To Love, Honour, and … Whoa!! … ‘say what??’ (A glimpse into our marriage, on our anniversary)

t&t127Twenty-one years ago, today,  I walked down the aisle of Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, alone, toward my ‘soon to be husband’. In our culture the father didn’t walk the bride down the aisle, back then.

I was on the verge of the most amazing years of my life, and making promises, most sincerely, with no concept of their experiential meaning.  How could I? It was all new, uncharted territory. But I understood the words, and I meant every one. And I still do.

My expectation of marriage was simple: love and be loved. I had longed my whole life to feel safe, loved and valued, and that’s what ‘love and be loved’ meant to me. In this way, I entered marriage most practically, and that worked out well because my husband is a practical man. For Christmas, weeks before our wedding, he gave me an apron. He gave me some other gifts too, but it’s the apron I remember most. And I still laugh about it, just like I did then. It’s in my kitchen, having lasted all these years because I’m just not an ‘apron kind of girl’. My kids wear it, now end then, and always it makes me smile. Only recently I told them the story for the first time and one of my teens laughed at the idea of their daddy giving me an apron. “And it was free!” I added, drawing another burst of laughter. Tim had won that apron at a curling bonspiel. What else was he to do with it? The dusty rose colour, with quilted pattern, really wasn’t his colour.

We’ve never been the kind of couple to indulge in the constant spilling of endearing terms. We tried it. And we still do, on occasion, but it’s not really us. The most likely to come from me is ‘My Love’, and it warms my heart if it does nothing for his, just to say it, because he is my one true love. I’m crazy about this man I married. And sometimes I’m just crazy in a whole different way, and he still loves me. He calls me ‘Precious’ and ‘Beautiful’. But not often, and that’s okay. When he does my heart dances in a little flip-flop, all out of rhythm and off-beat, because I know he’s practical and there’s nothing practical about that language.

My favourite thing is when he squeezes my toes when he walks by our bed…  or when he sees me coming, and positions himself with arms open, just because he knows how much I love hugs. Simply being held can make my very upside down world flip upright pretty fast, when he has his arms around me. And he knows it. When I’m sad, and he holds me like that and kisses my forehead, I know I’ll get through it. In these little ways he calms storms in my heart and my spirit, and offers security. Or when he randomly starts praying for me, and I don’t even realize at first that it is a prayer, and I’m about to ask, “What was that?” and then it registers, he’s praying… talking to God about me.  When things are really hard and he’s praying, and says to God “Your daughter is tired”,  or some such thing, I remember Whose I am, first and foremost. And I wonder if it makes God smile, just a little, to have Tim hold me up that way, as if reminding Him I belong to Him. Or maybe it’s Tim’s way of saying, “God, this one is over my head… You take it from here.” Either way, my heart feels safest in those moments.

Every day isn’t like that. Some days we are busy and forget these things. Some days we’re struggling through our own things, or in our relationship, and we overlook each other or take our love for granted. Sometimes we’re even cross with each other. Those days we have to work a lot harder at seeing all the wonderful and beautiful things God has blessed us with.

And then there’s the days when we flirt with each other all day long, in little ways… or maybe sneak in just one moment… Like last night. Tim looked at the wishbone on the window sill and commented on no one having made a wish. I liked the wishbone when I was a kid. We siblings tried to sneak it away to dry, because it breaks so much better, and I always loved that mom kept it. So I keep it too, most of the time.

“Let’s do it!” I said, picking up the wishbone and offering Tim one side. I made sure our grip was fair, and then we pulled. He won. That was my wish, that he would win. But I didn’t tell him that. I always make dumb wishes because I don’t believe in it anyway, and it’s more fun in my head. He smiled, a secret “I had a cool wish’ kind of smile.

“So, what was your wish?” I asked.

“I can’t tell! Then it won’t come true!” he said.

“That’s for birthday cake wishes,” I said. “It works differently with wishbones.” He looked skeptical and I tried to look as convincing as I could, to no avail. I kept asking, making flirtatious eyes at him…. I tried the sassy wiggle… But he just grinned and defended his position. And then I saw the twinkle in his eyes and I knew…

“Ha!” I said, “I know what you wished for!” I had been away for the weekend, and felt unwell upon return, and then was busy for a few days…. and each night we hit our pillows…  “I know exactly what you wished for!”

“I’ll never tell,” he said, and kept grinning.

“You don’t have to! …but… I bet I can make your wish come true!” I said.  It ended there, until much later,  and we moved on to other things, to the normal busyness of life, as is necessary with a family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because we love these five people God has brought into our home. But sneaking in these moments of playfulness and secret flirting is a healthy part of marriage, and keeping our love alive and young.

Back to all those promises, made many years ago… I’ve had no difficulty loving Tim, most of the time. I’ve been more of a challenge, with all my broken pieces to heal, though Tim never let on how hard it was, loving me. He just kept on loving. And when it got difficult for either of us, even when it would have been easier to quit, we battled through the hard times together. We have no regrets for pushing through and learning to tread water when we felt like we were drowning! Those hard times only made our love stronger.

The honour thing has also been easy for me, but not because I am some saint. It’s been easy because Tim has made it easy. In twenty-one years of marriage he has made mistakes, just as I have, but he has been a leader like I’ve never known in my life. His gentle, patient love and acceptance have showed me the heart of God, my Father… my Papa… in a way not one other human has. And there are others who have done well. But not as well as he has…. as a husband, and as a daddy to our children. So I honour him easily.

