Saturday, January 7, 2012

FOUR SIGNS YOUR CHRISTIAN HUSBAND MIGHT BE CHEATING ON YOU


I live in a county with a high volume (and tolerance) for the impromptu affair. It is also an overwhelmingly conservative, Christian county which makes it that much harder to determine adultery. I mean, Christians are supposed to avoid [falsely] accusing each other, to avoid causing division "among the brethren", and to avoid being busybodies. Consequently, some of the most unhealthy relational behavior becomes inadvertently protected. The elevation of these New Testament maxims over, say, the Ten Commandments (or common sense), discourages the ferreting out of adultery in the self-proclaiming Christian man more than in the man who makes no such claim (or who prefers not to market that aspect of himself).


Seriously, what do you do when you have a suspicion or proof even that a friend or acquaintance is cheating on his wife? And he has kids? And he has a reputation to lose were he to be found out? I'm not talking about going on a witch hunt or being a Wienersnitch. I'm talking about putting to rest the open loops in our minds when we see or sense peculiar patterns of the men around us who, whether or not it's true, consider us to be friends. 


I have been in more awkward circumstances than I care to admit where a belligerent Evangelical or Charismatic male personality made it clear that something was not quite right about himself and was so comfortable with himself that he was too clever for his own good to realize the signs he was leaving the rest of us. Here are four signs that your Christian husband might have some shennanigans up his sleeve (or up his pants leg):


1. Exclusive use of Evangelical Language. All day Sunday is one thing and Wednesday night (for some people) another. But men who have regular jobs Monday through Saturday who exclusively (or as much as possible) use religious code to speak of work, politics, how they are doing, finances, etc. are intentionally hiding something. I mean religious code is not specific enough to communicate certain kinds of information ("Gunny, when it comes to pass, concentrate your men of God on the coordinates of the pagan enemy. Blast those idol worshipers to Kingdom Come in the name of the Father, the Son,and the Holy Spirit." or "IT guy, my computer is infested with all sorts of unrighteousness. Would you be willing to move your bowels of compassion to help me purge it like hyssop, making it whiter than snow? I'm on a deadline, just what Satan would like. But I'm pro-life."). It's called "changing the subject", and it's not any more natural than it would be to use religious code to describe a Big Mac or a new pair of shoes. I've seen it (heard it) hundreds of times:


Business Partner: "Hey, there was $60,000 in the operations account. Now, there is only $25,000. Where is the other $35,000?"


Blessed Business Partner: "Hey, Bill, stop panicking. Panicking is sin. Scripture says that God will provide. The Israelites panicked in the wilderness, and that's why they are no longer God's chosen people. I will find out what happened to the money, but you need to promise me that you are going to trust God and trust me, or God might not bless our company. Do you want to still be one of God's chosen people?"


Business Partner: "But you're the treasurer!"


Blessed Business Partner: "Bill... Scripture says 'Cast thy cares upon the Lord.' You are in rebellion."


Business Partner: "All I'm saying is..."


Blessed Business Partner: "'Get thee behind me, Satan!'"


Religious code in these sorts of situations not only discourages communication, but it intentionally muddies the waters. I recently spoke with a man who has done his share of disseminating seed behind his wife's back. Our conversation went something like the following:


Me: "So how are things with the wife?"


Him: "God's strength is perfect."


Me: "That's nice. What does your wife have to say about your affairs?"


Him: "God's grace is sustaining her. And He's been giving us a calm we have never felt before."


Me: "OK, but does she know how many women you've been sleeping with?"


Him: "In his time."


This guy was not interested in reconciling with his wife, and his unrelated use of God-words clearly made that point.


2. The Underscore of Chauvinism through Scripture (at Odd Times). I am intrigued with men who find the need to quote Scripture whenever the subject of successful women or their wives comes up. Even if you were just talking about a subject like sports or stocks where the language is industry-specific, all of a sudden you are subject to an antiquated sermon about women. The sermon usually surrounds some confusing nexus about why these particular husbands don't "allow" their wives to do certain things like not allowing them their own career interests, not allowing them social network outlets, not allowing them to (in any way shape or form) have a voice that matters in any cultural conversation the husband does not control. 



Man 1: "So, did you go to the game last night?"


Man 2: "Yeah, we owned! It was awesome!"


Man 1: "Did your wife go?"


