You can catch up on our marriage story here.
We were the couple with the marriage others envied. By our late twenties we were earning enough to live comfortably, we had the little white house in the suburbs, new cars we loved, two beautiful kids, and were even heavily involved in ministry at our church. In many ways, we had it all…so it seemed. It is fair to say that literally no one realized our marriage was in trouble, not even us.
While it is true that it isn’t exactly reasonable to blame an entire marriage crisis on just a few issues, or even just one spouse; as I peeled back the layers of my heart post-affair, I began to discover the deeply hidden issues that had quietly, sneakily began to invade my heart like a slow growing cancer that would eventually begin to drain the life out of the foundation of our marriage.
These are a few of the “cancers” we found there that had quietly constructed the framework of unfaithfulness which would eventually become the entire anatomy of my affair.
- Resentment Nine years of his little personality quirks that irritated me, built up hurt from times he had failed me, times I felt like I wasn’t enough, disappointment with how much he was away for work leaving me to handle things at home, and literal disdain for the job that stole him from us, all combined with my unwillingness to be open and transparent with him and talk through the issues rather than just stuffing it all away – led to deep resentment of my husband that I wasn’t even aware of. My resentment towards the man I had once been madly in love with had festered and grown into a dark cancer that had permeated so much of my heart for him, that I stopped even being able to see what was good and praiseworthy about him. This was a heart problem, not a him problem; one that I had to get willing to acknowledge, admit to, confess to him, and repent of.
- Lack of Respect & Admiration You know the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt?” It would be fair to say that in many ways we had both allowed familiarity with one another to morph into a culture of disrespect in our marriage. I had a definite disrespect for him as a man due to my own deeply rooted issues in that area, and since I am wired differently than my husband, I often felt like he didn’t respect things about me that were important to me and much a part of who I am as a person. And then, I started to hear these kinds of words from someone else other than my husband… “I LOVE the way you write, your passion for life. Maybe you could co-write my book with me. I think it’s awesome that you run, my wife isn’t interested in fitness at all but I love it. Let’s run the loop together sometime! You’re so beautiful. I hope you hear that often. It’s pretty incredible how you keep it all together and running, I know Anthony works a lot and you’re alone. You’re just amazing.” Because I am human, or course those words built up my fleshly ego and made the parts of who I am that I didn’t feel my husband barely noticed much less respected me for – suddenly feel appreciated, valued, and respected.
- Lack of Appreciation It is true that when we don’t respect and admire a person, it is almost impossible to appreciate anything about them…even the good. We don’t see the good in our spouse because we literally can’t see it; our hearts have become overgrown with gigantic weeds that blind us of their admirable qualities, only revealing all that they aren’t. So we become deeply ungrateful, believing that somehow we’ve been ripped off, we married the wrong person, and are sure that someone else could have given us a better life and made us happy.
- Bitterness When I started counseling, my counselor said these words to me, “Rachel, you have a good, good heart and so much talent to offer the world. You’re really going to do something with your life, even with all your painful experiences; but girl you are bitter. And we need to get from bitter to better if you ever want to go anywhere worth going and truly be able to help others.” Hard words to stomach. To be honest I sat in my car for a bit and cried after that session. Me? Bitter? Who does he think he is? But because I really really wanted healing, his words caused me to do the word of deep self-examination. Maybe he was right. In fact, despite the prideful arrogance of my human ego, something in me knew he was right or I would have quit that very day. Bitterness is like the roots of a tree. Roots are much smaller than the tree, seemingly insignificant, mostly unnoticeable and they grow slowly. But roots are the very thing that grow an entire tree and then hold it in place. I came to realize that so many of the roots of the tree that was my life, were bitter roots that only appeared to be sturdy because they were covered over in determined anger that I would prove something or force people to change to suit me. I could not blame shift this on to anyone, or anything else. My own unresolved and undealt with hurt and disappointment had grown a gigantic tree with bitter roots that produced bitter fruit. I needed to face it, own it, and allow all those bitter roots that had entangled their way around my heart to be uprooted so that the fresh soil of love, and gentle but sturdy roots of grace could replace where the bitter roots had once anchored my life to the ground.
