Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the end of a marriage or two

In June 2007, I was in pretty bad shape. Eating disorder, suicidal, self-harm, crazy, crazy, crazy... I kept trying to do the right things by going to church. I HATED it there. I'd been taught if I felt lonely at church to make friends, so I did. Every week, I talked to five new people plus made an effort to talk to the ones I wanted to get to know from the week before. DH and I had get-togethers at our home at least once a week and sometimes more often.

I'd also heard that if you're feeling depressed, you need to serve more. I did. I asked for another calling. I worked as a service missionary. I sent little notes to people. I went to the temple every week. (Plus working two jobs and trying to get my husband's business up and making money.) I was TRYING, and it wasn't working.

My husband was physically and emotionally abusive. Again, I thought it was a problem with me. I had talked to the bishop in our previous ward and told him about an incident where DH threw me into the wall. He gave me a book on communication in marriage. I felt like what he was saying was that if I just communicated better, then DH wouldn't have to hit me.

Bishop J seemed to take notice of me. He was very kind. He often asked me how I was doing. One night, after a violent fight with DH, I ran out of the house. I sat in the church parking lot, and called Bishop J's home. I think I hung up right after he answered... I SHOULDN'T talk about these things. But that phone call made him take more notice.

In August, we went to a ward campout. I, being obsessed with food and exercise, decided to walk up the mountain. Bishop J (BJ, cause I'm tired of writing it out) repeatedly asked DH why I would do that. It just didn't sit right with him, but he couldn't explain it.

He called me in to his office. I was afraid of him, so I brought DH with me. Every question BJ asked me, DH answered. I (apparently) sat there with my head down, pinching my own arms until I left marks, and he was VERY concerned. He finally got me to trust him enough to sit with him alone.

He asked a lot of questions that I didn't answer. I was TERRIFIED. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him anytime. One day, I took him up on the offer. I picked up the phone and asked him what he knew about eating disorders. Nothing. I told him that I had HAD an eating disorder when I was younger, thought I was recovered, but over the past few months have been really struggling. I told him that starving myself was an addiction, even if it didn't make sense.

He helped me find a therapist and a dietitian. Eventually, I told him about the physical abuse. I told him that my ex-husband had forced me to have sex. (BJ's the first one that ever used the word rape.) I told him about the EQ President that had assaulted me, but I couldn't remember what happened. I told him about the way my dad had treated his kids, and how I always believed I was worth less just because I was a girl. He is the first person I EVER opened up to...

BJ helped me get into treatment for the eating disorder. He helped arrange for the church to pay for my entire 90 day stay at one of the top places in the country. He came to visit me every week while I was there.

He also talked to me. He shared that he had been abused as a boy. I was the first person he ever shared the details of his molestation. I watched and wondered about why his wife NEVER came to church with him. (It was a student ward.) When she came to activities, I didn't like the way she treated people. It wasn't BAD, but I was very uncomfortable. (At the time, I interpreted that to mean there was something wrong with me. Bishop's wife = good. Jen = bad. Uncomfortable with bishop's wife = Jen's bad.) I asked him questions.He shared his frustration and loneliness. I listened.

After I got out of CFC, he started taking me horseback riding. He knew it went against what the Brethren said to do, and he both wanted to help me and wanted to spend time with me. (His words, not mine.) I LOVED riding. I LOVE horses. They brought healing in amazing ways. I enjoyed spending time with him. I felt loved in a way I had never known before.

DH was jealous, but also grateful. He didn't know how to deal with me. After I came back from CFC, panic attacks, nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks were WORSE. My eating was better, which made all of the pain I was trying to avoid very STRONG. DH would get really angry with me, yell and scream and say horrible things. (He stopped the physical violence when I went in to CFC in Feb 2008.) After he would yell, and I would leave, DH would call BJ and tell him what he'd done.

BJ would call me, and we'd talk. A few times, he would come and pick me up and we'd go to his house. He would repeatedly tell me that what DH was saying was abuse, and I didn't have to take that. In BJ's home, I heard his wife talk to him and say almost word for word the same bullshit DH had said to me just hours earlier. I was confused and angry.

