Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Joke Was On Me (Part Sixteen)

Tuesday promised to be a busy day. Errands to run, and an engagement party that night to prepare for. There was a function going on at the local church that evening, so we timed our party with that in mind, being that a good number of family friends would be involved at the church. We invited people to begin coming by at 4PM, so we'd need to get an early start on preparations.



I awoke a little after 7AM and walked back to the bedroom doorway, cracking the door just a bit. She was sleeping soundly, and I stood there and just soaked her in for a while. She looked beautiful. More than beautiful. I woke her at about 8, and we cuddled for a bit before having breakfast. Within a couple of hours, we were off to town.


As we were pulling out of the driveway, I sensed some unease in her...


Me: Everything ok?
Her: (hesitant) Yeah, I'm just worried about tonight. What if they don't like me? They'll be judging me, and what if they don't like me? I don't even know how I should act around these people. What if they don't like me?
Me: Don't even begin to worry. The people coming tonight are coming because they care about me. They'll be curious about you, no doubt, but the only way they'll judge you is whether or not you make me happy. That's all they'll be concerned about - "Does she love him and make him happy" - so more than anything, I'll be the one under the microscope. All they want is to see me happy. You'll blow them away. Trust me.
Her: Are you sure, Lew? I'm just not very good around people I don't know.
Me: Just be yourself and they'll treat you just like an old friend. They're gonna love you. You're gonna be fine. 
Her: You sure?
Me: Absolutely. And besides, even in the event that they didn't like you, I'd still love you. Nothing changes either way. They can either board the train with us, or wave goodbye as we leave the station, but either way, we're on the train.


After a few minutes of building her up, she settled, and her nervousness and insecurity gradually shifted to anticipation. This concerned me a bit (more now than then). Yes, I wanted to be strong for her, for us, but I didn't want her to perpetually adopt my strength and confidence. I wanted her to discover her own strength. For so long she'd been taught that confidence is actually arrogance and conceit, that she had to remain meek and mousy to be "godly", and socially, in human interaction, for her up was down and down was up. 


We'd once had a conversation about some of our initial encounters, and she'd conveyed her impression of me as "busy, confident, aloof yet attentive" (paraphrased a bit). I told her that I probably was busy (the week we first met I had a lot of irons in the fire), but that I intentionally walk and move confidently, even when I'm not confident, because body language can be a loud conversation. Projecting healthy confidence usually drives away the people you don't want to interact with, and puts at ease those you do want to interact with. She was completely clueless to this kind of thing. Her parents had failed her as mentors in so many ways. Way back in our first conversations, I'd ask her questions not concerned at all with her answer, but with the way she answered - her body language, the sources she tapped to answer - because in doing so I'd get answers to several questions I hadn't actually asked - at least not verbally. This is what she interpreted as "aloof". She was naive, and while that was beautiful in its own way, I wanted her to expand beyond her small parameters, to grow beyond the helpless little girl who was "created to be my helpmeet", adrift in a dangerous world without her man to uphold her.




We picked up a few things for the party. Nothing elaborate. A cake, some finger foods, et cetera, and being that a lot of the people would be coming straight from work and leaving straight for church, I wanted to feed them something of substance, so we picked up about half a dozen pizzas. Like I said, nothing elaborate or formal, no gifts required, just good friends (and a few relatives) getting together to meet my bride.


I was honestly blown away by the number of people that came. They started trickling in right around 4 o'clock, and by 5, the little country house had probably 40-50 people in it, numbers that held on until probably 8PM, with some leaving and new batches arriving regularly. Some of my dear friends from the recording world drove in excess of 2 hours to attend (and the woods out here aren't on the way to anywhere), and that meant a great deal to me. Many of them would arrive, take one look at me, and immediately start crying and hugging me. Being happy, yourself, is a blessing, but seeing other people happy at your happiness is genuinely humbling.


Of course, I had her right there on my arm, proudly presenting her to my world. She looked incredible.


A couple of hours in, a bit of mental (and probably emotional) fatigue hit me, so I asked her, "You doing ok?" She answered with, "I'm fine, Lew." With that, I made my way to the sofa and plopped down. The next 30 minutes were amazing. The room had gravitated from "us" to "her", and I sat there and watched her work a crowd of strangers like a long-time pro. She had the grace and easy rhythm of a willow, moving seamlessly from one conversation to the next. I don't know exactly what was being said, what with a symphony of rapid-fire conversations going on all throughout the house, but whatever she was saying, I could see the faces on the receiving end of her words light up, sometimes casting looks of affirmation in my direction. Occasionally she'd look in my direction and mouth the words "I love you". One of my long-time professional buddies dropped in beside me and said, "She makes you happy, doesn't she?" I answered, "She does." He responded with, "Well, she loves you, and she makes you happy. That's all I care about. It's a beautiful thing, buddy. Good for you." This confirmed to me everything I'd suspected about the quality of my genuine friends. Solid people.


As things wound down that evening, the crowd thinned out to just a few of my long, longtime friends, and along with my family, we talked about the old days, back when we were younger and a heck of a lot prettier, with few cares other than when we could get the next basketball game together out back. It was a good visit. Once all the visitors had left, and it was just my folks and brother (and his family) left, we sat around and talked even more about our childhood, and she soaked it all in attentively - even if she couldn't relate to all of it, laughing at times, elbowing me in the ribs at times, and blending in as part of a family that would love and accept her - good, bad, or ugly.


