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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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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I return Phil’s things and he skewers me; consolation from friends–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1994, Part 3

On October 2, I went to Immanuel Bible Church with Pearl, driven by a middle-aged (or older) man who went to the church.  We were to go there several times during the semester.

It was far too conservative for me, though I had no idea until reviewing the website just now, just how conservative it was.  I would have–metaphorically–run screaming if I’d known!

I wanted to go to the Evangelical Free church, but our driver had graduated.  So I went wherever I could, whenever I could–that is, until I got too used to sleeping in.

Once, possibly this first time we went, we passed Phil on the road as we left Roanoke.  He saw me, and I think he smiled at me.  I just sat there, stunned.

****

I started putting Dolphin Philosophy, complete with my usual drawing of a frolicking dolphin, on the message board we had by the bathroom door.  I wrote this on 10/2/94, which the dolphin Darwin said on SeaQuest DSV: “Darwin scared.  People bad!”

In a return to sophomore and junior year practices, I also started drawing little beetles on the board as well, every now and then.

Around this time, I’d look around at couples who’d been together a couple of years, and wonder, Will I ever have a lasting relationship, one that won’t fizzle out before the end of a year?

I’d look at people who were engaged or married and had been together for several years or more, and wonder, Will I ever last in a relationship long enough to get married and spend most of my life with a guy? 

We had Cinemax and HBO in the apartments.  But then at the general meeting for all the apartments, the meeting in which our Resident Assistant (RA) gave us cleaning supplies, somebody mentioned we were getting Cinemax and HBO.

The RA told us not to tell anybody from other residence halls, or they’d get jealous and complain.  Soon after, the cable guy hooked up our bedrooms so we could get cable outside of the living room.  (Without cable, not one channel came in on campus.)

We discovered that Cinemax and HBO were now scrambled.  We feared this would happen!

****

I found one of my small packing boxes.  I put in it the game “Crack the Case,” some mementos and pictures of Phil that he’d given me, and the porcelain bird.  (I kept very little.)

I was glad to include that game, which reminded me of him verbally abusing me and making me feel stupid whenever we played it.

I also put in the books and pencils he left behind that night he made the final decision to divorce me, and the bowl and spoon he left behind on the previous weekend.

I had cleaned them; I may have cleaned them before his final decision.  Otherwise, I probably would’ve been tempted to keep them dirty.

I put in a note that said simply, “These are some things of yours.  I can’t keep the bird anymore.”  I found our marriage contract, ripped it in two, and put it on the top.

I sent these to him through the campus mail.  I remember packing the box in the living room by the TV, and Sharon might have been there.

Sharon thought sending the bird back (and the ripped-up contract) was a good move that showed him I was breaking with him. 

He told me to keep the bird.  I’d been tempted, even encouraged by my friends, to break the porcelain bird, but a dream told me I’d regret doing this.  Instead, I gave it back to him, getting it off the living room shelf and out of my life forever.  It’s sad that that woman’s piece of art ended up meaning what it did to me.

Phil found me the next day, probably around the fifth, on my way back to the apartment after lunch.  He mentioned the “torn-up paper” and had a long talk with me.  He was civil, though he wasn’t kind.

He seemed offended by the torn-up marriage contract, even though he had been the one to nullify it.

He told me he was interested in doing something with Persephone.  He said he was going dancing on Saturday night in Fond du Lac–which we had planned to do together–and he was going to take her along instead.

I think he was going there with a group.

He also said, “It was never ‘us.'”  What a cruel thing to say!  And what was it supposed to mean?  To discount the past eight months, to discount our entire marriage,  like they meant nothing!

I don’t think I said much to that.  We also talked about how maybe in the future we’d be ready for each other, and I said I just wondered, how long?  (At the crack of doom, I guess.)  I came back in the apartment and cried.

I later got the impression that he and Persephone went dancing in Fond du Lac all the time.  It seemed like dancing in Fond du Lac was popular with S– young people.  It seems odd, because Fond du Lac kids talk like there’s nothing to do here.  And I believe the dance place where everybody went is now something else.

****

I traded a shift with Dirk, 9 to 11 pm in the library.  I sat folding Roanoke folders.  I kept one for myself because they were free.  Some guy dropped off these folders for us, just as he did the year before.

