November 2007--Ann and I shared something similar to this in the Engaged Couples Class today. I thought it would be a good idea to repost it to let everyone know more of what we are about.
The day following Labor Day in 1994 my wife confessed her affair to me. I had suspected as much but still felt more pain and anger than I ever imagined that I could feel. I was in a state of shock. We tell our story in categories of gender, grief, grace and gratitude. In gender we share what we learned growing up about what it means to be a man or a woman. We look at how those beliefs helped us to move towards an affair in our marriage and how to change those. Each of us has intentionally grown and changed in painful ways with regards to our gender.
This post will focus on gender and subsequent posts will move through grief, grace, and gratitude. The content includes excerpts from our workshop at Restoring the Glory held in Golden, Colorado November 2003.
We lift you up this morning for prayer, healing and redemption. We have been delivered in our own marriage from the pain and chaos of infidelity. How did we get there? We took a look at our own failure. We took a look at our own families, our own views, our desires and how we ended up in a place we never wanted to go. Affairs don’t happen in a vacuum so we both looked at our failures and our weaknesses as a man and as a woman.
For me my primary sin was weakness and avoidance. I did not like difficult situations. I wanted to smooth them out. An image I had at the time was of me floating down a river. I would see posts in the river. I would see myself as going limp to get by the posts and continue on. I wouldn’t deal with situations head on. I was spineless like a jellyfish. There was no movement or initiation on my part. I didn’t move towards Ann. In fact sometimes she would move towards me and try to hold my hand. I would pull it away. I know that hurt her greatly now.
We looked at some of our family themes. We want to honor our parents. There were many good aspects to our families growing up. I spent a lot of time with my dad and my mom took good care of us. There was also alcohol in my home. I got drunk for the first time on my thirteenth birthday. That went on for 15 years and a month until I quit. I also gambled. These are ways to cover pain and avoid dealing with life head on.
I also played golf. I was good and played for Missouri in college. My identity was wrapped up in golf a lot. If I played well and shot 68 I was a wonderful guy. If I shot 83 I was a piece of junk and had no value. That was my internal world.
For me in looking at my own bentness and failures I had to own that I was very controlling. Our sins played off of one another. The more I controlled the more Ben avoided. It ended up in a vicious cycle of avoiding, controlling, avoiding, controlling.
An example of this, one time Ben was in the kitchen and I was on the other side of the house. He hollered, “Hey, Ann. Where’s the vegetable peeler?” Rather than saying, “It’s on the right-hand side in the back of the silverware drawer.” I went across the house, moved him out of the way, opened up the drawer and said, “HERE IT IS.” That just enhanced and dialed up Ben’s avoidance. He wanted to avoid it. He didn’t want to be around me. I controlled in many other ways as well.
I was really good at controlling. As a result I also became emotionally unavailable to Ben and my family. I want to honor my parents as well. They were both very good people. But they did not model sharing emotions honestly while I was growing up. I used to think it was a great thing that I only saw them fight one time while I was growing up. I used to think that was so wonderful, they got along so well. As I look back they just didn’t address conflict or minimally addressed it and swept it under the rug. Maybe, just maybe you could pretend it never happened. The theme in my family is we never addressed issues.
As a result I felt I was a shallow person. I liked living on the surface. I was very good at it. I liken it to being in a little row boat. I could stay there and never go snorkeling or scuba diving. I didn’t enter the depths of my soul. I was a shallow person instead of being honest with what was going on in my heart and in my soul. I didn’t face the brokenness and the pain that occurred in my life.
Consequently, I invested my life in performance. This was very important in my growing up years. So I just continued it on as an adult. I was going to be the best mom, employee, and the best worker, have the cleanest house. You could come over any time and it would be spotless. I would stay up until midnight cleaning my home. I was investing my life in all of this instead of investing myself in a relationship with my husband. This dynamic helped set us up for me to be involved in an affair.
As I looked for other themes in my family, the theme of sexual promiscuity just jumped off of the page. I have two brothers and one sister and every one of us has been touched in some way by sexual promiscuity whether it be sex before marriage, children before marriage (three of us), having an affair (three of us had affairs in our marriages, one ended the marriage, another ended the marriage and married the affairee who he subsequently had affairs on. We are the only ones to stay married through an affair. It is very sad.) I had sex for the first time when I was fifteen years old. It wasn’t fun. It hurt. I didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
But that’s what I kept going back to like a dog going back to its vomit. That was where I found my value as a woman was in having sex or in being sexual with men even it if didn’t go to intercourse.
Ben and I began dating pretty much the day I got to college at Missouri. Within a month we were sexually active. In three years I became pregnant. Thankfully, God said this is your daughter, your child. I don’t want you to abort her. I want you to keep her. I had friends asking about abortion. Ben even mentioned it. I said, “I am going to have this baby.” Whether we stayed together or not I was going to have this baby. I can take care of this child. God has incredibly blessed us, me through this daughter. Through my promiscuity, through my sin, God has blessed us.
To look at my daughter today and to realize I even thought about abortion just slays me.
That is a brief summary of the themes of our failure.
Next, I will post on the revelation of the affair.