By the time we'd visited, as a family, and then cleaned up the residuals of the party, it was nearing 11PM. We were exhausted, and had another busy day ahead of us on Wednesday. I walked her to her bedroom, where we had a few minutes of "us" time, cuddling, kissing, and exchanging "I love yous", we said a prayer together, I tucked her in, and then once again settled in a chair beside her, stroking her hair and forehead until she fell asleep. It was, to that point, the happiest day of my life - something I'd be able to say a few more times during her stay. 


In a period of no more than 8 hours I'd seen her full spectrum - the frightened, insecure, helpless, naive child she'd been raised to be, and the bold, confident, vibrant yet graceful woman for which I'd always seen the potential. I wouldn't rest totally easy about her until the day when that might even out, and lean toward the vibrant and confident, but I was content and determined to love her without relent no matter what stage of her journey she might be in, even if she were consistently a different woman, or a lesser woman, as she was when the people from her world were in her ear.




Wednesday morning found us saying farewell to my brother and his family. It had been a good visit, having them celebrate our happiness with us. Later that morning, we headed to the jeweler to get her ring resized. We had wanted to wait until after the engagement party (naturally), and while we were there, we spent some time looking at wedding bands for me, finding two or three prospects we really liked. We also spent some time strolling through the shops and stores around the jewelry store. She'd grown up with little of anything, and as I watched her looking at various items, I decided that at some point in her visit, the girl was gonna shop. I wasn't exactly wealthy, but I had enough that I was absolutely gonna take my bride to town and say "have at it".


Once we got back to the house, we scarfed down some leftover pizza, and then got dressed to go to a wedding. A younger cousin, who'd always looked up to me like an older brother, was getting married about an hour away, and there's no way I'd have missed it, or have missed the opportunity to present my own bride to yet more people of significance to me. My ex (it really sucks to use that term this deep into the story) looked incredible, wearing a blouse/skirt combo (I don't really know the right terms for women's clothing - J.Edgar I'm not), but was concerned that she didn't look "dressy" enough for the occasion. I told her, "You look great. Look at me." I was wearing jeans, a long-sleeved dress shirt, and Rockports. Not exactly formal. The dress code was "casual dress", as it was an outdoor event.


Me: Would you feel better if you put on a dress?
Her: I don't have a dress.
Me: Didn't have room to pack one?
Her: No, I don't have one. I've never owned one.


If nothing else, I knew what I'd take her shopping for. At some point, soon, she was gonna be the proud owner of any dress she wanted.


The drive to the wedding was beautiful, through a small mountain range, apple orchards, and spring in full bloom. She was soaking it all in. Happy. Breathing. The ceremony was held on the porch of a little, rustic log cabin, with the sun setting over the Blue Ridge mountains, just beyond a rugged log fence, behind us. Quite a romantic setting. She squeezed my hand and snuggled warmly against my arm all throughout. After the ceremony, as we all lined up to greet the wedding party, my cousin broke down in tears when I got to her, telling me, "I was doing ok until I saw you. I'm so glad you could come." I love her, sweet gentle soul of a beautiful young woman she is, and I was thrilled to share in her happiness, and share a bit of mine with her. When I introduced her to my ex, my ex embraced her deeply, warmly, once again demonstrating almost a chameleon nature, taking my condition upon herself as her own, almost as if she were communicating my feelings to my cousin on my behalf. I think some of it came from a healthy connection to me, a genuine connection, or at least I'd like to think it did, while some of it probably came from her own gravitation toward whatever she perceived as the nearest "strength", whether it was strength or not.


She willingly and happily joined in with some of my other relatives in prepping for the reception, which was happening there under the porch of another cabin. When it reached the point where the bride shares a dance with her father, my ex and I stood to the side, watching my Uncle very awkwardly, but lovingly, dance with his daughter. That was a difficult moment for my ex, and that difficulty manifested in tears. I just held her close and told her, "We're gonna be ok."


On the trip back home, I took a winding mountain road that weaves its way up to the top of a ridge. For a stretch of two or three miles, you can look below at the town lit up like a Christmas tree, and see the lights of half the county beyond it. She was at the same time pensive and at ease. She enjoyed the lights. It was a great night, with beautiful weather, to see them. Through the rest of the trip, little was said. It had been a busy and exhausting three days. She'd occasionally lift my hand to her face or to her lips, and she'd tell me "I love you, Lew." I really thought my heart might burst. So in love with her.


The next day would finally give us a chance to rest a bit. The three days since she'd arrived had been wonderful, but rest was needed and welcomed.

81 comments:

  1. Beautiful memories, Lewis. If only..... :(

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  2. Glad to see you posted a new one on this, but so sorry everything went bad for you.

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  3. Every time you post a new installment, especially this one, my heart breaks for you.

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  4. I appreciate it, guys.

    I'm actually doing well with all of it. Pretty far removed from most of it. A couple of little triggers yesterday evening, so I wrote. It still sucks, no doubt, but I'm glad I can say that I have to dig a bit to reconnect to the emotion I wrote about.

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  5. You have come a long way, Lewis. Someday, I hope we get to meet in person so that I can give you a big hug of thanks for sharing your story and speaking out for those of us that are still healing and for those that are still in the trenches.

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  6. I'm sorry this happened to you, I am glad that it's not as raw. ((((hugs)))) from a stranger if that's not to weird LOL

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  7. Reading these laster entries in your stories makes me increasingly furious that anyone would dare destroy something so beautiful.
    *hugs*

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  8. Ditto what Anise said. And more hugs too.

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  9. I absolutely love how you treat family. You put me to shame.

