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My Marriage Fuck-Up


Once_Upon_A_Fundie
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I've shared a little bit on this site about my history in a semi-fundamental Pentecostal religion, but I've yet to really delve into the whole story to anyone outside of my therapist. Lately it's felt like my past has been haunting me -- nightmares, anxiety, the whole nine. I am writing this out in the hopes it will help me re-center and find peace again. 

I grew up in the PNW in the Church of God of Cleveland, TN, a church that exploded as part of the 1960's-70's Holiness Movement. Among the rules/belief systems were things such as "no mixed swimming" (women's bodies are shameful, sinful things that tempt boys into accidentally sinning), no makeup, no jewelry, no pants, footwashing (particularly women washing men's feet as a sacrificial submission), women make babies and stay home, you speak in tongues, and salvation can be lost. The result of this highly conservative sect of Evangelicalism is paranoia. I constantly felt like I was going to accidentally "lose" my salvation and go to hell, and I lived in such anxiety I developed agoraphobia and was unable to leave my house unassisted for several years. 

I had some anomalies in my family that contributed to a slow burn removal of me from the church--namely the shock of my parents divorcing following my mom's affair with the pastor. In the years after the divorce, I remained in the church as both parents elected to continue attending at different locations. Despite their teen marriage failing, I was still pushed to marry at 17 (boyfriend was 20), because they "refused to pay to send me to college to fornicate." Boyfriend was a guy I'd met online from across the country. He moved to WA State from Ohio, lived in the mother-in-law suite at my mother and stepfather's house, worked for my stepfather, and was groomed into our religion. Some aspects of this remind me of Zsu and PP's control over Solomon and the Saer situation. 

We loved each other but felt very young and unprepared. We wanted to go to college together and have fun for a couple of years before committing to marriage, but this simply was not allowed. For the sake of still being together (the ultimatum was get married or move on), we married. That marriage was full of high highs and low lows. We had two miscarriages, ran a business my step father helped us upstart (typical fundie line-crossing), built a home four doors down from my mother and step father, and essentially lived as extensions to the family home even into our 20's. It was to the point we couldn't go out to eat without permission, because my mom was extremely jealous and angry if we did things she had not approved or was not invited to. 

To break away from this, we eventually upset the family balance and moved cross-country to start anew, but I think the damage was done. The older we got the more we realized we were polar opposites. If you're familiar with the MBTI, I'm an INTJ and he's an ENFP. Although this is often considered a good pairing on paper, our extremes meant that we had a lot of contentious arguments. I was a stick-in-the-mud who was afraid/anxious, and he was a very flowery boho type. As we finally "grew up" in our later 20's because of the distance from family, we simply did not grow together. He would go through periods of "rejecting" the marriage, telling me we were over or he didn't want to be in a sexual/romantic relationship, we were only friends, etc. But he consistently refused a divorce, saying I was convenient. He essentially liked the controlling aspects of my fundie upbringing, saying he thought I was a "blank slate he could turn into whatever he wanted." Over the years, I suffered what I'd call light abuse -- some pushing, some shoving, some bruises, a lot of mental/emotional/psychological degrading (e.g. grabbing my belly and saying, "if you'd just get rid of this you'd be pretty...). 

It got to where I felt trapped and couldn't get out. I had an affair following one of his grand speeches about "we're done and married in name only because you cook and clean." I immediately told him about said affair, hoping he'd take the chance and finally sign divorce papers. Instead he held a gun to my head (literally), and I was forced to relent and crawl back into the hole of our marriage. 

More time passed, more things happened (namely the death of my dad), and I grew stronger as a person. I obtained an education, landed a good job, and eventually was accepted into a fully funded PhD program in England. I hopped across the pond, with him keeping his US job and "visiting" me so he could have what he thought was the best of both worlds -- his closely guarded "single" life on the road as a consultant, and a few weeks per quarter as the seemingly devoted husband visiting his wife in England. 

