Personal story of a relationship broken by legalistic pressures brought on by teachings from Doug Phillips, Vision Forum and Christian Patriarchy ideology within the Homeschool Movement.
A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from “Bethany” who shared her personal story with me and just recently she decided to share her story publicly. Bethany comes from a diverse educational background. She homeschooled with a group at church in kindergarten, then attended private school, and completed her high school online. While in college last fall, she met a young man and developed an interest in him. That is the story that Bethany is willing to share with us.
What is unique about this story is that most of the time we hear from young ladies connected within the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Bethany was not part of that system, but later found out her boyfriend was. It wasn’t until the recent Doug Phillips scandal that pieces started coming together for Bethany so this is still very fresh for her. With the help of her parents, Bethany was able to see the trap in Christian Patriarchy and the emotional and spiritual tug-of-war her boyfriend was facing as he attempted to make choices independent of his parents and have a relationship with Bethany.
I am very grateful to Bethany for giving us a unique glimpse into this destructive culture of Patriarchy within the Homeschool Movement. ~JA
A Young Woman’s Relationship with Her Boyfriend is Shattered by Christian Patriarchy
I started college last fall and met a guy at one of the campus ministries. We hit it off very fast, and it was not long before I became interested in him. He was pretty much the perfect package in my book: handsome, intelligent, kind, good-hearted, and ultimately and most importantly, a devout Christian. He was simply one of those individuals that exhibited the light of Christ, and everyone noticed this. This was the first time in my life that I had truly been interested in pursuing a relationship, so I took things very slowly. I spent the entire first semester just getting to know him through the ministry. I noticed that even though he seemed to be pretty quiet, he always made the effort to talk to me.
Before we knew it, we were talking to each other all the time. Any chance we could, really. If we ever saw each other, an effort was always made to speak. One of the many conversations we had was about Calculus. I was currently in the class and struggling, while he was in Calculus III and a complete math genius. Over Facebook one day, I asked if he would mind tutoring me, and he let me know he didn’t mind at all. I noticed that we really connected with each other during our tutoring sessions. While it was hard to tell whether or not he was interested in me because he was nice to everyone, I still felt something special there. There was a connection, and I couldn’t deny it. He made me feel so much better about Calculus, and he genuinely was the one who helped me understand.
Since he helped me greatly with my confidence in the class (I firmly believe he’s the reason I got an A), I wanted to treat him to dinner at a nice restaurant as a way to thank him for all the time and effort he put into helping me. By this point, I was aware that he was the fifth child out of ten and didn’t really come from a family where he got nice things. He pointed out to me one day that he hardly ever ate out, and if he did, it was a fast food place. I really admired him as a person at this point and wanted to let him know in a special way that I appreciated what he did for me.
Even though we had neither addressed with each other that we were going out on a date, that is practically what it became. Later he told me that when he saw me walk out of the dorm towards his car, he decided in his mind to make it a date. He pulled out all the stops too, being a complete gentleman. He made sure the car was warm (it was December) and paid for the dinner, even after I had told him that it was my treat. He said he didn’t feel comfortable with me paying. We ended up spending over two hours at the restaurant talking, just getting to know each other. I was amazed at how well we kept conversation. Before we even left the restaurant he asked if I wanted to go to one of the college’s basketball games with him just a couple of days later. This is when we both realized that we were interested in each other and something was definitely there.
We talked over Christmas and went out on a few more dates once we had returned from the break. That’s when the big questions started coming up and a riff with the family came into the picture. I expressed that I was interested in entering a relationship with him with the pursuit of marriage in mind. That’s when he explained to me that his parents did not approve of dating, but courtship. He had me at that. I was already confused. He said it was more likely than not that we could not start a relationship.
He didn’t tell me much back then, but he knew that his parents would not approve of me. I assured him that I was very serious about him and was more than willing to talk anything out that might be an issue.
Our conversations quickly escalated from getting to know each other to my views on homeschooling, birth control, working as a woman, and modesty.
I had absolutely no idea where it was coming from and why it was so important to him so early in the game. It was when he took me to meet his parents when I realized that he grew up in a completely different home than me.
I was extremely nervous about meeting his parents because he had told me how strict they were about their beliefs, and he made it aware to me that they were uncomfortable with me and my interest in their son.
