There were two distinct parts to the day: One part was my family and me, and not Phil. The other part was Phil and me alone, because of his second-shift work schedule. I kept going back and forth between them. During the day, if things went wrong or were boring, I longed to be with Phil alone.
As the summer wore on, at times I preferred to be either alone or with my family, not with him. He was just too hard to deal with after a while, and it was harder and harder to have any peace with him around.
I loved sitting in my chair, alone with All in the Family and Undine in my room upstairs, though I’d wait and often look forward to Phil coming home at 11:30. By that time, I had spent hours translating a page of Undine. I also spent hours writing the latest draft of Jerisland (a major rewrite, and my desert island novel which I’d worked on since high school) for my Senior Writing Project, and reading Gothic novels for my Senior Honors Project. (The topic: how Gothic novels have changed from pre-Gothics, basically Clarissa from 1748, and Castle of Otranto, the first and supposedly a bad Gothic novel, to modern ones, such as Anne Rice’s vampire books.)
Some traits which came to light about Phil over that summer, though infatuation blinded me to them: stubborn, manipulative, controlling, emotionally abusive, used his acting talent to play tricks on me, picked fights. He yelled at me and tore me down for not wanting to do things his way, then accused me of always having to get my way. But we had made solemn promises before God to each other which I was determined to keep, so rather than telling him to go back to Wisconsin, I tried to work things out instead.
I found this book Mom had–something from the seventies about being a good Christian wife who pleases her husband so much he doesn’t want affairs or to leave. It was written by a woman who discovered for herself what works. It said not to nag about things like taking out the garbage, because the guy isn’t a child who won’t do these things without reminding. But though I tried to hold to this, as the summer went on, it got harder and harder, because Phil didn’t do these things whether you nagged him or not. I mean important, basic things which adult men should know to do on their own, without anybody’s reminder:
He wouldn’t brush his teeth, wouldn’t shower. When he worked at the factory, he set his clock for 1pm but slept until 2 or so. I begged him to get up so he could have time to shower and eat a proper breakfast, but he yelled at me, later accused me of lowering his self esteem by “telling him when to get up” (what a load of BS) just for trying to get him up on time, rolled over, and deliberately slept so late that he could only throw on his work clothes and scarf down a Little Debbie snack. Which meant he rarely showered.
When he came home, he didn’t wash off the soot. Sure the full bathroom was in my parents’ bedroom, but he could at least wash his hands and arms. The soot permanently stained the sheets, so I eventually had to throw them away. I asked him to please clean up when he came home; he did it, but complained about it.
He neglected his worn-out brakes, until I finally had to beg him and drag him out of bed–on the last possible day before he drove me back to school–to get them fixed so we wouldn’t get killed on the long drive through Chicago and Milwaukee.
Though I asked him for reasonable things, he treated me like a nag. (By the way, hubby Cugan constantly praises me to me, his father and others for not being a nag. He says that even if I do nag occasionally, I do it nicely. Of course, hubby is also a grown adult who knows to shower and brush his teeth daily, and get up on time to do all these things before work. Nobody needs to remind him, which was such a relief that it was a big part of me falling for him!)
On November 13, 1998, a young woman on Montel told her ex she hated him because he physically abused her and cheated on her. She said something chillingly familiar: that she got called many names–slut, whore, f-word, b-word, “and that was just to wake you up every day so you could go to work!” Phil rarely used profanity, but his yelling and putdowns were just as bad when I woke him up for work. It was another element of verbal abuse and control.
I wanted us to go to Sunday School together. He refused–no room for discussion–because he feared they’d try to “convert” him from Catholicism. I just wanted to go to Sunday School with him, and highly doubted they would try to “convert” him. Sunday School was usually a time for studying issues and socializing.
Since I went to church with him now rather than with my parents, this meant, no Sunday School.
