This is Day 7 of a 10 day No More Perfect Marriages series chronicling our journey from infidelity to restoration. You can click here and find all of the posts in this series.
Today we’re offering the perspective of one of our children. Our oldest daughter, Anne, will share her flashback and how this affected her and her family.
I picked up the phone thinking it was any ordinary call from my dad. We chatted for a minute and then he dropped the news on me. It was a quick conversation. He shared that he had moved out and if I had any questions he would be happy to answer them later but that he needed to call my siblings now. He didn’t mention the affair at all. He just shared he was “done.”
Mom called me a few minutes later and we just cried. She asked me if dad had shared the reason why he had left, to which I shared the reasons he gave me. She then said, “I’ve given him the opportunity to be honest with you and I can’t protect him anymore.” She then shared about the other relationship. I was sick to my stomach. My family had always been a source of stability and that was crashing around me.
Honestly, we kids had known for a while that Dad was struggling. He was just off. We’d often talk about how Dad was no longer the same. My dad has always been caring, wise and discerning. He was the one I would turn to if I wanted to be heard or think through things. But he was no longer those things consistently. He was distant and distracted. While we knew he was struggling with life, we had no idea the magnitude of it all.
I struggled with my role in all of this. I was married and pregnant with my second child. I lived 4 hours away. I was removed from the situation but the disappointment and tears were still the same.
The following weekend, all of the siblings came home. It was beyond strange, sad and hard. A piece was missing in the house. And not just that, my daughter Rilyn, who was almost 2 at the time, was very confused. She kept asking “Where’s Pappaw?” How does one answer that to a 2-year-old!? I was angry that my dad put us in the position to have to deal with the aftermath…not only ours but my child’s as well.
Matt and I asked my dad to meet and talk. (Can I just say that I hated having to schedule time with my dad!) Never have I prayed so fervently for someone. I kept asking God, “What do I do here? Do I call him out on stuff? Or do I just love him through it?” I was so nervous and anxious. How was I supposed to act in this situation? As soon as I gave him a hug, I knew that I needed to be straight forward and honest with him. I was so grateful for the peace God gave me entering into this conversation.
I shared with him that I still loved him but was disappointed and hurt. The more we talked, the more and more evident it was that the man I sat across from was not my dad. This man was tired, hardened, skewed and selfish. And while he thought this new relationship and new life was the answer, I knew that wasn’t the case.
As the conversation wrapped up, I shared that ultimately we still wanted relationship with him. I still wanted my children to see and know my dad through this all. But, it was going to be with some boundaries, which included us not going to his new apartment and being cautious with Rilyn. We scheduled a time for him to come to the house to see Rilyn the next day. That interaction was hard. It was hard to see my dad walk into the house as a guest. It was hard to have to say hello and goodbye in such a short time. It was hard to explain this all to Rilyn…”Why is Pappaw leaving?” It was hard to watch my dad hug Rilyn goodbye with tears in his eyes. This was all just really hard.
Three of us were married and lived away from home. Two of my brothers still lived at home. For me, I was able to separate myself a little bit because of distance. I can’t imagine the emotions my brothers felt. I can’t speak for my other siblings, but for me, it was still incredibly difficult to journey through this as an adult child.
Three years later, I am so grateful for the choices my dad has made. He chose God. He chose my mom. He chose family. The mid-life crisis certainly took its toll on all of our family relationships. I would say we are much more aware of relational dynamics now. It certainly has made me more aware of that in my own marriage. More than anything I’ve learned that love is more than a feeling, it’s a series of choices and commitment.
Just reading Anne’s words is very hard for me. I wish with my whole heart that I’d made different choices and that I had handled my challenges differently. I’m grateful for how God has redeemed the brokenness I caused in our family, but I now know that my determination that we were just “too incompatible” was a lie from the enemy that I believed hook, line, and sinker.
For most of us, our spouse’s differences are what drew us to one another in the first place. It’s not until we say “I do” and begin to live every day together that those same differences begin to grate on our nerves.
I was drawn to Jill’s strength when we first met. She knew what she wanted and she went after it. She was sure of herself. And most importantly, she was a believer. I’d received Christ at a Billy Graham crusade a year earlier and I knew I wanted to marry a Christian woman. Jill was strong in her faith.
After we got married, however, I grew to dislike her strength. When she believed in something, she strongly believed in something. She was black and white and I had a little more gray in me. She was organized, knowledgeable, and a strong leader. But too often I felt like her strength came across as parenting me. Sometimes it was what she said and sometimes it was how she said something.
Mark was tender, easy-going, and compassionate. He was funny, friendly, and the life of the party. After we got married, his extrovert-self clashed with my introvert-self. His easy-going spirit allowed for far more gray than I was comfortable with.
Mark is a “feeler.” I loved that when it meant he was tender, compassionate, and romantic. I disliked it when he based decisions on “feeling” rather than “thinking,” which was how I made decisions. He also wanted to touch all the time. I, on the other hand, really like my personal space.
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but in retrospect, my fade moved from not accepting our differences to wanting her to change. Our disagreements were often fueled by my attempt to force her to change. When this didn’t work, I faded to the place of rejection.
In fact, it was our differences that caused Mark to shut down on our Florida trip. We had been sitting on the beach reading. Mark kept wanting to hold my hand. The constant need to be touching was driving me crazy and I said in frustration, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here beside you. We don’t have to be touching all the time.”
The minute she said that, I determined I was done with our differences. I moved from trying to change her to rejecting her. It never crossed my mind that there could be a middle ground in me honoring her need for space in the midst of seeking to have my need for touch met.
Not only that, but I took Jill’s need for space as a personal rejection. I made it about me rather than about her. Instead of navigating this difference well, it was what I perceived to be the nail in our marriage coffin.
These days, I’m valuing Mark’s need for touch more than I did in the past. I’m learning that I need it too—just not as much or as often as he desires it. Yet, many times, I’m sacrificing my need for space in order to meet his need for touch.
I’m also learning how to leverage my strength for good in my marriage. Karen Haught’s book The God-Empowered Wife was absolutely life-changing for me regarding this. I’m reserving my words for when they matter most, resisting commentary on things that just aren’t important.
I’m also watching the tone I use when I talk to Mark. Karen addresses this in her book when she says,
“We emasculate our husbands by mothering them and then complain they aren’t stepping up to the plate. When that doesn’t work, we use thinly disguised attempts to control and change them…pushing and prodding them to do what we think they should, or setting a “good example” and hoping they’ll get the hint. Eventually, we end up way out front stretched thin, trying to pull our husbands forward and wondering why they aren’t cooperating…We become the dominant spouse, even if that wasn’t the original intent.”
One night after I had moved out, Jill had been reading Karen Haught’s book. When she read the section above, she was very convicted. She called me at nearly 2am in tears to tell me she was sorry for ever making me feel that way. That phone call was very powerful. It “woke me up” to the possibility of believing in the possibility of “us” again.
These days I’m speaking up on the now-rare occasion when Jill steps back into “parenting” me. I’m also valuing her need for space and not taking that need personally. I’m recognizing that is the way she’s made and her need for space is about her and not me. I’m also grateful she is stepping into my world and giving me the gift of touch more often.
Jill says: Accepting one another starts with valuing that the way others do things is not wrong….just different.
What about you? Where do you need to be more accepting of your spouse? Where have you been trying to control or trying to force change? Where have you been rejecting? Can you apologize and offer your spouse the gift of acceptance?