The feeling that kept ruling me was, "Stop loving me! I can't keep going back and forth between the two worlds! Its making me crazy!!!" When I shared that feeling with him, he started to cry, and said, "I understand that feeling." I thought if I just got rid of HIM and that feeling of love, I could LIKE my marriage. But at the same time, once I knew that love, I couldn't go back... I couldn't pretend like I enjoyed the relationships I had known before.

In January 2009, he was released as bishop. I figured that would mean I wouldn't see him so much any more. My new bishop actually counseled me against that. He told me to keep in contact, because I still needed that friendship. BJ asked me to come work for him. I was unaware that the student stake Stake President told him not to have any contact with anyone from the ward.

BJ opened up to me more about the problems in his marriage. He shared with me that he planned on leaving her as soon as his kids were grown, which was very soon. I suggested therapy and marriage counseling. He went, and she refused.

My therapy was growing more intense, I was writing letters to former abusers. I was still dealing with nightmares and night terrors EVERY night. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (think Multiple Personalities, but its not really like what you see on TV. Its more like a broken mirror. The fragments are all still basically the same, but they're not connected. Different emotions and memories took over as personalities. Jenni, the seven-year-old girl, talked about what it was like to go to her baptism interview. I couldn't remember those things, but she did.) My therapist decided I was not safe in the home with DH. He talked to my new bishop and BJ. I went and stayed in the BJ's home.

I thought it would be for a few nights. A week tops. While I pulled myself together. I got crazier. BJ was scared for my life. I believe I would have found some way to work it out, but BJ wasn't willing to let me. He became very unhealthy in his quest to keep me alive and to prove to me (and apparently to his wife) that I COULD and WOULD get better.

I continued to watch the way she treated him. And the way he treated himself. I BEGGED him to take care of himself, love himself, stop being a slave to what everyone else wanted. I thought she would love him enough to change. I thought if he stood up for himself, she would apologize and be different. She got more angry and more controlling (in my opinion). I thought maybe it was my fault...

I learned how to face my flashbacks. I learned how to make myself feel safe. I learned how to confront old memories and old beliefs and change them in my own mind. I made amazing progress. I am REALLY grateful I had someone who cared about me as much as he did. He sat with me at nights. He held my hand while my body went through being raped over and over and over again. I knew I was a great burden on him, and I often thought about taking my own life just so he wouldn't be burdened.

In April, I started looking for apartments. I couldn't go back to DH's home, because being around him made me worse. I also felt like I was safe enough that I would be okay in an apartment of my own. Bishop C (my new bishop) said he'd help pay the second rent for a few months.

Bishop C's attitude was that he was going to find a real slummer, so that I would have a reason to go back to DH. He didn't want to break up my marriage. I was very picky about where I was going to go. I HAD to feel safe. It couldn't be in a place where the guy upstairs creeped me out. Our differing opinions made it harder to find a place, but he found one at the end of May.

I "moved in" June 1st. (By moving in, I mean I slept there, but I refused to take anything but a change of clothes with me. I didn't want to get too comfortable, because I needed to go back to my husband.)

BJ told me he needed space from me. At first, I was confused. And angry. I didn't understand why he would tell me he couldn't talk to me NOW. I was getting better. He explained that he felt personally responsible for whether I lived or died, and he didn't want that responsibility anymore. He needed time to figure himself out. I realized that I wanted him to stand up for himself, and if that meant standing up to me, I was happy! It actually felt good to me to SEE someone do what they needed even if they were scared, or thought it was wrong, or felt bad, or guilty, or... Over the next month, I didn't talk to him or see him... Although I continued running his business while he was at his daughter's wedding and Scout camp.

In July, he invited me to go horseback riding. We talked about healthy relationships. I told him that if I was going to live or die based on what HE did, do us both the favor and let me die. I didn't want to live like that, and I didn't want him to live like that.

