The Countdown: My Courtship Story: Part 6

This post is part of a series, to start at the beginning click here. 

Hunk and I and our parents set the wedding date that same night. He was going to graduate school (3 hours away) that August, and we both knew that we did not want to risk our parents nixing a wedding before next summer. A wedding over Christmas or spring break sounded complicated, and we both knew that he would be distracted from his schoolwork driving down to see me. Secretly I felt that I would go insane if I had to go days and days without seeing him. After a few calls to family members who lived some distance away, we settled on a date in July, eight short weeks away.

I now had a ring on my finger, and people who knew me at violin classes were shocked, they hadn’t even known I was dating anybody, and now I was engaged? I was getting married that summer? Who was this guy? Even at our conservative church there were similar reactions, and rumours started circulating that we were pregnant. One of my acquaintances in the church told me that I was being risky, that I “didn’t know that “Hunk” had been after pretty much every girl in the church.” That bothered me some, why would someone say that about him? I didn’t remember seeing that aspect of him over the year I had been in the church. I even talked to my Dad about it, wondering if I should ask “Hunk” what that girl had been talking about. My Dad said that peers opinions were pointless, the real people that mattered were “Hunks” parents, did they have good things to say about their son? Then everything must be fine. In the end I considered the source of the negative comments and decided to ignore it.

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I stressed alot about leaving my family. As the oldest sibling I had so many responsibilities, would my mom be able to do it all without me? I knew my leaving meant that the sisters next down in the birth order would be taking on my chores, and I felt guilty for leaving them with that burden. I felt a burden to be a protector and encourager of my siblings, and even though I failed miserably at times, I loved them all so much. Someone else would be fixing their hair, practicing violin with them, and baking with them. Would any of them even remember me once I moved out? I tried to make time to connect with each sibling by taking each of them out on a date with me in the weeks before the wedding.

I felt the worst about leaving my six year old sister. This was the sister that I had cared for since my mom had put in my bedroom as an infant. I had been almost exclusively responsible for dressing her, grooming and bathing her, feeding her and correcting her. In recent years I had been homeschooling her as well, and she was making good progress in reading and writing and violin. Would she get the attention she needed after I was gone? She was very angry about my getting married, and told me that I couldn’t do it because “then I would have to move in with ‘him’”. I tried to explain to her that I wanted to live with “Hunk”, but that I still loved her and I would miss her so much. She didn’t take it well, and would hardly talk to me over the next six months or so. It was very hard for me to leave her.

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Engagement was a really awkward and frustrating time in relating to my parents. They continued to control so much of our relationship, and it was hard for us to set any boundaries because in the patriarchal mindset I was still under my father’s authority. I really wanted to make it to the wedding smoothly without too much conflict, so I continued to try and balance my relationship with my fiancé’ with obedience to my parents. But in my heart, my loyalties were already shifting to “Hunk”. I was tired of asking my parents permission for every little thing, and “Hunk” would sometimes get frustrated with my inability to make decisions on my own.

I tried to focus on spending as much time as I could with my fiancé and took a backseat in the wedding planning. It was easier to just let the parents plan most of it, instead of arguing over stuff. My mantra was “As long as I get to walk down the aisle in a white dress, I’m happy.” And for the most part that was true.

We did put our foot down once. “Hunk” had arranged to borrow a relatives’ brand new condo for our honeymoon the week after the wedding, but my Dad had a problem with the fact that it was 3 hours away. According to him, once we were officially married the first thing we would want to do was have sex, 3 hours away was too long of a drive for us to handle. We explained that we were sure that we could make it a bit longer in order to get to our destination, and it might even be nice to have a drive and relax after the hubbub of the wedding. But he insisted that we would regret it. He even offered to get us a hotel room 20 minutes from the church where we could stay for two nights before heading up to the condo. We compromised by agreeing to let him get the hotel room with the understanding that he and mom could go there themselves for a nice getaway if “Hunk” and I decided on making the drive after the wedding.

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In early June (1 month after our courtship had begun) I went on a trip with “Hunk” and his family a two days drive away, to attend a wedding of a friend of the family. The trip was wonderful. At the wedding dinner I had a glass of champagne (my first alcohol ever) and we danced slowly together at the reception. I felt so beautiful around him. I soaked up all the uninterrupted time with My Love, and we talked more than ever.

His family allowed us a bit more freedom since we were engaged, so the whole drive down we were together in the backseat sitting as closely together as possible and talking. I got to go to the Atlantic ocean for the first time in my life, and we spent a day there in the sun and the water. Even though my parents were still against physical contact, “Hunk” and I ended up getting a lot closer on that trip. After a long day at the beach, we snuggled tiredly in a hammock together and when his mom took a picture of us I joked that she shouldn’t develop that picture until after the wedding, since according to my dad we weren’t even allowed to hug yet. We were still trying to keep from kissing each other, so even though we spent hours with our foreheads touching looking into each others eyes thinking about kissing, we refrained.

