Eileen's Story

Eileen's Story: It's Not About You

My husband and I have been married for thirty years. My dream for my life was to have a Christian family and to live our lives together, serving God. I continued to see our life much like a dream come true until we got turned down for a position as pastors of a small church and my husband had to choose a new job, in a new state, which headed us in a completely different direction. I started seeing some subtle changes but I wasn't really concerned. This man who once only cared about serving God began to go after two new things: money and power.  I was sure this would pass and I continued to pray for him. I just knew he would change course again and get back on track, denying the gradual decline he was making. I noticed more angry outbursts but figured he was stressed. So I just worked harder at making sure that I handled all of the things at home so there wouldn't be more for him to worry about.
One day, my husband came home and told me that he was in love with a woman at work. Although he didn't have a physical relationship with this woman, he had a strong emotional one. I felt like the bottom had dropped out of my world. At first, the only thing I could feel was pain and shock. I couldn't understand what could be happening to him. It just didn't make any sense to me that he would want someone else. For the eighteen years we had been married we had always said that divorce didn't exist for us; we were in this for life. I just kept thinking that this had to be a bad dream but the stress caused me to lose twenty pounds in one month and I didn't sleep more than a few hours each night. He moved into another bedroom in our home and I cried myself to sleep begging God to take this bad dream away and help me wake up in my right world.
I sought the support and advice of the wife of our former pastor, who had gone through something similar. With her help, I was able to seek God and fight through the next six months with my husband. She was the best mentor I could have had because she reminded me that I would get up and dressed, take care of my home and family and hang onto my relationship with God – one day at a time. My husband did every cruel and obnoxious thing he could so I would either throw him out or leave him. It seemed he thought that way, our break-up would be my fault and he wouldn’t be responsible in others’ eyes. He told me I didn't measure up, that the woman was his "soul mate" and I could never be as sophisticated as she was. He said had never really loved me in the first place and this was the first time in his life he had found true love. I asked our former pastor for advice and he told me how my husband was caught up in sin and sickness and did not love this woman, no matter what he said. He told me one thing that has been my lifesaver ever since. Men who are trying to justify sick and sinful behavior will say anything to make their behavior seem acceptable to themselves.
Our family was confused by the behavior they saw. The boys went to bed without me tucking them in for the first time in their lives. My life became day-to-day survival, like treading water, and my children were left on their own. They didn't understand why daddy was sleeping in another room and I couldn't help them -- I couldn't understand either.  They felt the tension and heard the fighting. I did a lot of covering up for their dad because I thought that would help somehow. .
I took the kids to my sister's house for a week and told my husband he would have to make a choice.  He led me to believe he was giving our marriage 100% and that he didn’t want to lose me or the children. He told me he would completely stop his behavior and to prove it we made another move and job change. Things seemed to improve somewhat, but the controlling anger remained and I blamed myself. I felt if I could just do a better job of running a smooth household, he wouldn’t get so angry.
For the next four years he played around on the edges of this addiction by flirting and seeing how much he could do without actually crossing the "adultery line." We got a computer at home with internet access, and he started working from home, enabling him to access pornography whenever he wanted. We moved again and he got jobs where he traveled and was gone from home most of the time. It was while traveling that he finally crossed that "adultery line" and was out of control. I wasn't aware of anything except that there was no tenderness left in him toward me.
We moved again. It was as though he felt if he moved from the place where he fell, he could get control , put it behind him, and move on. The strange thing is that no matter where we go, we are still there. One night, he came home late and was angrier than usual. A few days later there was a call from the police that a woman had charged him with harassment. He gave me an alibi and I believed it, but we had to borrow money from a relative to pay the resulting legal fees, adding to our already mounting financial difficulties. He was raging more often, and controlling with anger, but I still didn't understand what was going on inside this man. I noticed that whenever I had to meet him I would find him talking to a woman. No matter where we were or what we were doing, he was always friendly with women.
 I felt like the queen of naiveté. I knew that he was battling with lust but I felt completely inadequate to help him, or myself, and I thought that the acts I knew about were the extent of the problem. I read in the Bible so many scriptures about men and lust, and I knew that it was a problem that God was fully aware of. I wondered if maybe this was a problem I had to learn to live with.
In December, 2001, my husband wanted to go to a Prodigals meeting he learned about, concerning lust and sexual issues in Christian men.  He came home from the first meeting and told me that he had finally found something that gave him some hope for healing. I was thankful that he was finally going to get help for "his problem." The following week I received a fax at home that revealed to me how he had finally hit bottom. I don't think I have ever felt pain as deep as I was feeling at that moment. I remember standing by our fax machine, holding those papers with tears streaming down my face, and telling God that this was too big for me alone. God led me to the right person to talk to that night, and that conversation led me to wonder whether Prodigals might have something for wives. I looked for the Prodigals pamphlet he had left by the bed and found my answer. When he got home that evening, I showed him the fax I had received, and he asked me if I wanted him to leave. I told him that I held hope that as the truth was exposed, we would be able to let God heal us. The first night I went to a Partners in Process meeting, one of the women shared her "success story" and I began to think that there might be hope for us. Within a couple of weeks I asked him to tell me everything that had been going on, and then my world turned upside down. I didn't know a human body could survive that much pain and still keep going, but I did.
Caught up in shock and pain I continued going to the women's meetings each week and working through the 12-step program we had started.  It took awhile for me to realize that I needed some healing, as I thought that he was the one with the problem, not me. I finally came to a place where I could stop looking at my husband's problem as our only problem. I realized that I needed to work on myself and stop focusing my life on him. I opened myself up to God and started letting Him speak to my heart about the things in me that needed changing. I had very few healthy boundaries and didn't have the faintest idea how to make some.
I began to work earnestly on letting God grow me and show me how I needed to change. Eventually, I began to notice that I could focus less on my husband and more on my relationship with God and the things in me that played a part in this. I am not blaming myself for his choices. He has an addiction and he chose to act in that addiction. I didn't make him do that and I am not saying that I am responsible for that. The problem was that I couldn't fix him. I could only work with God on me and let God do what He wanted with my husband.
It has been a year since we began to attend the Prodigals program and I know that without it, we would not be together. My husband is in the men's program and works daily on his homework and with his mentor. I continue to go to the women's meetings each week and get support from other women. We have come a long way this year, with an even longer road ahead. I am so thankful that each Monday I have a safe place to go and share my joys and my sorrows. I know that I am not alone and that I always have an understanding heart just an email or a phone call away.
I struggled for some time with my relationship with God as I felt that He had let me down in allowing so many secret things to happen without my knowledge. But recently I came to realize that my wonderful loving heavenly Father kept things from me until I had a beautiful safety net of women to support me. At one of our meetings, one of the women compared our circumstance to that of the movie "A Beautiful Mind." In that movie was a very sick man with a brilliant mind. She said that she realized that she was married to a beautiful man with an addiction. It was a good reminder to me that my husband is not his addiction. He is the beautiful man I once knew, caught up in a terrible addiction.
This year has been eye-opening and healing for me. I am in a better place today than I was a year ago. I don't know what tomorrow will bring except that God will be in it with me. I know that there is nothing I can't face as long as He is with me.