(Okay, so this happens sometimes. This is one of those entries where, when I’m writing, I receive more clarity and I’m changed in the process. Please bear with me.)
I’ve always disliked his involvement in porn, and I wanted to find something—anything—that worked. It felt like… uh… worse-than-crap, so I’d talk to certain people about it. Early on, what I’d hear from many well-meaning people in the church community was, “You need to have more faith.” Granted, this was back when internet porn was just getting started. Many people didn’t have answers then. And I know they wanted the best for my marriage. They really did.
So I did what they said. I hid my pain. I tucked my confusion. I added “become a better believer” to my list of things to do. I gave God my wants and needs, expecting only him to meet them. I placed no expectation on my husband. And I to fake that my husband wasn’t growing more distant.
It was my great bargain with God:
“If I have more faith,
you’ll keep this from happening again, right?”
Early on, I didn’t have anyone in my life that really sat with me in my pain (that would come later), so I buried it, abandoning myself in the process.
But I understand where they were coming from. They either had a super-natural gift of faith that could conquer any problem, or they didn’t know what to say.
Anyway, I gave it my best shot. And you know what gave us over the next 15 years? It got me several years of his non-sobriety, then a stretch of six years of sobriety, followed by four more years of his non-sobriety, with even more lying this time.
So, for me, it didn’t work. For him it didn’t work. For us, it didn’t work.
It didn’t solve the problem. It didn’t bring us closer together. It didn’t start us talking again.
THIS TIME WAS DIFFERENT
After the last confession, I heard the same thing—have more faith—only this time instead of responding with unquestioned obedience, I wrestled with it and noticed where that term landed in me.
-At first I noticed how guilty I felt under the weight of it: “Why can’t I get this right either? Why is this so hard to shake? Why am I failing at this too?”
-Then I remembered another line I’d heard: “We’re not supposed to have faith in faith. We’re supposed to have faith in God.”
-One day, another realization hit me: “Why was I the only one given this phrase? If people had said that to my husband this whole time, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”
-At one point in my healing I started getting angry, “Trust me, if I had more faith, I wouldn’t be with this guy anymore. If your intention is for us to stay together, I don’t think you want me have more faith right now, ‘cause I would leave in a heartbeat.”
-At times I thought: “If I hear ‘have more faith’ one more time…”
I sat in those last few responses until I came out the other side, which brings me to today.
KEEPING IT BALANCED
Sure, trusting in a Higher Power was important to both my husband and me. But it wasn’t the only thing we needed to do. There was so much more the situation required than that very-truthful, yet very-pat answer. I can’t speak for my husband, but I needed more than just more faith. I needed to be heard. I needed reassurance. I needed to be able to depend on my husband.
I needed answers to my questions: Why does this hurt so much? Am I wrong for this hurting so much? What am I supposed to do? Am I enough? Do I matter anymore? Does anyone hear me?
Yes, I should have said things like that more. Maybe it was my mistake.
Wait… Omigosh! That was my mistake! I allowed that one little phrase shut me down. I chose to start bargaining with God, hoping that was enough. (Holy crap! I think they were right.)
I did need to have more faith, but not in the sit-down-sit-still-and-be-quiet sort of way. I needed to keep searching, to widen my net, to find others and ask them my questions.
With more faith, I would have asked those well-meaning people:
-If you are telling me to have more faith, would you tell him the same thing?
-Is that all you would tell us to do?
-Do you think that would be enough to keep him sober?
-Is that all you would tell an alcoholic? Is that all you would tell a crack addict?
-Are you just saying that because you don’t know what else to say?
-Is this issue affecting your life too?
With more faith, I would have asked the women in my life:
-What is my role in all this?
-How much can I not like this?
-What input am I allowed to have?
-Do I have a say in what happens to me in this marriage?
-How much influence can I have here? Because I have a lot of ideas that I think will work.
With more faith, I would’ve asked the men in his life:
-What does this mean about me?
-Does this mean he doesn’t love me?
-Does this mean he wants those other women more?
-How do I keep this in perspective? Because it’s crushing me!
-Is it going to be like this forever?
-Do you guys know how to call him higher? To call him to be the man he wants to be without shaming him—without making it worse us?
-Why does he keep going back to it, if he says he hates it so much?
And I’d scream:
-Why Aren’t I Enough For Him?
And I’d cry:
-Why aren’t I enough for him?
And lastly, quietly, I would have asked all of them:
-Can I trust you? Because right now I can’t trust him.
That’s what I would have done if I’d had more faith.