Life is hard. No doubt about it. And when you have been married to someone who chooses to go outside your marriage for sex and companionship, life is a whole different kind of hard. I read once that because the sex act is so personal, involving your heart, mind, and your very skin, it is the most painful hurt to wade through. I think that is true.
I experienced that hard. I was nearly destroyed by that kind of hard. I believed I was less because I wasn’t woman enough to hold my man. Scars of adultery never completely disappear. But the hurts do scar over allowing you to go on with life, changed, but still breathing.
We both vowed to stay faithful to each other in our wedding vows. But we were coming from completely different places and didn’t realize it when we married. He had been scarred as a seventeen year old when he witnessed something he should not have had to see. That scar came to play in our marriage. Very early in our marriage, we were discussing friends who were getting a divorce because she had an affair. He didn’t understand why that would lead to divorce. I told him that if he were ever unfaithful to me, we would be divorced as well. He responded with, “You would end our marriage over something so stupid?” I responded with, “Um, yes.” I didn’t know then that he had already been unfaithful.
I did not understand at the time that the cause of his search outside of marriage had little to do with me and everything to do with scars he carried. At the time, it was my fault entirely. Or so I thought. The truth, though, was I didn’t send him to other women. He chose to go. I didn’t warp his thoughts. That was done when he was a teenager. I didn’t give him the initial pain that would set in motion the pain of our marriage. Someone else did that. I, unfortunately, reaped what someone else sowed in my ex-husband’s life.
I thought I was ugly and deficient in every way needed to attract my husband. If your husband has been unfaithful, you have painful memories, things you saw, things you were told, and feelings you felt. All of our stories are a little different but the pain, that’s the same. The shame we carry because we were made to feel inadequate, we share that. Since adultery is such a public shame, it also affects our relationships and the trust we have in others.
But the Bible says the truth will set you free; not only knowing the truth of Jesus, accepting Him as your Savior, but also the lies we believe because of the hurts we get. So, what is the truth? Was I truly not woman enough for him? The truth is he was damaged in some way. I think all people who decide to look elsewhere are damaged in some way. That doesn’t excuse their behavior but it does say it is their lack, not ours. The truth is it had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with him. I learned so much about life though through my husband’s affairs.
I learned that his pain didn’t excuse the pain he caused me. He had a choice in how to act on that pain. He made some bad choices. We all have choices in how we deal with our pain, no matter what caused the pain. Just because a parent is an alcoholic and rips apart the family, that doesn’t mean the child has to repeat the behavior. The child has a choice in how he/she reacts to that pain. That’s when I learned I had a choice to make. Learn from the pain or repeat it. I chose to learn.
I also learned that holding on to the pain, anger, and bitterness hurt no one but me (and my kids less directly). I so wanted him to pay. I reveled in my anger for years. Years I wasted. That hatred was like the deepest darkness, black as black could be. It hid everything good in my life. It hid the blessings surrounding me. I just couldn’t see them for the darkness I dwelt in.
I had to let go of that hatred. And that couldn’t happen until I forgave him. When I couldn’t forgive him in my own power, I had to pray for months for help, first with being willing to consider forgiving, then to be able to forgive and finally to forgive. And that’s when the light could find its way back into my life. I was no longer emotionally tied to my ex-husband by my anger. I was free.
If someone has desperately hurt you in any way and you are holding on to bitterness, please consider praying as I did so you can be free of that person. Pray so you can be free of the hold the pain has on you.
Once I was free of him, I explored the lies I believed about myself and set out to replace the lies with truth. Some of the lies I believed were: I was undesirable as a woman, I was stupid, I was a failure, I was a doormat to put up with it as long as I did, and I was unlovable. Replacing lies with truth can happen in many ways but I believe they are all God-driven. To prove to myself I wasn’t stupid, I went to college, worked very hard, and did well. That lie was debunked. Proving I was lovable took seeing the love my family and friends had for me. More importantly, it took understanding the great love that Jesus Christ has for me. He gave His life for me, a woman whose husband didn’t stay. I was held in the arms of the great I AM. He never let go and that alone helped me feel loved. He showed over and over I was worthy of his attention. Every single time I prayed to Him, He was there with me as my husband could not possibly be.
When I could see the many blessings I had in my life, I could begin to grasp that I was lovable. Very lovable. Because I was very blessed. A Savior’s love. Three children I loved dearly. Friends and family willing to set aside their own needs to help me with mine. A life I loved every single day. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have my husband’s love anymore. I had so much love without him.
I was angry with myself for a long time for believing lies he told me, for letting him convince me so many times that I was the one in the wrong for not trusting him. I can look back and wish that I had been assertive, that I had been able to do more to let him know I wasn’t going to put up with his wrong actions. The truth is I was trying to keep my marriage intact. I was trying to keep my children’s dad in their lives. I was trying to honor my husband. I can see now that those were noble things and I can’t regret them.
I am still working on feeling desirable. Being told you are not desirable by your husband is shattering. Rejection is devastating. Adultery rips you to pieces. My second husband shows over and over that he finds me desirable but I have to believe it myself. I’m working on it but that’s a big wound to heal. I’m thinking that one requires faith in both God and my husband. Again, it takes finding the lies, replacing the lies with truth, and then moving on. Trusting God. Letting Him lead you through the pain and out the other side to healing. Believe, no matter what, you are woman enough because God made you woman enough.
13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-14
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31a.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made and God sees you and behold, you are very good! That’s the truth!