Mod 1: My Story – Max


I first met my husband, Max, when we were seventh graders. Three years later, when we were sophomores in high school, we dated for six months. On the one hand, we connected amazingly—it was one of those relationships where we could talk for three hours straight and not even notice the time. He had issues with his stepmother and leaned on me heavily for support and sympathy, which made me feel needed.

On the other hand, he was not physical towards me as I expected a boy would be, and he was also not especially interested in meeting my emotional needs. He could be very moody: happy and kind one minute, mean and nasty the next. Nevertheless, I really wanted to be with him, and anticipated a summer of fun together.

That wasn’t what happened. He went the entire three months without calling me. By the time school started again, his insensitivity had brought me enough pain that my sadness and worry turned to anger. Oblivious to my suffering, Max thought we could continue our relationship, but I broke up with him.

Sadly, I didn’t hold that thought.

We rekindled our friendship when we both went to college and got involved with the same campus church. We were inseparable best friends, but again he didn’t act like a boyfriend in certain key ways and could be really crabby to me when he felt like it. After a semester I gave up and took up another boy on his interest in dating me. Frankly, this new guy unnerved me a little. He was (as we say nowadays—this was 1975) so into me. He wanted to give me gifts and to make out with me and to tell me I was wonderful. This treatment—this attention and affection—was not anything I was used to at all.

No sooner did Max hear the news of my boyfriend than he gave me a letter confessing his undying love. And of course I dropped the new guy and went rushing back to Max.

We dated for the rest of college and married after I graduated a year early. The funny thing about our engagement was that the decision came down either marrying or breaking up. This determination was to be based on “God’s will.” It was Max who determined God’s opinion and let me know by proposing.

Fast forward six years—no, wait—let’s just note that these intervening years got progressively harder. While I was putting him through seminary, Max had a problem with going to adult book stores and one time picked up a couple STDs, and also infected me. While I was pregnant. He also remained intermittently cranky—or call a spade a spade: cruel—towards me. He could be petty, critical, resentful, and was always unsympathetic. He did not tolerate being opposed.

Okay, it’s 1983. Our first parish was in a rural area, seven hours away from our hometown. We had a second baby on the way. I stayed at home, seven miles from the nearest town, with no job or friends or family, not even a car. Max was always working at the church or out on calls. Life was very lonely, but I loved my daughter and was very happy about the second child to come.

One night Max made a confession to me. He was devastated because, well, he was in love with a guy—yes, a guy—who had just dumped him. He knew I would understand and he needed help and support. And believe it or not, I gave it to him. The fact that he was gay but was married to me made me feel very bad for him. The fact that his first great love had broken it off made me pity him. Did I think for a moment that this event was grounds for me to break my wedding vows before God? Absolutely not. Did I consider for a nanosecond how doomed to misery I myself was? Well, it certainly crossed my mind but I shoved that fact aside to remain ignored.

Was I codependent?

No duh.

I gave birth to our second daughter. We got transferred to a suburban parish, where I actually made some friends. I built my life around my girls. And I stayed married to Max ten years after he made that confession. During that time he continued to lead his double life as a conservative pastor and a gay man who had countless sexual encounters, drank a ton and did drugs, and drove us into hopeless debt buying things like designer clothes and a sports car. He continued to be cruel to me, demanding that his home and life be the exactly the way he wanted them, having no pity or concern for my feelings.

By 1992 Max had left the ministry (too stressful for him…) and decided we should move back to our hometown. It didn’t take him long after the move to determine, on the advice of a counselor he saw alone (I assume he was telling the truth that there was a counselor, but maybe not) that we should divorce. The night he told me this I wept as we lay together in our bed. My whole life was turned upside down! What would I do now?

You may ask if I still felt that way the next day. Well, not so much….

You may also ask,

“Why on earth did you put up with that for most of 20 years?”

For the answer, read on to the story of my dad….

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