Have you ever experienced being with family or friends while feeling completely alone? An aloneness so deep it almost feels suffocating. Alone, hopeless, and full of shame because your spouse is being or has been unfaithful, whether through pornography or with someone. For me, the holidays seemed to be more difficult than any other time. I suppose it’s because the holidays are focused on family and being together. Being together with the ones you love and the ones who love you. Sadly, when you are the betrayed spouse that sense of love and safety has been shattered.
So, you get together with family and try to put on a happy face because no one knows what you are going through. All the while, your heart is breaking, and you are so preoccupied with the truth of your life that all you can think of is “when will this be over?” The worst part is you miss the people around you and they miss you.
Is there more than this? Does Christmas have to be this horrible? Will these feelings ever get any better? How does anyone have any hope when you’ve been betrayed?
I believe the answer to all these questions is Yes! The answer is in Jesus Christ! Please don’t stop reading thinking I’m giving an easy but unrealistic answer. I would not have survived if my hope was not in someone other than my husband or other people.
I spent many years waiting for my husband to change…to see the light. I spent many holidays depressed, alone and waiting for it to be over. I spent so many years filled with shame and hopelessness and tired of living a façade. What did change? Me.
I was not the one who betrayed, but I still had my own work to do. Part of the work for me was taking responsibility for my own life. I could not change my husband and I could not do his work for him. Taking responsibility for my life was finding my voice and learning how to use it in an effective way. Screaming, ranting, and raving or arguing was not effective! This only left me more angry, more depressed, and more hopeless. I had to understand what I was feeling in general and in the times when I wanted to argue and fight back. When I began to put words to what was going on inside, I was better able to articulate to my spouse. It’s hard to argue with someone’s feelings. My feelings are mine. I believe the hard part is the partner hearing our feelings and not taking responsibility for the hurt they have caused. It does hurt and at the same time it is so freeing to be able to put words to our pain. Please understand, this does not stop the pain; it is the beginning of finding your voice and being empowered to use it for your good. Standing up for yourself in a non-argumentative way. Speaking the truth in love.
The more I voiced my feelings and pain, the easier it became to recognize them when I was triggered by something or someone. It is a powerful thing to recognize what you are feeling, why you are feeling, and putting words to it. There is no guarantee your spouse will hear you or want to hear you. Remember, you are taking responsibility for you, not your significant other. How does this help with the holidays you may be wondering? When you begin to speak up for yourself, you can say no to things that cause you more pain or trigger you. For example, your spouse has an office Christmas party. You always go because it is expected, or you don’t want people asking why you did not come. Being at these parties is a huge trigger for you because your spouse’s behavior is completely different at home, and everyone comes to you and tells you what a great guy you have. After a while, you are so over it yet continue to put on a happy face and pretend all is well. Having a voice could mean you tell your spouse, “No, I will not be joining you this year.” If he wants a reason, be honest…..you will not live in fakeness of him being one person at work and another at home. This would be one way of honoring your feelings and yourself. You are valuable and worthy of being respected. You were created in the image of God and that gives you great value!
As you find your voice, you will be able to lay out boundaries. The example above would be a boundary. You feel sad, alone, unseen and these events are too painful to continue attending, so you say no. Part of the healing for my husband and me was when I started saying what I felt and saying no to things I was not okay with. It is not okay for you to be forced to do something you do not want to do. Especially, when you are doing said thing, so your spouse looks good. Ladies, we do not have to be used as “arm candy.” You can decide for yourself.
Where does Christ fit into all of this? He is my strength. He is my courage. He is my wisdom when I need to put words to what I am feeling. He is my defender. He does not like for me to be mistreated. He wants my husband to treat me the way He treats me (the church). He is the perfect lover of my soul. He sees me as beautiful and loved, not broken or useless. He sees me for who I am…a woman who has been hurt and betrayed by others, and is His daughter, loved, seen, and wanted.
Christ is my hope. Without Him, I am a disaster. I tried for twenty long years to fix my husband and our marriage. All I did was end up more hurt, more depressed, and more angry! When I put my hope in the fact that my husband would change because he loved me….I was greatly disappointed. When I put my hope in the fact that I might be able to change things….I was greatly disappointed. I put my husband and then myself as god, and it was impossible for us to change anything on our own. When I put my hope in Christ, He did a work in my heart that only He can do. He took my anger, hatred, pain and uncertainty and changed it to grace, compassion, love and hope.
The holidays may still be difficult. You may still feel the sting of certain words spoken by people who do not know better. You may still feel very alone. You may still have tears. Putting your hope in Christ doesn’t just take all these things away. Putting your hope in Christ gives you someone, a person, to go to with your pain. Someone to hold you when you are alone and crying. Someone to trust in your times of fearfulness. Someone to guide you through the maze of emotions. Someone to comfort your heart and just be with you.
My prayer for you this holiday season is for you to truly see the Reason for the season. Christ was born a babe in a dirty manger. Lived a perfect example for you. Died to cleanse you of all your sins. Died to make a way for you to be with the Father. Died so those who put their trust in Him can live for Him and live and rejoice in heaven for eternity. He is a wonderful Savior.
We live in a fallen world where we are hurt by others, and He wants to be there to comfort you and love you. He wants to heal your heart. He wants to love you like no one else can. If you open your heart to Him, He will not disappoint. It will be an adventure like no other. This is not about your spouse; this is about you. You and only you get to make the decision. I pray you choose Christ. I pray you choose to release the anger, pain, and sadness, and allow Christ to change your heart the way He did mine. He is my life and my greatest joy and hope!
** For those in a physically abusive relationship, please, please, have a safe place to go and a plan before moving toward saying no. Your first move toward empowerment must be to get out and get safe.
Below are helpful resources for anyone:
Dr. Sheri Keffer – BraveOne.com
Dr. Leslie Vernick – leslievernick.com
Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1-800-799-7233