Sadness, Pain, and Guilt in Marriage


#1

I am a 44 year old male who has been married for 15 years. We have two incredible children, ages 9 and 11....truly they are gifts from God.

My wife and I are currently going through some incredible struggles within our marriage and I'm looking for any guidance and prayers you can offer.

I love my family and have always tried to do what's best for their well being. My wife and I both work, her part time (by choice) and me full time. It's worked well for us but it's been up to me to be the main breadwinner for our family which I am totally supportive of. I've spent years working for large, global companies....very stressful, very intense and I've always had to work incredibly hard in very fast paced environments so that I can be the best provider I can be for our family. We had a comfortable, and not excessive lifestyle.

The problems in our marriage began largely because of my ability (or inability) to handle the stresses and strains of life. Because of my work, the pace, and the pressures of being responsible for a young family, I felt buried under intense feelings of stress. I've always been the type of person who, when stressed or overwhelmed, retreats inwards....becomes quiet, disengaged, etc. I basically retreat under pressure and in doing so, over time, I unintentionally pushed my wife away emotionally, physically, etc. I've never shown anger, violence, or anything like that. It's just my way of dealing with the craziness of work and life was to retreat emotionally.

About four years ago, God opened my stubborn heart and I saw the light....I fully and completely understood that although I tried to do what's right for my family, I failed to do what's right and be there for my wife...as a husband, partner etc and to this day, I feel pain, heartache, and guilt over those lost opportunities to show her how much I care and love her. I know I pushed her away, I know I didn't fully listen to her, I know I didn't fully appreciate her. In short.....I became complacent in our marriage and took everything for granted.

I passionately believe that through God's help and much inner soul searching, a person can fundimentally change and over five years, I've tried so incredibly hard to show my wife that I do understand, I do care, and I do cherish our marriage and her in my life. Unfortunately, at the same time that I "saw the light"....my wife continued to push herself away from me and has continued to do so. Not only has she pushed away but, she's associated herself with a "friend" who has enabled her to believe that because she's unhappy, it's ok to commit adultary, and to pursue other men. To date over the past three years, she's had two affairs and appears to be working on a third with someone she's met at the gym. She's also incredibly angry, hostile, bitter towards me and sometimes I think she's trying everything she can to get back at me through words and actions. She told me once "The only thing I feel guilty about is not feeling more guilty".

I am completely heartbroken and am not sure what to do at this point. I can't help but feel that this is all entirely my fault. Had I been a better husband, maybe she wouldn't have detached herself from our marriage and pursued other people. I am heartbroken about the affairs but I'm struggling with balancing the guilt I feel with the fact that I can't be responsible for all the decisions (good or bad) that she's made. I have forgiven her for her affairs but she cannot at all find it in her heart to forgive me for my mistakes, even when she's said many times that "I know you never intended to hurt me".

My wife is now looking to separate...maybe to clear her head, maybe because she wants to pursue another relationship outside of our marriage. I have never ever been unfaithful to my wife and will continue to honour my marriage vows, even if we end up separating or divorcing which I hope we won't. My first priority is our children and their happiness and well being. I believe they are God's greatest gift and I also believe that my ability to be the best parent I can will be my gift back to God.....that is my focus.

I am scared, sad, heartbroken, frustrated, but I am grateful for my Catholic faith which has given me strength through these many years. Our Parish Priest is incredible....just a rock and I know there is a reason that I came back to the Church 6 or 7 years ago after an gap of about 12 years. I honestly think that God was touching my heart and helping to prepare me for these tough times.

Should I continue to bury myself in guilt? Am I ultimately responsible for my wife going out and having numerous affairs (any lying about them)? Part of me feels yes, part feels no. I would love to hear any feedback.

I believe in the power of prayer for healing, strength, true, and reconciliation. I just want to follow God's plan, whatever his plan may be. I welcome all advice, comments, and most importantly your prayers!

Thanks so much. Sorry for the long winded thread.

God bless you all


#2

Dear Fosgrove,

I am so sorry for the suffering you and your family are going through. So many people must be experiencing in marriage what you and your wife did. There were problems, but you did not realize it because you were so absorbed in doing what you thought was the right thing. She was feeling abandoned by you, and had no idea why you were treating her as you were. If she had known why, if she had known how to reach you, things could have been different. If only you had known, if only she had known...

