What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Amanda C.H.

Love Doesn’t Always Win. I’m a lesbian, and I fully support gay rights and marriage equality. When I was 16, I came out to my mom, who insisted I was straight. This was our conversation:

Me: Mom, I think I’m a lesbian.
Mom: No, I don’t think so.
Me: well actually, I really do think so, and there is a girl I really like.
Mom: Nope, you are confused and she is manipulating you. What are we having for dinner?

And that was the end of it. No further conversation for another eight years. This led me down a dangerous path of self destruction and self hatred which bottomed out ten years later, which was this last month. Why? Because love doesn’t always win the way we want it to.

My relationship with my mom has changed since then, and we’ve grown together in a way I’ve never thought possible. She raised me as a Mormon, and with this religion, you forfeit some personal liberties for a future life. No smoking, drinking, drugs, or sexual encounters outside of a heterosexual. Women are submissive, but without the word. We were taught to obey our husbands and church leaders, but to also do our own research. When our research didn’t align with the current doctrine, we were to pray about it, or to simply accept the current doctrine based on what we know of or faith in the church. When the issue of Prop 8 came up in ’08, I remember being terrified. When I disagreed with the Church, I was asked if I loved God. If I loved him, I would obey Him, and His prophet. I was told, and I believed, that by loving God, I had to love and obey the authority of His Church. Even when that love hurt me, everything would work out for God.

Do I obey the church or my conscience? I had just turned 19, and was prepared to do my civic duty, but I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew what I was supposed to do, but not what I wanted to do. I chose not to vote at all, and keep my conscience clear.

I can’t help but compare this love to my first lesbian relationship. I was 24, and she was already in a relationship. At the time, I had left the LDS Church for several other reasons, but I’d be lying if I said my sexuality wasn’t a part of it. My parents, mostly my mom, was still very much a believer. When I left, the relationship deteriorated between my mom and me. By the time I met “Andy,” our relationship had finally come back to a strong one and I was preparing to transfer to a university from a community college. When I met Andy, I had never really known a lesbian before, with the exception of a few I somewhat knew in high school. She was the first one I met that I really got to know. Before I knew it, we were in love. I knew she was taken, but my heart belonged to her. That was when everything changed. She left her partner of ten years, but lied to me from the beginning. She insisted her partner was cheating, and I was the only one she could trust. Looking back, I was swept up in her essence; I just wanted to be with her. I wanted her to be mine, but I wanted her to own me.

This is the pentacle of an unhealthy relationship. I submitted to her every will, and made excuses for her every behavior. She didn’t like the clothes I wore, so I changed to please her. She didn’t like the way I spoke, so I changed my everyday vernacular to meet hers. She wanted me to change my major, which I did. Soon, things became second nature. I only did what I thought she would want me to be. She called me selfish for wanting friends. Before I went anywhere, I had to tell her where I was going. She owned me. When she got upset about anything, it was my fault. When she threatened to kill us both by crashing the car on the freeway because I didn’t love her enough, it was my fault. When she got in trouble at work, it was my fault. When she was fighting with her ex, it was my fault. It was all my fault.

A few months into the relationship, she went back to her old relationship, but kept me on the side. When I tried to break it off, she’d tell me she’d kill herself. If I got upset because she was sleeping with her ex, she’d call me selfish. Every morning, she’d call me at six, and want phone sex and have me send her pictures. When I didn’t, she would threaten to send the ones she had or post them on revenge porn sites. By this point, she would tell me who I was, which was HER GIRLFRIEND. I wasn’t me anymore, I was hers. She owned me. And I still loved her.

I finally reached out for help to someone at my school. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call him Bob. He worked there, and called me in when I was collapsing under the stress. I was very emotionally unstable, and he started asking me questions about this relationship. He, too, is gay, and noticed I was in an abusive relationship and helped me get out. He was honest, open, kind, and showed me genuine love. This was strange because it was unconditional, and taught me healthy boundaries.

This is where “#lovewins” gets tricky. I loved Andy, I loved my church, I loved the feeling of being in love. But, I didn’t love myself. In fact, I hated myself so much I almost killed myself drinking because I couldn’t handle the “love” I never really understood. It wasn’t until my friends sat me down and showed me what love is. They told me what I was doing to myself and to them. That was love! The love my parents had when they stood up to the church leaders who were calling LGBTQ+ people evil deviants, and embrace me and anyone I bring to them, both publicly and privately. That is love!

I think “#lovewins” should be changed to #healthylovewins. The love my parents, Bob and my friends had for me is a healthy, limitless, genuine, love. The love Andy and some of the members of my childhood church is an unhealthy, limited, imitation of love.

Love doesn’t always win, but healthy love does.