I liked them, but one of the librarians hated them.  She didn’t like how they were made, that they were unsolicited, and that since they were dropped off in the library, we student workers had to spend time folding them.  They were then left in a pile on the desk for anyone to take.

I liked mine, and later on in Winterim class, I decorated it with Celtic drawings and markers.  I ended up storing in it some papers I wanted to keep.  So she complained about them, but I loved mine.

Working at that time of night was scary, especially in what could be a haunted library.  And even if it wasn’t haunted, it was still scary to be out and about on the campus at night.

I was alert to shadows and bushes as I walked home, as I often would be that late at night, watching for guys who might want to jump me.  I didn’t use to be so jumpy at night on campus, until the rapist sophomore year put the fear of darkness into all us women without even stepping foot on the campus.

****

October 7-8.  I went to the InterVarsity Lock-in at Mike’s house.  It was held in the basement, which was made up into a rec room, and in one corner was the door to Mike’s bedroom.

It was nice to be there with my friends and not see Phil at all, but I was also depressed.  Persephone was there, and once asked me, “Is something wrong?”  I didn’t tell her it was Phil.

Guess what?  Phil dropped her off!  She apparently considered him weird, and just thought of him as a friend, but he insisted and she thought, Okay, whatever.

I tried to enjoy myself as best I could.  After all, many of my friends were there, and especially Mike.

While standing around the pool table eating and watching people play, Persephone’s roommate Trina said to me, “Right now, P is in his room having sex with a girl who Phil and I both think isn’t that pretty.”

This girl, apparently, was considered a slut, who all the guys (except Phil and, I hope, Mike) were hot over, and other girls didn’t understand why.  I didn’t know her, and didn’t know what she looked like, so I could say nothing about her.

As for P, a freshman, he had a girlfriend, but was known as a womanizer.  The girlfriend wasn’t on campus.  (Shortly before the end of the school year, according to Pearl, he said that his girlfriend taught him the value of a relationship without sex.)  In her absence, he slept with whomever he could find.

Spring Semester, Charles kept going on and on about him–P did this, P did that, P is so funny, P is so cool–so Pearl began saying, “I think Charles is in love with P.”  We’d laugh, especially since Charles was very much heterosexual.

We watched the Saved by the Bell movie which aired that evening, in which the blond kid married his girlfriend, the girl with the lovely, long brown hair (which she later cut off!  ergh!  when she went to 90210).

I didn’t watch the show myself, but some of my friends did.  I didn’t like watching someone get married, though, after my own marriage to Phil broke down before we even had a public wedding.  But I forced my feelings down so my friends could enjoy the movie.

We spent the night camped on sleeping bags, blankets and pillows on the floor in the basement.  Once I got up to go to the bathroom, stepped around my friends, and reflected on how life went on without Phil, that I was doing this apart from him and still having a good time.

Mike’s mother made us breakfast pizza the next morning.

****

We had made Mike an honorary woman and Phi-Delt because he hung around with us instead of guys, and acted “womanly” at times.  He loved the distinction.

Also, my friends and I recently went to Country Kitchen.  We were Tara, Pearl, Sharon, Astrid and me.  I don’t remember anyone else being with us.

I think that was the time I had a strange desire for the car to crash and I’d die (because of Phil), but I fought it off because that was so awful and would kill my friends as well.  I get thoughts like that when severely depressed.

There, we had ice cream desserts, and somebody asked who of us had crushes on Mike.  Astrid didn’t like admitting it, but we discovered or knew that she did or used to.  Sharon did or used to.  And I did.  Pearl thought Tara did, but she didn’t.

We wondered why so many of us liked him, because he was basically a dork (we meant that in the best possible way; we liked him the way he was).  We wondered if we didn’t have a big enough circle of guy friends, and that’s why we all kept falling for the same guy.

Of course, it could also be that he was one of few truly nice guys on that campus, not a drunk, druggie or out for all the booty he could get.

This may have been the time when a waitress kept banging drawers and snapping at us, so we thought she was having a nervous breakdown.

I don’t think it was anything we did or said.  Working at the S– Country Kitchen at night was said to be very stressful because of groups that come in and sit and have something to drink but nothing more, making the place very busy but with small tips.

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 friends tell me Phil is psychotic–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1994, Part 1

From a letter I wrote a friend on October 1:

Everyone says Phil is psychotic, unstable, in urgent need of professional help.  My dad says he’s on the edge.

