CTNAHM: The Most Difficult Review Yet

CTNAHM: The Most Difficult Review Yet April 30, 2014

By Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need A Help Meet, pp. 163—165

Today’s format is going to be slightly different. There are 2 letters, one from a “spotted bride”, the other for her husband. Instead of going paragraph by paragraph and inserting commentary, I am going to type up the letters exactly how they appear in the book, and then talk about each one.

I’m going to be honest, I had a hard, hard time writing this post, because it echoed my experience so closely. So forgive me if it’s short, scattered, or different than my other reviews.

*TRIGGER WARNING FOR ABUSE*

Spotted Bride Made Clean

Dear Mr. and Mrs Pearl,

I would like to share with you some of my story in case you find it of use for your men’s book.

I had a childhood that left me very lacking as a wife, mother, and functioning adult. My father was manipulative and abusive mentally and physically. Both of my parents put on a religious act for the public that was a cover-up for their lazy selfishness, which created an angry and chaotic home. Many predators (including my brother) took advantage of our dysfunction to sexually victimize me and my siblings.

I was gentle, timid, sensitive, and always had a great desire to please others. As a child, I felt that I was stupid, I couldn’t do anything right, and was never good enough to earn love or even be noticed. As a teenager I became calloused to my parents’ emotional manipulation and I was rebellious to authority. I found that I could win favor in social circles by putting on my own act and so I became skilled in my own methods of manipulation.

This was the environment that I came out of at eighteen when I met and married my husband. I was introspective, thoughtful, able to reason, and my abusive history had matured me in many ways. But emotionally I was still a disabled child. I could not handle conflict and had learned to either lie or submit to abuse.

There was not a honeymoon period for us. My sweet husband was forced into the role of being a parent in many ways. He had to force me to dress modestly, practice safe habits, and not allow myself to be taken advantage of. I acted compliant in his presence while rebelling and dishonoring him behind his back and then lying to avoid conflict or blame. In  addition, I was entrenched in depression, grief, and self-pity. David had to get tough and force me to do the most basic responsibilities-cleaning, cooking, and being active.

Despite all of the conflict and ugliness that I presented David with, he never withheld his love or approval from me. He constantly affirmed that he thought I was beautiful. He jumped at every opportunity to praise me. And even when things were at the worst, he would find something about me to brag to his coworkers, family, and even strangers in the store.

The Lord is really the one responsible for my healing, which is even still taking place, but I know that David is a blessing God gave me even when I had turned my back on him. Through my wonderful husband I have learned so much about the love that my Heavenly Father has for me.

We have now been married for six and a half years and experience a wonderful unity in our views, dreams, and goals. I have read your wife’s book and am working on being the help meet I know my husband deserves. I continue to struggle with my old habits of depression and just plain selfishness, but I have been greatly affected by hearing what you say on joy and parental attitudes, and I am excited for the benefits my family will reap as I practice it more every day!

Thank you for Speaking truth,

David’s help meet

There is so much about this letter than resonates with me. With a few changes, this could be my story. From abusive, dysfunctional home to sexual abuse, to acting out as a teenager, and then meeting a wonderful guy that showed what love is—this is my story. It hurts that someone else had to experience these same things; a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

But there is so much in here, and the way she writes (if she even exists), that breaks my heart. I want to tell her that her upbringing was not her fault. She didn’t deserved to be hurt by those that should have loved her and protected her. I wish David’s help meet could know that she wasn’t rebelling against authority, she was using whatever coping mechanism she could to literally survive. She acted out because she was broken inside, and was never shown what it meant to be loved, or even noticed.

There have been numerous cases where teenage to adult victims of childhood sexual abuse learn to get what they want through sex. Often, the abuse was the only time the child felt loved, wanted, and connected. We’ve learned in foster kid class that sometimes gift giving is traumatic to children, because after sexual abuse, their abuser would give them presents. Even years later, Christmas and birthdays bring flashbacks and panic attacks. Because what we learn as children stays with us for years, sometimes forever.

I wish David’s help meet (I wish she had a name) would know that depression is common, and it’s not something to “force” oneself to get over. I’m glad she had someone kind to teach her how to be a whole person, and I’m glad that he complimented her and showed her what love is. I’m happy that David treated her like she was beautiful, because I know first hand how ugly and broken sexual abuse makes someone feel.