He bought the books, Codependent No More, and Too Nice for Your Own Good, and No More Mister Nice Guy. He continued going to therapy. She hated the books he was reading. I think she felt threatened by them. The two of us spent a lot of time talking about and defining healthy relationships, discussing the things he was reading.

I kept going to therapy. Working my ass off. BJ was still a huge support, but our relationship changed. We became good, close friends. Intimate, but not physically. We could talk about anything and everything. We had AWESOME discussions about everything. The most valuable to me were about the church. All of the doubts and questions he had, he shared with me. All of my pain surrounding the church, I could talk about. We got really angry together! Sometimes we'd disagree, but I was never afraid of him. He loved that I was willing to talk about everything.

In November, he told his wife that he was going to leave if she didn't go to therapy with him. She didn't go. She used a lot of excuses, and he has said maybe he could have begged more, but for whatever reason, it never happened.

In January 2010, my therapist (He's LDS.) started wondering and worrying about if BJ and I were growing close enough that we might have an affair. His exact words were, "You know how these things can happen." I cried. I DIDN'T know how normal people have normal sex because they WANT it. I had NEVER known that.

I had been raped. I had laid there while my DH got the job done. I had dated DH for two years and we'd never "slipped up" once. I felt no attraction to BJ, and in fact the idea freaked me out. I had always felt safe with him, but... if THAT could happen. I lost my shit for a while.

And then my therapist, said, "I just don't think you could handle a church disciplinary council at this point in your life." I didn't want to have sex, but I realized, I wanted OUT of the church. At that point, I seriously considered having my name removed from the records. If I wanted OUT so bad, that was the way to be honest with myself.

Around this same time, his wife asked him if he was still worthy to have a temple recommend. He said, "Yes. But I wish I had had an affair, then you would let me go." At that point, she told him she could forgive him for having an affair, but NEVER for leaving the church.

Within a few weeks, he'd moved out. A month later, he quit going to church.

I came to a place where I realized that I didn't want to be married. I didn't want to be in the church. Maybe because he had been violent, and although he had changed that, I couldn't get past it. Maybe because I couldn't IMAGINE becoming comfortable with sex. Maybe because I didn't want children, and he REALLY did. Maybe because I had never been single, and I wanted time to explore who I was. Maybe because of lots of things... I decided to get divorced.

By finally making that decision, DH and I actually became friends. We like each other now. We talk more openly than we ever have, and... we just can't be married.

After BJ moved out, THEN his wife decided she'd go to counseling. By that time, he was done. He had no interest in ever going back. However, he saw the power in trying to heal. He tried to talk to her about her emotional abuse. He tried to talk to her about how he felt like he had to do everything for everyone. He tried to talk to her about how he felt like a slave. He tried to talk to her about his doubts and questions concerning the church.

She went to the bishop. They actually went and met with him together. The bishop listened to BJ talk about emotional abuse, and the feelings he had about wanting to leave the marriage for twenty-something years. The bishop told BJ, he had sinned. He told him that if he just repented and returned to fully serving like he knew he should, then their marriage would be saved. And then the bishop turned to her, and told her that her marriage was in danger unless BJ stopped spending time with me.

BJ was both hurt and angry. What he heard was that it was fine that he was being abused, and he didn't want to give up our friendship. She had justification. She REALLY started blaming me. He was fine until he met me. He loved the church, until he met me. He's codependent and I'm controlling. He's abusive (by not doing EVERYTHING she asks... the word No is abusive to her. But its okay for her to say...) Sorry... I don't like the way she treats him.

He's continued to read about abusive relationships. She's followed the book very nicely. It's almost like she read how to be a really good abuser.

In November, he decided to move himself and his business to Nephi. To get away from her. (She was driving by his house several times a day. She would drop by unannounced. He felt like he HAD to get away from her, and the environment.) He also felt very sad at all that he was giving up to be true to himself... His therapist told him people would respect him if he was honest about his beliefs about the church. His kids and his other friends have not shown much respect. He wanted to get away from the constant reminder of what he could have if he just went back to lying about his feelings about the church, and could just "take" all of the abuse.