I admire the fact that you have recognized your mistakes, tried to correct them, and given the credit to God. Given that, I know how hard it can be to have God then allow you to carry this terrible cross. It doesn't make sense. God was working in your life. Things should have gotten better, right?

Of course you are not completely responsible for your wife's behavior. I can't imagine behaving as she has. Deep down, she could not feel good about herself. She may feel "good" about her ability to attract other men, and probably confuses that with feeling good about herself. If she expresses again that she doesn't feel guilty you could always say, "Don't worry. You will." Because someday she will be very sorry for the hurt she is causing, even if that day is a long time coming.

My only advice is that you pray for the ability to forgive yourself for your mistakes and that you be given the grace to deal with whatever is coming next. Of course, pray for your wife. God may grant you a miracle and change her heart. But she may also refuse His grace, and you will need Our Lord to get you through that experience. Keep praying. Offer your suffering for other couples, that they will recognize their difficulties and how to correct them before it is too late. Offer it for your precious children. Unite your suffering to Christ's suffering on the cross. God has opened your heart to His grace and He has a purpose in it all.


#3

Ask your wife if she'd be willing to attend a Retrouvaille weekend with you. It was, hands down, the best thing we ever did for our marriage. We were close to separation and Retrouvaille allowed us to start communicating again. Please, see if you can find one near you soon. Prayers for you and your wife.


#4

Wow, you're story was filled with pain so palpable, I wish I could give you a hug. You could ask your wife to go on the suggested marriage retreat, and definitely make an appointment with your priest to talk about this. He might have some more personal guidance. I take my toughest problems to Our Lady in the rosary, you could try that or a novena to St. Joseph. I wish I had something better to say, but I will pray for you today.


#5

Thank you so much for your feedback and prayers. Yes....the pain is intense...probably the most hurt I've ever been. Up until I found out my wife had her first affair, the most painful time of my life was when my Dad passed away suddenly. The pain I experienced knowing I'd been lied to, and that she was with someone else, gave me more hurt than any other moment in my life. That pain has since intensified as I have found out other things, and as mentioned, I continue to feel intense guilt about my responsibiliy but I also struggle daily a sense of being used, manipulated, and completely disrespected, no matter what I do.

As far as her affairs go, one thing that I really struggle with is the guys who were the other part of the affair. In spite of knowing she's married, has children, etc...they still didn't hesitate to "move in" so to speak. I just cannot understand what happened to human consience and morality..I just don't get what gives people that sense of entitlement that they can do things that ultimately affect the lives of other innocent people (eg my kids). It's way beyond me.

Thank you for the suggestions regarding the weekend away. I would love to but my wife is so disengaged, she's just not interested at this point. I'm thinking that no matter what I suggest, she's too distracted by the guy at the gym, and the possibility of moving on her own so that she can find what she describes as "happiness". In her mind, everyone is entitled to find happiness and her logic is that if she's not happy in her marriage, she has the right to opt out and find happiness outside of our marriage either with someone new, or whatever.

I will continue to keep praying for her, our family, and for peace in our lives. My wife is Catholic but non practicing.....in fact she's quite hostile to the Catholic faith. In spite of that, I pray for her every day that God's grace, love, and direction may penetrate that wall of anger and hostility that she's built up.

At the end of the day, I can only do my best every single day to be the best person, and parent I can be. I may never get another chance at being a husband but...I can at least continue to honour my marriage vows in spite of what happens going forward including the possibility of separation or divorce. If I can do all those things...I can look myself in the mirror and know that I learned from my mistakes, done my best to make amends, and tried my hardest to live the balance of my life with faith, respect, morality, forgiveness, and a trust in Gods love and grace.


#6

" In spite of knowing she's married, has children, etc...they still didn't hesitate to "move in" so to speak. I just cannot understand what happened to human consience and morality..I just don't get what gives people that sense of entitlement that they can do things that ultimately affect the lives of other innocent people (eg my kids). It's way beyond me."

Fosgrove: I don't understand how people can do this either. I just don't get it. Why do some feel it is perfectly ok to step into someone's marriage and disrupt things further. It seems some have no conscience or morality.