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  10. i'm going to go Total Dork here.

    somewhere in the Multiverse, this story had the ending it SHOULD have had - even more! she married you, and she was happy and confident and an ADULT, and this inspired ALL her siblings to GROW UP, TOO, and find Real Happiness, and to accept Jesus and Grace over Man's Law
    [sorry for the almost German composition, but those all *needed* capitalization]

    i grant that most of my basic beliefs - not religious beliefs, those aren't basics, but beliefs like "the sun will rise" and "people are people" - come from reading, learning to read at 3, and most especially from Robert Heinlein [who i've mentioned here on your blog before :) ]
    there is one specific book i'm referring to, of course - The Number Of The Beast, which is NOT what people are going to assume. the "Number" refers to the parallel universes accessable thru one rotation of coordinates on a machine that was created to take people to said other universes. the "Number" here is 6^6^6 [6 to the sixth power, which is 46656, then 46656 to the sixth power]
    in reality, the number of universes *IS* infinite - the "Number" merely defines those that are easiest to access.

    but i swear, somewhere, this story is right.

    and i hope that you find that a comfort, and not bitter [*I* find it a comfort, which is why i think you might. i KNOW that in some other universe, X or Y didn't happen, i'm not stuck in a wheelchair now, whatever. it helps me to believe that.] and if i've misjudged and this hurts you... i've been debating posting it for hours. i DO NOT want to hurt you, and i think [from all i've read that you've written] that it won't hurt you now, though it would have a year ago. but it might help. is the risk of harm worth the potential to help? [this is why i'm NOT in the medical field - "first, do no harm", i define things differently... none of that being relevant]

    i hope so. if i'm wrong, please tell me so i can avoid a repeat?

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  11. I just keep wondering where your ex is now, is she married and have any children? I am concerned about her mental state and how that will affect her relationships with a spouse and children. It is almost like she had or has two personalities, an outward one that conformed to what her family expected and demanded from her and an inward one which is who she really is (which is the one you saw when you were together). What will happen down the road when the good, loving, fun memories of her time with you and your family surface and she compares the freedom she experienced then with the life she is experiencing now, especially if that life is full of obedience to rules, legalism and no freedom.

    Her family has set her up for a life of regrets, anger and bitterness among other things.

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  12. Meg...As far as I go, and all that went on with us, she's dissociative about it. She probably couldn't care less if I were run over by a bus. After they reindoctrinated her, she was an empty shell only capable of cultspeak. She said some really ridiculous things to me and the people in my world, as if she no longer remembered reality.

    She married a guy who, to my knowledge, was also homeschooled and attended PCC - and isn't the most discerning guy (I spoke to him a couple of years ago). I don't know anything about her life now, children, et cetera, other than being fairly certain she doesn't love the guy she married. If she has children, I pity them. She may be away from her parents, but she certainly isn't "out". She's just found a new patriarch and "spiritual head".

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    1. Wow. I really think there's only one thing you can do: call in the FBI! If that doesn't work, just troll that family. I know you've gotten over it, but they absolutely deserve it for everything they've done.

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    2. Speaking as a woman who left fundyism and at one point had a relationship end because of family or social expectations, I'm willing to bet that even though it's too late and her fate is sealed in regards to you, she does still have feelings. She is probably in survival mode, hence the cultish babble indoctrination. She is, imo, lying to herself to dull her pain. She will very likely at some point, resent her religion, abandon it and even from a distance wonder where you are and what you are doing. You will likely always represent a freer or happier time. Sooner or later, everyone has to stop lying to themselves to gain any peace. I don't mean to offend anyone, but this is one of the dangers of religion and not raising children to think for themselves and respect their life choices as adults later on. I hope you heal and find happiness again.

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  13. @denelian...That wasn't hurtful at all. I appreciate your thoughts.

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  14. i tend to be paranoid that i'm going to upset/hurt ppl.

    i wish i had something *constructive* that would help :(

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  15. It's really hard to get out of it. Even after you've left. It's still hard sometimes. You say different things, you want different things, but it's been your whole life.

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  16. [[[Hugs]]] These stories must be hard for you to type. I don't know how you do it.

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  17. Maybe you should try showing these to her family. Possibly strap them to a chair and read them aloud. Okay, maybe that last part is a bit extreme. But it's easily one of the best ideas I've ever had. Though that isn't saying much. They probably won't care, but you can film their reaction for the world to see.

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  18. I know an adult woman, 23 years old. Her family went into a P/HS church not long ago, and she married a guy from the church. She was one semester away from finishing her BS degree. I appreciate your honesty and openness. I fear for her and for her future children.

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  19. When are you going to finish this story? I'm sure it's painful, but it would be interesting to see how things unfolded after the party. I'm so sorry for your situation.

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  20. Hey Lewis. Just had an experience very similar to yours, with an individual from a patriarchal family who was beginning to heal, and then pulled back in at a critical moment and brainwashed out of a few years of mental/emotional maturing back into being a child.

    I'm so sorry this happened to you. I can't imagine what it would feel like to watch this happen to someone you were in love with.

    You're not alone. Glad this forum exists to help people understand.

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  21. "In a period of no more than 8 hours I'd seen her full spectrum - the frightened, insecure, helpless, naive child she'd been raised to be, and the bold, confident, vibrant yet graceful woman for which I'd always seen the potential."

    This is where you made a fatal flaw, Lewis. You fell in love with her potential, not who she was at that moment in time. You always wanted her to change, and improve (who wouldn't?) but, as you have learned, people need to do that on their own, for themselves...

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    1. I genuinely fell in love with the whole package - good, bad, and ugly. If there was a mistake I made, it was in putting faith in her potential, because really, our whole future rested on it. Like I say in this post, the potential was being realized right in front of me, as it would continue to be while we were physically together.

      She was one person with me, and a lesser person with them. I loved both, but there was only hope for a future with the former.

