Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Category: secret marriage (page 1 of 9)

Are Spiritual Marriages “Real”?

This is another issue which seems to be hotly debated among Christians, especially teenagers who are too young to legally marry, and especially now that various forms of “marriage alternatives” have become popular in Western society: commitment ceremonies, same-sex blessing ceremonies, secret promises exchanged by couples who do not want a legal marriage for whatever reason.

Even Sting has a song about it: The Secret Marriage, copyright 1987, about his relationship with his own wife.  (For ten years, their union was not blessed by church or state: story here.)

These have been around for some years: I have read about Christians having “spiritual marriages”–secret marriages contracted with only God as witness–as far back as probably the 1980s, possibly even farther.  Where did people get the idea?  Probably from history.

History of informal marriages and their legal/religious validity

In the Middle Ages, at least since the twelfth century, such a marriage, called verbum or clandestine, would have been considered valid, even by the Catholic Church.

The girl had to be at least 12, and the boy at least 14.  The parents didn’t have to agree, there would often be no witnesses, and the couple might even continue on living in their parents’ houses, pretending to be unmarried–basically, Romeo and Juliet’s marriage without the friar.

A couple who exchanged consents in the present tense in the back woods with only squirrels for witnesses, against the wishes of their parents, and never had sexual intercourse was just as legally and bindingly married by the law of both church and state as a couple married by the Pope himself with the proud parents looking on and a child nine months later. —Sharon L. Krossa, Historical Handfasting

The Church hated such marriages and required penance, but considered the couple to be married.  The requirement of a public sacrament came much later, in the Counter-Reformation, after the Reformation caused state involvement in marriage and the issue arose of Catholics marrying Protestants.

Even now, the priest is merely a witness to a sacrament the couple carries out.  My references are the Time-Life book What Life was Like: in the Age of Chivalry: Medieval Europe AD 800-1500, and other sources listed in this article.

From the early Christian era (30 to 325 CE), marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no uniform religious or other ceremony being required.

However, bishop Ignatius of Antioch writing around 110 to bishop Polycarp of Smyrna exhorts, “[I]t becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust.”

In the 12th century, women were obligated to take the name of their husbands and starting in the second half of the 16th century parental consent along with the church’s consent was required for marriage.

With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties.

The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the “verbum.”

If freely given and made in the present tense (e.g., “I marry you”), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense (“I will marry you”), it would constitute a betrothal.

…In England, under the Anglican Church, marriage by consent and cohabitation was valid until the passage of Lord Hardwicke’s Act in 1753. This act instituted certain requirements for marriage, including the performance of a religious ceremony observed by witnesses. —Wikipedia

According to note 17 of For God is also the God of bodies by Wanda Deifelt, quoting Steven Ozment, Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution, p. 155,

Luther accused church law of encouraging immature and unhappy marriages by its recognition of so-called ‘secret’ marriages. These were private unions entered into by youths of canonical age (at least twelve for girls and fourteen for boys) without the knowledge and consent of their parents and apart from any public witnesses.

The medieval church sanctioned such unions grudgingly in an attempt to control premarital sex and to bring marriage, at its inception, under the moral authority of the church.

According to Wikipedia,

Clandestinity is a diriment impediment in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church. It requires the presence of witnesses to the marriage vows, one of which must be a priest or a deacon, in order for the marriage to be valid.

It was promulgated in the 16th century by the Council of Trent in the decree called Tametsi. Prior to that time, an unwitnessed exchange of marriage vows was deplored but valid. The decree was enforced only in those regions where it could be proclaimed in the vernacular. —Clandestine marriages in the Middle Ages

Catholic view on who does the actual marriage sacrament

During the Middle Ages, when European tribes overtook the Roman Empire, a conflict arose between Roman civil law and European law and custom regarding marriage. European law held that marriage was a contract; that the couple owed each other sexual rights to procreate; and that witnesses and a formal ceremony were required.

Parents who arranged marriages for their children to increase their power and property wanted marriages to be public contracts. Roman law held that only the couple’s vows to each other were important and that they could be taken in private.

A whole series of popes declared on the side of Roman law, ruling that marriage was the result of a couple’s mutual consent and nothing else. No witnesses were required, and no contract needed to be signed.

However, such privacy led to problems. Parents who arranged marriages in what they held to be the best interest of themselves and their children were still being thwarted.

There were abuses as well. Jealous or greedy people could prevent someone’s marrying by claiming they had already wed someone else in private, and no one could dispute these false charges. —The Marriage Vows by Helen Keeler and Susan Grimbly

But also note that the modern Catholic Church also does not recognize civil marriages unless later blessed by a priest, or marriages between Catholics and Protestants which do not take place in the presence of a priest, unless they have special dispensation.  Yet these marriages are recognized as valid by both law and society.

We begin to see so much variation in who considers a marriage valid and when, that we may wonder, Who gets to decide in the eyes of God?  Or if you don’t believe in God, Who gets to decide when a marriage is truly valid for a couple?  Is it a religious group, or the law, or society, or the couple?

(Or triple, or quadruple, etc. in polygamous marriages, which also are considered invalid by law in America, but valid among certain religious groups.)

Catholic Encyclopedia article on mixed and clandestine marriage

Theology of marriage and the problems of mixed marriage

mixed marriages in Catholic church

As written by Jeff Favre in “I Do, I Do,” the Catholic Church did not always have so much influence on what defined a marriage among its members.  In the beginning of the Church, except for the rules defined in Scripture, Christians took their marriage rules from the society, not the other way around.

Then in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, he writes, theologians “specified the church’s beliefs regarding Christian marriage,” and “held that marriage was part of the created order and subject to the laws of nature, a societal contract entered into freely by the parties involved and a sacrament that was subject to church laws.”

Though St. Augustine had already called it a sacrament centuries before this, this was just

to emphasize its permanence and stability.  When it became a sacrament in the practical sense, everything that had to do with marriage became the church’s responsibility and under the church’s authority.

This represented a significant shift from the church’s previous policy, which was simply to add a layer of blessing to whatever local marriage customs prevailed.

Favre continues that when Martin Luther came along and sparked the Reformation, he said the “church’s laws on marriage were arrogant.  He believed marriage existed since the first humans, long before the formation of the church.”  He wanted the state to regulate marriage, not the church.  “In fact, to Luther a marriage existed even if it only was an agreement between a couple, without either a civil recognition or church blessing.”  Eventually, marriage became a legal arrangement. –(“I do, I do” by Jeff Favre)

Here is a paper showing how marriage customs changed since Roman times, and how different Christian thinkers had different ideas on what constituted a proper marriage.

During a period of time in Ireland, Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognized.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry. —New York Times article, Taking Marriage Private

The Orthodox church also does not permit its members to be married in non-Orthodox ceremonies.  But Protestant churches usually recognize any marriage, whether it’s contracted by a judge or a preacher, and even if it involves the mixing of two Christian denominations.