Even Phil’s friend Dirk, who’s trying to be objective but is Phil’s confidante much more than I’d even want him to be mine, says that pressures of school are probably getting to him as well as problems with me.

His home life is probably the biggest cause of this “psychosis,” especially since he lives at home instead of on campus.  Arguments are the way of life there, and it’s doubtful whether his parents even love each other anymore.

[When I asked Sharon, a Psych major,] if he was having another nervous breakdown…she said, “No, it’s a psychosis.”  She says he was already acting weird last semester.

(Maybe that’s why my friends started to not like him, even though the semester before they tried to get him to do things with us, and seemed to like him.)

Dad says he’d better find some counselor to talk to or maybe his priest, before he goes over the edge.

…Why do I keep falling for guys with problems?  I don’t even know about the problems until later, usually.  Why do the sweet guys I find keep turning out to be jerks?  I like weird, not psychotic!

For months my guy seems like a rare find, and then all of a sudden he changes on me.  I plan to send my story to [a magazine] as a warning to other people: Don’t get a “spiritual” marriage that isn’t legal!

I don’t want to regret the special times when Phil and I have “been” together, but I have been starting to.  I don’t know what to think of myself as: divorced or “fallen”?

I hope we do end up together, because our spirits have joined [Evangelical belief] and I don’t want to explain to my future husband that he’s not my “first.”

…Nothing makes any sense anymore.  My life was going along great and I knew where I’d be after graduation.

Now I don’t know what’s going to happen anymore.  I just want to leave this place, this whole world, but there’s no way I can myself without sinning [suicide=sin].

I feel like Job when he said, “Why does death come to those who don’t want it, and some seek for death and don’t find it?” (paraphrase)

I’ve been turning to my friends for a place to keep my sanity and make life bearable.  I don’t feel so lonely as I would have.  I’m not always inclined to do a whole lot, but I force myself to get out and do things.

This is one benefit I see in today’s more open society: Spiritual marriages and even sleeping with a boyfriend have become more “acceptable” than they were when I was in college.

I do see a spiritual marriage as real if the two people are truly joined in their hearts, and would no longer advise against it, unless it would cause problems with your religious leaders.

I don’t think I’d have such a moral quandary if I went through this now, in 2014.  But in 1994, I felt like I’d fallen morally.

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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Fierce anger against Phil and PTSD from the abuse–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 15

My friends were disgusted with how Phil had been treating me.  This included at least two guys–Mike and Charles–so it wasn’t just the female perspective saying he was an a**hole.

I later learned that James, too, thought he was a creep, and that Phil and Persephone deserved each other because she was the most negative person he ever met.

Sharon said Phil was domineering and possessive.  It was funny because he or his “friends” had been saying I was possessive!  I sure couldn’t remember being possessive.  She (the Psych major) said he had a psychosis, and that his whole family was psychotic, so she tried to stay away from them all.

Though I still had trouble letting go of all my feelings, I think this time I got so angry that I lost all the love I ever had in my heart for him.  Though at times the feelings returned, in my heart it was over.

The times I wanted him back, were probably denial of the truth, or fear of ending up alone.  His true self had been shown to me in vivid technicolor.

I hope I haven’t done too much ranting in these blogs, but I felt I needed to show what happened, just in case one of you finds yourself in similar situation.  You don’t have to stay there.  I also wanted to tell people what really happened.

I’ve read that women who’ve been abused in some way often have trouble with anger management.  That might explain why I got incredibly angry with Phil–more angry than I ever was with Peter or Shawn–and to this day still struggle with residual anger.  My friends and family heard me say things about Phil that they never heard me say about anybody else, and it shocked them.

Quoted from Abuse in a Christian Marriage:

“The feelings you’re likely dealing with Crystal are anger, pain, betrayal, fear, trauma, sadness, shame and more. These are very common feelings for abuse victims, and in order to get past them they have to be acknowledged and dealt with.”

Also see later on, “Healing from past abuse.

What also didn’t help me get over the anger: Recently [this was written in 2006], Dr. Phil McGraw said on his show that if a woman does not feel heard, she keeps saying it over and over until she does feel heard.

