Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Healthy Marriage Doesn't Look Like

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with a couple of my former friends who I'm still friendly with from the old church. None of us are as close as we were, but none of them were ones constantly trying to fling emotional garbage and condemnation at me either.

Between those encounters and a fight Jim and I had this weekend over a misunderstanding I started thinking about what I was seeing in my pals and myself that was not very healthy.

Ran into Marlene at the grocery store. Marlene could be Michelle Duggar's stunt double. Seriously, I think she and Michelle were separated at birth. Marlene looks like her, talks just like her and is also the Quiverfull mom of a large number of children.

Except now... Marlene has cut her hair, was wearing pants and has had no new babies for fourteen years and she's roughly Michelle Duggar's age. I don't know what happened exactly but apparently they aren't doing the kid collecting ATI-worshiping stuff any longer. Everyone but a few of the children have moved out. I had to ask Marlene what changed and she told me that her husband had drug her out of the unhealthy cult church environment they'd been in and it had forced her to face and deal with her own issues of control.

I'm glad. I'm very glad she came out in what seems like one piece. Pants aren't evil, folks! She did admit to the same thing I struggled with the first six months after all our kids left for college, cooking way to big of a meal.

My other extreme Quiverfull friend, Lauren, the one that used to introduce me to her other QF friends as her heathen friend with two kids as a joke, hasn't fared quite as well. I saw her, had coffee with her and it came out that her two eldest daughters, around the same age as Andy and Laura, were having troubles and both under psychiatric care because of emotional problems from being QF, being told to deny their feelings and just smile. Both seem in particular to believe that their mother didn't love them. Which sort of shocked me because their mother always seemed to exude love and acceptable of everyone back in the days we all went to church together. I guess you just never know. Her husband also left the old church and took her unwilling self with him. Her adjustment has been bumpier.

Then one of my other friends came with me to Johns Hopkins last week. I'd forgotten to get Jim the date I was going back to the ENT Vocal  Cord specialist and the team meeting of my doctors and therapists to decide which way to go with my ongoing confloption of lung problems. He'd said he was going to scope me again and I knew, if it was anything like last time, I might not be able to drive home. I might be a crying mess or zombified from the pain relief. I took my friend Jules with me as a back up driver.

Jules has only been out of the old cult church about three years now and I get treated to semi-cult thinking whenever I'm with her. One of the strangest things I noted this time was her stubborn insistence on not giving homeless folks that approach you any cash.

Baltimore is full of the homeless. Where I get off interstate 95 to get to the Bayview Campus of Johns Hopkins there is a homeless vet at each interstate exit. I've come to know the guy at my exit and always bring him not only cash but food and other things. I have nothing but compassion for him and sometimes give him things and gift cards rather than cash because I really don't want to fund anyone's possible chemical dependency.

So it's not unusual to be approached for cash in Baltimore by people who are struggling. At the gas station a man approached both of us begging for cash to put gas in his car. I gave him a few bucks, but after that Jules started explaining that she's heard, through some right wing conservative Christian newsletter that you should never open your purse and give these guys a dime because they'll snatch your wallet or worse! I was pretty amazed to hear her parrot this idea like it's the God's truth from the Bible, because this is the first time I've heard of that and I've been giving out cash to the homeless for years, no ones been anything but thankful, certainly no purse snatchings.

The longer I spent with Jules that day the more I got to see some pretty strange fear driven things going on. Her husband is away right now with his work and he gave her a stipend of spending cash to tide her over while he was gone. She doesn't work and she loves to shop, so it was no shock that she'd already run through that money and had put some things on their credit cards. She spent a lot of the day freaking out over how she was going to explain a $150 hair cut and coloring, and buying things he would have forbid had he been along.

Jules' husband is very thrifty. He would never consent to our eating at the Broadway Diner on Eastern Avenue a half dozen blocks from the hospital. Mr. Jules will only go places he has a coupon for or is an all you can eat buffet. She was scheming how to buy lunch and get a dessert to take home without both showing up obviously on the credit card.

She bought donut holes at the gas station, murmuring how much she was going to miss doing, buying and eating what she wanted once her husband came home because he would never allow her to spend 3 bucks on donut holes. This was a recurring theme for the day. Go nuts doing all this stuff that the husband would not allow.

I have to admit, I was more than just a little shocked by this. Jim is thrifty too, but he knew I was going to be going to the diner that day and didn't have a problem with me eating out near the hospital. He knows from having been with me up at the hospital that there aren't a lot of discount options easily accessible from the interstate. He knows that I sometimes buy things, eat things, do things he doesn't consider essential, but he respects my needs enough to know I need some freedom, latitude, independent agency.

It's not like I don't have to navigate my desires and needs with my husband's wishes and the constraints of our budget. Because I have to do it all the time! I had to do it that very morning when I went to the bank, tried to take out some cash from my personal household bank account and found out my balance was very low. I called Jim to tell him I was moving money around in the accounts so I could have cash for lunch, tolls and parking. I could not get through and made the command decision to do the transfers and tell him later. We argued because I forgot about it and didn't tell him till a few days later. But it wasn't much money and I was just trying to avoid activating our overdraft protection.

If there is one thing that I consider marriage-destroying about fundamentalist/evangelicalism it's this thing about lip service to the husband, yet running around secretly behind his back to do what you wanted to do in the first place. Why not be upfront and dump your guilt? I don't get it, even if I used to do it.

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