Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Ugly Truth - Part 1

Does Anybody Hear Her is an introduction to this series and sets the scene for the next few posts.

As I ended the last blog, I told you that seven years ago (really 8 now) I was one of those lofty people who couldn't understand how could ANY woman have an affair?

Men seem to have affairs all the time.

And we seem to accept that and are, for some reason, more easily able to forgive them.

But if a woman commits adultery, why do we judge her so much more harshly than we do men?

Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?

I think it is because we can't see ourselves ever being in that situation, and so it seems so extreme.

But how DOES a woman get to that point?

To the place where she seeks love and attention in the arms of another man?

I can tell you this much.  Whether it is a man or a woman, it doesn't always just happen intentionally.  It's not as if I woke up one day and decided to find someone to commit adultery with.  I didn't see someone and make a choice to pursue that relationship.

I didn't understand that things like adultery are a "slow fade", as I wrote yesterday.  Before I experienced it myself, if I heard about someone who had committed adultery, male or female, it mostly made me feel sad.  And I would think "I'll never be one of 'those' people."  I would never be one of those women.  No matter how bad things got, no matter what happened between Kris and I, I could never in a million years foresee myself committing adultery.  One of the TOP TEN SINS (according to the Ten Commandments anyway...)

When Kris and I were dating, he admitted that he struggled with lust and pornography.  It wasn't something he EVER accepted as OK.  It wasn't something he was proud of and he tried very hard to overcome it.

We were young.

And naive.

We thought that getting married would solve all the problems he had with lust.

Oh how hopeful we were.

And how stupid.

We didn't see the trap Satan was setting for us, before we even got married.  Though we were in Bible college, and on fire for God at the time and very much "in love", we had NO IDEA what awaited us.

When I learned that Kris was still battling against lust and pornography, months into our marriage, I felt so many emotions.






Kris would stumble and I would go through a gambit of emotions.  We would talk and pray.  I would comfort and forgive him and while it would take us a few days to get back to "normal", we eventually did.  I always took him back.

This began a vicious cycle that would eventually take a very deadly toll on our marriage.

The few girlfriends I shared my heart with would say "There is no way I could ever put up with that." or "Why don't you just leave him?  Why do you put up with it?"

Sometimes I think it is similar to a battered woman.  Sometimes we allow ourselves to "put up" with extremely hurtful things, because we are afraid that there is nothing else out there for us.  Those of us with low self-esteem feel like there is no one else in the world that will love us and take care of us.

We also take a loved one back time and time again, because we hope things will change.  We hope it will get better.  We hope that whatever addiction our loved one is battling they will overcome.  Especially when you're a Christian.

Beyond that, I WAS a Christian.  I grew up believing in God, and Christ's death on the Cross, though I wouldn't learn for over a decade later the truth of the Cross.  I knew that divorce was wrong.  Biblically, it was wrong, except (according to what I knew) for marital unfaithfulness.  If lusting is the same as committing adultery, wouldn't it be safe to say that I could legitimately have reason to divorce Kris?  Because while it wasn't physical adultery with another person, he did commit adultery.  Over and over again.

But more than that, before we got married, we promised one another that no matter how bad it got, divorce would never be an option.  I don't think we understood at the age of 19 how hard marriage was, or would be.  We never saw a time where things would get so bad that we would never want to be together.

For 12 years, I lived under the shadow of this promise I had made.  I couldn't divorce him, even though there were times I wanted out.  And we had four small children thrown in the mix.  "I could never survive on my own", I would think to myself.  And Kris is an amazing father.  I never consciously contemplated divorce until February 11, 2012.

During the first five years of our marriage, while we were still young and trying to live for God, in the midst of our struggles, my faith started to grow weak.  My hope began to die.  That vicious cycle we were in because of Kris' addiction to pornography took it's toll on me.  At some point, I quit caring.  About myself.  About Kris.  About our marriage.  I gave up emotionally.  I pulled away from Kris (and little by little, God) and built up a wall of protection around my heart.  I locked Kris out.

At the same time, Satan had big plans for how he could wreak havoc in our lives.  In the midst of our turmoil, Satan took that as an invitation into our lives.  And rather than fight him, we just rolled over and let him make a mess of things.  Yes, we were responsible for the choices we made, but there was a very real spiritual battle going on in our home and in our hearts.

And then, there was a man.

From church.

A very good friend.

Even back then, I never thought we'd be more than friends.  I liked him, sure.  He was nice to everyone and funny.  We connected on a very intimate, emotional level from the start, but I didn't "have feelings for him".

But he became increasingly nicer to me.  He started out by telling me how smart I was.  He began to compliment me here and there, always something different.  He would tell me I looked nice.  This continued and eventually we began to exchange texts and emails, all kept very light and casual.

