There were many reasons why I got married (contrary to popular opinion, I did love him) and many reasons why I’m no longer married (contrary to popular opinion, it is not solely because I’m a b****). Of topics that I’d rather spend time discussing, the former is a lot less depressing, annoying and . . . personal.
I did truly love the man I thought I was marrying. I don’t, however, think I would have married him if I were raised differently. What I mean is: I’m a Christian.
These days some of my friends would (judgmentally) disagree with that: I curse like a sailor, rail against the church (as I’m about to do) and support the lethal four: Obama, Abortion, Science and The Gays. I still believe in God and Jesus, though, and for a long time I took it a lot more seriously. I went to Sunday school and youth group and, eventually, I even joined a college Christian organization. I was one hardcore bible thumper.
Except that I only thumped on certain parts of it. Namely: things having to do with love, women and marriage. That’s not because I was a marriage-obsessed teenager. I’d spent most of my life scoffing at the idea of being permanently attached to “some idiot.” I took those parts seriously because the church is marriage-obsessed. Here’s what an average night at women’s Bible study looked like:
Read Song of Solomon to encourage you to keep yourself perfect for your future husband.
Someone bursts into tears because five years, three months or two days ago they went “too far” with a boy.
Shoulder patting, sniffling and more confessions commence.
Someone reminds us that once we confess our sins, we’re made pure again.
(There are plenty of virgins-twice-removed floating around churches.)
Someone reads us Psalms 37:4 about how once we learn to delight in the Lord, then he’ll bring us a husband.
Even at 16, I felt like the tears were way too much drama over something as inconsequential as a hymen. Not to mention that sometimes “too far” came nowhere near that.
That’s all we were taught, though. Men’s bible study explored all the books of the Bible, toyed around with learning Hebrew and dove deep into the history and mechanics of things. Meanwhile, a few feet and a wall or two away, we learned how to be good wives, good Christian women, good little virgin girls.
It’s not that I have a problem with the concept of saving yourself for marriage or that I think what the Bible teaches girls about being a wife is wrong. What bothers me is that it often felt like that was all we were ever learning. When that’s the only lesson driven into you, you begin to feel like the only way to be a good Christian woman is to get married and start being fruitful. (There’s no possible way you could ever be a good mother without a husband. That’s another awesome gem you learn in Bible study.) If that’s the only way, it starts to become your only goal.
That’s unacceptable. Being someone’s wife should never be anyone’s goal. It should be a “Wouldn’t it be nice” or a “Maybe someday.” Women need legitimate goals — things to work toward, not swoon for. They should want to be real things: ballerinas, doctors, lawyers, writers, firefighters or astronauts. They should want to be their own person, whoever that might be, first. A husband should be the added bonus that comes along the way.
I got married when I was 23 because that seemed like what I was supposed to do when I was a good Christian girl with a steady boyfriend whom I loved quite a lot. I felt that way because that’s what the church taught me. I got divorced because who the hell gets married when they haven’t even figured themselves out yet, much less the mind-boggling creature they married?
The Bible didn’t prepare me properly for things like leftovers and glasses being chucked across rooms or how to deal with hissy fits over grocery store outings. I learned how to handle curveballs like those through experience. To gain experience, I needed to live … and get my nose out of my Bible.
People also like to ask if I think I’ll ever get married again. The Bible says, “No.” But if an attractive and emotionally stable enough guy ever asks, I’ll say, “I don’t know. Why? Are you asking?”
After all, my experiences have taught me that life is about making mistakes, not reading about or praying for the mistakes of others. So, what’s the worst that can happen?
CONTACT DEIRDRE KAYE: firstname.lastname@example.org