Everything he told me about them came true when we met. Most of our conversation was about how they disapproved of our relationship and all of the reasons for why that was, which included keeping a reputation within their social/religious group and urging their son to seek their parents’ blessing, which they assured us he did not have at this point. They told us that we were unprepared for a relationship since we had not figured out how we were going to address issues such as homeschooling and birth control as a couple. I felt like these parents were treating us like we were heading to the altar tomorrow, but I just wanted to get to know their son and his family better. Assuring his parents that we were serious about marriage was not enough for them to accept our relationship. That night we made it official anyway, even though he was slightly uncomfortable with it. There was a part of him that I could tell wanted to be with me, while another side of him was scared for his life.
It didn’t take me long to figure out why he was scared. He told me that his parents were constantly dragging him to their room or other isolated areas of the house (he was in college but still lived at home) for lectures about how he was not heeding to the instruction of his mother and father and that he was being unwise for not following their counsel. This happened several times, to the point where it drove him crazy. By this point we were open to talking about anything, so I knew about the whole thing.
He did anything he could to be out of the house. He always wanted to be with me, and I did my best to come up with several things to do to ensure that he didn’t see his parents much. He left his house every morning at 5:30 for class and sometimes didn’t leave for home until past midnight, when he knew his parents would be asleep and he could sneak into his house only to get up and leave early before they woke.
The harassment from his parents got so bad that my parents came into the picture. They drove to his house and we had a discussion about us. The entire time, his parents were completely hysterical and out of control, barking at my parents, him, and I about how terrible our relationship was. His father kept looking at him, repeating Proverbs passages about how wise sons listen to and obey their fathers and mothers, and his mother kept talking about how she saw us taking our relationship in our own hands as an act of defiance. My parents remained calm and collected throughout the meeting and mainly listened to these people list everything they didn’t like about us, including the way their son lovingly held my hand and wrapped his arms around me. His parents also didn’t see their son as ready to properly guide me throughout life since he wasn’t heeding their counsel. It all went back to the parents, and that’s when red flags went up for my parents.
My parents weren’t comfortable at all with his parents after meeting them. Throughout the entire meeting they were using code that we didn’t understand (which we later found out to be lingo used in the world of Vision Forum). They knew something wasn’t quite right, but they couldn’t put their finger on it. Since they saw that this boy and I were truly in love with each other, they gave us time to observe and see what would happen.
Over the months I became mentally and emotionally married to this man. We knew we were going to be together forever. We were just waiting to reach a level of financial independence to where we could. My parents had come to this realization as well, and he became a son to them. The rest of my family claimed him as one of us too. He was dearly loved by everyone in my life. My parents and I did everything in our power to help him, seeing that he needed it. While he was struggling with several things, he didn’t go into much detail with us and we didn’t understand it.
We did realize though that he almost had two personalities. One day he would be having the time of his life and the next day he would be depressed. It was very confusing for me because on the days he felt good, he was so happy and showered me with love. On his bad days, he was uncomfortable with our relationship and often shared something he didn’t like about me or my family, which made me upset and mad. Knowing that God had placed him in our lives for a reason, we simply continued loving him and letting him know that we were there for him. Since we didn’t know the extent of his background, we thought this would be the best way to handle it. He even spent the summer with us working with my father on an app (my father is an engineer and he is a computer scientist), and we thought we had seen tremendous growth from him. We thought he was finally coming into his own and developing a sense of confidence. When we headed back for school this fall, however, something dramatically changed.
He was no longer the man I thought he was. He started treating me differently, and I was so lost and confused. One day I would be his princess, and the next day he would want me out of his life. I became the one to blame for everything, and he started criticizing everything I did. It didn’t even matter that through it all, I unconditionally loved him and always put himself before me. I started changing for him because I was that afraid of losing him. Eventually, things blew up when my parents finally figured out why he was struggling with the issues he was and why his parents were acting so strange to everything about my family and me.
My parents started researching about Vision Forum once Doug Phillips’ affair was publicly announced, and after days of research, my parents finally figured out that his parents were followers of this ministry and he, the one I loved, had grown up in it. I finally realized that he had been controlled and manipulated by his patriarchal father his entire life.
He was never allowed to be his own person and form his own opinions.
I now realized that the first time he had ever attempted to live life the way he wanted to was with me, and it all makes sense now as to why the parents can’t stand me and my family. It also helped me understand why he changed with the flip of a switch. To this day, I do not know what, but I suspect his father started threatening and manipulating him through e-mail and text messages to get him to come back to the movement he was trying to break from. And he caved in. I truly think that he wanted it both ways: me and his way of life. He found out from my parents quickly that he could not drag me into this lifestyle, especially with the way these people viewed women.
My parents had to show him some tough love by telling him that he had to let me go while he figured life out. I could tell that he had been really stressed this fall but didn’t know until recently why. He kept begging for time and space for him to figure things out, but I didn’t realize why he wanted to do that without me.
