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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The Romance Begins: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

Where to begin…

The shaping of a marriage begins in courtship, when two people ‘fall in love’, in the fairy book sense, and are immediately taken with each other, and blindly pursue relationship based on that infatuation. Eventually reality sets in. But not in the fairy tales. That’s only in real life. And in real life, not everyone follows the fairy tale beginning.

Tim and I didn’t ‘fall madly in love’ with each in an instant and never look back. It was much more gradual than that. I had lived too much life by that time to be quite so easily ‘swept off my feet’, and his nature isn’t one to be driven by feelings and emotions. (What feelings and emotions? he might have asked, back then.)

Tim has been described as stoic. Which he appears to be, but really is not. He has depth of soul and character that one only discovers with time and relationship. He can be intimidating for those who do not know him, because of his quiet nature, his depth and strength when he does speak, and because he is hard to read.

I am spontaneous, and on the surface can appear flighty and shallow. Well, less so now, having ‘matured’ with age, but that certainly was the case back then. I was as carefree as they come, as bubbly and outgoing as anyone, and outspoken, at least on the surface.

The contrast made us an interesting, and somewhat unlikely, couple. Not so much because of the extremes in our personality and temperament–since we really are well matched–but because of the social circles our temperaments tend to get caught in.

For me, the intrigue with Tim was there, the first time we talked. But it wasn’t a romantic intrigue. It was something very different. He was strong. Steady. Spoke with confidence, even when what he said was in direct conflict with popular thought. This stood out especially, because I was Mennonite, and he was with the United Church of Canada, and there were plenty of differences, creating opportunity for expressing such conflicting opinions. He did so without a tone of antagonism. He respectfully stated what he thought and believed, not threatened by our ‘rules’ and belief systems. This gradually led to an attraction that took me some time to admit, or even recognize, because it wasn’t that ‘crazy in love’ feeling of infatuation. It was much deeper.

For Tim, I’m not sure when that first moment was, when he ‘noticed’ me in a romantic sense, since he has never quite been able to pin-point it. It was gradual for him as well, with both of us carefully hiding, or denying, our feelings…

The first time I saw Tim, we didn’t speak. Not even a ‘hi’, that I recall. It was at a baseball game with the Countryside youth. I was the pitcher. He was the hind catch.

The second time was a youth event, in June of 1992, at Countryside school, and that is where and when that intrigue began. We met in the food line–hot dogs and salties–then walked together to the camp fire, where we sat until late at night, getting to know each other.

He left for Northern Ontario, shortly after that event, and I didn’t see him again until late August. We connected again, soon after, at another youth event. I observed how reserved and quiet he was with the youth, and how he opened up with me, so I made a point of finding him every time, and chatting.

I did the thing that women in conservative cultures are not really encouraged to do. I invited him over for coffee. Invited him over when I had other friends over. Now and then we went out on ‘friend’ ‘dates’–not boyfriend-girlfriend, just friendship–something that was also unheard of in our circles. And then I looked up his phone number, called his house, and talked with his dad. I told him I have something to deliver for Tim, could I get directions to their home. He gave them.

There was a concert in Toronto and I was going with another friend, and I hoped he would he want to come too. I delivered a stuffed grey mouse, holding a ticket for him, and a note with instructions on where to meet and other necessary details.

His mother met me, and gave me the tour of the farm. She took me to the back of the barn, where we found Tim. When he saw me, he pulled his cap a little further down over his eyes. It amused me. Clearly, having me show up had rattled him a bit, which was not my intent. I had hoped to deliver the ticket and disappear without seeing him.

We enjoyed the concert, with the other friend. Looking back now, I see that I had more feelings for him than I was willing to admit at that time. But, fearing his quiet nature would not be able to handle me and my story, I pushed them aside. In the process of trying to deny my own feelings, I attempted to set him up with a friend. Or, more specifically, I tried to create opportunity for them to connect. I was quite sure she had feelings for him, and, if he didn’t already have feelings for her, I was confident he would.

Unbeknownst to me, he had been told that my friend had feelings for him. And then there was me. I wouldn’t know it for almost six months, but he chose me back then already.

Our relationship remained that of casual friends, until March 20, 1993. Though, during that time, we went out almost weekly, just to talk about life, God, our faith journey. There was never a mention of our relationship, and we both seemed happy with where it was at.

That night in March was different. I had been to a family gathering that day, at my brother Cor’s farm. When we made the plans I don’t remember, but somehow Tim and I ended up walking The Mill Race, a lovely walking path in St. Jacobs Ontario. It was a beautiful winter night, with snow falling steady, creating the perfect romantic setting. (I love snow… as long as I am warm.)

We were bundled in ski suits, mittens, scarves and warm boots. We returned and had hot chocolate, and chatted awhile. When it came time for him to go, our whole world suddenly changed.

During the six months of close friendship, and weekly ‘friend dates’, we never once held hands. Only once had he hugged me, and that was on a previous visit when he asked about my family and I told him a bit about my dad and what life was. When he said good night, he stretched out his arms, offering a hug. (He says I tripped over everything in my path to dive into his arms. It’s not how I recall it, but I’ll give him that… just because it sounds so romantic.)

In reality… I calmly stepped into his arms. In that moment I knew how much feeling was behind the hug, for me. I knew I had ‘fallen in love’ somewhere along the line, and I was in too deep. But I let it go again, and chalked it up to friendship and care.

That March night, the eve of spring, Tim again stretched his arms to offer a hug. He wasn’t my boyfriend, but I had been with my family that day, and knowing what he knew, it made sense that he would give me a hug again. He looked down and his forehead rested on my lips. He said then, that he didn’t do it intentionally, and because he has always been a man of honour, I believed him then, and believe him still.

Without telling all our secrets, (though I’m sure you’re curious), in that moment our feelings were revealed. I don’t know who was more shocked. Each of us had guarded our feelings so well, that we both believed it was a one-sided attraction.

That night Tim asked me to be his girlfriend. And so the romance began. It was a night I will never forget, right down to the smell of his burgundy leather Lancers jacket.

But the journey had only just begun. The terror and hard work of ongoing trust lay ahead of me. If ever I was going to love a man for the rest of my life, he would have to prove himself worthy and trustworthy…

© Trudy Metzger

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