First: Yes, I do have Internet addiction issues
Who could have guessed? I decided I can't just give up games for Lent, because I was utterly and completely dysfunctional without them. However, obviously this is an issue I'm going to have to deal with long-term.
Second: My church's "Values and Expecations" for ministry apply to marriage, too.
Like, who would have guessed? If I follow these in dealing with every relationship, including how I interact with my spouse, everyone will be happier, including me.
I have always struggled with this concept, largely because my childhood taught me that being involved with family is hazardous: connection can lead to relatives moving in with you, asking for money, or tempting you into a labyrinth of impossible demands and manipulative emotional abuse. Instinctively, I attempted to follow my father's model of emotional detachment through deliberate immersion in books, photography and art. My unconscious goal has been to harden my heart into a rock around which the turbulent waters of human relationship may flow however they wish, without really affecting my inner life. Holiday get-togethers are fine; real relationships with family members are scarier than s***.
If you've seen my mother's skill at working the "drama triangle" to her advantage, you know why intimacy is so terrifying for me. I've worked hard not to be a manipulative, passive-aggressive human being and mom; I pray God that I have succeeded.
However, trust is difficult for me, and thirty-some years of living with my darling husband's passive-aggressive behaviors have done nothing to reassure me about the benefits of intimate relationships.
If intimacy is too scary, how do I meet my relational needs? I am regularly involved with relative strangers in a formal setting: church, writer's groups, the SCA - anything which provides human contact with safe boundaries and clear expectations. Like a hermit crab, I can emerge for meetings, then withdraw into my fabulously decorated, safe shell of solitude. If I had a theme song, it would probably be "I Am a Rock" (Paul Simon, 1965).
Or "Numero 2" (Noel Paul Stookey, 1978):
"Daddy's gonna grin till his lip wear thin
It's the only thing he can swing this year"
"Momma make a good song writer out of me
It's the only way I can talk to her"
- except that I'm a poet rather than a songwriter, and my momma has no interest in poetry. Yet, like the young Paul Stookey, I too wanted to be heard, and my mother's love of reading inspired me to try my hand at writing.
Thus my struggle with, "Family comes first." I enjoy formal ministry and casual friendships, but to love is to risk everything. To put my husband's needs above my own and above the needs of friends and acquaintances - yeah, that's scriptural, but if you're married to a vampire who doesn't have the self-control to stop taking, how can you feed his need and still survive? And how do you meet your own needs within the relationship?
On the other hand, my DH is also a courteous, intelligent, interesting person who is as worthy of love as any human being on earth. He needs acceptance, respect, friendship, and connection as much or more than I do. Why shouldn't he be able to count on me for encouragement, love and emotional support?
In one of my early poems, I had a line about "two hearts beating together, not beating each other." We both want the former; too often, in our mutual woundedness, we end up with the latter.