It’s been a while since I wrote my last article. I cycle through these periods where I struggle to articulate what is in my soul. I withdraw until another story brews in my spirit and then I put fingers to keyboard. I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for now and work on my book- title to be announced after I obtain my ISBN.
I believe in the sanctity of marriage and it is not okay with me that most relationships do not endure the pressures of infidelity. Survivors of adultery are often left without a voice. We are told not to air our dirty laundry because no one needs to know our business. We are shamed and asked “What did you do to make him/her stray?” We are admonished when we do share our stories and feel we need to hide. It is more acceptable to talk about all our ailments and diseases or post pictures of our daughters on social media wearing scantily clad outfits and bikinis than it is to talk about infidelity. Adultery is a pandemic, it is a global problem of epic proportions and it is ripping families apart, but no one wants to talk openly about it! Just boggles my mind!
I recently finished my latest John Maxwell book, Intentional Living. He asks his readers three questions: (1) What makes you cry? (2) What do you sing about? (3) What do you dream about? The answer to all three questions for me is, my marriage and my children. So for their sake (yes I said “for their sake,” it could happen to them one day), I am breaking the code of silence and I am writing and I will continue to write until I die because marriage and family are my passion. I am sharing the story of our reconciliation, redemption, grace and forgiveness. I am talking about my emotions and the agony of betrayal. This is not something you “just get over.” It doesn’t go away after a month, or six months, or a year. This isn’t the same thing as overdrawing the bank account or spending frivolously at the mall.
It has been nine months since I discovered my husband’s affair and every time I think about it (which is pretty much every hour) I get angry. I still break down and sob in his arms at night because last summer after 20 years together, I stopped being enough for him. In spite of all my anger and pain, I have forgiven him and I am learning to trust again. If I can do this, others can too- but how will they know if we don’t talk about it?
Part XIII: Surface & Root
As stated in my previous article, I have noticed a common trend: the presenting issue (reason why someone came to counseling) is never the actual problem. I see problems in two broad categories: surface and root.
The surface reasons my husband provided for his unfaithfulness were:
- Emotional: He felt a cataclysmic void by the disconnection in our relationship. He was torn in his soul at the “seeming” loss of what we shared; alone and emotionally abandoned, he finally shut down and sought comfort outside the marriage.
- Physical: In the past year we were hyper focused on everything wrong with each other and failed to pursue romance both physically and emotionally.
- Cognitive: He made the assumption that I did not love him and believed I wanted out of the marriage. In his private mental world, he thought I was “disgusted” by him. Not once did he bring these concerns to me for discussion.
I acknowledge these reasons as an honest evaluation of our relationship at the time; they are valid emotions and obviously he was extremely hurt. However, he made the choice to cross over the boundary line of monogamy and have sex with another woman. That’s not okay with me. Ideally, he should have approached me and together we could have discussed these feelings so we could work towards a mutually satisfying marriage. This would have been an opportunity to improve our emotional intimacy, instead he chose to cheat and no reason or excuse can justify that decision.
These are the root causes the man I love identified for breaking his code of honor by committing adultery:
- Insecure: The conversations we were having prior to the affair centered on him celebrating his 50th birthday within a year. He was looking back on his 49 years feeling dissatisfied with his accomplishments at that particular juncture in life. People who are insecure need to prove they still have what it takes because deep down they don’t feel good enough, desirable enough or whatever enough. He used an extramarital affair to reassure himself that he still had it going on especially since he was missing this assurance in his primary relationship.
- Damaged: Todd’s first marriage came to a screeching halt when his ex-wife and her lover concocted an elaborate scheme to ditch their spouses and share the same address. Todd was repeatedly lied to, deceived and made to feel a fool for being an “overly jealous” husband. He was verbally beat down for not wearing the right clothes or being a high (enough) income earner. When it was clear his dead marriage could not be resuscitated he left, but the damage was done. When I met him, his spirit was broken. He was angry, bitter and licking some pretty deep wounds. Their union produced a son, which necessitated continued contact between the two. Unfortunately even after their divorce communication remained volatile. He never processed the painful and intense emotions of his ex-wife’s affair. In the context of our marriage, he was acting out from this traumatic experience. He had felt the sting of rejection in his first marriage and he was not about to feel it again, so he figured he would call the shots this time. His motivation to leave me was fear driven.