I now realize that the good man that I love is a victim of spiritual abuse, and truly has parents who would rather have things their way than what is best for their child.
I know deep down he wants to be with me, marry me and live the rest of his life with me, but he’s in such a bad place. His parents have beaten him down and so effectively convinced him that this is the only way God allows his people to live. I’m upset that when things got bad he ran back to his parents and pushed me away, but unfortunately I think he’s trying to handle his situation as best he can.
Now that I know the nature of how he was raised and why he thinks the way he does, I’m worried about him more than ever. I’ve shared our story with several friends and our campus minister, hoping that people will reach out to and pray for him. On top of feeling like he can’t have a happy life with me, he feels like he’s bound to a way of life I know he doesn’t want deep down. His father is so effectively terrifying his son that he feels like he has no other choice but to obey him.
As you probably can figure, this is an extremely difficult time for me. The man who was my world is no longer with me. It’s so hard to tell when he’s made his decisions lately based on fear and manipulation. I do have some peace knowing that he sent me a long and kind e-mail apologizing for the ways he’s done me wrong and he made sure I knew that he loves and cares about me more than he realized. Time apart from me has made him realize how much I truly meant to him.
Now all I know I can do is love and care for him from afar by praying without ceasing. I keep researching just so I can understand these movements and spiritual abuse better just in case I have to help anyone through the aftermath one day.
In the past month since the devastating breakup, I have learned several things that took me forever to accept as truth. For one, I was so in love with this man that I ignored several warning signs throughout our relationship. From the lingo used in his family around the house to attending social events with his people. I always thought it was strange but couldn’t figure out why. I’ll never forget when I attended a 4th of July party at his sister’s church. They embraced the colonial lifestyle and, even though it was the 4th of July, I actually heard a Quiverfull sermon and the battle for The Lord was discussed. I was completely unaware at the time that they were talking about Vision Forum and Reconstructionism.
Two, because I was in love and thought he was the one for me, I slowly became more like these people through thoughts and actions. As Julie Anne has discussed with me before, I became more sucked into this movement in the nine months we were together – much more than I realized. It scares me looking back how fast I fell for it. I increasingly became more critical of everyone and everything, and as embarrassing as it is to say, suffered from what I call “holier than thou” syndrome.
I also gave up my career dreams and changed my dress. I practically became a different person.
Three, I realize now our entire relationship for what it was. The parents, from the moment they met me and saw how serious their son was about me, wanted me converted. For example, when he left home to be with my family for the summer, his mom gave him a book on modesty that she wanted him to read to me. He read it for himself and never made me look at it. He said it was extreme and I didn’t need to read it.
I also recognize now that my former boyfriend started off truly wanting to break free from the way he was raised because he was in love with me and wanted to be with me for the rest of his life. He was a true gentleman with me in the beginning and did so much to let me know how special and loved I was. Unfortunately, as pressures increased for him to not only come back but take me with him, he proved himself unable to leave the movement. As hard as it is for me to accept, he decided in his mind at some point in our relationship that he would live that way and never really told me. Our relationship became a lie because he hid his thoughts from my parents and me.
The only reason we figured everything out was because we recognized how different of a person he had became. It saddens me now to realize that God used us as his ticket out of the movement, and he chose to stay in an oppressive and abusive environment and hurt me and all my friends and family in the process.
I’ve also realized that it is not good for me to be around him. I naturally snap back to my changed version of myself when I’m around him. He’s simply not good for me. When we broke up, I was hoping to be friends with him but I don’t think that is a possibility. He snaps back into his two personalities when he’s around me and all it does is confuse, upset, and frustrate me. I’m afraid things have simply been ruined between us and I don’t think I can be around him anymore. Which I hate because I know deep down he has feelings for me. But I know I don’t want nor deserve a man who chooses to live that way.
On a positive note, at least through him I have decided 100% what I want from a man and will approach dating in a completely different way than I did with him. I will be much more cautious with the next man and not allow my emotions to cloud my logic. I now fully understand what I believe as well and what I want out of life. I’ve been given so much advice through this process, one of them being to figure out what I want in my life first before bringing someone else into the picture. That is what I’m using my time for now that I am single.
As I start a new chapter in my life, I pray for wisdom and guidance from God as to where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do. I also ask for prayers for my former boyfriend and his family, for my friends and family who have been affected by my past relationship, and for everyone whose lives are in chaos as a result of the recent blow up of Vision Forum.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 2:1-5
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