Love

A few weeks ago I did a post about compartmentalization. I think its important to talk a little about love too, in conjunction with the compartments. When I hear the question, “How can he do this?” from a wife it is often accompanied by, “he couldn’t love me and do this”. Most often, this is simply not true.

By and large the guys I work with honestly, genuinely do love their wives. They hate the damage they’ve caused and never intended to hurt the one they love the most on the planet. This was true for me too. I questioned myself most days, asking if I really loved Shelley. I knew I did, but I also knew my actions said otherwise. I was conflicted and confused. Ultimately, I started to question what kind of monster or psycho must I be to say I love my wife but continue to commit adultery.

Truth is, I’m not psycho, nor am I monster. I was and am in need of a Savior.

And the issue wasn’t whether or not I loved Shelley; the issue was that I didn’t know what love was. I had a really shallow idea of love.

I find this to be true for many of the guys I help. They love their wives, but their understanding of love is shallow, self-serving, and rooted in conditions. In fact, guys often tell me they feel like their wife’s love is conditional towards them, when in reality they are simply projecting their own dysfunctional notions of love onto their wives (if you’re a wife reading this, please don’t use this against your husband. Have a counselor help sort it out and unpack it).

Anyway, shallow love… I thought love meant nonstop acceptance, never feeling rejected. It meant the absence of conflict (or only on very rare occasions). I expected love to feel good, most of the time. And to feel safe; which translated into sharing what I wanted, when I wanted, without my wife being hurt, being upset, asking a ton of questions, or invalidating what I was saying. I thought love would mean I got my way a lot. That’s how it was in my house growing up as an only child. Love was supposed to equate to a lot of sex too; sex the way I wanted it, when I wanted it. And love entitled me to have a say in my wife’s weight, wardrobe and way of thinking. Need I go on?

I had no concept of the kind of love I think Jesus talked about. You know, that whole “lay down your life” thing? That was awesome when it was convenient and I ended up benefiting. On this short road of recovery, I’ve come to see that there is a more selfless kind of love; a deeper, more authentic, more messy, painful and joyful love.

 The next couple posts will deal with unpacking Love, as it is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

Watch for a post on the first couple attributes, Patience & Envy soon!

ShameShifting

We’ve talked about blame shifting before and how hurtful it is to a betrayed spouse. Unfortunately, blame shifting has a close cousin: shame shifting.

Shame shifting occurs, at my house, when I feel ashamed of my self for something that I’ve done wrong, or didn’t do right, and my wife calls attention to it. Not because she is trying to poke at my shame, but because my choices have affected her. Instead of owning it and being humble, I’ll instead shame her about something, usually related but tangential, in an effort to avoid dealing with my own insecurities.

I had a knack for doing this in the beginning of our journey. When something would happen and Shelley was triggered, she would share it with me. Sometimes calmly, sometimes not so much. Either way I was reminded that my poor choices and infidelity deeply hurt her. Enter shame. And guilt, which was healthy, but not the shame. Rather than practicing empathy, apologizing (again) and trying to be present in her pain I would pop-off calling out something I perceived her doing wrong. Statements like these, that I made,  are indicative of shame shifting:

“You’ve moved past sharing your pain; now you’re just being mean”

“My sin against you doesn’t give you the right to sin back”

“If you wouldn’t yell at me I wouldn’t get angry”

“Are we STILL not past this? We won’t get past it til you let it go”

For a few minutes it felt really good to put her in her place. Then, like a boomerang, the shame would come right back. Only now it was amplified, because not only had I hurt her by my past actions but now I’ve hurt her again by my response in the current conversation. That’s the problem with shame shifting: it always comes back worse than before.

A couple of suggestions should you find yourself shame shifting.

1 – Stop It!

2 – If only it were that easy. Try to recognize the thought patterns of shame shifting. If, when reminded of your sin, your thoughts quickly move to criticism of the person calling attention to it, you’re probably beginning to shift it.

3 – Own it. If you can’t seem to pull the ripcord and stop the words from coming out of your mouth, then when you do realize you said what you said, own it. “I just shamed you instead of owning my own junk. I’m sorry”.

4 – Many people can be the recipient of our shame shifting. For me, it was Shelley, my bosses, people in traffic, baristas, you name it. No matter who it is, we harm ourselves by shifting it. When we allow ourselves to bear the full burden of our sin, we give ourselves a chance to grasp the gravity of its impact on us and those around us. That will get us a step closer to hating our sin.