Would clandestine marriages be recognized as valid among Protestants?  It probably depends on the preacher, on how liberal or conservative the congregation is, and on how much of a role the church insists on having in a wedding.

For example, the Nazarene church probably would not recognize a clandestine marriage as valid, while preachers from the UCC and other liberal denominations sometimes consider a non-legal blessing ceremony between a gay couple to be valid.

I also read about a secret marriage (no witnesses/clergy) in a Washington Irving story, “The Adventure of the German Student.”  In my own desert island novel Jerisland, which I’ve never published but worked on in high school and college, the castaway teenagers eventually began performing their own ceremonies, because they couldn’t possibly find a minister or follow U.S. marriage laws.

Popularity of such marriages

This practice of non-legal, sometimes secret marriage is common, even among Christian couples, long after the demise of medieval verbum marriages; opinions of its validity vary greatly.

It has even made it onto TV: I saw it on the vampire soap opera Port Charles: Allison and Rafe had a secret ceremony in a barn and called themselves married (“Secrets” book), even though there were no witnesses, and they didn’t live together or tell everyone they were married.

Spiritual marriages have been depicted on other soap operas and TV shows as well.  In 1993 on an episode of Picket Fences, set in Wisconsin, a judge dissolved a Mormon’s second marriage, but said there was nothing stopping them from a common-law marriage.

And now we have reality shows depicting polygamous marriages, not legal but considered valid among certain religious groups, such as Sister Wives and My Five Wives.

Retirees sometimes go into a “spiritual” marriage so they don’t lose pension benefits.  I occasionally read about couples who consider their true wedding anniversary to be some time before the anniversary of the public ceremony, though there were no witnesses or licenses.  Another thing couples do is to get legally married, then keep it secret, having a public wedding later.

It is not living in sin, it is not playing house, it is not practicing for the real thing. It is a legitimate option for people who cannot, or are unwilling to, get legally married. It is the practice of taking private marriage vows.

It’s not a common practice by any stretch of the imagination. Very few people do it, but is that simply because it is very much an unknown option? Is it because society pressures us to tell the government and any church we are affiliated with that we are in love and committed to building a life with another person?

Taking private marriage vows is a personal commitment, and it is true that some couples may find it easier to dissolve a marriage that has been finalized in this way.

However, for those couples who are truly dedicated to having a married life but cannot do it for one reason or another, the marriage may be just as strong as, if not stronger than, a marriage that has been governmentally sanctioned. –Suiiki, Private Marriage Vows: When Legal Marriage is Not an Option

The pop singer Brandy is said to have had a spiritual marriage: see here and here.

This has also occurred between two famous actors, two famous singers, and various other parties, who have tried to get it legally recognized after a breakup, with varying success: see Common Law Marriages, which describes those legal cases and how “informal” marriage has been dealt with for centuries.

While “common-law” no longer simply means an agreement to be married, and is no longer recognized in many states, it used to be just that agreement, and legal.

Nowadays, in certain states (which ones, depends on which website you read), such couples would be considered common-law married on their vows and agreement alone, and would have to get legally divorced.  In other states, the best you can get is “spiritually” married.

For much of American history, informal marriages with no clergy or witnesses were legally binding.  This helped the pioneers get married, since they did not always have a clergyman or official nearby.  Only in the past century have common-law marriages lost their legal status in such states as Indiana (1958) and Wisconsin (1917).

Throughout history, you can find stories of people marrying “spiritually” but not civilly because their marriages were legally banned, such as between slaves or homosexuals.  In the Early Church, marriages between people of different social classes were not legal, so the church “affirmed lifelong, monogamous relationships whether couples were officially married or not” (p. 90, The Unauthorized Guide to Sex and the Church, Carmen Renee Berry).

The novel Clotel portrays a secret, spiritual marriage between a mixed-race woman and a white man in the days when the law did not allow such a marriage.  Though the novelist considers their marriage to be real, the man eventually decides to take a white wife, and abandons his slave wife (pages 80 and 108).

A series of popular novels by Diana Gabaldon includes a young woman and her boyfriend (Brianna and Roger) who secretly take vows, which they call “handfasting.”  This allows them to be considered truly married until they can find a preacher to make it permanent, even though nobody witnesses it.  They tell no one until her parents discover it.

Of course, whether handfasting in this form actually occurred is up for some debate.  In modern times, neopagans have taken up handfasting, themselves, complete with a public ceremony, deciding whether to make it temporary (with a permanent ceremony later) or permanent.  It may or may not become a legal marriage.  (Another source.)

But is it valid in modern times?

Okay, we’ve established that these “marriages” happen a lot.  But is a marriage binding in the eyes of God (or in the eyes of two people, if they don’t believe in God) if the law or the church does not recognize it?  It is an oath, so it could be valid spiritually.  This website has a relevant section on oaths.

It’s easy to find links to websites of people who believe there must be a public, religious and/or legal declaration for a marriage to be real.  Go ahead and get that side of the issue.  But also check out these links, which either describe or promote different beliefs (not necessarily the views of this writer, but examples to show how societal values are changing):

Marriage

Common-law marriage

Libertarians are likely to disagree with the notion of government-sanctioned marriage itself. Specifically, they would deny that the government deserves any role in marriage other than enforcing whatever legal contract people choose to enter, and to oppose the various additional rights currently granted to married people. —Libertarian Party

 

[Libertarian View]: The government has no authority to recognize any marriage. The over 1,000 legal rights granted to heterosexual couples should not be granted.

For example, the tax code should not treat married couples differently than unmarried couples. The government should not compel hospitals to allow any individual access to patients or medical records, except in accordance with that hospital’s policy.

Individuals can choose to cohabitate, and can declare themselves married, or perform a ceremony.  It is up to individuals to choose, according to their own beliefs, whether to recognize any such marriage. —Wikipedia article on Same-Sex Marriage issue

The Libertarians have an unlikely ally in this one issue in abortion extremist Pastor Matt Trewhella of Mercy Seat Christian Church of Milwaukee, who refuses to marry couples with state marriage licenses, and here’s why.  (Disclaimer: I’m not saying his arguments are right, just that he makes them.)

“Christian think-tank raises radical questions about marriage,” a source on marriage views

A website with marriage laws for Texas, run by a Texas State Justice of the Peace who served for twelve years.  See “Must we have a marriage license to get married?” section.  It states that laws do not prohibit personal commitment ceremonies, or prohibit people from calling themselves married if they want to.  What they do prohibit is legal protection/rights/recognition for such marriages, which are the basic reasons for getting a licensed marriage.  So no, having a non-legal marriage is hardly “breaking the law” or “illegal.”  (It used to be illegal in Utah, but thanks to a case brought by the Browns of Sister Wives, this is no longer the case.)

http://www.unmarried.org/ceremonies.html

http://www.unmarried.org/ceremonyfaq.html

http://www.unmarriedtoeachother.com/commitment-ceremony.html

http://www.unmarried.org/legalfaq.html

http://www.weddingdialogues.com/

On this page, they discuss whether or not marriage requires a “piece of paper.”  The answer seems to be that no, it doesn’t, since marriage is a lifelong commitment, but in the US, why wouldn’t you want legal backing?

