Raised Quiverfull: Culture Shock

Since most of the world doesn’t understand Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy culture, do you feel this creates barriers in friendships or in romantic relationships? Do people have a hard time understanding you and your past?

Joe:

Coming soon.

Latebloomer:

It seems like people are much more interested in who I am now than in who I used to be.  Personally, I try not to bring up my past until a relationship or friendship feels more established.  It is often hard to avoid though because there are also a lot of common conversational topics that I can’t really contribute to without shocking people, things like childhood family relationships, school experiences, dating, and pre-2005 pop culture.  When I do “come out” as an ex-fundamentalist homeschooler, it is always a very stressful experience for me despite my efforts to be casual about it.  Luckily, these days I feel encouraged because people more often respond with something like, “Wow, I had no idea….you seem normal.”

A lot of this progress toward normalcy was made possible through the unceasing support of my husband.  Sorting through my childhood baggage has actually brought us closer together and made us both better people.  When we first got together, neither of us had any idea how much childhood baggage I had though.  Despite my husband’s conservative Christian upbringing, I shocked and horrified him many times with stories and memories from my childhood.  Our countless hours of conversation have helped me process my experiences and helped me realize that these things are not typical of wider Christian and secular culture.

Libby Anne:

This? This is where I get stuck. I feel like it would be easier to explain my feeling out of place if I could say “I was raised Amish” or something like that. Then people would have at least some idea of what I’m talking about. But most people have never heard of Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull and everything that is involved in them. Most people have no idea how to understand my past at all. I really think some people I know try to avoid me as “the girl with that crazy past.” This does affect friendships too. The people I consider my closest friends are those who do understand my past, and know where I’m coming from, and can in some way identify with it. As for romantic relationships, my husband has heard me talk through these things so many times, and has gone through so much of my leaving process with me, that he generally can understand and is a wonderful support.

Lisa:

Some people certainly do, yes. Germans are very straight-in-your-face rude (if you’re not used to it) and a lot of people have asked weird questions. There are lots of mix ups with other christian sects. The European public generally knows only about big incidents, such as the Zion group in Texas being arrested for sexual abuse of children, so a lot of associations with that are made. People used to ask me a lot if I was sexually abused, married off to an old man, if my dad had four wives and things like that. But they are all curious to hear the truth and ask many questions to understand. My friends have no problem dealing with my occasional weirdness and help me out a lot. Of course I have some issues where I just can’t get over old habits and beliefs, but I feel like I’m generally accepted pretty well by the people around me. Sometimes, this “Oh it’s because you’re from a cult” thing annoys me, when people try to explain things I do by connecting it to my childhood. Not everything I do has something to do with it. But I can be just as German-rude as they are and just tell them straight to their faces it hurts me to be categorized like that, which helps a lot.

Now, in romantic relationships, it’s different. A lot of things don’t come easily. My boyfriend didn’t understand why I didn’t even want to touch him at first and I think that hurt him a lot, too. Everything is hard, and everything is a fight. I don’t think it would work with someone who isn’t as patient as my boyfriend happens to be. He does get angry at some things too, sometimes, and has to take a few minutes to himself to get over it. I have to be honest, I wouldn’t blame him at all if he left me tomorrow. I know what the bible says about love, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. I much rather quote a woman who said: “Sometimes, you think love will fix it. All we need is love, more love. But sometimes, love just isn’t enough.”

Mattie:

I’m usually able to brush things off by saying “I was homeschooled,” or “I’m the oldest of nine kids,” and that tends to clear up a lot of confusion. I don’t like explaining in a lot of detail what my background is, since most people just won’t understand even if I tell them my story. Usually it’s not important to explain things. My husband is from a similar background, and so we are able to relate over a lot of these things, although his family was a much more healthy and stable than mine was.

Melissa:

Most people don’t know what I am talking about. Just the usual questions you exchange when meeting someone (how many siblings do you have, what did you major in, how did you and your spouse meet) is enough to make it clear that I have an odd history. I usually try to keep my past somewhat vague in the average friend/ acquaintance relationship, so I don’t put anyone off by confusing descriptions.

Sarah:

My background, on top of being hard to explain, has made me emotionally disabled. I was trained to hide my emotions, and “guard my heart.” It has been a huge struggle for me to learn how to connect with people honestly. I used to lie a lot about my childhood. I would make up elaborate stories about sneaking out of the house and partying to try and relate to peers, and then I would turn around and tell fairly tales about how perfect my childhood had been and how incredible my parents were to try and appeal to a different crowd. It is very hard to explain your past to someone when you don’t understand it yourself. Don’t feel pressured to share things that you haven’t processed yet. Once you have a better grasp on the past, it’s easier to share the truth about your childhood in a way that makes sense to people, and without getting embarrassed or ashamed.

Sierra:

I’ve found that most of the dynamics I grew up with in my church are also experienced by worldly people. My “normal” friends have dysfunctional family dynamics where one partner dominates another (even without the Bible telling them to). They have problem siblings and sexual double standards. They are sometimes overprotected and forbidden to do things like date or go to prom. They are raised in other religions (one Catholic) that load them up with existential guilt, too. Basically, I don’t think there’s anything all that special about Christian Patriarchy that can’t be understood by “normal” people.

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Raised Quiverfull Introduction — Adjusting Summary

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Rebecca

    I always say that I was a homeschooler in the most steriotypical kind of way – the denim jumper-wearing, granola-eating, flour-grinding type. And then sometimes I clarify further by mentioning that my parents also didn’t believe in birth control. I dearly wish that, like Latebloomer, that I would come across as normal, but I’m pretty convinced by now, after years of striving to blend in, that I have have some kind of aura about me that smacks of my conservative upbringing – acquaintances are never surprised to find out about background, which bugs me so much! I dress normally, can relate the music and entertainment they discuss, had a boyfriend for a year, never brought up God at all – and yet I stood out. I hate that! Although I don’t think it has bothered others, my bizarre past.