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    2. Dear Lewis,
      Our wonderful son has had his heart completely broken twice by similar families. Though there are differences within these families, there are eerie similarities between some of the things about which you write and some of the things that have happened to us and to our son. I have told my son that God has spared him much agony by preserving him from marrying one of these girls. These experiences have been the worst ones of our life, but they pale beside what it would be to have to deal with these people for one's whole life. God often does things that really hurt, and He allows people to abuse us, but He loves you, cares for you, and He will work this - even this - for your good. Take care, keep playing music, and may God bring you the happiness you hope for.
      In Christ,
      A NON-Patriarse Dad in Oregon

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  22. So, what happened next? I know she is your ex at the end of the story, but with tears I always hope that something will change in the next installment. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  23. "I intentionally walk and move confidently, even when I'm not confident, because body language can be a loud conversation. Projecting healthy confidence usually drives away the people you don't want to interact with, and puts at ease those you do want to interact with."

    This is one of the most powerful things you have ever written. And so spot on.

    I think Christians sometimes mistake confidence for arrogance which is a shame, because confidence is an extremely powerful thing...an essential to a happy life whether you are Christian or not.

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  24. Thank you for writing this. My brother married into a family a bit like this several years back and is caught in this whole mess of manipulation. It's heartbreaking, but very helpful to have a better idea of where his in-laws are coming from and what he's probably going through.

    I'm sorry this happened to you, but I admire your strength for sharing it.

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  25. I've been link-hopping all day, and came to your story. I never comment on the random things I read on the internet, but I wanted to say I love you. I admire you. Though you haven't finished the story I've gleaned the end results from the comments, and even though it seems she faltered and went back to how she was raised, I think I fell in love with her a little bit, too, through your eyes. This account of everything was beautiful, and painful -- but like she asked you when she first really started to fall in love, there can be beauty in pain.

    Keep writing. Keep playing music. Keep being brave, and honest. Most of all, keep loving. <3

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  26. Thanks for sharing, Lewis. It's beautiful and encouraging to read about how much you loved her, in spite of everything.
    hugs

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  27. Your story, bittersweet and incredibly personal, has completely drawn me in - and I thank you for writing it. I understand if the rest of it is too painful to continue writing about, but I wish you'd at least put a few, sparser sentences to let your readers know how things ended between you two. From reading a comment I assume she was reindoctrinated and you couldn't convince her to think for herself one last time, to pursue a healthier life, away from her family.

    If this is truly the end of your story, I will imagine a happier ending for the two of you; at least a happier ending for you. From what you have written, you seem to be an upstanding, intelligent, honest man, and whoever is in your life or enters your life in the future is very lucky indeed.

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  28. What happens next! I just spent the last two days reading this every extra second I had. I'm so intrigued by this story and I can't wait to hear the end of it. I can't imagine living through this, makes me want to take her and RUN! How sad. Please write another installment!

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  29. I hope you finish this soon! I can't find a part 17, so I guess it hasn't been written yet.

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  30. Part 17, please! Please don't leave us hanging.

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    1. Its pretty blatantly obvious what happens next. He dosen't need to finish this for your personal entertainment.

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  31. I have read this breathlessly... I was raised EXACTLY like this, but even more conservative. For instance, I wasn't allowed to be in a relationship with ANYONE outside our circle. Six years later I'm finally learning to have my own strength and not suck it up from someone else who is "stronger" or "godly".... I could throw up over and over reading what you write because I KNOW what kind of mindset you were dealing with... KNOW it inside and out... I still will feel guilt for being independent and thinking on my own. STILL. I am happy, but I feel that I'm not sure that God approves of me... Yep, I recognize that this is complete BULLSHIT, or Shull bit.... But it is HARD HARD HARD when you have been soooooooooo brainwashed from childhood!

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  32. I'm also eagerly awaiting the rest of the story..... it has to be horribly difficult to write! It needs to be written, though - and WAY too much of it reminds me way too much of my own experiences with courtship. :(

    -- Elle

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  33. I don't even remember how I found your story, but I've just spent the last two hours reading all 16 posts. Where's installment 17, please? Everything is looking so (comparatively) rosy - when did it go off the rails?

    This story has proved in me great feelings of gratitude at a narrow escape. My mom's second husband sounds like the evil twin of your ex's father. I'm so, so thankful that he never found a religious sect like this once (which I'd never even heard of until tonight!) or it would have been way worse, because he would have gone in for it all full-force. Thank you for sharing! I pray that God will heal you and use this experience, somehow, for good!

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  34. Dear Lewis,

    I stumbled across your story thinking it was only 4 parts long, but once I began I have been unable to tear myself away. I have had two very long nights after my own children went to bed, being on the edge of my seat to know what happened next. All the while being broken hearted and almost in tears knowing that you are not still together. You are each other's heart, and it is quite clear to see that. What a tragedy in life that it was destroyed. Abolished. Annihilated.

    My heart breaks for you, for having gone through so much turmoil for the woman you love, to end up not being free to love her. And I pity her dearly... She does not love the man she married, and she did not marry the man she loves. I have no doubt in my mind that despite her re-indoctrination, you are her heart. Not that her P/QF upbringing would allow her to express it outwardly, but I know in her heart (and even if her mind does not recognize it for what it is), it is you who she will always love. Tragic... For the both of you.

    What her life could have been. From reading your words, you are exactly the kind of man who would have helped her on her journey to find strength in herself as a woman, and to learn to feel confidence. I wish so dearly that things did not result this way, it truly is.... Back assward, in sincerely the only way I can describe it. I, too, am angered by this patriarse and his selfishness, his squandering of this beautiful spirit.

