At the beginning of this journey, I promised myself that I would always be real. I promised myself that if bringing my hurt and struggles into the light helped someone else to find their light too, then it was worth my shame. What I know now, over two years later, is that this was only a very small piece of the puzzle, even though the devastation was very real and felt huge. What I didn't understand then was the root. I did not understand that there is always a why for the marital struggles, the loneliness, the heart ache, the seemingly endless tunnel of darkness in strife.
Why am I sharing this now? Why first? Because you have probably already read my book I AM Awakening and wondered about my Mountain. You have probably wondered what could be so bad that I had to realize that I was praying for myself and the way that I was being affected for so long that I wasn't doing my husband any favors. This is an excerpt from a piece that I wrote in February of 2015.
We have all felt like the third wheel at some point. You go out with friends and end up with “that couple” that’s all lovey dovey and make you want to vomit, or even worse, the friends who are on the rocks and expect you to take sides. Awkward. Or you go shopping with two friends who are closer to each other than you so you just trail along behind them like a little duckling because you are somewhat out of your depth. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Like, at all. I know because I’ve been there.
What married people don’t realize is that there are more subtle ways of being the third wheel. Your partner is pulling away. He is agitated all the time and spending less QT with you and the kids. He doesn’t confide in you or says you wouldn’t understand. Date nights are a hindrance and so are never planned, or you are the one planning all of them, right down to who will watch the kids and where you will eat because he feels that what he may plan isn’t going to be good enough for you. He stays up late at night hanging out outside because its too chaotic in the house.
Feeling all neglected and unloved, you get on Facebook. You read novels. You read every news article that pops up in your newsfeed and follow blogs. In a desperate attempt for his attention, you send him every funny Distractify piece and ecard related to his humor, hoping he will smile at you. You send him pictures of the kids, funny things they said, and you stop complaining. If he’s a lucky man, you weren’t a nagger in the first place, so that’s not a problem. All this SENDING going on isn’t a good way to communicate in your marriage, and you are aware of that, but when you talk to each other, you can never say the right thing, apparently, because he gets offended EVERY time, even if it is not geared towards him. You have a nagging feeling that something is wrong. You may even have a very specific dream telling you EXACTLY what is going on and ask him about it.
Then the crap hits the fan. “You are always on your phone,” he says. “I’m not competing with that thing! I don’t have time to read all that crap you send me- I WORK for a living!” You say things that you instantly want to take back, but are careful to never make him feel insecure because you don’t really want to hurt him, you just want him to SEE. So y’all go back to their little routine that works, as long as no one puts that last straw that breaks the camel’s back. You play more with your kids so they don’t notice what is going on. You hold in retorts that you desperately want to say because you don’t want them upset. Then, you think, “Maybe I should check his phone.” Cue all the guilt because you are invading his privacy, you should trust him, etc etc etc.
Then the heartwrenching CONFIRMATION. Hurt and anger and disbelief! “How DARE they! He is telling her OUR business. And I KNOW he did NOT just call that wench gorgeous. Are you kidding me!!! She looks older than my mother!!! WTH!!” All of this anger is to push away the hurt. An emotional affair is an invasion of the intimacy of your marriage. Trust is easily given for some, earned for others, we are all different. But trust is a crucial part of a marriage. Your spouse sees you at your worst. There is no way that I can accurately describe the way trust and intimacy are intertwined in a marriage. There is a certain comfort in knowing that your spouse will love you, will not judge you, and you can trust them with ANYTHING. To know that that feeling was one sided is devastating. To know that you didn’t make him feel special enough, that he took his insecurities elsewhere is crushing. To know that you failed at something is a bitter pill to swallow. To know that he knew all of your insecurities and still did this, is an indescribable pain.
Make no mistake: a marriage takes 100% from both of you. But if you are putting your children first, you are wrong. If you are putting your friends first, you are wrong. If you are putting your husband first, you are wrong. IF YOU ARE NOT PUTTING GOD FIRST, YOU ARE WRONG.
