God had got my attention and renewed my desire to walk with Him and choose life. I started to read the Bible again, pray and seek and felt connected with Him again. I was doing better with depression and food issues. I did bring pain and hurt to Him, I prayed for Brian and us. But my hope was conditional and when I would worry about Brian and issues of the addiction came up I would struggle in my relationship with God. I would come to find that God needed to show me some stuff about me - and the process that followed was brutal.
Brian and I continued to go through the healing classes at church and working with the counselor who led the group. She really encouraged us to work through our own personal issues as our stuff affected the way we were with each other. We saw her mostly one on one but a few times we saw her as a couple. We were trying to work on communication and openness and understanding what was behind the dysfunction.
Brian had made some progress in this time with the healing group at church and since he confessed to me about the affair, the men, etc. When he started to come clean about the heavier stuff he was into, it helped him quite a bit. New levels of confession has always played a pivotal role in his recovery.
In the times with the counselor, Brian came to realize more things buried in his heart that drove him to the addiction. He had not felt very good about himself for various reasons and porn and sex created the illusion that he was being validated and approved of. So, he started to heal some past wounds and started hearing from others that he was valued and loved deeply by God. He started to get that God loved him even though he made these destructive choices. The addiction still lingered but there was progress. He still viewed porn and called sex phone lines but no longer interacted with anyone in the flesh. As frustrating as it was for him that he still struggled, it was progress, and progress gave him a little more hope to keep going.
I continued to struggle with how to be with Brian during this. When I found out about the other woman and meeting other men, I had a really hard time getting past that. I could still see the real Brian in his humor, his gentleness, his compassion and his love. And I felt bad for him. I felt bad that he struggled. I believed that deep down he did not want to be this way but the thought of everything he had done and continued to do weighed heavily on me. Most of the time I didn't know really what was going on with his addiction, I just knew he was still struggling. Even when we talked about it and he told me he was making progress, I had a hard time believing him. My trusting him was shot. I didn't want him to struggle anymore. I just wanted him to stop.
My struggle and heartache with this often turned to anger. It just came out, weather it was about the addiction or that he left the dishes in the sink. I really struggled to be nice to Brian. And then I would feel bad that I wasn't nice, after all he is trying to get better but darn it, this sucked. I was quite conflicted.
In one of the counseling sessions, Brian admitted to me, reluctantly, that my anger and emotional outbursts bothered him. He had spoken to our counselor about it in his personal time with her and she thought it was important to bring up to me. So, timidly, he started to state his feelings. He said that when he tried to communicate something with me, I would get upset and either yell or go off into a funk. He felt that he was walking on egg shells with me. And not just about the addiction, but anything. I had become a very angry person who snapped and argued at the drop of a hat. He was reluctant to tell me that he had an issue with my erratic emotions and behavior because he didn't feel that he had the right to - that it was his fault anyway.
This was actually quite surprising to me. I didn't really know what to say. So I paused and thought about what Brian just said. He was right, I was extremely angry and the word that came to mind right then was "manipulation". I was trying to manipulate and shape Brian into what I wanted. Even though what I wanted was valid - a healed marriage and for him to stop jeopardizing our lives - this was not going to be how things got better.
Shortly after this, I saw our counselor. My very good friend was a the session with us for prayer support and to learn how to be of support to me through this. The counselor and I discussed what Brian had told me about my anger and how I felt. I realized that I was trying to control Brian in so many ways. It was understandable what I was doing and why I was angry but it couldn't go on like this. It wasn't healthy for Brian or me.
So, I wondered what I should do. I couldn't control Brian but I didn't feel like I could handle things anymore. The counselor mentioned letting Brian know that if the addiction continued that I would have to look at separating or ending our marriage. I know she wanted us to make it and she truly believed that we would but we discussed this possibility.
I didn't know how to feel about this. My friend who was there tells me today that she was sitting there thinking that she didn't want that to happen, she believed in us, she believed that Brian had been showing progress and would continue to get better. I wanted to believe that too, I had for a long time. As worn as I was there was still a small flame for him that burned in me. I loved him and wanted to be with him, but I was so, so tired. So the possibility of giving Brian this choice seemed like perhaps the right thing to do for me at that time.
So, on my way home I called Brian and I told him that I needed to talk to him. Leading up to that conversation I felt sick, I could barely breathe. We sat down and I told him that I felt that I had endured this for as long as I could. I wanted desperately for this to work but it wasn't. I explained that my attempts to control him, my anger and bitterness, were coming from a heart that was broken by betrayal. I knew I could no longer control him or make him better and how hard that was because I just wanted to do anything to make him stop and to make us better again. I also told him that I felt like I was enabling him. I felt that by my taking him back again and again after so much betrayal said to him, even if it was subconscious, that what he was doing was okay. I told him that I would not attempt to find evidence of the addiction or cheating but trusted that it would present itself to me if I needed to know and then I would leave him.