"Our Parish Priest is incredible....just a rock and I know there is a reason that I came back to the Church 6 or 7 years ago after an gap of about 12 years. I honestly think that God was touching my heart and helping to prepare me for these tough times."

I'm so glad you came back to the Church and have consulted with the Parish Priest as this will really help you and also I believe as you do that God touched your heart so that you will be able to ask for his assiatance and guidance in these tough times. Prayers.


#7

Thanks for your comment. I often get the feeling that people are so caught up in their personal sense of entitlement that all sense of conscience and doing "what's right" as opposed to "what feels good" is thrown out the window.

I cannot ever imagine myself in a position of trying to "pursue" another woman outside my wife, and especially another who is married, has children, or is in a relationship. It's just so wrong yet....people (men and women) do it all the time...it's like they just don't care of others are affected just as long as they feel good and happy, get their own personal satisfaction, and are "in love" so to speak. They're living in a complete fantasy.....

What's so sad is that people often prey on those who are vulnerable...and put thoughts in their minds that cause them to make decisions that can have horrible affects down the road. That's where my wife is at right now.....this guy at the gym is divorced, and is actually telling her that it's ok to leave....that she deserves to be happy etc etc. I can so see through this guy as I know that he's got another motivation (himself with my wife) but yet my wife just isn't seeing it and there isn't anything I seem to be able to do or say.

All in all...pretty frustrating when I've tried my very best to atone for my mistakes, make amends, change, heal, help, support, and these "people" continue to keep coming into our lives.....it's so frustrating.

At the same time, in spite of the worry and uncertainty, I do have some sort of an inner sense of peace and strength that I know comes directly from God. He's helping me get through this but...I also know that the worst may not be over. At the end of the day, I am absolutely convinced that one way or another, Gods will will be done and if I can do everything I can to try my best to make the best decisions to hopefully achieve Gods will, then I can live in peace and begin to heal.

Life is one wild ride.....


#8

I understand completely the feelings of what you are saying. I wish I had better answers for you to help you through this. I'll remember you at Mass this morning and ask God to give you strength and to guide you through this tough time.


#9

I really appreciate that!! Thank you so much!!!


#10

Watch the movie "Fireproof" - a story about a husband and wife that had grown apart (due to selfish motives), and then the husband is put on the right track by his father who gives him "The Love Dare" - 40 days of bible readings, meditations, and things to do for your spouse. It was hard for him to do an the wife did not respond at all at first, but by the end of the 40 days she came around and wanted the faith that her husband had found during the 40 days. The movie can be rented at Netflix. My wife and I thought it was good and she went and bought a couple of their books which are also very good. I think it would help make any marriage better.

The following website has info about the movie and the 40 day "Love dare".

fireproofmymarriage.com/

Also - drop the guilt. Forgive yourself. You can't go back and change anything. You can only change your future behavior.

Peace,
John Marie Philomena


#11

Thanks for the suggestion. I've heard of that movie....I'll rent it for sure!!

My Priest said the same thing...."drop the guilt". It's hard because even though I know that at the end of the day, my wife chose to commit adultary etc etc, it still is always in the back of my mind that had I been a better husband, she might never had gone down that path. He says that people will often use any excuse to "justify" bad behaviour including blaming others even though deep down inside, they are the ones who ultimately made the decision to go one way or another. I have forgiven her for her affairs...I truly have but I find it harder to forgive myself for hurting others than forgiving others who have hurt me.

I agree with you about moving foward. I've told her many times...I can't change the past...I can live each day in the present, try my best, continue to change, and become a better person for the future. She's so angry about the past..she just can't let go even though she's admitted that I'm a different person. Anger can tear a soul apart...I'm seeing it every day through my wife.

Forgiveness is an amazing thing.....it sets your soul free so I pray every day that there will be forgiveness and healing on both sides. I know God has forgiven me and I feel God knows I'm trying. It's been a very tough learning....but I've become a better, stronger, and more faithful person because of this so there are always good things that come out of terrible times. I just wish my wife would find the same type of healing through faith.

Thanks again. All advice is truly appreciated!!!


