Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Learned There is a Code Among Girlfriends

 Anything said during the 'time of the month' is automatically forgivable.  If there are tears and you're not shedding them then you provide the chocolate.  When Ben & Jerry's is present calories don't count.  All exes are idiots and if a man makes you cry he automatically falls into the idiot category as well.  We don't need to speak to communicate or we can all speak at the same time and we understand what everyone is saying.  (Poor men, they need us to speak one at a time ;-) Laughing so hard that your abs hurt is best done while wearing pj pants and a shirt at least two sizes too big and no bra.  We reserve the right to change our opinion on anything and everything at any point and the best girlfriend can smell this coming in the wind.  Labor and delivery stories can be told in any context even while eating.  We will never question your mothering capabilities.   But we might wonder if the way you raise your children is better than ours, especially when you're so confident and we're filled with doubt. We secretly wonder sometimes why you married your husband but that is not something that we say out loud, and why your body looks so much different, better, sexier than ours.  Hence our self-depreciating humor.  And we can tell you have a headache by your facial expression.

And while we can support each other in times of relative sorrow & mourning, joy & happiness there are times when it is more important to support our girlfriends.  There is a more serious and crucial code to for women.  It is the one that acknowledges that in some ways we are still a weaker sex.  Men can take advantage of us.  They can run our lives, businesses, careers, countries, churches, relationships and our bodies without our say.  Sometimes they do it to our detriment.  And sometimes these men do that on purpose.  The men that do this on purpose, that place themselves above us and place their needs and priorities as higher than ours; they are not loving us.  They are not caring for us.  The lie that they are leading us is often just that, a LIE.  They are after power, money, prestige or sex or just ruled by sin.  They manipulate by wearing us down, making us feel stupid, or by using their positions of authority.  They will get their way perhaps by force but more often by being clever and cunning.  Authority can come in a variety of positions, most of them can be held by women today, although we way under represent.  They can be pastors or congress people, CEOs, business owners, employers, spouses, elders, teachers, professors, administrators and coaches.  The issue isn't the position; it is how the person interacts with their power.  

Some of the men that maintain these positions and an archaic ideology really are respectful of women in their own way.  They really do love them and take their leadership as an opportunity to lay down their lives for the spouses, churches etc.  I have seen a few good men do that.  One who I know I would say continually does this for his wife.  I respect that he does that, I respect that he doesn't seem to exploit his position and his wife seems to have graciously and genuinely given him that position.  He operates within the philosophy that the most important thing in a marriage is to be kind.  So whether or not he perceives himself to be over his wife in a positionally, the most important thing for him to do is to be kind to her.  By doing this he places her needs above his.  I think this is how they strike a balance that works for them.  I believe that true leadership is exemplified in that philosophy, whether a man or a woman or both are leading, the guiding force of the leadership should be kindness and love.  Perhaps she has submitted herself to him in this way because she knew his character; she knew he would handle that authority with the loving care that she would want it to be handled.  Perhaps she did it because she was raised that way or the church she attends preaches that philosophy, if so maybe she just got lucky.  

Not all women are that lucky.  I am one that wasn't.  Although I walked into my marriage thinking I was marrying a partner that believed in equality he very clearly did not. He hurt me, sexually, mentally emotionally, financially; he even hurt my relationship with God immensely.  He fed me a steady daily diet of my failures as a wife.  He encouraged me to believe that because I would yell and demand answers about where he'd been or why there was no money, why he never answered his phone and so forth that I was failing him and God as a Christian and as a wife.  He wanted me to believe that he was doing everything any reasonable Christian woman could expect from him.  Our relationship was of equally failing according to him or I was failing worse because I could not stay perfectly calm all the time.  I needed to go to God about this and until I got that right I couldn't expect more from him.  All the while he was whoring and I had no idea what was wrong.  I sought God.  I begged for answers from Jesus.  I cried over my temper and the fact that my husband wouldn't sleep with me or come home at night and begged for God to tell me why Jonathan never loved me.  But it was my fault, I was a terrible Christian wife, and I believed him.   Just look at me, there were mounds of evidence for why this was all true. 

Thankfully God has been abundantly gracious to me through all of this.  I believe that for years God was trying to tell me to leave or question or that I was okay and that this was not all my fault.  But because the voice of the spirit tends to be much more subtle than the voice of my ex I wasn’t listening well to God.  And when I would listen, I would set boundaries with Jonathan and I would take what I thought God was telling me to my sisters in Christ I would hear one message loud and clear: that is not God.  You need proof.  You cannot leave without it and be upholding God’s word.  The burden of proof was on the abused not on the abuser.  I needed to prove that I was not being loved; he did not need to prove that he actually loved me. 

I have learned that was not a loving kind response from my sisters.  They were adding to the Word.  Adding requirements for divorce that Jesus did not share.  And because I know this I have peace with them and with God.  They were simply telling with me what they had been taught.  They believed it and sometimes that method can work.  My situation was simply way far out of their frame of reference.  They had no comprehension of a man that would pay prostitutes for sex.  As far as they were concerned that simply didn’t happen in white upper middle class America.  Most spouses who have affairs today do it in the context of a relationship, it’s one other person and there is often ‘proof’.  But snooping isn’t my style and I’m not sure I would’ve found anything if I had looked.  He was very good at covering his tracks. 