    I wish you peace in your life, Lewis, take care.

    -Becca

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Becca. We'd have had a tough road to hoe - me with the baggage created by all of this, and her with a lifetime of baggage, but I'd have loved her anyway. The real tragedy, to me, from all of this is the fact that because of the religious addictions and stupidity of her parents (and their cohorts), she and I will never KNOW what our lives would've been. That's where the P/QF and courtship paradigm really loses it's traction - it allows a person (or group) to make genuinely ignorant, religion-driven assumptions/decisions (that often can't be undone) on behalf of another person. Religious role-playing.

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    2. Very tragic indeed. I hope time allows the hurt to lessen, and heals the wounds inflicted upon both of your souls from these people. They are no people of God, and are righteous only to themselves. I hope Denelian was right about the multiverse in which you two could have lived a life together free of this. Though you may never know for sure what that would have been, it is quite clear from this point in your story that it would have been a beautiful life. I am so sorry it was ever robbed from you, and for such prideful reasons. I suppose it must not be easy to have people like me popping in every so often to remind you of such, so for that I am also sorry.

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  35. Please write more. I keep checking this blog to see the rest of it. I come from a background similar to hers though not so severe. I want to know

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  36. Please do write more. It's been so long that perhaps it's hard to go back again now, but please do. I've been following you off and on for a few years and would love to hear the rest of it.

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  37. After reading this, I'd like to ask you if you know anything about how your ex is doing now since the two of you broke up? I ask because your descriptions of your relationship and her family dynamics make me very worried for her emotional well-being, and quite frankly I'm worried that she may have suffered some sort of emotional breakdown in the aftermath of all this. Even learning that she's returned to the status quo of what constitutes normal life for her in her family's cult would be reassuring for me to hear.

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    1. She's married to a fundamentalist youth pastor and PCC grad (neither of which bode well), but beyond that, I don't know. Last contact I had with her (several years ago) she was in total denial. The denial couldn't have been more complete. Last anyone from my world had any direct contact with her (several years ago) she was completely dissociative. She'll pretend to be happy and healthy whether she is or not, because that's the "godly" role she's been indoctrinated to play, and their lives are about role-playing - not about living, loving, and feeling.

      I want her to be healthy and happy, but I'm not sure I really care anymore.

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    2. I hate to say it, but I think you dodged a bullet there, really. I know you thought you were in love with who she was, but.... The poor girl (woman) was so stifled she had no idea who she was; how could you possibly know? She was mirroring you, because that's what she'd been taught was her job, her role, her only purpose in life (besides making babies, that is). Of course you loved the mirror. If she had, after several years with you, found the courage to discover herself, there's no telling if you'd get along after that or not. It would be a craps shoot. And I say this as someone who was raised to be fantastically adept at mirroring...and who broke a few hearts because that's all I knew how to do.

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  38. Shoot. Dang it all. I am one of those who stumbled onto your story and spent the last several days reading it. I *know* how it turns out and yet you have written so beautifully about the love you had and revealed your heart so that I, like many others, want the *right* ending, God's ending, instead of the one dirtied and destroyed with controlling, sinful fingers.
    I guess I'm glad that you've given away the ending in the comments since your last installment leaves us thinking (hoping, praying) for the "happy ending".
    I know this is what you have had to do to heal but your last sentence above - "I'm not sure I really care anymore" - is heart-breaking. God bless you, Lewis. You seem to have good people around you, family and friends, and I pray that you are well.

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  39. Aw, come on man, you've got to write more about this- even if its just an abbreviated version of what went down at the end.
    I gather that she just disappeared. One day she stopped communicating with you.

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    1. Thats a bit selfish isn't it? He's already mentioned what happened in earlier comments on this entry. He doesn't need to write you a book.

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  40. Please finish this story! You left us hanging....I check back every once in awhile to find out what happened. How did things go wrong in the end? How did you recover? Heal? Forgive? This is a helpful story and you are a talented, heart-felt writer.

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  41. I find it very rare that I am so enthralled with an internet piece that I walk around doing normal daily things and find myself thinking "What happened to that movie? Oh, right. It was a blog. I'll have to go back." In fact I think it has happened only twice in my life. I really appreciate what you have shared with the world. I also would like to request even an abbreviated ending. I do understand that reliving it for the sake of finishing the story once you are moved on may not be possible, however.

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  42. Found this through a link on Love, Joy, Feminism. Please, please, please write one more installment and tell us how this ended. I know you broke up, but what happened after the party???

    You were very brave to make your way through all of this.

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  43. I came across your blog today somehow. The rabbit hole of the internet, I imagine. I read through all the parts of your story and am saddened by the outcome. From reading your comments here, my hopes that something would change and you'd find happiness together were dashed. I'm a sucker for a happy ending and a good love story - always the romantic.

    I grew up in a fundamentalist religion with a strong emphasis on patriarchy. Fortunately for me, while my parents were born again and zealous in their new found faith, my mother's hippie upbringing and Irish temperament didn't lend itself to the "head of the house" bit too well. (Which ultimately led to them leaving the church.) Your posts and story have opened so many of my own memories of the women and girls I saw go meekly into marriages approved by fathers and face complete estrangement if they went outside the church.

    I've always believed God is love and as such love is the more important than the restrictions man uses to control and abuse. I'm so sorry you went through this and that love was not enough. I hope peace and comfort have found you and look forward to reading the rest of the installments.

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  44. Lewis,
    I've spent my entire day reading your story. So powerful and heart breaking. Please finish it!!!

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  45. Ditto for me. Please finish! You are an excellent writer!

