I am no longer surprised when I meet a woman raised in the same quiverfull Christian homeschooling culture as I who grew up to leave it all and yet still married young. There are a number of reasons for this, including habit and familial expectation. But I want to focus on a few common themes I’ve noticed in these situations, and the way these themes come together to create what I call the knight in shining armor phenomenon.
First, its important to bear in mind that one part of the entire Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy belief system is that even adult daughters must obey their fathers, because their fathers are their male authorities until they marry. Upon marriage, we become, in our parents’ eyes, under the authority of our husbands. When the questioning starts and is immediately followed by blowback and the expectation that we will obey, it isno wonder that some of us respond by grasping at that which is most sure—that if our father is no longer our male authority, after all, our parents will have to stop (or so we hope, at least). Marriage suddenly becomes the gate to freedom.
Recently Caleigh of Profligate Truth showed me a wedding picture. “You guys look so happy,” I told her. “We are happy because we were finally free,” she replied. Free, of course, from her father. Then, a few days later, I told another quiverfull daughter that, subconsciously, my parents’ beliefs about adult daughters and male authority played some role in my decision to marry when I did. Her response surprised me, though it shouldn’t have: “I married young for the same reason. It was the only way my parents would leave me alone.”
But there are additional factors as well. For one thing, it is not uncommon for quiverfull daughters for there to be a significant other involved in the process of leaving, and the result is often a desperate clinging together in the face of adversity. This can result in increased intimacy and attachment—after all, if a questioning quiverfull daughter’s significant other sticks by her through all of the crap her parents put her through, holding her hand and letting her cry on his shoulder, he has proven himself more than a fair weather friend. It’s also helpful to have a companion, especially when starting from a position of what is often great ignorance of naïveté about the world, and possibly losing ones friends and support systems from growing up. Also, having grown up expecting to marry early, doing so feels natural and has no stigma attached. None of these reasons are bad things.
Unfortunately, as a result of a number of the above factors, some of us may be tempted to see our husbands as our knightly defenders, standing and facing our dragon-like fathers or dungeon-like situations. Here is how Heather of Becoming Worldly put it:
We also saw it through a fairy tale lens, the rescuer, the knight in shining armor. It took my until about a year and a half ago to realize I rescued myself, I just picked [name excerpted] to be my companion in it and gave him all the credit. That was one area where this stuff, these teaching really f*cked with me and I see it now.
I was seeking out a knight in shining armor when all I needed was me to rescue me. I was fed a lie that I needed a romantic love relationship to make the rescue come true when it could have happened many ways.
It’s true. It is only too easy, especially when we are raised on romantic ideas of courtly love, for us quiverfull daughters to view our significant others as knights in shining armor come to rescue us. But this obscures the fact that only we can truly rescue ourselves, and that in reality we are the ones slaying metaphorical dragons when we finally say “no” and refuse to follow the play books our parents wrote for us and shoved in our hands.
For a time I did see Sean as a sort of knight in shining armor, but I eventually had to acknowledge that he was, like everyone else, flawed and imperfect. Yet our relationship actually improved when I took off the rose colored glasses and unrealistic expectations, and at the same time really believed in myself, gaining confidence as a person. See, the knight in shining armor/damsel in distress model is not a good foundation for a healthy and strong relationship. After all, in that framework knights are portrayed as flawless and damsels as helpless even though neither is true.
In other words, the reasons that many ex-quiverfull daughters marry young,while not all bad in and of themselves, often form a veritable breeding ground for a knight in shining armor/damsel in distress view of the relationship. This is something we quiverfull daughters need to be aware of and work against.