Chapter Three: The Price of Love
Things had gone back to normal for the most part. Michelle went back to Maryland and found a new job while Joseph worked hard and did best to contact Michelle every day.
But fights became more frequent. Michelle, in moments of anxiety, would break the relationship only to ask for Joseph back in a matter of days. But that was not all that happened. Anxiety made Michelle want to quit every job she got hired for. Joseph would encourage her to keep trying, but each time he felt hope fade away. Michelle would end up quitting every single time. Deep down, Joseph knew it wasn't her fault. "The devil's voice is strong in your head. Keep praying, Michelle."
During one of the times Michelle called off the relationship and went back to him, Joseph did so under one condition. "You can't pressure me to go to Maryland anymore. I don't want to go." It had been something Michelle looked forward to so much, but she agreed.
But Joseph's worries increased by the month. He had stopped going to confession, sinned more often, stopped going to Mass, and eventually stopped praying altogether. This all happened gradually, but Joseph didn't feel anything when the desire to do anything was gone. He kept up the illusion that maybe he was going back to it, and asked Michelle to pray for him.
On Christmas Eve, while Joseph went about his daily chores, Michelle messaged him. "I think you should come visit. My mother had a talk with me and she thinks you should, too. She made some really good points."
It may have been the decline in his spiritual life, but Joseph felt angry. "We already agreed that I won't."
"You're not even going to try?"
"No. Please drop it."
"You really should. It's not fair that only I should come to you."
"And it's not fair that you got back to me lying to me that you would drop this."
The two went back and forth, both trying to prove themselves right. It appeared, however, that Joseph was on the losing side. Deep down, he knew she was right. But he didn't feel that way at the time. Instead, he said... "I'm breaking up with you."
Heartbroken, Michelle said "You don't mean it."
"I do. I can't handle this pressure anymore."
Michelle took a long time to write her reply. But she could only muster the words "I wish you the best. I'm not giving up on you as a person. But I cannot be in a relationship where I give everything while getting nothing in return."
Joseph didn't realize this, but this was the truth. All he could think about was how he no longer had to tell his mother he was making a trip to Maryland. He no longer had to worry about saving up money for a trip, given all the debt and bills he had to pay for. He felt stress free and that's all that mattered to him.
Then the nights came where he wanted to go back to her. He resisted the urge to call her. "No. I'm right and she's wrong. She shouldn't have lied to me."
The two of them did stay in touch, but it may have been because Michelle already missed him. They would ask each other how they've been but that would be it. All Joseph had to do, he thought, was simply come back as a new man and make the trip himself if he truly wanted her back.
But he was still under a state of sin. The sin of pride. He put himself under the illusion that he was right and Michelle was wrong. And the more he thought about it, the taller the wall of pride would be. The devil only provided the bricks and cement; Joseph constructed that wall himself.
On a Sunday morning, February 4th, he checked his Facebook account. "Michelle is...in a relationship?"
The wall instantly came down. "I said to myself that she'll find something better than me. Why does it hurt...like a knife went through my heart?" Joseph sobbed uncontrollably. He couldn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it. She had already moved on? No. This was only a bad dream.
But it was not a bad dream. It was all very real. Michelle moved on in less than two months. But Joseph had only begun to grieve for her. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to think.
"Cry it out." One of his friends said. "If you didn't love her, you wouldn't be this upset to begin with."
Joseph didn't wait long to reach out to Michelle. "Hey. I'm glad you found someone. Reason I didn't reach out to you much was because I didn't want out to take me back out of sorrow. Take care, okay?"
Surprisingly, Michelle would keep the conversation going. "I love you and wish you nothing but the best. While I can't say I don't have lingering feelings for you, I feel like I should move on. I don't know what you want to do, either stay as friends or avoid contact with each other."
Joseph immediately replied "I don't mind staying friends."
And they both kept in touch. But it became apparent that Joseph could not let go. Not when Michelle would say things like "I don't know if my boyfriend is good for me spiritually" or "I don't want to cheat on my boyfriend by talking to you." or even "I may have jumped the gun because i thought I moved on." It was fairly obvious that she still felt something for Joseph. But at some point, she said "Please try to avoid contact with me. This is my decision."
Joseph was heartbroken once more. One night, when he was completely alone, he prayed. With tears in his eyes and wailing as loud as he could, he prayed. For the first time in months, Joseph finally felt the urge to pray again. "I want her back, Lord!" He would repeat himself over and over. And gradually, he could feel the man he was. At least the man he was right when he met Michelle. He believed he knew what he had to do.
He started applying for jobs and prayed every day. "If I had gotten a second job from the start, none of this would be happening." Michelle still loved him. If he applied himself to become the person he should have been for her, he believed she would eventually come back. If he had been more courageous and stood up to his mother, none of this would have happened.
He emailed Michelle with an update in his life. She was happy to hear that he was feeling better and that God was back in his life. She mentioned it would be fine to message each other as long as he said nothing inappropriate. "It was my boyfriend who suggested I block you on Facebook."