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  46. Lewis- I am your ex... My boyfriend sent me a link to your dictionary a couple weeks ago; he'd found it while researching patriarchy and trying to understand my background.

    Your story has given me the desire to fight this tooth and nail. I can see the wrongs in this kind of mindset, but as you saw with your ex, it's so hard for us girls to break free, especially in our minds. I've had to learn that trusting my parents because of their position is dangerous. I do not believe a word they say, and it has driven me to research, read, and come to know what *I* believe.

    The past weeks have been so hard in so many ways for me, and reading your story has shown me my boyfriend’s perspective. (My independence is being asserted in many ways, from my relationship to finishing my BA [yep, I’m going to college from home, but it’s more than most of my patriarchy girlfriends can claim] to job opportunities [Find me another college student that has a school creating a position because they want them to work with their students so much. Yeah, I know right? A homeschooled daughter of patriarchy who wants to teach in a school; you can just imagine the fallout I get daily for that.] to moving out [the school is 40 minutes away, my aunt live 1/2 –mile from the school… it just makes more sense] to blatantly challenging their “convictions” [I’m scheduled to work my summer job on Sunday this week… I give you permission to pity me. ;)] all while attempting to maintain a semblance of sanity.

    I get the bi-polar narcissistic tendencies you had to deal with in FFFIL, and I am so sorry you had to go through all of that. My boyfriend and I are on the road to a happily-ever-after, and we’re going to reach it. It breaks my heart to even imagine someone going through all of this and still never getting to live the life they so deeply yearned for with the one the loved. And that’s where I differ from your ex. I back my man 100%, but I know how to be strong. I communicate with my parents, even if fearfully, because they’re *MY* parents, not my boyfriend’s. I’ve sought out a network away from the patriarchy movement, and all of my advisers are not connected to those thought processes. I still think like your ex in too many ways, but I know it, and I’m fighting hard to think on my own. I analyze, I question, I defy when needed. I’ve called my father a heretic and liar to his face, respectfully because it was truthful. I tremble with fear, I wind up sprawled on my bed incoherent from the manipulation, I call my boyfriend in massive tears and confusion, I yell at the clouds, I pray my heart out, and I stand strong. I’m not changing, and I will wait.

    And I’m praying for you, Lewis. I’m dying to ask for the outcome of the story, but I know how painful it will be for you to write it. I wait, I listen, I pray… And I fight to avoid your ex’s result. I fight hard.

    -SA (And, yes, I find it humorous that my initials match your “sarcasim” warning… ;)

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  47. This is quite possibly the saddest love story I have ever read. Even though I know it ends, because you refer to her as your ex, I can't help wanting to know *how* and *why*. Many years ago, I married a man from a family with an abusive patriarse (I do love the neologism!). It wasn't spiritual abuse, "merely" emotional, psychological, and physical, but I was so naive, because it was something foreign to my family and upbringing, that I did not recognize it for what it was. Unfortunately, it transferred to the next generation and I became the victim of it. I have since learned that it was probably inevitable because he had no one else to model himself after, just as your ex probably had no other female but her mother after whom to model herself. I am sad for both of you that you could not help her break the cycle.

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  48. Hello Lewis,

    I came across your blog through following rabbit holes on the internet. I grew up in a P/QF family. I cried so many times through your story because it was all so familiar to me. Thankfully, I did manage to get out but not without many lives being trashed in the meantime. My older sister to this day never married or even showed interest in a guy while she lived at home, so me being the next in line means I was the first to try out the whole "courtship" thing. Most guys would run screaming in the other direction when I would say: "Well you have to talk to my dad before I go get coffee with you." I remember one guy who actually did agree to talk to my dad first. That was one awkward evening with my parents talking to this guy as my potential husband while he and I still barely knew eachother, much less were evening thinking of the possibility of being a couple. He never called me back. I also remember another non P/QF guy who innocently texted me. My parents flipped out, thinking we had to be in a relationship because he *gasp* texted me "Hey what's up?" (They had to first search the internet for what "What's up?" means because, no lie, my father thought it had to have a secret message in it.) Plus, him texting me was "the appearance of evil." Despite my family, I did manage to meet a guy that I genuinely liked and I think that I would have had married and had a great relationship with if it weren't for my parents. He, however, saw through my parent's bullcrap and I think he realized that we wouldn't make it through my parent's bullcrap, so things ended before either of us got hurt (too badly, in my part, because I desperately wanted a guy who would put up with it all and just get me out of it). The guy is still one of my best friends and many times I wished I could have had the chance to have a life with him. After getting my heart broken by this guy not wanting to put up with my parent's bullcrap to get me, I turned against everything resembling what I was raised with, including morals. Still under 18, when the police showed up and dragged me home from an escapade my facade was ruined. It's a miracle I survived the next couple years. It's also a miracle that the hospital staff did not investigate further my broken ribs and punctured lungs about a month after that incident.

    A younger sister also did manage to get out, but also very painful. She realized that the only way to get out was a teenage pregnancy, which my parents then covered up with a shotgun wedding. (After all, my dad is a leader and like you mentioned there are a list of things leaders need to exemplify and having a teenage daughter pregnant is not one of those things.) To this day, my parents will not recognize how hard her life is for her as a teenager with a kid, married, and trying to actually recover from spiritual abuse and become her own person. They only repeatedly say: "How could she do this to us?"

    All my siblings survived childhood DESPITE the P/QF movement. Did we all turned into functioning adults? No, but I think there's hope that one day we can get there. It takes years to overcome that depth of abuse. It takes years to even be able to admit that your parents were wrong.

