Friday, August 16, 2013

Undercover Agnostic (Update 16): A Long Talk with Rose

Last Sunday, I’m in the sanctuary of the church I am undercover in, the service has been dismissed, and the crowds are thinning down quite a bit. I had just been a part of a conversation with Sam and Rose, and another couple about some issues in their relationship.

I have known Sam and Rose for many years, since I was about 14 years old, and they are two of only 5 people in the church I am undercover in that knows about my loss of faith over the last few years. Last year, I wrote a guest post on Laughing in Purgatory about coming out to them, they were both surprised, but both of them have still accepted me, and put up with my odd personality (believe me, that’s not easy to do).

Sam and Rose were talking to a young married couple (the wife is only a year older than me), I’ll call for the sake of this post, Mr and Mrs. Jones. Sam and Rose have been together for nearly 4 years now, and Rose has been pushing the idea of getting married.

There’s many reasons involved in this, I have wrote before about the evangelical obsession with pressuring people to marry young, and the way the culture there tends to alienate single people, and I know that Rose really loves him, and sees this as the next logical step in life and their relationship. However, there’s a lot of issues standing in the way, some I already knew, and were brought up in this conversation, and others, I was told shortly after this conversation (more about that later in the post).

I just sat back and listened for the most part to the conversation between the two couples, and joined in only occasionally. I’ve found through experience that most neurotypicals prefer to take the lead in conversations, especially in groups, and that fact, once I realized that, actually makes my life easier, because sitting back and listening and watching gives me time to prepare for what I am going to say, making sure that I understand not only what they are saying, but what they aren’t saying, the hidden context, tone of voice, body language, etc.

I think it’s more that Sam can’t get married right now, I don’t think the problem is that he doesn’t want to. He kept bringing up that he is supporting his family, his father, who is sincerely as lazy as he can be, and his mother, who has mental health issues (kind of a hoarder type personality, I found out shortly after that she was 15 yappy little dogs in the house that they all live in).

Both Mrs. Jones and I were trying to steer Sam in the right direction, I had suggested that he should try to convince his mom and dad to move into a HUD apartment complex in our town that is designed for the elderly and disabled in our town, instead of living in the house they can’t really afford to live in (and Sam is pouring money into it to keep them from losing it).

 He kept saying that he felt a responsibility to them, and we kept saying that he has to move on, let his father deal with his own issues, so that Sam can go on and live his life (though never of us said it, it kind of went without saying that Sam’s father has created a lot of messes he has ended up in). We all realized that we weren’t going anywhere with trying to convince Sam.

I understand where Sam is coming from, having my own dysfunctional family myself, and I know the tendency of fundamentalist parents to guilt you into a constant pattern of give, give, give, while they take, take, take, in so many different ways that you feel like your very soul has been sucked out of you, but you still feel the overwhelming urge to keep giving anyway. You know it’s a destructive pattern, but the guilt they have pushed into you, and the years of habit doing it makes you feel like you can’t stop.(To any possible fundamentalist detractors I may have out there, yes I am “bitter”, get the hell over it, lol).

Sam left after a while, and Mrs. and Mr. Jones left (Mr. Jones didn’t say much during the whole conversation, left the speaking up to his wife, but he apparently didn’t disagree with her), leaving Rose there with me, she started to walk out, but I stopped her, I didn’t think she wanted to talk any further about this (turns out I was wrong about that, it come up shortly later), but I had something I was going to ask her, since I don’t get to spend time with her that often in recent years.

She knew about my mental health issues, but I thought she didn’t know about me starting on medication for it. It has helped clear my mind quite a bit (and has greatly reduced the physical symptoms), but I didn’t know if was enough of a difference to really show through to other people. I had asked her if she had noticed anything different in the last month or so with me, and her normal, blunt style, she asked me “What are you on?”.

She could already tell. I asked how she knew, and she started moving her hands like she was imitating someone with neurological twitches/tremors, “Because you’re not doing this anymore”. I knew what she meant, I’m apparently not as jittery as I used to be, I’ve noticed that I don’t pace as much either, which I usually didn’t even realize I was doing until people would say something, or look at me odd.

I said my mind was much calmer, and you wouldn’t want to see what my mind looked like on the inside before the medication. She said that you wouldn’t want to see the inside of her mind, mostly you would see her cussing quite a few people out in her mind. I believe it…..

Eventually she went back to talking about the problems with her relationship with Sam, which I thought she wouldn’t do. It turns out it was much worse than I thought, she told me about the 15 dogs that his mom has in the house, a large loan that Sam took out in his name to save his mom and dad’s house, the way he is broke and has bad credit from trying to bail out his dad.

It got worse, she told me about how possessive his mom is of him, acts jealous when she is around, and then told me some details that I won’t go into here, but I’ll say that his mom has a lack of normal family boundaries to the point that I honestly wonder if she had sexually abused him during his childhood/early teen years. It was so overwhelming  that for a moment, I forgot where I was, and ended up letting some profanities slip out under my breath, thankfully there was no one around for about 30 feet, and they were all absorbed in their own conversations anyway. Rose shook her head, and said, “that’s how I felt”.

I told her that I hope that he changes, and finally cuts ties with his family, he can’t move on in life if they are still weighing him down like this. I said I keep noticing that some people, women especially, have a habit of thinking that they can change the person they are with, but it just doesn’t work out.

She said she’s done trying to change people (and sometimes having them change her). She would know from experience, Sam has his faults, but he is a good guy at heart, some of her ex boyfriends hated me, because they knew I didn’t like them, they were selfish assholes to put it bluntly, who didn’t respect her.

I never suggested that she leave him, it’s a bad situation all around, but I hope Sam finally gives up the status quo. He deserves better, and deserves more out of life, and so does Rose. I hope they can change this, and go on to live a happy life together, but I don’t see that happening. I don’t know what it will take to get Sam to break this cycle.


  1. I have offered this advice to a few friends in my time.

    1. Make a good faith effort (therapy, etc.) about the interpersonal problem you're dealing with.
    2. Give it a timeline. How much time do you want to invest with this problem? (Typically your life is on hold until something major is resolved) 3 months? 20 years?
    3. You can always get a new puppy. There are acceptable losses even though it's tough to consider a life without without a person or even a group of people.

    As a caveat, I always keep in mind that the advice I'm giving will probably not be taken. I'm simply performing my role as a good friend/associate.

    1. That's the issue, most people live life guided by their emotions instead of logic, and when they hear good advice, they may actually agree with it, but then emotion takes over and leads them into staying in that situation.

      I don't know if Rose will stay with Sam, she has had a habit in the past of staying in relationships even when they were awful.

    2. Good advice. :)

      A lot of people wont walk away because they feel that they don't want to waste the emotional and sometimes financial investment they've already put in, a serious fallacy.

      I will also add, sometimes there's a reason, perhaps a kindred soul thing that keeps people together in dysfunctional situations. Strangely they might even be perfect for each other, both having complementary issues. Not perfect in a healthy way, but in a "pieces of the puzzle fit" kind of way. In that it's often best to be consistent with both in your interactions, and be a good ear and shoulder to cry on as needed.

  2. This reminds me of the saying "Good guys finish last". Sam seems like a great person and its a pity that he feels compelled to carry on doing right for everyone else besides himself.

    1. Yes, people take advantage of his kindness to them.

    2. Sometimes that's also a sign of codependency issues.

    3. That is true, Jeffrey, and I will say that it really is an abusive situation that he is locked in with his family.


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