Time for ourselves

In my previous post, I talked about how relationships and sex can become a distraction and an anaesthetic against the pain of discovering our husbands are gay.  I want to pursue that train of thought a bit further, please.

We are created by God, we women, with a deep desire for someone to love, and to be loved. Frankly, I’m not sure that the need to have someone to love isn’t the greater of the two. So it’s very natural that we should not like to be alone, that we should want to immerse ourselves in loving someone as soon as we can, after our marriage ends.

We also have a distorted need, because of the twisted dynamic of being married to a man with same-sex attraction (and probably sex addictions involving pornography, now), to make up for the time we lost in our bad marriage, or the desire to compensate for that loss — maybe even the desire to erase the nightmare from our conscious minds.

But the same distortions that made our marriages so bad also shaped us — our efforts to accommodate our husband’s disordered inclinations have bent our expectations, our sense of ourselves, our reactions to conflict and challenges, etc. This is a hard reality:  we have been warped and bent and bruised and wounded by our husband’s homosexuality.  

We must take time to get well.

Rushing into a new relationship only compounds our wounds. We can mistake different for better. I’ve joked about my alcoholic Peter Pan second husband, “. . . but he was straight!” but that, too, was a bad marriage that ended in divorce and left me feeling used and dirty.

We need to give ourselves time, frightening as it is, as condemned to it as it might appear, to recover from the disordered, narcissistic expectations and pronouncements of our gay husbands. After twisting ourselves into emotional pretzels to try to accommodate a disorder we didn’t know we were living in, we need to learn how to untwist, to stand up straight. We have to know who we are, in our own integrity — what is important to us, what are our strengths and weaknesses, what motivates us (beyond panic and the desire to have someone to love and to be loved). . . .  Truly, discovering who we are, out of the toxic and manipulative environment of the mixed marriage, is an exciting adventure.

Don’t deprive yourself of this.

St. Paul on Marriage — Radical Conversion

When I was going through the whole business of suspecting DH was gay, I was in a conservative evangelical church that probably would have been very supportive had I not been under the very mistaken idea that I was obligated to stay in the marriage and to protect him, no matter what. That idea of protecting DH was what kept me from seeking help at the time.

But as I’ve read comments from other women, it’s become clear that many of them have been in churches that are not supportive of women married to gay men, or men with SSA (same-sex attraction). The whole idea of submission from Ephesians 5 gets tossed around and used to bully women into staying in insupportable marriages.

But — and this is extremely important! — I don’t think St. Paul ever intended to beat anyone over the head with his Epistle. But I also think he couldn’t foresee a time in which we live, when women have unprecedented rights and privileges and his words would seem oppressive.

Paul was writing to a people who had lived their whole lives in the self-indulgent, even depraved culture of the Roman Empire. Shaped and informed by Greek paganism, although Roman women had some rights, they were still very much under the rule of fathers, then husbands, and the rights they did possess were so connected with their father’s family that I’m really not sure what the point of their being able to inherit or make a will actually might have been. And if she were a slave, she had no rights whatsoever.

Marriage was monogamous, but not a matter of love; most often it was an arrangement between families. Men married in order to establish legitimacy of offspring, to secure a legitimate heir, or for some personal (economic or political) advantage.

Paul, on the other hand, was an elite Jew, highly educated and quite privileged. In Judaism, marriage could occur for love, as demonstrated by many of the biblical narratives (Isaac and Rebekkah, Jacob and Rachel, et al.). The Song of Songs is a highly romantic celebration of erotic love as an analogy of spiritual love (which does not diminish its importance as a marriage celebration).  This was the culture Paul was teaching his Gentile converts to Christianity:  Christianity was Jewish in its moral and social values, its ethos. It was a massive paradigm shift for the formerly-pagan converts.

So when Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as to Christ, he’s not subjugating them to men.  Society had already done that. What he was telling them was to view their dependence and their legal subjugation in a new and nobler perspective. By serving their husbands as they would Christ, these Ephesian women were given an opportunity to elevate their homes and their relationships with their husbands to a new dignity and importance. And, in the process, to elevate their own status in the home as analogous to the Church itself. Paul goes into this comparison in some detail in ch. 5, vv. 23-24.

But it’s the men who faced the greater challenge. They were instructed to completely change the way they regard their wives:  no longer as property, nor as a status bearer, nor as an object for sex and procreation, but as part of themselves, part of their own bodies!

To love them.

And, even more radically, to love with the same kind of total self-sacrificing self-donation that Our Lord demonstrated when He gave Himself for the Church.

The Greco-Roman culture was depraved. Sexual license and depravity were normal behaviors. From Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we get a glimpse “Neither . . . sodomists . . . will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And such were some of you!” (I Cor. 6:9-11) [Yeah, ex-gays.  I totally get that!] That’s how complete  and radical the paradigm shift for these converts was.

So Paul is telling men to love their wives, rather than objectifying them. To honor them as part of themselves. To be willing to die for them.

We ex-wives of gay men have been objectified. We have been exploited, and in many ways abused. This abuse is not a Christian experience of marriage, but more of a reversion to a pagan model.

It really is better than we’ve known.

On Marriage

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.

Why I Oppose Gay Marriage – Part One: The Straight Spouses

A conversation this week with a new acquaintance raised the old-for-me question: why do I oppose gay marriage? Don’t gays deserve equal rights with heterosexuals? Don’t I want them to have the same opportunities for happiness I enjoy?

Why do I deviate from the “Straight Spouse” standard reply that, because I love my ex-husband, I want him to be happy in his “real self”?  After all, how does gay marriage hurt me, individually? personally? —

Discussing abstract realities is always difficult, and this is an abstract; that is, it’s a reality that cannot be known by our physical senses (touch, sight, hearing, taste, etc.). Nevertheless, I keep coming to a place where I have to try to — not persuade, that’s not in my sphere of influence! But I do hope to speak well enough that people get even a partial glimpse of how I see things, from “behind my eyeballs” as it were.  So I keep trying, hoping the same old responses don’t feel tired to the person who’s reading them, while I keep reaching for better ways to say what I perceive and feel.

The question “how does gay marriage hurt you?” is bantered about like a challenge the opponent is suppose to yield, unable to defend.  But gay marriage does hurt me.  It hurts all of us.

Gay marriage suggests that there is no distinction between the sexes, that we are interchangeable parts of a social construct. This is an attitude that demeans me as a woman — demeans all women (and men, too). It says we have no intrinsic value or worth due our sex.  It says that the rejection of the opposite sex in favor of a different type of union is acceptable and laudable.

It also says that I have no value as a wife — that unique relationship to a husband that simply cannot be replicated in same-sex unions.  Of course, this is why California has abandoned the language of gender and opted for “Spouse One and Spouse Two” in their legal processes.

I was demeaned in my marriage to a homosexual.  I was unworthy of companionship, of basic, nonsexual affection. I was merely a personified abstract — a Wife — behind which my then-husband could hide. This misogynistic attitude is only legitimated through a recognition of gay marriage: it is a society saying that I, as a woman and as a wife, have no meaning, no value.  I am again only a personified abstract, this time expected to approve the very things that diminish my worth and render me inconsequential.

This I will not do.

An Open Letter to a Young Woman in Crisis

Dear Friend,

I am friends with your husband through an internet venue, and he’s told me that things are pretty rocky between the two of you right now. He’s also told me a bit about his past, so I feel so many things I wish we could sit down and talk about, you and I.

First of all, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been through this scenario can even begin to guess what it’s like for us. Parents, siblings, best friends. . . unless they’ve been through and experienced our particular, warped dynamic, they just can’t understand. No matter how much they believe they do.

You’re a bit ahead of the game from most of us, because your husband told you, before you were married, what happened to him when he was younger and what a painful wound that has left in his sense of himself. Still, until you lived with him, you couldn’t be sure . . . also, as you told someone else, you felt coerced into the marriage, regardless.  So you felt cornered, then, and you feel cornered now.

