HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on November 28, 2012.
Note from Julie Anne:
Over the past couple months, I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of the homeschooling movement as it ties in with abuse in churches. I’ve connected a number of times with Chryssie Rose who reads here and is also a blogger and asked if she could share her courtship story here and she graciously accepted my request. I encourage you to take some time to read some of Chryssie’s articles on her blog, Beautiful Disarray. She is one of the bloggers who was raised in the homeschooling movement I have been referring to. We will be seeing a growing number of bloggers lilke Chryssie Rose, you can be sure. As these young adults are detaching (escaping might be an apt word, too, it certainly was for my daughter) from their childhood families, they are thinking back through their lives and questioning what they went through. Most young adults go through this process – it is normal. But what is not normal is the amount of residual scars from this upbringing. That is why I want to continue to give these young adults a platform on my blog because this lifestyle of excessive parental control continues in many churches right now.
It is important in this story that you understand Chryssie’s family background as it is key to her story. Chryssie lived in a patriarchal home and was the eldest of 9 children. Her father moved around quite a bit because of his job, but in each place in which the family lived, they attended churches influenced by the homeschooling movement: full-quiver, patriarchy, courtship, and modesty and purity teachings. Chryssie’s family eventually ended up at a Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) church in Maryland. SGM churches have a high concentration of homeschool families, so Chyrssie’s family fit comfortably there. From what I’ve heard, SGM may not preach full-quiver lifestyle from the pulpit, but Chyrssie’s family would surely find other like-minded full-quiver families there. Courtship, not dating is the expectation at SGM churches.
My family had just started going to a new church, and even though I knew a good number of people already, I hadn’t met any guys that I really liked. A friend of my mom’s jokingly told me that I would find the guy I married at this new church. I was adamant I wouldn’t. I honestly had had several different crushes, but I had this expectation, as probably most girls in my situation, that a guy would come to my dad and ask to court me. Then my dad would say yes, and we would walk out a relationship like the ones in all of the courtship books – a sweet, pretty, maybe slightly tear-inducing, love story.
It couldn’t have been further from the reality of what my relationship with my husband ended up looking like.
When I met the guy who became my husband, I really didn’t expect anything to come out of it. It was in October, over 4 years ago, and even though I felt like God told me to keep an eye on this guy, he wasn’t really attractive to me. I couldn’t marry someone I wasn’t attractive too. I hadn’t expected to be in any sort of relationship right out of high school, nor did I expect to be in any sort of relationship any time soon. My dad used to joke that he wouldn’t let me get married until I was 30. I knew he was joking, but I also knew he meant it too. I wasn’t going to get married unless it was on his time, and his time alone. I really didn’t know what my parents had in mind when it came to relationships for their children. I never had a conversation with my parents about what it would look like for me when I got into a relationship. Being the oldest, my parents had never had to think about that sort of thing, ever.
A mutual friend introduced this guy to me, and I thought this could be a good friend. I’ll call him Daniel. A few weeks after first meeting, I started getting to know Daniel. He was funny, very quirky, had very different interests than a lot of other guys I knew, and yet, I liked it. I was having to deal with a lot of stress from my family’s situations (you can read more about that on my blog). It was really good to just have a friend I could talk to and not have to talk about my family’s stuff. He began guessing, though, about different things, and I soon realized that I could trust Daniel, and yeah, I kind of liked him now.
During the first 6 months of our friendship, things escalated quickly. It became clear to me that this guy was worth keeping around, and I definitely liked him. I was about 99.9% positive that he liked me too. Up to this point, we were just friends, and our parents weren’t involved at all. We were graduating from high school, and he had told me several times that he wasn’t going to be in any sort of relationship until he was done with college. That was what his mom wanted him to do, and it seemed like “wisdom” to do so. I didn’t argue with him, but it made it harder when I finally admitted to a close friend that I really, really liked him.
Conflict with Parents
It was about that 6-month mark when his parents realized that we were talking a lot and becoming very close friends. My mom, I think, was aware of my friendship with him, but I sincerely doubt my dad was aware, especially due to his reaction to the events that transpired next.
Daniel’s parents decided to step in and intervene, and tell him that he needed to cut off all communication with me. He didn’t agree with his parents, but did it anyway. He pulled me aside at church the next day and tearfully told me we couldn’t talk anymore. No emails, texts, chatting, or talking in person and in groups. I was heartbroken, but I knew that this wasn’t the end.
