evangelical ex married young
April 4, 2010 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Why am I so bothered about my evangelical ex getting married young?

When I was at college I had a long fling with an evangelical christian boy. We did everything apart from actual sex, and there was enormous passion there. Unfortunately, he was ashamed of atheist me, so it stayed a secret and died out when he found a christian girlfriend (I was gutted at the time but got over it as you do).

Via the wonders of Facebook, I noted a couple of months ago that he had got engaged, and then last week was married. I ought to be congratulating him, on the usual happinesses with that added one of finally getting laid.

But it makes me feel very odd. I think I still feel a bit sore that he never gave me the chance to be that girl (stupid of me to be thinking particularly as I now have a loving, long-term SO) but there's also a weird, gnawing feeling underneath that which, I think, stems from my disdain for the whole abstinence trip.

Is it envy, that he managed it, and is now happy and settled and committed for the rest of his life? Is it me sitting on my high horse and wondering when he will regret stepping into marriage without "all the facts"? Or is it simply that I'm still smarting from the confidence it took away from me when I felt like the lesser person because I was not fit to be seen with?

I don't know. tell me off, Metafilter, or soothe me - but help me throw this weird feeling off my back.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in very similar positions (genders switched), and looking back it's always been just a blow to the ego, that they've "won" and that it puts to the lie the obvious truth that I am the best person for everyone.

Which is bullshit, naturally, but that's the feeling. I don't know what the time-frame was for your relationship with him and how long ago that was, but I would say it's perfectly normal, just power through it, congratulate him and it'll pass.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:33 PM on April 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little. - Gore Vidal

It's human nature to feel the way you do. It will also be human nature for you to gloat a little if he gets divorced in a few years, especially if the reason for the divorce is sexual.

Go ahead and congratulate him, if you have any desire to do so - it's good karma and whatnot. Don't beat yourself up for being human, just try to transcend it wherever possible.
posted by Pragmatica at 5:36 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, what I can see is that your relationship, above all, must have been pretty intense to surmount the enormous barriers it did, on both sides. Feeling pain after attraction that intense doesn't work out the way you planned is naturally, and it may be that it's all three of the things you cited, or simply that you weren't truly as over it as you thought, which in itself is okay.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:38 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can only tell you what would bother me about this. It would be:

-The hypocrisy and selfishness of him using me to have a passionate fling while at the same thing thinking of me as "not wife material."

-The hypocrisy of him thinking that he was the pure one, while cheating and lying behind my back and another girl's back.

I think if I were upset about him getting married, it would be because he had seemed to get away with all that, and got his fake picture perfect life.

If you relate to any of that, in the short term, I think it might help to remember that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. In the long term, it might help to not talk to/interact with him for a while, block him on Facebook, focus on your own life. Before you know it, you won't care about him anymore.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:38 PM on April 4, 2010 [10 favorites]

*natural, oops
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:39 PM on April 4, 2010

I think it's normal to kinda-sorta wish bad things on people we feel have "done us wrong." I know I've thought "I hope so-and-so will regret his rejection of my such-and-such." Not a very mature attitude but when part of my self-image comes from what loved ones think, rejection feels like disapproval so I disapprove in return. Just tell yourself that your ex has what he wants and if it doesn't make him happy it's not your problem.
posted by irisclara at 5:44 PM on April 4, 2010

A few years ago, in college, I put an end to a very painful and unstable relationship with a girl I really cared about. We had been together almost a year, for about half of which time I knew that it wasn't working for me and that I would have to break up with her. I was absolutely sure we would both be better off if we broke up, and now, five years later, I still feel that way.

But as relieved as I was to be done, when I heard (a few weeks after our breakup) that she was going out with someone else, it really upset me! I think there's a part of every one of us that (as Lemurrhea thoughtfully says) believes we are obviously the best person for everyone. Every one of our exes should cling secretly to our photographs and letters afterward, knowing in their hearts that they'll never find someone as precious as us. They shouldn't be able to just move on, and love someone else as if what we had never existed in the first place.

But they do.

This is a normal feeling, what you're experiencing. All it will take is some time. It's not rational, but what can we do? "This little Hound within the Heart," Dickinson calls it, that "whimpers so."
posted by cirripede at 5:45 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Who knows. Could be good old-fashioned envy or jealousy.

I know sometimes I get pissed whenever people make much more socially acceptable decisions or are more socially acceptable people and end up happy. They had it easy. It makes me bitter and grumpy. Ahem. Nothing to wallow in, but it happens.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:56 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're frustrated that his worldview and choices, which explicitly and confidently exclude you, seem to have worked out well for him. It's not much different from a scenario in which a recent ex meets someone new and cute and seems happier with the new girlfriend than he was with you--but it's just different enough from the norm of your social life that it's attention-grabbing for you.

