The slow fade is what I’m calling the part of our story in between the first five or six years of marriage and the years when we faced off with the monster that threatened to tear us apart. These middle years were all over the place, filled with many highs and many lows. It was during these years that I began to realize some of the realities of my love’s sexual addiction. It was during these years that God began to teach me what unconditional love really looks like. During these years I learned that thankfulness is simply a perspective, and it's possible in every circumstance. Click To Tweet
A Dream Dies
There was no area in which that truth was more evident than in our pursuit of that big family. While the early years had blessed us with a new baby just about every other year, that pattern came to an abrupt end after baby number three. Life became an agonizing month by month roller coaster of trying to get pregnant only to find that once again, we were not. As months turned into years I began to visit doctors looking for answers, but was disappointed to find very little help. We considered adoption, but for whatever reason never felt that it was the path God had chosen for us. Finally, six years after the birth of our youngest I found a wonderful doctor and we started to get some answers. Unfortunately, what we learned was that it had become necessary for me to have a surgery that would put the nail in the coffin. We were never going to have another baby. For sure.
I wrestled with God. I longed for more babies and couldn’t understand why He would put that desire in me only to deny it. (I still don’t really understand that, if I’m honest.) My loving Heavenly Father patiently waited while I questioned Him. Then He showed me that when He tells us in His Word that His ways are not our ways and that His ways are higher than our ways He speaks the truth. He showed me that while I'm not always going to understand what He's doing right now, I can trust Him. Click To Tweet He’s the One who has the whole picture. The One who knows the whole story. The One who is writing the story and who has already worked out the ending. The One who wins!
As I said before, this particular struggle also taught me (eventually) to count my blessings rather than focus on what I didn’t have. To choose thankfulness. We had three precious babies and as we learned more and more about my health we realized those three babies were absolute miracles. God did not hold back blessings, he showered down blessings – THREE of them! It would have truly been a miracle for me to have one baby. God gave us THREE! I am overwhelmed even now as I think about it. I am so undeserving. He is so good!
On other fronts, life was in full swing. We were raising our three miracles: making decisions about boundaries and discipline, deciding what path we were going to take when it came to their education, sending them off to school, managing sports schedules, planning vacations, just living life. We were figuring out and falling into our separate roles. I absolutely loved being able to stay home and dedicate myself full time to nurturing our family and raising our kids to love God, respect authority, and be kind and considerate to all people. My love enjoyed doing a job that he was good at and providing our family with a comfortable lifestyle. As his career progressed, it took him into the world of management and we learned that he is an excellent leader! People enjoyed working on his team, trusted his skills and knowledge, respected his decisions, and just wanted to follow him. We were both good at what we were doing and we both loved doing it.
The Monster Around the Corner
Unfortunately, about half way through these years I caught my love in an inappropriate relationship with another woman for the first time. I caught it early. They had crossed lines, but not any physical lines yet. I found emails that broke my heart, and I found lots and lots of phone calls. There was a devastating confrontation, and he admitted to me that he had been trying really hard to have an affair. He told me he absolutely did not want out of our marriage, he loved me, he was happy with our relationship. He had just gotten caught up in the idea that he could have both. He had believed that he could have the perfect family life and the perfect marriage at home and a little something on the side too. I didn’t even know how to process this new information. That wasn’t the man I was married to! I had known for some time that he really struggled with pornography and masturbation, but didn’t all men? I had believed that if I just tried hard enough to meet all of his sexual needs then his desire for those lesser things would go away. I thought no one would choose a fake experience over a real life person who was willing to do anything for him and who loved him! I was wrong.
We went through some counseling with one of the pastors at our church and I believed we were on the road to healing. Thank God, I had caught it early. I believed that this had been a one time incident and that we had dealt with the issue and it would never happen again. I would make a greater effort to be there for him, and everything would be fine. I processed my pain, I processed the betrayal and resolved to forgive and to love. I developed a deeper understanding of how I make God feel each time I do my own thing instead of keeping myself for Him only and it broke my heart. If God continued to forgive and love and pursue me, shouldn’t I do the same? We moved on.
In the years that followed though, I often caught him back on that path. I would find emails with various women, porn on his computer, all sorts of different things that told me he hadn’t really changed. Beyond that, the way he treated me got worse and worse. I became more and more an object for his use rather than the treasured partner that he loved. He was headed towards an affair and I finally knew it. Each time I caught him in something inappropriate I would confront him, we would talk about it, and I would make it clear that this behavior was unacceptable. I told him that eventually it would lead to an affair and that beyond that it could lead to the end of everything we had together. Each time he seemed so remorseful. He seemed like he wanted out of that life. He seemed like he wanted to be committed to me and to our marriage and to our wonderful life together. We were best friends. He loved spending time with me. He loved our kids. He felt trapped by the sin, enslaved to it, but this time was going to be different. He was done with all of it. Each time, this was the one that was going to stick. He wanted out and he was going to stop. Each time he would set up a new set of rules or steps to take that would ensure his success in breaking free from the sin. And each time I believed that he was sincere. I looked for reasons to trust that this was the one and I ignored obvious signs that it was not. I clung to the hope that this was the time he was going to change.
Despite that hope, I began slipping deeper and deeper into depression and anxiety. (Although I didn’t realize it at the time.) I felt paralyzed by my life so I spent countless hours crying out to God for help, for protection, for victory. I begged Him to save my husband, and to save our marriage. I begged Him to help me continue to find issues before they became too serious. I begged Him to help me love this man because I just couldn’t keep doing it in my own strength! I begged him for the power to face the rest of my life because I couldn’t see how I was even going to get through the week! I begged Him for wisdom to know how to respond to each betrayal, and to know how I could help my love so that it wouldn’t happen again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had picked up the only weapons I had at my disposal: prayer, the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit and I had gone to war. I was fighting that war one battle at a time and each battle was leaving me wounded and bloody. But as long as God gave be breath I was going to fight and with His power we were going to win!
***How about you? What lessons did God teach you in the middle years of your story? Have you ever waged war for someone you loved? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
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