I recently finished reading Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior, her account of rebuilding her marriage after her husband confessed to sex addiction. (And before the recent announcement that Melton has found love with soccer star Abby Wambach.)
H'mmm...where to begin. I didn't love Love Warrior and I really wanted to. I thought it started out strong but the second half devolved into a laundry list of coping strategies that, clearly, changed her life but that seemed almost perfunctory.
Positive church community: check.
Dare I suggest that it seemed as though her heart wasn't really in it? That she was telling her story because that's what she does but that she kinda sorta wished she wasn't? In hindsight, I wonder if she knew she was leaving the marriage even then and was hoping to write another ending in real life. Who knows. And, frankly, no matter.
Because, nonetheless, there is some sound advice in Love Warrior that I think we'd do well to look at more closely. She learned valuable lessons that changed how she viewed her place in the world and, consequently, how she showed up in her marriage and that, no doubt, also gave her the clarity and courage to ultimate make the choice to leave. And whether you stay or you leave, you want to do it with as much clarity as possible. You want, as much as possible, for your response to be a choice.
Let's start with
Giving your insides a voice: Melton learns, as she's trying to find her way back to her husband, that she has spent a lifetime silencing her insides (as she refers to her inner thoughts). And I don't know about you but, wow, me too. In fact, I still do it. Maybe not as much as I used to but still...time to pay attention to that.
Case in point: My husband and I are both in the market for new vehicles. Mine has recently adopted a death rattle to let me know that it's about to start costing me a lot more money at the repair shop.
This past weekend, we visited a dealership and my husband encouraged me to test-drive a car that, I figured, was out of the price range. He makes more money than I do and I've historically deferred to his budget setting. But I drove it. And loved it. Right size. Right fuel economy. Drove like a dream.
But...I found myself afraid to say so. Money remains a point of power in our relationship. And though, intellectually, I believe that my contribution to our family – not just what I earn but the hours I put in as primary caregiver, meal-preparer, homemaker, pet carer (the list goes on. And on) – puts us on equal footing, the fact that he largely pays the bills creates feelings of disempowerment in me.
However, reading about Melton's consciousness around giving voice to her insides reminded me that I must do the same.
So I did. And now we're negotiating with the car dealership. The sky didn't fall. I didn't stutter or die of shame. Instead, I said I would really like that car if we decide we can afford it. My insides were given voice. And you know what? It feels really good. You know what else? It reminded me that, when I'm afraid to give my insides voice, it rarely has anything to do with the right now and instead is about way back when. Way back when I was told my needs weren't important. Way back when I learned, from my alcoholic mother, that wanting nice things made me selfish.
Lesson learned: Give voice to your insides. Or at the very least, challenge your thoughts about silencing them. Is it really about now? Or are you still being the good girl who doesn't want to rock the boat?
"Maybe, for now, the only right decision is to stop making decisions." There are plenty of sites out there for betrayed wives that offer up a prescription for a marriage in crisis. Some insist the only option is to dump the guy. Others push a marriage-is-sacred agenda. As you all know, I don't presume to know what's right for anyone but me (and I'm often not so sure about me). But this idea that we need to immediately do something in the wake of betrayal forces so many of us who are paralyzed by anxiety, or reeling from the shock to wonder what's wrong with us. Surely this is a no-brainer, right? We should stay. Or go. Or...something. Anything but just sit with our pain and see if the right path reveals itself with time and consideration and a gentle tending to our own hearts.
Lesson Learned: As Doyle Melton writes, "I'm trying to fix my pain with certainty, as if I'm one right choice away from relief. I'm stuck in anxiety quicksand: The harder I try to climb my way out, the lower I sink. The only way to survive is to make no sudden movements, to get comfortable with discomfort, and to find peace without answers."
"We started out as ultrasensitive truth-tellers. We saw everyone around us smiling and repeating "I'm fine! I'm fine! I'm fine!" and we found ourselves unable to join them in all the pretending." This passage stopped me cold. I know there are plenty of emotionally healthy women on this site who's husbands are less so but I cast my lot in with the ultrasensitive truth-tellers who've spent a great deal of their lives being told they're "too sensitive", that they expect "too much", that they should just sit there and look pretty and not expect anyone to care about what's going on inside. My 20s were dedicated to numbing my own anxiety with booze and a crappy boyfriend because admitting my pain sounded self-indulgent. I was a white, middle-class, university-educated woman. What did I have to feel sorry for myself about? I went to therapy, which certainly helped but I buried so much of that pain that it didn't emerge until my husband's affair. And then, it emerged with the thunderous roar of a wounded animal. All that fear – that I wasn't worth loving, that there was something wrong with me, that I didn't deserve good things to happen, that I couldn't trust anyone, that I would always be left for something/someone better – refused to stay buried any longer.
Lesson Learned: And so my healing wasn't just about my husband's betrayal, but my mother's and my father's. And, most of us, the ways in which I'd betrayed myself.
And that's the best part of Love Warrior. It's a love story to ourselves. It's about learning to value our own voice. It's about paying attention to our own hearts. It's about all the things we talk about on this site – holding ourselves with the deepest compassion.