I'm pulling this from earlier when we shared our story. It fits here as we move into individual styles of expressing anger.
I didn’t realize at the time that we were doing a lot of prayer. It’s just not what we normally think of as prayer. There was incredible chaos inside both of us, in our lives.
“Crying to God from the depths is how most Christians through the centuries have matured in prayer.” Eugene Peterson
We were maturing in prayer. In the presence of God we are free to express any feeling even if we feel betrayed or abandoned by God. I definitely felt that.
I was in incredible pain. I just hurt. It felt like I had to think about breathing to breathe. I woke up every morning wondering when will this go away. When will I ever feel normal again? Whatever normal is.
But I did one thing right in that I made a commitment to face all the pain that I could every day. I knew there was going to be so much pain that I had to face. I didn’t want to be somebody twenty or twenty-five years later that had this resentment circling around, snaking around in our relationship. I didn’t want this hurting us way down the road and me getting older and angrier and bitterer. So it was a good feeling to experience as much pain as I could even though at the same time I was in some shock and experiencing some numbness.
There was incredible anger for me. I never knew I could feel so angry over what had happened. But the most important covenant we could ever make, as humans was broken. I read in Torn Asunder that the amount of anger I would feel was roughly equivalent to the amount of pleasure that Ann felt during the affair. She needed to experience some of my anger to realize how great an impact she had on me.
Some of that anger was very wild. We could be having a great day and then watch TV and I would see something that would set me off. There are a lot of sexual innuendo and affairs on television. I never realized how much until we had to deal with our affair
For a while Ann wouldn’t know who was going to walk through the door. Was it a nice Ben who was glad to be home or would I come home dark and brooding. Much of the time there was a thick tension that permeated our house. I was in pain and didn’t hide it.
Some of the time I would express my anger well. I could share my hurt and simply tell her that I was very angry over what she had done. “I am very angry over the lies that you told me. I am very angry that you had sex with another man.” Other times I didn’t express it so well.
One way I didn’t express it so well involved a mirror that I had given Ann. It was an expensive antique mirror that went on the bottom of a Murphy Bed that folds up into the wall. I went through a lot of covert planning to give this mirror to her without her having any knowledge of it. It was a symbol of my love for her. It was one of the first extravagant gifts that I had given her.
One day, she and the kids were out shopping. I looked at the mirror. I began to zone in on this mirror and what it represented. I saw my love there and how she had trashed it. I felt that inside. Being the golfer that I am I went and got a golf club. It was a three iron. I couldn’t swing at it right handed because of the doorway so I swung at it left handed as hard as I could. I expected the glass to shatter. But you know what, there is thick glass in those old mirrors. My three iron hit the glass and I heard ka-thunk. So I hit it again and again and again until it came down. The glass was all over the carpet. Then I looked up at the wood.
I thought to myself that she could just replace the glass and then she’d still have it. I took the wood down off the wall, went out into the garage, got my circular saw down and did surgery on that mirror. This was an expression of my anger over what went on. But that wasn’t a good way to go about it. I wish I had that mirror today. It would be a wonderful symbol of God’s redemption in our lives.
So there were ways I expressed my anger well and ways I expressed it poorly. With anger there is a lot of energy. It would have been better for me just to take a whiffle ball bat and beat the bed for a while or to go for a run or to play racquetball etc.
One manner that did help me deal with all that energy involved a job I began. I took a job for Federal Express at the airport in Kansas City. I worked on the line. I would grab boxes off of the conveyor belt and put them in the big cans or I would take boxes out of the cans and put them on the conveyor belt. I was using up a lot of physical energy. That was very good for me to be able to do that.
I felt ambivalence. I felt a lot of strong feelings one way and a lot of strong feelings the other way. “I love you Ann. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” At the same time I would feel, “I hate you. I don’t want you any where around me. I am very angry. I am extremely irritated over what you’ve done. I can’t believe you did that.” I would swing right back to let’s sit down and hold hands and be together.
God did also humble me in my anger. It involved me beginning to write a story. I was feeling rather justified in my anger. Arrogantly, I felt like I was doing rather well following God and then wooooosh, I was nailed to the wall with a thousand nails. You can hear me identifying with Christ in that. I was about halfway through the story and God tapped me on the shoulder, “Ben, we need to talk about a relationship you have at work.”
He said, “This woman that you’ve been close to at work isn’t honoring to your marriage. Your relationship with her is a problem.”
I hadn’t perceived my relationship to her as a problem. We had moved closer and closer, but the relationship never became physical. So as that desire passed for me to have sex with her I felt relieved as in that was close but no harm done. God began to show me that wasn’t really true. There was much harm.
I was giving my heart to this other woman at work. I had left Ann lonely, abandoned and emotionally vulnerable. I had to begin to own my share of that and how I had hurt Ann.
In every affair, people hide in different places. It isn’t always with other people. A classic example of that is the man who works too much and puts all of who he is into work. Work becomes his mistress. The woman begins to feel that and she decides to put all of her energy into the kids. It can look really good. He is earning kudos at the office. She is always with her kids somewhere. But, she isn’t being honest with her heart and he isn’t either.
We can put our hearts in a lot of different places.