mother and child (22099)

I understand the Christian perspective of feminine beauty. As my former husband put it, "Nobody likes a mouthy woman." It's true in secular marriages as well, when you see a henpecked husband, it's creepy and uncomfortable. To that end my former husband did not appreciate me voicing an opinion in public. His preference was that I take him to the side and ask, "Could I have a word with you?" As I explained to my non-Christian friends, he valued my opinion, but the final decision belonged to him.

For example one day we were in a bible study class. The teacher asked us if we wanted to purchase a second book at a cost of $26. Knowing I could find the book on line at or Amazon for a few dollars plus shipping I declined. In the car ride home Howard expressed his displeasure at my forwardness. He was embarrassed by my behavior. "It's not like I can't afford a $26 book!" he growled.

In a Christian marriage a woman is admired if she has a tender heart, and a quiet beauty. Busying herself with home and family is her domain. Yet the woman described at the end of Proverbs does have among her many recommendations: a head for finance. I admitted I was wrong to cross Howard in public, explaining I did not realize I was offending. My motivation was trying to be a good steward of his earnings, by buying the book on line. Which I had felt was a way of showing respect for him, not the inadvertent disrespect. Once he ascertained I was telling the truth, which I was, he accepted my apology and agreed it was better to buy the book on line. I further agreed that in the future I would not to cross him in public, but to ask if I could have a word with him in private. It was a very pleasant household. There was never a raised voice. There was never a bad word. We had only one fight in seven years together.

As corny as it sounds I thanked God every day for my husband. I loved him and adored him, and as far as I was concerned every word of the gospel was correctly translated to me by him. Until my marriage was over. When he walked out on me I felt the center of my world has disintegrated. I had no idea what to do with myself. Mostly out of habit, the first three months I cautiously attempted to keep my life the same, in hopes that he would sober up and come back. Little by little I was forced to accept the fact that things would never be the same.

He wrote me by turn angry and manipulative letters from rehab. He left rehab without telling me. He blamed me for the demise of our marriage. When he returned over a year later to retrieve his belongings he accused me of sleeping with one of the men loading the truck. Clearly he was still loaded, and needed a "story" to fill the mystery of his life. Though I have waited with hope for over four years, I have no evidence that he will ever see things the way they happened. His need to be "right" and blame outside of himself is too great. It fuels his addictive personality, which is not ready to die. Whether he uses or not, he needs to believe he's been "done wrong."

The first two men who were serious about me after Howard left were quite enamored of my submissive nature. I was so used to giving up the decision making to someone else that I hardly knew what I liked to eat. Either one of those men would have married me and taken care of me financially. Although it was tempting, I couldn't get past how they weren't Howard. So I demurred and stalled until they got tired of waiting and left.

I realized after a fashion that I do have opinions. I like to write. I like to read. I like to discuss things. I like to learn. I became someone quite unattractive in the Christian circles. As an "uncovered woman" I ought to have sat quietly in the back row. Instead I quit attending church altogether. My friend's fundamentalist girlfriend doesn't even like me to socialize with her boyfriend, so dangerous is my behavior. She thinks because I talk to men that I'm "after" them. It isn't true. I've come to accept being single.

Some of my secular single friends swing wide in the other direction. They are a bit condescending in their interactions with men. Coming out of marriages where they felt squashed, they are determined to have their way or the highway so to speak. Despite the many changes in my life, I am not comfortable in the role of controlling another. Instead, quite subtly, a middle road opened up for me. I found I preferred having someone to work together with.

I found that men are not above manipulation. More than one told me "they liked 'smart' girls" in rather blatant attempt to impress me. I suspect that they tell less attractive women that they like "pretty" ones. It certainly strokes the ego to be characterized as "smart" although at the age of 45, odd to be called a "girl." I knew it was a manipulation when they grew uneasy with my opinion. I would innocently think we were in the middle of a dialogue, only to realize it was a competition, with my "man" trying at all costs to convince me of something crazy. It felt like a test, to see if I would submit. In the past I would have gladly called a black dog white if it made Howard happy. Now, not so much.

I found I enjoyed socializing in a world where everyone gets to have their own opinion. Sometimes I agree with my friend Peter, and sometimes with his friend John sometimes I disagree with both of them and it's called a conversation. It's sacred in its own right.