In practical reality, I have a policy to never confront or correct him in public, or speak in a way that belittles him, or is critical. It’s a decision I made a few weeks after our wedding when I heard a woman challenge her husband when he exaggerated in his story telling, and I saw the look in that man’s eyes. I vowed then I would respectfully ask Tim about it in private, if I felt he misrepresented facts or needed correcting. Even in this way, the ‘honouring’ has been about as easy as the loving, because Tim is not a man to inflate a story, for the sake of his ego. His weaknesses are in other areas, but they are my little secrets.

The third part of the vows, the ‘obeying’ part has always bewildered me a bit, in all honesty.  I get it about honour, respect and love, but slip in that word ‘obey’, and it all gets a bit murky for me.  And it’s not because Tim is a ‘lord it over people’ kind of man. He’s not. He’s a servant at heart, and what’s in his heart comes out in day-to-day living. Even the word ‘reverence’… yeah, that one I can understand, especially with a husband who is so kind. A long time ago–when I learned that in one culture, in Egypt I believe it was, a woman greets her husband at the door, kneeling before him while he places his hands on her head in blessing–I asked Tim if I could do that. To meet him at the door every day, and kneel before him, and have his hands on my head so he could bless me sounded like a wonderful thing! He grinned and, in an almost exasperated tone, said I wasn’t  allowed to do any such thing. I still think about it sometimes, but I’m kind of glad now, because my knees aren’t very good and he blesses me just fine standing up. Anyway, I get the reverence thing.

Letting Tim lead makes sense. Sharing the responsibility of parenting and each of us having a unique role… For sure! I’m not too threatened by our gender differences.   Not agreeing all the time, and ‘submitting to one another’ is about partnership, and it’s biblical, so we try to live that way.  And, believe it or not, giving him a lead role and ‘submitting’ to that leadership… even that doesn’t frighten me. He is easy to submit to, because he lives a life of surrender and Christ-like servant-hood, and always takes my heart into account when he makes decisions. He listens closely to my desires, my dreams and my fears, and he looks to me for input, so when he makes a decision it is balanced with all of those things. It hasn’t always been, but most of the time it has, and is. So his ‘authority’ and my ‘submission’ means nothing to me in the way of being degraded or demoralized, as some view ‘submission’ and authority. Rather, it means there is someone watching over me, offering me protection, care and support. And I like that! It means that when he blesses what I do, I do it with personal passion and his blessing. Bonus! And when he says ‘no’ or ‘wait’, I trust he is doing it for my best interest.

So, regardless of the wording we choose, and whatever is or is not lost in translation when we say ‘obey’, I am blessed to have a husband whom I love and honour, and under whose authority and leadership I willingly place myself. I am blessed that he never takes advantage of me, or abuses my trust or his leadership. Rather, it is to him that I owe my thanks, for using his place in my life to empower me, launch me, and bless me. I have accomplished more because he is in my life, than I would ever have done on my own!

If I had to make the decision again, to walk down that aisle alone, as I did 21 years ago, I would! And if I was to say vows again,  understanding their experiential significance, I would still promise to love and honour Tim, and accept him as my leader, to be protected and empowered by his authority.

tim & trudy 1994

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t&t126

Thank you My Love. Happy Anniversary! 

Love,

~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Pre-Mother’s Day Rant: Femininity & Over-Sexualized Culture

The Thursday night pre-Mother’s-Day “Girls Night Out” sale at Marks Work Wear House proved to be a worthwhile, but crazy experience.

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I headed out at noon, with plans to shop early, and get it over with. I don’t love shopping so much these days. It’s a necessity, not therapy, or pleasure or addiction. It’s what must be done. That ‘mission to be accomplished’ feeling makes crowds in stores more stressful, and shopping less fun. I would avoid that, going early.

I arrived at the store and, sure enough, it was busy, but not insane. That was great until I discovered the ‘additional 20%’ discount doesn’t start until evening. There I was, with a few summer tops and scarves. Twenty percent is a big deal, so I decided I’d return later. But before I left, I tended to one little matter….

There was one sweater on sale, in white, but not available in my size. I knew I’d get a lot of use out of–presuming it doesn’t get a stain… I avoid white unless it’s bleachable–so I had the kind cashier call the other stores to see if they had one my size.

She directed me to another store in Kitchener, where they would hold one with my name on it. I made my way to the store, about ten minutes away…

At the store, the cashier looked confused. There was no sweater on hold. I explained where I had come from, that the other store had called and confirmed, and it should be there. One cashier remembered the call, but said he told them there is none. Still, they checked again. I waited.

The cashier returned. Still no sweater. She would call all the other stores, she said, and find out who it was that had one. They called. Again I waited.

Apologetically she explained that there were no sweaters locally. Far away there might be one, but not close by. Sorry, she said, looking quite worried.

It’s okay, I told her. These things happen. It’s life.

She looked relieved, giggled and sighed, “Wow! I thought you’d be more angry. You’re not even upset. I thought you’d be mad.” She handed me a card. An additional 20% off of any purchases, store wide.

I thanked her, and left. An additional 20%, meant 40% off my purchases, some of which were already marked down by 30%. That’s 70%. I slipped it into my wallet and returned home.

At 8:00pm I slipped back to the store where my items were on hold. I asked the gentleman for my ‘Hold’ items, then joined the long line up. Very, very long line up. People inched forward. Slowly. I waited, patiently, quietly.

A woman up ahead, with a table set up, and prizes to give away, caught my eye. She smiled. I recognized her, and waved.

When I was near enough to her, we chatted. Chatting makes time move faster and the line seems to move less slowly. We talked about stuff like shopping, and work.

