|A blind date. Apparently. Image source.|
me: “Hey babe… so… in purity culture, girls are supposed to write letters to their ‘future husband’… so… I wrote some, a long time ago.”
fiancé: “Ooh! I want to see!”
me: “No, I don’t think you do. They’re all about how I know that you love Jesus more than anything.”
So. Hendrix and I got engaged. Which means that in the future, he will be my husband. But he’s not “my future husband.” Because for me, that phrase- “my future husband”- is all about purity culture. It means much much more than “a person who will be my husband in the future.” It means “the perfect Christian guy that God chose for me, whom I’m working so hard to stay pure for.”
And that’s not Hendrix at all. Hendrix is NOT “my future husband.”
And now that I think about it, it’s incredibly bizarre to have pre-teen girls writing letters to “their future husbands.” (Ahem, full disclosure: I wrote maybe 2 or 3 such letters when I was in college, that’s all.) Like, why on earth would anyone assume that you could know anything about the kind of relationship you would have in the future, the kind of person you would decide to marry, the kind of person you would be at that point in your life? Ah, because in purity culture, people don’t grow and change and discover what kind of person they are and what they want, nope, in purity culture, we have a set of rules which are the rules FOR EVERYONE. No matter who you are, purity culture is confident that following these specific rules will be the best possible thing for you. (Also, this plays right into the idea that the entire purpose of a woman’s life is to get married, and her “pre-married” life is all about looking forward to that marriage and preparing for it. Because purity culture doesn’t understand the concept of time. You must always be loyal to your husband, whether it’s your present husband or a hypothetical future husband you haven’t even met, who may or may not exist.)
It’s kind of cute and fun to read something your romantic partner wrote back before you met, or see pictures from when they were a kid. This is not that. This is not “oh look how cute you were back then!” This is “I seriously believe that, at 12/15/18/20 years old, I have something meaningful to say to the person I will eventually marry, even though I don’t know who that is.”
Furthermore, I very much believe that all communication must be based on some level of common understanding between the two parties communicating. There must be a shared language, assumptions that the other person agrees with you on certain basic concepts, etc. This is most apparent when I’m trying to explain something and I have THE PERFECT words to explain it, except that I’m in China and I’m pretty sure my listener is not familiar with those particular English words, and therefore they are NOT the perfect words to explain it. Those words would actually be completely useless for communication in this case. In other words, you have to know your audience. This is also one of the main reasons I don’t pray very much- I don’t want to assume that God agrees with me about this topic or that topic (remember back when I believed all that bullshit propaganda about how “homosexuals” are “destroying the family” and I prayed against LGB rights, assuming that God also believed the bullshit propaganda? Yeah, I never want to do anything like that again), and if I can’t assume anything about the other party’s opinions, then it’s impossible to have meaningful communication with them.
Same thing with “my future husband.” I had to assume a lot of things about what kind of person he would be, how he had specific opinions about religion and about purity. I had to assume I “knew my audience” in order to write to him. Of course, in purity culture all those things are obvious- of course we already know what sort of person we will marry. Of course we already know what his (oh by the way it’s definitely a man, in purity land everyone is straight) opinions are on religion and purity.
Spoiler: yeah, Hendrix does NOT believe those particular things about religion and purity. And so, what I wrote back then fails spectacularly to communicate with Hendrix. They are not letters for him. They are for someone else who, it turns out, doesn’t exist. (I’m totally going to let him read them though. Uh, except those letters are on the other side of the earth, at my parents’ house. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post after he reads them at Christmas 2016, I guess.)
The letters I wrote back then were for “my future husband”, a completely different person from my real-life fiancé.
The most important quality about “my future husband” is that he is a Christian, and not just a Christian, but a REAL Christian, totally 100% dedicated to Jesus.
My fiancé doesn’t believe in God.
“My future husband” is proud to say he loves Jesus more than he loves me.
If I told my fiancé about the whole “you know somebody is a really good husband if he loves Jesus more than he loves you” thing, he would probably be shocked.
“My future husband” is very very concerned about what romantic or sexual experiences I have before meeting him. He believes that I owe all those experiences to him, and anything I did with another guy takes away from our marriage.
My fiancé was a bit baffled when I asked him if we should describe to each other, in careful detail, exactly “how far” we have gone in the past. (Because, you know, you need to quantify how pure you are.) Yeah, so we ended up not doing that.
“My future husband” feels very hurt that I had crushes on guys in high school, that I dated in college, that I said “I love you” to a guy, that I kissed a guy, etc.
My fiancé thinks all of that is normal and not a big deal.
“My future husband” will be my spiritual leader.
My fiancé doesn’t think I need a leader, that I can make my own decisions about what I believe and whether I go to church or not. And he knows Christianity is really important to me, and he supports the decisions I make.
God will direct the events of our lives such that “my future husband” and I meet each other and start dating. God will give the okay for us to get married.
My fiancé and I chose each other.
“My future husband” is very concerned that we follow the purity rules and stay away from temptation and not do anything remotely sexual. And definitely not live together, that’s probably the worst sin in purity land.
My fiancé and I live together and, well I won’t tell you any details beyond that. ;)
“My future husband” is DEFINITELY a man. And probably white. He can definitely read the letters I wrote in English to him.
My fiancé is a Chinese man. He speaks English really well. ^_^
“My future husband” doesn’t exist.
My fiancé does. Hooray!
And can we also talk about the phenomenon that is praying for one’s “future husband”? Like, it only makes sense if the girl who’s praying is going to get married, to a man, exactly one time. What about women who never marry? Or who marry a woman or non-binary person? Or who get married more than once? Like, what does God do when they pray for their “future husband”? (And this is completely ignoring the whole question of free will and whether God knows the future.) If purity-culture Christians believe God really does listen to prayer and perform actions in the real world in response to prayer, then what does God do when someone for whom “my future husband” is not a well-defined term prays for their “future husband”? God just goes “this prayer doesn’t even make any sense, I can’t do anything with it” or what? Remember what I said about communication? Your prayer is based on the assumption that “my future husband” is one specific person that God knows. What if God doesn’t hold that assumption? Then your prayer is meaningless and you’ve completely failed to communicate with God.
(A note to those Christians who would like to take the “you’re taking this too literally” route: so, do you believe God actually listens and responds to prayers, or not? Do you believe that God takes every prayer seriously and acts on it or at least answers in some way (maybe with “no”)? Maybe not every prayer, just some prayers? How does it all work, exactly? And what does God do with the prayers that, unbeknownst to the pray-er, make no sense? Maybe God is like “yeah I understand the emotion behind this, at least your heart’s in the right place”, something like that? Maybe most of our prayers make no sense and that’s why we need the whole “groans which words cannot express” thing.)
Seriously, though. I used to be so sure about what kind of person “my future husband” would be. But now I’m glad I’m going to marry Hendrix instead.