This is Day 3 in the series “31 Days: What You Should Know Before An Affair“
It was just over five years ago now, my pounding heart rose before dawn to rehearse my talk. I would be speaking to a room full of women and I would be telling them my story. And for some milestones, no amount of rehearsal will ever be enough.
This was one of those moments.
My soul lived the previous ten years alone—carrying a secret, while trying to rebuild a new life from nothing. But nothing, is what I thought I deserved.
I’d been a music pastor’s wife, the mother of a sweet two-year-old boy, residing in a quaint house on a tree-lined cul-de-sac street, living the perfect little life–at least theoretically perfect–from the outside. And then I had a two-and-a half-year affair with another music pastor. I lied, and cheated, and betrayed. Then because of my hardened heart, I divorced.
Two years later I married the man I had an affair with. You don’t even have to be a Christian to know that is wrong. In fact, on the fundamentalist evangelical sin-scale, it’s pretty close to the unforgivable mark. So with a scarlet letter applied to my heart, I forged through the effort of building of a new life, afraid of vulnerability and terrified to show up and be seen.
I created my pat deflective answers to the typical get-to-know-you questions, and invested time getting to know other women at a new-to-me local mom’s group. There, talk about breastfeeding, baby schedules, and playdates dominated the more controversial and revealing parts of my life, including my past.
If I could just keep the illusion alive—helping them see who I wanted to be instead of who I had been—I could rebuild a life of peace and joy and my past could be behind me. Or so I thought. It just wasn’t that easy. Regret settled in like a close friend. And it’s companion, shame, reminded me I might not be worthy of the love and belonging I craved.
I wrestled with being transparent about my past or being willing to be seen, mostly because I believed the lie that if others knew where I’d been and what I’d done they’d reject me. So I carried on, weighed down with an angst-filled soul. I stayed busy working part-time as a nurse and having babies of my own, and the years rolled by.
I still remember where God cracked open my guilty heart to let His love ooze in. I attended a women’s retreat and in a moment of irrational I-don’t-know-what-got-into-me God following, I told a few women about my past. And because of my story, one of them realized she didn’t have to have everything perfect first before she could surrender her life to Jesus, which is what she’d been waiting for. That weekend she accepted Christ.
That began my daring journey toward increasing transparency—toward a willingness to fight to show up–to be willing to be seen.
I grew to better understand and absorb the magnitude of God’s unconditional love and the new mercies which were already mine in Christ.
I began to find hope that I may not be completely rejected if I took the risk to share my past, and I began one person at a time.
Perhaps you struggle with this too—with or without an affair complicating the struggle. I think it is so scary to show up and be willing to be seen. It requires vulnerability, which is a challenge for us all—with or without an affair complicating it all. That’s because it’s a risk to be vulnerable. We risk rejection, failure, and shame—not feeling like we’re enough—and realizing someone may learn how “not enough” we really are. Especially in the aftermath of an affair.
“Vulnerability is having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control of the outcome. It is our most accurate measure of courage.”
You need to know, an affair will make it even more difficult for you to be vulnerable. The shame will nullify your courage for a very long time. You will have to fight even harder to show up and be seen, and that’s after the lies stop, you get help, and choose to begin to heal.
Oh how painful the process is.
I don’t want that for you.
In future posts we’ll talk about how to choose to show up and be seen right where you are, to cultivate the connection you’re craving.
While an affair may seem to be a satisfying and easy fix right now, it will be the very longest way to get to what you’re longing for.
I’ve taken the long way, and I can tell you this is true.
So a decade after my affair, with increasing hope and risk, I dared to show up and be seen. First with my in-real-life people, one person at a time, then as a speaker and a writer.
It’s been a long journey and I’m still traveling.
What is your biggest obstacle to being vulnerable?
How are you fighting to show up and be seen?
Read Day 4 HERE
Throughout this series, if you have a question or a struggle and want me to address it or write on it in this series, please send me an email (jacque at jacquewatkins dot com) or a voicemail (green button on right sidebar) and I will do my best to incorporate it into this series. It will make me so happy to have feedback from you and to write what it is you might need. I can’t wait to hear from you.