A debate on a Christian forum about whether or not spiritual marriages with no witnesses or clergy–and even secret ones–are valid in God’s eyes.  Opinions vary greatly in this thread.  [Update 11/30/14: Link no longer works.]  And this is not the only such thread I found!

Here’s yet another which just popped up.  [Update 11/30/14: The thread shows that I wrote or completed this page around July 2007.] 

And here’s a huge thread in a non-religious forum.  [Update 11/30/14: This used to link to a Wisconsin forum called Moms Like Me.  However, the forum no longer exists.  But Googling will bring up all sorts of more recent discussions on the validity of spiritual marriages.]

These websites and others show that attitudes are changing, especially now that the debate over same-sex marriage has been thrown into the mix.

Though many people still consider a marriage to be real only if it’s legal and public, and accuse those with non-legal or secret marriages of lacking commitment or maturity, there are a lot of people who feel the law has no bearing on what two people commit to with each other.

They know the law won’t recognize their marriage, but they do it anyway, and call it a marriage in the eyes of God.  Many people also have religious ceremonies without licenses, for various reasons.

According to one post in a forum, which may or may not be trustworthy, many Christians accept lifelong spiritual bonds as valid even if there’s no legal marriage.  [11/30/14: Unfortunately, I did not link to this, and after 7 years, doubt I can find it again.] 

I found debates all over the Internet–between adults, not teenagers debating the meaning of abstinence–on what constitutes a “real” marriage in God’s eyes.  I found plenty of accounts of adult, mature couples privately committing to each other and considering it binding, even without a legal backing; it’s not just kids who need to “grow up” or “accept adult responsibility.”

Even in college, a Pentecostal friend once told me that spiritual marriages could often be more real than ones with a “piece of paper,” though for various reasons the bride would be better off getting that “piece of paper.”

If local customs are what makes a marriage a marriage–well, those “local customs” are changing in Western society.  Still, unless it’s legally valid, you won’t have legal protections, whether the marriage fits “local customs” or not.

Of course, having a marriage not recognized by others can happen even with legal marriages.  For examples: Two people marry legally, but secretly because their parents won’t allow it, something that happens now at the courthouse and often happened in the Middle Ages with verbum marriages; what about the common argument that a marriage is a public declaration?

If gay marriage is legalized, many groups (especially conservative religious ones) will still not recognize the marriages as valid.  And the Catholic church considered my ex-boyfriend Peter’s parents, though legally married, to be “living in sin” and Peter as illegitimate, because his mother was Catholic and his father was Lutheran.  (I don’t know why they didn’t have it at least blessed by a priest.  I’m not privy to so many details.)

Here is an online advice column: Two divorced people came together and decided they would be spiritually married.  The counselor, taking a Christian perspective, says that our word should be just as bonding as God’s word, whether we back it up legally or not.  She supports the idea that a spiritual marriage is valid.  Of course, she also advises caution in such matters:

So, in God’s eyes, whether there is a ‘spiritual marriage’ with a promise or commitment, or a cultural civil ceremony with a piece of signed paper, it is one in the same [sic].

However, throughout history man has chosen to define the spiritual commitment with the civil act by emulating solemn ceremonies witnessed by others out of necessity for many reasons, chief among them being that man is deceitful and will want to break a vow!

So one point she makes is that we should be careful what vows we make–not just in public, but in private–because God will hold us to them.

Also see this [original news link no longer works] article.  Nicole Hastings, an Ohio girl dying of cancer, needed to stay on her parents’ insurance policy because the treatments cost far too much.  But she also wanted to marry her boyfriend.  So, on September 16, 2006, Make A Wish Foundation paid for a commitment ceremony held in her church, Mentor United Methodist Church.  Quote:

And despite some murmuring in the family about moral issues regarding the non-wedding and honeymoon to follow, Nicole is confident about her ethical standing after talking with the minister who will perform the ceremony.

‘He told me that when Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden, that God was the one who performed the ceremony–and they didn’t need a marriage license either,’ Nicole said. ‘I already have the approval I need.’

Many people do marry secretly with a license, not just without, then let their families think that the later, public ceremony is the legal marriage.  But the problem with an unlicensed, secret marriage is that one spouse can claim that marriage never existed–as happened to the singer Brandy and also to me.

These days, when Americans are of various religions and many are not religious, it’s simple enough for a couple to decide to be married without either a public ceremony or a license.

If they draw up legal contracts, they can even get many of the rights lacking to unmarried couples.

The lack of a legal wedding or church wedding will not phase them if they do not wish to be legally married and do not go to church.  To them, all that matters is that they have committed to be together for life.

Is this a valid marriage in God’s eyes?  Only God can judge.

But should a Christian do this?

But what is a Christian to make of this?  He has to be careful, because he answers to God, not to himself.  He also has to answer to his church.  (I use “he” generically, because “he or she” or “they” are awkward.)

An atheist or Wiccan couple could indeed consider themselves married without a license or a ceremony: They only have the law and themselves to answer to, and as long as they don’t try to claim the legal rights of a legally married couple, the government probably won’t care.

But members of less permissive religious communities should follow the rules of their community.  A Catholic or Orthodox believer could get excommunicated (prohibited from taking the Eucharist) for marrying without a legal license combined with a church wedding.

So whether a nonlegal marriage is valid in God’s eyes is moot for a Catholic or Orthodox believer, because anything less than a wedding performed or witnessed by a priest, is not allowed anyway.

Many Protestant churches recognize civil marriages as just as valid as a church wedding, but probably would frown on a clandestine marriage.  But some liberal Protestant churches allow individuals to make up their own minds about how or whether to get married.

If sex outside of marriage is allowed in a church, if living together is allowed in a church, then a nonlegal, private wedding will probably be allowed.  And some Christians do not attend a church.

A combination of the Protestant belief that you decide for yourself what the Bible says, and living in a pluralistic society, can easily make a person believe that he can marry even without the okay of one church or another.

Whether this is correct or not, I suppose that’s up to the individual to decide.  Even in conservative churches, you can often find the belief that only the Bible and your conscience is your ultimate authority, rather than the preacher.

My own belief is that a nonlegal, even secret marriage is spiritually valid because of the oath and the commitment.  My own belief is that breaking up that marriage to be with another is akin to adultery.

But I advise caution.  I advise holding off on that commitment ceremony, vow exchange, consummation, and/or setting up house until you have thought things through and spoken with your priest or preacher.

First of all, what if the relationship goes sour?  You will have no legal recourse.  You will not have the help of society which you would have if you were legally married.  Instead, you will be left trying to sort out whether you can marry someone else without committing adultery.