Speaking of work, I started a part-time job a while ago–just over a month now, actually–so I told her about that. I am a server, at the Drayton Chop House, a few nights a week. It’s a lot of fun, I said. The best is when it’s busy, and we’re run off our feet.

I have fun with it, I told her, and it helps customers relax.  And when customers like you, and they tip well, it makes you feel good, like you really earned your wage. Even when you make mistakes, if you own it, and take it in stride, it doesn’t make them upset, or when you say things and stick your foot in your mouth, and you laugh at yourself, they like it. Live entertainment, why not? Then the tips get even better, I told her playfully.

She leaned in close then, and whispered something, with a giggle. I missed what she said and asked her to repeat it.

“Do you have a good push up bra?” she whispered a bit louder. I could feel my eyebrows furrow, not connecting the dots. I stared blankly at her for a moment. She giggled again, and continued, out loud this time, “You’ll make better tips.”

“I’m not stooping to that!” I said, then continued, enthusiastically, “I’m happy with my tips!!”

A woman, presumably in her sixties, stopped shopping to stare at me, as if I had said something terrible, and it was at that moment I realized…

“I didn’t say that,” I said out loud. “And I’m still not stooping to doing things for tips,” I added. “That’s messed up.”

“It’s the way it is,” she said.

The line moved past the stand. I had filled out my ballot, dropped it in. But my mind was on our conversation, and the little tip on tips she had given.

I understand that we are sexual creatures. I understand that men are visual, at least that is how we’ve stereotyped them, and women are curvy and appealing. And, yes, I even believe in dressing to compliment the body God gave me. (A body that has changed noticeably over the years…)

But to use my body, to try to get better money…  I find every part of that offensive and degrading.

Why would I want to prostitute myself that way?

When I go out for dinner, if a server–male or female–is polite, kind and helpful, even if he or she makes mistakes, I tip generously. I know what it is like to make mistakes. We’re all human. And as long as the server takes responsibility–say for the lipstick on the glass, when I am not wearing any, or any such thing–it doesn’t influence my generosity. But neither does their gender, their age, or their looks. Not in any way.

I want to be treated with respect, and that is the respect I try to give. And that is my rant about that…

Our world is over-sexualized, and I’m committed to not playing the game. Feminine beauty is a thing of the heart, not the body. We are sexual creatures, but we don’t need to let ourselves be sexualized by culture and society, or become sexualized within our own minds.

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I am more ‘matronly’ today than I was 45 pounds ago, before I gave birth to five children and survived a massive heart attack. But my heart has become more beautiful as the Spirit of God has healed, defined and delivered me.

Not long ago, Tim and I stood in the kitchen, and it struck me how much we’ve both changed, physically. I put my arms around him, giggled and said, “Isn’t it great to be middle-aged, chubby, and in love?”

And, yes, almost twenty years into marriage, we are crazier about each other than we were back when our bodies seemed near perfect, in size and in function. Now, here we are, with creaky knees, and various other malfunctions, in a deeply committed love relationship, enjoying our marriage more than ever, in every way. There’s more to life than this body…

Today I celebrate the beauty of femininity–curves and rolls and all, with or without push up bras–and thank God for our purpose and design; made in His image, to reflect His heart to the world.

Embrace who you are–the woman God created you to be–and celebrate the unique wonder of you, fearfully and wonderfully created.

Happy Mother’s Day!

© Trudy Metzger

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Rejection & Misconceptions Regarding Gender-based Differences in Lobido

Without a deeper purpose, I would be the last one to stand in line, to hang all my dirty laundry out for the world to see. Especially if the laundry is all on the line, and I feel I’m left hiding behind semi-transparent sheets. It’s a vulnerable feeling. But the private messages from you, my readers, and general response the past two days reassured me again that it is the right thing to do. There is a purpose.

I received a negative response from one individual–and it wasn’t particularly up-building, so it landed in file 13, and it is only the third negative response I have received since starting my blog. All in all, I would say the topic material is received in a positive light, and helpful for many. Thank you for sharing with me. You have no idea how much that encourages me when I’m going places, publicly, where I have rarely ventured even with counsellors or friends. Many of you understand both my battle, and how I feel, as you express your own fear of commenting publicly, because of that vulnerability.

Thank you for being sensitive, not only because I have overcome abuse and violence, but also as a writer, when I put my heart out there. I am convinced I have the most amazing audience in the world!

Everyone experiences rejection, on some level, in marriage, whether real, or perceived. With abuse victims there is often an increased sensitivity to rejection, and this sensitivity also means more perceived rejections.

What fascinates me is how much we hear about men being the ones with the high libido, and therefore the ones who are often rejected by women. I’ve heard it in pretty much every marriage event I’ve attended. When I invite them to conferences, I’ve had women say, “If I hear one word about men and their high libido, I will up and walk out. I am so tired of no one addressing the other side of that”, and similar comments.

Meeting with women, and working through marriage issues with them, I can count on two hands the amount of times I’ve heard the complaint that ‘all he ever wants is sex’. Or ‘I wish he would just keep his hands off of me!’ And the few times I’ve heard it, it has usually been accompanied by, “I wish he would pay attention to me other times too. Then I would love his advances in bed”, or things of that nature. The exception is in the case where husbands ‘grab and grope’ but otherwise put no effort into relationship building or healthy non-sexual physical touch. This is a source of deep frustration for women. Most of them feel disrespected, and neglected on many levels.

