It didn’t take long for myself and Darren’s lengthy friendship to turn from dating to committed to one another. We were very much in love, and our voluminous email correspondence had already paved the ground for much of our relationship. I was so happy- I had met the man that I had been dreaming about marrying since I was old enough to dream about getting married.
As a homeschool girl, getting married and having a family was something that was very near and dear to my heart. I had thought about going to school, and I wanted to go to college, but the fact that my parents did not allow me to take the ACT or SAT tests-and they offered no other form of assistance- left me without the option to do so. It wasn’t too long after I realized that going on to higher education was not an option for me, that I met Darren. And my dreams of a blissful wedded life loomed bright on the horizon.
My hope chest had been a work in progress since I was 14, something that I actually started myself. It was a small tangible way to comfort myself with the thought of getting out of my parent’s home and creating a happy family. The hope chest was not something that my mom liked me collecting. Though in theory she liked the idea of a hope chest, especially for my childhood friend Hannah and other girls; practically she judged it severely. To her it was a demonstration of loss of control, a sign, and an emblem that a hope chest meant she would no longer control me and that I was not content to live with her and Dad indefinitely.
To me, my hope chest signified dreams that could be fulfilled and hopes that could be realized. Much of what I had in my hope chest I kept hidden from my mother because she felt that what was mine, was also hers, and wanted to use it. Ashamedly, a mother “borrowing” from a daughter’s hope chest is something that seems to be somewhat of a chronic condition in these circles and in some instances, outright stealing has occurred due to the jealousy of the mothers on behalf of their daughters.
But the sticky invisible bonds of enmeshment were still a yoke around my neck, as I tried to navigate the waters of dating without parental blessing, becoming committed without parental blessing, and think about marriage without parental blessing. My parents had made it clear that they dislike Darren a great deal. When I asked them why, over innumerable telephone conversations, the response (from generally my mother) was: “We just don’t know him well enough.”
There was much behind that statement, and I was no spring chicken. I knew exactly what she was getting at. What that meant was this:
- He wasn’t homeschooled.
- We don’t know his family and we can’t continue this enmeshed extended family system we have always dreamed of.
- You aren’t courting.
- You aren’t letting your father and I interview him to make sure he is a good fit you and that his worldviews line up completely with ours in the areas of theology, politics, family finances, marital roles, and child rearing.
- We are uncomfortable around him.
- You didn’t grow up with him.
We don’t trust you to make a good choice about someone you will marry. Let us do it for you so we can give you our blessing.
Needless to say, my hatred towards them only intensified as the realization dawned on me that they never knew me, they never cared a rat’s ass about me, they never loved me, and I didn’t trust them.
Even though I knew these things, it took years for it to get from my head to my heart. I did know that in my heart I couldn’t conceive of anyone else for me that could be more perfect of a fit. Darren was my best friend, he loved me, he was intrigued by me, and we saw eye to eye on everything. We had left no stone unturned, as both of us had come from dysfunctional homes (mine of course being far more severe) and homes where though our parents were married, their relationships resembled precious little of a team of two people passionately in love with one another.
As our relationship progressed over the next couple of months, we knew that we wanted to be married someday. I thought, that in the interest of humoring my parents, if we took them out for dinner, apologized for not asking for their blessing first, and then asked them for their blessing on our relationship, perhaps this thorn in our relationship would subside and it would produce something good. I was seeking the approval from them that I had never received but that didn’t stop me from trying to gain it. Since this is what appeared to be the issue, Darren (though he didn’t think that this was something that we should have to do) agreed and we took my parents out asking for their blessing on our relationship as we moved on to the next step.
It didn’t compute the results that I was seeking.
It took me years to realize that to have hopes that my parents would change was simply not going to happen. I went away crushed and angry when the meal that we paid for was basically ruined by my mom’s spiritual judgments and my dad’s pompous attitude of, “you are already dating so what’s the point.” It was clear they heavily disapproved of Darren, were not going to accept him, and felt that I was not ready for marriage. I was nearing my 21st birthday and according to my counselor, I had already “lived a life and had gained more wisdom and experience in my short 20 years than most people gain in 40.”
In retrospect, it wasn’t about any of what they said the issue was. It was about the need to control me, and the fact that I was physically beyond their reach to control me, the mind games and mental torture began on a whole other level. We were resolved to continue our relationship, but the aftermath of that insidious dinner did leave Darren questioning whether getting involved with my family was something that he wanted to do. This was a real test in our relationship, and we came as close as we ever did to breaking up at this point. We took a one-week sabbatical and during that time I went through a considerable amount of processing anger and hatred and bitterness for my parents. I prayed my way through it and God was faithful. He met me where I was, and Darren called later that week. We were back together.
Getting back together after that week off, proved to be the building block of the backbone our relationship would need if it would survive my parents. We were more committed than ever to one another and we were convinced that nothing this side of heaven could rip us apart.
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Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Chandra blogs at Dispelled: One Girl’s Journey in a Homeschool Cult
Chandra Hawkins-Bernat, was homeschooled K-12 (1986-1999), and is currently enrolled to get her Bachelor’s Degrees in Secondary and Art Education. She is also authoring her autobiography, Dispelled: One Girl’s Journey in a Home School Cult and is seeking to have it published in the near future. She is happily married to her best friend and is also the proud mother of three sons, two of which have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.