Emotional Adultery

Many moons ago I had a male friend that I served with in ministry. My marriage was difficult and so was his. We shared and prayed for each other and eventually talked to each other on the phone. Every day.

Both our spouses knew about our friendship and I think, because having our emotional needs met by someone else let them off the hook – they approved.

I was young and stupid. I didn’t know the dangers of this. I saw him as kind of a “big brother.” I never had any physical desire for him. However, that did not remain the case for him.  Eventually things crossed a line and I was uncomfortable and after setting several boundaries that were not well-respected, I cut off any contact with him.

I know it hurt him. It hurt me to lose someone who was empathetic to my hurts and issues and valued me as a person in a way my spouse did not. What I did not realize till many years later was that we had an emotional affair. Adultery.

Sure, I never slept with him, or even kissed him. I had no desire to. I was a bit of a prude in that way I guess. Maybe my needs weren’t being met in my marriage but I knew I had no right, before God, to meet my physical needs with another man.

But doesn’t that apply to my emotional needs as well? I mean, come on, this man knew more about me: my feelings, hurts, likes, dislikes, fears, dreams, than my husband did. My husband didn’t care to know and traveled a lot.

If you had asked me back then if a woman can have a good male friend I would have said adamantly, “YES!” but now I would say “NO!” For a married woman at least, it is dangerous ground to trod. Even if you are bent on staying pure physically, a line can easily be crossed.

In the years since then I’ve placed hedges around my relationships. I can share with female friends the depths of my pain and suffering but I have never revisited a relationship where I have DAILY sharing of those kinds of things. No one else cares like he did for what is going on in my heart and mind on that regular of a basis. Pretty heady stuff to have someone that devoted to you. Even more so when your spouse could care less.

I’m sure my husband would have cared a whole lot if I had slept with the man. The fact is many physical affairs start out with the emotional connection. They are not just about sex and many women (and men) don’t pursue the relationship for that end. They are looking for companionship. A friend. Someone who makes them feel special and understood. Even more so when they are not getting that kind of love from the man who promised before God to do so, most likely in a church, with witnesses.

So I am careful with men because I am needy for a man’s affection. I don’t entertain them in my house with my husband gone. God is my husband and while I may sometimes feel lonely, I am learning to be more content with who I am and where I am in life, without a man stroking my ego. Not that I wouldn’t mind that, but if it’s not my husband, then it’s not right, emotionally or physically.

Have you ever been tempted to develop a friendship with a man other than your husband? What have you done to protect yourself from an emotional affair?

Lilly Grace

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Do I Even Know How to Be Happy?

My therapist had pointed out that  the list of things I had been bringing in and reporting lately have all been generally good. My autoimmune disease is in remission. I’ve been offered a contract for my book. My kids are doing well.

I sat there later, at home, and thought: If things are going so good, how come I don’t feel happier? Do I even know how to be happy?

It’s a stupid question really. I do know and have experienced happiness and joy and the bliss and freedom of contentment in Christ when I have been in those “sweet spot” moments in ministry. But here? Now? When my marriage is still filled with control and abuse? When I have a title of a married woman but no relationship with a husband due to said abuses and his choices?

See, it seems WRONG to feel happy when that one major aspect of my life sucks.  It’s like a woolen cloak I have to carry around with me to remind myself how miserable I really am and should be. Like I deserve this. Like I’ve earned the right to be angry and miserable.

But why would I choose that? Isn’t that a bit twisted? God is doing great things. My dog makes me smile every time I come home and he so eagerly greets me. My children want hugs and to be with me. I have wonderful friends and a writing career on the brink of something fabulous. After years of hard work my body is healing itself in a rare and cool way.   I should be happy!

Being happy doesn’t alter the reality that still sucks. It doesn’t make my husband my best friend and lover. It means that in spite of that, I can still choose joy. I can make a choice to focus on the negative of which I can do nothing about and try to garner sympathy, which is twisted because out of respect for my husband (that he does not deserve) I cannot shout his abuses towards me from the mountaintops (or at least on Facebook!).

In spite of my husband I should choose happiness and to live there. In spite of him I should choose joy. Because GOD is my lover and provider and is always faithful, I should find my contentment in HIM in all things. Because God is working out GOOD things for me to bring glory to Him and in spite of the darkness of the backdrop of my marriage in which those things are placed – they illuminate His glory all the more!

So, right now. Today. I choose to smile. I choose to rejoice. Because I have a happy God. Because I have a GOD who delights in and loves me JUST AS I AM. Because He has done great things. How about you? Can YOU be happy? Maybe this song below will help. We have so much to be happy about in Jesus!