I work for him. We are close friends. I live in his basement. I pay rent out of the paycheck he writes me.

She's recently decided that I am faking my divorce, faking everything, so that I can get to him... I'm not sure what the benefit to me is to do that, but she believes it. She talked to her Stake President, and he discovered how much money the church has given me. He says he didn't do it as a Stake President, so it would be okay to share, and I am SO in the wrong, and she has a right to know...

I don't think he has a right to tell her anything... And I also think there are things she needs to know. BJ has tried to talk to her. I have offered to talk to her... back when I believed that she could and would change, I wanted to help. I have no desire to talk to her now, except sometimes I want to say, "Please. Stop being so abusive and manipulative. You keep emailing, texting, and opening your mouth to others, and you keep PROVING to me that you are a bitch. So, just shut the fuck up." I don't think that would be very helpful OR very effective, so... I probably won't try to talk to her any time soon.

My marriage is over. His marriage is over. And I have no regrets...
If I had done things differently, or made different choices, would he still be there? Maybe. Are there two sides to every story? Yes. And I only know what I know. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I still don't. I might regret the consequences, but I don't regret my motivation.

If that makes me evil, I guess I've decided I'd rather be evil.
(And I don't really believe that I am evil...)


  1. You go, girl. If YOU need to tell someone to "shut the fuck up", then by all means, say it. Maybe it will not help the situation, per se, but it will release the anger that YOU are feeling. It is OK to feel angry.

    Love and respect, always.

  2. And, I am of the opinion that the only people who can destroy a marriage are the people in the marriage. I do not believe, for one second, that you destroyed BJ's marriage.

  3. I agree with Duck, you didn't destroy their marriage, they both had agency and chose to do what they did. She chose to continue her manipulative behavior and he chose to get out.

    There are two sides to a story and who knows why BJ's wife did the things she did. But if he wasn't happy, then her motives don't really matter.

  4. I really think you did the best thing for yours and Bishop Johnson's best interest. Finding happiness is hard enough without trying to make everyone else in the world happy too, especially when other people are doing their best to make everyone miserable.

  5. Oh my LORD! This post made me mad on so many levels (not you, of course). I mean, the abuse, rape, unhealthy relationships. Ugh. And they seemed not only encouraged by the church...but almost pushed. I mean, you and Bishop Johnson have dealt with quite a lot of pressure. I'm so sorry you had to go through that (still are). Good for you for being so strong :)

  6. Thank you all!
    Duck, I get angry. :) Don't worry 'bout that! I just try to get angry when and where it will be most effective and cause the least damage.

    Jeff, I'm coming to find out that it really is okay to say, "I don't like this." There doesn't have to be any more explanation than that... That understanding is incredibly freeing!

    Carla, Amen!! No more trying to make everyone happy. I'll do the best I can... and that really is all I can do.

    Foxy, Things are getting better... And the crazy unhealthiness that seemed to be encouraged and pushed by the church is EXACTLY why I get so upset when I read things like your blogger friend...

  7. You know what? I don't see you destroying that marriage at all.

    BJ's wife destroyed his marriage! He just finally got the courage to do what he needed to do to get out of such an awful situation!

    I am so sorry that the both of you have suffered so much, but don't be too hard on yourself! *hugs*

    Also, I don't like the way the church tries to force you two into having to suffer abuse. What kind of crap is that?

  8. You did not ruin any marriage.

    A marriage needs mutual respect to work. DH and BJ's wife were not part of a working marriage relationship. Don't you think that 'marriage' is too often an idol that people are sacrificed to?

    You did play a part in getting two people to leave unhealthy abusive relathionships.

  9. prairienymph - You said, "Don't you think that marriage is too often an idol that people are sacrificed to?"

    Yes! I have never been able to put that thought to words, although I've tried... That is a perfect way to put it. And I was all too willing to sacrifice myself to that idol.