Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Love at fifteen

Once, a long time ago in high school, I fell in love.  As much love as a 14-year-old can be in, but it felt real at the time. Looking back, I think it was real.  A different love than the love I have for my husband, for I was a different person at 14 than I am at just about 30.

This young man was entrenched deeply into patriarchy, though I didn't see it at the time.  His family was so deep into patriarchy that when we were 15, they went and lived at a "mission" in the Appalachian mountains.  I can only describe it as a commune though it portrayed itself as a training camp for future missionaries. In any case, they eschewed not just birth control, dating, public school and regular church, but also electricity, just in case you might be called to a country where they had no electricity.  Phone calls to the outside world were limited to Sunday nights at the leader's house where they listened to every word, and, though I have never been able to prove it, I strongly, strongly suspect our letters to each other were read not only by his parents, but by the mission leaders.
I wasn't much different fifteen years ago than I am now.  It screamed cult, and cult was what I called it. Blatently. Loudly. To their face.
  My letters to him were filled with teenage refutations to the arguments they presented--why women shouldn't go to college. Why dating was bad.  Why birth control was anti-Biblical.  Why it ticked me off completely that their practical classes were segregated by gender--the men studied construction, hunting, community planning, first aid.  The women studied childrearing, homeschooling, sewing, and cooking. I argued that we should not get married at sixteen years old so I could go to the misison field with his family. (Seriously, the cult leaders recommended that. I suspect they thought marriage would shut me up and make me toe the submissive line.  I should hunt them down now and let them talk to my husband about how well that worked)

I should have seen it.  But by then I was 17, and we were madly, deeply in love.  I didn't want to see what would happen. I didn't want to realize that I was a threat to the cult leadership; that one of their followers in a relationship with a smart, outspoken, opionated, educated and assertive woman would destroy what they had tried to build.

But it came down to one question.
Would I submit to him in all things after we were married, even if it was something I believed to be a sin?
And the answer was no, I would not.

I'm nothing if not honest and blunt.  What you see is what you get with me. And no, I would not, could not, submit to my husband in all things. 

After three years, that was the end of that relationship.

Eventually they realized it for what it is, and left.  From mutual friends, I know that he, his wife, his parents, brother and sister-in-law are still wallowing deep in patriarchy and the family-integrated church movement.  I run across articles that he or his in-laws have written every now and then.

The last thing he told me was that I wouldn't find a good Christian man if I couldn't submit.

Today is my 2 and a half year wedding anniversary.
My husband is a good Christian man. He was a deacon in his church for a while.  He believes in God, and Jesus, and a literal interpretation of the Bible.  And he loves so completely and totally that it takes my breath away.  Two-and-a-half years of marriage later, just hearing him walk onto the porch makes my heart skip a beat.  We are madly, passionately, truly in love with each other.
And my husband does not expect me to submit to him in all things. 

He expects me to love him, and I expect him to love me.  I expect him to put my needs and wants ahead of his own, and I do the same for him.  He would not want me to do something he wanted if I firmly believed it was wrong, and I would not want him to do something he believed was a sin.  This isn't submission.  It's mutual respect and love, two core building blocks of any marriage.
Patriarchy has no place in our marriage.

So in the end, I dodged a bullet. I met someone, even if it was ten years later, and fell in love.  And this is why I talk about patriarchy and gender roles and submission.  I talk about it for the fifteen year old girl that I was, in the throes of teenage love.
And I talk about it for the fifteen year old girls that are out there today, who for whatever reason aren't able to look at the patriarchal movement and say, loudly and boldy, This is a lie.  I talk about this for the fifteen-year-old girls who have been taught and believe that they are worth nothing more than their virginity and then their wombs.  I talk about this for that fifteen-year-old girl, sitting in her room in her long skirts, exhausted from caring for her siblings and the responsibilities of a large family.  For the girls trapped and not seeing any way out.
This blog, and everyplace else I write, is for you.


  1. I hope those girls you mention actually find a way to read this.

  2. I've been married for eleven years, and could write the same thing about my husband that you wrote about yours. Just throwing that in there, because I kept getting told to "wait till you're married a few years and all that will change."

    I WANTED to be a submissive wife. But once married, I just couldn't find all that many opportunities to obey. But it did keep me in a childlike state of mind, thinking he had to approve anything I did before I did it. So glad to leave that behind.

    Just found your blog and I intend to enjoy it. :)

    -- SaraJ

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  4. I'm just now finding this 7 years later - just wanted to say I am standing with you against this toxic philosophy that forced me to give up my relationship with my parents in order to follow my heart. By the grace of God, doing so gave me the strength to later rebuild my relationship with them on healthier terms. It makes me sick to think that this philosophy sought to take away my fundamental human right to choose my own path in life by attempting to brainwash me into believing I was incapable of making a good decision about whom to marry (which I probably was at age 19!) and needed to have my parents help me make the decision instead of just waiting until I was old enough know myself. I'm so grateful to my husband for rescuing me from this life by helping me identify and work through my feelings about all of it and supporting me through a lot of extremely tough choices.