    Thank you Lewis for writing this out, even if it was painful for you. It helps prove to me that I am right in not following my parents crazy ideas of how we should go about getting married.

    Broken but Healing

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  49. Oh, Lewis... I've got no words, really, aside from wanting to say that I so pray you find and hang on to happiness. I'm so glad you're blessed with a great family and lots of friends! I really hope you finish writing the story of your relationship with this beautiful woman who couldn't -- wouldn't? -- pull herself away from the toxicity. I'm absolutely enthralled and would love to know what happens, how it all turns out, and why.

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  50. After reading all 16 installments about your story Lewis, I want to call my dad. Even though he's not the "talking on the phone type" and it's almost midnight here on the west coast so it's almost 2am in Omaha where he's at. My parents will celebrate their 46th anniversary this September, their commitment to faith and their love for each other is the model I look to for any future relationship I may have myself.

    When I see some of the father-daughter relationships that exist even within religious families, I am humbled and ashamed for the times I haven't been terribly grateful for the one I have; he has encouraged me to think for myself and to be independent, cried with me when my heart has been broken, and weathered my ups and downs so that I didn't have to go through the 'storms' alone. In some of my conversations I have with my mom (she *loves* talking on the phone, enough for both of them) is where I learn more about my dad - his youth, family, what he was like in the early years of their marriage - the stuff he finds difficult to talk about himself. And to think, he was thinking about dropping out of UCLA and becoming a full-time pool shark! These bits and pieces fill in my picture of who he is, however imperfect a man, I love my dad.

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  51. Goodness, your story is exactly what I realize I've witnessed happen in the lives of some young girls. My eyes are opened even more to the danger and damage in these controlling families. Although we ourselves homeschool, we are not the normal "type" of homeschooling family. We are not accepted in these patriarchal environments because I have a voice, my children play sports out in the WORLD, are taught to think for themselves, don't have a dress-code (aside from dress out of respect for "yourself and others"), go to college, etc. We simply love Jesus. However, we do have friends in these Patriarchal circles. It's an interesting dynamic. I will end it with words spoken to my husband from the pastor of one of these patriarchal focused churches. "J-, I have one big issue that's been bothering me. My church will never reach out and attract people who look like you to Jesus (My family dresses "normally", no required dresses, etc & my husband is a minority). Instead, people come who already look like us and they just end up even more that way." Lewis, I'm so sorry for the heartache you had to endure. I do believe many families are now waking up to the falseness of all this.

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  52. It is a shame this is still going on in America. Prayers and hugs to you.

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  53. I just spent most of the day at work reading all 16 installments of your story. My heart breaks for both of you. I'm not religious at all, but I can respect the people who find comfort in church, or churches that try to actually improve the lives of their members and communities. P/QF gives religion a bad name.

    PS - please finish!

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  54. yes, are the parts done?
    why can't I find part seventeen?

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  55. It is a painful thing to have loved and lost, truly. But at the same time, it's not prudent to marry with the expectation that someone will change. Had you married, she likely would have looked to you as a patriarch. Wouldn't you have grown weary of being her strength and doing her thinking for her? When marrying someone, you have to be prepared to live every day with them as they are the day you get married. It seems to me that simply rescuing this woman from her family would have no guarantee of turning her into the confident, decisive person with a strong moral compass you seem to want. Perhaps the blessing is that the decision was taken out of your hands so that you were saved from a marriage whose chances were slim. It takes a lot of personal fortitude to come to terms with a spouse's habit of, say, leaving every light in the house on or forgetting to turn off the oven after cooking. I don't see how someone who values the ability to think and be guided by their own moral compass and study of religion/scripture/right and wrong could make it over the long term with someone who, much more likely than not, is unable or unwilling to develop those skills. Love counts for a lot, but it isn't everything when it comes to the success of a marriage. Nonetheless, I hope you have found peace with your life as it is and have people around you that bring you joy.

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    1. In no way, shape, or form could I consider the decisions about our future being taken out of our hands a "blessing". People in her life choosing FOR her, and the two of us being stripped of the freedom to actually discover what our future could've been together, is the tragedy of the story.

      Other people wanted their fingerprints on what should've been exclusively hers and mine. No good can ever come from such a thing. None.

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    2. I just read your story and like so many others I want to know how it ended. Will you ever be writing the final chapters?

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  56. I am very sorry for what you went through. And in light of the recent Duggar scandal, it seems more pertinent than ever. Do you intend to tell the rest of the story?

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  57. Oh, Lewis, I've just spent the last two hours reading through this story. I think I'm kind of glad you ended it where you did, and didn't tell the rest of the story.
    My heart broke for you throughout the whole thing, even the happy parts, because of the knowledge that in the end your hearts were broken.
    How much I wish that you two had just eloped and cut off all communication with her family; then this story would be so much better, beginning in hardship but ending in triumph.
    I don't know if it's realistic to hope that one day, you might find love again and be able to at least partially recover from all the heartache and pain you've had to endure; you may not even wish to marry anyone else. Honestly, this is one of the saddest, most horrible stories I've ever read in my entire life.
    All the best
    -- Laura

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  58. I certainly can't tell that patriarchy is a problem from reading your half-written story. The old saying that there are two sides to every story doesn't apply here, since here, there's not even one complete side. All I can tell is that this girl's family had some rules you didn't like, and now, you're not with her. Oh, and her dad had a few kooky ideas (e.g. chem trails, etc), but again, I did't see anything that showed that patriarchy itself is bad. Also, I didn't see any problem with the letter her dad wrote to you about things sometimes not working out that time you and she temporarily broke up. It seemed to me like he was just trying to part ways with you cordially.

