What was most helpful to you when you were questioning and/or leaving the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
It was extremely beneficial to meet a lot of different kinds of people and just listen to them and their stories as much as possible. I learned that there is so much variety in the world, and so many good and caring people! Later, it was also helpful to spend some time away from church and religious culture. It helped me see it with a fresh eye and understand how it looks to outsiders.
I had supportive friends. I can’t emphasize this enough. By the time I started questioning, I had made friends in college, friends who were okay with me forming my own beliefs and becoming my own person, friends who didn’t place expectations on me or try to put me in a box. They were there for me even though they really didn’t understand my background, or what was going on. They let me cry, they told me I could make it through this, they supported me even when they didn’t understand what I was going through. And they accepted me for who I was, no matter what – no judgment, no criticism, no head shaking. I couldn’t have made it without them.
I had some support from people who weren’t as strict inside the movement, and that was very helpful and encouraging. I also quickly found out about the ex-P/QF writers on blogs and internet pages, which is where I found my story repeated thousands of times. It was so helpful to know that I wasn’t an exception and that many many others felt the same way I did.
The most helpful thing for me was having a support system of a patient and thoughtful husband, a best friend who could relate and listen with kindness, and being able to spend time with my in-laws and see that it’s possible to have a lot of kids and still have a healthy family with unconditional love and lots of individuality. I also enjoyed reading Quivering Daughters, Toxic Faith, and The Purity Myth as I was processing things—these books gave me names for the things I was working through and had experienced.
Reading perspectives of other people who left Christian patriarchy or other extreme beliefs, talking and talking about my questions and fears, learning how to care for myself instead of always putting myself last, reading other translations of the bible than the one I grew up with and reading about other faith traditions as well. Going to counseling.
The most helpful thing for me was hearing other people’s stories. It is easy for people raised the way we were to ignore their own needs and emotions. I ignored all the abuse I received for years. It wasn’t until I read the stories of other men and women with similar experiences that I had the courage to face my wounds. Reading other stories, talking to other survivors, and finally voicing my own pain were the most healing things I experienced on my way out.
Having my ideas respected. The idea that somebody actually might want to listen to me was earth-shattering. That’s why college helped propel me out: I started realizing that I wasn’t just some idiot who didn’t know her place. I had actual, valuable contributions to make to the world.
Therapy has helped immeasurably. The therapist I am working with had never even heard of the CP/QF subculture before, so part of our work together has simply been me explaining it in a way she can understand. Having to articulate it all to an outsider has been good, and her bewilderment and honestly expressed shock have had something of a tonic effect on me. Even though she hasn’t worked with someone with my exact issues before, she’s been awesome about rising to the occasion and doing the research she needed to find out how best to help me. In a way it’s been a corrective developmental experience– having someone focused on nurturing me as an individual rather than on working me into a stereotype. Really I’d recommend therapy to any daughter of patriarchy who is looking to get a grip on life and find new ways of relating to herself and others.
Hillary McFarland’s book, “Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy” has also been a tremendous help and inspiration to me. I’d recommend it to those who are interested in approaching healing from a faith based perspective, especially if you find yourself confused about how to hang on to your Christianity while letting go of the harmful practices and interpretations with which you were raised.