This person treated you disrespectfully, then rejected you, and it hurts. It doesn't hurt because of his religious views or his beliefs about sex. It hurts because he acted like a jerk. It's natural to be upset that he's not being punished by the universe in any way.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:02 PM on April 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

He has the "Madonna-whore complex."

Robert Wright gives an evolutionary psychology explanation of this phenomenon in his book The Moral Animal. You can read about it here by searching inside the book for "madonna" and starting at the relevant heading on pg. 70.

As Wright puts it, the Madonna-whore complex is "the tendency of men to think in terms of 'two kinds of women' -- the kind they respect and the kind they just sleep with."

It's only natural that you'd take umbrage at him thinking of you as a member of the latter group.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:09 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sad but true story: A guy I know had this girlfriend in his early college years. She was extremely religious, so they never slept together or anything... etc. A couple of years after they broke up, he hears that she's getting married. Because she's pregnant.

Anyway, abstainers always annoy me because, hey, I would like some attention, too, please? But getting attention for having sex at a reasonable age is just not happening..in fact less the older you get... Whereas not having sex often brings a lot of attention, more the older you get. I just keep reminding myself that it's negative attention, and that I do get to have sex, and that I am not actually the center of the universe (much).
posted by anaelith at 6:11 PM on April 4, 2010

Slight correction to my comment: Wright distinguishes between the "Madonna-whore dichotomy" and the "Madonna-whore complex." I should have referred to the M-W dichotomy in my comment. The M-W complex is when the man views his wife as "so holy" that he's psychologically unable to have sex with her, which doesn't have anything to do with your question. The relevant thing for you is that he seems to think in terms of the M-W dichotomy. (Wright has a clever argument that the dichotomy is a useful evolutionary strategy, while the complex is a pathology arising from that strategy but obviously hindering reproduction.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:17 PM on April 4, 2010

If it makes you feel any better, which it probably doesn't, this entire scenario was just described to me by a female friend. Including the feelings you describe. She had a very intense relationship with a Baptist, who was very Madonna-whore (as Jaltcoh describes) and never considered her up to snuff because she isn't Christian.

I'll tell you what I told her. Thank your lucky stars you didn't get bogged down in all that mess. I recently attended a Baptist wedding ceremony, and that stuff sure isn't for me. They really harped on this point during the priests speech: "Women are called to submit to their husbands as God has placed the man as the head of the home (Ephesians 5:22)." They even did a little walk where she followed right behind him, as she promised she would always.

In my view, anonymous, you narrowly escaped being sucked under the wheels of a bus.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 6:23 PM on April 4, 2010 [13 favorites]

Yeah. It's the whole "You aren't Christian, therefore, you aren't good enough for me to treat as a serious partner, but I can still use you for some jollies" thing that pissed me off in a similar situation. And the Madonna-whore dichotomy thing sounds right on.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:37 PM on April 4, 2010

I'm not saying that you're wrong to feel the way you feel, but I wouldn't get too fixated on how his beliefs may have influenced his behavior. The distribution of hypocrisy, inconsiderate behavior, prejudice, and bad judgment among Christian men is approximately the same as in the rest of the population, even though they're supposed to have a set of beliefs that largely prohibits that type of thing. The guy treated you badly. Hopefully he learns to do better in the future (he is young, you say, and young people tend to screw relationships up a lot). But it's kind of natural to feel irritated/ ambivalent about a guy who treated you as less than worthy and left you when it was convenient.
posted by _cave at 6:42 PM on April 4, 2010

I'd be mad at him for taking a "holier than thou" stance and relegating your relationship to that part of himself that he hid from the world with shame. Might you be able to soothe yourself by reflecting on the comparative fullness of your life, and feeling some compassion for him? He has a whole side that he has to hide. That must suck. Particularly because it includes amazing things, like what the two of you shared. His sunny, idealistic face is great, but it's one-sided and based on an ignorance, intolerance, denial, and rejection of entire portions of himself and his life. It would make total sense to be angry seeing him celebrate that sunny side, having yourself been relegated to the category of things he won't accept, and knowing that the sunny side comes with an intolerance that creates pain.

In contrast, this post shows you not judging him, but just asking "what is this negativity I am feeling?" You can traverse a full range of experiences with less judgment of yourself or others, including things that he does not know or accept. I'd guess that you share some of his likely strengths (to be idealistic and seek goodness), but that you have other strengths that let you provide greater service to those in your life (to be nonjudgmental, compassionate, fully honest about yourself, empowered to draw conclusions within your own community rather than seeking right and wrong from an external authority, and to better see and accept things as they really are). He just can't go where you can go, and that's why he was wrong about you.

