43/444 Healing from Infidelity: Grace, Suicide and Intimacy
Grace is about forgiveness, healing and also the restoration of relationship. So grace is also about intimacy. When I say intimacy with most folks mostly what they'll hear is sex. Intimacy includes sex but is not solely about it.
Intimacy refers to the state of being most private, most personal in relationship. It depicts a special quality of emotional closeness between two people in which both are constantly alert and responsive to fluctuations of feeling and to the well-being of the other. There is a desire to understand and to be fully understood by one who cares for us deeply.
We speak of intimacy in four areas: spiritual, physical (sexual and non-sexual), emotional (involves sharing, trust, honesty, vulnerability), and recreational. All must converge to form who we are as a couple, not just one over the other three. We'll devote a large portion to intimacy later on.
Ben: Before the affair I had joined the Army Reserves. I was responsible for our poor financial state and read where the reserves would help pay back my student loans. I signed on the dotted line for the proverbial luxury condo but was sent to Basic Training at Ft. Dix, NJ just outside of Philadelphia. After Basic we took a bus to Washington, DC and Ft. Belvoir for AIT or job training.
At Belvoir I picked up a tennis magazine and noticed a story about a young man with a drinking problem. As I read I recognized so much of myself in his story. There was: success in an individual sport, depression when he couldn't win anymore, misuse of alcohol, an intense enmeshed relationship, a wondering about the meaning of life. The primary difference was his tale ended in a horrific murder/suicide. Ann joked she was glad of that difference.
I tore the article from the magazine. I wrote my life and my heart on pages of paper. I revealed my black insides and dark suicidal thoughts for the first time to my wife. The first time. How do you live in marriage with someone and not share something like that? I had a huge inner world and didn't know the way and/or was petrified for anyone to see inside me.
Later on at Belvoir I was lying on my bunk one evening. In a flash God brought back a memory from 10 months earlier.
I had played golf in college for Missouri and tried my hand professionally afterwards. I was a very good player but not one of the best in the world. A murky place in my soul kept at bay by success in golf surfaced.
Without golf, what was I? Looking inside I didn’t see much. The darkness and emptiness of an eclipse were everywhere. There had been no growth in who I was as a man because I had used golf to prop myself up, alcohol to numb the pain and lies to pretend I was somebody I really wasn’t. I was lost and confused and deeply depressed.
I was married, had 2 kids, in debt and distant from my wife. At age twenty-eight I began to contemplate suicide.
I was selling mutual funds and life insurance. I had purchased an insurance policy. The policy didn’t pay during the 1st two years for suicide. I was only a few months in and began to count down the days. I felt trapped in darkness and death seemed the only way out. I felt like a total failure.
For the 1st time in my life I began to wonder what life was really all about. Was there really anything to God and was there any way of sifting through all the crap out there and getting to the truth?
One day I was in my living room. The black void pressed in. I didn’t want to live and I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to leave my daughter fatherless but I couldn’t go on this way. And curses on that insurance policy because if I did kill myself I’d leave her penniless.
I sat on our hand me down sofa in the living room of our condo. I began to cry. My crying turned to sobbing. I cried enough to fill a trough. Eventually the pain became so intense I got up and paced the room. I didn’t know what was true but I stood at the base of the stairs and looked to the sky through the long window. I screamed with all my being, “God this can’t be what you intended for my life. Either take me back or show me the way.”
I didn’t know it but my life had changed. God heard my impassioned plea and his spirit entered my life. He began to slowly lead me into understanding his word in Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In other words when I was at my worst, mired in selfishness, drunkenness and debauchery God loved me the most. He loves me in all my junk and doesn’t stop.
A few months later I quit drinking. A few months after that I signed up for the reserves.
So I shared all of this with Ann in that letter and others like it. She wrote daily with news of the kids, her new job, our new home in Ozark. I felt closer to her than I ever really had. She noticed she just shared about her day more than her heart. Receving her letters still nourished my soul.
I enjoyed the taste of intimacy in those letters. The disappointment was deep when we couldn't continue it face to face. We didn't know how to do constructive conflict. We were cabinet door slammers, tupperware tossers and silent treatment kinda people. Blowup, no talking for three days, and then go back to normal like nothing happened was our pattern.
We learned through this that a couple, us, couldn't develop deeper intimacy without learning to do conflict well. It's imperative in moving to deeper levels of grace and intimacy to learn how to handle the fractures in a relationship. To make it through an affair we learned to be able to move safely to deep levels of sharing thoughts, feelings, dreams and hurts which enabled us to forgive, heal and restore in meaningful ways.