Something stronger than pain engulfed me. Not just loss of happiness, but the loss of any sense of purpose. I had been Mrs. Interfaith Marriage for so long, I had no idea who I was or who I might be without that in my life. I had dreamed of getting an MDiv and becoming a chaplain, or getting a PhD and becoming an academic, but my post-abandonment dreams swirled around survival alone.
And then there was crushing loneliness. Few people will ever be able to contemplate the despair I felt on those mornings when I woke to an empty bed along with the realization that my husband had spent another night out with his female co-worker. My marital distress waned into post-marital melancholy, and from the mire of my grief, I could see no end in sight.
And then, the unexpected happened.
God was there, and he breathed new life into me. Out of the ashes of my marriage rose something fiery and determined and stronger than ever.
Seems to me that they ought to spend a lot more time agonizing over what male love should look like. In general, there is far more benefit to be derived by pondering what love is and how it should be applied than there is benefit derived from pondering submission, obedience, and subjection. Jesus said that all of the law and the prophets hung on the commandments to love God and love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). That’s how important love is.
On October 29th, 2013, I asked my husband of ten years for a divorce.
Our newborn son was one month old, exactly. The previous nine months had served up near non-stop, blinding emotional pain. The pain of his glaring and inappropriate devotion to his co-worker, the pain of his declaration that supporting the family and keeping a roof over our heads were my problems (not his), the pain of job interviews spent trying to hide my baby bump with strategic wardrobe choices, and the pain of nights spent not knowing where my husband was, having to deal with his lame excuses when he finally materialized the next day.
I remember visiting a two-bedroom apartment model and looking around, then closing my eyes. I pictured me and my children living there, on our own, surviving, even thriving. I pictured my unborn child’s crib in the master bedroom with me, my daughter occupying the other room. No more surprises in the bank account, no more waking up in the middle of the night and wondering where my husband was.
I opened my eyes and sighed. Those apartments might as well have been on the moon. No one was ever going to rent one to me when I had no job and no savings.
And yet, there was the hope of a better life, even if I had to go to the moon to get there. So I set my sights above, and I set out.
In college I was intense. I don’t believe I ever took less than 16 credits, and usually took closer to 18. I was enrolled in three foreign languages at once, an officer in several clubs, and an enthusiastic participant in martial arts, self-defense, flexibility, and dance classes. I played guitar (though probably not very well) and sang in my church’s choir. I was as close to a Renaissance woman as I was ever going to be. The worst grade I got in anything was a B-; I had a 4.0 GPA or nearly a 4.0 GPA on a number of semesters. I had not started school with any academic scholarships, but began receiving them every year after my first full year at BYU.
Two things happened in 2003. I got married, and I decided to cram in a second minor in history in preparation for pursuing an American history master’s degree. It was too late to switch my major or add a second major and still graduate by 2005, but the minor would be enough to curry favor with graduate schools and show that I was serious about history.
My marriage became my undoing. I don’t want to go into all of the reasons why; let’s just say that duties and responsibilities that are supposed to be jointly shared within a marriage fell heavily and disproportionately on me. There was very little partnership. Instead, I found myself almost exclusively responsible for the well-being of two adult lives instead of one, to my exhaustion. Things got worse when my then-husband suddenly asked for a divorce in 2004, less than a year after our wedding. There had been no warning, and he did not want to even try to do therapy or work things out. He told me I was such a horrible person that I didn’t deserve any kind of a second chance with him, that he just wanted out of the marriage and away from me as soon as possible. Though we eventually reconciled, his gaslighting had an immeasurable impact on my psyche. I spent years walking on eggshells, believing that I had done something mysterious and terrible to drive him away in 2004. After our divorce in 2014, my former college roommates approached me to say he had been cheating on me shortly after we got married and they hadn’t known how to break it to me. The sudden and earnest request for divorce back in 2004 suddenly made sense. I believe he only reconciled with me because the Other Woman broke up with him.
With all of this going on, I finally lost my intensity. For the first time since high school, I began failing classes. (more…)
Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide by Tracy Schorn [Philadelphia, Penn.: Running Press, May 2016]
These days, self-help books are a dime a dozen and so often seem to be filled with myopic, impractical “advice” rife with wishful thinking on the part of their authors, it’s become both shocking and refreshing to run into a self-help book that actually helps.
It has been a little shy of two years since I read the original self-published version of this book. I read it in the wake of having discovered that my husband had secretly gotten back together with his mistress. He had responded to my discovery of his affair by treating the Other Woman to adultery prom night and posting pictures of their fabulous night out together all over Facebook (where our daughter had access to them). I was in shambles and my emotions were raw. To cap it off, my husband was engaging in some classic abuser behavior, acting like he hadn’t done anything wrong and we could still be friends. I didn’t know how to handle the faux-amiable attempts to chat me up about the latest season of Arrow or his mistress’ fabulous hair; after all, wasn’t he being nice? Shouldn’t I be nice back? I felt like I was going insane. This crazy-making behavior is called “gaslighting” and it’s what abusers do.