It was my out, and after I found out he was on Tinder and Bumble and meeting up with female co-workers on weekend stints, I told him not to come back to England and started dating. This final time was different, however. I think my ex realized I'd come into my own, so-to-speak, and the dynamics changed. By this point I was well into my PhD, working for the university, had accepted an adjunct position for another school in addition and essentially "lifing" on my own. He came back and moved into a flat in the city and got into a heavy drugs/drinking/gambling/party scene. Twice he tried to reconcile, and I almost left my then-boyfriend to....and twice he slept with other girls and came back saying, "never mind, they're better. "

In the end, it was me who was weak, having felt jilted by being willing to go back to him, and him ultimately choosing a 20 year old recovering drug addict/casual prostitute over me. They were engaged within six weeks. I moved on and remarried a very kind, loving man who has brought immense peace to my life, but the last few weeks I've suddenly had massive anxiety over everything that went down over the last five years. I constantly blame myself for being a "bad" wife and think I could have done more. I idealize how he treated me me, I think of only the good things, feel profoundly bad about myself for him having chosen the skinny 20 year old over his weight-struggling mid-30's wife who couldn't give him kids. I feel sad realizing he's going to have kids with this young girl who could be his daughter and build a family and be all the things we weren't.

I am SO ASHAMED of myself for this, because I love my new husband and realize I'm in a better place. I was in pretty intense therapy over the divorce (at its height as much as 3X's weekly), and I honestly thought I'd kicked it forever ago. But I think finding out they're gearing up for their wedding, and that asshole has chosen to migrate to England and will be living 20 minutes from me just has me pissed off. He wasn't even living here. He stayed in the US and partied away and sunk us into debt at the end of our marriage, but now he gets to just waltz into this European life with his child bride, and it just makes me hurt and hate all at once. 

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Wow I am so sorry about everything you’ve been through.

I had a brief marriage to someone who has a lot of problems (many many marriages, among other things).   I know you’re already going to therapy, but let a virtual stranger assure you that he won’t be changing.  You are healthier and better how you are.  Not this young, 20s chick.  Look at how far you have come and use that success as revenge.  

My ex had so. Much. Drama.  Everything was just drama.  I wanted a “boring” (stable) life.  And I do think about that now. My kids were born in my current marriage and my dad died just before I got married to my current husband.  For a while I was sad that I didn’t have kids earlier and he wasn’t able to meet grandkids.  But honestly, I’d be tied to my ex even now and it would be all that drama. 

I’ve seen it many times, but he will be his worst enemy here.  Don’t “give him the power” by letting him absorb your thoughts.  Look at your life now.  I would love to say to try not to follow up on anything about him, but I get it.  It’s also super annoying he is going to be 20 mins from you. I suspect this is no accident - he is still hoping to get under your skin.  And it’s working.  Find that strength that you have so much of and find power in enjoying your life.  The best revenge is success.

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28 minutes ago, OhNoNike said:

Wow I am so sorry about everything you’ve been through.

I had a brief marriage to someone who has a lot of problems (many many marriages, among other things).   I know you’re already going to therapy, but let a virtual stranger assure you that he won’t be changing.  You are healthier and better how you are.  Not this young, 20s chick.  Look at how far you have come and use that success as revenge.  

My ex had so. Much. Drama.  Everything was just drama.  I wanted a “boring” (stable) life.  And I do think about that now. My kids were born in my current marriage and my dad died just before I got married to my current husband.  For a while I was sad that I didn’t have kids earlier and he wasn’t able to meet grandkids.  But honestly, I’d be tied to my ex even now and it would be all that drama. 

I’ve seen it many times, but he will be his worst enemy here.  Don’t “give him the power” by letting him absorb your thoughts.  Look at your life now.  I would love to say to try not to follow up on anything about him, but I get it.  It’s also super annoying he is going to be 20 mins from you. I suspect this is no accident - he is still hoping to get under your skin.  And it’s working.  Find that strength that you have so much of and find power in enjoying your life.  The best revenge is success.

Thank you for the encouragement. It's just been so rough these last few weeks, and I think you're right -- him being in my backyard is stressing me out. I'm trying to be the bigger person. Silver lining: Right after I wrote this, I received a beautiful flower delivery to my front door, courtesy of my very loving and supportive new husband. No reason. He just wanted me to know he was thinking of me. 

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2 hours ago, Once_Upon_A_Fundie said:

In the end, it was me who was weak, having felt jilted by being willing to go back to him, and him ultimately choosing a 20 year old recovering drug addict/casual prostitute over me. They were engaged within six weeks. I moved on and remarried a very kind, loving man who has brought immense peace to my life, but the last few weeks I've suddenly had massive anxiety over everything that went down over the last five years. I constantly blame myself for being a "bad" wife and think I could have done more. I idealize how he treated me me, I think of only the good things, feel profoundly bad about myself for him having chosen the skinny 20 year old over his weight-struggling mid-30's wife who couldn't give him kids. I feel sad realizing he's going to have kids with this young girl who could be his daughter and build a family and be all the things we weren't.

