My husband Bill and I prefer nonfiction books that teach us through others’ life experiences and scientific research. We recently finished Unbroken, a powerful and harrowing life story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II POW whose rebirth in Christ mended his life and marriage. We then delved into a nonfiction, The Brain that Changes Itself, about the plasticity of our brains. Their findings were inspiring just realizing our brains’ capacity for restoration from physical loss (e.g. stroke), emotional trauma (e.g. childhood abuse), even those whose brains have been remapped by addictions (e.g. pornography).
I sometimes wonder if Toy Story is also based on a true story. How else do our earbuds get so entangled overnight?
Yet, we all ache in knowing real life stories about friends and family whose marriage relationships are impossibly entangled. That’s why I offer you a few actual happenings (with names changed), hoping and praying we can keep our relationships safe.
When Carolyn and Bart married, Carolyn tried to be the perfect wife, mother, homemaker, employee and child of God. And she was fulfilled by her efforts. Well, kind of, she said, admitting her one void was that Bart was a workaholic, and she felt like he was taking her for granted by choosing to either be at work or at play with one of his hobbies. After years of watching other couples spending time together as “normal” couples, Carolyn felt defeated. Her marriage seemed dead.
While taking a photography class, Carolyn couldn’t help but notice her teacher’s compliments and how his attention was continually targeted towards her. With all the empty holes in her marriage, she began filling them by imagining herself with this other man, having romantic dinners and waltzing under starlit nights.
She justified a little daydreaming couldn’t hurt anything since none of her imaginings were sexual. After several weeks entertaining these thoughts, Carolyn finally had a moment of clarity and was convicted in the error of her ways.
That night while driving to class, she fought the battle, finally determining in a prayer, “Lord, help me to stop all of my fantasizing. If I don’t stop, I’ll simply quit the class.”
Amazingly while in class, Carolyn said she was focused, ignoring the teacher’s over-friendly gestures. She walked out of class freed from prevailing guilt and a possible catastrophe. Sorry to say, that didn’t mean Bart chose to change and work to keep their love life alive.
However, in spite of Bart’s behavior, Carolyn chose to honor her marriage vows as unto the Lord for better and for worse. Years later, Carolyn confirms she’s glad she did, adding how her life has been supremely blessed through her obedience.
Others’ vain imaginations:
Mary and James had a strong marriage or so Mary thought. Each day she went to her job, working for a group of Christian men, she was even more appreciative of James.
In her words, she shares, “Those men were extremely chauvinistic and self-focused. They never showed the consideration to their wives that James showed me. I felt so sorry for their wives. We all went to the same church, and this confused me.”
Mary just shook her head, continuing, “Too often I would hear Barry, one of my bosses, making a tennis date with another female employee who also went to our church. I kept thinking, I guess Barry and his wife Olivia have a stronger marriage than James and I do. I would never feel comfortable with James spending that much time with another woman!
“I can’t tell you how shocked I was when Olivia confronted me and accused me of having an affair with Barry. I was flabbergasted and told her, ‘But I don’t even flirt with Barry!’
‘Yes, you do!’ Olivia shot back. ‘Every time you’re with him!’ Her bitterness and rage were all-consuming.”
Mary found out in the days following that Barry was actually having an affair with guess who? The tennis playing employee. Olivia never apologized to her, hurting Mary immensely, for Mary knew she had never been flirtatious with Barry.
This situation made me wonder about the friendly or flirty quandary. Mary says she was friendly but also professional. All the while Olivia was convinced Mary was being flirty, apparently validating her suspicions that her husband was being unfaithful.
Yet, Olivia had targeted Mary as her enemy, becoming intensely jealous each day Barry worked with her, imagining something was going on that was not. In hindsight Mary realized Olivia’s anger was towards her husband.
However, in Olivia’s defense, she was feeling the hurt of rejection from Barry, suspecting something was going on, because it was. Just not with Mary.
Certainly there are times when a spouse is distracted for valid reasons, such as health, work or family/friends/coworkers. However, when a spouse is cheating on another or even interested in another, that spouse usually builds a wall from his or her guilt, hoping to evade being discovered and avoid any of the consequences, essentially a self-made prison.