One Sunday evening, the congregation (usually smaller for evening services) divided up into little classes in the Sunday School classrooms (I forget why–we had never done this before). I was excited about it and wanted to go to one, but Phil refused to go with me. I didn’t want to go alone. He said he didn’t want to go, maybe for the same reasons he didn’t want to go to Sunday School–avoiding indoctrination or confrontation? (So paranoid! If Catholic adults did Sunday School, I would have gone with him to his!)
He said we should either leave, or he’d wait in the van for me as I went to a class. I said people would wonder why he wasn’t with me. He didn’t care. I got frustrated, and really wanted to go to a class, but I refused to let him make a scene and embarrass me by sitting outside in the van, and said we might as well leave. This was spiritual abuse, using verbal abuse and the threat of embarrassment to keep me from practicing my religion.
Christians believe that mixed skinny dipping is immoral, because you’re not supposed to disrobe in front of the opposite sex unless you’re married. Yet Phil, the one who was once going to be a priest, told me that he skinny-dipped in mixed company in the campus lake once. I think it was in the summer after his senior year of high school, which would make it the summer after my freshman year of college, when I was getting over Peter. (He wasn’t even a student here, and neither were the people with him.)
I was not happy about this. The thought of him skinny dipping with female classmates–seeing their naked bodies–them seeing his naked body–it horrified me, but he didn’t understand why. He said they didn’t touch each other, didn’t do anything. But that made no difference: It was still sinful, and he should’ve known that. The thought of my own husband, with whom I was one flesh, thinking it was okay to skinny-dip in mixed company–I began to lose respect for him as a man and as a husband. I thought he had more morals than that.
I told him a Roanoke student died in that lake one year. I don’t know when it was, but it was during a picnic the college held for the students and faculty. Counselor Dude rode in a boat, while this boy swam. The currents took him under, and he drowned. C.D. was distraught; this had been his favorite student. Soon after this, the “No Lifeguard on Duty–Swim at Your Own Risk” sign was put up at the lake. I think it was long before I came to Roanoke. Phil said, “And I was skinny-dipping in that lake!”
He also said once that porn was not wrong/sinful. Christians believe porn is also sinful for the same reason–disrobing in mixed company–and because it encourages lust, not love and respect for your sister in Christ or fellow human being made in God’s image. The kind of man I had always expected to marry, wouldn’t just call himself a Christian, but actually live it, following Christian moral standards.
In September, he complained about us going to get lunch or dinner “just because you’re hungry.” If I recall correctly, we got meals at a normal time or late. If I don’t eat in a timely manner, I get migraines, and feel lightheaded and nauseated. So he even wanted to control when I ate, no matter how hungry or sick I felt?
Once, when I pulled out a heating pad for menstrual cramps or a sore muscle, Phil said, “I hope you’re not going to end up like my mom, always sitting on a heating pad.” So even using a heating pad for cramps is wrong somehow, and I have to be guilted into not doing it? So I’m supposed to be in pain because you don’t want me using a heating pad?
By the way, his mom had health problems which caused her pain in that area, making his remarks not just knee-jerk (emphasis on the “jerk”) for me using a heating pad one night for cramps, but extremely insensitive to his mother. Even if she didn’t have constant pain, if she wants to sit on a heating pad all the time, so what?
I eventually wondered why I kept ending up with the wrong kinds of guys, when I specifically looked for the right kinds. I’d only date Christians, whom I expected to be godly men, but even the Christians turned away from the faith and/or mistreated me in some way. I looked for nice, sweet, romantic guys; I ended up with guys who seemed that way at first, but turned mean.
I didn’t grow up in an abusive home, so why did I keep dating mean guys? I thought I couldn’t trust my own judgment, that if I found another guy I wanted to get serious about, I’d have to ask my friends what they thought of him first. Because of my nonverbal learning disorder, I was an easy target for these guys, and easily fooled with my trusting nature. So they acted like what I wanted until I fell for them, then showed their true colors as time wore on. My friends and family disliked the guys early on, but said nothing. After the breakup, they gave their opinions, and I realized they were right, that I’d been blind.