I am convinced that, a high percentage of the time, women do not have a lower libido than men. We crave relational attention, communication, affection and non-sexual cuddling apart from the bedroom scene. If we feel loved, valued and accepted, the odds are… Never mind, gentlemen…. Do your math…

What I do hear, constantly, are women who feel neglected both in bed and out of bed. Not only do these women tell me that the relational and communication aspect is lacking, but their husbands don’t initiate intimacy, and reject them when they initiate it. The topic of sexual intimacy is not up for discussion, leaving these marriages vulnerable and shaky, with literally months, if not years, without sexual intimacy.

The women who tell me their husbands are not interested in sex, are not an indication that women generally have a higher libido, or that we’ve been misled by statistics. It simply indicates that more men shut down sexually in marriage, whether due to sexual sin, childhood sexual abuse, addictions or other reasons, than most of us are led to believe.

This needs to be addressed because the women, who feel rejected, battle shame and inferiority. They are hesitant to open their hearts and talk openly about their struggle, not wanting to admit that their husbands don’t find them attractive. (Just like every girl in high school wishes she was the prettiest, every wife wants to be attractive and the apple of her husband’s eye. To admit to another woman that she is sexually rejected and relationally neglected is a very difficult and humiliating thing.)

Each one worries that either she is not beautiful, or maybe her husband is having an affair, or into pornography or masturbation. Some know that is the case, but feel lost and dis-empowered. Not knowing how to impact the marriage for good, they suffer in silence. Others walk out on marriages, without a backward glance.

Yet other women admit to turning to pornography, emotional affairs and masturbation, as a source of fulfilment, while continuing in cold, distant cohabitation. They are afraid or unwilling to broach the subject of their struggles with husbands, who, in some cases, are into the same thing. When I hear these ‘confessions’ it’s usually accompanied by, “I’ve never told anyone that before. Please don’t tell anyone.”

This rejection of each other, and ultimately God’s plan, along with the silence and secrecy, is detrimental to marriage, to the family unit and God’s kingdom. Every woman wants to be pursued first outside of the bedroom, at a heart level, and then celebrate that connection through intimacy in bed. I think that every man, based on those we have talked to and read about, wants his wife to think he is an amazing lover, but he also longs to be built up, believed in, and encouraged in day to day life.

Somehow the vicious cycle of rejection starts in the little things we overlook, because of a lack of communication and generally misunderstanding each other. It snowballs, because of our pain and selfishness and leaves many a marriage shipwrecked unnecessarily.

The key is to get help sooner than later. To ignore it will build up walls of self-protection until eventually, the relationship is all but severed.  Wise counsel and a listening ear from someone who understands is crucial in order to end the cycle.

In the past few days many of you have contacted me, asking for connections to counsellors, or looking for guidance. If I have not yet responded, I will. And if you have not had the courage to email, but would like help finding a counsellor, mentor or resource, please don’t hesitate. (Visit the Contact Trudy page, and fill out the form. It is private and will only show in my email inbox, not on the website.)  We were not created to do this alone, and if I have connections in your area, I will do my best to connect you to someone.

© Trudy Metzger

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“I Do”… Love, Sex & Rejection: When CSA & Violence Impact Marriage

(Part 2)…

We lived in our ‘temporary heaven’ until Wednesday night of that same week. I crawled into bed feeling romantic and cuddly. Tim crawled into bed with one mission in mind: sleep. One quick ‘peck’ and he fell asleep. He snored instantly.

To me this apparent rejection was worse than the first night. All my insecurities and inadequacies flooded over me again. I felt empty, lonely and rejected. I thought couples always hug and snuggle before going to sleep. I was certain there was something about me my husband didn’t like, and this was his way of letting me know.

I shoved all those feeling into my mental discard file, this time slamming the lid. I was angry with myself for feeling hurt. Angry with myself for not being able to express the feelings of hurt and rejection. Angry with Tim for falling asleep with nothing more than one dutiful, unromantic kiss. And no snuggling. I was angry at life for my confusion about men and my insecurity about myself.

Anger exhausted me and I fell asleep until the morning. When I awoke Tim was still sound asleep and I was no less upset.

I decided I would shower and go to the dining area of this lovely Mexico resort to get us some breakfast. I wasn’t doing this to win my husband’s heart via his stomach, however noble such motivation would have been. I was doing this to avoid dealing with reality and yet secretly hoping to get a message to Tim. ‘I’m hurting and frustrated; please rescue me.’

Before I made it out of bed, mission one was complete: Tim was awake. “What’s wrong?” he asked as I crawled out of bed.

“Nothing,” I said as I made my way to the shower.

A night-hawk heading for the shower at 5:30 a.m. for no apparent reason is a bad sign. Especially since the earliest we had managed to be up and running, so far, had been 9 a.m., often barely catching breakfast. Tim assumed I was being honest and nothing was bothering me except sleeplessness.

In the shower life didn’t improve. I dropped the shampoo bottle with a startling thud, sliced my ankle trying to shave, and the water suddenly went cold. I exited the shower with an angry racket.

Why had no one told me that love and marriage are hard work? Or had they told me and I didn’t get it? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I was disappointed and didn’t know how to deal with it.

I dried and combed my hair before slipping into shorts and a T-shirt and heading out to get some breakfast. (I should confess here that, while we were still in the Mennonite church where we would remain for eight years, we had a very non-Mennonite honeymoon, leaving all our cultural attire in Canada.)

In Mexico everything happens ‘mañana’. This word means tomorrow or at some time in the future. ‘Today we’ll relax and do only what should have been done yesterday, the rest can wait for tomorrow’ seems to be the philosophy of the vast majority. When I arrived for our breakfast that morning I had my first annoying run-in with this philosophy.

