I have shared before about how when I first became a believer that I was wide eyes and bushy tailed. I had no idea what to believe so I absorbed whatever I heard as truth even if it made my spirit feel slightly off kilter. I figured that the people I was spending time with had been Christians for much longer than I had so “they HAD to know what they were talking about, right?”
I met the only guy I have dated since Abigail’s dad at the counseling center I was working at back in 2007. He also went to the church I was going to at the time. This church was very conservative, very truth rather than grace based and did not believe that many things were truth including mental illness and taking medication.
I knew I liked him and shared that with him, after he shared with me about his porn addiction that he had struggled with in the past. It didn’t bother me because I saw him as such a godly man that in my eyes he could do no wrong.
We finally started dating and things were good for like a week. Until he came over one night and said that we needed to have a two month probation period where we didn’t pray together, do devotions together or anything God related. His mentor had told him that would bring us too close and we needed a two month period where we hung out in groups, had boundaries and a curfew.
I was 27 at the time and didn’t know any better. I figured that’s the way all Christians did things no matter their age so I went with it. However when I would talk with my friends about “the steps” of our relationship they would look at me cross eyed like “WHAT he’s actually making you do that”
He held firm to the teachings of this church, which were very conservative and they held fast to their teachings that mental illness is not real and that one should not take medication. He had an older female friend that he thought would be perfect as a mentor for me. I agree so she and I started meeting.
This was a very bad time for me emotionally. I was depressed although I didn’t realize it; I was also extremely triggered and reactive a good majority of the time. I was living in a constant state of fight or flight. When I brought up the subject of mental illness in one of our meetings she told me “that mental illness doesn’t exist because we cannot see past the blood brain barrier” *headdesk*
I never went to see her again, but the pastor received an earful from some friends.
I was also seeing a different therapist at the time who could see that I was depressed and she recommended that I look into medication. Me being the dutiful and submissive girlfriend (because I thought I had to be) girlfriend that I was I brought it up with him.
His response, even after me telling him I was suicidal and wanted to walk away from Abigail was that we needed to try some spiritual stuff first and then in three months if I was still depressed than we could consider medication.
I didn’t know what to believe at that point. I knew enough about myself and my mental health history to know that when I need meds I NEED MEDS. But I did not want to break this submission that I figured was required of me now because we would be married later.
He also chose to have us go through this ancient (1970’s) purity book called Choices. It was hideous. Probably the most hideous book I have ever read on purity. The section on sex overall was terrible and downright shaming of women who have had sex before marriage. It was incredibly triggering seeing as my abuse was still an extremely raw subject. I started to see it as my fault that I had been abused and now I was tainted.
He also set some very firm physical boundaries. Holding hands and side hugs (sigh) and it became frustrating for me because I had obviously had sex, hello Abigail J
There was also the underlying lack of worth I felt because it was bound up in my sexuality. When we finally lost control of our hormones and boundaries and started fooling around it sent the relationship on a spinning cycle of messiness.
On one hand it was normal for me, because that was a normal relationship. For him, he was wracked with guilt because he was sinning and needed to repent which meant we both had to repent. That set off my rule bound, legalistic self into bemoaning and beating myself into submission. It didn’t matter if I was mentally chastising myself or going to the gym and working out for hours. I felt punishment was the only option, our only option.
It didn’t help that he would blame me for us fooling around because I was the “experienced one” and I needed to slow down and stop acting that way.
Every single time we would “sin” he would feel the need to confess to either the couple that was mentoring us or a pastor at church.
Because we just couldn’t keep our damn hands off each other geez (sarcasm)
The last time I really saw him as a couple, he had stayed the night at my house and we had sex. He woke up guilt ridden and refused to talk to me. I left for the day and didn’t hear from him until that night.
It turns out he had gone to our church and confessed everything to a pastor, including the fact that we had both had orgasms and just how much we had been fooling around.
I did not see his actions as wrong or unfaithful or breaking my trust. At first that is. The more I thought about it I was sickened that he would go to a male pastor at a church where I had never been welcome and tell this pastor that we had both had an orgasm the night before.
It feels now like just more of the rigid system of purity and patriarchy that I was caught up in where I had no say in what went down or what our relationship was going to look like.
It turns out I didn’t.
He came over that night and we went on a drive and we discussed “the next step” which to him was a carefully laid out boundary plan.
I couldn’t do it anymore.
I thought I was going to marry this man that we were going to be together; he was going to be Abigail dad and he was going to save me. That’s where I went so wrong.
That wasn’t a new thing for me. Being a survivor of sexual abuse who was still stuck in and very raw with trauma I had not yet dealt with it was so easy for me to just want someone to save me. It wasn’t always a man. When I was a kid I would become easily attached to my teachers, I’d want them to take me home. I couldn’t stand the enormous amount of hurt in where I was on my own so I looked to Chris to fix everything.
He didn’t and couldn’t and never was supposed to. I still played out our relationship like the end of our boyfriend/girlfriend status was going to be husband and wife. When it actually ended with me saying “I think it’s over” it was like a punch to the gut.
We still told people that we were breaking up so we could get our hearts right before God so we could get back together. It was a desperate hope I clung to after we broke up that we would get back together. I was SO certain that God had TOLD ME that he was going to be my husband, I was sure. I was wrong and the more I started to realize that I started to see that I needed a 100% clean break away. That meant no contact, getting all my stuff back and deleting his number.
Once I did that I was able to start healing from more than just the relationship. It time for heart healing. Being alone and straight with God (nowhere like I am today, it was still pretty rigid) I didn’t like those months but I needed them.
One of the first things I did after we broke up, call the mental health department at my insurance company and make an appointment to get on medication. I knew in the beginning that I needed it and now I felt like I had the room to breathe and take it.
My relationship with him taught me a lot. I haven’t really dated since, maybe a random smatter and my last tryst who got a letter posted on my blog but no relationship. I had and still have to go deep and allow healing to pour into that wounded soul within me who looks for her worth and salvation in a man. Part of it is from the abuse but part of it is a learned behavior and I saw it a lot growing up.
That’s not something I want to have the wounded souls within me to continue to be subjected too and I don’t want Abigail to grow up seeing that.