Through tears, I also told him, as I had so many times, that I believed in him. I knew that this was not him and that he could beat this but that my hope was dwindling. I told him how incredibly painful it was to do this, that I didn't want to but didn't feel like I could go on any more. And then we just sat and cried together.
This was not only painful for me because I did not want to loose Brian but because I felt so sorry for him. I felt guilty for wanting to live my own life. Why was it fair that I go on and live out my life and potentially leave him stuck in his addiction feeling like a failure or feeling unloved or abandoned. What would that do to him? How would he cope? Did I make the right decision to even suggest divorce? My heart was so heavy.
I would love to say that after this I had a peace about things, that I knew that whatever happened God was in control and whatever would be, would be. But I was not happy. I felt like the net I was working with was gone. Brian was now in God's hands. I kind of felt like I was waiting around for the bottom to drop out. My faith felt weak. I wanted to trust God, but I had not been used to giving up control. And, to be honest, I was not certain that God knew what He was doing and at times I was a little miffed at Him.
I was also terrified of losing Brian, the love of my life. The fear of losing him made me want to push him away. And in my fear, I took it out on Brian in other ways. And, he did the same. We would fight about random things. It's like I was trying anything to stay mad at him so that when I lost him it wouldn't hurt as bad. We felt frayed and raw most of the time. The word "divorce" wandered around in my mind and haunted me, as it did him.
Then, in June of 2009 something happened that rocked us both.
I went on a job interview. The man who owned the business interviewed me and we went through the typical in's and out's of what the job was. Then, the man told me he was hungry and needed to grab some food but would like to continue our conversation over dinner. A little shocked but caught up in the fact that the interview and conversation was going well, I said yes.
As we walked out of his business and down the street to the restaurant, I remember thinking, "is this guy is legitimately really hungry and wants to talk business or...is he into me?" But I concluded that there was no way he was interested in me in that way because I was way too unattractive for this guy. (Years of feeling rejected by your husband and binge eating on top of a crappy self image will do that to you.)
We talked about work stuff and then the conversation got personal. He asked if I was married. What I said here led me down a road that I never, ever thought I would go down. I told him that yes I was married but it was shaky. He said he was sorry to hear that, then we chatted for several more hours. I left still not certain that he was interested in me or if we just connected as two people who had a lot to talk about.
He wanted me to come work for him. The next day he called and asked if I could come back in to do some paperwork and other technical things. Then, he said, "And then if you want, we can go out to dinner." I almost couldn't believe what next came out of my mouth..."Sure!"
I hung up the phone and this dark part of me ushered thoughts of "this is wrong" right out of my mind then promptly to "oh my gosh, he's into me!"
So, the next day, I went. I filled out the paperwork, and then to dinner with this man. The person who went to dinner with this man was not me though. It's as though as soon as he asked me out this other me took over. When I was with him, I didn't think of Brian. I flirted and talked with this man as though I was a single woman. At the end of the night, as nauseating as it is to admit it, I kissed this man.
The drive home was awful. In fact, as soon as I got in my car and pulled away from his house, I knew things had gone way too far and that I messed up bad. Heck, they went too far as soon as I agreed to go to dinner with him the first time at the interview. They went even further when I told him that my marriage was shaky and certainly now, well, this was a horrible, horrible mistake. How could I have done this?!
I don't think I hardly slept at all that night. I laid in bed waiting for morning so I could tell Brian. I couldn't wait to get this off me. I felt dirty. I confessed to Brian everything that happened. Brian's reaction surprised me. He didn't get angry, he didn't even flinch. He of course said he was hurt by this, but he didn't seem shocked or surprised. He explained that after what I had been through with us it's no wonder I did what I did. And, he said he knew that I was sorry, he could feel it. He could see the pain and regret in me.
That same day, I called this other man and told him that I messed up, that I was married and I made a mistake. He said he understood but proceeded to ask me to come work for him. He said he thought I would be a perfect fit for his establishment and asked me if I could put aside what happened and consider working for him.
At the time, I was desperate for extra part time work. I told Brian what he said but told him that if he didn't want me to work for this man I totally understood. Brian, to my surprise, said it was fine. He believed that I knew the gravity of what I did and that I wouldn't do it again.