After several moments of deliberating, I filled our tray with fruits and a few baked goods before heading for the pop machine to get some coke. We lived on coca-cola during our honeymoon because of the water contamination risks. The pop machine was empty that morning and, as I debated whether to wait or return later, a kind gentleman came to me. In broken English he apologized for the tardiness of the man in charge of refilling the pop machine. No one else had keys to access the machine so all they could do was wait.

I decided to wait a few more minutes hoping he was on his way. While I waited I started to think about Tim, all alone in our room, wondering where his bride might be. I regretted not having told him that I was getting our breakfast.

Each time I was ready to give up waiting for our drinks, the kind gentleman would return to assure me it would only be another minute or two, and I would wait for just a few more minutes. Given my luck that morning, I figured the pop man would probably arrive the instant I turned to leave for our room, and be empty again by the time we came back later. It would be better to wait.

When the pop man finally showed up, he apologized and handed me my coke. By the time I returned to our room I had been gone an hour or more and Tim was very much awake.

“Where have you been?” His voice remained gentle, but there was no mistaking the concern.

“I went to get us breakfast.” I said it as though he might have known. I offered no idle chatter. There had been few people in my life, prior to Tim, who had cared about my feelings. I wasn’t ready to risk further rejection by telling all.

“I was worried about you,” he said.

“Why were you worried? I just went to get breakfast.”

He told me how out of character I was, making all that noise in the shower. And then I just disappeared, leaving him in bed, alone.

Hearing the hurt in Tim’s voice, I felt terrible. I was frustrated that I didn’t know what was wrong with my expectations or how to change them.

“I overreacted to something. I don’t feel like explaining,” I said.

Tim encouraged me to talk it out, and we did so without coming to any profound conclusions, but it cleared the air and helped me see the importance of opening my heart to Tim.

We agreed to do our best, in marriage, to always talk things out. To not carry feelings of hurt or rejection in silence, but to explore and work through them.

It took years for me to understand that my sensitivity was because of childhood abuse, and during those years I struggled with easily trusting Tim with my pain. Still, he patiently loved me, even when I was unlovely. When I withdrew in silence, because of fear, he gently pursued me.

Tim is human. He is not perfect. I don’t idolize him, and I don’t want anyone else to idolize him. I could as easily put together a list of his faults, and the areas he struggled. But I won’t. That is his story to tell, and I will always honour his more reserved nature, and his preference for privacy on many levels. Like any human being, he made mistakes and makes mistakes. But in the areas where I was completely destroyed and broken, he loved me well, and for that I am truly grateful.

© Trudy Metzger

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Will You Marry Me?: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

In the weeks and months that followed the relational breakthrough with Tim, life became a whirlwind of change and activity. A whirlwind that would continue spinning for years.

My brother Wil was moving into the area, from Clinton Ontario, and asked if I might be interested in renting a small cottage-style house with him. I was thrilled! Having left home the month before my 16th birthday, I had never again had a real home, without invading someone else’s space. He and I would share space.

Wil and I would remember how to ‘live together’ from years gone by, right down to little details like the way he spread peanut butter on his bread, careful not to get any on the knife, past the first several inches. I, on the other hand got into it half way up my elbows. (It’s just that good.) These quirks and habits would be familiar, and our temperaments had always blended well. He was my best friend most of my life until I escaped from home.

I anticipated we would share the cottage for a year or two, then one or both of us would get married. But God had other plans, and when he revealed them to Tim, so did he. And soon I did too.

It was Tuesday August 17, only days before our fifth ‘month-iversary’. Tim had a baseball game that night, and I went with him to watch. He wore his blue and white baseball suit, that hugged his body the way baseball suits do. Coincidentally, I matched him, in a blue and white T-shirt dress, as we called them. It was a dress made of T-shirt fabric. It broke the church rules, ever so slightly, having a fake ‘cape panel’ at the front and no cape at all at the back. It was the last small piece of fabric at the store, barely enough for a dress at all, but I loved it so much I was determined to make it work. I wasn’t trying to break the rules.

After the game we returned to Tim’s home for a few hours. Sometime, just before midnight, I prepared to leave. Tim walked me to the door, where we stood and chatted a while. We talked about our friends who had gotten become engaged on the weekend. Sunday night, to be exact. We were both very happy for them. And then Tim told me something that took me off guard. He had planned to propose that week, but when our friends announced their engagement, he decided he didn’t want to steal their thunder. And, besides, he told me, he didn’t want it to look like he was trying to keep up the pace with them.

As we continued talking, I had this sense that Tim was about to do the first impulsive thing I had ever seen him do. He was about to propose. Right there. Right then. No perfect plan. No dinner out. No candlelight and roses. Just love.

It wasn’t like him to be impulsive, and I’m not sure why I sensed it coming, but I suddenly chattered incessantly. There was no way I would let him do that. He would regret it. He’d wake up the next morning and wish he hadn’t done it. I had to say ‘Good night’ and leave.

Tim was as perceptive. He raised his right hand slowly, placing his index finger on my lips. “Shhhh…” There was a twinkle in his eyes. He dropped down on one knee, holding my gaze. And then he popped the question…

“Trudy, will you marry me?”

I wanted to shout it. I was ecstatic! But only a whisper emerged from my lips. “Yes!”

The clock had slipped past midnight. In the wee minutes of August 18, 1993, Tim and I were engaged to be married. Dreams burst to life in my heart….

© Trudy Metzger

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Breaking Up Is Never Easy: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

About two months into our relationship, I panicked. I felt completely unworthy, feared abandonment, and was tired of the ‘scream fests’ in the middle of the night–not to mention concern over damaging my steering wheel. I was terrified of trusting a man with my heart, so I told Tim I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t made for this ‘male-female’ love relationship thing. It would be better for me to stay single, than to mess up his life.

