Thirty Years, Part II

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.

It’s All Okay

Much better the day after that last post.  Most of the time I do very well.  This one took me unprepared.

There are days I know will be difficult:  my daughters’ birthdays. Our anniversary.  Christmas.  As those approach I give myself a bit extra pampering, allow myself a bit of grieving, buy myself a good chocolate bar and maybe some other delicacy.  I take extra naps.  In advance, I might take extra vitamins and immune boosters, since being low in spirits often coincides with a lowering of resistance to sickness.

I’m not a cry-er; it would probably be better for me if I were.

But what the mind doesn’t consciously identify, the body often will know and react to.  This can be brutally hard at times. Suddenly finding oneself low and not knowing why is almost more distressing than being low in itself.  When I’m low on certain expected dates, I know it’s because it’s that date and will pass by the time I wake up, tomorrow morning; but when I’m leveled and don’t know why, it leers at me and threatens to become my permanent state.  This is unrealistic, of course, but sometimes the feeling dominates all.

The good news is that I got through a couple of anniversaries, this past year, with barely a wobble.  There is a lot to be grateful for:  if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it does generally make them less acute.

Thirty Years

Thirty Years.  It’s been thirty years since the morning he came in and announced he was leaving. “I can’t take it any more,” he said.

Of course, he dropped this bombshell on me as I was changing clothes to go to my first final exam of the semester — timing I can’t help but feel was not an accident. He had sabotaged me before. This time the sabotage was only a bump in the road; I still completed my work.

But how those years have flown by! Thirty years! In some ways it seems like just a couple weeks.  There are hours and days when I still feel fragile and raw, uncertain where to step, when my wounds still feel raw and I feel timid and weak.

There are times when I grieve deeply for lost family, dreams, and possibilities. I look back on the thirty years when, under other circumstances, I might have remarried, had another family, known love. . . but for the wounds and scars left by the very disordered relationship of marriage with a gay man.

“You need to find yourself a straight man and get married again,” he counseled me, when my first social outing was a large school event, and my way was paid by two gay colleagues. But he himself never acknowledged to me that he is gay, and he denied to others that his homosexuality had anything to do with our divorce,

So how could he admit that the dysfunctional relationship between the two of us had done any damage to my mind and soul, at all?  He couldn’t, and all these years later, still can’t. Or won’t.

I get by.  Right now, anniversaries being low points, that’s the best I can do.  Forty-eight hours ago I was happy and hopeful; perhaps in forty-eight more I shall be there again. But right now I am low.

It passes, so I hang on.

Finding Healing

Despite my anger over what has happened between me and my ex-husband, and in the gay agenda in general, I have learned that there is a lot of woundedness there which truly warrants compassion.

Gays aren’t born that way — twin studies have always verified that — but they are born with a personality, a disposition which renders them at odds with the traditionally masculine world and sets them up for possible imprinting and identification as same-sex attracted.  In a gender that applauds athletic prowess and physical agility, the more sensitive or artistic male may have a sense of alienation from other boys.  He identifies more with girls.

Sadly, the sensitive male — and this includes my ex-husband — often possesses great moral insight and a strength of character that deserves to be recognized and respected as manly qualities . . . but are not.  DH was a force of nature when it came to personality, strength of opinion, power of persuasion.  In our circle of friends, he was universally regarded as a chaplain or sorts, a spiritual mentor.  He was loved and looked up to . . . but it wasn’t enough. He couldn’t recognize our esteem. Years later, when I told him how we’d felt about him, he wept.  He was still wracked with disbelief in his own worth.

That strength of mind and will and faith are what made me fall in love with him.  Of course, my love couldn’t begin to heal his broken spirit; that required the affirmation of a masculine man; I, a woman, couldn’t meet his deepest emotional needs.  It takes a man to teach a boy how to be comfortable in his own skin as male. His father, a good man, a brilliant man, was also of a more sensitive nature:  quiet, gentle, studious.  Introverted. He could teach his sons how to handle the basic mechanical maintenance of their cars (masculine skills set), but he wasn’t in possession of those interests and skills that would have helped his boys fit in more easily with the other boys in the neighborhood.  DH preferred music to sports; he built up the self-defense of dismissing ordinary boys, then men, as “idiots.”