#12

Hi Fosgrove,
I haven't been on this forum much but I came across your post while posting my own problem and yes, it is hard to deal with guilt, work towards forgiveness etc. Going to church has always helped me...maybe not always on that Sunday morning, but it is part of me that I know has given me strength over the years, often in the most subtle ways.

If it's any help, I'm sure you aren't alone in this situation. My husband and I have a friend who is going through similar circumstances. He and his wife used to go to our Church, then they went to another one, then just the husband went. We didn't see them for a long time but later learned the wife left him for a fellow she met online. Our friend copes by keeping fit (he works out), keeping busy with work and with their daughter when he is with her...they try to have fun going camping, etc. I know he's furious at the situation (and especially the 'other guy'..okay, furious is too light a term) since my husband has told me such, but I do admire our friend's strength to keep life for him and his child as normal as possible in such a painful situation.

I'll pray for you too..please take it all one day at a time, that's what I've tried to do..I've also found support in my trials with this website..it's run by Irish Jesuits and has some interesting thoughts weekly (click on 'prayer in English':
sacredspace.ie/

Good luck.
Kiki


#13

Thank you Kiki for your suggestion and good wishes. I sympathize with what your friend is going through. Although my wife and I aren’t separated, my sense is she’s simply waiting to “drop the bomb” so to speak. She’s searching for a fantasy and there’s really nothing I can do to stop her if she’s determined. I can only do my best and yes…I believe in taking it one day at a time and see where things go.

I’ve done lots of soul searching over the past while. Maybe I’ll lose my marriage, at least in a civil sense but I’ll continue to respect my vows, regardless of what happens should we get legally divorced. At least I can feel good that although I made lots of regretable mistakes in my marriage, I’ll continue to respect and honour my vows as I truly believe that’s the right thing to do. More importantly, I will do everything I can to be the best Dad I can be and I feel good that God will appreciate those efforts. My kids truly are Gods greatest gift to me and I just want them to be loved, nurtured, and feel “safe” even if things don’t improve between my wife and I.

I will check out that website link for sure. Thanks for the suggestion! If I can ever return the favour, don’t hesitate to let me know


#14

fos,

adultery is a vicious wolf that tears the guts out of families. i'm so sorry your wife has callously invited that wolf into your lives.

40 days of love will be quadruply more powerful and miraculous

if you:

** offer Eucharists and novenas for her conversion and repentance and the healing of your marriage and family.

** remember she is offending GOD even more than she is offending you. pray for her conversion FIRST so that she can repair her relationship with GOD, THEN so she can repair her relationship with you. (i.e., relationship with GOD is your *first* prayer, though it may or may not be the first one answered. this is the beginning of disinterested prayer-- to pray for what pleases GOD first.)

also, i don't know if totally 'disengaged' means you are not ever sharing marital embrace, but fos, if you are or have since she started committing adultery, then PLEASE get tested for STD's

somewhere, though, on these threads, is the canon law about adultery and the role of the innocent spouse. the Church is clear that you, the innocent spouse, have the right and responsibility to protect yourself and your children. i'll dig around and post it.


#15

Thanks so much!!!

I pray every day that my wife finds healing and that God can somehow touch her heart. I appreciate your suggestion that I focus a bit more on her relationship with God and will work to keep that in mind when I'm praying.

Do you have a particular Novena that you might suggest? Every day I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet but if there's a particular Novena you think might be helpful, I'd appreciate it.

I also appreciate your suggestion on the potential for STD. When I say disengaged...I mean disengaged. She won't even let me hold her hand so from my perspective, I'm fine. I hope that her "fantasies" at least allowed her to think clearly enough to use protection...

My wife grew up Catholic but grew away from the chuch like many (including myself) often do. I came back, she didn't and she's become quite hostile to it. I sometimes think she blames God for the problems in her life. Her home life was tough...a very cold, unaffectionate Mother and I really believe a lot of issues began when she was younger. I really feel sad for her and wish she'd let me in to help her more but as I've tried to grow closer, she's pulled away. It was the reverse a number of years ago....I was so stressed out with the pushes and pulls of life that I pulled away when she tried to get closer so I am understanding a lot of how she must have felt and I feel very sorry and sad for the pain I caused her.

