Something shifted in my heart. It felt heavier. Or maybe it was my stomach. That’s where it churned the most. The physical manifestation of my unconfessed sin. The sickness compelling me towards revealing my long held secret. But not to the person who most deserved and needed to hear the truth. Not to the man I had vowed to love, honour and cherish.
After a few weeks of counselling related to the sexual betrayal trauma I experienced due to my husband’s sex addiction, I walked shakily into my counsellor’s office. Sat down on the edge of the chair closest to the door. Easiest to bolt out of the room that way. Then silence. And more silence. And looking at my feet (me, not my therapist). Looking everywhere but him while he waited for me to speak. Attempting to hold on to the illusion just a little longer that I was the only betrayed spouse in this marriage. That husband equalled bad guy and wife equalled victim. Once the words left my mouth, we would be on level footing.
“I had an affair.” I looked at my counsellor’s face expecting to see a reflection of my shame and guilt. There was none. Somehow those words spoken to a sexual recovery therapist were not as shocking to him as they were to my plagued heart. That was reassuring. I breathed again. He asked how I felt. I had no answer. My thoughts, emotions and body had not yet realigned. He said that usually people felt lighter after telling him these things. I had to think about that. I did feel a sense of relief. The roiling in my stomach was diminishing. But now that my horrible words were spoken out loud, there was no taking them back. The enormity of what I had done sixteen years before was now sinking in. I had committed adultery. And now it was exposed.
“Do I have to tell my husband?” I half hoped he would say no. I would have been surprised if he did. During my devotional time just that morning, I had read in 1 Samuel 2:25 “If someone sins against another person, God can intercede for the guilty party.” Well, that was me. The guilty party who sinned against my husband. I told my counsellor about this scripture and he asked me if I knew what a “rhema” was. I didn’t. He explained that a rhema is a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with application to a current situation or need for direction.
I looked at my counsellor with a flicker of renewed hope. God was with me. God was promising to fight for me. These words didn’t come from him, they came directly from God to my ravaged soul. Although I was about to devastate my husband’s heart, shatter the image of my innocence in both our minds, and add another damaging and painful layer to our messy marriage, God wasn’t leaving us on our own. God would be with us, whatever that meant. It was the whatever that meant that remained dubious.
My counsellor believed it was too early in my husband’s recovery process to shock him with the news of my infidelity. He thought it would be best for him to be more solidly entrenched in his recovery to lessen the risk of a relapse and to be better able to offer me forgiveness and understanding. We would wait. We began the planning of my disclosure.
Initially, the plan entailed a waiting period for my husband to gain stability. Looking back, God provided the waiting period for both of us. It wasn’t just my husband’s heart that needed preparation and healing for this disclosure. Mine did too. I had justified and kept hidden my affair for almost sixteen years. It was only now when he sought help for his sex addiction that my guilt began seeping through.
God had some chipping away to do at my heart. A healing process to begin in my soul from the consequences of my own infidelity. I was only then beginning to realize that I needed that. I had fairly easily put the affair behind me many years ago, believing that it had no effect on us now. The only offenders in our marriage being the sex addiction and abstinence of sex. If I hoped for my husband to offer me forgiveness from adultery, I needed to admit to myself the magnitude of my sin and open my heart to God’s forgiveness. And then learn how to extend that forgiveness to myself.
Over the next few weeks, that is what I did. I fell into God’s arms and immersed myself in His Presence. Read my Bible, soaking in the life giving words. Trying so hard to believe that the promises of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love were for me. I prayed, and talked with God. And listened. I walked in the dark and cold of the winter nights. I journaled. I continued to lose weight because of the constant ache in my stomach. I was awake at night more than I slept. It was a battle to be kind to myself.
My husband was confused. He had fully embraced his recovery. We were slowly building intimacy, tentatively regaining trust. And now I was pulling away. He sensed that something was happening within me, but had no idea what. And I couldn’t tell him. I made an extra effort to pretend I wasn’t in emotional turmoil so he wouldn’t suspect anything. I felt phony. Like everything I was doing to restore our marriage was a lie.
Lie upon lie upon lie. But now it was me doing the lying.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16