If your nonlegal “spouse” leaves you, he will be able to remarry–in the church, no less–without trouble.  But you will be left thinking, “Isn’t he committing adultery?  Yet he gets a church wedding!”  If the church does not consider his remarriage to be adultery, then you will have no means to contest it.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches also teach that marriage is a sacrament, and without that church-ordered sacrament, you don’t get the grace you otherwise would receive in your marriage.

I’m not going to tell you your marriage isn’t “valid” because it wasn’t done publicly, or in front of the right priest, or with a license.  I’m not going to tell you it isn’t “valid” because it was a handfasting ceremony with no license or justice of the peace, or because it was done in front of a justice of the peace instead of a preacher.

But your religious community and secular society are different matters which you’ll have to contend with.

I do not recommend secret marriages, because many people won’t accept a spiritual marriage as real and could even accuse you of all sorts of base motivations.

Literature and drama is full of the problems of secret marriages (legal and non-legal), such as Romeo and Juliet and Cimarosa’s The Secret Marriage.  Or you can break up and your “spouse” will claim that you were never actually married in the first place, making you look like a fool to many.

There are good reasons for those marriage laws and customs in the first place.  You’re much better off following your church’s guidelines/rules for marriage, and having a public ceremony, not even eloping.

–Written probably between 2006 and July 2007

 

Index to my Life Opinion pages:

Topics on Page 1

Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 

Are Spiritual Marriages “real”? 

Am I supposed to spend all of my free time at home with my spouse/kids now that I’m married?  Will that strengthen my marriage–or weaken it? 

Topics on Page 2

Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? 

Topics on Page 3

Abuse in all its forms: Links to help 

My Personal Stories

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Pregnancy Scare–for real this time–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–November 1994, Part 6

Along with Mike, I liked Peter’s former friend Randy, and wondered if he liked me.  As for Phil–I didn’t like him all that much.  I hated him, in fact.  It would take a lot for him to get me back, if he were to try.

I couldn’t wait to go home for Thanksgiving Break and get away from all this, all these problems.

I had the same comfort as during the Peter-situation long ago–that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).

On the 18th, Dad was to pick me up to take me home.  He wasn’t supposed to arrive until about 6pm, so I asked Mike to study with me for Intro to Christianity.  Can you believe we had a test on the 28th, the first day of class after Thanksgiving Break?

When Mike showed up, he brought a high school friend, Brent.  He was all excited because he finally had a male friend again, not just us girls.  (I guess Phil no longer counted as his friend, after the way Phil treated me.)

I think Dad arrived more than ten minutes after Mike did.  Mike cried, “Hello, Nyssa’s dad!”  He amused my dad with his usual silliness.

Catherine later said that everyone in the world was destined to meet Mike, since he seemed to know everybody we ran into out and about.

I hoped to finally type up much of my novel/Senior Writing Project on the computer while at home for Thanksgiving.  I planned to do some major typing then and over Christmas.

I couldn’t get enough chapters to Counselor Dude because I forgot my Jerisland discs (3 1/2 discs, which the young people call old-fashioned, but we called newfangled).  I couldn’t type up the files for the first few weeks.  I was also still writing the novel.

Counselor Dude understood; he said we’d get the project done a little late, especially since he still would have to read it and it was big, but I would get a grade.

Writing the last chapters during the fall semester was burdensome and melancholy at times, but at the same time, a way to get away from the Phil-situation.  I could escape to the island.

While reading shelves with Sharon, not only did I find some interesting books on marriage and Egyptian hieroglyphics, but also Darwin’s book on coral atolls.  This was the book referenced by Collier’s Encyclopedia in the article “Atoll,” which I mentioned in the February 1994 chapter.

I also used my Botany books to find the identities of the trees and plants, which the article only called by their scientific names, and which were in no other books I could find.

And now, as of 2007, I can just plug any of these names in Google and find out what they are!  I love the Internet!

Benny was now brought home and put in my younger brother’s old room, where he eventually became my niece’s toy.  For several years, looking at this stuffed rabbit made me sad, even after moving on, and even though Peter’s presents no longer bothered me.  That’s how bad an impression Phil made on me.

Some songs from the time: “Vaseline” by Stone Temple Pilots; “Verse Chorus Verse” by Nirvana; “Love is Deeper Than Touch,” a Christian song from the summer by Andy Landis; “Over You” by David Meece; Gary Chapman’s “Heal Me,” which I could identify with.  (Check out these lyrics.  And that was long before the well-publicized divorce from Amy Grant!)

On the 20th, I spent many fun hours with my high school friend Becky.  It was good to enjoy myself and get away from the problems at school.  She’d had guy problems lately, and said I was better company than a guy.

Over Break I read Clotel: Or The President’s Daughter by William Wells Brown, the first novel written by an African-American black person, for American Lit.  The cover said it was “written and published by an escaped slave in 1853.”  Clotel was part black, the child of Thomas Jefferson.

She had a spiritual marriage with a white man.  This was the only way she could marry a white man, or marry anyone for that matter, since even slave marriages weren’t legally recognized.

The novelist considered her spiritual marriage a true marriage, and when the man left her to marry a rich white woman, he called him an adulterer.

I looked at this and saw my own situation: deserted by a man who said he was my husband.

I also considered Phil to be an adulterer if he ever slept with or married another.  This has since changed, of course, though I still consider him my first husband.

Thursday, November 24, Thanksgiving.  I was so looking forward to Thanksgiving week, to being home and away from all the crap going on at school.  But since I got home, I kept remembering Phil being there, living with my parents and me.  This saddened me.

I kept wondering if I was pregnant, looking in Dad’s CD-Rom encyclopedia for definitions of “common-law marriage,” how I could tell if I was pregnant and what the baby would look like now if I was pregnant, reading medical journals, and wondering if it would harm the baby to sit in front of the computer too much.  This all saddened me.

And on Thanksgiving I saw my brother and his wife–still together, of course, having gotten married that summer while Phil and I were engaged.  Even seeing their happiness while I was so sad, saddened me.  I wondered if I’d ever be in their place.

This sucked.  Now I just wanted to go back to school, and was glad I soon would.

My period started on day fifty-three!!! of my cycle, the latest I’d been in the past calendar year.  My usual cycle was about thirty-five days long, so you can see why this made me so anxious.  It turned out to be a normal, five-day period.

No, I didn’t try to get pregnant.  I would never have done such a thing just to keep Phil in my life.  And I’d had a period since the last time I was with him.

But you can imagine that skipping a period makes you anxious, makes you wonder if you had twin eggs and only one came out as a period, makes you wonder if it’s possible to have a period while pregnant.  And, well, it has been known to happen, especially in the first trimester….

And, well, fraternal twins with different fathers also happen for real.  And I heard twins were in my family, and knew nothing about hormonal imbalances.

So it was within the realm of possibility for me to have had two eggs, one which was fertilized, the other not.  Or for me to still have a period while pregnant.  My fear was justified.

On the 21st, I wrote in my diary:

I think I might be pregnant…this is the 15th day–two weeks–since my period was supposed to start.

And, according to Becky, it is possible to have at least one more period while you’re pregnant, and she knows people who’ve had several.