With that we broke up. Parted ways.

That lasted just under 24 hours. The instant he wasn’t in my life, I felt a sense of loss like I had never experienced before. I decided I was willing to go through anything, to be with him.

We spoke the next afternoon, and decided to meet that evening, to talk. I told him how terrified I was, and that I was willing to fight through the chaos of my feelings, for the sake of our relationship, if he was willing to hang in there with me. He was.

And so the romance began again. And, with it, the rise and fall, just as before, of my battle.

From the beginning, Tim made it very clear that he wasn’t ‘dating’. It was courtship–a serious relationship hopefully resulting in marriage.

He also wasn’t one to toss about things like, ‘I love you’, before he was convinced that he would, in fact, marry me. Why, or how that came up, I don’t recall. After he told me, and I seemed surprised, he asked me if I could honestly say that I love him. For me that was easy. Of course I could… but I wouldn’t until he knew he loved me. That felt far to risky.

Shortly before I said yes to being his girlfriend, I had already said ‘yes’ in my heart to marrying him, if ever he asked. And I had said it to one other person…

I had a ‘little buddy’, Timmy, with the Big Sister program. He was a sweet little guy, about 10 years old at the time. He met Tim, along with some other youth, for the first time several weeks before Tim and I started dating. After Tim left he asked me, “Are you going to marry Tim?”

“I don’t know, Timmy,” I said, “he’s not even my boyfriend. We’re just friends.”  said.

“I know. But, if he asked you to marry you, would you say yes?” he asked. I was taken off guard by the question, and it forced me to contemplate what I really thought and felt.

“Yes,” I said, after a moment. “I would marry Tim if he asked me to.”

Timmy lit up.”Good! I like him! I didn’t want you to marry that other guy from the states.” And that was the end of the conversation.

So when Tim asked me if I could genuinely say I love him, I could. It wasn’t infatuation. It was driven by an awareness that he was a good match for me, someone who would bring out the best in me. And I believed that, in spite of my broken story, I had much to offer him too. I needed his calm and steady strength. He needed my crazy, spontaneous, out-going self. In my mind, the decision had been made before the emotional entanglements of romance had even started.

For Tim it was different. He is cautious. Deliberate. Contemplative. And not one to run around breaking girls’ hearts. He needed time.

I struggled with this only because I couldn’t understand why anyone would kiss someone they don’t love. The fact that our official courtship started with a kiss, after a good six months of spending time together almost weekly, and more than once a week at times, may not have been the cultural ideal, but it wasn’t the end of the world for me. However, I couldn’t separate hugs and kisses from love. For me it wasn’t just affection. It was love.

What we discovered, in talking about it, was that our definition of ‘love’ was different. Even if I had been uncertain about marrying Tim, I could have said, “I love you”, and meant it. For me, love was the expression of my heart, not totally based on feelings, but somewhat. For Tim, love was a solid commitment. And when he was ready to say, “I love you”, he would also be ready to say, “Will you marry me?”

That talked out, and resolved, our relationship went smoothly again for a while. I had my times of stress and anxiety. And my screaming sessions didn’t end, but we communicated well, and enjoyed our times together.

And then insecurity took its toll again. My greatest fears were that either he would abandon me, or he would marry me, and regret it. I didn’t want to ruin a good man’s future. In a state of inner anxiety, one Sunday night about fourteen weeks into our relationship, I told him that he would be better to move on, to find a stable girl, someone without all my issues.

Tim stepped closer to me, looked me in the eye, and put his arms around me. My arms were between us, so I pushed and resisted. Gently, but with determination, he locked his arms around me. He stood firm and steady as I struggled, not hurting me or making me feel threatened, but letting me know he wasn’t walking away.

No man had ever treated me with the kind of love and respect Tim had given me up until that point. He had never made a move to harm me emotionally, physically or sexually. And because of that, I didn’t feel terrified in his arms. Furthermore, it all happened in seconds, from the time I spoke the words until he said something that broke the power of fear in my life.

“Trudy, I’m not going anywhere. I’m in this for the long haul,” he said, trying to look in my eyes. But it was difficult, with me looking down, trying to avoid eye contact–the way I always do when I am afraid.

He held me for a moment, and then said, with a certainty that surprised me, “I will marry you one day, girl.”

In that instant I knew everything would be okay. He believed in us. It was only a matter of time…

© Trudy Metzger

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By The Light of The Moon: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

Last night, as I crawled in bed after posting my blog to WordPress, I told Tim, “So I didn’t tell my readers that you kissed me the night you asked me to be your girlfriend.”

Rather than say, “Thank you!”, or “Good!”, he said, “Uhhh… What did you tell them?” It was dark, so I could not see his eyes, and any hesitance that might have been there, but I could hear it. He, on the other hand, couldn’t see the twinkle in mine. I gave him a quick overview. (He used to read all my blogs, but I’m writing too many, and he can’t keep up any more.)

Tonight, he asked what that first night was like, with his lips resting on my forehead. (The memories are more vague for him.) I had him stand up so I could show him. Afterwards, I asked him if I have his blessing and approval to continue telling our story this way, and he said, yes. With that, I will pick up where I left off….

After Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, we had at least one date night each week. We spoke on the phone most days, if not every day, and spent our Sundays together. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We loved quiet times. Reading together. And talking about everything from science, to church and religion, to personal faith. And pretty much anything in between.

