Poetry,  PTSD,  Trauma

I’ll Bet You Miss Me: an Ode to Walking Away

I’ll bet you miss me.

I’ll bet you miss my wide eyed devotion, my shaky self-confidence, my desperation to be wanted.

I’ll bet you miss my innocent naivity, my optimistic trusting nature. All the second chances.

I’ll bet you miss my eagerness to learn – the ease at which I was shaped, molded, changed. I’ll bet you miss remodeling me into anything you wanted until it wasn’t clear where I ended and you began.

I’ll bet you miss making me small so you feel bigger and better. I’ll bet you miss the days when I didn’t know how to speak up or stand up – when your opinion was final and what you said goes.

I’ll bet you miss the “Good Christian Girl” me – trained to be humble and submissive and obedient – a blank slate for you to write on. I’ll bet you miss the me who was taught to always forgive no matter how much it hurt – indoctrinated into thinking that doing the right thing was supposed to break me like that.

I’ll bet I was the best thing that ever happened to you. I’ll bet it satisfied a deep hunger to have a reliable outlet for your narcissism; your sick need to control and twist and spin reality, regularly fulfilled.

I’ll bet losing me was shocking. You knew as long as you could find the right angle to work it was always possible to get what you wanted – until it wasn’t. Not this time. You thought you had me. You were wrong. You thought the sweet things I had waited for years to hear would pull me back in. When that didn’t work, cruel stabs and fear mongering would surely coerce me back where you needed me. You got more and more frantic and mean, clawing and biting, grasping at straws.

It didn’t work because you are actually powerless, cupping your hands around a mirage.

I’m stronger than you. I overcame things you’ve never even faced. I outsmarted your most cleverly laid out plans. I don’t need you but you needed me, to keep up your farce. Your games only won for so long because I’m better than you. Those tricks only work on good people, you know; people who are compassionate and forgiving and selfless and committed, whose biggest flaw is wanting to love someone else more than they want to love themselves. Decent folks whose worst trait is being willing to sacrifice until it destroys them.

I’ll bet you miss me – all those years invested in grooming me and setting me up and spinning a carefully crafted narrative, nudging me in deeper and deeper. Almost a decade of picking at the crumbling foundation of my sanity, meticulously, little piece by little piece – all that effort gone to waste.

I’ll bet you miss the me who thought you deserved an ounce of my love or even a second glance.

I used to miss me too.

Now I don’t have to. I am my own again.


This piece is a poetic reflection on my abusive former marriage: a marriage I’m convinced never would have happened if I had not been raised in the conservative church.

Like thousands of Christian women, I was a victim of the church-to-abusive-marriage pipeline. Christian girls are trained from infancy to be obedient and meek, submissive and weak. We are taught to serve, to set our own needs aside, to bend to the whims of others, to always be more understanding. Christian boys are taught from day one to take control, to dominate, make all the decisions and enjoy the blessing of a “godly wife”.

As a little girl in the church, I grew up regularly hearing adults (usually women) exclaiming “marriage is sooooo hard!!!”. So. Many. Times. Many Christian married couples I knew were obviously unhappy and incompatible after marrying at very young ages. This shouldn’t have been unexpected, with the intense pressure from the community to fulfill the “Lord’s calling” by choosing a marriage partner as soon as possible, on top of the harsh religious romantic and sexual restrictions placed on young singles. Some couples clearly felt trapped due to intense disapproval of divorce. Almost every week I would hear someone complain about their spouse, so it comes as no surprise to many young Christian women like myself when our marriages are quickly fraught with difficulty and misery. We are indirectly (and sometimes directly) taught this is normal. We don’t recognize the signs of abuse right away because we have been conditioned to it, groomed for it.

Sometimes years later the lightbulb starts to flicker on. But when we begin to realize what’s happening it often feels too late. There is no one to turn to. The church community is run by men. The older women have learned to survive by falling in line. They don’t defend us, they encourage us to stay and be better wives. That’s all they know. The younger women are often just as confused and scared as we are. If we leave, we lose everything. Our relationships, our reputation, our ability to work or volunteer in the community we have built our life around, our sense of purpose, our livelihoods – escape is devastating.

Women are blamed for the abuse we endure. “You should have noticed it before you got married.” “You need to forgive.” “Did you seek wise counsel?” “Did you do premarital counseling?” “Do you pray for your husband?” “Are there any unconfessed sins in your heart?” “Do you give him enough sex?” “He needs respect!”

Sermons are preached condemning divorce from powerful leaders who have never needed to consider it as an option. Lessons are taught about wifely duties from men who will never have to fulfill them.

My little sister married as a teenager, and one by one my friends did too. One by one I watched their joy fade and any individually recognizable traits melt into their new conglomerate family identities marked by “duty” and “design”. With each baby they bore, less of them was left.

I was barely an adult when older women in the church started asking me when it was my turn to get married. They looked at me with pity in their eyes and they prayed for me to find a husband. On my own I wasn’t good enough, I was incomplete.

When a young man came through my Christian circles touting progressivism, it was refreshing and felt safer. I thought it might just be the refuge I was looking for.

Finally I could breathe without constant pressure and surveillance. I could enjoy the relationship without the suffocating formalities of courtship. Future children were an option, not a requirement. My body, my life, my beliefs would be mine.

Finally I could explore my spirituality in a more flexible manner. It was exciting looking at the Bible on its own, without a required interpretation. It was invigorating getting to explore who God made me to be apart from limiting man-made expectations.

It might seem shocking, but at age 19 I had no idea that he wasn’t the only “progressive” Christian in the world. That’s how sheltered I was. It was the first time I had seen a faith expression that wasn’t all rules and show. It was the first time a man besides my dad had seen me not only as a woman but as a person. I thought I had hit the jackpot, and I had better not let him go.

It probably does not come as much surprise when this man who was raised his entire life in the conservative church might have left some traditional doctrines behind, but was still profoundly shaped by evangelical toxic masculinity. A relationship that started out refreshing, freeing and healing quickly turned controlling, narcissistic, demeaning and mind-twistingly manipulative. It was the epitome of everything I thought I had left.

Because my now-husband claimed progressive ideals, my parents’ church had excommunicated me at the first sign of me even hanging out with him – long before we started dating. So I had nothing to go back to. But somehow over the next almost-decade I found the strength on my own to look intently at what was happening to me, rethink the very fabric of reality, let go of what little hadn’t already been taken from me, and pull away from his grasp. It was risky, dangerous, and not a clean break, but I made it.

I drove 4,000 miles across an entire continent to leave him. Alone in the dead of winter on treacherous roads no one I knew had ever traveled on. I slept in my car in freezing temperatures at snow-buried rest stops, abandoned campgrounds and creepy cemeteries; borrowed change in my pocket. Over eleven days, I made my way back, mile by mile, to my home state to start a new life completely from scratch in a town I had only lived in previously for a few months.

It was a long uphill battle and every difficult decision and hard-earned accomplishment along the way I wear as medals of honor. I walked away not once but twice: from the church and then from a man who was a product of the church. Now on the other side, I own myself for the first time and no one, not that man, not the church, not anyone else, gets to take my life away from me again.

I have faithfully kept vows to myself to stay far away from those old places and ways of life, and none of those people have seen me in years. And you know what? I’ll bet they miss me.

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