I’ve been looking at some of Flavia’s old posts about teaching (there are great bits in the comments, as well), and also ran across this one, in which she expresses her “horror” that her “first boyfriend–last seen as a smart, hilarious Jew with interests in politics, foreign affairs, and baseball, a guy who was fluent in Mandarin by age 21 and spent most of his college years living abroad–is now an insurance agent in Omaha, a Creationist, and an actual Jew for Jesus.”

Not that I dated the actual same guy, but I was once engaged to a man for whom I fully expected to convert to Judaism, and when through idle web-stalking I discovered that he is now an Episcopalian (not in Omaha), I was shocked. I was going to be the convert; what was up with him turning to Christianity? But I found it hard to articulate why this bothered me, and doubted that anyone else would understand it. Now it seems that Flavia would get it, and in fact, already got it.

How many of us have someone in our past who made some sort of huge change like that? Or are you the one who changed?

9 thoughts on “When old boyfriends convert

  1. A huge number of people became born-again Christians. A huge number. I would not have expected it of so many.

  2. Can’t think of any religious conversions. There have been quite a few comings-out, only one of them really surprising (plus a few cases where people who dated primarily people of the same sex in college have landed with long-term opposite-sex partners).

    The earlier post to which you linked was interesting. My parents courted primarily by mail (I suppose theirs was, for various reasons, including study abroad, grad school, military service, and work in different cities during their twenties, a LDR, though they never used that terminology. They also wouldn’t have considered living together, or probably even living in the same city for the sake of being close to each other, until they were married. And they took a long time to marry.) My sibling and I recently reread some of their letters from that time, and it’s clear it was a somewhat tricky medium. At least as they became engaged, there seemed to be a pattern of my father working things out in writing, and my mother replying to some of his more complicated thoughts in person. They definitely had some things to work out once they actually started living together, and Dad’s habit of expressing himself at length in writing did not work out so well when he tried it with me several decades later (in part because I tended to respond in kind).

    So, yes, there are limitations to the written word. At least in traditional epistolary form, I suspect it may be better suited to working out one’s own thoughts than to having a full-fledged exchange of thoughts. Or maybe it depends on the correspondents. There are certainly some dangers, but I suppose that’s true of any means of communication.

  3. I don’t know, but now I want to google/Facebook stalk some people I knew well in the past to see what they’re doing.

  4. Ha! I had no memory of writing that in that post, but this is certainly something that I think about often with regard to exes, former friends (in the sense that we’ve drifted apart, not in the sense of some huge break), and the like. It’s hard to have your vision of who someone is, and the life you shared or might have shared with them destabilized. It feels like a loss of self.

    And for that the changes don’t need to be big ones; it’s more a sense of lost connection or potential, or of perhaps having misread someone all along (as I wrote about here: http://feruleandfescue.blogspot.com/2011/04/becoming-lesser.html)

    1. That is a really good, thought-provoking post, again with great comments. I’ve questioned whether, in recent years, I have lessened or deepened (the answer depends on perspective, I expect, as with your child-rearing example).

      My ex probably feels that he’s grown and found a religious practice that fits him; it certainly provides a shared experience for him and his wife. My sense of loss is vicarious. I mean, I could still convert, if I wanted to, for my own sake, but I don’t, or not any more, though I might have considered it at one time. But there was a sense of possibility in that direction that is now gone. Replaced by other possibilities, no doubt, and my own marriage has its own shared philosophies that are not the ones I expected to have 30 years ago.

  5. I can’t stop thinking about this post.

    For me, the sense of loss that comes with an ex or a friend’s having “changed” is often about what I felt I gained from them, or what they brought to me. They were people I believed to be outrageously funny, or smart, or creative, or whatever. They introduced me to certain ideas and interests or ways of seeing the world. And it’s lonely feeling that in some cases I still have the things (tastes, interests, ideas) that I acquired from them, or that I’ve kept going down paths I thought of as “theirs”–but that they’ve since rejected or lost interest in. It suggests not only that we don’t share the same present, but that maybe we never quite shared the same past, either.

    1. Sometimes there’s a sort of triumph in successfully “colonizing” someone else’s interest. It depends on how you feel about the person, I suppose. Nonetheless, that sense of not having shared the same past (a lovely formulation) can be strong and disorienting.

  6. My horrible conservative uncle apparently wasn’t a horrible person before he married his horrible wife ( https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/my-catholic-relatives-arent-really-catholic-a-rant/ ). But my aunts do say he was a pretty humorless child who never really did nuance, so he was always waiting for a woman with a black and white world view to shape him. Unfortunately he ended up with one who is working for the forces of evil rather than the forces of good.

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