I wanted to be his all-in-all.  This was an unrealistic expectation, particularly given the circumstances.  Men need other men in their lives to push them to be stronger, better — “iron sharpens iron.”

Not only could I not be his all-in-all, the fact is that his misery with himself  rendered him too wounded to be able to love me at all.  I can pity him for this woundedness now.  It does not justify how he treated me after we were married, during our divorce, and after, in his continued insistence that, first of all, he wasn’t gay, but then, yeah, he was gay but that still had nothing to do with the divorce.

But it does allow me to look beyond my own sufferings and loss to find something in him that I can pity.  And I’m able after many years to remember that beautiful boy we all loved and looked up to — and to realize I still love him.

And in loving him, interestingly, I’m not tied to him by sentiment, but I’m at long, long last! liberated to get well, myself, and to build a proper life for myself, in which I can be my best self and not be entrapped in the bitterness or the resentments that had been my daily fare for so many years.

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.

Self-analysis – how did this happen?

How did I find myself married to a homosexual? What factors in my own background, my psychological make-up, leave me vulnerable to this choice?

I can claim extreme youth and naivete among my risks.  Back in the day when we were dating and got married, “nice people” just didn’t talk about some things, and homosexuality wasn’t being portrayed and lauded in all our media.  And TFP (The Fairie Prince) wasn’t effiminate; he possessed many masculine qualities.

But there has to have been more, things that blinded me to the warning signs I can recognize now in retrospect.  Was it my relationship with my parents? Personal fears? What drove me into this relationship so relentlessly?

A little note…

I’m sorry not to be posting more often. A couple of anniversaries in the past couple of weeks, and now trying to cope with being car-less…

The fact is, it’s emotionally taxing to talk about these things. I still find it hard to recall them, and with all the gay marriage debate going on right now, and the criticism of Chick-Fil-A, etc., I’m sometimes rather overwhelmed at how ill-informed people are on these issues, the cost they will have on society and on us as women.

The shooting of a security guard at the Family Research Council’s office in D.C., today, should alarm all of us. When proponents of gay marriage resort to this sort of violence toward people who hold opposing viewpoints, then none of us is safe. The FRC is a good friend to those of us who’ve loved homosexuals and have learned first-hand the costs.

More reflections coming. Pray for me – I pray for you.

Much love –
Elisabeth

Healing begins with Forgiveness

Hard week. Can you tell? I haven’t posted in days. It’s been one of those anniversary weeks where a bunch of junk has come out of the background noise, where it usually sits, to the fore of my brain, distracting me and wearing me out.

This has been accompanied by a small surge of emails and contacts from people who’re reading this blog. One of the really hard thing about doing this blog is hearing from so many people – I’m astonished how many people have contacted me! – to tell me “I’m going through this,” or, “My close family member is going through it. The really upsetting thing is the acknowledgment of depression in 100% of the people I’m hearing from.

And being angry for you compounds my anger – because I’m really angry for me, right now.

The balance of holding on to my joie de vivre, my joy of living, is sometimes fragile. Weeks like this, the memories of incidents, words, attitudes are vividly close. Believe me – I get depression.

But I am not willing to let DH have me this way. I mean, holding on to my anger and resentment like one of our daughters used to cling to her “blankie” doesn’t inflict a moment’s unease or discomfort on him. It only eats away at me – at my soul.

So I – so you, too – have to let go. This letting go is the practical process of forgiveness. It’s refusing to cling to the hurt. It’s recognizing that rampaging about what a selfish bastard he is doesn’t have the minutest impact on him – but it will rot me from the inside out and turn me into something bitter, selfish, hostile and ugly if I don’t let go.

Forgiveness means recognizing that there’s really only one justice for us – and that’s the justice of the Judgment Seat of Christ. He’ll get his, on that Day…

And so will I, by golly! So I’ve got to keep laying it down. Every time it sneaks up on me and throws itself in my way, trying to dominate my thoughts and feelings – I’ve got to lay it down.

