Would you pray for me? I am at Focus on the Family today (Monday). I’ll be taping in the morning, teaching counselors over lunch and taping in the afternoon. I will need lots of mental, physical and spiritual stamina.
Be sure to watch the twelfth and last video in the series on “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” entitled, “What To Do When There is No Change” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4_t-D9bhtA.
Today’s Question: I have been married for 31 years to a wonderful man who has committed adultery at least 3 times, but we are still together. When I say he is a wonderful man, I am not being sarcastic. My husband is well liked by many people. He has one of those vibrant personalities.
I, on the other hand, am much more quiet and reserved and do not like to be the center of attention. I am struggling with my choices. I feel stuck and angry and just want to feel like I have some power in this relationship. I think one of the problems is my husband has certain athletic activities that fuel him and define him. I will say “I'd rather you not participate in this event,” but he feels like I am holding him back from who he is. When I say “it seems to be all about you and has for most of our married life,” he says, “what do you want to do; what are your goals, etc.?” And I can't think of any.
It's like I have been swallowed up into his life and I don't even know who I am and what I want. Naturally, he gets to do what he wants because I can't think of anything. So he moves on with his life, while I stay stuck, and then I feel resentment toward him. I need help.
Answer: My heart broke as I read your question. It’s so sad to me that you have lost yourself in your marriage and that you describe your wonderful husband in terms of personality type rather than character traits. In fact, the one character trait you did share was that he seemed rather selfish. “It’s all about him” were your words.
Adultery three times…that you know of…and you’re still together because? You didn’t say, but I hope it’s because he loves you and you love him and you’re both working together to repair the marital wounds and whatever is going on with him.
Since you don’t say, my guess is that’s not happening. Meanwhile, you feel stuck and angry and want to feel like you have some power in this relationship. When you ask him not to participate in athletic activities, he tells you that you are holding him back. Are these the places where he met the women where the adultery took place? If so, then to rebuild your trust, he may have to sacrifice that for a while until he can maintain better boundaries and get some help for why he betrayed his commitment to you. However, if that’s not the case and he likes sports and you don’t, I think he’s correct in challenging you to develop your own life instead of asking him to restrict his.
You said that when he asks you what you want, you don’t know. All you know is that you’re feeling increasingly lost, powerless and resentful. Not a good combination. My question is “what are you doing about your problem (not the marriage problem)?”
That may seem harsh or unsympathetic, but I need to jolt you awake. You are an introvert. You don’t like to be the center of attention, but that doesn’t mean you’re a plain piece of white paper with no writing on it. Who are you? Who has God made you to be? What has happened to you as a person as you’ve fulfilled your roles as wife and mother?
To get started knowing yourself better, I want you to do two things. First, I want you to spend some time taking a “smorgasbord” approach to life. For example, if someone asked you what you like to eat and you didn’t know, a good place to find out would be a big buffet where you try a little of this and a little of that. During that excursion, you may discover that the white fish is just okay, the ham is yucky, but you really love the prime rib and cheesecake.
Now you know a few things you really like and some things you don’t’ like. It’s a start. Try lots of different things. Remember things you liked as a child and try them again. Don’t’ worry if you don’t like them now. Learning who you are involves knowing what you don’t like as well as what you do like. However, when you don’t like something, determine if it is because you don’t’ like it or because you’re afraid you’re not good at it.
For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to draw or paint, but you don’t feel very competent. Do it anyway. You can learn and grow and develop. Don’t let fear determine who you will be. God put incredible things inside of you. Fear will keep you small. Don’t let it. Try, even if you’re not really good at something, and you still may enjoy it. I enjoy playing the piano, but believe me, no one would want to hear me but me (and God).
The second approach requires more reflection. It’s like asking yourself what’ you’re truly hungry for when your friend invites you to pick the restaurant you want to eat at.
You said you often come up blank when your husband asks you the questions, “What are your goals? What do you really want?” In addition, some other questions you need to reflect on are “What are you feeling? What do you think about that? What are your core values?”
The writer of Proverbs tells us that “the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his [or her] way” (Proverbs 14:8, NKJV). It takes time and energy to be quiet and reflect about who you are, what you think, how you feel, what’s important to you, and what you want (or don’t want or are truly hungry for).
Some people think those kinds of questions are self-indulgent and self-centered. However, it’s important that we understand that we can’t let anyone else know who we are or where we are unless we ourselves know. Selfishness isn’t characterized by knowing how you feel or what you want. Selfishness is when you demand that other people always cater to your feelings, your wants and your needs.
