I didn't tell a soul. I couldn't. I felt paralyzed.
The shame and embarrassment alone made it near-impossible for me to utter a word about my husband's affair. But added to that was my role as the head of a ministry. I didn't know who I could turn to for help, when most everyone I know is connected to Thrive in some way.
Shame muted me.
Pride froze me.
Fear paralyzed me.
I finally confided my suspicions in two friends. They made me feel less crazy, less invisible. They prayed with me and for me, and kept me breathing when I didn't want to.
I eventually sent one email to a pastor friend. Even though I was deathly afraid that it could affect his support of our ministry, I was desperate. My email was vague, hinting at trouble in our marriage. He responded and said he'd pray. And then he never mentioned it again.
Somehow that reinforced the message inside that I needed to keep my mouth shut.
I know now how foolish that was. With the benefit of hindsight, I so wish I'd spoken up. I regret not pushing past my own paralysis and actively seeking more help.
My deep regret heaped more shame on top of me. I blamed myself because I imagined things would have been very different had I actually spoken up. When I told my counselor how I felt, he told me that nothing I could have done would have yielded a different result.
I immediately dismissed him. I rolled my tear-filled eyes and shook my head. I told him there are too many hypotheticals for him to be certain of that.
He told me that maybe I could have done something that would have affected the situation---I could have somehow forced the relationship to end. But none of those efforts would have changed Niel's heart---because that's a choice he needs to make on his own.
"Nothing you could have done would have yielded a different result because this is about Niel's character and issues, not yours."
It took me several weeks, but I finally began to see the truth in what he said. And it brought such freedom to my heart.
My entire life I've thrown myself under the bus, carrying the blame for anything that doesn't work out as it should. If someone doesn't take responsibility for their wrong or the hurt they've caused, I take it on myself. But I'm learning to only own what's mine to own.
And this is not mine to own.
That doesn't mean I don't wish I'd done things differently. It doesn't mean I did everything right. I definitely acknowledge and take ownership of my personal failures and shortcomings. My sin. I take responsibility for the things I've done wrong. I've repented and am working on correcting my heart issues so I don't repeat the same patterns of sinfulness.
I take full responsibility for my decisions and actions. But I don't need to carry the weight of shame for someone else's decisions and actions.
Easier said than done.
But every day my heart is more free than the day before.