I have recently received a few messages from readers that were very different than the many encouraging comments that I have received through sharing Our Story.
When I first read the notes, I honestly considered quietly deleting them. No muss, no fuss. I am a quiet, introverted, peace-loving kind of girl. Conflict just isn’t for me. The last thing I wanted was for someone to come here looking for hope and encouragement in the midst of their nightmare, only to find negative comments that could inflict more agony on a breaking heart.
It was actually my Beloved who inspired me to look at this from a different perspective, and to share with you a little more about my story, in hopes that it might somehow help or encourage others who are facing their own broken marriages.
This is not the first time that I have been confronted by these questions, and I am sorry to say that I am not alone. If you have gone through the betrayal of adultery in your marriage, unfortunately, you may be faced with someone who implies or even comes right out and says this at some point as well. I felt so very alone while I was going through the breakdown of my first marriage, and I wish that someone had prepared me for the different struggles that I would face in the aftermath.
I have never placed the blame on the Other Woman in my first marriage. This is where the negative comments seem to point to me putting all of the blame on her, and none on my ex-husband. This simply isn’t the case. The readers have a point in that the other woman didn’t force my husband to cheat on me – at least not that I am aware. They are also correct that she was not the one who vowed before the Lord, our families, and our friends to forsake all others until death do us part. He did. When he chose to have sex with someone else, he alone destroyed our marriage vows… and our family.
If your spouse decides to have a sexual affair with someone outside of your marriage – he broke the vow. Not you. Not the other woman.
We’ve all heard the stories. There are scenarios where the other woman has no idea that she is involved with a married man. Sometimes a spouse can hide a double life so well that she won’t realize that she is also being played.
However, there are also many stories where the other woman is aware that he is married. She may not have broken the vow between you and your husband, but there is a general moral belief in many cultures that you just don’t sleep with someone else’s husband. She knowingly took something that was yours. It was not hers to take, and you have every right to feel hurt because of it.
Deciding to forgive the other woman for her part in the story was a big step early in my healing. As painful as it was to release all of the hurt, it was something that I will never regret.
I try to use discretion when I share about my ex-husband and his role in the death of our marriage. This is the father of my children. They don’t know the full extent of our story, but somewhere down the road that may change.
That said, of course it was more difficult to forgive him. The excruciating pain, the doubts, the lies, the crippling fear, the threat of my exposure to sexually transmitted diseases… There is no comparison. Having to make an appointment with your doctor to be tested for HIV, Herpes, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis, Chlamydia, and more, when you believed that you were in a monogamous and faithful marriage, is humiliating and devastating. Thankfully, my doctor’s nurse is my friend. She held my hand the whole time, listened to my heartache, and gave me her shoulder when I needed to cry.
As I shared in Chapter Eleven of Our Story, there is a common belief that if a man has an affair, the wife must be to blame for his infidelity. I have even heard those who have been the Other Woman make it clear that if he wasn’t getting what he needed at home, the poor guy had no choice but to find comfort in someone else’s arms.
No. Just no.
As much as I agree that men generally aren’t forced to commit adultery, one of the things that I still had to confront on my own path to healing was taking responsibility for my role in the breakdown of our marriage.
I never cheated on him, but there were ways that I failed my ex-husband.
I allowed myself to become a doormat. I didn’t drag him to counseling until it was already too late. I didn’t respect myself, so I didn’t gain his respect either. I didn’t hold him accountable. Because of several devastating things that happened in our marriage, I shut down emotionally and physically. If I told you what occurred, you wouldn’t blame me. This is where counseling and accountability could have been game-changing. I turned a blind eye to the late nights, mornings where I discovered that he was still gone, and weekends away. I trusted him to be where he said he would be. I found evidence of his unfaithfulness, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to see the truth. As hard as I tried to be a good and submissive Christian wife, I still failed.
This was almost six years ago, and I am a different woman than the diminutive, naïve, and idealistic girl that I used to be. If I could go back, I would put our marriage first, and not our children. I would speak up, unafraid of rocking the boat. I would stand up and fight for myself – and for my marriage. I would get us into counseling and into accountability relationships with strong mentors. I wouldn’t have agreed to stay away from his computer. I would not have hidden my pain from my close friends and family – the ones that love me most. And I would have reached out and begged for help.
Even then, I don’t know if these would have changed the outcome.
The trust that is severed when marriage vows are tossed aside takes a long time to regain, even in the best of situations. I am blessed to know couples who have been through the agony and betrayal of adultery in their own marriages, but who walked through the fire hand-in-hand, and have found healing and strength on the other side. They each put in the hard work, the dedication, and lived transparently while they fought to earn back trust and save their marriages. They are such inspirations to me, and it was my prayer that we could have joined them. I also want you to know that it is possible to find forgiveness, healing, and trust in each other again.
Be prepared for the possibility of feeling the finger of blame pointed at you somewhere in your healing journey. Even though this may happen, I can’t stress this enough – If you were faithful to your spouse, it is not your fault.
Do you hear me? This is not your fault.
You are not alone. Even when you don’t know which way to turn, who to trust, or how to survive the physical pain of your heart breaking in two… Please know that you are not alone in this.
You will find the strength to do the next thing. You will smile again. You will heal.
You are not alone… I promise.
I hope that I cleared things up a bit.
~ Love and hugs,
In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives - to see what...