I did not feel heard, so I said what I needed to say in letters.  Still, I got no apology, just a guy who acted like I had nothing to be angry about.  Why on earth did I not want to say hi to him when he said it to me?  Gee, why do you think?

It’s hard to forgive and let go when someone never acknowledges they did something horrible to you, when they never show remorse.  Years later, it still burns you up, no matter how much you pray for the strength to forgive.

The only thing to make forgiveness easier is to finally receive an apology.  Even if it takes many years, that’s still better than never.

Bullying causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, lower self-worth and feeling helpless.  It is a psychiatric injury, which traumatizes a person.  

When a bully is supported by his friends, when authority figures aren’t interested in stepping in–even resorting to blaming you for the bullying, when the bully “gets away with it”–this makes it much harder for the bullied to reach “closure.”  

Here are listed traits of complex post-traumatic stress disorder and of psychiatric injury; I especially identify with these traits:

  • An overwhelming desire for acknowledgement, understanding, recognition and validation of their experience

  • A lack of desire for revenge, but a strong motivation for justice

  • A tendency to oscillate between conciliation (forgiveness) and anger (revenge) with objectivity being the main casualty

  • A constant feeling that one has to justify everything one says and does

  • A constant need to prove oneself, even when surrounded by good, positive people

  • An unusually strong sense of vulnerability, victimisation or possible victimisation, often wrongly diagnosed as “persecution”

  • Feelings of worthlessness, rejection, a sense of being unwanted, unlikeable and unlovable

  • A feeling of being small, insignificant, and invisible

  • An overwhelming sense of betrayal, and a consequent inability and unwillingness to trust anyone, even those close to you

  • The person is by now obsessed with the situation (or rather, resolving the situation), cannot switch off, may be unable to sleep, and probably has nightmares, flashbacks and replays

These things either have affected in the past, or still do affect, me.  [This was written in 2006.]

Sometimes Always” by The Jesus and Mary Chain played often before, during, and after the second time Phil and I were together: A guy breaks up with his girlfriend.  He comes back, she refuses at first, then takes him back.

I liked to mentally sing along with the female singer when she said, “You went away; you can’t come back.”  When Phil came back to me, I identified with the line, “You went away, but now you’re back.”  I also liked the image of the groveling ex-boyfriend.

On the 29th, I wrote in the new Journal my friends and I started,

There’s also this emptiness, like a part of me is missing.  Especially when I’m alone and doing mechanical, everyday things.  “Meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  (Ecclesiastes)

It makes friends and (Mike will recognize this) “future hope” so important.  [I think “future hope” must have been a term from Intro to Christianity class, probably meaning Heaven, hope that things will get better.]  The emptiness starts to go away a little bit.

Maybe this is really a cry for help.  You guys’ll have to keep an eye on me.  I’ve found myself not caring how close the cars are on the drive[way]s, and it’s scaring me.

I’ve been through bad times before but gotten through them.  [namely, Peter and Shawn]  Things always get better.  But how long until they do?

…Someone who accused InterVarsity of being a clique [Dirk] also said that maybe I should pull away from it.  He couldn’t have been more wrong.

I need InterVarsity–an oasis of spirituality and learning how to get closer to God.  My faith is really being tested since a couple nights ago.

I feel like God told me one thing but the exact opposite is true.  Which can’t be, because God doesn’t lie.  He wants me to trust Him, even in all this when I can’t figure out what He’s doing or if He’s even doing anything.  I’m sure somebody should be able to relate.

For years, He’s been telling me time and time again, “Trust Me.”  Which is so hard to do, when it should be so easy to trust someone as trustworthy as God is.  That Psalm 13 really fits.

(For those of you who weren’t at Pearl’s Bible study last week, that’s what we studied.  David crying out to God in desperate circumstances, and finally saying that he knows God will help him.)

I saw a poster in Counselor Dude’s office that asked, If you couldn’t write, would you die?–In my case, I think so.  There’s just something about putting words on the page that makes life worthwhile for me.  Another reason why I think this journal is such a good idea.  Probably also a reason why I write such long letters!

Written October 2011:

After doing more research into abuse and narcissism, thanks to dealing with two narcissists who abused and maligned me in 2010, I now believe that Phil’s first breakup with me was not intended to be permanent.  

