Betrayal strikes at the core with the potential of wounding one at the center of his or her soul. In this post we'll look at why it is so painful and then we'll move on to the emotions of betrayal.
First off, betrayal is acting in a way that is contrary to the assumed expectations in the relationship. In most marriages telling the truth is one of the expectations almost everyone takes in. On their wedding day a husband and wife are bound together, on the same side, and it is assumed it will stay that way.
Ann didn't expect me to be closer emotionally to another woman than I was to her. Yet, I chose to do that. If something good happened I looked forward to telling the other woman at work rather than Ann. I didn't overtly lie to Ann about that but I sure did lie through omission.
With her affair, I assumed she never would actually have sex with someone else since I didn't. I'm glad I didn't have sex with another and also glad my expectation was that she wouldn't. It just made it hurt like hell when I finally found out the truth.
When the affair came out we were deep into the Christian walk. We were overconfident in many ways and immature too. The affair did begin before Ann was committed in her faith. I say that just to highlight that there are assumed moral values. The more we moved towards God the more our morals were in line. Affairs are exhibit A that we don't always live out our stated morals.
There is also an assumption of enduring love in marriage. Even if events and a lack of attention erodes the relationship there is still the belief that we are married, we married out of love so we'll get to the good times again. Yet, expressing love can look very different to each person. And expressing love in a way that misses the heart of your spouse can precipitate the erosion of that love.
So, the quality of the perceived connection typically determines the level of betrayal. Even if the marriage hasn't been going particulary well lately or even for quite a while, the perceived connection is usually pretty deep. This is based on a time dating, a wedding day, shared dreams, shared story, shared home etc. All the sharing, even if the relationship is growing distant, leads to a sense of connection even in the absence of a real connection. We can live in denial in our marriages for quite some time. All the reality that denial has been covering up spews its toxic self everywhere when an affair is revealed.
Other times the marriage connection is actually good when an affair happens. More and more men and woman are placed in positions through work where affairs are more likely. There are more opportunities for affairs today than 50 years ago. Men and woman today in pretty good relationships can make the choices to slide down the slope into an affair violating the sacred covenant of their wedding day.
The denial of both explodes on the day of the revelation of the affair because both the betrayed and the betrayer have lost their 'idols'. Idols in this sense is used as finding life in something other than God. Some of these can be good desires that we begin to use to feel good or prop ourselves up emotionally.
The betrayed lost the 'idol' of their perception of who their spouse was. I didn't really believe Ann was capable of having an affair much less concealing it over a few years. I held her up as the woman that was supposed to make me feel good about who I was as a man. That's kinda like men do with centerfolds. Ouch. We are all married to a spouse who is incredibly glorious and also capable of heinous sin. I lost the idol that my wife was all glory. I mean, I knew she sinned but I didn't think she was capable of That sin.
The betrayer lost the ‘idol’ that precipitated the betrayal. This is the affair partner, pornography, drugs etc. All of a sudden their idol isn't making the world wonderful anymore. Their idol is causing problems instead of soothing the soul. Also, his or her portrayed image is busted, shattered really. The wonderful person projected is now exposed in lies and deception.
Both spouses lost the image of the ideal marriage. The truth that their marriage isn't perfect or anywhere near stuns both spouses. Most people will say their marriage is doing ok or they will be ok when asked about it, regardless of the actual state of it. Everything looked great for us on the outside. We were moving towards dreams and seminary, good paying jobs, buying a brand new home. Most people would want what was going on on the outside for us. I was seduced by it too. When the truth of the affair came out none of it meant squat. It was all rubbish compared to a real relationship with God and a close marriage without affairs.
Our marriage was exposed as lacking. Exposed as lacking far more than I knew it was. We weren't the couple on the go, on the rise, we were all of a sudden the couple in chaos. It was a battering ram to the soul for both of us.