Day 8: Fragile “Marriages”

When Judy and I were first getting to know bar girls, we often heard women say, “I got pregnant and dropped out of school. He was good for two years, then….”

A key cause of the sex industry is a cultural milieu, at least among the lower working class, of quick, fragile sexual relationships, starting in the teen years. The vast majority completely follow their feelings into informal marriages, that then fall apart when feelings change. Of course often by that time there is a child, sometimes still on the way.

So we spend a good bit of time trying to help repair these young families before they break apart. Few couples that we meet are legally married, but we have chosen to view them as common-law while we try to help those that can more towards a legal union. Some really have no chance, simply because either or both is also involved with someone else. Others have ended with a multi-year prison sentence for drugs. But we have to try.

I chat frequently with “Da”, 23, whom we have known for several years. Da was always a bright girl, full of potential, and had she stayed with our assistance could have a university degree by now. Instead she now lives in her home province and works a retail job six days a week, supporting not only her two children but her young “husband” while he runs around. 

“I do everything for him,” Da laments. “I chose him even though my family didn’t like him. I thought I could put up with his bad character. But I can’t. I cry every time he does the same things I don’t like. It’s been 4 years. I can’t go anywhere. I love him too much to leave. I have so much fear. 

“I feel sorry for my children.”

That last statement comes up often when talking to women caught in these relationships. Most of them grew up fatherless, so feel desperate to hang on, even at great sacrifice. 

Naturally we do our best to coach and counsel. At the very least we are able to provide encouragement and a listening ear. When we see a true harmful situation we help get her and her children to safety. In other cases we encourage her to stop fighting, complaining etc., following Peter’s advice in 1 Peter 3:1-6. Indeed we have seen a few couples become fairly healthy.

Da says her man is not violent, so I am encouraging her with that strategy. “It’s going ok,” she told me today. “Not fighting, so I figure that’s good.”