(Ok, so let me just pause a moment to say here that I realize that this is TOTALLY stupid. Everything I did here is completely wrong, naive and just, well, stupid.)
Brian also didn't feel that he had any place to tell me what to do anyway. He felt that because he had messed up for so long, who was he to tell me what to do. So, he let me go trusting that I wouldn't do it again. He thought I possibly couldn't mess up again after my display of guilt and remorse.
So, I went to this man's business again and again I fell into temptation. My first day back there, this man and I found ourselves again (or to his planning) alone at the end of the day. The conversation again led to flirting and then to, well, things went way too far again.
This time I didn't go home as guilty. This darker, other part of me started to justify this. "Isn't it my turn?" "Our marriage is done anyway" were some of the ugly things that twisted my mind and heart and lured me into desires of the flesh.
For years I had felt that I was repulsive to Brian. I felt desired and wanted for the first time in a long time. The lack of my own self respect and knowing my worth was a sickness that manipulated me for years. It's what drove me to seek approval in my appearance that led to the eating disorder years ago. It's part of what made me feel that Brian's addiction was my fault, because I wasn't attractive enough for him. And, now it led me into the arms of another man.
I snuck around behind Brian's back, I lied to him about where I was going. I saw this man a few more times. This all lasted a few weeks.
After a few more encounters though, I couldn't bring myself to do it any more. Guilt was consuming me. I couldn't eat (go figure!). When I wasn't with this man or talking to him on the phone, my mind was a mess. I was trying anything to keep from thinking about things but I couldn't escape it. I had to stop. As much resentment and bitterness I had for what Brian had done, as many reasons (lies) I could come up with to do what I was doing, I just couldn't any longer. This was so totally wrong and I knew it. I couldn't bear any longer the thought of being in the same house of the man I'm married to and do this behind his back. This wasn't me.
So, I told a couple friends what I had done and asked them to pray. I emailed this other man and officially broke it off.
I told Brian everything I had done. I hated telling him, I hated the look on his face, I hated myself. I could feel his pain. He was extremely hurt and angry and stunned. Just after I confessed he left town to do some volunteer work. This gave him time to think. It gave me time to think....
How could I have done this? After everything I had suffered on the other side of infidelity, how could I do the same thing?! One day I went to my knees and poured out my heart to God. I told Him I was sorry for what I had done and how I had hurt Brian. I told God I was sorry for begging Him to heal our marriage and then turning around and doing this. I just knelt there and cried hard. My soul was empty and my heart was broken.
As I knelt there soaking my carpet with tears an image came to mind. It was an image of me kneeling in the dirt, and a presence was above me. When I looked up it was Jesus. I imagined the scene in John 8 when the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus to see what he thought of her and what should be done to her. I felt that just as Jesus did not condemn the woman he did not condemn me. For the first time I really understood grace. In that moment I felt God's great unconditional love for me, no matter what I had done and will ever do. He had been there all along and hurt right along with me. And He wanted me to get up and move from His love into a better life.
I thought of Brian. I thought of how much I judged him and condemned him for the addiction. I thought often, "how could he do this to me...why doesn't he just stop?..." I had developed a self-righteous attitude. I focused so much on what Brian was doing but I neglected to see my anger and my control issues and so many other areas where I fell short. And now, the big wake up call with this affair I had, was that I was not immune to sin. Anyone can be capable of anything.
I had been wanting God to make Brian stop and when he didn't all these years, I grew bitter with Brian and God. Darkness got a hold of Brian a long time ago and had been holding him captive. He was a prisoner who didn't quite get how to escape yet, but was trying to get out. And God wanted Brian out just as much as I did, I felt that.
I felt a renewed sense to fight for my marriage, to love Brian with all my heart and to believe again that something big could happen. I asked God to show me His way for my life. I was ready to step out of the way, to stop trying to be God and to learn how to let Him guide me. I felt softer for the first time in a long time.
When Brian got home, we talked a long time. He had a lot of time to think while he was away. He said he could finally feel what it was like to be on the other side. He knew now what I had gone through all these years.
In this horrible mistake I made, Brian and I traded sides. He felt what it was like to me in my shoes and vice -versa. And it was a very sobering experience for both of us. We both knew we needed keep going and cling to God for guidance.
I want you to please hear me here:
Please do not take from this that any spouse on the other side of this addiction has the right to have an affair. This is such a struggle for so many couples in this and it's a horrible, horrible mistake with bad consequences. This is just our experience, but is in no way intended to suggest that this was a good or right thing.
To be continued in Part 6. (I will wrap it up in 6 folks!)