One night we walked down to the beach together, and spent some time looking at the stars that hung so low it was almost as though I could reach out and grab them out of the sky. It felt so peaceful there, I wished we could stay forever. I was starting to feel so comfortable with “Hunk”, I was more and more certain of my choice to marry him, it felt like freedom. We danced together in the moonlight, barefoot in the surf. Then “Hunk” picked me up to swing me around, and in the dark my lips bumped into his. A moment later we sprang away from each other and I covered my mouth with my hand wondering if this was my first kiss? “Hunk” apologized right away, and I tried to explain it away in my head. It couldn’t really be a kiss right? There was no pre-meditation (on my part at least ;) and our lips had barely touched. As we walked back to join his family at the place we were all staying, I decided that it was kind of a kiss, after all it was such a romantic place to have a first kiss! I wanted to kiss him again (for real this time!) But I had been told over and over how kissing would instantly lead to sex, and I wanted to obey my parents and be a good example to my siblings of “purity”. This kiss had felt so beautiful and natural, not bad or dirty at all. But there was no way I was telling my parents about this, I resolved to redouble our efforts to be more careful from now on.

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On the drive back home, I was sad. Still so many weeks till the wedding, it seemed like an eternity away. I didn’t really want to go back to living in my parent’s home till then. We snuggled in the back seat, and “Hunk” reassured me that he would be coming to see me pretty much every day, we would make it alright. When we pulled up to my family’s house and all the kids spilled out of the door to greet us, I could tell right away my parents were displeased. My shoulders were badly burned from our day at the sunny beach, and I had worn a tank top (normally reserved for layering under shirts to make my necklines more modest) for the drive home. My mom pulled me aside and told me that Dad wanted me to change. I tried to explain about my painful shoulders, but she said that I was not only deliberately tempting my fiancé by wearing it, I was being a bad example to my younger siblings. I changed my shirt.

And counted down the days.

To be Continued…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    Aw, how sweet about the "kiss"… I can't imagine all the things you had to think about…permission to do this, not allowed to do that…I would be so confused! But that's me.

    I love your story!

  • http://nowealthbutlife.com Rae

    My heart breaks for your relationship with your little sister. Mine wasn't quite so dysfunctional with my youngest sister (and she was only 10 years younger) but I do know the feeling of having a sister as one's "baby."

    Yay for awkward exciting first kiss stories! And I'm not mocking you. Mine was so awkward that it didn't happen.

    Also, I hate the way parents "wisely" talking to their daughters about modesty seems to always end up making the daughters feel badly and often dirty about their bodies. At least I don't think that I'm reading too much into this?

    And can I just say that I loathe the conservative courtship view of sex? You can't even make your own decision to wait all of three hours to go from not touching at all to having sex? Youch.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Michelle- Most of those rules had been enforced my entire life, so it was more like impossible to get them out of my head than hard to remember.

    Rae- It was strange. I remember trying to explain away her reactions as "normal" somehow, now I wonder what she was really feeling at the prospect of losing someone who played such a big role in her life.

    I did feel that my body was ugly, and I still have my hangups even today when trying to be open and relaxed with my husband.

    Really! I remember feeling baffled by how we "wouldn't be able to control ourselves" a bit longer, I mean why not just strip down in the church after being announced man and wife? He was serious though, and he did get us that hotel room because he was sure we would "need" it.

  • http://www.flatheadmama.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Ohmigosh, CREEPY re. your Dad insisting the first thing you'd want to do was have sex…can anybody say, "Not his business???"

  • http://www.flatheadmama.blogspot.com Rebecca

    I also can't help thinking that it was like divine intervention that you were able to escape the patriarchy.

    I had a difficult growing up too, and no close examples of a good marriage. Sometimes I feel like God delivered me from that and miraculously gave me my loving, kind husband. I am so grateful for him and for our marriage!

  • Anonymous

    I love the story about the kiss!
    Really, I have always had problems wrapping my head around the fact that the first kiss should be in church. I'd feel HIGHLY uncomfortable having my first kiss in front ALL OF THE PEOPLE. I think it's one of the most intimate and magical moments a couple can experience. It's just about them, not about everyone else.
    My sister didn't have a kiss in church for that same reason.

