Jump to content

Struggling to not feel angry, bitter and despondent


Recommended Posts

I deconverted about 6 years ago along with my husband (I know...we were fortunate to have done this together).  We have been married for 25 years and I can say we are good friends and have built a decent life together.  I am female (sorry for what seems like an irrelevant detail; this will be more relevant in a second). The deconversion process was a long and hard one but I don't have regrets.  I currently am agnostic and comfortable with it.  I came from a pretty conservative background (brethren), homeschooled etc. and many of my family members are in full time ministry to this day.  I am actually amazed that I finished college and obtain a bachelor's of science in Chemistry (was never encouraged to pursue academic things or to work).  I was offered free rides to several PHD Chemistry programs and thought about applying to medical school but my husband said "No.  I didn't sign up for this. You are suppose to stay home, take care of me and our kids."  Unfortunately, I was young (21) and I caved (*submitted*). I had no one around me that helped me process this or encourage me to do what I wanted.  So I worked a bit, helped my husband develop his career, and of course had kids. Fast forward now and I find myself just hating my younger self and am bitter that I didn't develop a career.  I am going back to school now to obtain my masters but my options are limited for PHDs (we live in a small town) and I am married and have 3 kids which further complicates matters as I am not "free" to do and pursue whatever my heart desires (or maybe better stated "I am free, but I choose not to destroy my 25 year marriage and abandon my kids to pursue education and a career). I feel like I can't undo the past and although I can make attempts to remedy the situation it isn't the same. Don't get me wrong.  I have a good life.  My husband is a good man, he makes a lot of money, I have 3 great teens, and I have made good friends.

 

The inequity in the male and female Christian world coupled with then the power differential of the one that stays home vs the one who makes the money is a set up for marginalization and total under achievement for a woman.  I am smart.  I graduated with a 3.95 in undergrad and currently have a 4.0 in graduate school. Why did I allow this to happen?  Why couldn't I see that I was not going to be happy with the end result? I for some reason am in crisis over how I feel about myself. What the hell is wrong with me?!  I should be grateful and happy but I feel a creeping depression coming over me.  I just can't stand when my husband gets angry and says "Everything you have is because of me" or he gets mad that I suggest a vacation that will cost $$ and says I don't get to use his money whichever way I want.  Granted this is said in anger (not with an entirely rational brain but I think it also shows exactly what my place is in the marriage). I put in LONG hard hours at home with no help (while he went to medical school and residency), faithfully cooked, cleaned and nurtured and raised our kids.  Why don't I feel accomplished?  Am I power hungry?  Why can't I accept the Christian version of a good life? Anyway, I feel like religion set this up.  My husband's self esteem is tied up being the provider and being in power (hard to undo this wiring) and my past decisions were made on my obligation as a woman to be his helpmate.  I am angry my parents taught me nothing about boundaries and understanding myself before committing to another person (who lets their daughter get married at 18 and not discourage or warn them?).  I feel angry that the Bible, my parents and the church can undervalue women so much (its couched in the man loving the woman so much he would give his life and that we are all equal but have different roles..... but we all know the realities).

 

I know I should just take responsibility for my decisions and accept my reality.  I truly am trying. But the reality is I am grieving and feel alone.  Are there any others that have regrets like this?  I feel like all the friends I make now have full blown careers, make a lot of money, and can't possibly understand what I feel.  Its hard to understand why people make the decisions they make until they have walked in those shoes.  The pressure, the brain washing, the lack of understanding oneself....it all pushes you in a path that a free mind would not have taken.

 

I don't know what this means about me.  I keep rebuking myself....don't be a victim, own your shit, and move on! Sorry for venting.  Sometimes writing things out is cathartic.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Damn, the gaslighting is strong with your husband. Here is my opinion: If your life is shared, so is the wealth, period. If not, he's in it for himself and doesn't really consider you equal or all that valuable (except where he wants you to be). That's a personality trait that the religion fosters and calls right, because the religion was invented by abusive control freaks. 

 

You've left the religion, but the roles still control your life it seems. I have friends who decided after years of marriage and kids to call it quits because to do otherwise would be intolerable. One said that she felt like she'd always done what was expected of her by others. And others were all too willing to "protect" her. She's a bit on the short side, so was treated like a kid for far too long into her adult life. Of course the breaking up was itself difficult, but was completely necessary for her to live without depression or worse. 

 

Only you can choose what path you really want to take, but you'll need to prep and get experienced legal advice (attorney) if you plan to start a new path. Otherwise he'll leave you with nothing out of spite. Also, a career during the pandemic is harder to achieve, but businesses are still hiring, particularly if you are skilled and brilliant. 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Salemite. I'll be 50 next year and I de-converted when I was 39. I have so many regrets, and feel like every big life decision that I made prior to de-converting was the wrong one. Since de-converting, I've been divorced, remarried, and now live on the other side of the country, and these were good decisions. My (now) wife similarly has lots of regrets as her life followed much the same path as mine did. (Coincidentally, we met here on Ex-C.) The "would have, should have" battle is strong for both of us at times. Just the other day, I was telling her that I wish I could just erase the quarter century between when I was 16 / 17 years old and almost figured out that Christianity was nonsense up into my mid forties.