It’s usually due to birth control pills, but her mom had gone off the Pill and still had several periods before she knew she was five months pregnant with Becky.

Pregnant with the child of the husband who deserted me.  What am I supposed to do now, if I am?  I don’t want to miscarry–I hope I don’t.  Unwanted pregnancy or not, a miscarriage is so sad.  And I certainly wouldn’t abort it.

On the 25th, I wrote:

My period finally started about ten minutes ago.  I did a bunch of research into the subject this week [ online and on the computer ], trying to see if pregnancy was possible or not, and could only come to the conclusion that maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t.

If I was, it was a twin; if I wasn’t, psychological stress pushed off ovulation.  [ I didn’t yet know about the hormonal imbalance which actually has caused me many period problems over the years. ]

On Sunday, November 27, my parents and I returned to Roanoke.  On my way out the door, I stopped at the top of the basement stairs and looked down to my little kitty Hazel, who sat and stared at me from the foot of the stairs.

(We now used the door there as a main door instead of the back door, because my parents put a new carpet in the family room and didn’t want it to get dirty.)

I felt I’d never see her again.  Was I going to die from sadness or in a car crash that day?

Back at school, I mentioned the feeling to Sharon; she said maybe Hazel was going to die.  As it turned out, Hazel and I both lived to see each other on Christmas Break, but after that, I never saw her again.

She died of an undetermined illness which made her bald and skinny, possibly diabetes.  (She did love those Twinkies, after all.)

Who did my parents and I see at Marc’s Restaurant in S–?  Persephone and her parents!  (They also would have been returning from Indiana.)  The wait staff seated us just a table or two apart.  Persephone and I looked at each other and laughed.

So now my parents knew what she looked like.  At least she was just with her parents, and not with Phil.  However, the sight of her reminded me of the pain I was going back to.  By the way, this Marc’s soon became Annie’s Restaurant.  I don’t know what it is now.

Index 
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:

 

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Persephone confronts me about the letter–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–November 1994, Part 5

The following is adapted from a diary entry, which I copied and added many extra details to about two years later.  Those details were as accurate as I could still remember:

11/15/94–12:23 AM

Blackness again.  The letter is known to Persephone, but I’ve cleared things up with her, and she’s not mad at me anymore.

It still angers me that she even knows about that or the one before it.  She refused to see the first one–he offered to show it to her!  What a creep.

I thought, after the Tracy letter, which he didn’t show me out of respect for her, that he was more trustworthy than that.  But no, he is not to be trusted.

The spiritual marriage has entered the grapevine–probably through Dirk, Persephone says–and is known to people who have no business knowing.  She says, “Tell a world, tell a Dirk.”

She herself heard it not through Phil, but through a freshman girl in Muehlmeier who said to her, “I’m really not supposed to tell anyone this, BUT…”  I have no idea who all it’s spread to.

I feel weird and indignant at everyone, just when I’m walking around the cafeteria!  I feel like they’re all looking at me and judging me now.  This could even reflect on InterVarsity.

I don’t like these small-town grapevines.  People always have to know other people’s business.  Well, get your nose out of my affairs, you busybody!  I feel so humiliated.  I don’t even like to leave the apartment.

I’m beginning to think about pressing charges, even–breach of contract plus rape. Yes, there have been several times he’s raped me, and only once did I realize that’s what he did.  It took a speaker here at school the other week to help me realize that.

God, convict him!  That week we were back together, engaged, married even–he apparently wasn’t intending to honor the marriage contract–that’s rape because it was false pretenses!

Persephone pulled me aside after lunch on Sunday to talk to me, and to give me a letter she had written to me.

As I sat there reading it, I felt more and more indignant, and had plenty to say on it because it seemed written by someone who didn’t even know what my letter truly said.

It sounded more like Phil had totally distorted everything for her.

It talked about forgiveness as if it never even entered my mind!  I explained that the purpose of the letter, as clearly stated in the letter, was so I could forgive!

There were other things, too, which I’ll mention later, though I won’t necessarily say if they were in the letter or not.

I was mad that Phil had told her about it, but she said that some things should be told.  I don’t think this was one of those things, though.  I said that nowadays I do nothing without God’s okay, and this I felt had God’s okay.

Persephone thinks Dirk thinks he knows everything.  Considering the things he’s told Phil (who listens to him) and me (who doesn’t), I agree.  She doesn’t like him, and doesn’t like having to see him all the time because he’s Phil’s best friend.

There have also been things Phil did to me or that we went through that he told her about, without respect for me, thinking she would take his side.  Instead, she told him he’s an a–hole.  He also doesn’t like that she’s friends with me!  She thinks he’s afraid of something.

She says her dad … is very much like Phil.  Her mother wonders why she’d want to date someone so much like her father.

She said if I think what he did to me on certain occasions was rape, there are people I should talk to about it.  [I didn’t because I didn’t want my parents to find about the spiritual marriage/sex.]

I never told him I could sue him for breach of contract, and he didn’t realize I could until she told him, and that shocked him.  [I didn’t want to, but felt empowered simply because I could do it, but didn’t.]

She said it probably wouldn’t work anyway because, in this day and age, people break engagements all the time.  But I saw a promo for a news story recently that said people can sue for it, and my dad had brought it up in the first place.  I’d never heard of it myself until then.

Persephone said in her letter that, in the Old Testament, when the husband put the wife away, they were divorced.  I don’t know why she thought it necessary to say this.  I’ve never said, and I don’t believe, that Phil and I are still married.  It’s a divorce, and I admit it.

But, though I’m allowed to marry again, having been put away for no fault of my own, if Phil were to marry another, he’d be committing adultery.  [I was following Christian rules on divorce, which are different from legal ones.]

Persephone says she doesn’t intend to marry anyone because she knows she herself is grounds for divorce.  Phil doesn’t like this.  Apparently, so soon after throwing aside his wife, he’s talking about marriage with another woman.

She says Phil says he loves her and she says to that, “No, you don’t!”

She says she knows from her parents (actor-father, maybe?  I forget) what real comedy is, and that Phil doesn’t.  (Phil makes constant jokes and references that are often lost on others.)

After the Bible verses in my letters were mentioned, the things I said about sin and such, Persephone said, “One thing I’ve seen is that when a person starts using the Bible as a defense, they’ve lost the argument.”

That’s a load of hooey when you’re dealing with Christians.  Christians are the ones who usually respect the Bible–who count it as the Official Guidebook, the Final Authority on anything.

When you use Bible verses taken in context, you use the strongest argument you could possibly use with another Christian.  That’s the thing that I have seen.

I remember Phil telling me at the beginning of the semester that he was starting to practice better hygiene so he’d be attractive to other women, but I guess he hasn’t kept that up.  Persephone keeps having to throw soap and a towel at him and tell him to clean up before she’ll let him in her room!  (In some ways, I do admire her spunk.)