Early on we talked about our boundaries, the ways we would protect our relationship from premarital sex. One of the things that made us most vulnerable is that, during most of our courtship, we spent a lot of time together ‘alone’, just the two of us.

Having left Howard and Alice’s home, where I lived for almost two years, we didn’t have a family in my life, to be part of our journey. It was up to us, and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I had made in the past. We wanted to protect our courtship.

It was appropriate that, early in our relationship, we walked The Mill Race again, and sat down at the dam. It was a beautiful spring night. The moon was out. The stars twinkled in the sky. Tim sat on the retaining wall, dangling his legs over the edge. I sat on the wall, my knees pulled up, my skirt falling around me, as I leaned back against him. Always the tomboy, jeans would have been so much more suitable.

We discussed why we would wait until marriage to have sex. Why it mattered, to us. It wasn’t about rules and regulations. It had nothing to do with the potential of church discipline. And not even biblical guidelines, in and of themselves, though that was ultimately the driving force.

We talked about legacy that night. About what we wanted our children to have and know. How important it was, to us, for them to know they were the result of love, within the confines of marriage. That they would never wonder if they were wanted or loved, and even why their parents were married.

We made a commitment that night, before God, and for the sake of our children, to live a life of holiness, and abstinence until marriage.

By the light of the moon, we discussed our future children, and our dreams. Even baby names. We agreed that our first daughter would be Alicia, a name I had fallen in love with in Pennsylvania, when I met Alicia Mullet (Weaver). She was a young woman of great character, whom I admired, though she was a few years younger than I. Furthermore, Alicia is the French version of Alice, and I wanted to use the name of the amazing woman who had changed the course of my life.

Tim agreed immediately to the name Alicia, and added ‘Gayle’, after his mother. And so it was decided that our first daughter would be Alicia Gayle. If ever we struggled with the temptation to cross those boundaries sexually, we would remind each other of the legacy we wanted to give her.

On another night earlier on, at that same location, Tim and I had talked until 5:00 in the morning. We started off outside, but as the night grew cold, we moved into his car, intending to leave but caught in conversation. That night I told him my story, starting in early childhood, the best that I knew how to tell it. Between my telling, and him asking questions, that took up most of the night. He told me his story as well, which took maybe thirty minutes, at the most.

As I invested my heart more deeply, fear and panic began to torment me. Unlike the previous relationship, where my then boyfriend would go back to Pennsylvania and I wouldn’t see him for several weeks, Tim stayed. It was a constant and growing relationship, and that terrified me.

What if this was ‘it’, ‘the one’… Somehow I knew he was, and with ‘the knowing’, panic of giving myself to a man tormented me. The conflicting emotion of feeling this new depth of love, in contrast with that terror, drove me to near madness.

Off and on, for several months, when Tim left to go home I sat in my little blue Z24, jamming Michael W. Smith, David Meece, and Stephen Curtis Chapman, as loudly as possible. The volume was to drown out my screaming, as I released the stress of whatever was happening inside of me. As I screamed, and cried, literally at the top of my lungs, I pounded the steering wheel, careful not to hit the horn. I didn’t need neighbours to come and check on me. I was afraid I’d be committed into a psyche ward, when in reality, I just needed to release the trauma of the past.

I always say that the evil that ‘goes in’, or is imposed on us, must come out. And the inevitable trauma resulting from that evil also must come out. Those nights screaming did more good for me than any counselling ever did. This is not to say that counselling is not good–it also helped me–but I needed to release years of agony that had remained trapped, agony that sparked this terror of relationship.

I didn’t tell Tim that this was happening. I had no idea how to tell him. And, honestly, I didn’t fully understand what caused it. I just knew that I felt ‘hell’ inside of me, and that this hell had to come out. This ‘routine’ was the only way I knew to release it.

And so went the rise and fall of being in love with a man I wanted to be able to give my heart to. He was kind and gentle, and I didn’t doubt that, when the time was right, and if he asked, that I would say, ‘Yes’. But the process was an endurance test.

The one fear, that I could identify easily, was that he would eventually see how broken I really was, and leave me. If that was going to happen, I wanted it to happen sooner than later. That decision made, I decided to help him end it, and in the process, end my torment…

© Trudy Metzger

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When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

For some time I’ve been contemplating the right time to share about the impact my childhood had on our marriage. Thinking about it gave me writer’s block for a while, so I laid it aside and told first of the journey of healing and forgiveness with my father.

Most of the ‘block’, I presume, is in my hesitance to tell someone else’s story. Even though Tim has given me permission to tell these stories–especially in the book(s) I’m writing–I still am cautious. I live my life and open book, and don’t really know just how it came to be that way, other than I believe it is what God has called me to, but I recognize that this kind of openness feels much more vulnerable for some people. And Tim is one of those people.

Tim is, by nature, reserved, private, calm, peaceful, serious, gentle, kind-hearted and strong. He needs his space, his quiet time, and is easily exhausted by crowds and attention. So for hundreds of people to read about our marriage daily, is a bit more daunting for him than for me. I don’t mind the spotlight, if it is for a good cause, though I don’t much care for it spontaneously. I like to have a plan, a goal and a purpose.

When it comes to sexual abuse, that plan and purpose is always in motion, so to share any part of my journey is nothing to me any more. Ten years ago it was not like that. I still physically trembled most of the time when I referred to it, and felt much more scattered. The purpose was not yet fully defined. As ministry in this area grows, and drawing from my story becomes part of the healing process for others, my fear about sharing has all but disappeared.

Still, I want to be sensitive to Tim, as well as to my audience, to share discretely the things that need to be told. To tell appropriately how abuse affected our marriage as I struggled to come to grips with the violations of the past, while embracing intimacy in marriage, emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually.

