I spent so many years LISTENING….listening to the Christian culture that I wasn’t sure I agreed with, listening to people with ulterior motives than my best interest, listening to that which opposed what my heart was telling me. This decision to listen to others over myself would alter my life forever. I can’t help but think of how different things would be if I had listened to my own brain and heart instead. I should have trusted myself as I had been taught before I became involved in the cult-ish circle I would dissolve into.
Let me go back.
About five years ago, we confided in a friend that our relationship had gone almost a year without even a kiss, despite my attempts. I was told then, in that talk, with people I trusted, that was happening because I didn’t talk nicely enough. If I talked nicer, maybe my husband would want me.
Let me go back.
About 2 years into a confusing and hard marriage, where we could not seem to relate to each other since day one, I was at a shower for a friend getting married and I shared that my marriage was without intimacy, that I continued to offer intimacy and fight for it but I was left alone in that endeavor. To say I was confused and hurt about this was an understatement. A few of the older ladies jumped on this topic. I should have been told to get out, get help, get clarity. Instead, I was told it was likely my fault for something I was doing subconsciously or spiritually, to get the Power of a Praying wife book and work harder to be MORE intimately available, as though my attempts were just the wrong kind.
Let me go back.
I returned from my honeymoon with the same exact problem and I was broken and lost and confused. And I was told I was doing something wrong and to hang in there and try harder and lower my expectations. Maybe he didn’t like the lingerie I picked. Try again, little girl.
Let me go back.
I had been in intimate relationships prior to marriage. And I knew something was W.R.O.N.G. inside this relationship. I wasn’t quiet about it or secretive. I asked my partner. I expressed my needs. I asked my friends. I asked women in my circle who had been married many years. I did all the things and I was told over and over that it was my doing for one reason or another. I tried everything they told me over many years in many ways. I went to their marriage retreats and their classes.
Let me go back.
This was not the only marital problem by far.
The biggest issue I see now from the other side, post-divorce is: I was blamed for what was wrong every time I asked for help. With the exception of the two therapists I saw a few years apart, later on in this mess, who both told me to get out, I was told in some way how I was failing my marriage. I sometimes was also told it was wrong to even talk about it.
The issue of intimacy WAS ONLY ONE PART of the bigger picture. Couple this with extreme irresponsibility (putting children at risk of life, horrible financial decisions), so much lying and dishonesty abounding (both then and still now), constantly losing jobs and being inconsistent with relationships and responsibilities, me being forced to make all decisions alone for lack of participation and drive, it was a very heavy burden to bear.
I know without a doubt I did things wrong…what I also have come to understand this year is that I did those things AS A RESULT of the lack of love, support, honesty, desire… all of which I deserved and rightly expected. I absolutely said stop sharing mindless information with me when I’m carrying the weight of our entire real life alone. I did shut myself away, out of protection and self-survival. I do not deny my part. But I also know the truth of why those things happened. I was 21 when I made the vows to someone I believed meant their vows to me. Only to find on that very night, it was a lie.
To be told, now, after years and years and years of evidence to all these things, that they only happened as a result of me expressing six weeks into this marriage that what was happening wasn’t something I could live with and perhaps we should get a divorce. At 21 years old, I was devastated and confused and as honestly and authentically as possible told my chosen life-partner that our relationship already felt dead and broken and I needed help to fix it or I needed out. And this conversation, so he says, is why he never tried to fix our lives again. Why he continued to lie (I honestly couldnt’ list the number of lies). Why he continued to treat me as a roommate, excepting once or twice a year. Why he continued to put the burden of all financial decisions and life choices on me. Why he let our life just flop along. Why he couldn’t keep a job. Why he let me give him all the years of my youth, promising to improve or change something, promising to come awake and live, promising love….only to now be honest enough to say “I never really loved you”….and “in truth, I’ve hated you for half our lives together.” Admitting he only really liked me when I was a damsel in distress and despising my strength. Confessing when I began to grow and improve as a person, he felt less loved than ever because I could handle myself more. This is so far beyond what love looks like, how love is meant to be a celebration of the person and not a stifling.
The absolute mess of this mentality, I swear it blows my mind. How did I get so lost in this life?
Looking back it’s always easier to see the truth. But what gets me is that I saw it then too. I told him, I told friends, I told women I trusted.
And that really is what upsets me now. Because I was blamed, told to press on, never, ever taken under a wing to help or understand or assist. To pray more for his maturity, to pray for his job, to pray for his growth. But, imagine if I had been helped or told the truth; that this wasn’t okay and I didn’t have to live this way, imagine what might have been changed.
If our Christian culture finds a piece of paper more valuable than a heart, if it finds a promise made more important than a promise kept, then we are most assuredly missing the point. We are wrecking what marriage is. We are destroying this love, this relationship designed to be the picture of how Christ loves….not in word. In deed. In truth. In physical sacrifice. In honesty. In selflessness. In every effort that is needed to make things right, whatever that entails.
1 Peter 3:7: “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She….is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should.”
Ephesians 5:25-33: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”
What I’ve come to realize this year, this stupid 2019, is that I truly never knew what it was to be loved. When he told me that he never really did love me, he meant that. And I accept it. And I know it was true. I knew it was true for many many years.
But I also know it now because now I am loved. And it’s a completely different experience.
Proverbs 30:18-19: “There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.“
Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.“
I know it now because I see what it’s like when someone is entirely honest, completely exposed and real, devoted to truth and connection. I see what it is for someone to put you first, to want to hear and do what you need and desire, to fight to understand you. I am living loved for the first time in my life, 15 years after the promises were made for a life of love, it’s finally coming true.
What I wish is that the church would stop the madness of valuing paper over people. I wish they would see when there is a poison, it is right to treat it, not right to ignore it. I long for the day we allow people to be their authentic selves and recognize that God made them that unique way and stop trying, as a collective group, to fit them into a category our church finds appealing. I wish I had been allowed to trust myself, to call the truth the truth, to be myself. I wish I hadn’t fallen into the false narratives and lost so much of my essence.
I wish when I realized that I had gone from being an unloved daughter to an unwanted wife and expressed this to my “partner” he had released me with kindness. And truth. I regret so many things I would like to re-do.
But I also celebrate. I celebrate the truth, the light, the coming clear, the cracking open. Re-becoming myself but a better me. Seeing myself for who I am and how I’m flawed and how I’m amazing and how I’m made and being loved in all of it.
I celebrate that my children will be told to trust themselves, to see the world the way they were made to see it, to believe in their gut and their heart. I celebrate that I will not allow them to lose themselves to a list of rules and falsities and crazy-making interpretations. I celebrate that they will get to BE WHO THEY ARE and BE REAL. Not just in word or lies, but in real life. And that they will BE truly LOVED for who they are, not for a fake picture or a piece of paper, but deep in their souls.
I will fight to keep being authentic, no matter who it angers, and I will fight to keep showing them how to do it as well. I WILL NOT STOP BEING A TRUTH TELLER, no matter what.
And one day this whole story will make sense when my children emerge from their childhood strong, brave, mature, responsible and honest….I will know then it was all worth it.