He shaved his beard soon after we broke up the first time, I guess as another way to appear more attractive, but probably not until after he tried out for a part in the play and knew whether or not he’d need a beard for the part.

I think he looks silly without a beard and Anna agrees with me, but Persephone says she won’t let him grow one because he looks like a scuzzball and kind of scares her.

When I mentioned the time I snubbed him in Jubilee, she said she heard about that.  She thinks that the way to effectively ignore a guy is not to treat him differently from other guys–not snub him completely, because that makes him feel special, set apart from other guys.

I’m not so sure this is true.  Mom always tells me not to talk to the guy who’s done me wrong, but to ignore him–first Peter, now Phil.

And Dad thinks the effectiveness of the “snubbing” method you choose depends on the guy.  He doesn’t think anything else would get through to Phil but to snub him completely.

In the letter she says that instead of “marrying,” we should’ve just called it premarital sex and taken the responsibility and consequences “like adults”–an unfair judgment of something she wasn’t even a part of.

And Phil and I had agreed with each other that just being engaged doesn’t mean you can sleep together, so if we hadn’t been married, we would’ve been wracked with such guilt if we’d had sex!  This way, there was no guilt or shame, because it’s not a sin to have sex with your own spouse.

She tells me that the first time we got “married,” Phil really thought he’d marry me.  The second time, he was just horny! Isn’t that rape?–

–Oh, gosh, and I remember how pushy he was, too, that second time!  How he’d push me on the bed as soon as we got into my room and we were alone, without a “how’d you do,” and cover us with my afghan. 

Once or twice, when I was preparing for the usual position, he poked his thing in my face–and it was smelly this time, unlike before–for me to suck, and held onto my head so I had to do it.

I told Persephone how he’d also say last summer, when I didn’t want to do anything but vaginal sex, “Sure, have your way, you always get your way!”–Persephone said, “It’s your body!”

She and I both agree he lays on guilt trips all the time.  She also says he gets horny and says to her what he often said to me: “Don’t you want a beautiful baby?”–

But she doesn’t even want kids, she wants her tubes tied at a certain age (twenty-two or twenty-five, I believe), so whenever he tries anything with her, she hits him in the balls.  She says he’s “an idiot, sexually.”

I told her about the time Phil threw a tantrum and I thought it was his dream-self, not his real, conscious self.  I spoke of how awful it was, how awful he acted.  Persephone said something like, “Well, that’s over now,” and I should get over it.  Her words seemed callous.

[I thought we were sharing? Why did she say this about this particular incident, but not about the others?  That makes no sense at all!]

She spoke of Phil’s increasing troubles at home and called his mother a dragon.  (Later, she would tell me he practically lived with her in Muehlmeier for a while because of his bad homelife.  I remembered I didn’t allow him to stay overnight in my room in Krueger, for two reasons: 1) It was against the rules, and 2) Clarissa wouldn’t have liked it.)

She says even Tracy agreed to do something with him and Persephone recently.  It shocked us all–Persephone, me, probably Phil.  He ended up driving so erratically that Tracy (obviously when the minivan was stopped) got him to go down on his knees, and demanded his keys from him!

What’s really odd is that Persephone says she doesn’t even like Phil!  At least, not as a boyfriend.  She rips on him whenever he’s not around, and would have preferred dating James, whom she liked at the beginning of the year.

She said she’d just sent James a letter saying how she felt when Phil asked her out, and then James tried to talk to her but Phil came over.  She thought James was sullen after that because: “I think I was the first female to get through to him, and then he saw me with Phil, and he didn’t like that!”

I liked him once, too, and thought he liked me, and then finally ended up with Phil; I wonder if he ever knew I liked him?  I know I started dating Phil maybe a few months after I first tried to ask James out….

She thinks it’ll take me at least a year to forgive Phil.

She also says she was taught to believe in the Bible, but be wary of it because it was written by man.  I don’t agree, since I believe it was written by God through man….

She also thinks that she, the freshman, knows more about human nature than some of us in the group who are older, but I don’t really think that’s true.  She doesn’t even know some of the things I’ve gone through in the past, and I don’t think she should judge us so quickly.

Persephone says Phil had another nervous breakdown after he got my letter….Two breakdowns in seven months?!…Why doesn’t he get help?  He doesn’t need a girlfriend, he needs a psychiatrist!

Pearl says so, too; she says he totally doesn’t seem ready for a girlfriend.

Dad already thought he was psycho and on the edge, and he said the other night that he didn’t even know about the first breakdown!

Persephone didn’t even stick around to take care of him–she stuck her roommate Trina with him while she went to do something with the Mirror!  I thought it was so very un-loving of her.

I gave up a review for the Botany lab final to take care of him, a review in the woods that sounded like so much fun, and Mrs. Rev understood and said he was lucky to have me!–I held my tongue, though, when Persephone told me what she did.

At the end, she said that not only does she have no reason to be mad at me after all–she took away her letter, which no one else had seen, and started folding it up, like it wasn’t needed anymore–but she will also try to steer Phil away from me, out of respect for my feelings.

Also, I said that, as I told my friends, the breakup with Charles didn’t bother me at all.  I mentioned my crush on Mike, and she said he must be an acquired taste.  She said she’d like Jim Carrey, and I said, “He must be an acquired taste!”…

I find my observations on Phil are the same as Persephone’s on many counts.  She knows exactly what he’s like, things it took me months to find out.  For example, he rips on things important to her–i.e., the Mirror–like he did to me–i.e., InterVarsity [and my friends].

There are plenty of other things, too, but I really must go to bed.  First class is canceled tomorrow, but not my 10:30.–1:43 AM

I heard later on that, the next school year, Persephone chased Mike!  She must have acquired the taste.

So at first, I was the victim being blamed, the victim being told to shut up, the victim being told it’s wrong to confront my abuser. 

But by the end of the conversation, she realized there was nothing for which to be angry at me.  She took her letter back.

Also, on November 30, I saw in action how Phil ripped on the thing important to Persephone: He wrote a letter to the editor about how terrible The Mirror was, with inaccuracies, proofreading problems–and even accused the staff of lying about addressing student concerns, and only printing letters from staff members!

His letter was often confusing.  I wonder what Persephone thought of this baffling and flaming letter against her important thing.

As far as I’m concerned, though she kept telling him he was an a–hole, Persephone knew what Phil did to me, so every moment she stayed with him she was telling him through her actions that it was OK!

As for what she said about knowing more about human nature than my friends and I did–She was dating a guy she didn’t like, she didn’t even seem to like him much as a human being, and knew full well what he was and what he’d done to me, but stayed with him–and she said she knew more about human nature???

I certainly was reassured to hear she took pains to keep from sleeping with Phil.  I didn’t like to think of Phil sleeping with anyone else, not while my body still remembered what it was like to sleep with him and still longed for his touch, and physically hurt to think of him with any other woman in his bed.

Phil had argued that I should find someone with my own ideas of fun and partying, as if that somehow determined lifelong day-to-day happiness.  Well, he found someone who liked to party, but seemed to forget about the things he said were most important to him in a wife.

