I'll start with copying and pasting Anonymous' comment on the last post:
Anonymous said...Sometimes I wonder if coming back is the right option? A lifetime of 'hurt and fear' for one, 'guilt and shame' for the other. Would it have been better if it ended and both of you moved on? I know love, I've been in love, but sometimes I wonder what happens to that love. When, and why, do we stop living for each other? Is obligation more important than happiness? Are you happy?
I'm having very similar struggles. I'm just curious if the though has entered your mind or his.
I have to admit when I read this I was really saddened. I wanted to email you personally, though that's impossible since I don't know you. Then I wanted to find you and hug you. Instead, I prayed for you. So wherever you are, please consider yourself hugged.
I have numerous answers to your questions, and I'll answer you more fully toward the end (I think--I never know how a post will turn out, as it is mostly spewing out of my head onto the screen as fast as I can type it.) but I hope, if you are out there reading this, or others who are in Anonymous' position, I hope you will read all that I have to say and not just skip to the end. ; )
Here we go:
This blog is about my marriage and my situation. Staying was right for me. Coming home was right for Beloved. Do I think that every woman or every man should wait around for their errant spouse? Not necessarily. Should every man and every woman try to make their marriage work? I would say that except for cases of abuse or other such circumstances I think yes, they should try. Now when I say 'try' I don't mean it in the same way one might say, "I'll try to lose weight", or "I'll try to stop daydreaming about Hugh Jackman". That half-hearted crap doesn't cut it. Hmmm. Hugh Jackman............Oh! See what I mean?!
I know that I can only control one person: ME. And I needed to know that I put my Everything into my marriage with Beloved. A friend who was newly divorced at the time I was going through The Terrible Awful (to steal a phrase from The Help) told me of a film she wished someone had shown her before she divorced her husband. She said she saw it after all was said and done and felt like she could have, should have done so much more to fight for her marriage. Mind you, my friend was the one who left her husband.
I got the movie. It was Fireproof, by the same people who did Flywheel (also a great one, though you must keep in mind that nearly all or all of the people in these films are volunteers).Yes I am aware they have other films, but these are the two I'm mentioning. If you have Netflix streaming I highly recommend you go watch it. Now.
So I watched it. A few days later I felt I should go get the companion workbook: The Love Dare. It can be found nearly everywhere, but I found my copy at Target. I bought it, brought it home, thumbed through it, and gave it away. I was not about to do the challenges in it. But I kept feeling nudged to go back and get another copy. Nearly 2 weeks later I finally did. And I tried reading it. And I kept feeling like it was too hard a thing to be asked of me. Thumbing through it I could see where loving and serving my spouse with a Christlike love would get me: even deeper in love with him. I didn't think I could take it, honestly. But I knew I had to follow through with what I felt so strongly I had been led to. So I began. I promised myself I would only move on to the next day after I felt I had truly accomplished the day I was working on. Some challenges for the day took me several days to accomplish; some only took one.
Beloved has told me many times that it was that unconditional love he felt from me that gave him the strength to put her behind him and the hope that we could make things right again. In the end I came to see that loving someone unconditionally, with Christlike love and intent affected me as much as it did him.
I think sometimes you have to LEAD your heart back to where it belongs.
I feel like, Anonymous and others, I have failed you if you feel that our lives are filled with "hurt and fear" or "guilt and shame". They aren't. Are there moments? Yup. More when he first came back and less as time has gone on. If you notice, most of my freakouts took place the first 3-4 months after he came home. After that, time and our combined effort allowed those feelings to fade.
It's kind of like...a football injury. Let's say your team is holding a scrimmage during practice. Your best friend busts through the line and because of carelessness or because he's just a giant who doesn't know his own strength, he takes you down and your leg gets broken. He's sorry. You're hurt. But you forgive him. He sees you in the cast and feels bad. But you reassure him that it's over and forgiven. Your leg heals. You and your buddy remain close and one day after months have gone by and as the weather changes you feel a pain in your leg that wasn't there before the break. It's not bad. It's just there. It reminds you that at one point in time your leg was broken. You rub your leg and move on without mentioning it because the momentary twinge you feel now in your leg cannot be compared to all that there is to cherish in your friendship and future with your best friend. Maybe that's a bit cheezy, but I feel like it's actually a pretty good analogy. Yeah, my leg got broken. But it's healed now. And yeah I get a bit of pain in it when it's going to rain. But it isn't going to rain forever. And yeah my friend remembers every now and again how awful he felt seeing me with my leg broken and knowing he caused it, but he has me there to remind him that I forgive him.
There is a huge something that I feel I must address. It is this: your comment sounds hopeless. I understand that. Beloved felt hopeless, too. He could not conceive of even the minutest possibility of being happy again. He knew what he was doing was wrong, he knew he was lying to himself saying he was happy with this other life he had built for himself. But he also couldn't think clearly enough to work this all out for himself. He compares it to a thick fog. He says he felt like there was just this thick fog surrounding his mind. He couldn't see past it, especially when he was keeping steady contact with her. Toward the end (which I didn't know until later) he was giving her excuses why he couldn't talk to her, etc. just so he could begin to think.
For my part, I have always found writing to be helpful. The writing things down helps me to verbalize my thoughts and feelings instead of them just whizzing and knocking around in my head. Sometimes it is the writing down and rereading that helps me to see things clearly for the first time. It is something I suggested many times to Beloved. He never did it because he felt that the feelings of hopelessness and confusion and anger, etc. were not things he'd want to see written down. I've been through hopelessness and confusion and anger and guilt and many other ugly feelings in my lifetime. Writing has helped me to see the forest for the trees.
To answer another of your questions, Anonymous: When and why do we stop living for each other? The answer, I feel is simple:
When you start living for yourself.
Please, no hate mail. Am I saying be a doormat? No. Please see above for cases of abuse, etc.
What do I mean about living for yourself? When I was young I heard someone talking about relationships and they said if you don't feel like your spouse is appreciating you, giving you what you deserve, etc. that before you go telling them all that they have done wrong, you need to take a good look at yourself. It goes back to I can only change one person. Me. Chances are, if you're feeling unloved. So is your spouse. Are you feeling unappreciated? So is she. Frustrated? Hurt? He is, too. Living for yourself is when you start to feel that your feelings are the only real feelings, the only valid feelings, the only ones that matter.
Dear reader: Is your spouse imperfect? Yes. But so are you. That's what is so great about this mortal life. We make mistakes, we break our hearts and even His. But we can repent and be forgiven. That is what the Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ made possible. Just for you! Just for me! And along with our own forgiveness it means something else: we can forgive those who have hurt us, too.
You can come to me and ask me about my experience and my beliefs, but I cannot tell you what YOU should do in your relationship. I believe there is only one person that you should be asking and it's not me. It, quite frankly, isn't even yourself you should be asking; it's the Lord. Now, if you aren't religious, then, I am really sorry, but I think you have to do what you think is best. But for me, God is who I turned to. And He did not steer me wrong.
Anonymous--You asked if I'm happy. Yes. Wholeheartedly yes. Is Beloved? Yes. We both see our marriage and our relationship for what it is: a living thing which needs to be cared for, fed, loved, protected. I can honestly say I believe we are more in love now than at any other time before this all began.
Would I recommend an affair as a catalyst for such a change in a marriage? HECK NO! But I feel that Beloved and I are living, breathing, loving, laughing proof that God can make something beautiful from the ashes of our trials if we let Him and are willing to work alongside Him to make it so.