Well, At Least He’s Saved His Eternal Soul

I do not know if there is such a thing as reincarnation.  I don’t think any of us really knows.  But I do know that, now and then, we meet someone we have such an affinity for, it might seem to us that we have shared a prior life with them.   I have a friend like that.  She is married, with kids, and about 20 years younger than me — Yet, despite those differences, it feels like I’ve known her for lifetimes.

Recently, we’ve become even closer.  In a way, it is her husband who has thrown us together.  He is a devout fundamentalist.  For all the years of their marriage, he has felt it was his right — perhaps even his duty — to demand of her that she conform to his rules and expectations, which he believes are justified because they are religiously grounded.  That’s to say, he does not care about her as a person so much as he cares about her religion or ideology.

Because of her husband’s religiously motivated indifference to her as a person, some of her most compelling needs as a human and as an individual have gone unfulfilled.  Consequently, she has sought me out as someone who she feels might more fully accept her.

My friend was in her late teens when she got married.  It seems, from what she’s told me, that the marriage was a bit on the loveless side from the start.  He was always more interested in being true to his religion than in being true to his wife.  She has also said that she would not marry him if she had to make that decision today.  Yet, nevertheless, she wants her marriage to succeed.  She clings to the hope he will change.

He is not a stupid man, but he is a man more driven by ideology than by love, and people who are more driven by ideologies than by love quite often behave as if they are the very model of a village idiot.  He does not seem to fully comprehend what he has done — and what he still continues to do — to his wife.  There is even a wicked part of me that feels absolutely no sympathy for him; that feels he has entirely brought upon himself the fact his wife is turning away from him; and that feels deeply offended at him for what he has done to her.  Yet, I try to see more positive things in him than that.  “At least”, I tell myself, “he is a good provider.”

His wife has tried to be a good fundamentalist Christian.  She has involved herself in his church.  She has studied his religion. She has forced upon herself his ideals, ethics, and morals.  She has even fervently prayed to and worshiped his god.  People have praised her.  Told her she was a good Christian.  A model wife.  A saintly woman to admire and emulate.  But none of that has worked for her, for all of that has been no more, nor any less, than a total betrayal of her self.

Although it sometimes seems she does not entirely grasp this fact, she is — in a profound, vital, and basic way — a free spirit.  And that’s the rub.  No matter what else the world’s fundamentalisms may be, they are not religions suited to the world’s free spirits.  Mixing the two is like putting rocket fuel in a Model T: Something’s going to explode, and you will be lucky — very lucky — that when it does explode, parts of it don’t end up in three counties.  She, my friend, has already ended up in the lap of another man (so to speak), and I judge the real explosion has only just begun.

By ranking his ideology higher than his wife, by ranking his religion higher than love, the fool is going to drive her from him more surely than if he actually beat away her with a stick — and she is a very strong woman who is otherwise so devoted to her husband and to her family that she still, even today, clings to the notion she can make her marriage work.

As for myself, I believe the marriage is over in all but name.  There is a possibility she will somehow manage to make things work, but that possibility seems remote to me.  Most ideologues have the learning curve of a brick.   If they catch on, it’s usually too late, for — no matter how smart they rank by an IQ test — in life they are usually more concerned with fixing blame and guilt for things than with doing anything intelligent.  Marriages take two people to work.  I admire the immense effort she is undertaking to make her marriage work, but — and I could be wrong — I simply don’t think he is going to rise to the opportunity she is graciously creating for him.

Oh well.  At least he’s saved his eternal soul.

I worry more about her than about him.  There seems to me a much greater chance she — who is someone inclined to self-sacrifice — will “make her marriage work” at the steep cost of betraying her self — betraying who she is as a person — than there is a chance she will truly and genuinely make her marriage work.   If she actually makes her marriage work (as opposed to merely making it last), then all will be well.  But if she makes it work only at the expense of sacrificing herself, then my friend will inevitably become a hollow shell, a free spirit whose heart has been locked and channeled by Satan’s Corps of Engineers — and can you believe they do those things to rivers?

Now and then, I have known someone who made that infamous, wicked compromise with circumstances — that is, who chose to betray themselves to save a relationship — and I have observed that all too often their eyes appear lifeless and dead.  Sometimes, they look out of those shades of theirs, those zombie eyes, like someone who hates for just being born.  And, if you did not actually know their history, then you would never guess they were once deep rivers who flowed beautiful, wise, and unfettered to the sea.

At any rate, I’ve told you my opinion.  Now, it’s time for yours.  What do you think she should do?  Any ideas?

21 thoughts on “Well, At Least He’s Saved His Eternal Soul

  1. In Evangelical circles this is called being “unequally yoked.” People grow apart for a variety of reasons. There probably was a time when he was exactly what she thought she wanted. People grow – and often and different rates. It gets especially complicated when there are children involved, because there are relationships other than just a man and a woman involved.

  2. I thought “unequally yoked” refered to the union of a Christian and a non-Christian, or two Christians whose faiths looked radically different. Hmmm.

    Anyway, from the way you describe the relationship, it sounds like a recipe for disaster. The husband is not willing to make a reciprocal emotional commitment to the wife, and the wife is suppressing more and more of herself to suit him. The couple’s fundamentalism (and the patriarchal values that implies) will only make the situation more toxic and unbalanced.

    Have they tried marriage counseling?

    • They’ve attended counseling together. Yet, the counseling seems to have been worse than useless because the husband insisted on a fundamentalist marriage counselor. His (the counselor’s) idea of wisdom was to tell her that the marriage was in trouble because she wasn’t right with god. Consequently, that first effort at counseling went nowhere.