The beauty of Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life is that it calls infidelity what it is: abuse. Truth-telling has become a dying art in our society and cheaters (and those who sympathize with them) despise being told this, but Schorn pulls no punches. (more…)
Any Christian who has survived the horror show that is infidelity has heard it before, usually from another well-meaning Christian: the assertion, the insistence, that we must forgive our (ex-)spouses and their affair partners immediately, regardless of whether or not they believe they have done anything wrong, to say nothing of apologizing and offering to make amends.
A very small portion of those who abuse their spouses with the sin of adultery are sorry. This post is not about the truly repentant. It’s about what Christian forgiveness looks like when someone has wronged you and isn’t sorry.
I’ve nearly finished Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (which I’ll review later). It is a fantastic book in many ways, but in it, the authors give what is, I think, a very common Christian take on forgiveness. They distinguish between forgiveness and reconciliation and say that forgiveness takes one person, while reconciliation takes two. They say that Christians must always forgive, and that forgiveness is something that the other person does not need to ask for. Later, they even say that “to not forgive is the most stupid thing we can do.”
The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman [1995; Audiobook, July 2006]
(Warning: Book Review + Relationship Autopsy ahead)
A friend of mine recommended that I read this book shortly after my husband got together with the mistress that would end our marriage. She described Chapman’s theory to me in detail and said that she felt my husband and I had experienced so many disconnects because we speak different “love languages.” The theory sounded solid, so I asked my husband to read it with me, but to no avail. While I liked the idea of the book, I didn’t actually get around to audiobooking it until now, well over a year later.
The basic premise of The Five Love Languages is a simple one: people give and perceive love in different ways (“languages”) and couples often experience disconnects because one person’s way of showing love falls flat with another person. The five languages Chapman lays out for us are Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, and Receiving Gifts. For example, a woman who experiences love primarily through Receiving Gifts may not feel loved when her husband regularly compliments her and says how much he appreciates her (Words of Affirmation). That same husband may feel baffled that his wife feels so unappreciated when he tells her how wonderful she is all the time. He is giving love in his primary love language, but she feels love in a different way, therefore they disconnect and both feel frustrated.
TONTITOWN, ARKANSAS — A Wednesday afternoon bout of “Dark Web” dumpster-diving through leaked Ashley Madison user files yielded the timely revelation that disgraced fundamentalist reality show personality, Josh Duggar, was the likely owner of multiple AM accounts.
“I am shocked and appalled that a man who could molest his sisters and then go on to become a family values spokesman could do something so hypocritical as cheating on his wife as a family values spokesman,” wrote one distressed commentator. “Josh Duggar has lowered the high standards we’ve come to expect from creepy patriarchal southern fundamentalist Bible-thumpers everywhere.”
In the wake of Tuesday night’s Ashley Madison leak, comments across the Web had just about proven conclusively that not a single one of the 37 million users registered at AM–whose business motto is “life is short, have an affair”–was actually on the site with the intention of having an affair. Blogs, Twitter, and news articles erupted with comments from users who had joined Ashley Madison for something other than the site’s well-advertised main purpose.
“I’m a single woman and I was on the site to meet single men, because in spite of the site’s reputation, it is a DATING site,” wrote one woman. When queried as to how she knew for certain that the men she met were also single, she replied, “Why would a guy like that lie?”
Upon waking to the news that the Ashley Madison hackers had made good on their threat to release their stash of stolen personal information, my reaction was pretty much:
For those of us who had our lives ripped apart by affairs, it’s hard to not smile at the sight of Team Sidef*** getting some much-needed comeuppance. It’s hard not to chuckle at the spectacle of people who were lying to and betraying others being lied to and betrayed by Ashley Madison. (more…)
I was recently directed to an October ‘14 blog post (republished last month here) by Seth Adam Smith entitled “Forget About Feelings, Real Love Is a Deliberate Choice.” I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s contention that love is about what you do, not what you feel. I have said the same for years. As a teenager, a wise youth speaker at a church function gave the following definition of love:
“Love is choosing the highest good for the other person.”
I’ve believed it—and tried to live it—ever since. I don’t put a lot of stock in how others say they feel about me. I do put a lot of stock in how they treat me. Most of all, when I care about someone, I try to keep that question at the forefront of my mind. What would be the best thing for this person, even if it isn’t the best thing for me?
But as a survivor of infidelity who is now living life on the other side of a painful divorce, I find myself in disagreement with this part of Seth’s post (emphasis his):
“I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.