- Confused: Todd explained that after we drifted apart, he felt he lost his best friend and soul mate. He ached to the core of his soul, as he desperately wanted back what we had, but assumed I didn’t want him because if I did, I would have pursued reconciliation. For him, the root cause of the affair was about our missing connection. He didn’t want to feel the rejection he felt in his first marriage, because…well it hurt. If the relationship was going to end, he wanted to be the one to decide when and how. Enter affair partner.
Part IV: Epic Love
My beloved and I met at Crowley’s restaurant beneath a canvas of Marilyn Monroe. Although there was a strong chemical attraction, we just enjoyed each other’s company and hanging out with friends every week. Our first date was two months after we met. We bonded quickly in those early days; our connection was deep spiritually, emotionally and physically. In his words, “I fell for you hard and fast.” We married 13 months later and “we loved with a love that was more than love” (Poe, 1849). Ours was a special union and I would have bet my life that our marriage above all others could stand the test of monogamy and time.
When I walked through the valley of cancer, my man was my caretaker. When I miscarried three pregnancies, when I faced dismal career disappointments and rejection from family, it was Todd who allowed his strong and sturdy shoulders to catch my tears. This man was the last dream of my soul; he was everything to me as I was to him. Matched on dimensions of: intellect, humor, education, looks and spirituality- we were compatible in every way.
From the moment we met we sensed a knowing about one another that can only be described as kindred; truly, it felt we had known each other since our time on earth began. We experienced an emotional intimacy that extended beyond the heart and mind. Our bond only continued to deepen as newlyweds and parents. We attended bible studies regularly, prayed and shared nightly devotions together; keeping Christ at the center of our marriage served to protect and strengthen our relationship. Dreams and laughter filled our hearts and home for many years. Our love was (and remains) an epic affair of the heart and soul.
In 20 years, the majority of our arguments have stemmed from our similar personalities. We are both feisty, dominant type A’s who believe we are always right. We are bossy, confident, and aggressive and we like to assume the leadership position. That tends to present challenges for us at the times when I just need to let go of the power struggle and give him the baton.
This matchless bond we formed effortlessly is the lone reason our marriage could be saved. We stopped cleaving and drifted apart. We lost each other while wondering around on our own in the darkness. Life grew cold and lonely without the other and as we both questioned, “What happened to us?” We were terrified… because if OUR love wasn’t real- was love even possible?
Part III: Raw Emotions
I have walked through some dark valleys in my life: my father’s suicide, cancer and raising a child with bipolar to name a few. Yet none of those valleys were as painful and unbearable as the betrayal of my husband. I turned to a support group of friends who allowed me the freedom to lament raw emotions and prayed for me when I ran out of words. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be feeling. I was trying to forgive him; I loved him deeply and wanted to move forward, but how? This fling that he just drifted into consumed my every thought; I wasn’t sure I could survive much less forgive. In my quest for survival, I discovered there were not a lot of resources for couples wanting to reconcile and work through the wreckage.
In this vein I decided to write a book for couples to assist in the reconciliation process. The book (title TBD) is due for publication by the end of 2016 and will provide counsel, guidance, encouragement and a spiritual component, for couples to succeed in rebuilding their marriages. The purpose of this blog series is (1) to help me heal, (2) provide support for couples that have endured infidelity by sharing my story and (3) promote awareness about my book.
My husband continues to wrestle with guilt and shame for his actions. He would like to tuck this whole ordeal away and hide it from everyone who knows us, but what is done cannot be undone. We cannot sweep this under the rug and pretend it did not happen. He has been amazing on this road to healing with me. He’s been willing to respond to all of my questions, even when he knows the answers will hurt. He is not offended when I hurl insults at him during my human moments. He provides strong arms to hold me when I stumble and tender hands wipe away puddles of tears from pain he caused. I know it is difficult for him as I share our story and I am trying to be sensitive to that fact.
The story I am telling is our love story and while it does divulge details of his sins, he is repentant, remorseful and transformed. Adultery does not define who he is. Today I respect this man by my side more than ever. The man I love could have walked away and chosen someone with whom he had no commitments and no history, but he chose me… again. He chose our children and the life that we have been building for two decades. He chose the path of commitment, hard work and honor. He chose the laborious journey of rebuilding and THAT impresses me.