I went home, in tears, and told my mom what happened. She didn’t say anything, but when I told my dad, he gave me an awkward side hug and told me that if my heart was hurting, I did something wrong. I knew right then and there, I wasn’t going to get any support or understanding from my dad in this. We asked both of our parents multiple times to get everyone together so we could come up with guidelines for a friendship, so we could at least be friends. They refused, but did meet at his parent’s home a few times, but each time, came away from the meeting with a very different view on what was supposed to go on. My dad was determined that we wouldn’t be allowed to talk at all. He even told me that there was no need for us to talk and to stop asking if we could. Throughout the entire separation, our feelings for each grew instead of diminishing. We kept asking for the parents to let us talk and to come up with guidelines for us. And they continued to refuse. I got chewed out by my dad if I was even seen around Daniel at church. I went through those months like a ghost. I felt nothing, and it felt like half of my heart had been torn out of me. Yeah, I know that’s cliche, but I’m serious, I felt nothing.
We finally had had it about 6 months after we had been told to stop talking. I called Daniel up one day and asked him bluntly what he felt for me. He immediately told me that he loved me and was 100% sure he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. That was a breath of fresh air to my ears. We decided that we were going to take things into our own hands because our parents continued to not believe that they needed to do anything and that everything between us was over. We spent about a week coming up with a list of guidelines that we felt our parents would be quite okay with. We even had a couple, who became mentors for us, look it over and help us put it together. We decided that we would then bring it to the parents that coming Sunday, after Daniel officially asked my dad to court me.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom or dad that mad at me after Daniel left my family’s house that Sunday. Both of my parents were raging mad and wanted to know how I could be so disrespectful and dishonoring of them. I still, to this day, do not understand quite what I did wrong. Once again, after our parents calm down, there was no agreement made about us getting to talk. We never got to show our parents our relationship guidelines, and we were treated with much condemnation for having “disrespected and dishonored” our parents. My dad felt very disrespected by Daniel and couldn’t believe he had the gall to come and ask my dad to court me.
We seriously thought that our parents at least would be willing to listen to us. I honestly didn’t expect my dad would be so courteous to Daniel’s face, but then stab him in the back when he wasn’t around to defend himself. My dad’s poor opinion of him was shocking to me, and I couldn’t believe that my dad would be so condescending. Over the next few months we suffered through wanting to talk, knowing we really loved each other, and sneaking moments alone at church, or passing each other thumb drives with songs, letters, or just class schedules on them so I knew what he was up to with school.
In total, Daniel asked my dad 4 times to court me. Every time, going above and beyond, to get my dad’s approval, and yet, my dad would twist Daniel’s words, never give him a clear answer to any of Daniel’s questions, and my dad would brush me off anytime I tried to sit down and ask why we couldn’t be in a relationship. My dad kept telling me that I was making an idol out of this relationship, and I was lusting after Daniel. My mom backed my dad up and neither of my parents seemed to believe that God could speak to me or that I could possibly even love this guy.
A year and a few months after first having met Daniel, we got the pastors involved, and both of us tried to communicate with our pastor the difficulties we were having with our parents not hearing us out. The pastor kept telling us to just keep working on our individual parental relationships and that was all we could do. Being members at a church that strongly supported Joshua Harris’ courtship books, we didn’t have any say in how our relationship was supposed to happen. It was “wisdom” to let our parents rule our lives.
Over the course of that year, we met with pastors, we met with pastors and our parents, individually, and met with each other trying to figure out how to help our parents hear us and listen to our hearts. We spent hours on the phone talking with our mentors.
Around the 2nd year of trying to get our relationship off the ground, Daniel decided to take my dad out to a nice restaurant and ask him one last time to court me. One of the recurring concerns my dad had was that we would never be able to get married because we couldn’t support ourselves financially. I actually had a really good job, and Daniel and I had no problem with the fact that I would be providing most of the income. But my dad, even though my mom had paid for him to get through college, didn’t believe that a woman should be the main supporter in the family. I even pointed out that that is exactly what my mom had done, but he told me that I couldn’t take what other people had done and use that as a guideline for myself. So for this last meeting, Daniel and I had come up with a very reasonable budget, and we had had several people look it over for us to make sure we weren’t missing anything substantial. My dad, once again, in a very roundabout way, said no. His reasons were that because Daniel didn’t have a very high paying job, didn’t own a house, wasn’t financially stable, and hadn’t graduated college yet, he would never be allowed to marry me.
See, my dad has this idea that the only kind of man who is going to be allowed to marry any of his daughters, is the kind of man who has everything, and is well into his 30s. And the fact that this young, college-attending poor guy was willing to bow down to the great and mighty dad was revolting to my dad. How dare he ask when the budget Daniel gave him was so insufficient. I asked my dad why he didn’t believe our budget was good, and the only thing he said was wrong with it was we didn’t have enough money put aside for car repairs. That was it!
We finally had had it, and in July secretly got engaged. I even got a gorgeous ring and everything. We kept it a secret for about a week, telling only our mentors. We then decided to tell our parents together. Meaning, he told his parents at the same time I told mine so that neither sets of parents would hear it from each other, but directly from us. Oh, and the clincher is, we were going to tell them that we were going to be getting married in 30 days. We finally told them; I told my parents at home, Daniel called his parents from work. My dad said, no, you’re not engaged, and I argued with him for a few minutes before just leaving it. I said we were engaged and that was that. Then got up and walked away. Daniel’s parents blew up at him and he had siblings calling him, sobbing to him over the phone, asking why he could be so disrespectful of his parents. I ended up going to meet him at his work because he started losing it.
