On a residential street lined with leafless trees, I had just reached my car, feeling relaxed from a massage, when my phone rang. My husband was coming home. He worked so much my heart leapt. Maybe we’d get take-out and watch a movie as we snuggled up. Yanked from my reverie, I heard, “I’ve been accused of sexual harassment.” Suddenly, the overtime, the snazzy outfits, and the STD he’d explained away took on new meaning. I collected my wits. This wasn’t a phone conversation.
In a panic, I called my counselor and left a message. I can never repay her for calling me back that night and grounding me as the earth quaked beneath me. I’m not sure how I drove home safely.
In the privacy of our home, I learned that the harassment my husband was dismissed for was only the tip of the iceberg. There are no words for the pain of discovering that my beloved—the one man I had begun to trust, who knew my story of being trafficked as a child—was purchasing trafficked women. How could my beloved…the charming, respected, Christian leader…be a “john”? I well knew that Christians purchase trafficked women, but I’d married a good man, hadn’t I?
I reeled from the data of his unchecked sexual addiction. It was so like my childhood abuse, and he…suddenly so like my perpetrators. The level of duplicity, lies, deception, heinous sexuality, cruelty, and remorselessness… Perhaps the most difficult of all his betrayals—he had used my story to get in with women and to fan the flames of his twisted desires.
I tried to gather the pieces of the man I so desperately wanted him to be and put them back together, but they no longer fit. I couldn’t unsee the other man. Who would believe me? I couldn’t. And yet, I knew this other man; my abusive childhood had habituated me to betrayal. I used to question how I could have married a good man. Heartbreakingly, I now knew that he fit into my story like a missing puzzle piece.
Divorce wasn’t supposed to be my story.
We were supposed to be holding hands in old age. But it became clear he was committed to not engaging his brokenness, and I began to believe I was worth more.
As a divorcèe, I have learned that even in this modern era I am an outsider. A friend once told me, “The stigma of divorce is still very real.” I didn’t want to believe that but, sadly, it’s true. A thousand experiences conveyed this; I’ll share two.
Though few knew the details of my husband’s betrayals, in a coupled world there was immense societal pressure to repair or tolerate his addiction. It was bewildering and excruciating how seldom any responsibility was placed with him. This painted for me our cultural view of women. It didn’t matter what the betrayal, how profound it was, or how repentant or unrepentant my husband—it was my fault and mine to repair.
My childhood trauma is easy to blame, but his addiction pre-dated our relationship. And even if it hadn’t, what we don’t say is that there are things that no one should ask of his or her spouse. I’m not sure how it became woven into our cultural belief that men can’t help themselves, but they have as much agency as women, and it has been used to wield great harm. Dear reader, my husband chose to break our covenantal vows. He chose how he broke them. And he chose not to seek healing.
If I may be so bold, I know some of you may have a similar story. Your spouse also has agency and you deserve to be honored. However it comes about—whether through your spouse’s repentance or your leaving—you deserve more.
As I mourned, I came to see my trauma as a death. The death of my marriage. The death of my beloved in my life. The death of our dreams for the future. The death of my hope of having children in my arms. It was the rending apart of lives intertwined for a decade and a half. But I began to realize that in our culture we have no traditions of mourning divorce. There are no flowers or cards. No meals brought by friends. No mourning clothes. No bereavement leave. No funeral. No graveside service. No marker upon which to weep. I was wholly alone. It was me and my four-footed friend trying to wake for another day, sort out how to make ends meet, and fight for the hope of a brighter future…a future too far off to see.
I am in a better place now, but it’s still a battle. Every weekend, vacation, holiday, and child’s laugh, I’m reminded how alone I am and the dreams that once were.
Marín is on a long journey toward healing from complex trauma and invites you to be a part of her archaeological pilgrimage through the truths she’s only beginning to know herself. Through tears she’s starting to find beauty again in life, writing, artistic expression, adventure, curiosity, community, spirituality, and bringing goodness to her body. More than anything, she treasures her time with her beloved four-footed friends. Marín cherishes being part of the Red Tent community, and to free her to share the rawness of her soul with you, she requests anonymity.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m right there with you. I know isolation isn’t good but often it feels like it is the only answer. Healing with you in a mixed up culture.
Thank you for commenting, Debra. I know the isolation you speak of too well. I have had to force myself out of my chair to sit in the sunshine for 10 minutes per day. And many other necessary acts of self care that felt like Herculean tasks. May there be at least one friend who will sit in your grief with you with zero judgement, demand, or pressure. Sending a hug from a sister.
Thank you for sharing your heart wrenching story. While I haven’t lived through everything you’ve experienced, I do know that place of betrayal (twice), divorces I never expected, and the missing acceptance of grieving. I’ve been remarried for thirteen years to a kind, godly man who is equally crushed over the exploits of those who cater to their lust and I’m grateful. But I still feel the tug of “twice divorced” shame on my heart. If my pain was as difficult as it was, I can’t imagine how deep yours must go. I’m so sorry. My prayers are with you. There is hope for healing.
Laura, your comment brought tears to my eyes. It makes me feel less alone in my grief and cultural shaming that is not ours to bear and get present nevertheless. Thank you, too, for the hope. I want to believe there are good men out there, though that has not been my experience until The Allender Center.
Your story is the story of so many. We never thought divorce would be a part of our lives and the jarring reality shakes our core. The logistics–name change, address change, even emails, and dentist, and where to shop and who is my doctor now? And health insurance, and who can I trust, and church community, and really, who am I in the midst of this chaos? I have found this is my perfect time to trust God for my future–financial, relational, professional. Trust, take it back, trust, take it back; I don’t always do it well, but it’s the only time there is peace in the chaos. Thank you for sharing your journey to hell and back. I decided to celebrate March 15–the date my divorce was finalized–as my day of freedom from abuse rather than trying to squeeze the square peg of my wedding anniversary into the round hole of society’s expectations.
Marin, Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful example of a woman embracing her strength of vulnerability. This painful tale will have a ripple effect far beyond what you may see. Much as a wound must be scrubbed in order to heal properly, hidden wounds also require painful but necessary attention. Our animals remind us what our True Father tells us- we are enough, even when sitting in the ashes. Sending you love and light.
My eyes are filled with tears. Memories of being told my husband molested my daughter..years of counseling and so much more..remembering my daughters words “mom, I am not whole anymore and no one will ever want me.” Standing in front of her not knowing how to fix this and also knowing I could not..heartbroken and confused. Being blamed for ‘letting it happen?’It has not been something that can be swept away, ever, but truly seeking after the Lord and knowing how much I am and always have been loved, has brought me through.
Seeking His will for my life daily knowing I am extremely blessed and fearfully, wonderfully made, brings me comfort..peace in my heart. Lifting up prayers for all those walking through the same…much love and blessings to you, my friend..
Your story is so true and raw; it is painful to read. Our stories of betrayal are all different. I respect you letting us into your story. It has to be healing to be able to share (in the non-judgmental world of Red Tent). Like Judie (above) wrote, “we’ll never be whole again,” but God is very gifted at using broken vessels. Keep writing, keep healing. God speed.
This mirrors my story very closely, except I have not gained the courage to leave. This was helpful to leave and I thank you for sharing your story.