If you are playing on your phone instead of watching How Its Made with him for the millionth time, that’s okay. It’s not okay if you do it every night. I loathe How Its Made. I despise it with a passion and I do not understand how there is anything left on this earth that they have not featured yet. It bores me to tears and it plays for daaaayyyyyys…… but that doesn’t mean that I can get on my high horse about him watching it for the duration of the dang marathon and justify staying on my phone. Especially since its not just that show. Its because I’m bored in the car on the way somewhere. So, instead of striking up a conversation like we did before smart phones, I pull out my phone and check Facebook. Its because I’m waiting on a prescription on the pharmacy or waiting in the car pick up line at my kids’ schools. Its because I want to. That little notification light calls to me. Its because there is LIFE there, but there is none in my marriage. It has gotten to where my thoughts say, “He’s not paying attention to me anyway, so I might as well.” Do I blame him for my smartphone addiction? No, I blame myself. By playing on my phone, I have made him feel unworthy of my attention. I have made him feel second best. I have PUSHED HIM AWAY.
All of this revelation leads you to wonder where it went wrong. It is with a heavy heart that I say this: we left our church. We had an offensive conversation with a senior pastor there and were no doubt, justifiably angry. My husband and I BOTH agreed that we needed to find another church. Let me tell you, this church set a pretty high standard! Amazing worship, the best executive pastor one could ask for, fellow members like no other. Bubba McCann is like no one you have ever met- he truly inspires one to be a better person- a walking testimony. The man is down to earth, honest, hilarious, and can word a phrase that will shoot right to the heart of an issue. Wow. Needless to say, we never found another church. Every time I would attend another service, it just didn’t feel right. Fast forward three years, still no church. Marriage in shambles, still smarting over that one insult (that the guy probably doesn’t even realize he did), and just a complete mess. Then this happens: I went to this church for the first time in over three years, and they said JUST what I needed to hear. The “Meant to Be” series is a must. I came in the middle of this. The pastors there are so gifted, Pastor Josh talked about sex in a marriage for an hour, and it wasn’t even awkward. Whoa. THAT is why we missed our home church. (http://oscconnect.com/messages and search the date 2/15/2015 God Honoring Sex)
You know what is even more incredible? The moment I walked into that sanctuary, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. The moment the worship started, I felt like I had come home. The entire sermon that day was exactly what I needed to hear, and suddenly I recalled that I had never, NOT ONCE heard a message there that didn’t apply to me. Why on earth had I left??? Because of the well-intended words of ONE person??? And ALL OF THAT was because we had our tender egos bruised? If only I knew back then that offense is the quickest way to ensure you take the longest route possible.
”Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18 NIV. And boy, did we fall. Wrong financial decisions, wrong career decisions, wrong parenting decisions, wrong marriage decisions. Why? We took God out of the mix. I can honestly say that I was so ANGRY that I cracked my Bible maybe a dozen times in three years. I would get on a kick (getting healthy, better habits, better marriage) for maybe a week, but refused to try too hard to find a church. Now that I think on it, I am positive that I didn’t want to be shown that I was wrong. I was punishing God for my being “mistreated” at a church, blaming the church for the words of one person. To top off my stupidity- do you want to know WHY I didn’t say anything to that person? Because I didn’t want to offend him. I had too much respect for him. I would have to admit that I was showing respect to the wrong person. I disrespected God, my husband, and my family by not staying true to what I knew was right.
I made God the third wheel. I worried about my career, just making it to the next day because all I’m going to say about that disaster was that it was not family friendly. I worried about someone else raising my kids because I was working all the time. You can read my other blogs and see that I was dealing with hormone-related emotional issues too. It was a horrible time. And I never turned to God, unless I wanted something. Oh, I remembered to thank Him for what I had, but I didn’t go out of my way for Him. I was too busy. But you know what? HE came through EVERY TIME. I am such an ungrateful brat.
Fast forward to current times. I am still angry. I am hurt. I feel betrayed. I want to punch someone in the face, and I fantasized about tripping him yesterday. I know, I’m bloodthirsty. No, its not justified. You know why I didn’t trip him? Because he has a bad knee. Obviously, I’m not as angry at him as I think I am- I don’t want to hurt his dang knee. I am more angry at myself because I have not been a very good wife. And before y’all get all worked up, this is not the “blame myself” symptoms that abused or victimized spouses have. This is “we had a Godly, amazing marriage before that makes our current status look like a pale shadow of what it once was.” My husband used to sing my praises from the rooftops and talk about how blessed he was. He probably still does, just doesn't mean it as much. Sad, but true. I don’t know exactly how things started changing or when but I do know that I have not been a very good wife. Good mother, sometimes. Good neighbor, good friend, good a lot of things EXCEPT A GOOD WIFE. Did I confront him? Yes. Am I still hurt? Yes. Do I forgive him? Absolutely. It is NEVER only one person at fault.