The air is thick with deception, making it hard for even the violated spouse to see clearly at times. One person said, “Over those years, it seemed like I had some mysterious disease. I felt the pain and the erratic symptoms, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Once the affair was discovered, I felt like I had a name for it, like a tumor that I could choose to treat and/or have removed.”
Couples often have to confirm that when they make a vow they both work together to keep those vows. The only walls built are the ones that serve as a protection around them. They check and re-enforce any weak walls.
I remember when Bill and I lived in another city. Bill mentioned to me how after every church service a certain man, a married man, would come over and talk with me. I had never noticed until Bill mentioned it. He was right. I’m not sure about the man’s motives, but if Bill noticed it, the man’s wife probably did too. All the while I wasn’t paying attention.
Sometimes we fail to notice those things, and we need others to point them out. If we don’t have a flirty heart, we might not recognize someone else’s. I suddenly became too busy after church to be so polite, unless I was including his wife into our conversations.
A far worse scenario of being unaware is Tess’s experience. While sitting at her desk at work, she felt her boss, a part-time preacher, pressing against her back. She froze and buried her head into her hands. Her boss gasped an “Oh, no!” maybe in his realizing his own deception. Tess said she felt dirty after that and told her husband. She quit her job and distanced herself from the boss and his wife. She said, “That really upset me because I was good friends with his wife. I felt that he had let his imagination get the best of him. I had never done anything I was aware of to encourage him. I’ve learned to be more discerning since then.”
Questions to ask yourself:
- When you get dressed, are you dressing to honor your Father and capture your spouse’s attention, or someone else?
- Do you specifically seek out someone else’s spouse when socializing? Or are you receiving someone else’s attention and liking it?
- Does your spouse feel uncomfortable with your relationships from work, church, social groups or with past relationships?
Because of the infidelities in some of our lives, sadly, we have had to learn to be more discerning.
I have felt the stabbing pain of infidelity before my marriage to Bill. I had been fooled before, so what was to keep me from being fooled again? Yet, I recognized that I couldn’t live my life in fear and distrust and overwhelming jealousy.
Several years ago I had a dream that helped me. In it I was hanging a painting I had just completed on the living room wall in my new house. I told my friend Nina that I had discovered my husband Bill was having an affair, and I was divorcing him.
“Are you okay?” Nina asked.
“Yes,” I said with great peace, “God is here with me, making it more than okay.”
When I awoke and remembered the dream, I was distressed at first. Was God revealing to me that Bill was having an affair? No, that wasn’t the message of my dream. The message was that if I ever had to go through something so painful again, God would be with me through it all.
When we love, whether it’s a spouse, friend, child, pet, we’re vulnerable. So in our depth of love, we also will surely suffer depth of pain when we lose that loved one. Yet, isn’t our greatest loss to not have loved and valued others, to have lived a life of frugality because of that underlying fear.
We’ve got to always believe in the power of prayer and that God gives us this powerful tool to make a difference in our relationships. On the other hand, our prayers aren’t magic chants that change others. If our loved ones choose to ignore God’s Word and His guidance in their lives, God doesn’t violate their free will.
Nonetheless, He does promise to be with those who choose Him. That gave me great peace–peace to not walk in jealousy when I feel threatened by reminders of the past. Why? Because love is not jealous, more discerning this time, but not jealous. We have to make a deliberate choice to model our love with the I Corinthians 13 love that promises to never fail, building mutual trust and love in which we value others.
Yes, we’ve all heard it before, but this time really hear it as you read some of what I Corinthians 13 shares: Love is patient and kind. Love is not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
God is love.
If you have never experienced true love, I encourage you to start with God.
“We demolish arguments [imaginations] and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” II Corinthians 10:5
Scriptures: Proverbs 6: 20-29, Romans 1: 20 – 26, Colossians 3:5, I John 2: 15-16, Psalm 73:7, Proverbs 18:11, Isaiah 65:2, Ephesians 4:23-24, II Timothy 2:26, I Corinthians 13:4-8, James 3:17-18
In this bi-monthly Heavy Hurts, I share some more dreams and a segment from my healing path. A new page Art Lesson for Life replaces the Art and Inspirational Thoughts pages. Starting with an introduction, in the following weeks you’ll learn easy and fun art tidbits and projects for the child in you, strengthening whole brain living.