Something happened recently that made me go back and reread that post (from November 2009, three months after Joe and I got married). Before I talk about The Situation, here's part of that post:
It makes me fear for what kind of changes Joe and I will each undergo over the years. How many possible ways there are for us to screw up, to grow apart, to stop really knowing each other.
But I’m choosing to take this fear and, rather than run from it, face it head on. I’m choosing to be totally vulnerable to him, to give him every ounce of love I can muster up, and to commit to actively maintain open lines of communication so that when tough issues arise (as they have and will continue to do beyond 56 years of marriage), we will work through them.
And I’m choosing to look this fear straight in the eyes and say, “As much as I’m afraid of failure, I am twice as determined to trust in God for the success of this marriage.” I know we can’t survive of our own willpower. My grandfather has proven that.
All I can do now is focus on my own marriage, and determine here and now that I will NEVER follow his example. I will never try to make it work on my own. I will cherish every moment, whether happy or full of grief and frustration — EVERY moment with my husband. I will not let my grandfather’s decisions define my own marriage, except as the ANTONYM to how Joe and I are going to do things.
Never say never, right?
I knew, when I wrote that, that it wasn't always going to be easy. I knew Joe and I would encounter difficulties, and that there would be times when we'd have to work SERIOUSLY hard to make it work. I just never expected to be less than three years into our marriage when the first REALLY big test arose.
Earlier this year, I had let myself forget to cherish every moment. I was trying to do it on my own; I was running on autopilot in my marriage. I wasn't actively pursuing communication with Joe, and because of that, we were living pretty separate lives. We were like roommates. See, I had told Joe a million times in the earliest parts of our relationship that I needed "me time" -- time away from big crowds of people, time to de-stress and not worry about being sociable or fun. And I had drilled this idea so strongly into him that Joe felt like he was being the best husband if he just let me do my own thing ALL the time. But it evolved over time into me feeling like Joe just didn't CARE what I was doing or have any interest in being a part of it. I had NO idea it was because of what I had told him about my "me time" that he was acting the way he was. We weren't communicating.
In the meantime, I was developing new passions, and I felt like Joe wanted nothing to do with them. I was getting into hiking, running and personal training. I was studying for my NASM exam and spending a lot of time out with girlfriends at karaoke. I would think about asking Joe to come to karaoke, then figure he would only come if he felt obligated and wouldn't really like it, so most of the time I didn't ask. I just told him I was going out, and he stayed home -- and I always figured he was perfectly fine with that. I didn't realize until awhile later that I was beginning to resent Joe; I felt like he really didn't care if we spent time together. And all that time, Joe was feeling resigned to this life of separate-ness, thinking that it was what I wanted: my stupid "me time."
So that's the background (in a nutshell) for how The Situation all started.
One night in late February, I was at karaoke with two girlfriends, and one of the "regulars" from this place, Kris, came to our table to chat. He was interested in one of my friends, but we all talked casually and had a good time that night. I ended up talking with Kris more after my friends left (big mistake: not leaving the bar when your friends are all leaving), and we exchanged numbers because he was interested in joining my Color Run team. I'll spare all the details, but that was the beginning of the six weeks of my life I wish I could do over. Kris and I began to text, never about anything "inappropriate," except that the fact we were texting was, in itself, inappropriate. Then we started getting coffee together. Then we went on a few runs together. Then we were meeting up almost weekly so he could help me study my NASM flash cards. And I was keeping all of this from Joe.
It never got physical, and from Kris's (non-Christian) perspective, we weren't doing anything "wrong." He respected that I was married, and he had no intention of trying to pursue me romantically or physically. But he WAS pursuing me emotionally, in that he had begun to replace Joe as the person I shared things with -- feelings, opinions, interests, and time. And I knew it wasn't right.
Still, I kept trying to make justifications and excuses in my head for why it was okay for me to be doing this. It didn't help that Kris supplied me with his very secular perspective, saying things like, "I'm just like another girlfriend," or, "Would he care if you were hanging out like this with your brother? I think of you as a sister." He would tell me that Joe clearly had trust issues, and that if I didn't feel safe telling him about me and Kris, it was obviously due to something Joe was doing wrong. But eventually my shame and guilt (and the knowledge deep down that no amount of rationalization could make this thing "right") finally won over my selfishness, and I decided to tell Joe everything.
The entire Situation lasted about six weeks. But repairing the damage I did to my marriage will take much, much longer. Thankfully, I have a husband who is completely committed to our relationship and wants us to be happier and stronger than ever before. We've been seeing a really great counselor, and we are learning how to be better communicators, how to better support each other, and how to forgive and trust again.
There's much more to this story, but I don't want to share it all here. I may be sharing more than necessary as it is, but I feel like I need to stop carrying it around like a big secret, because I don't want it to have any hold on me.
One thing I don't want anyone to take from this is the notion that Joe did something to cause me to make the choices I did. He was trying to support me in the way he thought was best, based on my poor explanation of needing "me time" -- when in reality, as we discovered through the counseling process, I really meant "us time." Before I was married, "me time" was indeed just ME. But Joe is an extension of me, and I don't feel drained around him like I sometimes do in larger social situations. I don't have to perform or be "cool" with Joe, and I don't have to plaster on a big smile if I don't feel like it. There are of course other issues we've been uncovering and dealing with, but I'm trying to keep it as concise as possible while still getting the story across.
Anyway, please don't make Joe out to be a bad guy in this. He has been the most amazing husband to me from day one, and this awful Situation has proven him to be even better than I could possibly dream. He could have thrown in the towel and refused to trust me or forgive me, but instead he has covered me in compassion and love. We are surviving this, and we will survive anything else that is thrown in our path because we're both actively committed to it. And as much as I wish I could undo what I did, forget it all, or pretend it never happened, I have to remember that I am capable of ugly things. I have to stay on my guard against Satan's attacks, because I NEVER want to hurt my husband like that again.
And, now that I know I am susceptible to the kind of temptation that could draw me emotionally toward other men, our counselor advised that I should reconsider pursuing personal training as a career. Working closely with guys (whether colleagues or clients) in a fitness setting -- something I'm already passionate about -- is an invitation for Satan to creep in and create temptation to become emotionally involved again. So, because Joe and I both agreed with our counselor's wise advice, I've put personal training on hold indefinitely. I am bummed that training is pretty much out of the picture, but I'm taking responsibility for my choices, and I'm not about to put myself in a situation that could easily cause that kind of temptation.
I am just SO unbelievably thankful that God protected me throughout this Situation. I'm thankful that Kris wasn't physically abusive or pushy. I'm thankful that I felt God urging me to confess and make things right before the emotions had a chance to develop into anything more. I'm thankful that God gave Joe the strength, courage and grace to forgive me and continue to love me. I'm thankful for the friends I was able to confess to, who prayed for me and didn't abandon me because of my failure.
I realize it's a risk to share this kind of thing here. But this new blog is all about aspiring toward joy, and I feel a HUGE amount of joy now that I'm free of this ugly sin. God is good, and he has such good things planned for my relationship with Joe. I want to give a complete picture of our journey, even if it means exposing a part of my past that I'm not at all proud of. And maybe my story will help someone in their own journey.