So.  Right now you have two choices: to go, or to stay. Sounds and looks simple, but it’s not. No matter which you choose, you’re facing a frightening set of risks.  Let’s talk about those.

First of all, women do choose to stay with a gay/ssa spouse. Sometimes, it’s easier, especially for older women who are not emotionally up to starting from scratch, after years not having to be self-supporting, or who don’t want to see their families fractured into bits. There’s a bit of safety in hanging on to the hurts and disappointments and the unhappiness we already know, rather than facing the hurts and fears and risks we aren’t sure we can survive.

No one will blame you if you stay.

Also, if you stay, you might have a stabilizing and redemptive effect on Hubby, and that’s not a bad thing.

However, if you stay you are going to have to learn not to play passive-aggressive games with your husband to punish him for not being quite who you wanted him to be.  You’re going to have to take the initiative to grow up, to build a life of your own within the marriage that brings you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  You’re going to have to learn to live your life, not be a passenger being carried where you do or don’t want to go.  You’re going to have to take some risks, and some of your efforts will be disappointing and possibly embarrassing, and you’re just going to have to accept that.

You’re going to have to own your depression and face it and work to master it.  You’re going to need to make choices about independence and self-fullfillment even within the marriage that, so far, you’ve been hiding from making.

If you stay, there are things you will lose.  You will not have the sort of husband you thought you’d one day have; yours has too many scars in too many places, and he has cultural shaping that probably can’t be altered.  You will have to come to accept your husband for who he is, not resent that he’s not who you wanted him to be.  Give your disappointments a proper funeral, mourn them for a day or two, then get over it.  This is your choice, now; you are not a victim of someone else’s choices any longer.

You say you don’t want to have children with a man who has same-sex attraction, so you have opted for a celibate marriage.  You will have to come to terms with that decision, too; it’s a painful one for a woman who’s always dreamed of having a family. Frankly, I think it’s the only responsible choice you can make when you aren’t sure how the ground is going to rumble and roll, next, or what part of your life might possibly collapse around your head. But he’s not happy about it, and he also has rights for marital affection and intimacy — even if it’s only “of a sort.”  You’re going to have to face that conflict head on and there isn’t an easy resolution for it, even using Natural Family Planning diligently. Again, you’re going to have to be an adult, not a dependent.

Of course, many of these issues are going to be with you if you decide to go.

If you go, you can’t just go home and expect your parents to take care of you.  First thing you know, you’ll be finding yourself “coerced” into another marriage, and another man might not have as many good things going for him as DH does now.  Face that.

If you go, you need to prepare sensibly, build yourself up to be self-reliant, and then step out in courage and determination, and deal with things.  You’ll need to face and fight back against your depression.  Granted, SOME of it will probably evaporate when you’re no longer in the ssa-marriage; but some of it will haunt you for the rest of your life and you might as well start learning to get the mastery of it now, before you’re utterly and completely crippled by it.

If you go, you have to own responsibility for making this choice.  It is, after all, your choice.  Don’t blame him – don’t punish him. Simply own your choice as your choice and be done with it.  Because, Dear, face it: under other circumstances, you’d probably like your DH a lot.  There’s a lot about him to like. And to respect. And admire.  So look honestly at who he is and admit you’re going because you want a different sort of life.

No one who has a clue what you’re going through will fault you for going.

And the rest don’t matter. They can take a flying leap.

You’re going to have to be able to grow up enough to be able to say that, by the way, and mean it.  Regardless of your choice.

Dear, you were a child, emotionally, when you went from your parents’ home to your marital home.  You cannot remain a child any longer.  DH has in many ways treated you as a child – I fault him for this, but I fault you for playing into that role.  You’ve both got a lot of growing up to do.

But you can do it, and I want you to know, I am rooting for you. Whatever you choose.

Much love,
E.

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