    I do remember particularly in college how little my roommates and close friends could relate to my constant anxiety about my family at home, my little siblings, my mother. Several of them were the oldest children, as well, and thought correctly that it was abnormal to fret over the kids like they were my own and be racked with guilt for leaving my mother with so much on her. It wasn’t until my senior year and I discovered the No Longer Quivering website and that there were other girls out there like me that I realized why I felt they way I did about the family. Family unity was the thing my parents cared most about after God, and we were so isolated that of course we siblings were close, and then there were the little brothers that we older girls raised – homeschooled them, dressed them, bathed them, read to them at night – how could we help but have tender maternal feelings towards them and worry now that we had left them?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I do remember particularly in college how little my roommates and close friends could relate to my constant anxiety about my family at home, my little siblings, my mother. Several of them were the oldest children, as well, and thought correctly that it was abnormal to fret over the kids like they were my own and be racked with guilt for leaving my mother with so much on her.

      My word, I could have written that line for line. It’s been years since I’ve thought about how strange my roommates and college friends thought I was because of my constant need to talk about my siblings, and how bad I felt leaving them and leaving mom with so much additional work!

      It wasn’t until my senior year and I discovered the No Longer Quivering website and that there were other girls out there like me that I realized why I felt they way I did about the family.

      It seems to me that one of the biggest benefits of NLQ is telling girls like us that we’re not alone and not crazy. It did that for me, and I’ve talked to many many others who say it did that for them as well.

      • kisekileia

        “My word”? Just so you know, someone under 60 using that expression is kind of a giveaway that they were raised quite conservatively. :P

  • Contrarian

    I like Sierra’s answer: People are people are people. The dramas that play themselves out in mainstream cultural life play themselves out in fundamentalism/CP/QF, with different names and clothes. (This is of course not to say that the other answers are somehow incorrect in any sense.) Perhaps illustrating how the common foibles of human nature play themselves out in the CP/QF cultures might help bridge the cultural gap.

  • http://phoenixandolivebranch.wordpress.com Sierra

    I really hope my last few answers don’t make anyone feel hopeless. It did take me six years to get to this point. Going to college was both exhilarating and painful, because I forced myself to take every opportunity I could to be normal (short of joining a sorority) but I also was SO aware of my shortcomings. I would come home from every social encounter and replay the whole day in my head, beating myself up for every awkward moment I could remember (even if it wasn’t my fault!). But I finally don’t do that anymore, and I finally don’t feel isolated from society anymore. I want to share that so that others will realize (a) you’re probably way more “normal” than you think already, and (b) there is still time to learn to be comfortable with yourself in society.

  • Karen

    You don’t have to be homeschooled to be “weird”. You don’t have to be intentionally kept out of touch with mainstream culture to be ignorant of it. Not everyone else knows what “everyone else knows”. I recall playing with dolls well into my teens — to re-enact scenes from my favorite sci-fi books, Greek legends, or my own writings. (My mother was aghast when she found her favorite dishtowels had been converted to togas for goddesses.) But quotes from the latest movie went right past me. Some of us didn’t not fit in because of our upbringing; we just never fit in.

    In my last two engineering jobs (I’ve since changed fields) I dealt with, and even managed, people who came to the U.S. as adults. While their English was usually fine, their knowledge of idioms was nil. I had to retrain myself in the art of communication. Some blithe Bible quote or reference to Greek/Roman mythology was totally lost on these people, and it was my fault for expecting them to know references I’d been raised with since childhood. So I got more straightforward in my communication, and we all got along just fine.

    People recovering from CP/QF shouldn’t need to feel outlier or different because of their different backgrounds with REAL friends. Real friends take where you’re coming from in stride. Alas, those real friends are rare.

    • http://www.howtocover.blogspot.com Maya

      Karen- I was thinking many of the same things as you voiced, when reading this piece. My family is not particularly religious, we didn’t homeschool, etc. But I grew up feeling different, partially because of just who I was, as a kid, and partially because our family culture was different from my peers. We didn’t watch TV that wasn’t educational or watched as a whole family, I had grandparents rather than babysitters, we listened to classical music and the music of my parents’ teenage years rather than contemporary pop music, and we weren’t allowed battery-powered toys. I’m grateful for those things now, but it made fitting in at school very difficult, and still gives me a different frame of reference than many folks I know. And that’s ok.

      • Carol

        Maya, we were the same way. Pop music was not forbidden – it was ridiculed and still is. Anything contemporary was ridiculed in my house. I missed a lot of things other kids knew about and it wasn’t helpful at all. It made fitting in really, really hard for me, and I struggled for so long because it fostered unwarranted snobbery and as a family it’s something that reached even deeper than that in ways I’m not even sure about and the outcomes were not good.

        One time my son was doing ballroom dancing at his school and my dad said to him “Just listen to waltz music it’s so beautiful, don’t listen to rock music it’s terrible” I snapped back “Listen to whatever you like!” I refuse to pretend that anything that came out of Germany in the 1800′s are far superior to any musical innovations in the country like jazz just because it’s got violins and is called “classical”. I like all kinds of music, but for some reason my dad thinks that if you like contemporary music then somehow you can’t like classical music at the same time. It’s just not a helpful attitude for growing up. My son loves ACDC and Cole Porter, we have a mix of zydeco and showtunes and all kinds of things on our gadgets and it’s all good stuff.

  • Pingback: It was like leaving my own children


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