I so greatly admire the folks who participate in Courage. I’m honored to have been invited to speak to the Atlanta Open House, this Saturday, February 3.
I wonder how many of us have gone on to marry, and marry well. I’ve not –
although I’d love to.
In our present moral climate, where words are being redefined to mean whatever anyone wants them to mean in that moment, and consequently to mean absolutely nothing at all, when marriage can be between any two (or more) people, or person and thing . . when divorce is almost as common as marriage itself and most people are just living together without any pretense of commitment . . .
Marriage — real, authentic, traditional marriage — has become probably the most radically countercultural and courageous step anyone can take.
I doubt I will marry, now, after so many years, but I believe with all my heart that we who have experienced the worst of the legal institution must hold fast to our ideals of the spiritual realities of marriage, and defend them with all our might.
Let this be our legacy — a courage of a sort, defending the truth we believed, the fulfillment of union we were denied, the ideal that is bigger still than our loss or others’ failures or betrayals. Let our voices proclaim the reality that others, including our former spouses, would deny: Marriage is a mystical and complete union between two people — one man and one woman for a lifetime — as complete as it is possible for any two individual souls to be united, in this world. It is the bedrock of society, the only proper place for children to be brought into the world and raised, the haven from the sorrows and sufferings of the world.
We owe it to ourselves and to our children to hold fast to the idea, regardless our loss and heartbreak.
Even if we are denied the experience, let us not fail to affirm and support and advocate for the ideal itself. Let us be victorious here, at least: they could not deny us the truth of our thwarted dream.
So, Tuesday, the 16th, was the 30th anniversary of the day DH actually moved out of our home. The day passed quietly, even cheerfully, with work. I was surrounded by people who like and respect me and I wasn’t troubled by depression at all.
Late last week, however, I experienced a personal challenge which has left me reflecting on these years. I have spent more than 2/3 of my adult life alone, now. Emotionally, I have spent the whole of it alone.
When I was a little girl, I wanted a boyfriend, and to be grown up, and to be married and have a home and a family and the whole “white picket fence” scenario. I never was interested in a career, I never wanted anything other than to be part of a We. I got a good college education, later on (graduated age 32) and thought of going on for advanced degree, but being a mom was much more important and, furthermore, there was that hope in the back of my mind that I might marry and have a second family . . . so I wanted to be “flexible” . . . which never happened, and now I’m 60 and I realized, last week, it isn’t going to happen.
I don’t know whether being single is my actual vocation, or whether it has become my vocation by default, but here I am.
“Don’t give up,” says a friend. Don’t burn my bridges, he means. Easy for him to say, fond as he is of me — but when I think of what I want from marriage, how unlikely it is I should find anyone at this point who would be an equal spouse . . I have friends, yes. Good, decent men — but . . .
There’s that fundamental little trust issue. Thirty years — thirty damn years! — after I was “liberated” from the psychological abuse (okay, the “Free At Last!” day came later, with the divorce, but still – !), I still cringe at perceived disapproval. “Did I just blow that one to smithereens?” I’m still tormented by DH’s contempt. There are still scars and sometimes they sit on raw nerve.
I expect to be abandoned again, I expect to be emotionally betrayed, so I try to anticipate that crisis before I become too irrevocably invested. I love my friend — admire, esteem, even trust — but I push, sometimes hard. Because everything in my gut says the abandonment will come and let’s get it over with now before it can hurt more than it already will. I just don’t believe in someone being wholly committed to me. Even in friendship.
The odd thing is that I’ve never really worried about loving a gay man again. That’s not what has tormented me. It’s these other, more universal issues.
I don’t mind being an ex-wife defining my work. This is something I do, it’s part of how God redeems that experience and brings something out of it that, I hope, helps others.
But I’ll be damned if I’ll sit back and let being the ex-wife of a homosexual define my life. Even after thirty years. The warping of the psychological and emotional abuse of that decade-plus may be too much to overcome, and I may not be able to find happiness in married love, but I will not go through my life as a victim.
A “wounded warrior,” maybe, but not a victim.
A friend I dearly love made a remark – I’m sure, now, it was innocently-intended – that set off a chain reaction of memories. . . miserable, bitter memories. And a knee-jerk reaction, “I hope you don’t mean to imply . . . ” that I’m cringing over, now — but that’s okay, he’s tough and he can take it. My life isn’t endangered because of an accidental trigger.
Memories. Weaknesses. We think we’re sailing along in calm waters, we think that, because it’s been a long time since we have been tormented by thoughts and memories and reactions that we’ve finally come clear of them, and WHAM! something slams into our gut and there they are again.
As far as I can see, there’s only one thing for it: grit my teeth, fight my way to the surface of the wave, and ride it out. If I have a hard time getting my thoughts back under control, I have a local counsellor I can talk it out with. I have friends who will support me. I have this writing as an outlet.
I’ve been through this before, I know it will pass. And it takes less time, now, than in the early years.