 

You're better off, and you know this, of course.  But part of you doesn't quite believe it, or feels guilty.  You were groomed to be together.  It doesn't mean that you would have stayed together forever even if you'd married without outside influence.  You would have realized the bad boy type wasn't for you.  It happens when people form relationships when they are chronologically or emotionally young.

You developed a life where you were still trying to do the right thing, as you saw it then.  You were emotionally and eventually physically abused.  Whether he was doing it because he liked it, he was acting out his own frustrations, or he really believed that as the man he should have everything his way and had no concept of talking things over and coming up with a mutually satisfying compromise, we don't know.  You grew and tried to understand his motivations, and work them through.  He didn't respond accordingly.  He sounds like a young teen aged bully playing at being an adult.  He wants all of the goodies that adults have, without having to accept the responsibilities of being an adult.

He probably thought at first that you moving overseas was the perfect solution.  He could play at being your husband when it suited him, the rest of the time he could play at being an unencumbered playboy.  I bet he wet his pants when he realized you were actually getting to the point of no return.  As many times as you'd broken up in the past, the breakups were happening with more frequency, he was having to work harder to get you back, and you were less understanding when he screwed up again.  

You wanted a real adult relationship and he wanted to be a high school boy who stepped out on his girlfriend whenever it suited him, with the knowledge that she'd take him back again because he was The Big Man on Campus.  The guy who says "No one leaves me, I leave them."

And while there are many issues you're still working through, I wonder if one of the biggest is that in the end, he "left you" instead of you leaving him.  He didn't leave you, so much as he realized that as many times as you've broken up, and got back together, you were about to cut it off forever.  

You weren't weak, you were educating yourself, getting stronger, and had so many options ahead of you.  He didn't want to grow up and have a mature relationship.  So he found a vulnerable woman much younger than him.  He gets to play the white knight while he has more time to groom her.  He'll throw her past up anytime he's displeased and she'll spend the rest of her life (or until she figures out what's happening) apologizing and trying to do better.  No matter who "officially" broke it off for good, you won, and he's the loser in so many other ways.

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3 hours ago, Flossie said:

And while there are many issues you're still working through, I wonder if one of the biggest is that in the end, he "left you" instead of you leaving him.  He didn't leave you, so much as he realized that as many times as you've broken up, and got back together, you were about to cut it off forever.  

You weren't weak, you were educating yourself, getting stronger, and had so many options ahead of you.  He didn't want to grow up and have a mature relationship.  So he found a vulnerable woman much younger than him.  He gets to play the white knight while he has more time to groom her.  He'll throw her past up anytime he's displeased and she'll spend the rest of her life (or until she figures out what's happening) apologizing and trying to do better.  No matter who "officially" broke it off for good, you won, and he's the loser in so many other ways.

I needed to hear this. I really pick on myself sometimes. I idealize how he's treating her, because I've learned to internalize all things as "my fault," which makes me go, "They're having XYZ, but I was so ugly/fat/stupid/useless" that I didn't deserve to be treated well. It's taking longer than I realized to let go of that thought process. 

13 minutes ago, samurai_sarah said:

Wow! You're strong as all get out.

Thank you! I rarely ever feel that way, but it's nice to know someone outside of the fish bowl sees that in me.

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6 hours ago, Once_Upon_A_Fundie said:

...him ultimately choosing a 20 year old recovering drug addict/casual prostitute over me. They were engaged within six weeks.

...He stayed in the US and partied away and sunk us into debt at the end of our marriage, but now he gets to just waltz into this European life with his child bride, and it just makes me hurt and hate all at once. 

So if snarky pettiness makes you feel better--the odds of his marriage actually working out are stunningly low.

The odds of this marriage not just ending, but ending in a blaze of dramatic glory that would make Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva wince? Very, very high. 

She's only 20? And a recovering drug addict? (And if she's only twenty, I doubt she's been in recovery the recommended amount of time before entering a relationship). And engaged within six weeks? Add in moving to a completely new country, what appear to be spending issues on his part, and a possible new baby? Oof. 

