Ending the Affair

Yesterday I spent the day outside with my family. My older daughter’s cheeks and mine are still pink from the sun, and her sweaty clothes have been added to the never-ending pile in the laundry room. Today, we won’t see the sun. I’m curled up in a bed in a dark room under heaps of heavy blankets, feeding a 16-pound replica of myself (without hair). Within the next few hours, the raindrops we hear falling outside will turn to ice. Hell is freezing over–my husband’s best friend is getting married today.

Most of the time I refer to him as my brother. He actually is a relative of my husband’s, and they grew up together. The blood relationship is a complicated one to explain (ever heard the song “I Am My Own Grandpa”? It’s kind of like that)–but it’s irrelevant. Even if they didn’t share blood, they would be brothers. It was initially difficult for me to find favor with this brother-friend. He wrote me a long letter after my husband and I fell in love, explaining how he was having a hard time with my ever-increasing real estate in my husband’s heart. He wrote with love, and I wrote back with love. I knew those words had been hard to write. I was also annoyed–he lived in the same city as my husband, and I lived two states away. How bad could it really be? Back in the days when cell phones had limited minutes (at least when your parents are footing the bill), I certainly wasn’t taking up all of his time. I told my then-boyfriend to make a conscious effort to throw his friend an extra bone every now and then, at least until he got used to our new relationship. With the letters, the air between us had cleared somewhat, and our friendship started to grow. We began to see each other as assets to a man we both loved in different ways. I am so blessed to call him my brother, and I am so thankful for the woman who won his heart. I think he would laugh if I mentioned those letters to him today–he understands now what it’s like to love one woman over all others…

…all others except one. He is a Christian, so his bride will always take second place. His future children will take third, followed by his extended family and close friends, his profession, and the rest of the others. She will also give him second place in her life. I noticed in last night’s rehearsal that she even modified the words to the song she will walk down the aisle to, cutting out a line that made her love for her groom sound stronger than a jealous God would allow.

Oh, I struggled with this. For me, people are just so easy to love. I think I have the love capacity of at least ten others packaged into one little body that can barely contain it all. It overflows in the many ways I express affection (most often through words). At the end of the day, my prayer of confession has often been this: Forgive me, Jesus–today I loved others more than I loved you. Idolatry. The idolatry escalated when my husband entered the picture, to the point where we almost broke up because our focus on each other was growing increasingly sharp while our eternal First Love faded into a blurry background.

As I watched last night’s rehearsal and looked at my husband standing there as Best Man, I remembered my own wedding night. I remembered how the date couldn’t even be set until the man I loved trusted that I didn’t love him too much. I remembered saving sex for marriage, because that’s what Christians do. I remembered the covenant made between the two of us and God–that our marriage was an earthly reflection of the covenant between Christ and the Church. I remember walking down an aisle toward him and then vowing to love him second for the rest of my life.

I remember hearing of his doubts months later and wondering if I could love him at all. I remember feeling cheated out of the spiritual leadership he had promised me. I remember wishing I could break my own vows.

And I want a re-do. I want to forget my vows about the symbolism of marriage, and I want to honor my husband by acknowledging what our marriage really is. It’s a covenant between us that stands on its own–not a shadow of something greater.

Darling,

For years I have loved another more than I love you. When you chose to love me first instead of Him, I wondered whether or not you were worth loving at all. I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for the mornings that I left you alone in our bed so I could spend time with Him.
I’m sorry for expecting that at least 10% of the money you earned would be given to Him.
I’m sorry for setting a goal for myself to think of Him more than I think of you.
I’m sorry for writing Him love letters that I never wrote to you.
I’m sorry for seeing every wonderful thing you brought to my life as a mere dim reflection of something more wonderful with Him.

I’m tired of writing love letters to Him–He never writes back. I’m tired of longing for His touch when yours somehow makes me feel heat and chills at the same time. I’m tired of longing to hear His voice when yours has been there all along, asking me to stay despite the fact that you loved me first when I wanted to be second. I’m tired of waiting for Him. It has been thousands of years and there’s still no sign of Him. The oil in my lamp has burned out. I don’t even believe He exists, much less that He is coming to receive His Church with a wedding banquet.

What if the love between a man and his bride is the greatest love a human will ever know? What if making love to you is the greatest possible intimacy I could experience? What if being known by you is the fullest way I will ever be known? What secrets have I told only to Him? What part of my heart do you still hope to win? What if all that I share with you is not a dim reflection, but the most dazzling light?

What if I’m so intent on seeing something beyond it that I miss it altogether?

I look to you as an anchor. The waters around me are ever-changing, but you have always been the same in your desire for truth and commitment to reason. You steady me; you would not let me be swept away by religion or emotion. You would not let me become lost in devastating currents of circumstance. This affectable vessel is safest when tied to you.

So tied to you I will remain. No more adultery with an imaginary God. It’s over. It’s finally over. I am yours and only yours until death parts us.