    I know many people have problems with kissing before being married… but on the other hand… don't you think that the story of your first kiss is such a precious and wonderful and private memory that you can be happy to have it just for yourselves and treasure it for the rest of your lives?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Rebecca- I do feel that it is miraculous that we've been able to build our marriage around respect when we didn't really experience much of it growing up.

    Anonymous- I agree! It was very special and I'm glad I have that memory, I just wish I'd been in the place to "disobey" my parents and kiss him a few more times. :)

  • Rebecca in CA

    I'm really amazed at how you were being treated like a child right up until the day of your marriage! I can't wrap my mind around that…expecting your daughter to "obey" you but thinking she's adult enough to have her own family at the same time??? My parents were pretty big on obedience, but as we grew up they gradually treated us more and more as equals–the word "obedience" would not have even come up by the age of fifteen or sixteen.

    Very sweet about the kiss though…we didn't kiss; our lips just bumped accidentally. Love it. :)

  • Beth

    I was sad to hear that you were the parent for your younger sister. Pretty much raising her until you were married. I have a hard time understanding why quiverfull families think it is ok for their children to raise their younger children. The Duggars glorify this lifestyle on TV. They are seemingly so generous (as we call large families in Catholic circles…) for having 19 children. Yet, their 4 oldest pretty much run the house and there is no way Jim Bob and Michelle could actually parent all of their children. And they believe this is God's plan? It would be admirable if they parented their own children instead of having their kids raise their kids. Large families need to have that balance where everyone helps out but parents retain their responsibility.

    Young mom you are breaking free and you will find wholeness.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05354424704358588553 lissla lissar

    I am trying to make it less icky in my head that you would go from no touching at all to Not Able to Keep Your Pants On for three hours just because you're married. There's a lot that's deeply wrong about it. How about, 'I'm glad you're getting married and will be able to learn intimacy together, and the beauty of self-giving', or, 'Sex is wonderful and an icon of Christ and His Church.'

    It brings to mind people with eating disorders who can't possibly stand to go into a fast food joint because they'll be overwhelmed and stuff themselves. Not human, not good behaviour, not a good model for marriage and sex.

    If this is incoherent please forgive me. We're all getting over a bad bout of flu.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Rebecca in CA- I’m still treated like a child by them in many ways to this day. They now acknowledge that I make my own decisions, but that doesn’t stop them from pressuring me to make the decisions the way they would, or discrediting things that I believe or remember because “I was just a child” or “I don’t understand”. At 15 and 16 I was still being punished regularly for disobedience, by the time I was engaged I was far more used to doing whatever they wanted, so I was more “obedient”, my punishments were restricted more to taking the car keys, or not giving me permission to go somewhere. But I was still manipulated constantly.

    Beth- “Large families need to have that balance where everyone helps out but parents retain their responsibility.” Yes! I have no problem with helping and working together as a family, but it is sad when people don’t see the damage that can be done to siblings that are parentalized. Sibling Abuse is very very common in these toxic family systems, simply because the parentalized child is not ready to be a parent, yet has responsibility and authority over other siblings.

    Lissla- That kind of sums up the perspective of sex I grew up with. Sex is practically seen as an addiction that you will literally have no control over if you let anything into your life that could hint at sexuality.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05354424704358588553 lissla lissar

    It's interesting- I remember making an argument to my mother when I was about eighteen for being in my room with the door closed, with my boyfriend. I argued that since I had decided to remain virgin until marriage, and so had he, it didn't really matter whether the door was open or closed, and if I HAD decided to sleep with him no restrictions were sufficient- we'd find a way. It was about self-control instead of parental control.

    Now, there were a lot of flaws in that (mostly in being young and stupid) but I think it's basically true- you form your children's thinking, you try to make them faithful and virtuous, and then you have to start letting go. Death-grips don't work. It's funny the way I'm already having to let go and hope my little ones behave- no matter how much I fear that they're going to act up/be mean/steal/hit/throw, I can't control every minute of their lives, and I shouldn't try. That way lies power-struggles and corrosive fear and rebellion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08129509609170344883 Leah

    Ugh! The way your parents spin it, it's like they think a relationship is about nothing but sex!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08117370558367559716 Agnes Regina

    Wow… I think you guys were wonderful for being so self-controlled, but I think the exaggeration on your parents' side was a bit much! I hug my friends, both guys and girls; it would be ridiculous on my part not to hug my boyfriend, let alone fiance… The kiss story is really cute though. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02837127566252406162 Sara

    AAAH! I'm so sorry, I don't want to be insensitive…. but your parents are so fucked up! I'm laughing out loud as I read your story because not only do I TOTALLY understand and can relate, but I LOVE how you remember these little details. I rarely remember or think about my "courtships." I was a harlot. I courted several guys. ;-)


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