I may have not had an emotional affair with another person, but I most definitely put my needs or wants before his. I made him feel as if he wasn’t good enough. I pushed him away. Well, I said til death do us part, and I meant it. I’m taking my marriage back and putting it in God’s hands.
I WILL NOT be a third wheel in my own marriage! I WILL NOT put my vices ahead of my honor for my husband. I WILL NOT allow our children to have a skewed vision of what marriage is supposed to be to continue such a painful cycle. I WILL NOT be judgmental and disrespectful and push him away. HE IS MY HUSBAND and I’m taking my bike back!
The greatest book on being your husband’s God-intended help meet is “Created to be his Help Meet” by Debi Pearl. In response to a letter from a woman whose husband is having an emotional affair, she says, “Your husband is, without doubt, wrong….You now stand where millions of wives have stood…You must face the facts- life is not fair. Marriage is not fair. And most of all, the woman at work is not playing fair…Yes, he is wrong, but your response, though justified, will certainly lead to the destruction of your marriage. You can rear up in rage and indignation, you can stand on your rights and stand on truth, but it won’t save your marriage…I am just warning you that if you really, honestly want to win your husband back to yourself, you must change your game plan…My husband says, ‘No man has ever crawled out from under his wife’s criticism to be a better man- no matter how justified the condemnation.’…You cannot be pitiful enough to force him to love you…He is a lonely man seeking identity in a woman’s approval and admiration…You can hold out for repentance and most likely lose your husband, or you can ‘court’ your husband and win back his favor.” There is a lot more, that is severely paraphrased, but that’s what stuck with me.
I am flabbergasted. I have read this book before, but the situation didn’t apply to me then. I don’t want to lose my husband. I am not a pity-partier. Like, at all. I am an incurable optimist. And a thinker. I have been mulling this for over 24 hours now and couldn’t figure out how to balance forgiveness with making sure it didn’t happen again. If I would TRULY forgive him, it would be like it never happened so therefore I wouldn’t be watching for it to happen again, right? AAAAAHHHHH this is a mess!!!
So how do I cover all my bases, let the past go AND trust him? I be the best wife I can. I don’t mean 1940s housewife, either. I mean, be there for him, be his confidante, be his lover, be his friend, be THE GIRL HE MARRIED. Because I’ll tell you this right now: I’m not. Sometime over the last three years, I have lost my joie de vivre, my appreciation to just have him as my own, the stars in my eyes, and honestly, my faith in people in general.
I know there are some men who cannot be faithful, have no desire to, and should come with a warning sign. My husband is not one of those people. It also helps A LOT that he was never physically unfaithful to me. I do not know how I could bear it if that ever happened. I do know that I am armed with advice of Godly women who have shared their stories with the world and amazing advice. I am armed with the word of God that plainly tells me what my job is. I am armed with the knowledge that I was enough for myself and for him once, and I can be again. I am more than willing to admit my faults- can you imagine the stress of never being wrong? To never be allowed to make a bad decision or apologize for something you said? That is what we are making ourselves when we question every decision our husbands make. That is what we are making ourselves when we speak out against the way he parents. That is what we are making ourselves out to be when we ALWAYS have to win an argument. Let me tell you a secret: NO ONE “wins” in an argument. Those decisions are for God to make. It's our job to seek His wisdom and apply it. Where one bicycle wheel goes, so does the other.
Don’t let this happen to you. That is YOUR marriage. Your marriage=your bike. You are NOT meant to be a third wheel on your own dang bike. Make changes. Most of the time, they don’t hurt and sometimes, just being nice could very well shock the crap out of your spouse, which is fun. Laugh with him. Touch him- hold his hand, rub his back, kiss him, hug him. Smack his booty when you pass by just because you can. Do things for him because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. Compliment him. Lord knows, we are not the only ones with insecurities. Take advantage of the fact that he sees you EVERY DAY. Pour into him what you would like poured into yourself: worth, value, pride, appreciation, JOY. It won’t fix itself.