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11 thoughts on “Ending the Affair

  1. Bring Christ to the center of your marriage where He belongs – even in your love-making. Marriage is a compromise, a blending of two individuals into one. Christ is that blending also – of divinity with humanity. Bring Christ to the center of your love – let him lead you two to that wholeness that He Himself represents – He is wholeness and wholeness is peace and you shall have His peace in your marriage if you two will melt together and become one as He is one. Melt together in total trust. You are one in Christ, not two in Christ. Be one. Trust. 🙂

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    • I appreciate your comment. I wish it were that easy. I am such a sentimental person, and I love allegory. I used to find so much joy in discovering reflections of Christ in every-day things. Marriage was my favorite of these. But instead of bringing peace to my marriage, Christ became a stumbling block. When my husband renounced his faith (while I clung to mine), strife entered our marriage for the first time. Now that I have finally also set aside faith in the God of the Bible (or any other god), my husband and I have unity in our marriage again. We find that our intimacy has increased since our highest priority is each other. There has never been more peace in our marriage than there is now.

      I fear coming across as foolish and arrogant and rebellious. That’s really not how it is. If things were not better without Christ, I really would admit it and wonder what I’m missing. If having God in the picture simplified things, I might build my life on His revelation through scripture. As it stands, religion leaves me with more questions than answers.

      If you give me real evidence that my marriage would be better with Christ at its center, I will hear you out. For now, I think my husband enjoys having me on the same page. And if my marriage depends on me (not on deference to a deity), I will work a lot harder for it.

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      • CC, I do not know your situation very well – how you were raised to think and believe (and that might be the source of your challenge here), and so it would be difficult for me to help you. But here’s a try. Remember that our God commands us to love. Is that so difficult? Remember that to love God is best understood as “to obey God.” And so, by truly loving your spouse, you are indeed loving God. God does not command you to put aside your spouse and not be one with your spouse as a dedicated and loving spouse yourself. And so why do you think it is too difficult to love God AND your spouse when you are loving God by loving your spouse? Do you see what I mean? God is not your earthly spouse; your husband is – God created you for this and gives you the grace to do it well, and when you choose to do it well, you bring glory to God who desires that you love well.

        Search for Catholic books on “Theology of the Body” which Pope Blessed John Paul II started so to understand better the joy which God intends for you and your husband as a married couple, obeying God by tenderly loving each other – bodily and spiritually. Husband and wife are meant to come together in the joy of matrimonial love. God designed us that way. It might do you some good to read up on this.

        Also, do not forget God. When people try to forget God, they remove themselves from reality and open themselves to distractions and paths which do not lead to peace. Who created the universe? Is there not one uncaused Cause? We know this by reason alone – only one could have caused the entire creation to exist – and that is God. No one created God – there had to have been one uncaused Cause. That is God. And so we at least must acknowledge the truth which reason alone establishes for us. We should also acknowledge that everything we have is from God, including that love with which we serve our spouses – and it is God’s will that we love our spouses – this is how we were created – this is natural. From whence did all that is good come? Is it not humanity which chooses (by its free will) not to do good? Why not choose to do good – to love and to be charitable? Are we not surrounded by evidences of God’s love and goodness? Does He not provide the basic foundations for goodness? If humanity would simply obey God, all would be peaceful.

        Sometimes people run from God because our consciences convict us of doing things we ought not to do. And then we run away. But is the conscience well-formed? It is like the person who becomes addicted to a drug – instead of dealing with the reality of the harmful effects of the drug, and believing that they can save themselves, they flee into seclusion and worship the drug which ultimately brings intense bodily and even spiritual harm (harms the whole person) because the drug is misused or abused. Acknowledging, listening and responding to God does not bring this harm; it brings wholeness because God is Love and only commands us to love and serve in that capacity. Doesn’t everyone want to be loved truly? Does not a child depend upon the unconditional love of her parents in order to feel safe and secure and to have hope for the future? And so it is between adults and God; we look up to One Who is greater and more perfect since all that is perfectly good comes from the One who created good. Is not your spousal love good? Did not someone greater than you design marriage to be good?

        Also, it would be good to uncover what it is that has caused your spouse to renounce his faith. What was his faith? What happened to cause him to renounce it? Is this really a good thing? Is it really a good reason? For example, sometimes people have emotional reactions and condemn an entire institution because of the actions of a single person or relative few. We call that “throwing out the baby with the bath water.” While it is a cry for justice (and justice is good), the reaction is really more emotional and irrational, and therefore, probably not good. Finally, perhaps your husband needs time to heal or time to grow stronger. You can help him as a faithful wife. Even marriage can be a sacrament of healing. But at least you must retain your faith, for without it I’m afraid that both of you will be truly on your own and without a moral compass to guide you toward true peace.