 

To me, it's a sign of a personality type of being a deeper thinker than most. I won't ever understand the people who have no regrets. All I really know to say is that you are certainly not alone in this.

 

 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Salemite. Sorry to hear about your regrets. Give yourself time (but not too long) to grieve what could have been. . .and then make a plan to achieve some personal goals. Do you really have to choose between furthering your education/career and your marriage/children or is this a false choice? Perhaps tell your husband that you supported him and his career and now its his turn to do the same for you?

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Fuego, thanks for your response.  There are old remnants of the past ways but most of it is entirely gone.  I am not willing to leave my marriage of 25 years mainly because I believe in change (would never have thought I would be agnostic 10 years ago!).  I think it takes time to change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. I love him and he loves me.  We are working towards a more equitable relationship.  We talk a lot about it.  I think it is hard to leave an old system behind that served him so well and made him feel good.

 

Eugene39 thank you for your kind words.  I am an idealist and can get caught up on how things should be and I overthink everything.  I am often amazed we left our religion.  It is the right combo of intellect, openness, adherence to logic, a willingness to entertain and think about things despite what the outcome may be, and being somewhat of a purist.  My lack of financial necessity is making my desire for a career more "lofty" and self fulfilling which is a tall order.  I think I am struggling with issues of pride as I don't like the low position I have put myself in.

 

Freshstart....we have had talks about what I did for him and now its my turn.  He doesn't see the point in me seeking more education.  We don't need the money and he feels like I am disparaging his contributions to the family.  Paying for my current masters is already a huge leap already.  Me leaving the state to pursue a furthering of my education would be intolerable to him at this point.  I think I need to accept that what I could have built and done in my 20s cannot be replicated in my 40s for many reasons.  I am grieving a bit.  I refuse to stay in the bitter or victim mode.  I need to make the best of my circumstances now.  I know I have a lot to be grateful for.

 

Thanks for letting me process.  It feels dangerous to be open about these things but I feel like it is hard to find ex-christians.  People who understand how upbringing and the church did quite a bit of harmful brainwashing. The roles that conservative Christianity force or encourage have really influenced what I have done with my life.  I have created a beautiful life that is not perfect but it beautifully broken.  I am slowly trying to rebuild.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

WELCOME!  You are definitely not alone!  The cultural programming can run very deep and can be hard to shed.  But don't give up on the marriage yet.  There may be hope.  My wife and I came close to parting, but were able to eventually work it out.  Charting a new direction wasn't easy, but our last child was leaving home so none of them had to witness the arguments and obvious silences that occurred for several months.  We always had some different interests, so not doing so many things together eventually worked out.  Ha!  Part of the problem was empty nest syndrome.  There is still some tension, but we decided we have enough mutual interest to keep us together.  I won't go on with the story, but would be glad to share my family and professional experiences if you are interested.  What you are going through is a fairly common problem, especially when people marry young, or one gets more education than the other.

 

13 hours ago, Salemite said:

Thanks for letting me process.  It feels dangerous to be open about these things but I feel like it is hard to find ex-christians. 

 

You can say that again!  Telling people you are agnostic in Kansas is as bad as following satan.  I think my background is similar to yours.  When you say brethren, is that Mennonite?  That was the last church we attended in my long process of leaving conservative religion, with my wife and I growing up in the Church of Christ.  She is still somewhat of a very liberal "believer", but no longer goes to church.

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I just read what you've written here Salemite and I think you are wanting to put yourself into too small of a space. You want to give considerable credit to your husband moving in your direction but all I can see is that he is willing to listen to you sometimes as long as he doesn't get angry. His halfhearted support of your education while at the same time putting it down ("he doesn't see the point in me seeking more education"} isn't what you need. It's difficult for me to picture that your 25 year marriage has become an acceptable imperfect but improving partnership as I think you are hoping to portray it.

On 10/21/2020 at 2:29 PM, Salemite said:

My husband's self esteem is tied up being the provider and being in power (hard to undo this wiring) and my past decisions were made on my obligation as a woman to be his helpmate. 

So are you referring to your obligation to back up the coerced decision of the 18 year old girl or that of the 21 year old. If you don't take seriously what your inner self is trying to tell you could lose that voice and yourself with it. You haven't even allowed yourself to share your dream with us. I can't help but wonder if you've allowed yourself to explore that dream. I don't know what your future could be but the world could certainly use a really good chemist or chemistry professor or tell us what do you see as something you really want? In my opinion the most important thing we do as parents is roll model. You are at a difficult place in your life and chances are very good that your children have some sense of that and will put much stock in how you handle this difficult time. They know they will become adults and then their turn will come so they watch everything we do even if they pretend like they don't. They watch because they want to know. It really doesn't matter whether daughter or son but let's say you have a daughter. Do you want to send the stifle message that what she wants for herself should be on a much lower plane than her husband or even that parenting necessarily means sacrificing your hopes and dreams. I think you are presenting yourself with a false dichotomy when you say you are unwilling to destroy your 25 year marriage or break up your family. If you actually have a partnership your husband has every opportunity to support you right down the line on following you dream (if you allow yourself to have one) and getting your PHD and doing whatever you want to with it. He can actually work to make you feel good about wanting to be who you are whether or not he thinks that is the you that would work best for his goals. You love him. It would be fine for him to show you some true unselfish love. You supported him unconditionally throughout his getting his education and starting out in his working life. Why would it be so strange for you to want the same thing from him. Maybe you'll have to do some creative things with your parenting to replace some of the things that you were able to do previously but you will have shown you children how to respect themselves and possibly just as importantly how to face difficult situations head on. 

