness, face serious problems in family life.
…In a while I got faith and was christened. We wedded in church, and our marriage become complete. My wife and me are grateful to God that He wisely guided us to full comprehension of love and marriage and saved from falling.
We do not purposely talk to our children in the way “it’s time to speak how bees and dogs do it.” We just discuss movies and books together. We also gave them very good books to read: “Every girl should know it” and “Every boy should know it”; these books are about how an Orthodox should behave in his private life. I think such natural upbringing is better then prohibitions and force.