Can you help me in my agony?

I got married 20 years ago to a man I didn’t really love. I escaped a severe abusive home situation. I thought I understood what marriage is but it’s been 20 years and I still don’t understand it and can’t seem to remain faithful. I didn’t have sex before marriage nor did I date anyone or was allowed. I don’t know how cheating sneak into my life off and on. I cheated four times with different men throughout the years. I never stayed in the relationship. I walk away once the guilt hit and it hits very hard. My normal routine is tell my husband then the church. I’ve always been forgiven by both. We never think of divorce because culturally is not acceptable and of course religiously too. I’m in another relationship now. One that I’m finding very hard to let go of. I tried so many times. My body would undergo tremendous pain, stress, and I get sick. So I went to the doctor and I’m taking medications for my withdrawal symptoms. I told the church this time before I told my husband. I seek forgiveness four times already for the same sin with the same man. I couldn’t take it any more so I told my husband. He still doesn’t want a divorce. He is very hurt but always tells me that he wouldn’t know what he would do if he wasn’t in love with me because he knows I don’t love him the same. He sympathizes with me knowing that my agony is much greater than his because I’m the type when I commits a sin, it affects me so bad that I sometimes end up in the hospital.

I cheated again last night but didn’t tell anyone and I don’t think I want to go the church any more or even say anything to my husband this time. I feel so happy, so secure, so different when I’m with the other person. He’s married too but doesn’t love his wife and staying for his kids. I feel the guilt and pain much more than he does. I left him seven times already, miss him immensely, feel great pain and then ultimately go back to the relationship again.

Now I decided to seek therapy before I tell my husband or the church. In the past, three of the churches I visited told me if my husband is forgiving me then I will not be granted a divorce. My husband tells me that he can never leave me. WHAT I WANT TO DO is divorce him and live alone with my kids to free myself and him from all of the painful lies. I know he will get hurt but in time he will forget me and maybe the kids would begin to see me smile again…for they don’t see that very often.

It’s so easy for people to judge and cast harsh words and insults. It’s so difficult and painful to control the mind and the body. I spent my childhood crying and I got married in hope to begin a different life but finding it to be even more painful. I feel so empty, so depressed when I don’t have love in my life.

I’m in constant thoughts of how many times I’ve violated the church. I look at religious picutres in my house and cry for hours knowing how abandoned I feel, sinful without choice, prisoner, again, in my own home. Wanting to be so happy, tried relentlessly and failed miserably. I don’t know what to do any more.

Please don’t bother yourself if you choose to cast judgment, harsh words, insults, or defame me in any way…don’t worry, I’ve beaten myself to death with that already. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I don’t want to leave my husband because the church says I can’t, it will be a shame to my family and his family, it will hurt him even more knowing that he wasted 20 years of his life, and my kids who will probably never forgive me for separating from him. I can’t stop thinking about the other person, what great lives we can have together, and to actually learn to smile and accept that it’s ok to be happy…

How can I live another 20 or so years carrying so much guilt and feeling unhappy, a sinner, a liar, creating so much unhappiness for my husband that is now percolating to the kids…if that’s what God wants, then I guess it has to be His will and not mine. How can I ever stop. How do people go on cheating and feel happy about it…when I can’t find a day that I haven’t tortured myself just thinking about it. Why is my husband forgiving me?? Why hasn’t he gotten mad enough to either leave me or at least ask who I’m with and why?? Why is the church always forgiving me and telling me that Christ will forgive me because I’m in constant agony. Why aren’t their prayers working? I can’t even find myself to want to go to church any more. I wish I can just die soon enough not to hurt anyone any more, wanting to be judged now than to think about what my punishment will be. I don’t see any way out.

Dear friend,

You have just shared with us your agony—and it is considerable. What you need to do is look to HIS agony. Up until now you have been looking at yourself only within the context of your own life as you have lived it up until now. But we are not our true context. Our crucified savior is our context. Good Friday not only tells us who God is and how much He was willing to endure on our behalf, it also tells us who WE are and that He considers us worth all the suffering He willingly endured—even at our worst times and with our worst sins. He alone has the knowledge to make sense of it all and the power to heal us. He alone can give you the strength that you do not possess. Much of your pain is not the result of your own doing. Your up bringing has had a lot to do with it. He understands this.

You know that you must turn your attention and affections away from someone else’s husband to your own husband and family. The problem is not in knowing what to do, but in having the strength to do what is difficult.

I encourage you to spend an hour before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every day, reflecting on all that He endured and giving Him thanks for it. (I will privately send you a reflection to help you in this.) If you really want to put Him before all in your life, He will give you the strength to do just that and YOU WILL FIND inner peace and inner freedom!

You are in our prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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