I believe it was actually his attempt to control me.  Because I wasn’t submissive enough, he wanted to force me to submit, to show me that the consequences of not submitting meant losing him–to break my spirit.

And it worked, for a time.  For the week he was back with me, I was afraid to do anything that would make him go away again.  I was very submissive, giving in to anything he wanted, no matter how baffling (going to Thailand for a year), outlandish or distasteful (oral sex, which he knew I hated, and he had not washed himself, so it smelled awful).

Even during the two weeks between the first breakup and week back together, I was submissive during our negotiations:

For example, he asked if I would object if he started smoking and drinking, and I said I would not.  During the negotiations, if I started saying or doing things he didn’t like, the rage wall went up again, and he would ditch me, go off and tell Dirk what I was doing wrong, etc.

During those two weeks, Dirk (Phil’s puppet) came to me and told me to distance myself from my friends.  So Phil was, once again, trying to control me by separating me from my friends, the ones who saw him for what he really was.  

And when we got back together but I “screwed up” by not “supporting” him as he bashed me to my friends, he left again.  It disgusts me to think of how submissive I was just to hold onto this controlling man.

(For more on the above-described situations, see here.)

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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Phil walks away from me again–because I dare to have my own mind, opinions and needs–and because he’s a sociopath–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 14

Intro to Psych was fascinating: It taught me a lot about such things as projecting your faults onto others, which I saw Phil doing.

The only problem was, it was an Intro class.  Like Intro to Christianity, I took it just to get credits.  For Christianity, I needed credits of any type so I’d have enough to graduate; for Psych, I needed Social Science credits.

But because it was an Intro, the class was full of immature freshmen.  Only a few people weren’t, like Astrid’s roommate Chloe and me.

Intro to Christianity, which I attended with Mike and Randy, taught how Christian doctrine developed and split over time.  The teacher, a preacher with the United Church of Christ, taught that Christ freed women, and Paul bound them up again.

We were also taught that the writers of the Bible saw a difference between Truth and Fact, which explains why, for example, the gospels have different versions of the same story, yet are still considered True.  The Truth is that Christ arose; the Facts are how many angels were at the tomb.

Unfortunately, we skipped over the section on Eastern Orthodox theology, so I knew very little about it until 2005, though I knew about the Great Schism.

Probably on Thursday, I went to lunch, went through the deli line, and spoke with the cafeteria lady who was at one of the food stalls.  (This may have been where the fries, or some other side dish, were.)

Sandy happened to be nearby as I told this woman I was engaged, and smiled and gushed about it.  Sandy didn’t say a word.

Amazing how, both times I got dumped, I had just been gushing about my engagement to someone the same day, and Dirk or his girlfriend Sandy happened to be standing nearby, silent–as if they knew something I didn’t.

Thursday, September 29, Phil took a nap in my apartment, after agreeing to go to the IV Bible study in the lounge that evening.  When it was almost time for the prayer group, I woke him up so he wouldn’t miss it.

Nothing at all unusual about that.  It’s polite, it’s kind, it’s helpful.

But he said, “I thought you said you wouldn’t tell me when to wake up and when to go to sleep.”

Can you imagine such an irrational comment?  I said this wasn’t the same thing.  I wanted him to join us because it was important to me, and he also said he wanted to come.

But he was so–weird about it, and acted like a jerk, like I had no right to wake him up for anything, no matter how important it was.

You see I couldn’t even be a normal human being around him.  Normal human beings wake up other normal human beings for things they want to go to.  I felt helpless, like the tiniest slipup and I could lose him.  (To me now, that doesn’t make him sound very loving!)

He finally got up, leaving some textbooks and pencils (some of the books were Dave’s) in my room.

(Just to clarify, since I’ve discovered that back in the ’70s, “jerk” often meant “stupid person”: I use the modern meaning of “jerk,” or someone who’s mean and nasty.)

We had a fun meeting with lots of people sitting on chairs arranged in a ring around and inside the TV nook.

After the meeting, Phil talked with someone; I believe it was the guy who came to InterVarsity once junior year, and wondered if Jews and Muslims, as People of the Book, would be saved.  Somehow, they got to the topic of how many kids a woman could potentially have.

Phil came up with a hundred, and I said from the couch on the other end of the room, “I don’t want a hundred kids!”  It was all playful and fun.

Later on, after the meeting ended it was just Charles, Pearl, Phil and me.  Phil and I cuddled together.