Phil refused to use birth control for religious reasons; Persephone did not want children and planned to get her tubes tied.  I had agreed to use natural family planning because it meant so much to him, but she would use a permanent form of birth control.

After he complained so much that I would not convert to Catholicism, I don’t know why he wanted to date someone who would have obviously refused conversion even more fervently than I (she was Methodist and later became Pagan, even using spells and seeing ghosts).

He didn’t want “one of those feminists” who didn’t want to obey her husband, but she was far more of a feminist than I was.

Phil followed the Catholic teaching on birth control, but no longer wanted to follow the Catholic teaching on premarital sex.  Those two things together are a recipe for trouble, as he learned the hard way eventually.  (He had to marry his next girlfriend.)  This is probably why Persephone called him “an idiot sexually.”

She hadn’t realized how soon after our breakup they started dating.  Apparently he lied to her.

So, just walking around the cafeteria, I felt like everybody knew about the secret marriage and was judging me.

Of course, now that my friends, Phil’s friends, and who knew who, knew about the secret marriage, you could say that we met another important criteria of marriage: common knowledge that we were married.

(There are those who say a marriage isn’t valid unless it’s public–discounting even a legal elopement or Romeo and Juliet’s marriage.)

Index 
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:

 

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Friends tell me Phil is controlling–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–October 1994, Part 8

When we went to school events, Charles put his arm around me and I didn’t mind, but I feared other guys would see this as a sign that I was “off-limits.”  I wasn’t: We were both allowed to date anybody else we wanted.

That’s what we meant by not being serious, by taking it slowly, by being, as Charles told Pearl, “very casual.”  And I wanted to date at least two other guys at the time, including Mike.

Helene and her best friend Kay became my friends junior year through Phil, who liked to sit with them at lunch.  They met in Sophomore Honors and liked him then, but now they were my friends as well, and Helene didn’t like him so much.

Helene said, “Phil has been talking to Kay.  I think he sees her as a sister.”  That might explain why she got quiet when I said Phil was a jerk.  What truth twisting did he tell her?

Helene said Catherine told her Phil and Persephone were dating.  Helene’s thoughts:

“It shows he misses you….You shine compared to her….It confirms my worst fears about him.  I really think little of a person who–like a person who gets a divorce and then goes out and finds someone else right away.  They don’t want to work on the relationship they have, and they go out and find another one?…He’s going to regret it.” 

(Pearl said that Persephone’s going to regret it–which turned out to be true, a year later.)  I said Phil didn’t want a feminist; Helene noted that Persephone was extremely feminist.

Helene also said, “Last year, after you two got engaged, Phil came to us [her and Kay] once and said you had an argument but worked it out.  But he complained that you wouldn’t just do whatever he wanted.  We saw this as controlling, and hoped you would realize this before you married him.”

I remembered that argument.  It was over whether or not I could listen to a rock station in the minivan, one which only came in outside the campus and played better songs than any other station.  Remember, this was in the Stone Ages when college kids couldn’t just hook up to campus Internet and pull in a webstream whenever they wanted.

I found the following paragraphs in The Psychology of Romantic Love by Nathaniel Branden:

Imagine that an individual feels, perhaps beneath the level of conscious awareness, that he or she significantly lacks worth, is not lovable, is not a person who can inspire devotion for any sustained length of time.

Simultaneously, this individual desires love, pursues love, hopes and dreams to find love.

Let us suppose this person is a man.  He finds a woman he cares for, she seems to care for him, they are happy, excited, and stimulated in each other’s presence–and for a time it seems that his dream is to be fulfilled.

But deep in his psyche a time bomb is ticking away–the belief that he is inherently unlovable.

This time bomb provokes him to destroy his relationship.  He may do this in any number of ways.  He may endlessly demand reassurance.  He may become excessively possessive and jealous.

He may behave cruelly to ‘test’ the depth of her devotion to him. [Phil once told me this was why things had gotten so bad.  It’s in my diary.]

He may make self-deprecating comments and wait for her to correct him. [Phil did this all the time.]

He may tell her he does not deserve her and tell her again and again and again.  [Yep.]

He may tell her that no woman can be trusted and that all women are fickle.  [He refused to let me meet his “vampire friend S–,” with the fear that I’d fall for S–.  And he didn’t believe me when I said I would never leave him even if I found a “soul mate.”]

He may find endless excuses to criticize her, to reject her before she can reject him.  He may attempt to control and manipulate her by making her feel guilty, thereby hoping to bind her to him.  He may become silent, withdrawn, preoccupied, throwing up barriers she cannot penetrate.  [This whole paragraph sounds like Phil over the course of our relationship.]

After a while, perhaps, she has had enough; she is exhausted; he has worn her out.  She leaves him.

He feels desolate, depressed, crushed, devastated.  It is wonderful.  He has been proven right.  The world is the way he always knew it was.  ‘They’re writing songs of love, but not for me.’  But how satisfying it is to know that one understands the nature of reality!

Suppose that, despite his best efforts, he cannot drive her away.  Perhaps she believes in him, sees his potential.  [That was me.]

Or perhaps she has a masochistic streak that requires that she be involved with such a man.  She clings to him; she keeps reassuring him.  Her devotion grows stronger, no matter what he does.

She simply does not understand the nature of the universe as he perceives it.  She does not grasp that no one can love him.

In continuing to love him, she presents him with a problem: She confounds his view of reality.  He needs a solution.  He needs a way out.

He finds it.  He decides that he has fallen out of love with her.  Or he tells himself that she bores him.  Or he tells himself that he is now in love with someone else.  Or he tells himself that love does not interest him.

The particular choice does not matter; the net effect is the same: in the end, he is alone again–the way he always ‘knew’ he would be.

Then, once more, he can dream of finding love–he can look for a new woman–so that he can play out the drama all over again.

It is not essential, of course, that his relationship end so conclusively.  A literal separation may not be necessary.  He may be willing to allow a relationship to continue, providing both he and his partner are unhappy.  This is a compromise he can live with.  It is as good as being alone and abandoned–almost. –p. 128-129

(According to the author website, this book is now out of print, but you can find it at the above Amazon link.)

Around this time, I saw Phil with his head on Persephone’s shoulder in the cafeteria.  It made me sick.  I was glad to have Charles around.

Charles and I were taking things very slow and casual, while Phil just seemed to jump from one serious relationship to another.  The bed wasn’t even cold before he started dating her!

Index 
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:

 

 

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My letter to Phil, Part 2–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1994, Part 5

 

First part of letter

Trust seemed to be a problem as well.  Up until I found out about the games you’d been playing with me, like you termed it I’d have trusted you until the ends of the earth; but for some reason, you seemed to have trouble trusting me.  I don’t know why that was.

Like you thought that someone could steal me away from you even after we married, even though I told you how firmly I believe in the bonds of marriage.  As the Bible, the Catholic church and the Nazarene church affirm, those bonds are not to be broken, and I was not going to break them.

