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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