June 23, 2021
I’m a different person now than I was in 2011 and 2012. I now understand a lot more about myself, sex, relationships and the world. I see the self of my past as a different person than the person I am today.
I admit that I do, to a certain extent, infantilize her — the me of my past. In addition to being a Mormon woman who had never learned about relationships before being pressured by the church into marrying too young, she was in a different place than most adults in typical (Mormon and non-Mormon) marriages. She did not have what a majority of married people across the world have. In fact, the me of today doesn’t even consider the me of my past to have been legitimately “married.” I am no longer a religious person, but I agree with the Catholic church’s stance that a marriage can be “invalid” to the extent that it never, “in essence,” took place in the first place. I believe that if I were a believing Catholic, a Catholic tribunal would have offered me an annulment after my divorce based on the circumstances of my “marriage” (that I do not consider to have been a real marriage).
The me of my past who was vulnerable to John Dehlin had been dealing with too much for too long. To put it bluntly, she was very interesting prey for any hunter who wanted a challenge…. along with free and cheap labor. There was nothing at all equal about her circumstances and John’s circumstances.
I have never been a cheater. I am someone who strives to be honest and to do what is right. But the me of my past was ripe for a manipulative offender who was busy using deceit to make himself publicly appear to be someone who honestly cared about suffering Mormons. She wanted to help with what she believed to be John’s true cause, so she did…. and she got seduced and exploited along the way. Like many others who still follow John today, she was vulnerable to John’s insistence that his offenses be covered up for the “better good” of the community. She suffered for a long time to protect John because she believed, then, he was worth protecting. I now know that he wasn’t… but I didn’t know that then.
I was loyal to someone who didn’t deserve loyalty. My loyalty ended too late, IMO. I should have seen the magnitude of John’s deceit and manipulations, but I didn’t. I was blind to them the way so many ex-Mormons remain blind to them today. I was one of many who are deceived.
The me of the past was also so steeped in Mormon culture and held a very Mormon understanding of what occurred, that the me of my past felt very ashamed and guilty about having an “affair.” She was so hard on herself…. too hard on herself. She wanted to call what happened an “affair” because she wanted to take full accountability for her wrongs. But now, I look back at that pain and only feel compassion for the me who understood so little about the workforce, marriage, men, relationships and life. She believed she was more accountable than she really was. The me of today believes it is wrong to hold her to the standards she held herself to then.
I can also see why many people who are currently still steeped in Mormon culture would today view what occurred between us as an “affair.” I might even agree if I didn’t know anything else about the me of my past, if I hadn’t spent a decade observing the extent of John’s many lies and manipulations, or if I believed that the few texts that John cherry picked in an attempt to discredit the me of my past (and that he pulled out of context from a much bigger and broader conversation) were representative of anything. And I might believe that if I hadn’t experienced how abusers use “sexual harassment” to exploit manipulate and others.
My life would have been a lot easier if I had really had equal power to John in 2011 and 2012.
Language is important. It says so much about who each of us are and how each of us see the world. I now disagree with the self of my past and I now choose not to call what occurred between me and John an “affair.” I did then but I do not now. I believe to use the word “affair” is to be disrespectful to the woman who endured so much for what she believed to be the good of so many and who endured with little thanks and no reward. The word “affair” implies qualities that the relationship between John and I didn’t contain. I was used for his gain.
At some point in the future I will create a more detailed account of why I choose to use different language now than I chose to use while I was still vulnerable to John’s manipulations. Until then, this is all that I have the incentive to offer as people consider our “affair” and what it says about the way John is treating other women and the Latter-day Saint and ex-Mormon community (a community I now view from the outside and see as one community… not two).