        My wife and I drifted for a long time before we came back into the Church (and I joined the Church finally). We were truly lost, but my wife never lost her faith – even when we were outside of the Church and not being obedient. I also maintained faith, but it was deep inside and I didn’t speak much about it. But I was on a path to healing, and so was my wife, and here we are – where we should be and grateful to be in the care of God in His Church.

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  2. It is not that I have a problem loving both my spouse and God (if God were truly the creator of marriage, author of life and love, etc.)–my difficulty with loving both my spouse and God is because I don’t actually believe in God. I did for many years (decades, actually), but it became too much of a stretch for my mind to accept. Reason tells me it cannot be true. The turmoil that cognitive dissonance brought into my life and marriage resolved when I stopped playing the dissonant chords. It’s not that I don’t see how to love both God and my spouse–it’s just that I don’t care to love God because I don’t believe in God.

    You mentioned the “first cause” argument. Does there really have to be an uncaused cause? I’m having trouble following the logic. You demand a “cause” for the created world. You say it couldn’t have just appeared one day. So you attribute its existence to a creator–the First Cause. But by the same logic, shouldn’t the First Cause have a cause? Why is it not subject to the same rules? If a measureless universe must have a cause, it seems that the force that caused it should also have a cause, and so on and so forth. If we’re going to say that the First Cause does not have to have a cause, why can’t the force that immediately caused the Big Bang just be the uncaused cause? Why make things even more complex than they already are by requiring an additional cause (but not expanding our logic to then require the additional cause to have a cause)?

    In my mind, it is more likely that this superbly complex universe just “happened” than that something even MORE superbly complex exists (without its own cause) that caused the universe to happen. I keep my superb complexities as few as possible 🙂

    My husband renounced his faith because it could not be reconciled with his mind–it defied logic and reasoning. And I agree. There was no other reason for either of us (although there were other aspects of Christianity that disappointed us, without derailing our faith). I disagree that this leaves us without a moral compass. It seems to me that members of many other religions are even more moral than Christians, and you wouldn’t argue that their morality is because they have the truth. My husband and I are deeply committed to morality, and that will not change. If anything, I am more aware of living morally, because it depends on me–without the influence of a spirit within me.

    I’m enjoying the conversation. Peace, friend.

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      • Excellent questions. I want to give my response some thought, which I probably won’t have time for over the next few days (sick husband, sick older kid, regular newborn)–but I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring your questions. I’ll get back to you on these 🙂

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      • Good.

        We could also ask you:

        What is a human and what is a mule and is it possible that tomorrow a mule is a human and a human is a mule? Honestly, some will state that a mule should be treated as a human and that humans and mules should be allowed to marry.

        This goes to my question about the standard for morality. If we say there is no God – no Creator who establishes order according to a design, then isn’t it true that a human, using positive law and free will, can disestablish (at least on the surface) that moral order simply by turning away from that Light which provides the ability to know and keep order and then writing laws which “suit our fancy”?

        Of course it is. Only humans can do such a thing by virtue of their free will. On earth, only humans can try to disestablish the order of nature or choose to know and establish order which is based in the design of nature – God our Creator gave humans power over that part of creation beneath humanity (but in obedience to God). The animal and vegetable “kingdoms” cannot do this – since they do not share in that Image of God which we humans have: free will and intellect.

        And so humans, acting like God in using free will to disestablish natural, moral order, make themselves like gods. But humans forget that humans did not create themselves and that, in the end, all that humans do comes back to the One Who Created humanity…to be judged since humans had the free will to obey or disobey the Creator. The rest of creation will not be judged like this; but humans will since humans were given the power to choose God and His will / design or to not choose God and His will / design.

        I look forward to your answers.

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  3. Around the time I was losing the vestiges of my faith, my mother was recommitting to her lackadaisical faith. It was about a year later that we had a conversation. I don’t remember why we were having it or what else was said. Only one moment stands out all these years later. I didn’t want to talk anymore. We weren’t getting anywhere, just hurting each other.

    I was sitting at a kitchen table, staring at the transparent top. She was kneeling beside me, tearful but determined. She said, “I have to put Him first. I love you, but I love Him more.” At this point I had already had my daughter. I think it hurt worse because I knew by then what it is to love a child.

    Her faith has since fallen away again. There is no God meddling in our relationship, but I remember the pain.
    Excellent post.

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    • How did I just now see this comment? Thanks for sharing this. It does hurt, doesn’t it? I totally get it, and there was a time when I would have probably said the same thing your mom said. That thought startles me and makes me want to go hold my kids.

      Most people who believe say that they began to understand the love of God better when they had kids. It just confused me more—how could he allow any of them to perish? Having kids helped me see God with a more realistic lens—and now I can’t imagine saying that I love Him more than I love them.

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      • Exactly! The idea of letting my children be tortured is unimaginable. Yet that’s what Hell is. It put Abraham’s story in perspective too. God sacrificing Jesus is lauded, but three days does not death make and the torture was pretty tame compared to some people’s interpretation of Hell.

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