      She has recently begun counseling with another therapist — a non-fundamentalist — although she has had to go it alone because the husband won’t attend sessions with a non-fundamentalist. She does not yet know whether she will continue her sessions.

  3. They simply should not remain married. She already sacrificed too much of her life on the alter of “fundamentalism”.

    Simply put – the woman is going to be miserable UNTIL she leaves the abuser and will then be unhappy for a great deal of time until she finds her true love or writes a best-selling romance novel. How NOT to fall in Love”. Watching her marriage fail is like watching the Titanic over and over. Same sad story that will end sadly regardless. The marriage failed before it ever started.

    • I think you have great insight into the situation, Curtis. Especially the part about her marriage being wobbly and perhaps even failing from the start.

      However, I believe she must give her marriage her last, best shot at making it work. If she walks out of it before she’s satisfied herself that she could not honestly nor decently do more to save it, then I believe she will find it that much harder to live with herself and to thrive after wards.

  4. I am sorry to point this out and I do so with the best of intentions but you have always seemed to me like someone who lives through his ideas.

    So it seems she now has both sides of the same coin. One who provides and one who addresses her need for friendship but who is not a sexual threat.

    It is not easy to find all the attributes we desire in one person. A lot of men seem to be attracted to a woman at first and then realize they do not really like who she is but put up with her for the sex. It is unfortunate that it often happens within a marriage.

  5. I feel as though she should not remain married to him. If she cannot be who she really is within the marriage, then in my opinion she is not only delaying the inevitable, but making it more difficult for herself and her children.

    I do not know how her husband would react to her telling her if she did not believe in the Christian religion and wanted to go her own way. I would like to think it would be one of acceptance, but I know that with fundamentalist types it can be worse than anything to say that. How would he react? What would he say to the kids? Would he emotionally abuse them with the idea their mummy is going to burn in Hell for all eternity, for example? I dread to think.

    … Yeah. Leave him. That’s the only thing I think that can be done. It takes two for a marriage, and both parties need to be themselves. You cannot put a round peg in a square hole. If I had to be something I was not, I would find it not only depressing, frustrating and alienating. It is for that reason I think it would be the best for her.

    Just this fool’s two cents. 🙂

    • Her husband is not a bad man, Keshin. From what she’s told me, he is not an abuser. And he has some admirable qualities, too.

      But he does strike me as an ideologue — as someone who ranks his ideas, rules and principles well above his wife.

      • It’s sad when the guy is a nice guy, Phil, but I still feel as though they would probably benefit from being apart. At the very least, she should discuss how she feels, spirituality-wise with him.

  6. Can you name any couple either famous or not, who at least seem to love each other body, mind and soul?

    Fictional characters do not count.

    • @kysha430

      My wife and me. If I may be so bold.

      My wife and I grew up together in the same neighbourhood. We went to the same pre-school, schools, and then college. We started dating at 16, we had our first child at 18, and we married at 20, with our second child just before my 21st birthday.

      I love her mind (and her sharp wit), and I think she is beautifully, and “soul”? If you mean religion-wise, I love what she believes too.

      Am I lying? Believe it or not, no.

      There you go, then. Does that help?

  7. The only example of complete love I have seen is when both people seem to have a passion for the same thing. Then they work together like a fine-tuned machine while putting their differences to very good use in service to that .

    In this case if she had the same passion for God as he did, all would be well.

    So is the key finding someone who shares your passion?

  8. An extreme example, thankfully. Unlike the husband in Paul’s saga, Rev. Phelps is not a nice guy by anybody’s definition. A powerful intellect caught in an intellectual short-circuit. Did anger cause the short circuit? Is Phelps’ rigidity a way of containing his own mind? For he surely cannot control his mouth and his body. He seems like a cruel man attracted by a cruel creed. And with that creed, he moves irretrievably far empathy for others. Even people with no abusive intent often injure those they love because, like Phelp, they can no longer see their loved ones. All they see is their perfect ideology. Inevitably, everyone who fails to achieve perfect consistence with that perfect ideology — in short, everyone in the world. Seen only in relation to the ideology, other people are perceived by the fanatic not for the contents of their characters, but for the contents that are not of their characters, those contents of the ideology that they do not contain.

    What are the consequences when the ideologue only perceives other people partially? At its least malignant, the half-perceived person is either merely incomprehensible or a beloved disappointment to the ideologue. That is the way of the “nice guy” ideologue. They do not intend to abuse and they are unable to grasp the harm they cause others. At his most dangerous, the ideologue who only half-perceives the rest of the human population becomes a wife-beater, a child abuser, a killer. That SOB is typically a more conscious fellow than the nice guy. In one of those exceptions that proves the rule, greater consciousness leads to greater harm. That is because the SOB ideologue’s consciousness is typically not strong enough for him to understand that everything he tries to beat or shoot out of others is what he most years to eradicate from himself. The world is lucky when this type is suicidal.

  9. Ahh. Such a familiar story. I know the women who have stayed. They are shining examples of love, compassion and unneccesary heriosm. They are used to keep younger people from leaving abusive relationships. They find outlets in community service because their self-sacrificial natures must give.
    I watch relatives and friends stay in marriages that sap them of strength. (Both genders.) Kids are involved and I don’t know what is best. Sometimes, like my grandparents, things change later on and become better.
    But spirits die. And when the abused person’s spirit asserts itself, the other reacts as if personally threatened and squashes them. A person who feels threatened with a whole person in their life will continue to mutilate those close to them.
    While there is no guarantee that just leaving a situation will help someone grow and find a better one, I don’t know if you can start that process while still close to someone who won’t tolerate you.

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