    If you're trying to use your story to make the persuasive argument that patriarchy is bad for relationships, then I just don't see that you've proven that point with this incomplete story. The fact that it is incomplete indicates that maybe you realize the problem wasn't with them and that you would have a hard time proving it was, but by leaving the account of events incomplete, you allow readers to project their own experiences, feelings, and hurts onto yours.

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    1. "All I can tell is that this girl's family had some rules you didn't like, and now, you're not with her."

      She was a grown woman - as were her siblings.

      "Oh, and her dad had a few kooky ideas (e.g. chem trails, etc), but again, I did't see anything that showed that patriarchy itself is bad. Also, I didn't see any problem with the letter her dad wrote to you about things sometimes not working out that time you and she temporarily broke up. It seemed to me like he was just trying to part ways with you cordially."

      I hate to tell you this, chief, but your comments make it very apparent that you have some kooky ideas of your own. Batshit-level kooky, most likely.

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    2. I also want to add that you sound just like him. That's not a compliment, btw.

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  59. By the way, I doubt you'll even publish my previous comment, because I don't see any dissenting opinions here, which means you probably don't allow them.

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    1. People are free to leave dumbass comments if they so choose, and as you have chosen.

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    2. And this is why this fight will never be fully won.

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  60. I wasn't raised in a fundamentalist environment, but so many of the experiences you describe were true for me in my 1st marriage. I have lived through the manipulation and the constant attack on self-worth, all while questioning how I could "do more to make him happy," "be a better spouse," "serve my spouse more," etc. I'm happy to say I've been free of that for 7 years and now happily married, but I worry about my 3 sons and the example they have for a father.

    One question- as I read through all 16 entries in one sitting today, I couldn't help but wonder why you stayed. Besides being in love with her. What needs did the relationship fill for you? Completely from the outside, it seems that you had a need to fix her, protect her, help her become an adult, etc. What does that say about you and your relationships? It does seem a bit co-dependent. I hope you have found healing.

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  61. I read this story a while back, and just finished reading it again, and it's just as sad the second time around :(
    The first time I read it, I was still hanging onto my patriarchal upbringing. I thought that your ex's dad was nasty and everything, but was only just beginning to see that my own life was the same (lesser in degree, but not in kind).
    It's been very difficult for me to finally acknowledge this. I don't even know if I could have stood up to my dad as much as your ex stood up to hers. My dad has never been physically violent towards me (well, OK, one time when he sort of pushed me back forcibly, but he's never hit me except to spank me, and my last spanking was when I was 13 ... anyways), so it's hard even for me to understand why I'm so afraid of him. I guess I'm afraid of being kicked out of the house. I know it would happen like *that*. He really feels threatened by *anything* that he can't control.
    He has no idea that I've changed. I've been devouring blogs like yours for the last year or two, but in secret.
    And believe me, the only reason I don't stand up to him is because of a younger sibling, eight years old, who needs me. I've raised her, and she is closer to me than to our mother. Leaving her would be tantamount to abandoning her and I can't do that, so I'm committed in my heart and mind to staying at least until she is in college (our parents at least encourage us to go to college).
    But after that, nothing is set in stone. And in the meantime, my soul is free. I don't feel bound by my dad's beliefs about patriarchy or the lesser-ness of women. And he's the one who drove me away from it. Isn't that funny? He tightened his grip, and tightened his grip, thinking that the harder he held onto me, the more he could control me. But all it's done is make me see the nonsense. I am a grown woman, and yet there is very little I can do without asking his permission. But my mind is free to believe as I think God wants me to believe, and hopefully I can steer my sister away from this nonsense, gently and carefully, before it takes too firm a hold in her.

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  62. Continued ...

    I know that we've been abused emotionally. We walk on eggshells around my dad; the slightest thing can set him off, and I know it's not good for my health. I feel stressed almost constantly when he's around, and sometimes I'd rather he just go ... somewhere, because I almost can't stand to be around him. If he's not blowing up in anger, he's belittling anyone and everyone around him, from his family to people he's never even met before but simply encountered (in the store or wherever). He says he's not perfect, but it doesn't matter because he's the only one allowed to be imperfect in our family.
    He can call us idiots and retards all he wants, but it has to be perfect and utter respect on our part even as he is belittling us.
    It was only a few months ago that the full truth of it came over me. I've done everything in my power, for my whole life, to please him and do what he wants; I've denied myself many times for his sake; I've practically raised his child; I've run the household many times all by myself; I've made excuses and covered for him often to my sister for all his failings and faults and rages; I've basically bent over backwards and been a good little doormat for him, and yet, because I said one little thing that he took as disrespect over a new rule, he blew a gasket and ordered me out of the house. I refused (for my sister's sake; otherwise I might have packed my bags right then and there), but it started to click for me.
    He is willing to throw me out of the house over one little thing? After all the years of respect and obedience? And yet, no matter how many times *he* messes up, I'm supposed to just take it and show him grace?
    God isn't like that. God is gracious no matter how often we sin.
    By the way, he still hasn't apologized for that time, and on my side our relationship has cooled considerably (I always felt very close to him growing up), though I try to act like I always did before so that he won't notice. So far, he hasn't.
    It just sickens me, really. I should have a good relationship with him. One that isn't built on manipulation or control. We should be able to be friends, but instead it's like a master-slave relationship. And no matter what I do, it's never enough.
    I've spent many nights crying into my pillow over it, and many days trying to lessen the damage on my sister by being the best 'mother' for her that I can.
    Anyways, I don't really know why I'm writing this, but I feel like I have to say it somewhere, even anonymously, or my heart will burst with the suppressed feelings.

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