Man 2: "Oh, she was with the kids. She doesn't even like games. She wouldn't understand them anyway."


Man 1: "Do you take her out much?"


Man 2: "She loves being at home. These men who have wives who work or who gallivant all over the place end up causing themselves trouble. The Bible makes it clear that a woman's place is in the home. She should be doing whatever is necessary to support her husband, and last night my wife was supporting me by watching the kids while I saw the game."


Man 1: "What does she do for fun?"


Man 2: "Oh, she has a ladies night. Once a month or so. Other than that she's busy with the kids. She likes to sew. She reads. Hey, what about that game!"



I personally avoid these men's wives, because the hungry vibes they give off (or the deep breath they have to take to dive into normal, male interaction) are, well, uncomfortable.


3. Irregular or Unexplained Absences. I'm not certain why it's OK for husbands to unexpectedly disappear for a time from dinner, from the office, from church, from the city (you name it) but it is not OK for wives to do the same. In the community I live in, work is so integrated as to be indistinguishable from break time or play. People work at Starbucks. They work at restaurants. They conference call when running. They network while doing Crossfit. They Facebook all hours of the day. So it only makes sense for men to use the excuse that they are "going to work" or "getting work done" or "having a meeting" when you see them at strange places around town (or out of town).


I was recently in a local store a few days before Christmas looking at JBL stereo systems when I ran into a friend I've known for fourteen years. When I asked about her husband (a friend of mine, too), she informed me that they were divorced. She described how he fluctuated between work and unemployment. One extended stint when he was not working, he set up a home office to deceive her into thinking he was working. He would tell her that he would be in the home office working on time-sensitive deals. Occasionally, she would intrude on him only to find out he was not there. He was always leaving out the back door. Whenever she would call him up (and she did this frequently), he was always at the gas station getting cigarettes or at some meeting. 


I have a good friend who just moved across the U.S. I pretty much know his schedule. I can even call him at odd times and project where he will be. Nine times out of ten I'm right. He wants me to know his schedule, because he wants to be on the radar. I've spoken with wives who cannot even tell me what their husband's overseas schedule is much less his in-town schedule. I've had women complain to me that they cannot get their husbands on the phone at all during a 10-12 hour work day. The cell rings until it goes to voice-mail, or the husband prefers to text hours later.


I'm not saying that time will never allow you the use of these things, but as habits never. Such husbands don't even bother to offer where they were beyond the blanket "I was at work." It really isn't that hard to keep tabs on your husband or for your husband to let you know where he is. If he wants you to know, that is (and if you want to know).


4. The Overhauling of Relationships. Many a man I know has gotten extra-religious before his infidelity became public. In evangelical and charismatic denominations, it takes the form of an unexplained, theological shift. Not only does the man have a problem with the pastor of the church that he has willfully attended for years, but he also has a problem with the pastor's wife and the pastor's children and the pastor's teaching style and the pastor's personality and the pastor's choice of deacons and elders and the theology and the denomination and the history of the church, and everything in between. 


Then he disappears for a time while he's "sorting" things out: checking out churches, studying the Bible, meeting new religious circles. Then one day he's gone altogether. And no one bothers asking why (or people think they know why). I have known many friends to unexpectedly switch to Anglican, Roman Catholic, Fundamentalist, and agnostic expressions of faith. And they can never adequately explain their choices, largely because they think that the rest of us just wouldn't understand. I've actually had friends advised by their new spiritual guides to completely leave behind their old life so that the new one can take root (And I'm sure it does. Like a weed.). That's a foolish and generous berth for these men to do whatever they want to do without someone who really knows them getting too nosy. 


While only a few of these friends of mine ended up leaving their wives, sudden life changes, like changes in temperature, can ruin things permanently (I just ruined my freezer this weekend, thinking I could thaw it in the winter. Not only did it take extra-long to defrost, but it seems that the compressor froze up). 


I remember seeing a hipster friend I've known for years, swapping cars with a lady not his wife in a part of town I have never since seen him in. As I passed by, I remember almost calling him and then changing my mind. There are fifty reasons he could be swapping cars with a woman not his wife (couldn't there be?). I let that bit of rationale suppress my suspicion. So that I didn't even make the connection to the suspicious-looking bruises I saw on his wife's arm months before. And I could have sworn she had been crying. But, there could be fifty reasons why she had bruises on her arm and why there were tears in her eyes at the same time. Couldn't there be?