   I'm just wanting you to look at your thoughts and desires in a more fair light Salemite. No one can or should make decisions for another person. You are very young still at 43 and 6 years is not a long time to work out your deconversion. I very much wish you would consider finding a good secular therapist for yourself and carefully go over all the issues you have touched on here. I think this would be a great time to get someone in your corner who doesn't have anything to gain from what decisions you make. It is I think the very minimum you owe yourself before you "accept" your situation (because you are no longer 20) or move on into a life that may be not where your DNA wants you to go. Be careful and respectful of yourself. Maybe down the line couples therapy or even family therapy would be something to consider. Your husband may not want to think about or understand what is at stake for you so the onus is probably entirely on you or hopefully on you with the help and support of a great therapist. 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Salemite said:

 

 I think it is hard to leave an old system behind that served him so well and made him feel good.

 

Excelent insight.  But old dogs can learn new tricks!

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Salemite, thanks so much for opening up.  It may be provocative, but I would be interested in your thoughts on the value you place on having your children.  If you had focused on your career as you outline, then it is entirely possible that at your age you would now have no kids, or maybe only one.  And juggling a career and family is often very stressful, with a range of risks. It used to be the case that children were seen as essential insurance for old age, but these days many people without children see self reliance as sufficient.  Having a stable marriage and then having grandchildren can be a great joy in later years, giving a sense of continuity with the future.  And depending on what you want to achieve through further study, there are many possible opportunities for older people.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Salemite,

I can't imagine anything I could say to be of value to you, but in my own situation, very different than your own, I see similarities.

 

No one tells you at age 18, or 25, or 35 that there comes a point if you live so long where your regrets begin to stack up and loom so large behind you.  The hope is that all the good things, the achievements, experiences, and memories you accumulate will outweigh the regrets.

 

And this is such a part of the natural human experience.

As the church imposes such a range of expectations and 'standards' upon your life, with each one is a diminishing of who and what we each are as unique individual human beings.

 

I believed that God had a plan for me. It seemed along the way that his plan for me was a little "off the beaten path", but I was willing to serve my spiritual master in accordance with what I believed was the best within me, the best effort I could muster, given my particular weaknesses and human frailties.

 

It was the perspective gained when enough time and life circumstances passed which then enabled me to see clearly that there was no God watching over me and my life.

 

It was that initial flash of understanding and insight that my life was an amalgam of my own nature by birth, my life circumstances, and my choices along the way which caused me to finally let go of belief in any "higher power". Once I looked, when I truly and honestly examined who I am and how I arrived where I am today, I could see no God there anywhere.

 

The intense frustration of hindsight and retrospection can kill you.

Surely that too is one of the things which separates us from the other animals.

Regret is a bitter poison. I very much hope you can find a way to move beyond yours into something better.

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Thankyou for sharing your story @Salemite. I’m crying softly in my car. Your story is my story. (Except I decided to divorce my fundamentalist husband as he was incapable of change).

 

I also have regrets. I didn’t pursue my career so I now have a low income and 3 kids. I didn’t save much for retirement either (I am 47). I subjugated my own needs and now I am paying a high price. I buried my dreams. I treated my needs as being less important than the needs of my husband and kids.

 

Why did I do this? I was a “good” child, in a religion that starves girls of their individuality. I learned to comply and obey. I was scared of my shouty, controlling mother, so I learned to fit in and not make a fuss. Putting my needs last was a survival instinct. 

 

Thus I chose a controlling, christian husband. My psychologist said that we often choose relationships that feel familiar to us, rather than what is healthy for us. I made decisions based on not upsetting my husband. I loathe conflict so I kept the peace, kept my mouth shut. Change seemed too scary.

 

However I eventually outgrew this survival instinct. My fear of having regrets propelled me forward. I realised that I was ruining the one life I may ever be granted. I didn’t want to end up bitter and resentful.

 

You sacrificed a lot to raise emotionally healthy humans. Nobody can put a price on that. And now you feel guilty for what you want and doubt your right to aim for anything more satisfying.

 

But you can’t care for others well unless you care for yourself too. You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can help your kids with theirs. 

 

I agree with @DanForsman about being a role model for your kids. Do you want them to grow up thinking that your situation is normal? Would you want your daughter to be in a situation like yours?

 

I agree, playing the victim keeps us feeling stuck between the past and the future. But who is actually holding you back? Is it your husband or yourself? Are you still “giving” him control over you?

 

You seem to be grieving your dream but there is still time to find a way to make your dream happen. Everything you want is on the other side of fear...

  • Thanks 1
  • Sad 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.