If I knew falling in love would hurt this much I would have rather fallen into a ditch, and maybe I would be healed by now. -Evans Macharia
When a man sexually betrays his wife, his ability to understand her pain is equal to his ability to understand what pregnancy and delivery feel like.
In other words, it’s an obvious zero. First, because unless she’s done exactly the same thing to him, he can’t grasp what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such a blow. Second, because although to him it may feel like nothing more than a “guy thing” or a minor weakness, to her it feels like an assault on the most private parts of her soul.
Or so I’m told. Not being a woman, and not having experienced for myself a wife’s misery when she finds her husband is into porn, strippers, prostitutes or an affair, I’m speculating at best. But I’ve heard from plenty of such ladies. Sometimes they and their husbands come to the office, hoping to repair the damage and restore the love. Others come alone, married to a man who neither knows nor cares to know how serious the problem is. While listening to these wives explain their mental and emotional agony, I notice some common points keep coming up.
Three of them are worth passing on.
“I Didn’t Sign Up for This”
When a Christian woman joins herself to a Christian man, it’s reasonable for her to expect him to live with integrity. Not perfection, certainly, and I’ve never even heard of a wife who expected never to see weakness or sin in her husband. In promising “I Do” she knows she’s also saying “I’ll tolerate”, because marriage calls for it. So she’ll tolerate some bad habits, irritable moods, messiness, even occasional stupid blunders.
But she didn’t sign up to be lied to. Nor to learn her man is sexually investing himself in something or someone other than her. Nor to be insulted in the most primitive way by a husband’s dismissal of her as his lover and his embrace of another, whether an image or a
In fact, most wives I’ve worked with are astonished at what their men have become accustomed to, and that’s part of the problem. Any sin loses its shock value with repetition, making it easier for the person practicing it to minimize it’s seriousness.
But to the woman who sees her man as God’s provision, the mate He chose for her, it’s a killer. She sees him lift his hands and voice in church, pray over meals, and generally talk the talk, then finds he’s been deliberately and, in many cases, frequently giving himself permission to cross lines no believer is given permission to cross. So she passionately (and quite rightfully) says, when discovering those lines have been crossed with a vengeance, “I didn’t sign up for this.” In her wildest dreams or worst fears, this just isn’t what she expected.
“Don’t Complain if You Caused the Pain”
The idea of a man abusing his wife by punching her in the face, then complaining because she develops a bruise, is unthinkable. But is that man really so different from the guy who complains because his wife is reacting emotionally to the discovery that he’s been using porn, or committing adultery?
Plenty of guilty men have tried to pressure their wives into “getting over” their pain, pain which the complainer himself created. Often these women begin an emotional roller coaster when they learn about their man’s sin, veering from depression to rage to clinging to numbness.
“Why can’t you forgive?” is surely the wrong question to ask these wives, because it’s not about forgiveness. It’s about wounds. The woman who’s been sexually betrayed sustains an indescribable injury. Her emotions skyrocket, and she doesn’t get to choose how she’s going to feel while she’s processing the ramifications of her husband’s sin.
When you cause pain, don’t ask your victim to stop hurting. Not only is it unfair, but it will almost certainly slow down the healing both of you need.
“Devastation Doesn’t Have an Expiration Date”
No one wants to see the effects of his sin, so the sooner those effects vanish, the easier life becomes. But some effects just won’t get with the program.
To learn you’ve been betrayed, dishonored, and deceived is devastating under any circumstances, and all the more so if the devastation came from the one person you’re the most reliant on.
We marry for, among other things, safety. Through our union, we hope to create a haven we can retreat to at the end of the day, a world we share with our spouse based on deep affection, lifelong commitment, and mutual safety. Finding out that the person you assumed was the your safety net is in fact the source of your worst pain is akin to finding out that the lifeboat you jumped into to avoid drowning has sprung a leak.
That spells devastation, which doesn’t ebb on a convenient schedule. A devastated wife cannot set a timer on her recovery any more than she can speed that recovery process along, and any pressure for her to do so borders on cruelty.
Granted, many wives whose husbands have sinned have themselves also sinned, often in terrible ways. The wife who henpecks her man, ignores him, dominates or belittles him, is sinning as surely as is the man who commits adultery. But the one wrongdoing can hardly justify the other, and the wounded woman who’s got a soul crying out in its pain can hardly be accused of being difficult.
Instead of criticizing her for bleeding, a wise husband will listen to her, wait on her, and love her as best he can. One way to do this is to ask her to explain, as best she can, what she’s going through, and how he can possibly make it better.
In response to that, she will, I think, have a good deal to say.