Over time, as expected, our relationship began to grow and I was emotionally drawn to this man.  He was fulfilling that void that I'd been longing to have filled.  I wanted someone to think I was beautiful.  I wanted someone to look at me and think "Wow!  You're gorgeous!"  And then to TELL me that!

She is yearning for shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching for a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her Prince Charmin
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason and she gives herself away
Casting Crowns-Does Anybody Hear Her

That is exactly what is was like for me.

Kris certainly wasn't saying those things to me.  Verbal affirmation has always been hard for him.  I always believed that a huge part of it was his addiction to pornography.  That because of all he had seen on that stupid internet, his view of me was distorted.  He couldn't really see me.  And I had always thought very poorly of myself to begin with; so having a husband who preferred to look at women with better, thinner, prettier bodies than my own left me with no self-esteem at all.

In the beginning I couldn't separate his addiction to pornography from his desire for me, his wife.  In my mind, he liked those women better.  He preferred to look at them alone and hide in the darkness with his sin than to be with me.

The reality is that he saw what he was doing as sin.  He knew it wasn't right.  And he made efforts to overcome.  Bible studies.  Men's groups.  Accountability partners.  He desperately wanted to be free from his addiction.  He knew that it made me feel horrible about myself.  He knew it made me feel unwanted.  He knew that God did not want that in his life.  But none of it worked.

Occasionally Kris would tell me that he wanted me and that he thought I was beautiful, but only when I would point blank ask him why he didn't!  It used to make me so angry. He would finally say the words I wanted to hear, when I pointed out that he wasn't saying them.  I can still remember once trying to explain to him that everyone woman wants to feel like her husband thinks she is the most beautiful woman in the world.  Even though I know that I am not and that there are other women far skinnier and far more beautiful, I longed for someone to see me as the most beautiful person in the world.  Instead of understanding this, Kris went on this sort of diatribe about how there is beauty everywhere and different degrees of beauty.  He didn't get it and he certainly didn't make me feel like he thought I was the most beautiful woman in the world.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  It was as if he was confirming my doubts-that to him, I WASN'T the most beautiful woman in the world.

So, as my relationship with this other man grew stronger, I learned how to hide.  I have always hated lying.  I told Kris that lying to me about the pornography was worse than the pornography itself.  I saw lying as vile and wouldn't tolerate it.  And yet, at some point, I became the liar.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever forget the night in July of 2004 that my emotional affair turned into a physical one.  It was never my intention.  I was content to just leave it like it was.  I loved how good this man made me feel about myself and how kind he was to me.  Another line from "Slow Fade" that really hits home with me is in the second verse.  It says "Be careful little ears what you hear.  When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near.  Be careful little lips what you say.  For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray."

While I would have been content to leave it at an emotional affair, even though I knew it was wrong, he wanted more.  And because I was so tied to him emotionally, little by little, I allowed more; because I didn't want to lose the emotional fulfillment that I received from him.

We became co-dependent.

Each filling a need that the other had.

It wasn't a healthy relationship, but it is where we found ourselves.

I can't tell you how many times I tried to end it.  I knew it was wrong and I knew we needed to end our relationship.  The times I worked up the courage to end it, he always had something sweet to say or a way to reason out why I should wait until tomorrow (which we all know never comes); and every time I gave in.  And I wouldn't end it.  Once in counseling, during this time, the counselor told me that if I didn't end the affair, it would kill me emotionally.

In the end, she was right.  I wouldn't learn just how right she was until much later.

In October of 2004 (just 3 months into this affair) Kris found a chat on my computer between me and this other man.  Kris called me (I was out at the time) and I could tell he was really upset.  I asked him what was wrong.  His exact words (I can still hear them) were "I think you know what."  There was so much pain and disappointment in his voice.

I still played dumb, praying that he hadn't somehow found out.  He asked where I had been and who I had been meeting.  I just sat there, unable to respond, as I tried to process the truth that he really did know.  He told me to come home so we could talk.

I was driving home that night and had a very important decision to make.  I can vividly remember the fear I felt.  The horror.  What would he say?  What would he do?  Would he leave me?  What I had done was so much worse to me than his pornography addiction.  Because while they ultimately were the same thing, mine was with a real person and this seemed so much worse to me.  I was so scared.  Scared doesn't even begin to describe it.  I was petrified.

My first instinct was to flee.  To run away.  To just keep driving and see what would happen.  But I felt like I owed it to him to go home and face what I had done.  I knew that I had to muster the courage to deal with the confrontation that would follow when I arrived at home, regardless of the outcome.

It was late at night and all the kids were asleep.  We only had three at this time.  I sat on the couch and he sat across from me.  He asked me a few questions, all of which I answered honestly.  While I hadn't actually crossed that line of having intercourse with this other man, I had crossed lines.  I had sinned.  I had been physically involved with another man.