What is pitiful about these four signs is that the wife almost never sees them. These are ways men act in front of other men. Over the years my friends and I have agreed that it is better to be presumptive and preemptive than to allow these open loops to become ever wider. Who cares if your friend is offended? Really? What's the worse he can do but give you some Old Testament reason as to why he's screwing another man's wife? 


I've heard those lines, too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

DOWN WITH THE TYRANT! 15 SYMPTOMS OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE



I came across a paper yesterday that I had filed away for a decade. The paper, entitled RESIDUAL EFFECTS OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE, was paper-clipped to another document with the ominous heading WARNING SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE. With yet another Harry Potter and Voldemort feud on my Blue Ray as background noise (We Graysons had a three-day Harry Potter movie marathon), I read through the first paper, intermittently smiling and feeling pangs of remorse. 


According to the paper, I have been in a cult for 39 years. If, say, my physical, beating heart were the cult leader. I mean, I can't do anything without him and actually have little choice in the matter where his interests are concerned. Below I've recorded fifteen symptoms of what it means to be a cult member of your physical heart.


1. DIFFICULTY FORMING NEW FRIENDSHIPS OR INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS. Yes, were you to leave your physical heart behind to form a new friendship or relationship with another, say, heart, then that would be stupid and you would die.


2. A LOSS OF IDENTITY. Yes, were you to leave your physical heart to "be someone" other than the boring person you are, you would die.


3. DIFFICULTY MAKING SIMPLE DECISIONS AND CHOICES. Yes, were you to leave your physical heart, it would be hard to make simple decisions and choices because you would be dead.


4. PERSISTENT DEPRESSION. "Persistent depression" is one creative way to say that you would be dead. Yeah "persistently depressed into the earth." 


5. FEELINGS OF ISOLATION, LONELINESS, GUILT AND CYNICISM. Would these feelings precede or follow the abandonment of your physical heart? Good question. I vote both. You would be isolated without a heart, lonely, guilty (if you did it on purpose), and cynical had you done it and were reading this.


6. A RETURN TO THE EMOTIONAL UNCERTAINTY OF ADOLESCENCE. Yes, giving up your physical heart is adolescent, though it sometimes sounds romantic.


7.SHORT-TERM MEMORY LOSS. It follows that the death of your physical brain would follow the death of your physical heart.


8. DESPAIR--FEELING THAT THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO BELIEVE IN. Clearly, even though "believing in" your physical heart merely means not doing anything to jeopardize its function.


9.RECURRENT FEELINGS OF ANGER AND RAGE TOWARDS THE ABUSIVE HEART. Ever felt self-hatred but never actually harmed yourself? That is the control-freakish nature of your physical heart that has scripted you to forever consider the consequences of living without him.


10. NIGHTMARES OR UNPLEASANT DREAMS. What can be more unpleasant than dying? Really? (And don't say "Not having really lived", because your physical heart doesn't believe that any more than you do).


11. INABILITY TO STOP MENTAL OR OTHER RITUALISTIC PRACTICES TAUGHT BY THE ABUSIVE HEART. Like breathing.


12. FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES CREATED BY OBLIGATIONS TO THE ABUSIVE HEART. Like having to provide for yourself.


13.SHAME ABOUT HAVING BEEN DUPED. Duped into being "you."


14. UNCERTAINTY AND ANXIETY IN SOCIAL SETTINGS. Who would you be without your heart? (Damn him!).


15. TENDENCY TO SEEK OUT YET ANOTHER ABUSIVE GROUP. Like getting high or watching reality TV as an alternative to being reminded that you are you.


Absurd, of course. Cult leaders (no matter who they are) are equally ridiculous. For each tries to pass himself off as an indispensable (aka, intrinsic) system (like your lungs or your brain) all the while trying to be indispensable while calling themselves indispensable, hahaha. 


Cut them off and you might risk limping for a little while without those pseudo-vital organs, but it's worse if you "give them time." You never know, their batteries might last like the Energizer Bunny. And you just might find yourself wrinkled and toothless before you ever have a chance to breathe another breath of fresh air again.


Do you even remember the last time that you breathed fresh air? DOWN WITH THE TYRANT!