My letter to Phil, Part 1–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1994, Part 4

October 8.  My parents, fearing I was the same way now as when Peter broke up with me, came up to see me.

I, of course, was surrounded by friends, unlike the first time when all my new friends and everyone in the suite had gone home for Winterim Break.  I forced myself to take it better and not go through the same crap I did when Peter broke up with me.

I was doing quite well.  Mom said I didn’t need them quite as much as she thought I would.

They took me to their hotel, where they gave me this cute, little, musical white bear, to cheer me up.  It had a diaper and a pillow, and its eyes were closed.  When you pressed the diaper, it played “Frére Jacques” and other children’s songs.

But it got accidentally pushed a lot, and then Sharon and I had to listen to “Baa Baa Black Sheep” or some other little ditty at times when we would rather not.

Other than this, my friends thought it was sweet of my parents to give me that, and cool to come up and see me during this difficult time.

Remember Pearl writing to me that I wasn’t invited to Florida over Winterim with them because of Phil?  Well, now with Phil out of the picture, I was invited.  Pearl’s parents were paying part of the way.  I talked to my parents about this now, but they didn’t have the money for me to go along.

On the morning of the 9th, I woke up to the sound of a TV infomercial for Gary Smalley tapes on how to save a marriage and/or make it better.  He said he’d even helped divorced couples get back together and build a stronger marriage than they had before.  (This is probably “Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships.”)

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to get the number to order the tapes.  But Mom and I wondered at this strange coincidence, that this infomercial would be on now when I could see it, and if Phil and I were meant to get these tapes and rebuild our relationship.

We thought so even more when, a few months later, I found the infomercial again while at school and got the number for her.

Now, however, I know it wasn’t because we were meant to rebuild our relationship.  Perhaps it was a chance given me by God to put this idea of using the tapes in front of Phil, and see if he would go for it.

Perhaps it was to show me that Phil wouldn’t do it and that he was not worth pursuing.

Perhaps it was just to show me I was right that relationships can work if you work hard enough on them, even if they are what Phil would call a “dead horse.”

Perhaps it was so I could tell Phil this and plant a seed or two in his heart which, if paid attention to, would show him counseling is sometimes necessary.

Perhaps it was so I would know that a relationship can be saved even when it seems hopeless.  I got some ideas about why women act certain ways and why men act certain ways.  I used them in a letter I wrote to Phil.

After one of the breakups with Phil and during one of our talks, I told Helene I might be interested in James (though by now I probably lost the big crush I used to have).  She said, “Hmm! We’ll have to see if he’s available.”  It was someone besides Phil to think about, at least.  There was also Mike, of course, but Phil said Mike wasn’t interested.

Sharon thought James was distant from women, and noted he hadn’t had a girlfriend the whole time he’d been at Roanoke.  (I think he was a fifth-year senior, because sophomore year I heard he was a junior.)  She laughed and said, “I think he’s gay!”

In the winter, I discovered that James hated Phil.  Was that because Phil kept taking away his potential dates?  First I asked James to a Pictionary party in the fall of 1993, then started dating Phil.  Second, Persephone sent James a letter expressing her feelings in the fall of 1994, then started dating Phil.

Finally, another girl, Brigitte, liked James by Winterim and tried to get his attention; fortunately, Phil never dated her. (James ended up marrying her.)

I wrote a letter to Phil.  I proofread it before sending it, prayed a lot, and worked on it for three days; I believe this included time to let it sit a day or two.  I feared to let Sharon see it, thinking she wouldn’t approve.  But she did find out about it, and said,

“You have a right to write a letter and tell him what you need to tell him, get things out into the open.”

This was the letter:

Dear Phil,

I hope you’ll be receptive to what I have to say here.  And I also hope you won’t talk to Dirk about it (I really don’t want him to see some of the things I’m about to say in here–they’re not for his eyes), but, if to anyone, to someone older, someone who’s happily and successfully married, preferably a strong Christian.  Someone who knows what they’re talking about.

This isn’t a “beg” letter.  This is a letter to tell you that you’ve hit upon the problem–miscommunication–and I’ve been shown a solution.  Circumstances came together just right so I could see the following: an infomercial for a series of video tapes by a respected Christian counselor who I’ve heard of before.

My mom is planning to get more information about them so she can get them herself, and I have a strong conviction that they’re just what’s needed here.  These tapes teach couples how to communicate with each other, how to deal with and drain anger, and other problems that come up in a marriage.

The source of miscommunication for a couple (at least, a heterosexual one!) is that men and women speak two different languages.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t compatible–certainly not, or else the species would not survive–it just means they need to learn how to break down the gender barriers.  Those tapes teach that.

And if Mom can’t get them, there are other things available–tapes, books, seminars.  James Dobson, one of the most respected Christian counselors for years now, has tapes and books both, for example.