To grow in self-reflection, ask yourself “what” questions. Don’t just swallow what everyone tells you, but ask yourself what you think about a certain topic or current event. When something painful happens, ask yourself what feelings are coming up inside. Are you scared? Sad? Angry? Shamed? Do you know how to tell the difference?
Journaling can be an excellent way to reflect upon your day’s experiences. Don’t just write about what happened. Write about your thoughts about what happened and what you felt and even what you wanted. Then read it back and ask yourself if there is anything more inside you that you need to know. Then write what comes out. That will give you good practice in getting to know yourself and reflecting on what comes to the surface.
I talk much more about getting to know yourself in Chapter 5 of “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage,” but there’s a relatively new book out called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” available in Paperback by Susan Cain. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list and it’s gotten great reviews.
I’d encourage you to check it out of the library or visit Barnes & Nobles and have a mug of coffee or hot tea and take some time to read it. You just might be encouraged that you don’t have to be outgoing or the center of attention to make an impact or to be used by God in a mighty way. Paul tells young Timothy, “Fan into flames the gifts God has given you.” Paul was the extravert, Timothy more shy and fearful. Yet God had plans for Timothy, but Timothy had to work to develop his gifting (2Timothy 1:6).
You have value, worth and a contribution to make to this world apart from your role as wife and mother, but you can’t make it if you stay lost, unaware, afraid and resentful.
Friends, share how you began to know yourself better, especially if you were more introverted in temperament.
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How do I stop living in fear of my husband’s words?
Blessings everyone! I am truly grateful for all of you who take the time to read this blog. If you haven’t noticed, I’m taking just a little bit of my blog space to share some personal musings and thoughts with you from time to time. I want to get to know you and for you…
How an Abuser Manipulates to Get Others on His Side
Hi Friends, I’m in Los Angeles visiting my daughter’s family and spending time with my granddaughters, ages, 3, 2 and 1. There is no greater joy than to have a little hand tucked into yours with total trust. I’m so grateful that three little girls believe their Nana and Papa will take good care of…
to the person who asked the question to Miss Leslie, thank you! I learned so much and needed it to. thank you to you both for helping me, when I didn’t even know I needed the help in this way! yeaaa. god is good. Janet I am still waiting for your book to arrive Miss Leslie, I will pray for you.
Yes, QUIET is a superb book for us introverts.
Go ahead, dear sister! Explore the world around you, get to know yourself, cherish your strengths, build healthy relationships with other women. Find your passion, discover your gifts, go and play.
Your husband doesn’t own any of these life-givers. They are all yours to discover, to enjoy.
I can relate to this lady.
My husband’s personality is both outgoing and driven though he does have a quiet side he gets into where we connect better. In his confidence of his viewpoint, he does not easily leave room for others or differences and in his wounded area he seeks acceptance and lacks empathy for others.
I took a young lady along to a volunteer opportunity last year and she bloomed before my eyes in her excitement to be serving. She has been looking for direction in life and recently was praying for a passion. Her path and heart are opening with an opportunity to serve at an outreach ministry. She asked…and God has been answering.
I looked into personality info the other year and it really helped me to affirm value in myself and my differing gifts and understand how to work with my husband’s stronger personality. He can railroad over others, more so in the past. That was a key. I define him as a train on a train track: he needs either a large definite red flag if I want him to stop or slow down or a large definite green flag if I want him to keep going and know he is winning in an area. Wired that Way personality info is great for using personality info for better communication and relationship.
The other thing I did was seek counsel for practical communication and relational skills. I needed to know how to be more effective with strong personalities and happenings. As I have gained strength and skill this last year, I have been able to define what I want and ask for change. I have also grown. I needed to be stronger. The book title ‘No More Christian Nice Girl, Becoming God’s Good Woman’ pinpoints a need. I can’t live by my quiet, unassuming personality, I must be able to stand strong in the Lord in both easy and stretching situations.
I do have to define my wants, know what I am asking for and how to ask it (that took time this last year), acknowledge my feelings and truth, take responsibility for my needs and growth with boundaries, build my own network of support and relationships where my husband is lacking, and have and hold my place in the circle of life.
I sat down as an older woman with a very nice young lady recently who has a heart for the Lord. I talked to her about the balance of strength and rightly dividing the word of truth; peacekeeping is not peacemaking, submission must be defined with balance, as is fit in the Lord.
How did I begin to know myself better? through the excruciating challenge and depth of pain in my marriage and family and needing to overcome a wounded area in which I had learned passivity as a child.
Passivity will not make a difference and finding that growth before 25 years or 35 years of marriage is worth prayerfully seeking the courage, strength, and skill.
It was my introvertedness to search and ponder and my detailedness and quiet pondering and intuititively which provide roots and fertile ground for my courage and ability to seek and my trust in the Lord that underlies it all with hope and perseverence.
Aline I do like your style. Being passive is definitely not a plus when you are married to a very driven controlling overbearing man. Being a teacher I had to learn how to be tougher. But being married to a narcissist is teaching me to be tough as nails… If not, he’s going to put me in the grave.
I am an introvert and was married to someone very outgoing and fun. I left when his behavior became abusive, but even during those abusive years he still put on a good show when anyone else was in the room and he was completely different behind closed doors.
When you say he is a wonderful man, do you mean based on other people’s opinion of him? I’m not sure what you mean, but it sounds like you are thinking that you should be grateful for him because he is a fun person, or is well-liked. It is ok to have your own opinion based on how he treats you and what kind of husband he is when no one else is looking.
Some things I have done since my divorce to get out of my shell and make friends: join a bible study, learn a new craft, golf lessons, home decorating class, cooking class, wine tasting, volunteer at the food bank, go on a mission trip. For most of these things you don’t have to be great at conversation. Like Leslie says just anything that interests you at all, give it a try. It is ok if you don’t like it or if you are not good at it. Friendships with women can be really helpful, they can help support you and can get your mind off your own problems.
One trick I use when talking to someone is ask them questions about themselves. If I know I am going to meet with someone I will come up with 3 or 4 questions ahead of time, like: Are you taking any vacations this summer? That helps get through those awkward silences!
Also it is ok to be an introvert, there is nothing wrong with it! I have been working on educating my family members. Just because something sounds really fun to them doesn’t mean it sounds fun for me and it doesn’t mean I am a negative person or don’t like them or there is something wrong with me.
I have that Quiet book on my bookshelf, I have heard it is good too but haven’t read it yet.
My heart goes out to the writer of the question. I have never been accused of being the life of the party or even wanting to go to a party. I have never been fond of crowds and prefer small gatherings. But, I do have things I enjoy and never lost that part of myself. I was not allowed to enjoy them, but frequently thought of doing them. I finally got a piano about a year ago. I played as a child and played in the church into my 30’s then moved and didn’t have access for 25 years. I am so happy to have one again. Jim Brinkman, pianist, is coming to town in December and I am buying a ticket. That would have been considered a waste of money before the separation (along with the piano), but he could spend several hundred dollars in a day at a casino or thousand a year on cigarettes. I like to see a play at the community theatre. I love my Ladies Bible Study group. I like to go to the baseball park and got to witness my Detroit Tigers win a game last week. I like to crochet or sew a pillow case dress for the Dress a Girl Around the World ministry. Health issues keep me from going on a mission trip but hasn’t stopped my dream of doing so. There are so many things that I want to try I don’t know if there is enough time in this life, but would rejoice in moving on to my real home.
Most of all I want to make friends. I find it difficult having spent so many years with just the X and kids. I was/am an introvert in that the biggest part of life, second to God. The interaction with other sisters in Christ. I was cut off from people for so long that it is difficult to get started. I work 40 hours and have MS so my discretionary time is limited.
My point is dear Sister, pick something. You are not being held back. You are being encouraged to find things that you like to do. Even asked what you would like to do. Choose things for yourself AND for the 2 of you as a couple. It would be a good test of his dedication to the marriage. Will he want to try new things with you or will he find reasons not to? I was married very young to a man for 7 years who cheated continually throughout those years. He made it quite clear of his intentions to continue as he was. He was nice enough to other people, but treated me like a door mat, coming and going as he pleased. Towards the end, he would even come home and force me to hear about what he had done. You should not be treated like this. Three affairs, if it is only 3, is 3 too many. I am praying for you Sister, praying that God will put a desire on your heart.