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Happy Day – by FEE

 

Three Weddings and a Funeral

Yes, I know , the movie staring Hugh Grant was actually FOUR Weddings and a Funeral. But this isn’t about Hugh Grant, even though he is cute and has a lovely accent and is fun to watch in the movies. My life has not been quite so comedic although I did plan three weddings.

Today I woke up unsettled as I kept feeling like August 17th was supposed to have some meaning to me. Like it was important somehow.  I checked my  calendar. Nothing written down. No birthday or anniversary or anything even really scheduled.  As I sat spending time in God’s Word and praying and journaling and reading some other great authors on faith – it hit me.

Today is the day I had originally scheduled my first wedding.  I felt grief and sorrow hit me in the gut. See, I ended up marrying that man a few years later after much heartache. I look back on that young 19 year old girl and see now that the patterns for abuse that I experience today –were already germinating back then. They were even set in place long before I met this man I would eventually marry. I despise how desperately needy I was for love that I didn’t see it and felt I didn’t deserve any better.

And I despise the fact that the enemy keeps telling me those lies even now.

The engagement took place on Valentine’s Day, and the wedding planned for August. Why wait? Except that the big surprise was that my fiancé, the one who surprisingly proposed to me, ended up calling it off.  I was heartbroken. He of course blamed me, saying I was forcing him to marry me. Really? I don’t remember holding a gun to his head to propose. But my undervaluing of my personhood by my biological family only affirmed that yes, I was not worthy to marry this man (or any man for that matter – who would ever want me?). I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough and obviously, according to this man,  I was too controlling.

Hindsight makes me want to weep at how wrong my fragile young  heart was.

We did get engaged again,  and I called off that one on the day of the wedding.  We eventually did marry a few years later after much more abuse I was too ashamed to admit to because after all, I was a Christian.  I was so used to taking the blame for the negative things that happened to me. I felt the weight of someone else’s sin as if it were my own and shame prevented me from speaking about it.

So I planned three weddings,  went through with one, all to the same man. I’ve stayed married to him through better and worse. Mostly worse. I keep seeking God’s wisdom and truth about who I am in the midst of my challenging circumstances.  And I pray for rescue.

See, I believe if God wants me out of my marriage He can do it. I don’t pray for my husband’s death, but I have thought about what life would be like when that happens.  Practical things like liquidating his business and frivolous things like finally buying the bed that would be best for MY back.  God could also bring my husband to divorce me, and I would consider him as an unbeliever and let him go.  God could also decide to change things in my marriage as well.

So far there’s been no funeral.

Does that mean I should never consider legal separation? I don’t have biblical grounds (in the truest sense) to justify divorce. My husband, I believe, is mentally ill. I married for “in sickness and in health.” He won’t get treatment and is blind to his foolish ways and won’t seek wise counsel. I pray for God’s leading and guiding.

It is hard not to long for escape.  Today I grieve a young woman who did the best she could in her circumstances 26 years ago.  I weep for her vulnerable heart and I grieve for the loss of many dreams – primarily of being loved and cherished by my husband.  I have to believe my “happily ever after” ultimately is with Jesus and my lack in this life and marriage forces me to depend on Him in a deeper way than I probably would have otherwise.

Do I sound foolish to you? Many would say “Leave” but it really is not so easy. However I am praying a different prayer now. Not just one of “rescue” or for a job or some other way to survive. I’m praying that for the sake of the glory of God and His name and power shown through my life, that He will break the bonds of control that are currently holding me captive. Not just that I would endure them with grace, or that I would try to break them on my own (realistically, it would not happen even with a divorce or separation, no matter what a lawyer might tell me).  My heart has to listen to my God and that can be a difficult voice to hear amongst the negativity, grief and old message tapes that tell me I am unworthy of the love and devotion of a godly man.

In realityI have the love and devotion of a godly man already. His name is Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, if I were not struggling in the way that I am, I would not be as driven to seek my value, worth and love from my Creator King who also says:

“For your husband is your Maker. His name is Yaweh of Hosts – and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like wife of youth when she is cast off.”  (Isaiah 54:5-6)

I am loved and cherished and worthy of that from the One who made me and will use me for His glory, in spite of my pain and suffering. If God can be glorified in me today, then I will be grateful that I was found usable by Him.  I may not see the impact. I have to trust the outcome to Him and cling to my Husband and trust Him for everything else. He’s my God. He can do it.

Husbands and Church

A friend was expressing frustration to me the other day about her husband who was not attending church. She said, “Every time he doesn’t come – that’s when he really needed to hear the message!”

