A Breakup with Probable NVLD–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–January 1992, Part 1

For a belated graduation present, I got a paperback copy of My Utmost for His Highest, a classic, daily devotional compiled of sermons given by Oswald Chambers.  On the first page was this message: “To Nyssa from L.M.  May this prove a blessing to you.”

L.M. was an elderly woman at church (born in 1907) who always wore her long, white hair in a beautiful coil wrapped around her head, and fastened with old-fashioned pins.

It wasn’t a boring bun or an “old lady” hairdo with short, curly hair.  As a child, I once said I wanted to wear my hair like hers when I got to be her age, which tickled her.

A picture of a similar hairstyle is here.

Unfortunately, she died in 1992, soon after she gave the book to me.  So I never got to tell her how much of a help that book was to me over the next couple of years, which were more trying than any I had ever been through before.  But I think that, up in Heaven where she undoubtedly is, she knows.


Probably a day or two before January 5, Peter and I boarded the Greyhound bus again to return to K–.  Fortunately, this time they didn’t lose our luggage.

Peter’s parents were glad to see me, for an unexpected reason: Maybe now Misha would behave.

While we were gone, she turned into a spitfire.  At one point, she even leaped onto the curtains, claws extended, and slid down, ripping the curtains in her anger that I was gone for so long: I was the first person to grab that nasty cat’s heart, and calm her into a more loving kitty to the rest of the family.

After this, they put her in a cage downstairs.

Peter’s mom told me about a time when the family went through Kentucky.  They passed through hillbilly country, and actually saw an old woman sitting on the porch of a shack with a shotgun across her lap, pointing her finger at them.

Over the break, Peter and I had the occasional tiff, but after a soul-sharing talk about all sorts of things, we seemed closer than ever.

Yet as soon as we got to Peter’s house, something felt wrong.  I had no idea what.  He said nothing about it, just acted stiff instead of tender with me.  Even his parents seemed to get annoyed with me when they hadn’t before.

I didn’t know why or what I could have done.

I had to sleep in the front room instead of the spare room, and there was some sort of divider up.  The next morning, after I woke up, Peter spent lots of time in the kitchen talking low with his parents.  He didn’t come in to see me even though he may have known I was up.

I got the feeling he was avoiding me for some reason.  When I first saw him and his mom again, they seemed grim.

Especially note that I sensed this but had absolutely no clue WHY.  Nobody was talking to ME, nobody was communicating what was going on.  I had no way of knowing if I did something, or what it could possibly have been.  Which means I also had no way to fix it.

His parents may have seemed less patient with me, too.  I don’t remember if this happened now or over Thanksgiving Break: Peter’s mom told me I could use her pants press to iron my pants much more quickly.  I smiled and said that I didn’t iron my pants.  She wrinkled her nose and cried in distaste, “You don’t?”

At some point I mentioned this to Candice.  I’d never heard of ironing pants, my mother didn’t do that, and Candice said it was useless: Within minutes of sitting down, your pants would be all wrinkled again, anyway.

When he took me back to school on probably Sunday the 5th, Peter and I went to the mailboxes in the Campus Center.  He said something about us parting, and I probably made some cute, half-joking, disappointed noise.  He said, “But we just spent the last two weeks together!”

What difference did that make?  How could I ever be tired of him?  How could he possibly be tired of being with the love of his life?

I probably had no clue that he might truly be tired of me, and didn’t yet understand that a little space to be alone or with friends is a good and healthy thing.


Winterim was a short, optional semester in the month of January.  You could take a class for fun or for your major, three hours a day.  I didn’t bother getting up for breakfast, since class wasn’t until 12:30.  I got up in time to shower and get lunch, though it wasn’t good for my stomach.

Peter and I both took Science Fiction for the Fun of It.  He thought about taking a class related to his major, but that didn’t work out.

Most of the reading was from a collection of very short science fiction stories from past decades.  We discussed the previous night’s homework assignment and then watched a movie significant in the genre.  Sometimes we got out of class a bit early, especially if the movie was no longer than two hours.

Peter was between jobs at this time, but he kept having to leave before dinner and go home, saying he missed eating dinner with his parents and they wanted him to do chores around the little farm.  So I let him go, spending the long evenings entertaining myself with books and music, since my homework took very little time.

Peter either was constantly unable to see me on Sunday evenings, or he kept saying he didn’t feel like going to church.  I pondered telling him that without church, “I feel like a wilting flower.”

Things kept going wrong; Peter would argue with me over religion; I’d get upset and fume for hours.  (It’s entirely possible that I was cranky because of that time of the month.)

I thought that Peter and I had similar beliefs, but we turned out to be diametrically opposed.  During the religious arguments, I looked to Shawn as moral support against my own boyfriend!