Our Lord told Peter – we have to be willing to forgive 70 x 7. That’s not for 70×7 offenses – it’s 70 x 7 for a single event. Every time the bitterness rises, when our gorge rises… that’s one time of forgiveness. Now we have 70 x 7… minus 1 to get through.

But this really does have a redemptive value. This really, truly does serve to our good. Here’s another verse for you: all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord… (Rom. 8:28) All things. God will take our sorrows and wounds and sufferings and use them for our greater good and for His greater glory…

But we have to begin with forgiving.

Painful memories

I’m clearing out some paperwork this weekend, a quiet activity in this 100-degree heat, and I have come across some old journal pages dating back to the time DH and I decided to separate. I had to sit down and read them – probably a mistake; it’s painful in the extreme to see how emotionally fragile I was by that point. I had two friends I clung to as to life preservers, both of whom have now gone on and I don’t even know how to contact them to thank them for keeping me from being utterly sucked under.

The wonder of it is, as I read these notes, there were two men who were very … shall we say, attentive? during this time, and somehow by the grace of God I didn’t fall  into an affair. I was terribly vulnerable for one – I was warned by a counselor working with James Dobson (Focus on the Family) that I was extremely high risk for one. But somehow it never happened.

Part of it was because I had a belief that God would give me a miracle and save my marriage if I were just a good gal and followed the rules. Part of it was because these two men – very human men and not particularly “principled” in that regard – apparently felt very protective of me and never pushed their advantage.

If they had, I’m not at all sure I could have held out. I was starving for affection and affirmation – even more than I remember, according to what I’m seeing on those old journal pages. And both men found me attractive because I’m smart, as well as being … well, whatever they saw in me that they found attractive. (Modesty forbids me to look too closely at those possibilities).

Grace of God, to be sure.

I have said, we are vulnerable. That observation cannot be overstated: We are vulnerable. VULNERABLE.

And right this minute, after being alone for a decade and fighting out some tough stuff and becoming stronger than ever, and opinionated and stubborn and really pretty doggone comfortable (and even smug about) being single… if He Whom My Soul Loves (or, maybe, Richard Armitage) were to walk in the door right now and offer to carry me away to… I don’t know, it would have to be somewhere COOL! – I’m not at all sure I could smile at him and say, “Aw, how sweet, but no, thank you.”

They say forewarned is forearmed. I sure hope it’s true.

That meek and timid voice

I’ve been perusing some of the websites to see what’s out for us, these days. I keep seeing things to the effect of “I’m still very close to my ex-husband,” and “Our gay ex-husbands deserve to be happy…”

Then there’s the highly creative fictional world where gay men and their straight ex-wives are just all buddy-buddy, like Caro in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I always thought that characterization was false, and I do more now than I did when I first read the book.

We look at these fictional women – and I’m sorry, but the overly-cheerful “let’s be supportive of our ex-husbands” focus of too many ex-wives’ websites borders on either fictional or delusional or just batshit crazy, I’m not sure which – and we think, what is wrong with this scenario?

And this timid little voice comes up, sqeaking softly, “But… but… what about me?”

We need to listen to that teensy little voice, timid as it is, afraid of being misunderstood, or “judgmental” or “ugly” though it may be.

That voice is the only thing standing up for our own dignity, our self-respect, our worth.

The fact is, when we buy into this “let’s be supportive of our gay loved one” crap, we also yield to the very idea that we weren’t good enough, that our values ideals and needs are not important, that the whole flippin’ universe centers around HIM…

No, thank you. Maybe he can’t help where his attractions lie – maybe he was robbed of that when he got his initiation at the age of 14. But he can sure as heck help what he does with his life, and how he treats other people, and especially how he treats ME – whom he promised to love and cherish and honor.

No. I’m not going to “support” DH in his path of self-destruction, and I’m not going to support the stupid idea that I have no worth except as his personal and private cheerleading section immolating myself on a pyre of political correct sentimentality.