“I’m going to figure out what I did to help break down my marriage.”
“Don’t you dare blame yourself for this, Charity! This is not your fault. This is entirely Matt’s fault.”
The fastest way to piss people off is to try to take responsibility for your marital problems in the middle of your husband’s affair.
I would then quickly have to clarify, “Oh, I’m not blaming myself for Matt’s affair. That’s all on him. I’m talking about everything leading up to the day he sent her the first text message.”
I’ve read all the marriage books, gone to enough couple’s retreats, and sat in plenty of relationship classes to know that it takes TWO people to build a strong, healthy marriage and it also takes TWO for a sick and broken one.
“Affairs don’t just happen overnight.” You’ve heard that before, I’m sure of it. It’s almost a cliché at this point. Our eyes sort of glaze over when we hear it, probably because we don’t believe it could happen to us.
We’re too happy.
We love Jesus.
We’ve been through too much to give up now.
We’ve got each other’s back.
But when it does happen, it doesn’t make sense. How could this person who I’ve built my entire life around do this to me? How could the father of our children destroy our lives like this? Who is this person?! Did I ever even know him?
We feel sorry for the wife or husband crumpled on the floor clutching their bloody betrayed heart, the victims in this nightmare. They didn’t deserve this (which they don’t) and that person must pay (oh, they do!). We hate anyone who would cause such devastation, such a bone-splitting pain. We despise someone who in total and utter selfishness destroys everything good in his life.
And given half a chance, we’d crucify that person. With relish.
Now, let’s pause for a moment, rewind the film and zoom in behind closed doors.
You’ll find a family unit, not perfect, but fine.
Now zoom in closer.
You’ll see a collective unhappiness.
The difference between them and us good people, the ones who would never dare betray those we love, is that we have a higher pain tolerance. We’ll live in misery and do it until the day we die. It’s like our badge of honor. Our martyrdom for the cause of those we love. We’ll sacrifice life and happiness for goodness and the right thing. We’ll forever keep our broken wounds and misery locked behind closed doors. And give God all the glory.
Or maybe we all start off this way, willing to hold on a little bit longer, lonely in a house full of people. Maybe we’re all willing to stick around because one day it might get better. Maybe we all start off accepting that married life looks more like a 7th grade documentary on the life cycle and less like the erotic rom-com we said “I do” to.
Maybe you don’t realize how lonely, unhappy, or desperate you are until…
The vibrant laugh at your joke from a co-worker, or
The DM from your high school sweetheart, or
The friendly text from an acquaintance, or
The late-night online rabbit hole.
You feel a heat you hadn’t felt in a really, really long time. You see a light that you thought had been extinguished. And like a moth drawn to the flame, you can’t look away. You know it’s wrong, but the pull is hypnotic, intoxicating and as the fangs slip into your throat, you feel the blood leave your body with erotic ecstasy. The last thing you remember thinking before slipping under is, “If loving you is wrong, I never want to be right again.”
Only this fantasy world comes with a price. You can’t have both, trust me, many a soul has tried. But the piper must be paid.
You’re now the slave to the undead.
And if you’ve ever looked into the eyes of that person, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I don’t love you anymore.
Or worse, I never loved you.
Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life.
She’s my soul mate.
You ask, who’s willing to stand in their living room holding a grenade, pull the pin, and drop it, devastating everyone they love and have spent so much time and energy investing in? What terrible person is willing to blow it all up and walk away (and believe me, no one really walks away from the scene of an explosion)?
I’ll tell you who, a desperate person. A person desperate for one shred of happiness. One shred of love. One shred of excitement to ease the pain. That doesn’t make that person a bad person. It makes them a human being.
I’ve never been to the point of starvation, but I’ll put money on it, that human flesh, even my child’s flesh, would be my next meal if it was placed in front of me.
So, what if we put away our crosses and nails and give our lost soul a little bit more time to find their way back?
What if we wipe off the horns and pitchfork from the family photo, remove our own halo, and face our wounds, our darkness, and our pain?
What if we stick around until the fantasy mist dissolves and the venom in their veins dissipates?
What if we allow that person to hurt too? To forgive themselves? To lay down that mountain of shame and guilt?
What if we allowed everyone to heal?
What if we take a step back and realize, it’s not really about the affair. It’s about something much, much bigger.