The short time I spent with Peter each day had turned very frustrating.  I pondered asking Peter if we could switch from “going out” (exclusive) to “seeing each other” (dating each other and other people).

I also began thinking that, if Peter and I had never begun dating, we would at least have been good friends–and would I be better off just friends with Peter and dating Shawn?

Shawn said I reminded him of his ex-girlfriend; if we were alone together at the same table, he’d act uneasy and soon leave.  Was he uncomfortable because he was attracted to me, someone he couldn’t have?

On the 17th, Peter came to see me in my room.  Without removing his jacket, he sat down on the bed.  The door was probably closed, and Becky was gone.

He said that our arguments lately were “tearing me up inside.  If we can’t tell each other our beliefs without one of us getting upset, we might have to break up, and I don’t want to see that happen.”

I knew he was right, so we resolved to do better.  So you see, I could take criticism.

During the week of January 19 we got a visit from a Roanoke graduate from the 70s who was now a published science fiction author.  Afterwards, I chatted with two freshmen named Sharon and Catherine.

We said things like, “She graduated college in 1973?  That’s the year I was born!”  One of us, possibly me, said, “Just think, twenty years from now one of us will come back here as a famous author to talk to a class, and the kids will say, ‘She graduated college in 1995?  That’s the year I was born!'”

And guess what: It has happened!  I believe it was Pearl who went to a sorority thing as an alumna in around 2014, and the active girls said, “You graduated college in 1995?  That’s the year I was born!”  And of course, when I read this on Facebook, I mentioned what we said back in 1992.

We began chatting every day; I don’t remember how often Peter was with me.  We discovered we had things in common, and became friends.

Peter got a new job on campus in the week of January 12 or January 19.  Now, however, though it was wonderful he had a job, it was right after class.  He rushed over there after class, and then after he finished working, he rushed home for dinner with his parents and for chores.

I only saw him during lunch and class.  That was hardly quality time.  But then he would refuse to come over even for a minute before or after work.

Starting possibly mid-month or the last full week of January, I noticed that of all the people Peter sat with at lunch, I got the least attention.

He’d be gruff with me, but cheerful with others.  He’d sit next to or across from me, but nearly all his comments and jokes were directed at the others.  Half the time, he would speak so low that I didn’t hear the joke, and felt left out.

This never used to happen.  Why couldn’t he say those things to me, or at least loud enough for me to hear?  It was as if I wasn’t even there.  He later complained of “jealous looks”; I don’t know what he could have meant, because I have never been possessive or jealous as a girlfriend or wife.

(I have always allowed my boyfriends and, eventually, my husband to have any female friend they like and see them whenever they like, without having to get my “approval” first, as long as they don’t cheat.  My philosophy has always been, trust until you have a GOOD reason not to.  This philosophy has served me well because when you hold on too tightly, you lose your man.)

If he meant my expression during lunch, I had good reason, as you can see: This was our only time together, yet he paid all his attention to others, and was short when he even spoke to me.

During the week of the 20th, many things went wrong, as if Peter decided to explode.  He kept slighting me and blowing me off.  He got mad at me for the tiniest things.  I felt like I was walking on eggshells, but I didn’t know why.

For example, one day, probably after class, we were walking from the Muskie and through the cafeteria together when Peter went into the kitchen.  I believe he made no explanation as to why.

I waited for him, of course: That’s what you do when you’re walking with someone and he has to stop and do something before continuing.  But when he came out, he snapped at me, sounding angry at me for waiting for him.

And when we’d leave class and walk along the same sidewalk, I would naturally expect that my own boyfriend would want to walk with me, especially when we barely got to see each other anymore.  But he would walk so fast that I had to hurry to catch up with him!   And he rarely kissed me.

It may be that, because of my nonverbal learning disability, I had no idea whatsoever that I was annoying Peter in various ways, until he finally started yelling at me about it–and then I couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much.  (I still don’t remember what happened, since I didn’t “see” it the first time around.)

Or maybe he was a typical guy needing space, but not saying so; since women don’t usually have these space issues, they often don’t understand the “clues” and don’t know they’re making things worse.  (I talk about this later.)

To put it simply, there was a major lack of communication.  And without communication, the problem can’t be fixed.

Peter’s behavior was very passive-aggressive, because he treated me like this without telling me if he had problems with me.

On the evening of Tuesday, January 21, our class went to see Freejack, a science fiction movie which had just opened in a local theater.  We rode in a van or bus, and Peter and I sat together.  Catherine, possibly Sharon, and Shawn sat nearby; we were the only people there besides the teacher.