It hurt me that you kept thinking the “perfect” person would steal me away or that you could never introduce me to your friend S–.  (Really, we’d probably have gotten along well, but I loved you, and I’m not into sadomasochism!)

As a song by the Christian group 77’s says, “If you’re looking for a perfect man that you can worship, baby, He ain’t on this earth, baby, no more.”  Couples can’t be clones of each other; they’ve got to be individuals.  Your old-fashioned, non-feminist (usually) [as he said he wanted] girl was not going to run away to find somebody better!

That bit about “being a better person when not with you”–that was taken straight from “Mrs. Doubtfire,” wasn’t it?  Well, I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now.  It’s not a biblically sanctioned reason for divorce.  If you don’t believe me, grab a concordance and a Bible and look up passages on the subject.

It also feels to the other person like they’re being blamed for how their partner acts.  The person isn’t the problem, it’s how their partner relates with them. They just need to learn how to relate better.

As that very movie shows, divorce tears families and people apart.  That’s why God hates it (Malachi 2:16 and surrounding verses; also see Matt. 5:31-32, Deut. 23:21-23; verses that may relate: Deut. 15:12-17).

(You may call me a holy roller, may even say I’m preaching, but if I know someone’s a Christian, I feel free to make references to what God says in the Bible.  Not spouting off verses right and left, but mentioning or quoting things that apply when it seems appropriate.

(Usually, people seem to appreciate it because it reminds them of how God feels about something they’re struggling with, gives them a better understanding of things.  If it convicts them of wrongdoing, they might not always like it so much, but that’s human nature.

(I don’t like to feel convicted of something wrong, either, but sometimes a person needs to hear it.  You even tell me Bible verses at times.)

You say the counseling idea is “like beating a dead horse.”  Well, I don’t agree.  It was never given a chance to revive the horse.

Three “dead horses”–couples that were already divorced–saw those tapes I mentioned, and were brought back to life: they remarried their ex’s.  According to Gary Smalley, good results because of the tapes have been reported without exception.

Love, happiness are increased; even the once-divorced couples report more affection for each other than they had even when they were first married.  This would certainly include a restoration of cherishing, which means “to care for kindly” and “to hold dear.”

Maybe this sort of thing could even help your parents restore their first love–in fact, probably could.  [His mother had told him the only reason she hadn’t divorced his dad was because Phil and Dave were still at home.]  And keep things from breaking down again, as long as the principles continue to be applied.

Once again, one person could feel their life had been wasted until they met the other person.  [Phil used to tell me that his life had been wasted until he met me.]  If I didn’t think this sort of thing had a fighting chance, I wouldn’t bother with it, wouldn’t bother even mentioning it.

One of the principles, one example of how to break the communications barrier, is one Smalley learned from his wife: When a woman says “Don’t touch me,” what she really means is, “Hold me, talk to me, make me feel better.”

This is true.  I can think of an instance in which you apparently didn’t know this, and it had consequences.  It was after that horrible argument we had near the beginning of the summer, when you were getting overwhelmed by that second sales job.

[This was when I thought he was talking in his sleep as he often did, but he just had his eyes closed.]  I finally got you to come upstairs and go to bed, my bed, but I was so angry and felt so betrayed that I said, “Don’t touch me.”

If I’d really meant that, I’d have told you to sleep in the guest room.  I wanted you to hold me, to try to talk things out, to be so worried about my attitude that you’d make me let you hold me.  Instead, you took me at my word, and turned over to go to sleep, leaving me feeling abandoned.

If you’d known what a woman really means when she tells her husband not to touch her, we could’ve resolved the problem better and more quickly.  It isn’t that she’s lying, it’s just that she’s upset.

Another thing is the “space” issue.  I see that as another example of poor communication.  I’m not always a good reader of body language; I go by what people say.

When you’d say you just needed some space, that it wasn’t me but you needed to sleep in the guest room that night, I wouldn’t like it, but I’d understand and sleep alone that night without complaint.

When you just disappeared and I found you in there, I’d feel like you were deliberately snubbing me or running from some argument.  I’d feel hurt, angry, abandoned.

To kindly say you need some time alone is much more effective than just getting mad or running off.  I’ve done that sort of thing myself before (to Clarissa), and it didn’t work, just made me feel ashamed because I knew I was probably doing something wrong.

We used to be able to resolve things [in the beginning of the relationship, we prided ourselves on being able to resolve things using already established principles that we hadn’t even heard of until afterwards]; I think we’ve forgotten how.

And I think if we learned how again, plus more tips that we never knew before, we’d see that “first love” returning, remember why we wanted to be together in the first place, why we wanted to be married and knew we were each other’s ideal.

But even if we didn’t, we could learn principles that can be applied in other relationships.  Either way, we’d both win.

We wouldn’t have to “get back together” before watching tapes or reading books or whatever; we could watch them, and then see if we’d want to give it another try or to just move on.

But there couldn’t be a “yo-yo effect” afterwards.  If we decide to try it again, then we’ll have to both give it a good try, not keep changing our minds when problems don’t go away right away.

Maybe there wouldn’t even be any left by then; maybe they all would’ve been taken care of through time and through learning how to communicate more effectively.  And I think God would be pleased by our efforts and bless us.

It seems we resolved things better until after we married. Perhaps what happened was, you unconsciously tried to make it into your parents’ relationship, which is familiar to you, and I unconsciously tried to make it into my parents’ relationship, which is familiar to me.

The two conflicted–unhappiness is incompatible with happiness, “light has no fellowship with darkness”–and everything broke down.

I hope you take this letter well, and in the kind spirit it was intended in.  I wanted to tell you about the tapes and other possibilities, and to tell you some things that I feel you should know.

I don’t know if you’ll listen to me, but I couldn’t trust that these things would be said to you by anyone else, as much as some others want to say them to you.  If some anger or bitterness still came through, well, I felt I needed to say what I did.  [Reading it over, I don’t really see any.]

But forgiveness is divine.  I don’t hate you.  If I can never even be friends with you, it would kill me.  I hope and pray you don’t turn into another Peter, because that would just finish me off, to see someone else I care for turn scuzzy.

But anyway.  If Mom can get ahold of these tapes or something like them, I plan to watch them.  But don’t tell me yet what you think of the idea, what you think of seeing them yourself.

Sometimes decisions made in haste are regretted later.  Give it maybe a couple weeks or more, let it sink in, mull it over and put it on the back burner; then decide.

Don’t listen to friends who don’t know what they’re talking about, which would probably be most of them–“The worst thing you can do,” Dad says, “is talk to your friends.”

[Dad’s advice used to be so influential with Phil.  He’d sit talking with him for hours–though Dad, at times, thought he was an idiot!]

Advice should be taken from the wise.  Pray about it, pray for guidance; God, the wisest of them all, hears the prayers of His children, and won’t leave them all alone.  That includes you.

Love,
Nyssa

Index 
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:

 

 

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