His judgment of others is likely based on the fear of being judged and rejected himself, and it obviously limits his life (e.g., having to hide your relationship), so even though he caused you pain, he is also deserving of pity. Hopefully he can develop a more balanced and tolerant approach to himself and others over time, so that he can not only stop undercutting his idealistic goals with intolerance and judgment, but also so that he can accept himself as he really is. If you see his rejection not as a judgment based in truth, but as an outgrowth of his own fear, perhaps you can more easily let go of the hurt you felt, feel some compassion for him, and move on.
posted by salvia at 6:48 PM on April 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

Well, from the sounds of it, he didn't actually abstain in the first place. I realize that most heterosexuals think "actual sex" is penis-in-vagina all stop, but think about that for half a second: it makes absolutely no sense at all in the real world. (Do you really think lesbians and gay men are all virgins if they haven't had heterosexual sex?) Enshrining one particular sexual activity with all this hooha is ridiculous to start with, and obviously your ex shared sexual intimacy with someone other than his wife. He shared sexual intimacy with you. That's pretty hypocritical. If you're going for that whole virgin-until-marriage thing, don't do it halfway.

I agree with those above saying he put you in a different category; sounds like a bad relationship. But that's his issue, and it tells you what you need to know about how he views women. You dodged a bullet.

I think, honestly, living in the world we live in, it's probably awesomer to be seen as the whore in the virgin-whore dichotomy. They're both ridiculous and essentialized, but in the end the whore is the creative, interesting one. I mean, who would you rather be: kick-ass, in-your-face, take-charge, take-no-prisoners Lilith or boring, dumb, innocent, passionless prelapsarian Eve?

You're just way too hot for him.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:57 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

To comment in a different sort of direction...there are many, many people from my high school and college in the Bible Belt who were tying the knot in their early 20s (or before) and while of course there is that silly part of me that is jealous...there's also a part that is somewhat horrified at how young these people are when they're making a life-changing decision.

I would say 99% of the couples I'm thinking of were deeply religious, so that sort of adds, for me, this sense that their religion is dictating this aspect of their lives, and I just...I don't know, I wonder about it.

They're apparently happy, so I supposed I should get over it...and truly, I'm thankful that I figured out the right path for myself (be single, have adventures, don't focus on finding The One, etc).

Maybe you can commiserate, dunno.
posted by LokiBear at 7:49 PM on April 4, 2010

They're going to make more like themselves, and they're still more thoroughly immersing themselves in their own culture, to the exclusion of other ideas and ways of life -- such as yours. That boy you liked is becoming more remote, and putting all those qualities you found attractive toward supporting a lifestyle you don't embrace.
posted by amtho at 8:14 PM on April 4, 2010

I'm with BusyBusyBusy. You should work on feeling option D). "Thank jeebus I'm not involved with that head case any longer."

Trust me, speaking from personal experience, that boy has so many more issues rolling around in his head (both of them) than you could ever guess. The anti-sex crusades are so insidious, so early, and so thorough, that it takes years and years and years to work past. He is fucked up beyond belief, and for you to try and understand much of it just isn't going to happen.

P.S. Yes he was a total dick to you. But he probably doesn't realize it. I didn't wake up and realize my total douche-ness towards my first sexual partner until I was 5 years clean of the "religion".
posted by whycurious at 10:22 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you sure he was ashamed of you, or was it just his attempt to avoid controversy, trouble with his family, breaking out of his social context? He'd probably been brought up a Christian, most of them are, and been told not just that he should marry one, and not have sex with anyone else, but that he would do so. The ties of obedience are strong. If that's how he was brought up, then to be with you publicly, let alone marry you, would have required a serious compromise of his entire personal identity.

Maybe he should have done that. It's highly likely that he considered it. For what would you do something that would utterly alienate the majority of the closest people in your life? Sufficiently strong love is the usual answer, but you can't ask for that, you can't even expect it, it has to be freely given. If it isn't, that's too bad, but it means that he wasn't "the one".

There are plenty of "the ones" out there. You say that you now have a long-term, loving SO, and maybe you are "the one" to your SO, but it sounds to me like you're still carrying a torch for this guy. At the very least, still nursing the wound.

Unless he's a total dipwad (in which case you are definitely better off without him) he is aware that he hurt you when he broke up with you for the other girl. That's always the case. When you committed to your current SO, you probably hurt more than one person yourself. You're allowed to do that.

You don't say whether it's the same girl he's now marrying, that he broke up with you for, but in any case, that girl or those girls felt, to him, more "the one" than you did. Aside from the hurt to you, do you believe that he actually did you wrong, did something he shouldn't be allowed to do, by acting on the feeling? From the sounds of it you and he didn't have any kind of agreement of exclusivity, quite the opposite if he wasn't even acknowledging you as his girlfriend.

You knew who and what he was, you knew his priorities (he made them clear when he wouldn't have sex with you), and you let yourself love him anyway. That wasn't wrong, but it was building false hope. You had the right to encourage him to change, and you gave it the good ol' college try, so to speak, but it didn't work.