- Lack of Romance Let’s face it. Life gets crazy; jobs, paying bills, kids, different schedules, and we find ourselves plopping in bed together at 10:30 with a quick kiss and lights out. I mean, who has time for romance when there is an American dream to chase? Want to know what I’ve noticed with older couples who still live together in passionless marriages? They think little of romance. “I told her I loved her when I married her, if anything changes, I’ll let her know.” Sorry but, I call bull crap… and let me know how that’s worked out for ya! Lack of romance throughout a marriage leads to couples who exist in loveless marriages of her living her life and friends, and him living his. Two married strangers with nothing in common who plop down together in their chairs in the evening to numb out conversation with the television and then shuffle to bed only to begin the same old cycle of apathetic love the next morning.
Take the trip together alone, shut the kids out of the bedroom, dress up for one another, go on a regular date night, buy the flowers, have FUN together, hold hands and laugh – do allllll the cheesy stuff that boring, stuffy couples roll their eyes at! It matters!
Romance in marriage is absolutely essential. Without it, apathy will take over and passion will die. Marriage is just like a beautiful garden that needs constant tending to keep the weeds out and everything else healthy – even planting in new things on occasion to keep it fresh, thriving and growing.
6. Lack of Transparency I often thought about how differently things might have gone if I had let my husband in on the first glimpses that things weren’t going in a healthy direction with the man I had the affair with. What if I had confessed that we talked rather than deleting the conversations? What if I had confided in my husband how it made me feel when I was around the other man, rather than just giving in to it and enjoy it? What if he knew we were supposed to meet? There aren’t many things I have been absolutely sure of in all of this, but one thing I am positive of is that one moment of transparency, one single honest confession on my part would have changed everything.
Truth is, everyone loves the idea of total transparency until they have to give it. The word transparent literally means: allowing light to flow through so objects behind can be distinctly seen; easy to be seen or detect; having thoughts, feelings, or motives that are easily perceived. From what we’ve learned, a lack of transparency in one area of life leads to hiding and lying in many others. It’s like a house of cards that will eventually come crumbling down. Transparency is freedom because it allows us to live as who we truly are, rather than working to hide who we aren’t.
So it was with us. He would sneak and lie about his porn on occasion, so surely it was no big deal if I deleted a text or Facebook chat on occasion. I mean, I basically deserved it eh? Let’s get one thing straight, if you find yourself viewing, chatting, texting, calling, messaging, ect. another human being other than your spouse and hiding it? You’ve already crossed the line into cheating territory; whether you’ve slept with them or not. So when other women ask me, “I mean come on, do you really tell your husband EVERYthing? The answer is yes.” I tell him everything to protect myself from hiding. Another reason that hiding is dangerous is because when we end up ensnared in trap, we find that we are alone in it, with no one to help us out because we haven’t been honest all along. Lack of transparency and hiding is when we set ourselves up to fall flat on our face and screw things up big time. Take from a gal who knows, please just don’t. Strip yourself bare and get honest.
7. Old Wounds No surgeon would ever think about suturing up a patient with an internal infection and expecting them heal or function normally. “Oh well, it’ll just scab over and hurt for life, but they’ll make it.” Everyone knows how ridiculous this would be. But so often that is what we do with the internal wounds of our soul. We go through painful things, words said to us, betrayals, put downs, abuse, and we never deal with it. Our wounds become infected parts of us that effect our entire being – especially taking our toll on our closest relationships.
I had a person in my life that literally refused to confront hard issues, get it all out, work through it, and heal. You could not go to them and work things out, or talk about what was wrong, or how it was damaging the relationship. The only option was to ignore the issues and sweep it under the rug, all in the name of keeping the peace. Problem was, every time there was much interaction between them and others – the outcome was almost bad. I’ve since come to understand that the reason some people do not deal with old wounds is pride and apathy (unwillingness to do the work). They simply don’t care how their personal wounds continue to wound those closest to them in life and so eventually, relationships crumble and those they love most distance themselves to protect their own heart from damage.
I say all this to say this, whatever we’ve been through, no matter how hard and awful it was or whose fault it was; do the work, get honest, face the music, get whatever help you need to heal those old wounds and leave them behind. Old wounds from the past never just go away, they will drive you and your spouse further and further from one another. And in the end, we all lose.
to be continued in part 2…