Wanting to Date, Being Told to Wait: Adah’s Story, Part Three
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Pearl” is a pseudonym. Other names have been changed to obscure identities.
Content Warning: Descriptions of emotional, physical, sexual, and religious abuse.
< Part Two
Part Three: Me and My Dearling
I am one of the fortunate females in the fundamentalist/patriarchal culture to have attended college, albeit under my parents’ watchful eye.
In school I had caught the attention of one of my classmates who refused to leave me alone. Despite giving him the cold shoulder, Dearling decided to be my friend, no matter what it took. He was irresistible, and in a good way. He understood me and my background, and he had the most enduring patience I have ever encountered. I didn’t want to have a romantic relationship with him though. I was deathly afraid of what my parents would do this time. I had met the man of my dreams, but I was paralyzed.
Slowly but surely, Dearling melted my heart from the inside out. I tried to break up with him preemptively multiple times, but we couldn’t stay away from each other. I told my parents he was just a friend. They made it clear that he better remain that way. When they realized that we were more than friends they tried to break us up. They put impossible rules on us that even by courtship standards would be seen as ridiculous. I was their daughter, and they were not about to let me be wooed by my Dearling.
We tried to keep the rules to show a spirit of cooperation. Instead, seeing that the rules were failing to make us hate each other, my parents made them worse. So we got engaged. But we kept it a secret because I was still afraid, living under my parents’ constant scrutiny. I lost weight and became borderline anorexic. I lied to be with my Dearling but I was dying inside.
I had to choose between my parents and my Dearling.
I thought choosing my parents was they only way to obey God. I had been guilted into obeying my parents by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible so many times that I didn’t know I had true choices as an autonomous adult. I was at a breaking point. I tried to give the ring back, by my Dearling’s love for me overcame my fear. We told my parents. They played nice for a while, but then things started getting much, much worse. After a few more months of hell—verbal, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, I moved out. Not with my Dearling, because that would be wrong, according to what I believed at the time.
Finally, we could date and love each other they way we had been longing to for months. And then we eloped.
My Dearling and I have been married for a while now. I don’t talk to my family anymore. I can’t do it without extreme anxiety and panic attacks. We tried to reconcile with my parents but they never could see what they did wrong. They just tried to manipulate us more and more. So we had to close the door.
Maybe one day they’ll see that they didn’t fail in raising their children just because they rejected their version of “right.” Maybe they’ll learn, like I have, that consent is important, that individuals have autonomy and are not owned by anyone else, that love is a choice and cannot be stopped or force, that feminism and birth control are not inherent evils, that it’s okay to ascribe to different brands of religion, and that at the bottom of good relationships is one thing: respect. My Dearling and I respect each other and we are happy. We dated, wouldn’t be forced into courtship, and we are okay.
In fact, we are more than okay, we are ecstatically happy.
End of series.