I nodded my head. I understand. Totally. Then I said “Let me challenge you. Come to church and ask God to have the message be for YOU to learn and hear. Let Him deal with your husband.”

When all we do as women, is focus on the deficiencies in our men, then we have now made them our idol. Now often we think of an idol as something we worship and adore. But really, it is anything that predominates our attention and keeps us from focusing on God. That could be reading books, or watching sports or television shows or spending our time in certain activities. Even focusing solely on our fears, can make them our idol when they take our eye off the Most High God who is the only One who deserves our worship and attention. Anything that steals our focus from a life that is designed to be lived in service and worship to our King, Lord Jesus, can become an idol.

Even difficult husbands can become our idols.

So what do we do? How do we get out of that kind of obsession with our husband’s deficiencies? Basically, there are two parts to resolving this:

  1. Pray for your husband. Pray that God will do the work that needs to be done, and leave your husband to God to fix.
  2. Seek God with your whole heart. Not so that your husband can be changed, but so YOU can be changed. Let God meet you in your loneliness. Let Him take your hurt, and anger and resentment. Let God grow you in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ as you pursue holiness and a life devoted to Him.

That sounds simpler than it is. We are complex beings. Hormones and emotions can make it difficult. Living with someone day in and day out who doesn’t treat us as he ought (according to Scripture), is frustrating to say the least.

No one said it would be easy. Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s about reflecting God to a hurting world. Even in a marriage that is falling apart, if you choose to honor God with all that you are, you will bring honor and glory to Him, and find that your witness to the hurting and watching world around you will be even stronger because you are different, because you are faithful under adversity.

I usually attend church alone. I have to accept my husband’s choices even if I disagree with them. Those who know me best do not judge me for being solo. I do not have to carry shame when I go because I am not there to be seen and approved of, I am there to worship the King, and to serve Him. For those of you feel embarrassment over your singleness at church, please don’t. I understand firsthand the shame (which comes from our enemy) but give that to God and know that you have infinite value and worth in His eyes just for being who you are as His child.

I challenge you to chew on these things and seek God first and let Him be the husband to you that your own flesh and blood man cannot. Don’t do it to get the husband you want, do it to be the woman of God He has called you to be, and trust Him with the rest.

And in the meantime, we can pray and encourage each other on the way.

Blessings,

LGB

P.S. I am not advocating for a woman staying in the home with physical abuse. Please seek safety and get wise advice. Emotional and verbal abuse, please get wise counsel.

Love in Action

I have not previously posted links to other blogs, but today is an exception: The simple wife.

The Simple WifeOn January 11, 2011, wife, mother and writer, Joanne, suffered a stroke. Her daughter found her. She spent time in a medically induced coma and is now coming out of it. This is certainly a tragic and difficult circumstance for her family. I am aware there are other people who are suffering horrific health issues: children with cancer, husbands who have lost their wives and children in car accidents and so much more horror and suffering that goes on in this world and that my heart grieves over when I read about them.

So what is so unique about this one? Why would I bring this blog and Joanne’s story to you? I share it, because I am so moved by the love and dedication of her husband, Toben. He has been blogging on her page about her progress and every time it brings me to tears to see a man so in love with his wife, even when she is totally incapable of doing anything to earn or deserve that love.

When I see love like this modeled by a human, fallible, man it does two things to me.

First, it reminds me of how far from that I am in my marriage. I grieve because I do not have that kind of love and dedication directed my way. It highlights my loss and I pray even more for this woman who right now has no clue how loved she is. She may suffer a brain injury, but in many ways she is much more blessed than I am, although some may question my own cognitive capabilities at times! (I do!)

Secondly, it highlights the beauty of love that is modeled on Christ’s example in Scripture. He loved us when we were unable to return that love. Grace, compassion, tenderness. God’s love reached through time to woo and win the hearts of those He created. Our sin put us in a coma, totally unable to see the depravity of our situation, and still, He came to nurture us and heal us and bring us to Himself. Toben, a mere man, exemplifies Christ in his actions and in his honest blogging as he tends to his wife and cares for his two daughters.

It is good to remember that there is such a thing as this kind of sacrificial love when some of us are so desperate for it. I may not have a human husband like this here on this earth, but I do know that God promises to meet us in our pain.“For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife in youth when she is cast off.” (Isaiah 54:6 ESV).

Toben may never read this blog, and that’s fine. I still pray for him and his family and know that God is crediting His faithfulness to him. I am blessed to be someone Toben has touched as he does what God has called him to do, faithfully love his wife.

Blessings,

LGB