All marriages can survive infidelity, but no marriage can endure the contempt of a spouse. – Dennis Prager
This month marks a monumental time in my life.
Around last April, my life changed forever.
Last January I had discovered that my wife had been carrying on an affair for nearly two years. When confronted, she showed no remorse. Last April she moved out alone and I had to leave my job of 10 years and end my career of 15. Thus began the hardest year of my life.
This turn of events was cataclysmic on many levels. First because of the eminent dissolution of my 18 year marriage. My marriage had many ups and downs as all marriages do. I wasn’t nearly the husband that she deserved nor was my wife’s relationship with me near what I wanted. Due to my shortcomings, the mutual neglect, the deceit and rejection – it is finished. The legacy of our married life together will always conclude in divorce. It’s difficult to embrace that this thing that you have been working on and have been committed to has ended in failure. Especially for a man of faith and particularly for a man of the cloth. We’re supposed know this shit. Scripture clearly says we’re supposed to manage our households. But scripture doesn’t tell you what to do when you’ve mucked it all up and it’s all gone to hell.
Up until the day she left, in my heart, she was my wife. Nothing had changed with me. She was still the one I loved and married and had children with. She was the one that I looked forward to coming home to and eagerly waited for when she was out. But now, her heart belonged to another. I felt like grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her to awaken her from the spell of this other. But it wouldn’t have worked, nothing worked. She would have none of it. I no longer had her affection. She dreamed of another. I had become enemy. Before I was aware of the affair, in the course of our stagnant and dull relationship, I had hope. I would look over at her and see her as the beauty I married and I longed and schemed for a way to re-ignite our love. In the car, I would reach over and grasp her hand, hoping that this trace sign of affection would be reciprocated. But no signal was returned. I would clutch her inanimate hand like one does a comatose loved one in the ICU and pray for a wiggle or twitch in those fingers as evidence that something, someone was still there. But there was none. I would watch her smile and laugh and my mind would freeze that moment and then scale it up 10, 50, 500 times in a fantastic panorama that I would stitch together of the joy that could be possible, but would never come to pass.
It was finished.
For two and half months I lived and slept with a stranger. On the outside everything was the same. Same smile, same nose, same curly hair, the same bronze brown eyes. But on the inside, something was missing. Something was gone. All along I had been hoping that somehow, she would see something in me that would cause her to change course, to change her mind, to change her heart. But she was set. The secret was out and while my discovery had accelerated her timeline, everything was going according to plan.
She was out and it was finished.
One of the most troubling thoughts about going through all of this is that she knew me. She knew me and yet, she chose another. She knew me more than any other person and yet rejected who I was. She held box seats to the event that was I. She’d seen the good and the bad. She had seen my temper tantrums, my moodiness and endured my acid tongue. She’d seen me frolic and play with our kids, She’d laugh at my comic observations and shake her head at my freakish knowledge of minutiae. She’d seen my zeal for new experiences and my thirst for knowledge. She knew my love and compassion for others and my arrogance and impatience at her simplicity. She knew my love for God and the hypocrisy of my life. She knew my passions, my excesses, my compassion, my anger, my gifts and my sins. She knew all of me and chose another.
I guess, this is what unconditional love is all about: vulnerability. You lay yourself out there in the hope that no matter what, you’ll be accepted. But really, we want more than just to be accepted, don’t we? We want to be cherished and to be loved for who we truly are, warts and all. We want the freedom to be who we really are without the fear that we’ll be rejected. We also want the vulnerability of another, someone who solely wants only you. We want someone to know us for who we are, love us for who we are and stay beside us despite who we are, without contempt – and not chose another.