LIFESTYLE

What Happens When A Nun Has A Love Affair And Leaves Her Convent? Liz Upton Reveals All

04/09/2014 14:34 BST | Updated 08/09/2014 08:59 BST

Elizabeth Upton's life may read like the script for a Hollywood film, but her incredible story is absolutely real.

Liz became a nun at the age of 16, but after many years of living in a New York convent, she embarked on a secret love affair which completely changed her life.

Since then, Liz has re-invented herself more times than Madonna. First she worked as probation officer, then a counselor. Now, California-born Liz has established herself as an author.

Hearing about Liz's past, it seems like she has squeezed multiple lifetimes into just one. Her story can be an inspiration to us all, showing you don't need to be defined by the choices you make early in life.

Liz chatted to us about her fascinating journey.

liz upton

Liz says her unusual childhood was one of the major reasons she joined a convent in New York at the age of 16.

"When I turned 8 my mother re-married and her husband didn't want us so we were put into an orphanage for two years.

"My time in the orphanage matured me – I had a real feel for people who suffered, from abandonment and rejection or from physical or emotional disorders," she says.

Once Liz was back in the family home, her mother had a nervous breakdown, which also had a big impact on her own personal development.

"I ended up being a nun when I was quite young and I think it was due to the fact that although I was only 16 when I joined the convent, I really felt that spiritually and emotionally I was a twenty or thirty year old woman," she adds.

At just 16, Liz says she found the life of a nun "very different" to her childhood.

"There were very strict rules in the convent. We weren’t allowed to visit our families, we had four to five hours of prayer every day, we were detached from the world and didn’t have access to newspapers or television.

"In that respect it was a very restrictive religious order I had entered," she says.

Despite the strict regime when inside the convent walls, Liz and the other nuns were allowed to go out alone to help the local community.

"It was like being a carmelite nun yet we were doing very radical work with helping people in the street," she explains.

During her time outside the convent walls, Liz met a man whom she embarked on a forbidden love affair with. The relationship changed her life forever.

"I feel I was always a nun but a hot nun and I was always attracted to men – as I grew older that intensified.

"It just happened spontaneously when I was doing some social work and that’s when I met someone - I had a very strong attraction to that individual," she says.

Liz began to meet her lover in secret. Their rendezvous were "easy to hide" from the other nuns, who believed Liz was outside the convent completing her social work duties when she was really with the man.

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Although the relationship gave Liz the final push she needed to leave the convent, she'd been feeling dissatisfied with her life as a nun for some time.

"I suffered no guilt for my love affair, I knew my life as a nun was coming to an end. It helped me to leave the convent and to realise that celibacy was not working out for me.

"Wanting to leave was like growing up – I entered into the order when I turned 16 and I was about to turn 30 - you expand.

"The restrictive life and the restrictive doctrine of Catholicism bothered me intensely as I became far more educated.

"I started to feel that I could actually do better as a married woman living among real folk," she says.

Although the relationship with the lover in New York didn't last, Liz soon met somebody else, and is now happily married.

After leaving the convent, Liz became a probation officer as her boyfriend (now husband) was a director in the probation system and suggested she apply.

The juvenile detention center she found herself working in was a far cry from the convent.

"Children from the streets, gang kids, both boys and girls from ten to eighteen years of age were placed there.

"Fights broke out constantly. I learned the martial arts for increased protection and self-confidence," she explains.

Working as a probation officer was the most "intense and challenging job" Liz had ever had, and after years of working in several institutions, she decided it was time for her to resign.

"Establishing my own counseling practice was a natural progression," she says.

But, keeping to her re-invention habit, Liz turned her hand to writing in the eighties, creating her most famous book 'Secrets Of A Nun'.

Her latest book 'The Shaman and The Mafia.' takes a different form - a novel centered around the FBI.

She certainly is a lady who embraces change.

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So, does Liz regret leaving her sheltered but safe life as a nun?

"In nun-hood your family is all the other nuns so I’ve moved into a world where there’s more people in my life," she says.

"I’ve done so many things. It’s a lively world that I live in now and have lived in for many years."

Liz says making the momentous move out of the convent has allowed her to be a "free woman".

"I feel that nuns do feel they’re free but in the boundaries of their life but I don’t think they have a clue what it means to be a free woman.

"To be a free woman for me means to be unrestricted, to come and go as I feel and to express myself as I choose without any fear it’s against religious doctrine – it’s a whole different life.

"One of the things that women give up when they enter the convent is their freedom – the basic freedom to live an independent, creative, assertive life.

Despite turning her back on the convent, Liz says she still has "a great relationship with God."

"In the morning I get up and thank God for all my blessings and after that I read the funnies or the comics.

"I like to laugh and be grateful and I feel the presence of the divine source all through the day," she adds.

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