We all chatted together.  Somebody brought up Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, which had been on TV the night before.  Peter saw part of it at home, and I saw the last hour of it in my room.  I loved it, and so did Catherine, Shawn and Sharon–but Peter said it was stupid.  [Wut?]

We liked Freejack, and it was a good night.  But something seemed weird between Peter and me.  Peter and I shared our last kiss that night, a simple, goodnight kiss.  He probably had to rush off, as usual.

More things happened the next few days, things that showed his coldness, things that made me cry.  I don’t want to go into everything that happened.

On the 28th, I decided to talk to him before class and tell him how horribly he’d been treating me lately.  If I had to, I would threaten to break up: That would get him to shape up.  But before I got far, he turned it around and broke up with me.

I don’t want to go into all the reasons he gave then: All these years later, what difference does it make?

My friends called them petty reasons; most could have easily been resolved with communication on his part.  Some were not fair at all.  Some did not bother other guys in the slightest.

One main one was quickly proven to be an out-and-out lie, that he wouldn’t have time for any girlfriend or social life.  (He soon joined a frat and got another girlfriend.)

They were probably just excuses for his real reason, which was that he wanted to start exploring new things in college, and my beliefs and values kept him back.  None of his reasons were ever repeated by other boyfriends.

In fact, my later boyfriend Phil, after telling me what Peter “warned” him about me, said that one complaint in particular did not bother him in the least.  In fact, he expected me to do it, and he kissed me for it!

I should have realized then, but didn’t: If we were pre-engaged and the communication was this bad, what would marriage have been like?

In the olden days, kids our age could have gotten married and been mature enough to handle it.  But in our day and age, while some eighteen-year-olds are old enough for marriage, most still need to grow up.

What really got me, though, was his reaction to my question, “What about our plans to get married after graduation?”

He said, “I don’t want to get married for many years after college.  I want to do some things first.”

This was the first time he ever said anything like this, and it contradicted everything he said for our entire relationship, proving him to be a liar.

Not only that, but in a later phone conversation, when I asked about our plans for him to go to South Bend over the summer, he said, “I’m probably going to Arizona over the summer!”

This was the first time he ever even hinted at an internship over the summer or a change in our established plans, yet he spoke to me in irritation, as if I should have known.

In one phone conversation we had over the next few days, he said I shouldn’t expect to marry every guy I dated.  (I didn’t.)  He accused me of “dropping hints” of wanting to get married.  When I turned this around and said he talked about marriage all the time, too, he said, “We were both at fault.”

But how is it a “fault” to talk about marriage with someone you’ve already agreed to marry?  How is it a “fault” or “dropping hints about marriage” to discuss wedding plans with someone you are pre-engaged to?  This is all part of pre-enagement!

(Here is a discussion among women who are pre-engaged and, in some cases, are even setting dates with their boyfriends, looking at venues and making wedding plans, even though they are not yet actually engaged.)

Ever after, he denied that we had an understanding: He told people about my “marriage talk” as if I were clingy or smothering.

I never have understood why, since there’s nothing shameful in having been pre-engaged to a former girlfriend.  It happens all the time among young couples who want to be committed but are not yet ready for marriage for whatever reason (in our case, finishing school).

You can even buy a promise ring to signify your pre-engagement, or use a class ring.

It was absolutely ridiculous, a whole slew of lies meant to gaslight me into thinking he never said a thing about wanting to marry me–when we had long since agreed to get married after graduation, and he even told my parents this, so I had witnesses! 

He had already expressed many times how much he wanted to marry me after college, and it was a done deal between us. 

This guy was a liar in general, but I foolishly thought he’d never lie to me.  I was so young and inexperienced at dating, and so trusting because of NVLD, that I had trouble seeing what he was really doing, how he was trying to manipulate me by making me not believe my own memory.

Be aware of this, girls, that there are guys out there who will tell you one thing at one time and then twist it around later on.  And don’t let them break your hearts: Realize their true character, and consider yourself lucky when they leave.

Another thing I don’t understand is the modern idea that we should always date around before choosing someone to marry.  What’s wrong with marrying the first person you date, if you get along well?

I’m of the more conservative viewpoint, that the whole purpose of dating is to find someone to marry, not just to have a good time.  If you can’t see yourself marrying a person, don’t get serious with them, don’t sleep with them, and never ever breathe an “I love you.”

A good article on Christian dating is here.  As far as I’m concerned, a girl who wants to marry should not waste her time with someone who doesn’t.

It’s also wrong to date someone who’s looking for a mate, if you aren’t interested in marrying her.

The way people date these days is far too casual for anyone’s good, and a lot of people are getting hurt with lasting damage.  An “I love you” based on a passing feeling is not true love at all.  (This was probably written in 2006.)

To be continued….


Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992:Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: