Today in counseling I was stunned by a concept I’ve heard most my life. Similar to the old quilt that covers our bed, I became so familiar with it I no longer saw the depth of beauty in it.

My counselor asked me how I felt I was doing at “feeling my husband’s pain”. He has a way of asking a simple question and patiently waits for me to take as long as I need to respond. Having been a counselor for over 40 years, he sees right through me and my crap most days.

How am I doing with handling my husband’s pain? You mean the pain I created with MY infidelity?

In the silence of that moment I found myself wanting. I wanted to say that I’ve tried to feel it. I wanted to justify all of the ways I’ve tried to be sensitive and aware of him. I wanted to defend the times I’ve spent the past year trying to be safe for him in his pain. But none of those words came out. Instead I sat and squirmed. More silence. An awkward, heavy, deep-in-my-chest feeling came over me. The former me would have avoided the question all together and hung my head in shame. But as I sat there, the most honest answer I could muster was “probably not well at all.” The reality in that overwhelming and empty moment was a painful and sad truth; I had not felt my husband’s pain at all.

I mean how could I really know my husband’s pain? Although I try to imagine what it would be like to be him, to realize the person you were married to was nothing more than a stranger who kept secrets, I still can’t truly understand. I can try to feel it. I can practice listening really well. I can reflect back to him when he shares. I can be safe. I can give him passwords and whereabouts. On our better days I can even offer some perspective and insight. But the reality is I will never feel the depth of how much I hurt him.

As my therapist and I sat in uncomfortable, tender silence, he graciously allowed me to feel the unfairness of my infidelity.

Have you heard Jesus’ parable of the talents? If you’re familiar with this story, I think you’d agree that it is one of gross unfairness. This parable is about one guy who works really hard to earn his day’s wage. He works ALL day, outside in a vineyard. Then for the last hour of the day some lazy, irresponsible loser comes in and puts the finishing touches on the work. At the end of the day, the owner pays both of them the exact same amount. Huh?

How is it that God can offer both of us the same grace, the same forgiveness and the same chance at life when I was the one who chose to break our vows? Why is it that my husband has to bear so much of the pain when he didn’t do anything to deserve it?

Today was a difficult day. I think I finally realized how deep our need for grace really is. And while I certainly hope my husband can heal from all of the pain I caused him, I cannot earn his mercy.

If there was a way I could earn grace or mercy, I would. I think any repentant unfaithful spouse would tell you it would almost be easier if there was a way we could earn, work, buy or barter some kind of mercy. But there’s not. We have to live in the great but painful space of humility.

Not much farther, the Bible tells us what deeply moves Jesus: people who want to see.

Jesus doesn’t need anything from me. He just loves me. He always has. He always will – even when I am unlovable. He just wants me to be willing.

My hope is that we all become willing to find something more. That we never be unwilling to learn nor be afraid of humility the way I was and sometimes still am.

If you haven’t been to an EMS weekend, go! Or if you haven’t taken one of the Affair Recovery online classes, believe me when I say they are life changing. Start for free with the 7 Day Bootcamp. At the very least, get your butt into counseling. While it can’t change the unfairness of the past or the pain, it may be able to help your spouse heal.

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Wow ! That is beautiful !

Wow ! That is beautiful ! Thank you for the validation.

You are welcome. Thank you

You are welcome. Thank you for reading.

Wow, Thank you for sharing

Wow, Thank you for sharing Elizabeth. This hit hard and right to home. NO matter how hard I try I will never really feel my wife's pain as I can never be her and the unfairness of it all. I'm rereading this and letting it sink in.

I appreciate your honesty and

I appreciate your honesty and for relating to my realizations along the way. I wish I could realize some of them sooner, but I suppose that is where grace comes in and consistency pays off. Best to you in your healing journey.

Well Said

So true - I cannot ever FEEL the pain that I heaped on my husband. It is unfair that the betrayed have so much more pain and suffering to deal with. I am grateful for God's mercy and will keep working to heal myself, but it pales to the hell my husband has to go through.
Thank you so much for your wise words.

You are welcome. Sounds like

You are welcome. Sounds like you are indeed on the road from pride to humility. I'm still traveling it! I wish you the best in your recovery.

He betrayed himself

I have been thinking about my position as a betrayed spouse and I think that my pain is far easier to recover from that the pain of my unfaithful spouse. You might think this strange, but as I watch the grief and anguish of my husband, I would never want to be in his place. I haven’t been seeing it in that light for most of the 3 months since D-day, but I’ve discovered that it really is the truth. These are the reasons why:
I can walk forward with my head held high, but he cannot; I don’t have his shame to contend with and sometimes his shame seems like an impossible hill for him to climb.
The faith I have in the Lord, that I have carried for years and years, is still intact; I have not wandered from the path and I have stayed near to God. He admits that for a time he was far from God and the path back has been very difficult.
I do not have to struggle to convince my spouse that I love him and was faithful to him, he can trust me 100%; but he lost my trust and is aware of that when he hands me his phone and when I check the history of his online activity, and when I ask him to give an account of his every movement (this has let up in recent weeks as my trust returns). I walk in freedom, he does not.
I don’t have to try to undo a tower of hurt and pain that I inflicted on someone I loved, a hurt that can never be undone, only transformed; it will always be there and never completely forgotten. I did not inflict pain on him in this way, so again I don’t have to work to redeem myself.
I am not afraid of my kids, my family members, my close friends and colleagues discovering what I have done and passing judgement or distancing themselves, that will never be a fear of mine.
I do not have to wonder if I will have the strength to be faithful into the future, no doubts there for me! 26 years of faithful commitment gives me confidence in my abilities to remain so.
I do not have to remember what it was like to live in secrecy and shame, embarrassed and haunted by my past sinful actions with others. I am free of all of this! He is not.
I have no regrets. Daily I watch him grieve that he spent the last few years of his life, as his children graduated from high school and started moving on in life, not fully present. He admits that the weight of guilt for the secrets kept him from truly savoring every moment with us. He was, and is, a family man and so this grief is immense. Some days he just sits and heaves huge sobs for what he calls “squandered opportunities”. He can’t go back in time for a do over.

So given a choice of whether to be the betrayed spouse or the unfaithful spouse, I would choose to be the betrayed spouse any day. It’s true I didn’t ask for any of this, so it might seem unfair; but he betrayed himself and injured himself far more than he did me.

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-D, Texas