By this point, we were sick of trying to hide our feelings and actually started going out on actual dates. The first real date we had was about 2 years after we had first met. After we announced our engagement to the parents, our pastors contacted us and wanted to meet with us. In that meeting they told us that respecting and honoring our parents looked like us calling off the engagement. We told them that we didn’t have any problem calling off the getting married in 30 days thing, but nope, we were putting our foot down with the engagement, and we were still engaged. The pastors let it go, but the parents didn’t. They kept accusing us of not listening to God because the pastors had told us to break the engagement and we said no. We have no regrets about getting engaged or putting our foot down with letting our parents guilt-trip us into doing what they want. We knew that the instance we gave in, everything we were working hard to stand by would crumble, and we would not be allowed to see each other again. We were dubbed, unofficially, the bad kids in the singles ministry at church, and rarely did anyone want to know what was going on because in their minds, we were disobeying God because we were “disobeying” our parents and not listening to the pastors.
Another year went by, and we were still not married, but we were together for everything. Because of my job, I wasn’t home much, and then because of Daniel, I was home even less than I would be if he wasn’t around. My mom kept telling me that dad wasn’t happy that I wasn’t helping her out with my 8 siblings, or helping make dinner or clean the house. I told her there was no way possible that I could do all that. I was gone from 8:30 in the morning till 7 at night, and only got two days free a month. I wanted nothing to do with home life, especially since my dad and I weren’t on speaking terms…again, and mom and I weren’t exactly on the best of terms either. Another half a year went by and we were yet again trying to pick a third wedding date. We finally managed to get both sets of parents and sit down all together to talk. After 3 years of dealing with all of the crap, we finally got to sit down with the parents. But, it was honestly too late for us. We were so done with the way they were dealing with us, we wanted out. Daniel’s dad tried to encourage my dad to rectify his and my relationship, but I knew my dad had no intention of doing so.
Let me say something about my in-laws. They are great parents, and really, if my dad had been open with them about his issues with internet porn addictions and how he deals with my family, I don’t believe that Daniel’s parents would have been so easily manipulated by my dad. They weren’t really involved in the whole relationship process since it was their son asking me out, not a guy asking one of their daughters out. Also, Daniel did not grow up in a legalistic, patriarchal home. His family is surprisingly normal. By the time this group meeting came about, his parents had been filled in completely of my family’s issues and were suddenly 100% for Daniel and I getting married. They finally understand and realized all of the crap we had had to put up with from my dad. They were very sorry for the part they had unknowingly played in making things more difficult for us. Those are the kind of parents I really hope and pray Daniel and I can be some day.
Less than a week after this meeting, my dad and I got together for a coffee date. He told me that prior month he had been seriously considering kicking me out. When asked why, he told me that he was very frustrated that I wasn’t helping my mom out around the house. I told him that I couldn’t. I had a job and I had an obligation to that job to be prompt with my hours and those hours didn’t allow for me to be at home. He didn’t seem to hear me. Two weeks later, he told me that I had two weeks to move out. He was tired of dealing with me, and didn’t have time to deal with me anymore. He also told me that I was a bad influence on my siblings and he wanted me gone.
The Wedding and Conclusion
Three months after that, we got married, with my mom’s support and Daniel’s parents support. Oh, and guess what – the pastors supported us too. We have now been married for a year and a half, and life has been amazing, and we have been doing amazingly well financially even with Daniel still being in school.
I look back over our story and see so many things we will never do with our children. The first, and biggest thing would be that we will never force them to obey us at all costs. We want to be there for our children and sincerely listen to them when they are trying to work through tough relationships. We also know that no relationship is the same, and it is our goal to treat our children’s relationships as such. We want to get down to our children’s level, and we both know that because of what we’ve been through, that gives us so much more understanding that we can give to our children. The way my dad treated Daniel and me through our whole pre-marriage relationship is something I never want to see repeated.
I never want to question my child’s faith or that they can hear from God. The fact that my dad tried his ultimate best to make me believe that I was being lustful and idolatrous when I sincerely believed I wasn’t has made a huge impact on my faith. It took a long time for me to get over questioning my salvation because of how my dad treated me. It seemed that everything my dad did and said was for his own glory and his own control over me. I talked with my mom later and asked her if how my dad responded had anything to do with him feeling jilted because I hadn’t asked permission to like this guy. She told me it probably had a lot to do with that. My dad craved control and when I denied him the reigns of my relationship with Daniel, he lost it. To this day, I do not talk with my dad and I don’t anticipate resorting any sort of relationship with him until he changes.
And that, is a summary of my husband’s and my relationship. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you all!