It was an unsettling thought for sure, but at least Michelle was still talking to him. That's what mattered to Joseph. It wasn't going to be easy,but he believed he could win her back. After all, cheating would only be if they met up behind her boyfriend's back. There was nothing harmful about talking for now. Many people talk to their exes all the time. And if Michelle was really the one for him, Joseph believed that her new boyfriend would do something that would make her have second thoughts about him. All he had to do was wait. And if Joseph was wrong? He prayed. "Lord, I want Michelle to feel at peace with her mind and soul. Please be there for her."
But waiting was hard for Joseph. So hard that he sang a song and recorded it just for her. One day, he could not hold back the urge to tell her about it.
"I want to watch it now. Can you send me the link?" She replied. The video also had thoughts he had already made clear with her, but Michelle got to hear them in his voice. "It hurt my heart watching that. Thank you. Cherish every breath that God gives you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for loving me."
Not long after, Joseph got a Facebook notification. Michelle's boyfriend wanted to connect with him.
"Hey dude. my girl says that you've been bothering her. I know you saw where you screwed up but the reality is that she is with me now. You're harassing her with your messaging so that's gonna stop now. If you insist, I'm gonna be mad and you don't want that." He pauses. "Now look, I'm an empathetic person so I'll listen to you. Why do you want her back?"
"Why are you speaking for her?" Joseph thought. He went on to explain that he felt proud to take her back before, but now with the power of prayer he feels strengthened.
"Dude that's nice and all but you should use that confidence to pick up other girls. She's my other half. If Michelle took you back now it would only be out of pity. You don't want a relationship out of pity, now do you?"
So much for empathy. SJoseph felt irritated. This guy only knew Michelle for a month and a half while he has known her for two years. He can't be serious about her being his second half, though he would suppose any partner would. "No. I would rather have a relationship where she's 100% sure of what she wants."
"Right, 100%. Well she's 100% sure she wants to be with me. So do stop trying to contact her. It's giving her stress and temptation is a sin. You don't want to fall into temptation and harass her again. So this is it, you're gonna stop now, right?"
Michelle had said nothing about harassment. Matter of fact, her last words to him recently were 'Thank you for loving me.' Plus, temptation wasn't a sin. The devil tempts people to do the wrong thing all the time. It is doing said wrong things that is sinful. Joseph did nothing to harass Michelle, at least he didn't mean to.
"I believe God will lead us to where we need to be. If I'm not meant to be with her, so be it. But you need to step up as a God-fearing man. Her spiritual life has been in decline and that has been a concern of mine." Joseph had been honest with everything, especially the last part. Michelle prayed for him even now and when his own spiritual life was stagnant. The least he could do was do the same for her. He loved her that much. "Will you lead her to God and help her stray from evil?"
"We already had the religious conversation before. I'm not obligated to any spiritual beliefs, but if it's important to her then it's important to me."
"Then make sure it stays important to her. As for the matter of me staying away from her, she needs to tell me herself." Michelle was a grown woman. She didn't need someone speaking for her, much less someone who didn't feel obligated to believe in anything. Perhaps God gave man the gift of free will, but it was with that gift that man would go on to do great things. If this guy didn't feel the desire to grow closer to God in order to grow closer to her, then Joseph needed to be the person up for the task. He felt he had to be.
"Dude, get a clue. She blocked you on Facebook and your number. She only keeps messaging you out of guilt and you're putting her through stress. She doesn't need that."
Those were all the screenshots Joseph needed to take. There were things off with his story. First off, Michelle had said he suggested she block Joseph on Facebook. The decision did not come from her own will. And if it was,she was obviously influenced into doing so. The only reason it could have been from her was because Valentine's Day was approaching at the time and didn't want to hurt Joseph with pictures. Which was likely.
But making it sound it was all her when he was the one who suggested it? He obviously wanted Joseph to feel so hurt he wouldn't go back to her. And if that was the case, why would he even do that? Is he not confident that he'll keep Michelle with him through thick and thin? If so, why is he treating her like a child that needed to be watched?
Joseph sent the screenshots to Michelle and four separate friends. His friends were quick to point out that the way he's controlling sent so many red flags. If only Joseph had thought so, perhaps it would have been overthinking and paranoia. But four different people, at least one speaking from experience? Joseph believed with all his heart that Michelle perhaps would see the true nature of this man. Because now he was unworthy of her, at least in his mind.
Michelle's response was one he had not hoped for. "Please stop messaging me. I thought it would be right to stay as friends but I was wrong. if you insist, I'll see what i can do about getting the authorities involved."
The email was heart-wrenching but Joseph held back his typing hand. He didn't know what to do. His mind immediately began racing. "That's not her vocabulary. Is it possible he has her phone? Is she alight?"
Later that night, Joseph got his answer. The phone rang. It was Michelle. "I don't know what to do..." Her voice broke.
Joseph was quick to get to the point. "Michelle, you called me. Are you okay? Was it really you who sent me that email?"
Silence. Then..."Yes. But he told me to write the exact words he said."
Joseph knew it. That message was not 100% from her.