After hearing my answers to his questions, he reacted in the last possible way I expected.  He told me that he loved me and that what he had done to me over the last seven years was no different than my own sin.  He loved me unconditionally.  He loved me as God loved me.  I just couldn't understand it.  I knew in that moment that I was in the presence of God's divine love and grace.  I knew that Kris was showing me in a very real way how God loves us.

But I couldn't accept it.  I was so weighed down with guilt and shame over what I had done.  I was crushed because I had hurt my husband more deeply than he would admit.  But I knew him pretty well by now.  I knew that while he didn't speak to me in anger or throw the affair in my face as the months progressed, I had wounded him deeply.  But because he is a loving, God-fearing man, he forgave me and continued to love me.

Things got better for a while.  He had wanted to know what this other guy gave me that he didn't.  And so I told him.  And so Kris tried to speak my love language.  He tried to use verbal affirmation to connect with me.  For a few weeks.  And then he just stopped.  I was still so overwhelmed with the guilt and shame, and I felt like I didn't deserve any kindness from him anyway, so I didn't say anything.  It came as no surprise to me that his "freedom" from his addiction didn't last long.  A few months, maybe.  It was devastating all over again, and yet, how could I be upset?  I had been with another man.  He just looked at images on a computer screen.  My sin was so much worse than his, wasn't it?

It was a very dark time in my life.  At the time, it was the lowest I had ever felt.  I was depressed and ashamed.  I couldn't accept God's or Kris' love for me.  Because it didn't make sense.  Not after what I had done.  Not after what I had become.

Our secret stayed fairly contained.  Not a lot of people knew about the affair.  The ones that did accepted me with love and forgiveness (including this man's wife!), but it still wasn't enough for me to really feel it and find healing.  I should have gone to counseling afterwards.  Kris and I went to a couple of counseling sessions in the beginning, but we wound up quitting for reasons I can't remember.   Maybe it was because we felt like our relationship was restored and things at home were going good.  I hid my deep sense of shame and worthlessness from Kris.  Life got back to a semi-normal state in the months that followed the aftermath.  We felt closer to each other and I could see Kris was trying to fill my emotional needs.

I got pregnant within a month of the affair ending and we had a miscarriage right before Christmas. I was about 10 weeks along.  Little more than two weeks had passed when I got pregnant with Olivia.  We were moving forward and life seemed good.  While I still bore the weight of the guilt and shame and called myself everything you can think of, outwardly I tried to be a good, Godly woman.  I read my Bible, prayed for Kris regularly that God would free him from his addiction, and tried to be the woman God wanted me to be.

But I was wounded.  And I never really healed and experienced God's grace and forgiveness.  I knew about it, cognitively.  But my mind and my heart were so disconnected from each other.  And it became something that I would wrestle with for the next seven years.


  1. Wow! You are brave to share such deep experiences and feelings. You have certainly captured me with your story.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read, comment and follow the blog. I have a lot to say. I've made a lot of mistakes and I know that my story can encourage others in my place to hang on...

    2. wow Jamie, this should be made into a book! I really feel through your words how much sadness you were going through... When I used to be a Christian , i had similar experience but I was not married.. I can't even imagine! Everything does make a difference when you have God in your life.

    3. Thank you for your kind words. I have actually started the book. :-) Maybe someday...

  2. You are not alone, we all make mistakes. We all fall and climb back up and sometimes fall again. Life! So many women live with the same situations and by you sharing your story which takes huge bravery an confidence you will surely be a benefit to those in similar situations who have no one to talk to or share their pain. Glad I came across your blog. Peace.

    1. Peace to you as well. Liked your post about your journey into Islam. Thanks for the comments and encouragement!

  3. I stumbled on this blog while doing a study on Hosea. I was struck first off by your comment on women being judged more severely than men. I could not disagree more. My wife of 25 years had an "emotional affair" with a man involving some physical contact. She ended up walking away blaming me for her affair. The responses I got from other women of the church were" you must have done something to her to make her do that".It was bad enough dealing with the loss of my wife and family but to be told that I was responsible for my wife's falling in love with another man. It was my fault. She expected me to feel sorry for her for having to give up that other man.I could feel the silent judgement of people who knew nothing of my marriage or what kind of husband I was.Guilty by reason of being the man.

    1. I think that my perspective, as a woman, brings me to the conclusion that typically WOMEN view women as being judged more severely. It isn't that women are NOT judged or that they are not responsible for their own choices. My husband was not to blame for my affair. I was simply trying to illustrate that I grew up thinking women who are unfaithful are these horrible awful people, which in reality they are not. They screw up, yes. On the other hand, I had always heard about men who were unfaithful and the typical response was that while it was wrong, men are men and they will always be men. I do NOT subscribe to this is just the kind of thinking I had growing up. Maybe it was the area that I grew up in. Maybe it was naive thinking. None of that excuses my own bad choices, just as men are not excused for theirs. I never meant to imply that either sex should be judged more or less severely.

  4. Thank you for your honesty.