Way I see it, the loving thing to do here, is wish him well; and yes, definitely do congratulate him on finally getting laid. It's a big deal to him, so big a deal that he went and got married at least somewhat for it. Re-examine your own commitment to your current SO too, if you're pining for a past boyfriend your current SO may not be "the one" and you may still be together out of habit, inertia, and/or reluctance to hurt them or face the trauma of a breakup. Which isn't fair.

You, this guy, and your current SO should all be with someone who they love, and who loves them back somewhere between 80% and 120% as much (inasmuch as it can be so quantified). Good luck to you all.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I had a similar feeling, when someone I had once had a fling with stopped being a "player" and got married and had a kid. Part of it, I think, is about doors closing (even ones I have no interest in going through, BUT I COULD IF I WANTED!). Part is about a kind of erasure of history. Like when a house you once lived in gets knocked down, or you go back to your old school and nobody you remember teaches there any more.
posted by emilyw at 2:55 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

-The hypocrisy and selfishness of him using me to have a passionate fling while at the same thing thinking of me as "not wife material."

I'd be mad at him for taking a "holier than thou" stance and relegating your relationship to that part of himself that he hid from the world with shame.

P.S. Yes he was a total dick to you. But he probably doesn't realize it.

Fair comments, but what about your own choices? You knew that he was Evangelical Christian. Maybe you regret investing time and emotions in a relationship with him. I wouldn't say it was doomed from the start, but if two people in a relationship have very different values and priorities, sooner or later something's got to give.

Btw, did he ever try to save you, or not?

Elaine: David, I'm going to hell. The worst place in the world. With devils and those caves and the ragged clothing. And the heat! My God, the heat! I mean, what do you think about all that?
Puddy: It's gonna be rough.
Elaine: Uh, you should be trying to save me.
Puddy: Don't boss me! This is why you're going to hell!
Elaine: I am not going to hell! And if you think I'm going to hell, you should care that I'm going to hell, even though I am not.
Puddy: You stole my Jesus fish, didn't ya?!
Elaine: Yeah, that's right!
posted by iviken at 3:13 AM on April 5, 2010

I'm bemused at your (and apparently all the other commenters?) view that a marriage means that the people involved are "now happy and settled and committed for the rest of [...] life".

Especially people entering into marriage quickly have a lot of work ahead, and you can judge their success in about twenty years, and even then only if you know them really well.
posted by themel at 4:43 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

themel has my thoughts exactly. I'm at the age where a good number of friends have been married anywhere from 2-5 years and are all in their late 20s or early 30s, and already there's at least one divorce. Marriage doesn't mean happiness forever. Marriage is hard. It's even harder when you're young. I got engaged at 21. I'm still married at 26 and very happily so, but there were rough patches. Soo many rough patches. They could, very easily, be divorced in 5 years. Not that you'd wish that upon them, but you can surely take solace in the fact that their marriage isn't this perfect love which will shine forever.

It's okay to feel bothered by this. I mean, you're asking why, but you know why. He kept you a secret! He used his religious beliefs to be a jackass. It's okay to not want to congratulate someone who was a jackass to you during your time together. It seems like you've moved on from the relationship just fine, but you don't have to think his new marriage is just peachy in order to get closure.
posted by kpht at 11:51 AM on April 5, 2010

Your post has bothered me and so even though it was posted a while back, I had to come and give a different perspective.
The fact that your ex even dated you says that he thought you were incredible. Christians are taught that it is sin to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. He may had fantasies about you being his wife, but his conscience, from being taught from the Bible, told him there was no future. So please don't think it wasn't because you were not good enough.
Christians are also taught that everyone is a sinner. His new wife is a sinner as well as the ex and if their marriage is right they will need to ask forgiveness from one another on a regular basis. Wives are taught to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This is not a natural thing once you have lived with someone for a long time, but it works.
I'm also an Evangelical Christian who has dated non-Christian guys. Usually they would say they were Christians, but had no real Christian convictions, etc. One in particular I truly loved. In fact I have given up dating altogether. I never once thought that they were not "good enough." Rather that I was wrong and had no business being with that person. That it was a flaw in me that would seek satisfaction outside of my faith. It was some of the worst emotional anguish I have ever experienced.
Although he was wrong, please do not judge him harshly. Only someone that he thought was special could have caused him to go outside his faith unless he was going through a very painful bout of loneliness and was vulnerable.
As for contacting him to wish him congratulations, as long as you show respect to his marriage, I would say do whatever is in your heart. It might be to your advantage, though, to just let it go and put it behind you.
Christians are just people. We screw up and are just like everyone else. The difference is in a internal alligiance to Jesus Christ that bids us give up what often seems good to what the Word of God says will show itself to be better. Hope this makes sense. Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions.
posted by srbrunson at 6:19 PM on April 10, 2010

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