"He was angry after I told him I had been talking to you." The anguish in Michelle's voice was something Joseph could not ignore.
"I see. So you read the conversation he and I had."
"Is that something a compassionate person would say?"
"...No. I know he could have been nicer about it."
"Michelle, he had no reason to get angry with you. If nothing else, he should only be angry with me. I understand his need to be territorial, but to be honest I think he's treating you like a child."
"Michelle. I wanna ask you something and I need you to be 100% honest with me. Do you truly love him more than you love me?"
"...I don't know. I'm gonna take some time off and pray. A couple of days. Then I can call you and tell you my decision."
Joseph had so many things in mind. Michelle obviously still feels something for him. She doesn't want to hurt her boyfriend because he's been betrayed by other girls and she doesn't want to be like the other girls. At the same time, she told Joseph she didn't want to hurt him either.
"Michelle. I've been praying. Praying that God leads you to the right person. More than anything, you deserve to be happy with someone who will lead you to God. I can be that person. And if by chance you decide to stay with him over me, then he needs to step up and be the spiritual guide you need."
"Don't worry about hurting me. If you pick him, sure it'll sting. But if I didn't love you, it wouldn't hurt at all."
The anguish in Michelle's voice started fading away. "Michelle. I got nostalgic when I sang that song for you. Remember when we went to Mass and I would sing? I couldn't do that on my own. I only recorded myself singing that song hoping to send it to you one day. I wasn't expecting that day to be today. And I wouldn't have sent it if you hadn't asked me. You know that, right?"
"I want you to stop hurting. I'll come to accept your decision no matter what. But ask yourself: can he do the same? If you are taking time off to pray, then I would suggest keeping your distance from him for now. It would be wrong to lead him more than you have to. And that way you could truly be alone with your thoughts and no one to interfere. I'll be sure to lay off too for now, so you can hear the voice of God."
Michelle sounded more calm. "Okay."
The two talked for a little more, but soon enough it was time for Michelle to head out. "Hey, Michelle?"
"I love you. May the Lord bless you and bring you His peace."
"Thank you. I care about you, too."
"And I'm content with that. Please be at peace."
"Thank you. Talk to you later."
"Talk to you later."
They both take their time to hang up. Joseph felt more confident in what he was doing. At the same time, was he right to share his opinions about her boyfriend? Joseph wanted her to ask herself the important questions, and then direct them to God. Her boyfriend said that Michelle would only get back to him out of pity, but from the sound of it she stayed with him out of pity. She didn't want to make him angry and didn't want to be another girl that hurt him. No matter what, however, Joseph didn't know the whole story. He wasn't there with her, unfortunately, and he feared that her boyfriend would influence her final decision.
Joseph smiled. When he picked up the phone, Michelle was crying and sobbing. But by the time he hung up, she was chuckling and more at peace with herself. Surely she couldn't ignore that effect he had on her. "It's up to you, Lord. Please help her."
The plan was to lay off for a couple of days. Joseph had told Michelle to take more time if she needed to. Then, she would call him with her decision. It was simple, but the wait was not going to be easy. Yet, Joseph believed he would be the right choice. Waiting on an answer wasn't new for him, and he was ready to wait however long it took for Michelle's answer.
Except...it didn't take long. Approximately 22 hours later, Michelle sent what perhaps could be her final message.
"I came to a decision. I think it's best if I stay with my boyfriend. I don't think it would be wise to be friends or talk anymore though because i feel like I'll be drawn away. Thank you again. I'll pray for you and any future relationships."
Joseph had more questions than answers. Why? Why so soon? And why not over the phone like she said she would? Was it too hard on her? Did her boyfriend pressure her to make a decision? She admitted to jumping the gun when she got into another relationship. Why did she do it again? It was too quick.
He sent her an email asking these questions. But then...he added something else. "If this is what you truly want, then I'll back off. I'll stop sending the scripture readings if need be. I promised to stand by whatever decision you made. But please, don't stray from God again. I'm sure He'll want you to be where you can grow closer to Him."
With a goodbye, Joseph hits Send. So many questions ran through his mind. And unfortunately, he didn't know the answer to any of them. With this decision, one thing was perfectly clear.
Perhaps it was him who was unworthy.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
The Blessed Virgin Mary
The Saints in Heaven
My friends, who have been with me during my time of anguish. You know who you are.
And the woman I lost. I hope that this story reaches your eyes one day, even if I can't reach you now. I love you, even if you can't love me back.
This was a special project that I worked on in one day. A lesson to never take anyone for granted, no matter the frustrations in your lives. For such emotions are temporary, but true love is permanent. Once you taste it, you'll only crave more of it.
Love is more than a two-way street, and even more than a one-way street. A godly relationship needs God in the middle and for both people to give it their all. For the time I was with her, the woman I love put more into it than I did. All I had to do was meet her halfway but I couldn't do even that. Now, it's likely I lost her forever. Had I done things differently we'd probably be living happily right now. The thought alone will haunt me for as long as I live, I think.
Do not take your partner for granted. Christian or not, a little love makes the world go round.
"Grief never ends. But it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love."