But I wish so much that Mrs. David was given the space to grieve and heal in her own way and time. While David sounds better than her childhood, I wish he would have gotten her mental help, or even had her in inpatient therapy, while she processed and worked through her traumatic childhood. I wish someone could make her understand depression isn’t a habit or a choice, and that it isn’t selfishness to take time for yourself, or to work on your coping skills. I wish that someday Mrs. David can be fully healed, and I truly hope that she has a strong support network.

Yet Michael doesn’t say anything. Literally, the book jumps from one letter to the next. On one hand, I’m glad, because I don’t think I could handle Michael talking about her “stain” as if it were a choice, and not something forced on a child.  On the other, I wish he would at least acknowledge that she has suffered and is healing…I’m not sure what I expect from him, but I wish it were more than just printing her letter.

Spotted Bride’s Husband Speaks

Dear Mr. Pearl,

My wife did not ask me to contribute to her letter, but I think some clarification is needed.

My wife is speaking honestly of her deep inner struggles, but I assure you that she is far more than she presents herself to be. Her difficult childhood planted seeds in her that are now showing fruit of strength of character. She has a quiet and enduring spirit about her. Before I proposed, I knew that once this young woman was transplanted to good soil and tended well, she would bear fruit that would feed me and our children well. And I was right! I married this woman because I could see pure gold under only a thin layer of debris.

I believed then, as I do now, that all husbands should call out the woman of God in their wives. I expected more than just “performance” from her. I required her to be what God requires from all of us, and I give her a great deal of love through the process. That is all I did.

As a side note, I would admonish any husband who is “disappointed”  in his wife’s performance. Many husbands expect their wives to do dog tricks for their own selfish pleasures. We do not have any Biblical directive to require that and therefore have no authority to demand it. And if a wife does happen to perform under those conditions, it will not bring the satisfaction that one would expect. He will see her expression of being prostituted and used. That only brings an awareness of failure to a man’s sense of mission. Instead, a man should think less highly of himself and then submit HIMSELF to the authority structure that God has delineated. Then, and only then, is it natural and easy to see what he has responsibility to fit and craft his wife into a beautiful piece of “functional art”.

By the way, I have gleaned a great deal from your example and found a sort of father figure in your writings. You live out and put on paper what I have dreamed about. You give me confidence to stand on what I have long been ridiculed for believing. Thank you for defining it so clearly.

And that you for creating such a wonderful role model for my wife,

David

You can’t see it, but I am sobbing like a baby right now. Because I thought David was going to be more like my husband, but his writing makes him sound exactly (suspiciously) like Michael.  Even though I’ve never met Mrs. David, and have suspicions she exists, I really felt close to her; like I understood her. I wanted things for her that I had. And, I’m hurt and disappointed in her husband’s letter.

For one, David married her for the specific reason of changing her. I asked my husband if he married me because he saw gold under my debris. He looked confused and told me that he married me because he loved me. And even the things about me that aren’t so nice, he loves, because I wouldn’t be ME without them.

I’m angry that David “called out” his hurting, broken wife and required her to live up to what his expectations were—it seems right away. My husband knew about my past before we got married. Prior to my diagnosis of bipolar, even. He didn’t expect me to do anything. Even early in our marriage when I stayed at home, He understood that some days would be hard, and if all I could do was stay in bed and watch Netflix, that was OK. He didn’t hold me to any standard, and didn’t demand that I cook and clean when I wasn’t up to it. Rather, he let me take the time I needed to heal.

To this day, he’s never pressured or “encouraged” me to do anything that I didn’t already want for myself. He’s never said that I should lose weight, but he is positive and encouraging when I tell him I am going to start exercising. He doesn’t expect me to be “functional art”. He wants me to be a person, and an equal.

Is he perfect? Of course not. But he is realistic about where I came from and is patient enough to give me the time and space that I need. We’ve been married almost 4 years, and there are still days that the most I can do is microwave leftovers for dinner. And he’s OK with that.

I am not religious anymore, but I think that how my husband has dealt with me is more Christlike than David’s “I hold her to God’s standard and love her through it, even though she is covered in debris.”

And I’m not even getting in to the rest of his letter. I firmly believe Michael added that himself, because the voice is so similar to his.

This post was difficult for me. I hope the next one is less triggering.

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