Phil and Charles got into a political argument.  I thought Charles was right and Phil was wrong, but said nothing at all about it.

Finally, the argument seemed to have ended.  Phil later complained that I didn’t support him in the argument, but how could I when I didn’t even agree?

Wasn’t I allowed my own political opinions?  And was I expected to back him up no matter what he said or how much I disagreed with it?

Soon, I quietly asked Phil to drive me to the store to buy milk and orange juice, but he said, “I’m not your taxicab.”  So I’m not even allowed to ask for a ride now? 

He then asked Charles and Pearl,

“Do you think a guy has to take his fiancée to the store if she asks?”

Charles and Pearl both said, “Yes, of course!”  Charles said yes if they’re going out and serious, and especially if they’re engaged.

I felt vindicated, and very upset with Phil for trying to humiliate me like that, though I still said nothing.

There may have been a few more words said between them, but I don’t remember.  He complained to me about people who don’t listen–though I thought the stubborn person here was him, not them.

I whispered to him, trying to be very calm and loving in my tone,

“Sometimes–I feel–you do the same.”

He said to me, “Thank you for being so supportive.”

Supportive?  After he’d just slammed and embarrassed me in front of my friends?  He treats me this way and expects me to support him?  My friends have just vindicated me and he says I should support him?

He got up and left the apartment.  I hurried after him, but couldn’t catch up with him, and he wouldn’t stop.  Then I did something that to this day I’m very glad I did: I yelled down the sidewalk to him,

“So you’re just going to run away?”  I used a tone that showed how cowardly I thought he was at that moment.

I went back inside and sat down on the armchair.

Charles had some choice words to say about Phil and his behavior that night.  Pearl was mad at him, too, and she showed it.  

They both thought his question about a fiancée was unfair to me, and that he was trying to embarrass me.  One of them, or I, said he seemed to be taking out his frustrations in the political argument on me.

A few minutes later, he called me up and said, “You’re more than free. Good-bye.”  Then he just hung up.

I tried to find him by calling Dirk’s apartment.  Dirk’s roommate Carl answered the phone, and promised to have Dirk call if Phil came there.  Unlike Dirk, he was very supportive of me.  Later Dirk called or I called him, and when I told him what happened, he said, “It sounds like you two have broken up.”

I think Dirk was very kind to me despite the lateness of the hour (probably after 11), and didn’t want to see us broken up, but felt powerless to stop it–even though he had done severe damage to my attempts to work things out.

Phil’s behavior all week long, especially including this, is well described in the “Disproportional Reactions” section here:

One of the favourite tools of manipulation in the abuser’s arsenal is the disproportionality of his reactions.

He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight. Or, he would punish severely for what he perceives to be an offence against him, no matter how minor. Or, he would throw a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and considerately expressed.

Or, he would act inordinately attentive, charming and tempting (even over-sexed, if need be).

This ever-shifting code of conduct and the unusually harsh and arbitrarily applied penalties are premeditated. The victims are kept in the dark.

Neediness and dependence on the source of “justice” meted and judgment passed – on the abuser – are thus guaranteed.

I believe this was indeed premeditated, that he wanted nothing but a subservient puppet with no mind or will of her own, and as soon as I expressed my own desires, my own opinions, that would be “the last straw” and he would leave. 

And somehow, it would be “my fault” even though the unvarnished truth is that he was an A$$HOLE and I did NOTHING wrong.

I talked to Phil on the phone the next day and asked him to come meet me and talk with me.  At least he gave me that much.  However, he insisted it be in the Pub, though it was public and often noisy.  We set the time for 3 p.m., after I left work.

During these weeks, I read books–a book on the Psychology of Love, which I’d bought sophomore year, when it was used by a Winterim class I didn’t take, “Love and Hate.”  I also started reading a book Helene lent me, on how to let go when you get divorced.

Both were very helpful to me.  I read them while there was still hope, and read them after the second breakup.  The first one I read when Phil and I first got back together.  I read it in just a few days to learn how to deal with our arguments.  The second one I read as I needed to.