Not everything is appropriate (in my opinion) to share on the internet, that I would share in a book written specifically for adults, and targeting married couples. Because of this, I will not be able portray fully the struggles it caused and how we overcame it, but I will share what is appropriate.

Since I have already received very forthright emails, asking some pretty tough questions, I know that many of you can handle the truth. I welcome questions at any time, if, in my effort to be discrete, what I write is vague, or unclear.

Tim and I have fought hell and high water to have a strong marriage. We have been open, honest and transparent through some ‘inner secrets’ that would have been easier to hide. The hard times, including working through the abuse, and having permission to grieve what I lost, has created a strong bond between us. It has given my heart a safe place and there is nothing and no one in the world that competes with him.

As I share the hard times, including times when he did not know how to be there, I do so with utmost respect for the man he is and for his willingness to work through those things. I hold him in highest honour in my life, next to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

I have learned to trust him completely, emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually. He always has my best interest at heart. Even when we go through difficult times, and even when he fails me, I am confident of that one thing. And when I fail him, he knows that I love him. We’re human, and as I share our story, that will be obvious. It is the love and grace of God that have brought us to this place, and we share our story with gratitude to Him for that.

With that I will begin to tell our story, tomorrow….

© Trudy Metzger

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Spiritual Abuse Part 16__Men of God, Rise Up! Protect Your Marriage!

By nature I default to the stronger leader as long as the leader stays grounded on Biblical truth. I also default to male leadership, most likely because of my upbringing, and because my husband truly is a leader worthy of my respect, honour and… yes, the ‘s’ word… submission.

Tim is a man of integrity, unlike any I have ever known before. We have been happily married for eighteen and a half years. Well, most of them were happy years. We did have some very rough times as well. Times when we were not certain our marriage would make it. Or at least I wasn’t certain. Tim never, for even one millisecond, entertained another option.

About eleven years ago I had given up on our marriage. I wanted out. It all felt too complicated and I felt I had lost myself somewhere along the way. I started to look into other living options, started to plan how I would survive without Tim, how we would share our five children and not make it a big ugly fight.

 

Leading up to this, in the first seven years of marriage, Tim and I had never had a ‘fight’, really. We had disagreements but, for the most part, we are as compatible as two people can be. So why would I want to leave a man who never treated me abusively, or harmed me emotionally or physically? When life was ‘peaceful’, why would I want out?

We had grown apathetic in our marriage. We merely co-existed. We didn’t understand each other. We were both ‘nice’ and kind, but the depth was lacking. I wanted desperately to ‘know’ him and ‘be known’ by him. I wanted him to pursue my heart, to enter into my inner world, and I wanted to be part of his. Yet, both of us had retreated.

Add to this a health crisis, on my part, that left me physically weak and psychologically fragile, and I simply could not cope with distance in our relationship. Dark thoughts and hopelessness invaded my heart and mind.

When I proposed to Tim that we part ways, peacefully, and told him I wanted out of the marriage, he was crushed. The pain I saw in his eyes that day, told me more about his deep love for me than I had understood before. He heard my heart, no defences. I shared with him how abandoned I felt, how distant I felt from him, emotionally, and like I was the one who constantly had to keep our marriage alive.

Tim showed leadership that changed our marriage. He stepped into my heart, so to speak, and got to know who I am. He apologized for hurting me, for not protecting me and not ‘knowing’ me.

I don’t know how it came about, but Hilco and Joyce, a couple from the church we attended at that time, Koinonia Christian Fellowship, came to see us. They listened to us, prayed with us and gave us some basic tools to help us fight for our marriage together.

Beyond being ‘nice’, he made a promise to know and care for my heart, and invest himself in building our marriage, in protecting me and fighting for me and our children. Being a man of his word, he did just that. This leadership has continued over the years. We’ve had gaps, but through those ‘seasons’ we learned to fight ‘together’ for our relationship.

The greatest gift Tim has given me, over the years, is his unconditional love. No strings attached, he has embraced me, as I am. In every situation, when the storms hit, and ‘life’ threatened our marriage, he has taken it seriously and ‘tuned in’ and sought God with me. He has always treated me as equal, and has not withheld important information from me, and has included me in decision-making.  He hears me, and listens to my advice and then together we make decisions, with the final call being up to him, in many cases.

This respect, and feeling valued, has made it easy for me to submit myself to Tim’s leadership.  I trust his heart toward me and know, without question, that he longs only to bless me. (He does this from his heart, but the pay-off for him is pretty good too.) On the flip side, there have been times when Tim gave up something he felt strongly about, or wanted, because I was not at peace with it. That is part of healthy relationship.

We were created for relationship, for mutual respect, and in love to submit to one another. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church. Lead with a servant heart. Spiritual Abuse makes room for control, abandonment and expecting to be served, but that is not the example that Christ gave you. You will win your wife, if you hear her heart and validate her feelings. Take time to pursue her—she longs to be the apple of your eye. Be quick to say, “I’m sorry”, if you have wronged her. It will build trust. Pray with her. Get to know what makes her ‘tick’ and speak her love language.

Ladies, be patient with your husbands as they learn a better way. Encourage them. Be your husband’s number one cheerleader. Don’t leave that for another woman.  Believe in him and support him. It is a two-way street, and God has given us a lot of influence over our husbands. Above all, pray for him and with him, rather than trying to change him.

Gentlemen, fight for your marriages, it is worth it. Take it from someone who almost lost the best years of her marriage. Someone whose husband refused to let pride stand in the way.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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