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I can see that his moving to be within 20 minutes of where you live would piss you off.   However, you have grown stronger and healthier with a new loving husband to show for it.  This new girl, I would pity her.  He will keep on repeating the same behaviors with her as he did with you, only you won't be around to bear the brunt of it, she will.

3 hours ago, Flossie said:

No matter who "officially" broke it off for good, you won, and he's the loser in so many other ways.

I would copy this, frame it and put it on your wall.     Because you did win even if you don't feel like you did.   You are winning now.   Living well is indeed the best revenge.  

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7 minutes ago, Once_Upon_A_Fundie said:

Thank you! I rarely ever feel that way, but it's nice to know someone outside of the fish bowl sees that in me.

You went through a fundie- upbringing, a teen marriage, suffered abuse, moved to a different country and are putting yourself through grad school. You are hands-down incredible!

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I cannot thank you all enough for the support. It's very emotional for me. I have hidden myself away from people for years, because I was hurt so badly by my upbringing and marriage that I felt I could trust virtually no one. I know I need to recognize how much has changed for the better recently. 

My situation is why I often find myself so angry at how Zsu and PP "raise" their children. It has taken me years to get over the things that happened to me, and as this thread has shown, I'm still not over it all. But I'm trying. I'm just really thankful I'm rebuilding a support network, virtual friends here included.

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You are so strong. And YOU didn’t fuck up your marriage. Don’t blame yourself. 

I think one of the reasons I have such a heavy case of imposter syndrome is because of my fundie life upbringing. Mine was a lot easier than yours, but I still wonder when everyone will realise that I have it too good. I don’t deserve good things. Are you feeling that?

 

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16 minutes ago, adidas said:

You are so strong. And YOU didn’t fuck up your marriage. Don’t blame yourself. 

I think one of the reasons I have such a heavy case of imposter syndrome is because of my fundie life upbringing. Mine was a lot easier than yours, but I still wonder when everyone will realise that I have it too good. I don’t deserve good things. Are you feeling that?

 

All the time. I'm really lucky that one of my PhD mentors is a woman who has seen that struggle in me. She often has to tell me I "deserve" to be here, because she says I constantly pick on myself. I just have this default setting where, if something good is happening in my life, I automatically want to assume I somehow faked getting there, didn't deserve it/earn it, and all things bad are probably my fault because I'm stupid, etc. It doesn't help that my ex-husband used to call me stupid and made me walk behind him when he was displeased with me. 

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Well, first, I really sorry for everything you’ve gone through and for all the people in your life who failed you so miserably. 

Second, I know others have already said it better, but I want to add my voice in saying that you are much better off as your life is now. You’re married to someone who you seem to genuinely feel loved and supported by, not someone who belittles and abuses you. I kind of understand why you might feel the way you do. He was young and naive when you first got married and no one deserves to get sucked into a dangerous religious movement by older adults who should know better... but never forget that no one forced your ex-husband to chose to do the things he did. No one forced him to move cross country and marry you when you were that young. No one forced him to join a fundamentalist religion the way you were pretty much forced to because you were born into it. No one forced him to stay married despite the clear signs that it wasn’t working. No one forced him to abuse you or belittle you or hold a gun to your head (seriously, what the actual fuck?!) No one forced him to do any of that. He made those choices all on his own. He is the one responsible for how his life has turned out, not you.

Third, I honestly pity that poor woman he’s engaged to. She’s very young, a recovering addict, and may genuinely have no idea what she’s getting into.  It sounds like he hasn’t changed at all since you got away from him and I just hope this young woman is able to get away from him should she need to as well. 

Fourth, you managed to survive his abuse. It doesn’t matter how it finally happened or who ended it. It takes multiple attempts for so many abused partners to finally manage to leave because many abusers are so good at breaking them down physically and emotionally. It’s unfortunately normal for it to take multiple attempts, especially for people who don’t have a support system to fall back on as in your situation. The important thing to remember is that you survived though and you have a beautiful life now. That is a massive accomplishment. Never forget you deserve every single bit of happiness you have right now.

Last, he’s a massive asshole for moving so close to you. That doesn’t mean you have to make him a part of your life though. If he’s harassing you in anyway then I’d suggest contacting the Police to warn him to stay away (which is also a good idea since it leaves a paper trail of harassing behavior), but otherwise I’d recommend just proceeding with your life as best you can. You have so many good things happening in your life to allow one wanker to ruin it for you. 

:romance-caress:

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