Thanks again. I will pray that she feels the presence of God in her heart and may allow him in to heal. God's grace changed my life completely.....I am a living proof that people can change very bad habits and personality traits.


#16

i am living proof, too, fos. GOD's grace is more powerful than all the crud i ever heaped into this world.

All love begins in the Heart of God, fos. there is no real love which hasnt begun in the Heart of GOD. if it's real, it began there and it will remain there.

so i suggest prayers to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. the Memorare (seen below) is where i live. the entreaty, "O Good Jesus. Within your wounds hide me." is the story of my life. and i have a pretty happy life!!! so especially in my sorrows, that entreaty means everything to me. here's the memorare to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

Remember, O most sweet Jesus, that no one who has had recourse to Thy Sacred Heart, implored its help, or sought its mercy was ever abandoned. Encouraged with confidence, O tenderest of hearts, we present ourselves before Thee, crushed beneath the weight of our sins. In our misery, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, despise not our simple prayers, but mercifully grant our requests. Amen.

here is a novena to the Sacred heart of Jesus. i suggest you make it an open ended novena. keep praying it. beware of how the devil wants you to stop. you will see anger, despair, resentment, vengeance all creep in. he wants you to not pray for her in a disinterested way. he wants you to be distracted and angry because your prayers are powerful. he hates your prayers. he hates your wife. he hates you-- because he hates GOD WHO loves you. just beware of his traps and soldier on with GOD's grace. no matter what happens. even if your marriage ends. soldier on in prayer for your wife. never give it up praying.

http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/heart/sh_novena.htm


#17

let's try that link again:

ewtn.com/devotionals/heart/sh_novena.htm

ewtn.com/devotionals/heart/sh_novena.htm


#18

It seems to me that the main problem is your wife's previous affairs, and her current one. They are not your fault - they are her choices. She'll keep blaming you, but that doesn't mean you have to accept the blame. You have shown that you are willing to be talk with her, and do your best to be a good husband - she can't expect any more than that, and it is a lot more than she's contributing.

This pattern with adultery is common - the cheating partner putting all the blame on the faithful spouse, and the faithful spouse taking that blame, and going in to a destructive cycle of appeasement, anger, and pleading.

I went through it to, when my wife left me for another man.

I recommend James Dobson's Love Must be Tough. He is a protestant, but, as far as I can see the book is totally consistent with Catholic marriage theology.

His main point is that the faithful partner must be strong, under great duress, to recognize that the other person has their freedom, and to grant them that freedom, but not to support it. It certainly isn't guarenteed to save your marriage, but it can save your own self respect, and give the marriage whatever chance it has.

You, and your family, are in my prayers.


#19

"Should I continue to bury myself in guilt? Am I ultimately responsible for my wife going out and having numerous affairs (any lying about them)? Part of me feels yes, part feels no. I would love to hear any feedback."

No, and no. Her feeling neglected is understandable; what she did about it was entirely her decision.

My opinion (disclaimer: I have not walked in your shoes):

Pray.
Take it one day at a time.
Do not pretend she hasn't done what she's done, but do try to forgive -- not forgiving her will do more harm to you than to her.
Make sure you tell and show your children that you love them. Every single day.
Be prepared (it sounds like you are) for the possibility that your marriage may not survive. Do not take 100% of the blame upon yourself.
Pray.

And I know that many here will be praying for you both.


#20

Everyone here is so wonderful.....thank you all so much for your suggestions, prayers, good wishes, and thoughts.

I will pray that Novena and will certainly pray that she lets God into her heart and life.

As for forgiveness, I have forgiven her and as hard as it is, I've even forgiven the other people who have hurt myself, and potentially my kids. Doesn't mean I have to like them....but I've forgiven them. It's freaking hard but....I have to.

I will try to do better not to be pushed down that path of anger and destruction...I felt last year like I was but this year I'm feeling more at peace with myself, in spite of all the chaos and uncertainty around me. I guess that's what Faith and God's grace does to you :)

I appreciate everyone who has responded and thanks for all your prayers. If there are any other suggestions, I'd love to read your postings as these have helped me tremendously knowing that there are so many people who I have never met willing to take the time to care, encourage, and offer advice. What an incredible example to me. Thank you so much.


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