In Lynn’s and my marriage, I am not the one who was betrayed. I am not the one who was crushed and shattered. I am not the one that deals with emotional “noise” that is a constant background to her day. No, I am the betrayer. I am the one who crushed and shattered my wife’s heart. I am the one who created the emotional “noise” that haunts her days.
For the benefit of the men reading this, the betrayers, the adulterers, the sex addicts, I am going to try to express what your behavior is doing to your wife. It won’t be comprehensive; there is so much that would be impossible. But I need to try to express this, if for no other reason than my own benefit; for the continued growth of my own empathy.
Let’s start at the beginning with Lynn’s crushed and shattered heart. Lynn has a collection of Depression-era pink glass dishes. The collection used to sit in a butler’s pantry off the kitchen. There were several large shelves of precious glass dishes. Lynn’s heart was that pantry full of precious glassware. Sitting open and vulnerable, trusting the strength of the shelves to hold her heart and keep it safe. For 32 years her heart was open. For 32 years she shared the beauty of her heart with me, on display for all to see.
When my behavior was brought out into the light, it was as if I had gone into her butler’s pantry with an iron rod and viciously bashed every precious piece of glass off the shelves, smashing them to the floor, crushing them under foot and shattering it all into a million tiny shards. Minuscule bits of preciousness flying in all directions, some of them going under furniture or behind appliances, never to be seen again. Even if I could find each and every piece of her shattered heart and collect it all into my hands how could I ever hope to repair the damage I’d done? The word picture here has stayed with me and helped me to draw near to understanding what I’ve done to Lynn’s precious heart.
Regardless of whether or not your wife makes the incalculably more difficult choice to stay and try to salvage what you’ve (I’ve) destroyed, there is the second part. The Constant Anguish. I have a sign on the wall in my office that reminds me in large, bold letters that Lynn is in CONSTANT ANGUISH because of my betrayal. There is a constant noise, a never silent emotional static that serves as a background to her days. While she is awake it is NEVER silent. Depending on which experts you read it takes anywhere from 3 to 9 years to rebuild trust. We hit the three year mark in August, 2018. Yes, there is hope, for the noise is quieter, not so oppressive or overwhelming. Every day I don’t relapse; every day I don’t lie; every day I place her first in my earthly life; every day I protect my personal boundaries; every day I live to serve her out of a deep, Godly love I never knew before, the noise recedes a little bit more. Will it ever disappear completely?
I sit here in tears as I write. First because I know the pain I’ve caused my Beloved Wife and it still overwhelms me. And second, because of Grace. The Grace of our Heavenly Father to sit me at His table and love me like David did with Mephibosheth, and the Grace of a Godly woman who chose the incredibly difficult path of reconciliation.
I intentionally left two questions unanswered above: “How can I ever hope to repair the damage I’ve done to Lynn’s heart?” and “Will the noise of her anguish ever fully subside?” The answers are, “I can’t. ONLY Jesus can heal the broken-hearted.” (Psalm 147:3 and Isaiah 61:1) and, again, “ONLY Jesus can make the noise go away.” Jesus and the Holy Spirit can work miracles in our hearts. They can heal the broken-hearted and quiet the anguish. And they do. They can set you free.
Trust, on the other hand, is entirely up to you (me). Only I can do the things that are necessary to earn Lynn’s trust once again. Only I can choose to be honorable and trustworthy; no one can do that for me.