“Marriage is a total commitment and a total sharing of the total person with another person until death.” ~ Wayne Mack

It’s Sunday morning. I am sitting on our bed, waiting for my wife to finish getting ready for church. I have already made sure my kids are up and getting ready. I am the time keeper, the person that keeps us all on schedule. Most of the time.

I like being ready first, so I can sit and dwell in my thoughts. This is new. I have to be careful, as my counselor says, not to spend too much time in “alone” time and cross over into “isolating.” That is a dangerous place for me. Today my thoughts are on my wife as I watch her get ready. And I am enjoying just watching her, knowing her so well that I can anticipate each action she takes, what she will do next. Brush out her wet hair, start putting on her makeup, spraying hairspray on her eyebrow brush.

I have known her for so long. Since we were really young. We grew up in the same small town. We know each other’s history, family, most of each other’s lives. That is the point though, I have known her. She hasn’t known me. She has known the part that I have allowed her to know, but not the part that I hid from her, from God, from myself, from everyone. That’s the part that is terrifying to her. She struggles with if this is all a lie. Are the parts of our marriage that she has been able to see really an illusion because of the parts that I hid for so long? Does the fact that I repeatedly violated our marriage vows make the rest of our marriage a falsehood, a mirage?

Our therapist for disclosure put it to me this way. He stated that she has been wounded, deeply, even though no one can see it. He stated that I should think about if she had a major shoulder injury, raw and bleeding. Each time she is exposed to a trigger or reminder, its like pouring alcohol on the wound. Getting that exposure is so painful but does lead to healing. Its not a fast process. It takes time, nurturing. Each time I respond to her hurt by not recognizing that its still there or not considering that damage, I delay that healing, I make it worse. I pour salt on that wound. Pain with no healing.

Right now, our marriage is a rollercoaster. Its a series of ups and downs. Thrills and scares. We are building something we didn’t have before, that I didn’t allow. We are building intimacy as a couple. It involves joy and pain. Anger and hurt from her due to the damage I have inflicted. The daily wondering of when a simple, calm conversation about mundane activities of our daily life could turn into a triggering reminder of my unfaithfulness and isolation. And a struggle to stay engaged, to not flee that conflict to the seeming safety of my isolation.

Watching her finish getting ready for church, I feel special, thankful that I can read her expressions and know her routines. Before, I used that knowledge to try and manipulate her and her moods, to steer clear of uncomfortable conversations and situations. Now, I see it for what its truly meant to be: the result of many years of intimacy that I haven’t fully appreciated until now.

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