31 years is a long time. You must be so worn out. Three affairs that you are aware of, oh my… Your mind and heart can only be in a fog. Wonderful man? To who? To you? Amazing how they can seduce us into believing their truth. In order to do that though you have to cease to be. Your perspective, your feelings, your desires all have to disappear. Don’t do that dear one. Take baby steps daily but start affirming yourself in The Lord. I have three Christain affirmation CD’s I purchased from “The Ultimate Journey”. I play them in the car, when I’m down, when I’m disturbed, lots of times. It’s amazing how God’s truth about whose i am filling my ears makes the fog disappear and clarity return. It is so very hard to fight for your identity when living in close proximity to one who overwhelms. Please start to make 2degree changes to heal yourself. Small little changes work best when you are that wounded. Writing to Leslie is an excellent first step. Keep reading. Stay here and heal. It takes time but stay in the light and heal dear one.
To the woman who wrote the original question:
I am also an introvert who stayed home with my babies while my husband played on his volleyball teams a few nights per week, throughout the marriage. He was also charming and fun and people liked him. He also left me for one of the women on his volleyball team, and greatly abused me in many ways.
I would often feel lost too – I didn’t know who I was. I wished that my husband would show an interest in me, or care about me, but he never really did.
Now that I am free, I have discovered the things that I like. It turns out I like carpentry and building things, and now people ask me to build things for them. You can figure out who you are, but please don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up because you’ve been so lost. It is very hard to bloom when we are not loved!
A visiting minister just preached about how satan stole our identities in the garden….Adam & Eve were created in God’s image (like God) and had eternal life….serpent said they could be “like gods” He took away their identity, but Jesus, through His bloodshed on our behalf, redeemed us… we are NOW sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus…NOW are we sons & daughters of God…we NOW have passed from death unto LIFE…. We need to grasp and believe who we are in Christ Jesus. He sets us free to be a holy God worshiper, rejoicing, living!
Thank you for writing. It is such a dark and isolating place to be but you are already starting to look beyond your husband and I believe that is the first step. Start cultivating your own thoughts and interests so you can know what your enjoyments are. God has created you and HE loves you. Turn your eyes away from your husband and start believing and knowing that your Heavenly Father has a plan and a desire for a deep relationship with you. Cultivate it. Slowly this re-awakening will let you know what you need to do next. Take care.
Dear quiet one,
Never underestimate your potential. Watch this and be inspired.
Be ready with an answer the next time he asks you, “What do you like to do?” Better still, start slowly looking to your community recreation centers who offer inexpensive classes to so many things so that he won’t even have to ask; he will know by observing your activites.
Finally, what saved me from a similar marriage – God gave me II Cornithians 6:14-18. Let God parent and soothe you as you make bold steps to discover the woman God intended you to be. Hold your head high and pursue a couple deep friendships with other women. You will need their feedback and consistency. God be with you. You can do it. We are praying for you.
Very interesting details you have noted, appreciate it for posting.
I just googled “I’ve lost myself in my husband only after having a conversation with my younger sister and she stated that recently “You have become you husband…as much as you’ve been fighting it, you are now him.” Let me briefly explain. I too am an introvert, whilst my husband is an extrovert. He and I only recently started socially hanging out together in the evenings (a bit of a problem at times: insecurities) as well as I have adopted his NEED to hustle for extra funds rather through delivery services or plasma donations. Either way none of the normal activities that I use to enjoy, such as getting mani/pedis, travel, museums and concerts, etc. I am always on the go now, even intimately. One day I even broke down and confessed to my husband that I felt I was just another one of his homeboys from the new routine that I have, he didn’t like hearing that. We share 4 children, 8-17yo, and had a very troubled start to begin with. Abandonment, Resentment, Anger, Infidelity (prior marriage), Silence and Silent treatments, multiple breakups and makeups (prior and post marriage), one divorce filing, pre & post marital counseling (all telling us that they can see the love in us, we just need to mature), individual counseling and now we have finally reached a place of slightly better communication (now that he’s in counseling for himself…more consistently). I’ve known my husband for nearly years now and it feels like we are JUST now getting to learn of each other, and now I feel it’s taking too long since I been taken the time to attempt healing and he is just getting his feet in the water. This is where my resentment comes into play. I don’t wish to be this way but after reading this column, I am aware that I MUST get back to doing my own things again. The scary part of it HOW? I’ve grown attached to being with my husband during outings and the friends I use to hang with, I feel we’ve grown apart. i am weird with new people and try to only hang around mutual friends of friends, just so that I know someone. I am lost also…confused but fortunately here I am attempting to make the switch for the betterment of myself for ME first then my family.
Update* “I’ve known my husband for nearly 21 years now and it feels like we are JUST now getting to learn of each other…”