Yea, I am back in Pinetop after a long 2 weeks away. Addie is very happy I’m home. If you haven’t checked it out yet, my Walking In CORE Strength Group Coaching Class starts very soon. The groups are almost filled, and they won’t be repeated until next Spring. So if you’ve always wanted to actually learn HOW to Walk in CORE Strength, not just know about it, please join us. Click here for more information.
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 quieter 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, so 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 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 why but I hope it’s because he’s genuinely repented, he loves you and you love him. And he’s doing the work he needs to do to figure out why he betrayed your trust and his vows and you are working together to rebuild trust.
But since you don’t say, my guess is that deeper healing is not happening. Meanwhile, you feel stuck and angry and want to have some mutual power in this marriage. When you ask him not to participate in athletic activities, he tells you that you are holding him back.
Let me ask you a question. 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 promises to you. However, if that’s not the case and he enjoys 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.
I’ve said numerous times before that chronic adultery, addictions, and abuse are not marriage problems, they cause marriage problems. What is your husband doing to address his sin and character issues that would make adultery acceptable in his own eyes? Anything? If not, then your marriage cannot restore broken trust because his issues are not being addressed.
However, your question is more about figuring out your own life rather than fixing your marriage. 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 question may seem harsh or unsympathetic but I need to jolt you awake. Yes, you may be an introvert and 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? You’ve not invested in yourself as a person even though you’ve tried to be a wonderful wife and mother.
To get started knowing yourself better I want you to do three things. First, get a journal and start writing in it each morning. Just write whatever comes to your mind, even if you sound foolish to yourself. Write at least 3 pages, longhand. Write whatever comes to your mind. Your dreams. Your fears. What makes your heart sing, what sucks you dry? Don’t overthink this. Just write, every day, 3 pages before you do anything else. I don’t care if you write “I don’t know what to write, I feel stupid for 3 pages. Just write and keep writing. And whatever comes to your mind, write it down. Believe me, things will come.
Second, I want you to spend some time taking a smorgasbord approach to life. For example, if someone said to you what do you like to eat and you didn’t know, a good place to find out would be to go to a huge gourmet buffet where you could try a little of this and a little of that.
You might find that you loved Ahi tuna with Wasabi sauce but hated grilled pork chops. You discovered the strawberry cheesecake was yummy but the bread pudding was just so-so.
Now you are beginning to know a few things you really like to eat and some things you will never eat again. It’s a start. Try a lot of different things. Remember the things you enjoyed doing as a child and try them again. For example, did you love sports? What kind? Find a women’s softball team to join or pick up a tennis racket and sign up for lessons or get on board with the pickleball craze that I’ve started to enjoy. Don’t worry if you discover that you don’t like them anymore. 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 ask yourself a question, is it because you don’t really 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. As some of you know, I’ve taken up painting. I love it but I am still not good at it and I can get intimidated when I start to tell myself, “I’m not good enough” or “My painting stinks.” It’s not that I don’t like it, I love it, but my mindset gets in my own way because I’m my own worst critic. Notice when that happens to you and if you like something that you’re not good at, keep at it.
If you stick with it, you will 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, you still may enjoy it. I enjoy playing the piano but believe me, no one would want to hear me but me (and God).
Don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is a key part of the learning process. Click To Tweet
The final approach requires more work. Instead of standing before a huge buffet of choices and seeing what looks good to you, this approach requires greater self-reflection. Instead of looking at what appeals to you from the outside (the smorgasbord approach), ask yourself what you’re truly hungry for. For example, if your friend invited you to pick the restaurant for lunch, what are you hungry for?
You said you often come up blank when your husband asks you the questions, “What are your goals? What do you really want? (Other words for “what are you hungry for?”) In addition, some other questions you could ask yourself are: “What am I feeling? What is my opinion about ______? What are my core values and my core virtues? What’s most important to me to do with my one precious life? Or another way of asking that is, “If my friends or children would describe me and my values and virtues at my funeral, what would I want them to say about me?” These would be good questions to add to your daily journal writing.
The writer of Proverbs tells us that “the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his [or her] way” (Proverbs 14:8). 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, what you stand for and what you stand against, what you want and what you don’t want. These are perfect questions for introverts.
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 during your journaling time, 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? Do you know what to do with your emotions?
In addition to your early morning 3 pages of committed daily writing, additional journaling can be an excellent way to reflect upon your day’s experiences. Don’t just write about what happened, write about how you thought about what happened and what you felt and even what you wanted and what action you took or didn’t take. Did it make you proud? Ashamed? Angry? Disappointed? 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 more in Chapter 5 in The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and there’s a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking – a paperback by Susan Cain. You can catch the author’s TED talk on the subject here.
You just might be encouraged to realize 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 extrovert, Timothy more shy and fearful introvert. Yet God had big plans for Timothy and Timothy had to work to develop his gifting. (2 Timothy 1:6).
You have value, worth and a contribution to make in this world apart from your role as wife and mother, but you can’t make it if you stay lost, unaware, afraid and resentful. It’s time for you to move out from under your husband’s shadow and become the woman God made you to become.
Friends share how you began to know yourself better, especially if you were more introverted in temperament?