Monday, June 26, 2017

So I Gave My Fiance the "Letters To My Future Husband"

A notebook with the words "Letters to my Future Husband" on the cover. Image source.
Writing "letters to your future husband" is A Thing in purity culture. Girls are taught that God has destined them to get married, to a man, exactly once over the course of their lifetime, and that God doesn't want them to date anyone else besides this one predestined man. And so their loneliness and romantic desire, which is not allowed to find fulfillment in dating, gets redirected into "writing letters to your future husband."

I wrote a few. Three. Back when I was in college, in my on-fire-for-God days. Each one was probably prompted by an instance of overwhelming, unbearable loneliness, or perhaps a HUGE CRUSH that I couldn't do ANYTHING with because I believed it would be a sin to make even the slightest move in the direction of possibly starting a relationship without explicit permission from God. I wanted so bad, so so so so bad, to be in a romantic relationship, but I was following the purity rules, which said ideally I am only allowed 1 relationship in my entire life. So the only outlet for that desire was praying for "my future husband" or writing letters to "my future husband".

Anyway, last time I was at my parents' house I found the letters, and I brought them back to Shanghai and gave them to Hendrix, my fiance. And we read them together.

I gave them to him because that's what their purpose was, ostensibly. But... they weren't really for him. They were for the perfect Christian purity-culture-following husband that God destined to be with me- an imaginary person who has never existed and who will never exist. Because I've changed so much since then, and I don't believe that stuff anymore, and Hendrix isn't even a Christian.

Letters, from a person who doesn't exist anymore, to a person who never existed. And I went ahead and gave them to Hendrix because that's what past-Perfect-Number would have wanted. But the content of those letters has no relation to the man I'm actually marrying, here in reality.

And OH GEEZ it's embarrassing, what's in those letters. Oh so much cringe. Here, take a look at this actual real thing I wrote in 2009:
I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And of course you do too. That's pretty cool, and if you're like I want you to be, then reading "I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world" made you kinda happy. Because that's the #1 characteristic you want in a wife.
Ohhhhhhh cringe so much cringe.

I mean, you have to be several layers deep in purity culture and evangelicalism to even understand a lot of the stuff in these. One theme throughout the three letters is how I'm working so hard to fight against my romantic desires. In order for that to make sense, the reader would have to share my belief that God doesn't want me to have any romantic relationships in my entire lifetime except the one with "my future husband" and that it would be a sin to even daydream about a crush or imagine how amazing and pleasurable it would be to touch an attractive guy. Seriously, the phrase "guy-related idolatry" appears in here. That is an actual thing I wrote back then, assuming that it would be obvious to "my future husband" what that phrase meant. (It means it would be sinful and extremly disloyal to God if I do anything other than squash down my romantic desires as much as possible.) Though I didn't use these exact words, the letters basically say, "I am working so hard to be emotionally pure by fighting against my feelings of attraction, and I'm doing it primarily for God, but also for you."

Another theme throughout the letters is obsession with God. I wrote about how God is the most important thing to me, how I love God way more than I love "my future husband", how we're totally going to serve God together and chase God together and pray together, and our relationship will be defined by wild, desperate, whole-hearted devotion to God.

Yeah....................... so .................... yeah. Hendrix read them, and I know there's stuff he didn't understand, because it's written in a very advanced form of evangelicalese. And since then, I've asked him several times, "So what did you think about the 'letters to my future husband'? I want to write a blog post about it," and he always tells me he doesn't really have anything to say. Just "yeah I knew you used to believe that" and that's all. The letters didn't make a strong impression on him; they're not meaningful to him at all. And why would they be? They were written for someone else entirely.

But when purity-culture advocates talk about "writing letters to your future husband", they talk about how sweet and romantic it will be when you finally give them to him. How it'll be a deeply meaningful expression of your love, to show him that all these years you've been waiting for him and thinking about him, you loved him before you even met.

That only makes sense if people don't change. And yeah, in purity culture, you're not supposed to change. They teach little kids "here's how the world works, here's what kind of spouse you should look for, here are the rules to stay pure and the consequences if you don't follow them" (and this happens before kids are even old enough to know what sex is or why anyone would choose to do it). And since those are all the "correct answers" that everyone is supposed to follow, there's no reason to expect that one's beliefs should change. In purity culture, change and personal growth are bad. In purity culture, even if you're just a little girl, you can be certain about what kind of man God wants you to marry, because ideally you won't change much between now and than.

And now I'm astonished that anyone would think that back in 2009 I had anything meaningful to say to Hendrix- but that's what purity culture teaches. And ... I don't know, maybe for some people it's kind of cute and funny to read something they wrote long ago, but this isn't like that for me. Because back then I was 100% serious. I worked so hard fighting against my romantic desires, and I thought it mattered.

The "letters for my future husband" were never for Hendrix, but I'm going to write him a new letter. It will be based on our actual real-life relationship, not what evangelical ideology claims my "future husband" should be like. I'll write about how I know he loves me because he helped me get out of purity culture and because he sometimes downloads little games for his phone so that "we can play it together" and that's just ADORABLE. And he'll open it the morning of the wedding day.

I'm so glad I'm with Hendrix instead of "my future husband." I'm so glad I'm not marrying a guy who appreciates all the hard work I did staying "pure" or believes that I hurt him by dating other guys before I even met him. I'm so glad I'm not marrying someone who would read my "letters to my future husband" and think they were deep, profound, and meaningful expressions of love.


Please enjoy this song:
"Countdown" Beyonce

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