Dirk’s wrong when he says a couple should be able to work things out without counseling.  Sometimes they can, but, as was said on a program I heard today, oftentimes they just keep trying the same things in different ways, and get nowhere.

The counselor can look at things objectively, and has a bigger “bag of tricks,” fresh approaches that actually will work.  The counselor can listen and see what the couple is doing wrong and who needs to do what.

He doesn’t have an agenda, nor does he need to be the one who’s right, so he can see things more clearly than either person involved.

Working a problem out oneself is often futile.  Usually what’s needed is prayer, advice from people who know what they’re talking about, talking to people involved, looking at what the Bible says, reading books–whatever’s necessary to help a person see things more clearly.

Oftentimes the only way to successfully work a problem out is to give it up to God so He can work it out, and show you what you need to do. This may be going to a counselor.  Or watching certain tapes or reading certain books.  Or just listening to what God will tell you.

The goal of such tapes is to promote happiness so we can enjoy life like God intends.  Gary Smalley, who made the tapes we saw advertised, was asked, “Isn’t it mostly the women who want to do this? Aren’t the men more resistant to counselors?”–you know, the macho-manly attitude of, “I don’t need anybody’s help”–and he said,

“Not many men, when asked if they want to be unhappy and miserable, say they do.”

Who does want to, really?  I know I don’t, and I know you don’t.  But if we don’t both learn how to communicate better, then it doesn’t matter who we each end up with; we’ll be unhappy.

I can look to my parents now for how to communicate and get a better idea of what I need to do, but you sure can’t look to yours for a good example.

As you know, mine don’t live on arguing, but it seems like yours do.  As much as a person tries to do things differently than his parents, they can still rub off on him.  (I’m not saying “him” to be gender-specific; it’s just clearer that way.)

You’ve admitted yourself to at least one thing you’ve picked up from your parents: being intolerant at times.  If you’re receptive and willing to hear, I could tell you one or two other things, too.

And if arguing is all you hear at home, how can you be expected to know how to form a peaceful household of your own?  The chain must be broken, or else you’ll quite possibly end up like your parents, and unhappy no matter who you’re with.

I know you don’t want that.  And I don’t want that for you.

My own parents even had problems, especially around the time I left for school freshman year. …But they learned to communicate better….

Despite our differences, you and I are a lot alike, you know.  If our situations had been switched, I might’ve ended up more like you are, and you more like I am.  I might’ve wanted to be a nun for seven years.

We’re both the youngest, both stubborn, both with slow (usually) but fierce tempers [though the slowness of his is now doubtful], both intelligent (the points we got on that IQ test were very close)…

[Mine were only less because of math questions I missed.  That thing was full of math questions, which aren’t my strength.  A year or two later, I took another one, and got around 150 points, almost genius level by its chart, and Cugan got around 130.  This one only gave me around 130, and Phil around 140]

…, both role-players (you in acting, me in writing now that I’m too old to play pretend) [I used to play pretend all the time, but now I had to content myself with writing], both averse to having to go out and get work (you said so yourself once), both intolerant at times.

We both have struggled with self-esteem, trying to raise it after being teased as children; and we’re also both interested in serving God.

(By the way, I’m told that God doesn’t send His children to “destroy” others who are also His children, so that dream was just a dream.  It’s not my “purpose.”)

Our “different worlds” [as he’d said we live in] usually overlap somewhere, including these areas, and what talents you have that I don’t, I admire.  Different personalities is a good thing, as long as there’s that common thread I’ve just mentioned.

But I am the oldest of us and the female; maybe one source of conflict is the natural difference in maturity level.  I don’t know if it’s a very big difference.  We both agreed to a spiritual marriage when we weren’t even sure if it was a good idea.  Morally binding, spiritually binding, but not legally binding.

I tell you one thing, I don’t want to agree to one with anybody else or a spiritual re-marriage with you unless it’s legal.  Both my family and the law should know about it and enforce the vows.

[That’s why such marriages are no longer legal, even though they were in the Middle Ages and even pioneer days, because there was no way to “prove” a ceremony had taken place.]

And no sex without a legal piece of paper, either.  I don’t want to fall for the world’s lies, which say God’s laws don’t apply to today and love is enough of a bond for people to know each other that well.

No, like we’ve both always believed, a couple has to be married or it’s a sin.  God has a better plan for us.  He’s not a “cosmic killjoy” [popular Evangelical term]; He invented the act, and He knows what all is involved–a joining of both body and soul, and all its emotional and physical consequences.

It was made for married couples, who can handle sharing each other’s spirit.  So don’t expect me to agree to your “offer” [sex without commitment], because we’re no longer married and must remain chaste if we want to obey God.

Letter to be continued.


Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

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

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

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

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: