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.