All I ever wanted in my life was to be loved. I don’t really remember what age I was when I decided that being loved was what it felt like to lay naked with a boy who liked me and have his arms around me. I’m guessing that being sexually abused plus watching Dirty Dancing before I was ten was probably a pretty good combo for that kind of thinking. But I remember that my grandfather and my uncle had both made me feel safe and I knew that they both loved their wives; my grandmother and my Tia Mary. I knew that men loved their wives and that was something that I wanted. I didn’t have a dad or brothers, I was an only child being raised by a single mother in a house she shared with a man who was just her “friend” but who would molest me during the evening news while my mom washed the dishes after dinner. And while I didn’t know what was going on, I did know that every night it was going to happen and instead of being scared or wanting it to stop, I liked it. It took me a long time to understand that what I liked was that I was wanted and being wanted meant being loved in my five year old fatherless mind.
I lived most of my life putting that small fact in the back of my mind. Even when I started facing the memories of what happened to me, I didn’t want to face the fact that I was never scared of the man who abused me. He bought me a computer (in the 80’s that was big deal), took me and my mom to San Antonio on the weekends to eat out and go shopping, he even bought me two ponies at one point. From the outside it would have looked as if this man was being the father that I didn’t have. The reality is that he was grooming me. I was a little girl and I was defenseless against what was happening to me. My mom, who should have defended me, was blinded by stability or whatever it was that made her blind to what was happening to me. She did her best and I don’t blame her for not ever thinking that there may have been something sketchy going on.
When I was thirteen years old I met a boy who is now my husband. Technically, we had already met when we were about four or five, but that is another story. When I was thirteen I saw him and fell in love with him. He saw me and liked me. Because he was a teen boy and all that, we ended up trying to have sex. It was an epic teen fail on the sex part, mostly because I asked him to marry me and let me have his babies, which kind of killed the mood. Even though that didn’t work out, I will never forget what it felt like to lay there with him and just talk and laugh. I had never felt safe in my life. I didn’t feel scared at home, but I didn’t feel safe either. I never felt like I belonged anywhere with anyone and I always felt ashamed of how I looked or how I laughed. Not when I was laying there that night with Stacey. I really thought that was what I had been dreaming of for a very long time: a knight in shining armor that was going to save me. Someone to belong to.
I spent the next twenty years trying to get that feeling back. I had a child at seventeen, got married with a man I only knew for two weeks, had three more kids, had a miscarriage, and slept with countless men and a few women all looking for that feeling again. I just wanted to be loved, to belong, for someone to want me and every time that I thought it was about to happen, it turned out to be false. I felt that even Christians didn’t really want “my kind” in their circles.
Even though I always believed in God, I did not understand how God could be against sex, and from everything I knew about Christians, they all were prudes. What I knew about the Christian view on sex didn’t match my life experience. I didn’t understand how God could make something that felt good be the way to have babies but then tell us not to like it.
Looking back I don’t think they were all prudes, but I was far too broken and angry to listen to anything they had to say. Anytime I would hear someone talk about “restricting” sex to some Christian philosophy of what sex was for or should be like, I just tuned them out. I liked sex, it felt good. It always had.
It wasn’t until I was already in Austin after moving from Amarillo when my friend died that I had a huge aha moment. I wasn’t going out anymore and I had decided that I was just going to live alone for the rest of my life, but I would raise my children and be the best mom I could be. I wouldn\’t be a square, but I made a choice to definitely tone it down. I spent most of my days at home with my kids and one day I was watching Oprah. She was doing a show on sexual abuse and at one point she talked about how the one thing that people don’t talk about is grooming and how children don’t talk because they think the abuse was their fault because it felt good. Those aren’t her exact words; I’m just paraphrasing according to how I remember this episode of her show. Anyway, that moment I realized that when you are abused you get aroused and that doesn’t mean you asked to be abused or that you wanted it to happen. It is part of how we are wired. It kind of validated the one thing that I had always known which is that God made us in a way that we would find pleasure in sexual acts. But being a child means that someone abused that, abused me and abused his place in my life. That’s when I realized it wasn’t my fault. What I still didn’t realize though is that sex does not equal love, that the purpose of sex is for intimacy and reproduction, and that God doesn’t expect you to not like it at all.
All of that only made sense to me after I started R.C.I.A. and started reading what exactly the Catholic Church teaches about sex, marriage and love from mostly the writings of St. John Paul II, many bloggers and Catholic authors on the subject, plus a lot of discussions on Facebook for that last four and a half years. There is so much there that I could say, but when I look at the whole picture I realize that I never really liked sex as much as I claimed to. I liked the feeling of being wanted that I mistook for being loved and, just like when I was being abused, I was just aroused as a normal person would be, but it really honestly wasn’t about that feeling as much as it was about the feeling of being wanted that kept me sleeping around. When the sex itself no longer gave me that fix, then I turned to letting everyone know that I was sleeping with the hottest guys to make it look like I was wanted and sought after by men that other women dreamt of being with. So then people wanted me around to be their friend. Again, it was about that feeling of belonging and not about real relationships.
When I married Stacey and finally ended up in the arms of the man who first made me feel safe when I was thirteen, it seemed like everything finally came together, that I finally had my dream of being with him. The problem was, I was so wrapped up in the fairy tale that I never really saw what was coming, that for three years after the best day of my life, I would still feel like I was searching for love. I thought that I knew what my life was going to be like after I became Catholic, gave my life to Christ, and married the man of my dreams. I was wrong. I knew what I wanted of my life, but not what God wanted and I wanted to be in charge of what was going to happen, not give God control of my life. Learning how to love is a lifelong lesson and so is learning how to be loved. Marriage is how we get to know Who Love is.
I have learned a lot in the last four years about what love is as an emotion, a choice, and what willing to love someone means as well as learning Who Love is. I’ve also learned what part sex plays in all of that and that sex without true love is abuse of a gift. There have been times when I’ve been abused, when I have abused, and when I have failed to truly love my husband. It is not his job to make me feel the way that I have been seeking to feel all of my life. Only God can do that. I belong to Him and Him alone. My marriage is a symbol of that truth, but it isn’t that truth itself.
I have learned to accept my past and to forgive those who have hurt me. I can let that pain go so I don’t pass it on to my husband or my children. It is a daily choice too. There are good days and bad days, but with the help of God, I have more good days than bad ones.
In looking at all of this I realize that my lifelong search for love was a heart-wrenching search for God. I don’t think that He was okay with my abuse as a child, but I do think that He has used that as a way to draw me closer to Him. If it hadn\’t happened to me, I don’t think I would have thirsted for Him the way that I have my entire existence.
My husband’s is my hero though for loving me through my pain and in my search for God. He is the reflection of God’s Love to me. That is what marriage is in its truest form.
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