In my previous post, I hinted at my childhood confusion in my view of men. Naturally curious, I wanted to know how relationships between the sexes worked. But my view was deeply damaged by my parents’ divorce.
For many years my basic view of men was this:
- Men are intriguing.
- Men cheat and leave.
- Men can’t be trusted.
In 1984 I was seven years old, already enamored with a boy. I secretly admired his charm and good looks, but I kept it all hidden. “How could a boy like him really like me back?” I wondered. This niggling doubt hung on all through my high school and college experience. I desperately wanted a boyfriend, but I kept boys at a distance with my extra pounds, put on by bingeing.
I received temporary comfort from overeating, then felt horrible guilt, then felt condemned by the disapproving looks or comments from boys. The cycle continued when I turned back to food for comfort. This cycle repeated over and over between the ages of 9 and 17, formative years for establishing healthy opposite-sex relationships. I was so afraid of men in general, I accepted the cost of bingeing to keep them away. But my heart never turned off its longing for relationship.
A couple years ago, I listened to Louie Giglio on a Focus on the Family broadcast, entitled “Examining My Past for a Better Future.” He spoke of the different ways we stuff hurt from our childhood, and then react in two typical ways: build up walls against love, or desperately search for love anywhere it can be found. On the outside, I had massive walls, but on the inside, hidden from everyone, was a desperate search for love and attention from anyone who provided it, even in the smallest ways.
Even though I struggled to trust men, I still looked for their attention. In college, I grabbed lunch from a deli on a regular basis. The guy at the window flirted with me each time, saying, “There’s the girl with the pretty smile.” I looked down and quietly said “Thanks,” building up a wall, never flirting back. But I would ruminate on his kindness at night, turning it over in my mind. “Could it possibly be true…am I worthy of a man’s attention?” I thought. And I always came back to the broken viewpoint: “No, he couldn’t possibly like me.” I would dwell on my faults and convince myself he was just being nice to every girl that bought a sandwich.
I didn’t get it because the undercurrent in my heart was always this: men can’t be trusted. Yet I still wanted to fall in love, get married, and have a family. I struggled with those opposing views every day as a young woman. It consumed me. I met my husband in a perfect storm of loneliness, rejection, and longing, and I was married after nine months of dating. I hadn’t dated anyone else in five years. But I was shocked to discover that marriage didn’t heal my broken view of trusting men.
Looking back on 15 years of marriage, one of the top three issues for me has been trust. Slowly and painfully, I took my lack of trust to God, who has been the only one able to heal my hurt. He alone is 100% trustworthy. Louie Giglio said that the only way to receive healing is to place all those hurts at the foot of the cross. That has been my redemption story, and I will keep unfolding it in future posts.
If you are from a broken family, how have you struggled with trusting the opposite sex? What healing have you received?