A Bond of Three Strands

Full Disclosure:  I have laid my life bare before the world the past 8 months because I don’t want anyone to ever have to live a life ruled by ED.  This post is true transparency not only for me, but also for Benj.  We revised this together, but because Benj is more private than I am, because he doesn’t write to process, because he doesn’t write to rid himself of ED, he struggles sharing what we’ve experienced.  He still deals with hurt, anger, and disappointment.  I still deal with guilt and regret. I didn’t ask for ED just like no one asks for cancer.  So to feel anger, guilt, resentment means trying to channel emotions at a shifting cloud.  We just feel.  But we’ve committed to healing through God’s grace and the love of family and friends.  Our marriage isn’t perfect, that would be impossible, but this post is to show just how deeply ED infiltrated our lives.  It compares then and now.  Honestly, Benj would be happier if I didn’t post this because this is our story at its deepest level and it still has the power to hurt.  But he also knows why I feel it needs to be shared.  He understands and supports.  And the joy now outweighs the pain ED caused.  Please read this post with empathy, not sympathy.  Read in joy with us, not in pity for us.  Read living in the present with us, not standing in the past no one can change.  Read knowing that ED can represent many barriers in marriage, and that is why we feel called to share our story with whoever it needs to find. We write this as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power in His saving grace.

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Benj and I have been married for 14 years on July 25.  I had an affair for 13 years and 3 months of that time.  I married Benj under false pretenses.  I believed that I could love both him and ED at the same time.  Benj never had a chance.  We never had a chance to truly understand the depth into which a marriage should develop.  I pretended I could do it.  I pretended Benj was ridiculous for assuming it had to be him or ED.  I got angry when he tried to make me decide.  How dare he expect me to be faithful to only him.  And so we had a marriage filled with lies, tension, and false pretenses.  But the thing is, we didn’t know that our marriage wasn’t right.  We’d never known any different.  Our lives together began with ED sleeping between us.  I put up walls to protect my relationship with ED while Benj tried desperately to stand his ground and fight for who had he fallen in love with.  I naively, selfishly, defensively tried to make it work.  By the grace of God, we have been married for almost 14 years, but not until the past 8 months have either of us realized what we have lost out on for all that time.  There is deep sadness in that realization for both of us, but instead we choose to live in the joy of discovering what marriage is truly supposed to be.

I don’t know what a physical affair is like, but because I know my affair with ED, I know the pain of separation where unity should stand.  I lied all the time, but I justified my lies.  ED made me believe lying was okay because Benj was being unreasonably selfish.  He wanted me to stop running so much, stay in bed in the morning, eat the same thing he was, go out with friends, stay up later with him rather than being so tired and run down all the time, make meat and potato meals rather than vegetables and fish.  Selfish things like that.  My lies weren’t always outright.  More they were simply absences of truth.  He didn’t have to know I did work out videos in the afternoon or ate even less when he didn’t come home for lunch during the workday.  He didn’t have to know those things, I thought.  But he did.  He knew all my lies and tricks.  And he lived each day wondering how I would break his trust again.  He lived resigned to the fact that I was going to lie to him because ED was more important to me than he was.  Benj knew it.  I denied it.  But the ultimate truth remained:  ED was more important to me than my husband.

Tension tainted our marriage.  I came home from each run tense as to whether Benj would pick this morning to be fed up with my running or if he was going to let it slide because he didn’t have the energy to fight me on it again.  I waited for him to come home from work, wondering if he would be able to see a sign of ED that I had inadvertently left unhidden.  When we disagreed on something totally unrelated to ED, I put my defenses up automatically because I figured he was mad at me because of ED again, even though it had nothing to do with ED.  But for me, everything revolved around ED because ED was all I thought about.  I couldn’t even argue with Benj without being selfish enough to think it had something to do with my affair with ED.  ED was always, always the undercurrent in our marriage.  He colored everything.

We lived on false pretenses without even realizing it.  We loved each other, but complete unity was impossible.  I wondered many times over the years if other couples lived with tension like we did.  I wondered if other husbands were on edge all the time, if that was normal.  I wondered if other couples had the fluctuations in their marriage like we did – the few weeks or months of things being good and then the tension would return.  Was it normal for wives to always feel like they were walking on egg shells around their husbands, never sure if he was going to get upset about something again?  I would never have admitted that my affair with ED was the cause of that anger.  Benj didn’t understand ED.  I didn’t truly understand ED.  Eating disorder was not in our vocabulary so we couldn’t even blame the tension in our marriage on this affair.  For us, this was normal.  A sad definition of normal.

