I’m back at our little cabin at Pinetop, AZ. The weather has been wonderful. Lots of rain, which we desperately need. The temperatures are cool and my five-mile daily walk is a joy. I was joking with my husband that I kind of like the smallness of our space. It’s easier to put things away because leaving them out quickly creates a messy look, plus it’s only a few steps to put things away. It’s easier to hear him because even if I’m a room away, I’m only a few steps away. It’s easier to clean. Just a few swipes of the mop or vacuum and the job is done. I’m not ready for a tiny house just yet, but this has been a nice change.
Today’s Question: Twenty-three years ago (after being married 5), I had an emotional affair at work. The church advised me to quit my job. I did and immediately got pregnant with our first. I separated for a while because he was so mean to me, but the church said I needed to be with my husband for protection (nobody ever questioned my husband. He was the victim of an adulterous wife).
After the birth of our son, I divorced him. I made him an even bigger victim within the church. Women felt led to focus on me and get me back into my marriage. Four years later we remarried. Submitting to my husband, I found myself constantly trying to please him (I have a bookcase full of books on how to be a good wife), which resulted in a bad case of people-pleasing.
Not realizing how easily I was being manipulated, I allowed myself into a situation three years ago, that resulted in gross sexual imposition, which I am being blamed for because I was told I wanted it. I feel like a fool!!!! I am stupid trusting! I had to tell my husband to call this man to leave me alone. I had given him my number before he tried to rape me thinking he was a nice older man in the military taking care of a military wife on her way to visit her husband out of the country.
I am such a trusting person and a people pleaser. Crushed I cried to God. I am hopeless and such a bad person. God could not love me. That is when a friend showed me the book Boundaries. I woke up and realized I was being used by people. Boundaries and saying no were ok. These past three years have been a journey with God. A journey of healing and finding out how much He loves me and it is wonderful.
I try to share with my husband, but he says he feels threatened by me and feels I judge him. My marriage is not any better. We are in counseling (again) and now the counselor wants to see my husband alone. After his first session (and only alone session), my husband told me we had to reconcile over my unfaithfulness. It was put in my lap. What or how do I make amends for my stupidity? These past three years God has shown me that he loves me unconditionally. That I am here for Him and not to please people. My husband is hurting from my mistakes and bad judgment. I was wrong, but how do you get past this? He now uses these issues to blame me for all our problems. He cannot trust me.
Before this, he did not trust me and his behaviors were the same. He was always controlling and obsessively jealous. Now I gave him ammunition to make me owe him. Do I? I made a mistake. I have repented. How do you get past these kinds of trust issues in a marriage? Can you ever? I was looking at a divorce, but I have been home for 18 years now and have two kids with special needs. I cannot work outside the home and I feel trapped. I am trying to find peace through the Lord and not my marriage. Do I owe my husband any more than what I have already done? I want to move on from my past. I hate reliving those unwise choices. I learned from them and praying that God does not ever put me in that situation again, but if I am, I pray I can do a better job of resisting manipulation and or being preyed upon for a loveless marriage that I find myself in. I am not proud of my choices, but I know me. Had I been in a healthy relationship, I would have no need to even have stepped foot into the attention that it gave me.
Sometimes I feel like I blame my husband for my situation, but that isn't right either. I made the choice because I chose to marry a man that cares nothing for me, but just that his meals, laundry, and home are run from top to bottom. I am a slave. The slave who strayed and now I am being punished. I want to be free of this chain. With God, I am forgiven. With my husband, I am not. What do I do and how should I react to him?
Answer: First, I’m so sorry for all the pain you’re going through. Marriage, even good marriage is hard work and over time exposes our own issues – jealousies, insecurities, immature coping mechanisms, wrong thinking patterns, etc. We can blame marriage for exposing them, but they were in us. Your husband’s jealousy, entitlement thinking, and selfishness were in him before you had the emotional affair at work. Your people-pleasing and naivety were in you before your husband treated you so poorly.
But that’s not all. You also have strengths. You separated after your first baby was born because of your husband’s mistreatment of you. You sought counsel from those you believed had godly wisdom, even though they too were naïve and idealistic about how a destructive marriage is reconciled. You were an eager learner, reading a lot of books on how to make your marriage work. You care for two special needs children. You took what you read in Boundaries and applied it to many areas of your life and your relationship with God grew stronger and more secure than ever.
Currently, you are telling yourself that you must stay married for financial support. Yet you recoil at the thought of being just a slave who does his meals, laundry and takes care of the home. No one who is married wants to be “Just a paycheck” or “Just a maid”. Your question is where do you go from here?
It’s your choice but my advice would be to have an honest conversation with him (if it’s safe). If it’s not safe then you also have other issues to address because you cannot live peaceably with someone you are afraid of or who is afraid of you. You said he feels threatened and judged when you try to talk with him. I’m not sure what he means by this but what if you asked him? Does it mean you can’t be honest? Does it mean he never wants to hear your thoughts and feelings? What can you and he do differently to create a safe environment for both of you to talk honestly?
It requires change and work on the part of both spouses. You are receiving inadequate counsel if all the counselor focuses on is you and what you did wrong. From what you say, trusting you was never easy for your husband but since these two episodes, his fear and mistrust are high. He also feels entitled to punish you for your betrayal. This is not God’s way. If he’s interested in what God has to say to him, then he has work to do also. Here are his two Biblical options.
Option #1 – Forgive you and work with you to rebuild broken trust and safety with you. Or Option #2 -Forgive you and acknowledge that marital trust and safety is irreparably broken and end the marriage. Biblically he does not have the option of staying married and punishing you forever for your wrongs.
I’d also encourage you to get some good counsel or coaching for yourself. From what you’ve said, your previous counsel has all been around “saving the marriage” yet the marriage relationship itself is broken even if the two of you stay legally married. You used to believe you were a bad person, stupid and unforgivable, but you don’t believe that anymore. You know God’s love for you and feel forgiven by him. But you still believe that you are incapable of working and supporting yourself with your two children. Your belief limits the options you think you have moving forward.
There are other women who have special needs kids who also work. They may run their own business from home or work remotely for someone else. There is community support for your children, especially job training for them as they become adults. Please don’t stay stuck in the belief that you have no options but to stay in an emotionally abusive situation. God has grown you up so much. He will show you your next steps forward. He wants healing for you, for your husband, and for your marriage. But each of you has your own work to do.
Friend, how have you overcome a limiting belief, realized it wasn’t true, and become stronger?