I tried to set up rules to keep our discussion civil, probably using things I’d learned in these books.  The rules were to keep me in check as well as him:

  1. Issues will be honestly dealt with–not turned into arguments or “clamming up.”
  2. Each will listen to the other–not interrupt or get angry–and really think about what the other is saying.
  3. No getting up in a huff and stalking off–issues will be brought to a resolution.
  4. Each will be calm–no yelling, hitting, raising voices, or the like.
  5. Honesty–but not cruelty (including jokes).
  6. If someone violates the “rules,” the other one will calmly tell them– the talk is not over yet.
  7. Any and all apologies will be accepted.
  8. No accusations–use words like “I feel” or “It seems to me.”

I showed these to Pearl, and she thought they were fair.  I wrote them not only to protect me, but to protect Phil, because I could see myself breaking any of these rules quite easily.

Anna stopped at the library and gave me a pep talk about the meeting.  I prayed hard that it would go all right.  I think I even started to feel a peace about it.

3:00 came, and I headed over to the Pub with my books.  Phil was alone there.  I think I didn’t want to go there because I expected to find too many people, but only one person came in the whole time.

I showed him the House Rules, the pact I wanted to make with him.  But he refused to go by them, so I ended up not going by them, either.  What was the point, after all, if he wouldn’t play by any rules, to stick to any myself?

He was so pig-headed he wouldn’t even entertain the notion that I might have some good ideas about how to keep the talk at a reasonable, productive level.

Instead of sitting down and talking quietly with me, Phil played pool.  It seemed he didn’t want to talk with me, didn’t want to listen to a word I had to say.  He just walked around the pool table, shooting the balls.

It was frustrating.  It was done to show me that what I had to say was unimportant because it disagreed with His Majesty.

I tried to work out some problems, and it didn’t work.  He was so unwilling to listen to anything or even try to talk things over that we got into an argument.  I said he didn’t know the meaning of love; he said, “You’re right.”  Okay, for once we agreed on something!

Phil said cruel things; one thing was, he made me sound undutiful or uncaring because I didn’t confess to Mike that I had a little crush on him (and it was little–it had only just budded a couple of weeks before).

He yelled at me for never talking to Mike like he kept telling me to do, in those two weeks after the first breakup, and yelled that if I’d done so, I’d know it wasn’t returned.  He’d talked to Mike, and learned that “he does not“(that’s how Phil said it) return my feelings.

Not only did he overstep his bounds by scolding me for not broaching a subject with a friend without feeling right about it–

but now he made me feel like crap by not only saying Mike doesn’t return my feelings–

but saying it in such a way that made me feel presumptuous to even think that somebody else would like me. 

So now I was left with nobody at all, as he kicked me in the emotional side and made me feel like there was something wrong with having a tiny crush on somebody who didn’t return it.

But it hadn’t been right for me to talk to Mike, not while I was with Phil, and not so soon after the breakup.

There was also no sense risking Mike’s friendship over something that was so insignificant at the time.

But Phil had gone ahead and done that for me, a shocking betrayal, overstepping his bounds.

It was a blatant disregard and disrespect of me and my feelings on the issue.  It also could have jeopardized my friendship with Mike.

He also said at one point, “I’ll probably do things with other people,” meaning have sex.  I don’t know why he told me this, except to make me feel like crap.

I became furious, lost patience with his disregard for civility, and began saying what I felt.  Phil kept saying, “You’re right.”  This infuriated me even before, because it was an angry tone, and he’d once told me he did this to deliberately upset people during an argument.

All of a sudden, while I still had things left to say, Phil abruptly walked out of the Pub into the Campus Center lounge.  I almost followed, but when I got to the door and looked around he was already out of sight.

Rather than waste my time looking for him, I picked up my bookbag and left.  Sharon later said it was good I didn’t follow him.

I believe I said what I should have said, though it didn’t go very well.  I’m not at all ashamed of the chewing-out I gave him, either then or in later letters–I’m quite proud of standing up for myself, of refusing to sit back and be the victim of his abuse.

Because Phil was a classic abusive monster, even without hitting me, and I was well rid of him.  He was a narcissist, a sociopath. 

He broke things off with me because I dared to have my own mind, my own thoughts, my own opinions, my own needs. 

He was an old-fashioned chauvinist pig.  He broke things off with me because I was not a subservient, submissive slave who never does anything but what the Master wants, even if he doesn’t tell me what he wants.

My anger was fierce because I knew I’d been mistreated and abused.  I hated him.

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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