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The time frame from about five to seven months post affair was brutal for me. I'm an American. I own a microwave oven. Stuff isn't supposed to take this long. I discovered my soul isn't a frozen pizza. And neither is yours.
Throughout the fourteen months until a huge leap of forgiveness took place, part of me wanted out every day. It was especially so roughly six months in. I felt trapped. The pain droned on inside me like an endless REO Speedwagon ballad. I'm just gonna keep on tormentin' yooooooouuuuuuuuu.
It had been six months for crying out loud and sometimes not so out or loud. The crying came in many forms. I didn't think I could deal with it anymore. REO was on another verse, the flight response kicked in and I called my lawyer friend, Matt, who was also a groomsman in our wedding.
There are risky moments in any affair recovery where the marriage balance teeters and totters. I was ready to bail out on my side and send Ann crashing to the ground. God had other ideas in having me call Matt.
"Ann's had an affair. We've been trying to work through it, but I'm done. Should I get a lawyer in KC or can you help me out?"
Matt replied, "Ben maybe this is what you need to do. But I deal with this stuff every day. Everyone thinks they'll go through it and it won't be so bad. It's always harder than people imagine it will be. It starts off ok and then mistrust kicks in and anger and then it just gets mean. And it hurts. It just rips people up. There is so much pain in divorce. Ben, if there is any way, stay and keep working on it."
Matt spoke profound words of life to me when I desperately needed to hear them.
My wife of 30 years just gave me a big smooch. She is wonderful and I'm glad we're married and stayed married and like being married to one another. I have no idea what my life would be if Matt hadn't been a great friend to me in that moment on the phone.
Are you tired of being in pain? Are you worn out and wondering if the pain will ever go away? It does hurt. Hurts a lot. Of course, part of you wants out and divorce can seem like a decent option.
But if there is any way, stay and keep working on it. Eventually the pain can go away and joy restored in your relationship. Your marriage can be better than anything your imagination allows at the moment. But it's a slow cook deal. It can't be rushed.
So God and Matt, thank you from the bottom of my heart. When I was about to make a great mistake you helped me glide down and gently touch the ground. I landed, looked up and I saw the bride of my youth. She hurt me bad. Your words gave me the courage to gently push off skyward and keep the balance as we teetered and tottered along.
Betrayed and Betrayer: Rescuing your marriage from the affair by Ben and Ann Wilson
Coming January 2016
If you keep little secrets you may eventually keep big secrets.
Check out this great article by Kelly Flanagan
What a thrill to fine tune our upcoming book, Betrayed and Betrayer, and review our shared life together. It has been a full ride. Check out this post by Ann.
Before my affair, we had a taste of true intimacy. While Ben was away several months for Army Reserve training we grew close through letters. Ben shared his inner world with me. I was able to receive that intimacy but was only minimally able to return it. This led to an inability to sustain that intimacy when face-to-face once he returned.
In addition to not handling conflict well, we reverted to an old pattern of relying primarily on sexual intimacy. We still didn’t know how to talk through tense situations so we'd have make-up sex and move on without dealing with the issue. Never a good idea.
In order to break those old patterns, we looked at our story - all the way back to the beginning. Why go so far back, you say? Because it all matters. It’s all important. Think of how the Bible starts. What are the first words on that first page? “In the beginning…” God doesn’t start His story with Jesus and the glorious redemption of the cross. Oh no he doesn’t. He starts His story ‘in the beginning’ and walks us through the mess of a story called the Old Testament before we get to the Grace of the New.
Our story didn’t just start the day my affair was revealed and it also didn't just start on our wedding day. Ben says he knows I was messed up when we started dating because I was dating him, and we now know we were both a mess. The early years of our relationship and marriage were hard. Friends asked why I didn’t divorce Ben. He drank a lot and didn't keep a steady job. I like to think Grace was at work even though we didn’t know it at the time. Even so, we merely existed in the same house.
Post affair I told Ben how hard the early years were for me. I first had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel cherished, that I felt used, that I resented the alcohol, that I felt more like his mom than his wife. Then came the hard part; speaking those words to him, which took a lot of courage on both, our parts, but he was able to hear my pain and own the ways he had hurt me from the beginning. On a broad scale, much broader than just the affair, we learned to own our pain and to give and receive grace.
One aspect of giving grace was learning to laugh at our idiosyncrasies. I can be clumsy. I break glasses and plates like a Russian who’s had too much vodka. Only not on purpose. And without the vodka. Really. And Ben, his dresser top and office desk often look like he just dumped a couple drawers on them. Yet, he still manages to find what he's looking for.
These quirks, and many others, used to lead to great discord between us. We each wanted the other to be perfect, and in many ways to be God. If that were truth in our lives, we would have had the ability to take away our insecurities, fears, shame and so much more. That was pressure placed on our relationship that neither of us could live up to. Neither one of us could touch the core of the other’s soul that only God can touch to soothe it into safe, secure Love. Now, instead of demanding God-like perfection we accept and enjoy the peculiar parts of who we are. They make us unique, flawed and imperfect. Who wants to be perfect anyway?
~His heart to the boy in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho