On Saturday I wrote about how my perception of myself changed with the affair. I’m not really sure why I started with my realization that women found me attractive. But that’s not the only way, or even the biggest way, that my perception has changed.
I wrote yesterday that I thought I was “the good one” in my marriage. First, the whole concept of there being a good or a better partner is – how shall I put this? – complete and utter crap. In a marriage, you’re a team. It goes even deeper than that – you’re one flesh. There is no place for looking down on your spouse. Marriage is not supposed to be a constant fight for the moral high ground.
Second, even though by some standards I did more, sacrificed more, etc, I was cherry-picking those criteria to make myself look better. I was “the good one” because I worked, cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids, fixed everything around the house, etc.
But what I didn’t factor into my calculations was that I was addicted to porn and was constantly hurting and humiliating my wife by using porn and lying about it. I may have been taking care of my kids a few hours a day, but she was taking care of them the other 10 hours a day. I may have been cooking and cleaning, but I was also leaving huge messes from my projects or just out of my laziness. I wasn’t giving her grace when she stumbled, I was just excusing her shortcomings so I could puff myself up even more. I may have been meeting some of her needs, but they were the ones I wanted to meet, not the ones that were most important to her.
For example, direct communication. My wife, like most women, needs and craves direct, intentional communication. Sitting down and talking without distractions, sharing what I’m thinking and feeling – that sort of thing. She asked, and pleaded, and finally begged for it, but I refused to hear what she was saying.
“We’re talking now, aren’t we? So what do you want to talk about?” I’d say. Watching TV together, or surfing the Web in the same room while making occasional comments about this or that was all the talking I needed. So I selfishly pursued my own interests while my wife was starved for attention.
And then there was the self-righteousness. If the house wasn’t clean, it was obviously because she was lazy. After all, I could work all day then come home and clean the house in a couple of hours. “Look at how great I am,” I’d think. I, who already needed and was about to need so much more grace from my wife and my God, was giving her none. The thought never penetrated my self-righteous bubble that maybe the reason my wife struggled with the chores is because she was depressed. And furthermore, part of the reason she was depressed was because she felt like she was in a loveless marriage, or at least one where I had no interest in meeting her needs.
Of course, the ultimate expression of my self-centeredness was the affair. I can talk about how it happened – meeting, talking, getting to know Scarlet, falling in love, and everything that followed – but that doesn’t really deal with the why. At the heart of that question was my selfishness.
There were times as the affair developed when I knew things weren’t right and that I should put a stop to them, but I didn’t because I enjoyed the excitement, the attention, and the feeling of being appreciated (the irony being that I hadn’t given my wife much to appreciate). Even before the affair was an affair, I knew things were going in the wrong direction and yet I selfishly allowed them to progress, telling myself that I wouldn’t let an affair happen. I thought I was too good to let it happen.
And then one day it did. Yet I still persisted in my self-centered determination to make myself happy. I tried to put a stop to it on a couple of occasions, but each time I ultimately went with my selfish desires rather than the right thing for my wife. I told myself that as long as my wife didn’t know, then even though it wasn’t okay, it was something I would permit myself to do. Looking back, the arrogant callousness of those thoughts is just breath-taking, but I still remember thinking “I don’t have to give this up. Not yet, anyway.”
It was only when it all came crashing down that I realized how selfish I had been all along. Not only that, but I had been a real bastard towards my wife. I had deluded myself into thinking I was a great husband because of all the great things I had done, but I had been neglecting her in my self-righteousness. And when a woman came along who I was attracted to and who was attracted to me, I betrayed my wife. I broke my marriage vows. I shared my heart with another woman and I slept with her, while I denied those things to my loving, loyal wife – the mother of my children who had stuck with me even though I had pursued my interests for a decade at the expense of hers. I had not been a good husband after all and I had compounded it by betraying her in the worst possible way.
So when I say I’m a selfish bastard, it’s not hyperbole. It’s the truth that came to me too late. It’s the truth that I’m trying to fix in myself even now.