God has comforted me.  He has assured me that the Truth came to light when I had the strength to bear it and to leave.  He has given me peace with him and with my sisters but unfortunately some of them still do not have peace with me. 

Those of my sisters have failed me.  They have failed me because they have violated the code.  The code that states:  If a man harms my sister, if he uses his power to hurt her physically, sexually, spiritually, mentally or emotionally.  I will stand by her.  I will be her staunch ally.  I will not tolerate this treatment of my sister.  I will not excuse it.  I will defend her.  I will not let his words to sway my opinion of him to his favor.  And may God help him if she truly fears him because then, then I go to war for her.  Then I fight for her, maybe not in the physical realm, but I will fight, spiritually, legally, emotionally and with every tool I have.  Because I love her, and I know what it is like to be weaker than someone in power.  I intimately understand this because I am a woman.  And there are millennia of history that prove that bad men will abuse this power.  And the men who do this, they are not men.  They don't deserve that title.  They are pawns of the enemy and they bring shame on all of us.  

It makes me really sad to see my sisters be swayed by some one's delusions but I know they are as human as I am and that I was swayed for so long.  It makes me even sadder when people mistake my transparency for anger.  I am so not angry at Jonathan.  If I was it would be beyond justified.  But he's not worth it for me.  I spent years being angry at him.  I have felt a myriad of emotions toward him but anger's not currently present.  

But the saddest part of all of this is when my sisters misjudge my heart: 

"If you don't get control of yourself, Shannon, you are going to do something stupid.  You are going to kill him."  That’s so not going to happen, I don't like prison.

"Your rage is out of control."  What does in control rage look like?  What is appropriate rage at someone who cheated on you with 40 other women? 

"You don't need to fear him; he would never do anything to hurt you."  You do know he raped me right, sister?  How can you possibly believe that if you know that to be the case? 

When they cast their misguided perceptions upon me and place me in a box where I don't belong.  The box that Jonathan has put me in and they believe him when he says that's where I reside.  I don't understand how they hold me accountable for this situation.  It hurts me so much that they seem to have forgotten his failings.  It seems like the just want me to move on already, six months into this?  I mean, he was sleeping with prostitutes for four years, I’m supposed to be over that already?  It’s like they have legitimately forgotten already.  The reaction seems to be one of “well the truth is out, you’ve had time to grieve, now we are back to holding you accountable and making sure you’re Christlike through this process. Shannon, you’ve got to get ahold of yourself!”  Really, already?  Did they also forget that I was a faithful spouse, a virgin when I married, I prayed and sought the Lord constantly about my marriage, attended church and Bible studies; I've made babies and meals and cleaned houses.  And since the Great Reveal I have granted him regular extended times with his children, I have given him chances to move stuff out of the house, I have encouraged mutual friends to continue having relationship with him, I have not committed any acts of violence or destruction toward him or his property or told any lies about his character.  I am still respecting him as a human being even if his treatment of me has boarded on inhumane.  I feel like a woeful comparison to St. Paul here. 

How exactly am I responsible for this situation, ladies?  Do you really feel like I owe belongings and respect to this man?  Do you really equate him breaking into my house and stealing truckloads of things with me stopping by to check on my children?  Really?

How was that inappropriate?  And yet it was appropriate for him to come to my house and remove things, including my wedding rings, without my permission?  So, are the belongings more sacred then the children?  I don't understand your logic.    

There is a sacred bond to sisterhood.  When a woman has been violated this way we are to be there for her.  We should never question her fear in the face of a man who has proven his character to be so nonexistent.  And even if we don't understand we owe her compassion and kindness.  That is when we show up with the baked goods, coffee and margaritas.  That is when we sit around in our pjs and cry and boxes of Kleenex are used. When our sister is at her lowest when she is sad and scared and afraid.  We don't judge her heart; we come to her aid and help her heart to heal.  The strong arms of a good man can help the heart of a woman, but girlfriends are the salve to our soul.  They are the ones that understand.  Every woman knows what it is like to fear a man; none of us have escaped that in our lives.  Not any woman in any culture presently walking the face of the earth.  So when our girlfriends rally and they come bearing comfort for our souls that is what we need in these times. That and for them to call every person they that could help us and beseech them to do so.  We need meals and grocery shopping and house cleaning but more than that we need understanding and love.  So long sisters.  I hope I have loved you well.  I'm sorry you couldn't do the same for me.  

Some of the ones who are standing by me and deserve that honor are below:
Two of the girlfriends I've still got Angie, and Naomi, yes I look like a fool in this picture, but they look awesome.

Christi, one of my sisters, thank you Jonathan for bringing her into my life.

Less insane picture of me, Angie and another awesome girlfriend I've still got, Karen

This is what we look like while laughing, sorry Na, I didn't have one of me laughing like this and this one is too good to pass up.
Me and my actual sisters, I'm on the left then Brooke and Meredith


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