“Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it! Just Fuck it!”
Thus began Friday morning of a marriage intensive with a tentatively hopeful couple. The husband started the morning with his F-bomb proclamation. I looked around to see if somebody in charge would know what to do. My face looked calm while my insides freaked as I realized the person in charge was me.
The intensive began Wednesday night with Ann and I sharing our story and answering questions from this couple. Thursday we taught on betrayal, grief, guilt and shame. You know, the lighter stuff to ease them in. Interspersed in each topic are reflective exercises to ponder, write and then share their thoughts. We chiseled into some longstanding walls separating these two. Thursday evening as they left the 1930’s vintage Rocky Mountain cabin I felt tired. It was a good tired. A hopeful tired. Friday morning after enjoying the cool of the morning and peaceful gurgling of the backyard brook the F-bombs snapped Ann and I out of our overconfidence.
For over a year I met weekly with this man and later in our time his wife joined us. He has a hard story. A story he knew was hard but also denied the extent of the difficulty on his soul as a boy.
After charming the boy’s mom his father charmed the world as a charismatic salesman. They moved thousands of miles away from family and support. Before the boy would carry his backpack on a yellow bus to kindergarten Dad bolted from the family. How does this type of abandonment pound the heart and soul of a little boy? Security and safety vanish. Innocence lost. A world with mom and dad and a cocoon of love leaves the little caterpillar exposed to harsh elements before his butterfly wings form. He has no ability to fly through and above storms.
Mom was left with two small boys in an unfamiliar state. She leaned into her nonexistent friends and crashed to the ground. She drifted and numbed her pain with substances and younger men. The little boys grew into tweens with immature men only a decade or so older ‘guiding’ their paths.
Once, my f-bomb man got into big trouble for stealing the pot stash in mom’s bedroom. The boyfriend of the time erupted in acidic shame pouring it on my guy. What is wrong with this picture? I could go at it from 50 different angles but suffice it to say nothing of substance about being a man was being passed down. He learned that he had to take care of himself; he couldn’t count on the adults in his life and began to act accordingly.
A couple older girls in the apartments enticed him into sex before he was in high school. At the time this seems like such a thrilling triumph. Damage goes unnoticed. The illusion cemented into the boy is that closeness and safety only happened during sex. He carried this tilted view of life and love into marriage.
We tend to marry another at the same emotional level as our current state. This couple was no exception. They didn’t realize the wounds and immaturity of their souls when they pronounced their vows of fidelity in perpetuity. Why would they? Life seemed to progress in good order as a decent job allowed mom to stay home with the kids.
But remember that myth that closeness and safety are only found during sex. The boy who carried this deception into manhood demanded more and more sex. The girl who carried her lack of sense of solid womanhood partly due to a demeaning mother determined that she had no other course than to submit to his sexual demands.
She wore the color of underwear he wanted. Awoke at the time he wanted. Went to sleep when he wanted. She offered her body to him morning and evening, every day. Fourteen times a week they had sex. The man concluded he had hit the jackpot; his lotto numbers matched up and he had the wife of all wives. All the sex he wanted to support his myth. He was a real man. But like all idols eventually this one falls in on itself after satisfying for a time.
The woman eventually shared her story to a newfound friend. The friend informed her that her husband was abusing her. After a time of gaining strength the woman left for a shelter. The man was pissed! Who did she think she was to leave him like this?!
Somewhere about this time I began meeting with him. He was angry at her, didn’t want to look at his past (“I’ve left all that behind me”) but also wanted her home. For a year they lived separately. She healed and grew stronger while he and I met with some progress in owning how he had hurt her. But deep inside he wanted things to go back the way they were.
He did grow but occasionally the myth broke through the surface. This husband voiced demands but the wife now had the strength of NO. Fights ensued. Enough positive occurred for her to move back home. We decided on a marriage intensive to power through what continued to snag their ankles as they reached for freedom.
Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it! Just fuck it!! He was stuck. He realized he can be an ass but didn’t know what else to do. He still wanted lots of sex but also was tired of the stress around it. He knew his past ensnared him but hated to admit it. Then he screamed words of hope. “I don’t know what else to do.”
He was done scrambling, done trying to do it in his power. He found the end of his self-centered self. His myth shattered and crashed like a glass shower door. He put more trust in us and importantly more trust in God.
A month ago the four of us met. I saw a new man. He relaxed into the couch. Fear didn’t control him. Instead of intensity I saw security. He didn’t need to prove himself or vigilantly scan the room to stay safe. He rested as the tender, strong man who was finally able to fly.