Working through some chapter questions in a book… this chapter being on areas of our lives that we hide and on feeling unworthy or “less than”.
In college, I began a long-distance relationship with a guy who was a decade older than I was.
He had also been a pastor nearly 15 years, mostly in an organization of house churches.
He was well respected, well liked, known for being a deep thinking intellectual.
I was young, had lead groups at my high school but had barely had my feet somewhat under me spiritually for about 5 years, and was known for being mostly silly and goofy.
In addition, the group of churches had some beliefs that I wasn’t comfortable with, so even though the largest of the house churches was in my town and I went to some of their meetings, I never actually joined.
This lead to a sort of weird dynamic anyway… as most of the time things went fine, but every so often, I felt like I was seen as just a flaky immature kid rather than taken seriously.
Granted, to some extent I probably WAS a flaky immature kid… but being brushed off as one in what was supposed to be a relationship really didn’t help things at all.
But there were also other things that fed into the dynamic.
First was probably the fighting… every single fight we had was big and dramatic, and always started out of the blue with something I said or did being taken the wrong way… without being willing to listen to what I’d actually meant or where my motives had been.
So feeling like I was always wrong and usually unintentionally causing problems didn’t help much either.
Then there was the weight.
Supposedly his concern was just for my health.
But somehow the phrase “fat cow” came out of his mouth during every fight.
I worked as hard as I could to try and drop my weight… not yet understanding that there were big chemical imbalances in play… and saw little progress even with swimming for an hour and a half 3 mornings a week, biking 3-4 miles a day, and hitting the cross country ski machine between classes for an hour several times a week.
Diet didn’t help much either.
Until a week fast. When some weight finally dropped.
Which turned into fairly frequent week fasts… somewhat for spiritual things, but more and more becoming mixed motives as weight loss success became a goal.
Eventually working its way up to three week fasts with a single glass of juice for each meal but only water in between.
And even then… at my lowest weight… I still couldn’t make my goal.
I was still too fat.
And still felt like I was the problem, even after things ended and the next person he started dating was a lot bigger than me.
And probably the aspect that messed with me the most emotionally was that i was a low priority.
On one hand, I knew that he cared about me. He spent a lot of time in evenings talking to me both online and by phone… and cared what was going on in my life.
And I knew that when he came to town, it was going to be related to church stuff.
And I knew that a lot of things were limited both by the distance, and by the leadership position. Cuddle time on the couch watching movies just wasn’t going to be in the cards.
But, unfortunately, neither was much else. It’s not like I was wanting anything that unreasonable… a date out to dinner with just us… or some time with taking a walk with him… just a normal date that could have happened normally had we lived closer.
But every time, business or fellowship won out.
He did fix this with the next girlfriend, setting aside days for her with no church stuff allowed… but then, that just made me feel even more “less than” that he hadn’t been willing to even carve out a few hours for me in person… only when he was at home far away and had nothing else going on.
Even our relationship status fell into this.
It was quite a while after the church members had already considered us a couple before he was even willing to give the title of girlfriend.
But as time went on, the plan became that I would move when school was over, and if we were still ok with it 6 months after that, we would do an official engagement and look towards a wedding 6 months after that.
I suppose in modern relationship levels, that falls under “promised”. Everyone we knew mutually seemed to make the jump to “fiance”. On very weird occasions, I even had to correct “wife”, or something written out that had my last name as his.
Sort of messes with you a bit, especially when you aren’t even entirely sure that he wants to claim you as girlfriend around some people sometimes
In spite of this… he was still my best friend… and my first serious relationship… and my world revolved around him way too much.
I loved him… and I knew he cared about me.
But I always felt like it was in spite of me being who I was… rather than because of who I was.
And I still felt like I was an embarrassment to him publicly… someone who harmed his image and goals rather than being able to be a help-mate.
The relationship ended in a huge fight…. after he got mad at me, because I had gotten mad at him because I was hurt at what seemed to be him making me look worse in the eyes of one of his fellow pastors.
Afterwards, I know that he was teasing… otherwise it would have made no sense to tell me the conversation happened at all.
And at the time of the fight, I’d assumed that I was just responding out of past hurt from other rejections, and family members who’ve always seen me as less than.
But in time, I’ve come to figure out that while that may have been part of why I felt as I did, my response wasn’t coming from that…. it was coming from that fact that I did feel less than… all through the relationship.
Though, I think that he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing in a lot of the instances… and that my assumptions on what he was feeling were probably off. If he truly felt like I was an embarrassment, would he have had the conversation and intentionally made it worse? Probably not.
Sometimes I wince… wondering why I ever stayed in that relationship as long as I did with some of the dynamics going on.
Others, I wonder if a good counselor couldn’t have made the world of difference.