And then came the final straw, the end of the line, enough was enough.  And Benj claimed his love and the right he had to fight for his wife from the mind control of a faceless affair.  He finally realized that he did not have to spend the rest of his life being second best to a compulsion named ED.  He stood up, stood firm, and stood in the line of fire.  In the moment on November 7 when I surrendered everything to God, God began revealing every aspect of my life that ED had colored, stolen, and devoured.  I woke up that first morning at Melrose knowing that I was going to get better because I had let it all go to God.  And Benj became my biggest motivator.  He put his love and life on the line for me. The more I learned about ED, the more I realized how my ED affair had stolen the life out of our marriage, little by little, year after year.  I loved Benj from the start, but ED never allowed me to give my complete self to him.  And finally, after 13 years and 3 months, I could admit the pain and hurt ED had caused him and the depth of the chasm ED had put into our marriage.  Along with everything else, I had to give that over to God as well.  Every day since I have fought ED with one main thought in mind – I will never put Benj through that again. I will never make him second best again.  I will never allow ED to put even a big toe between Benj and me.  Ever again.  I have fought ED side by side with Benj because Benj means everything to me.  Finally, I could see that after giving ED over to God.  Finally, I can understand what God actually did for me by giving me Benj.  He is my greatest blessing on this earth.  I can now see that clearly rather than through ED-fogged glasses.  Benj deserves the best.  He would never say that, but I say it for him, from the perspective of a wife who now sees clearly.  He deserves the best from me.  And he deserves to give ED a steel-toed boot kick in the rear out a glass window and over a canyon into a raging river below.  That’s what Benj deserves to be able to do.  So we’re doing it together because I have a steel-toed boot now too.  And I deserve to give that swift kick right along with my husband.

Please, please, never under estimate the power of ED.  He will kill everything good in your life.  Everything.  And he will make sure you justify his presence, your affair with him, so that you don’t see his evil. You only see how much you “want” him.  When I let go, God showed me the depth and breadth of ED’s evil.  I saw and I ran and I fought with a power that can only come from Almighty God.  And Benj became my greatest cheerleader, encourager, hope-giver, and motivator.  Benj will always be my lifeline.  And I pray I can be his.

What is marriage really like?  Oh. My. Word.  I never knew!  Neither of us can dwell on what we’ve missed because then anger, regret, guilt will set in, and that can only cause more hurt.  Instead, we are focusing on the joy of a marriage based on single-minded love, devotion, and unity.  That doesn’t mean Benj doesn’t struggle with those negative feelings.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry or feel guilt for all ED stole from us.  But we are dealing with those emotions together.  As we both heal, we realize how a marriage should be – free from that constant tension and fear.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have tension, that means it’s not the underlying constant that never goes away.   That means we have the mental and emotional capacity to handle the tension as a part of life, not as a definition of life.

I love Benj with all my heart.  I can only love God more.  And because I love God more, my love for Benj is that much stronger.  We are experiencing a new kind of marriage that we haven’t known before, not filled with lies and tension, but filled with contentment and security.  We have so much fun.  Fun.  We laugh.  He always pulls up these dumb little videos and pictures on Facebook and calls me over to see. He can’t understand why I don’t think they are as funny as he does.  We go for walks sometimes in the morning.  And we talk.  We talk about school and work and the kids and the fact that the boys need a haircut.  We talk without tension standing in the way of being partners in life.  We talk about why I feel the need to post this. I don’t have anything to hide from him and he doesn’t have anything to vie for my attention.  I tell him my struggles and he listens, knowing he just needs to hear me.  He gets irritated with me for not pulling the shades in the heat of the day, and I don’t feel like he’s telling me in code that ED has to go.  ED is already gone.  We argue.  But it’s an open-minded, willing to hear, free from defensiveness kind of argue.  ED is not the underlying tension causing all fights. I don’t walk on egg shells anymore.  He is learning to trust me again as I learn to trust myself.  He shares goals he has, we dream about the future, we discuss finances and weekend plans. All this we do as partners like we never could before because ED made a third wheel.  I am getting to know my Benj because he is the only one I want to know.  I don’t have to hold anything back to give to ED.  An affair splits a heart in two.  My heart is whole again and wholely devoted to Benj.  (Is that the title to a sappy love song?)   We work to respect each other, support each other, encourage each other, trust each other, honor each other.  God makes a strand of three, not ED.  ED unravels; God strengthens.  I understand now.

I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced an affair can truly understand the deep chasm it causes in a marriage.  Loss of trust, loss of respect, loss of honesty, loss of motivation.  A love divided cannot stand, but Benj’s love was stronger than ED’s.  ED didn’t love me.  Benj did and does.  We can’t let looking back suck the joy out of living forward.  I don’t have to be jealous of other people’s marriages anymore because I am completely committed to my husband.  God gave me Benj for a reason.  Our love story is unlike any other.  The red head I remember from kindergarten and never really knew until high school and then became best friends with until God had us ready for each other at the age of 25.  Our love story is proof of God’s redeeming love and ultimate plan.  The future is our focus, not the past.  The one thing the past can do for us is contrast the joy of a collaborative marriage in Christ with the one-dimensionality of a flat marriage.  And so we face forward.  God is good.  We may wish the first 13 years and 3 months of our marriage could have been different, but it wasn’t, so wishing is pointless.  Instead, we focus on what our story signifies now.  We are God’s declaration of what love can do.

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