I hope you don’t mind yet ANOTHER email from me. I make sure I go back and read the chat room logs as often as I can to keep up with what has been happening in your lives and marriages. So many of you demonstrate such a spirit of compassion and understanding toward one another. It is truly humbling to see how God has strengthenedyour hearts through all the turmoil and trials you have had to endure. I wanted to just thank you. Thank you for being so faithfuland for continuing to love in the face of such rejection from your loved ones. As new people join the "group", I see many of the same questions come up that those of you that have been dealing with this for some time have already had to address and come to terms with. And I see the gentle hand you use in trying to communicate what you have learned with those who want to understand so badly. Keep up the good work. It is sowing good things for the future of so many.
I thought I would take some time to share some of my insights (by no means applicable to every guy that goes through a midlife crisis) on a more specific level than I have in the past. Maybe it will be beneficial.
A lot of ladies keep asking the question, “Why do they lie?” I’ve thought long and hard about that, because that characterized my rebellion so well. Lying came so easily for me as I went through what I did. Unlike many of your spouses, I refused to acknowledge much of what I was doing behind my wife’s back. I didn’t move out of my home and move in with someone else, and though I was trying to be "uninvolved" in my church, I was still going and suffering through the attempts to maintain a front. Talk about misery. I maintained that front at home too. I lied about my affair. I lied about the things I had to do to maintain that affair. I lied about the resources I had to "steal" from my family to support that affair. I lied whenever my wife confronted me. I lied about the trips to be with the other woman. I lied to my friends and my family. And I did everything I could to avoid facing the truth with God.
Why did I lie? ..........
I’ve mentioned many times that a midlife man lies to feel more in control. When everything that used to be a foundation for him begins to crumble, a midlife man will do and say things that give him a sense of being in control of his choices. He wants the best of both worlds; even though he sees his former life as being the cause of all of his misery. When confronted with the truth, oftentimes he will grow angry and irrational. He will attempt to twist the truth to make it appear as if he is just not being “understood”.
I can remember how obstinate I used to get; and how I would feel like it was my “right” to do and say anything I wanted to (but at the same time feeling like I needed to hide it!). How easy it became to point my finger back at my wife and say in my heart that she MADE me lie by insisting on knowing what I was doing. In my mind, even my lying became her fault! And her sensitivity to it drove me nuts! She tells me now that more than anything else — even the affair — what hurt her most was my deceitfulness. I used to cringe every time something new was “discovered” because I knew it meant another battle; another requirement for me to squirm out from under the exposed lie; even if that meant I had to come up with more good sounding excuses in an attempt to explain it away. It may not be the same for every guy going through midlife -- but for many, there is a real fear of losing control. Ironic, since most everything in our lives at that point are already out of control. They may be like I was -- a coward who just couldn’t take that final step needed to leave. (And I have God to thank for not only intervening and bringing me to my senses, but for using my own weaknesses to keep me from doing worse harm to my wife and family). The lies made it possible to keep up the charade. They enabled me to enjoy all the emotional and physical things the other woman was bringing to me while not having to face the consequences at home for my actions. (Which looking back on it now, was really stupid -- because my home was a miserable place to be for everyone during this time -- I was reaping the consequences of my deceitfulness and selfishness by making everyone miserable, including me!)
It doesn’t stop with the wives; midlife men go on to blame others for their circumstances and their misery. What they bring on themselves is almost always perceived as someone else’s fault; how foolish. It reminds me of the prodigal son; stranded in a foreign land when his money runs out and famine hits; I wonder how long he tried to blame everyone else before he finally came to himself? The Bible doesn’t really say.
I have asked Jim why some guys have such a negative reaction when midlife hits. He has reinforced what I suspected. Many of us bring so much baggage to this stage of our lives -- baggage that we have kept hidden for most of our lives. The more religious we are, in many cases, the more baggage we carry and the deeper it has been stuffed down in our "disciplines" of church, job, family, responsibilities, etc. I am amazed at the violence of the "explosion" when things begin to break loose. There is truly a problem that men in our society are refusing to deal with and I think the reason so many are "going off the deep end" when they get to ML is because they don’t even understand the problem. Midlife is nothing more than a catalyst; a developmental stage in a man’s life that releases the locks on whatever is lying dormant in his heart.
Many men have been raised with a father in the house but not at home. What we learned, we got from our peer group and the TV. We learned to be entertained, not to think and do and achieve in the ways the generations before us did. We learned that dad was the guy who paid the mortgage and kept us in line. But many of us never received what we needed most from our fathers -- the blessing -- the bestowing of our manhood. Our fathers were absent when it came to the deepest question of our hearts -- Dad, do I have what it takes. Am I a man?
Without much interaction with a father, God becomes someone who is unreachable on anything more than a "religious" level. There's no intimacy -- no connection with the God of the universe. When you need someone as badly as a son needs his father, and the dad who comes in at 6:00 exhausted is the one who is showing you who God is, and you are then impressed constantly by a culture that values independence and selfishness, you get a crop of husbands that come into a marriage clueless as to what it is they’re supposed to be and do. So we look for pleasure and we sin. The more we sin, the more we seek pleasure to get away from the pain of the guilt. And through it all, we avoid God at the deepest levels. I haven’t met a Christian guy yet whowas out of the will of God and didn’t know it someplace in his heart. There’s a difference between ignorance and refusal to submit, but claiming ignorance makes us feel better. There’s an anger at God, too, because if He’s like the guy that paid the mortgage but never really had a lot of time for us; well you get the idea. Dad didn’t care, so God doesn’t either. We have too many husbands and fathers here in this generation who have promoted faithlessness in this world, made fools of themselves, and spent their lives like God didn't care, and we did a lot of damage. We don’t want to hear that, though, and we don’t want to turn face up to it to figure out how to lance that wounded place in our hearts so God can begin to heal us and mature us.
Unfortunately, because we have this deep need for intimacy with God and we can’t find it, we turn to substitutes. We can get what we need from the wife. We can hide in the pleasure of her. Sex is a great escape from that fear so many of us have carried throughout our lives. So if my wife has what I need to escape my fear and she won’t give it, I can always point to the Bible and demand it. Or maybe withhold affection or money or respect or even conversation until she gives in. Get forgetful or wimpy or childish, cling to her or avoid her, but find a way to make her make me feel good for awhile. Like she’s God or something, and the pressure kills not only her desire for me, but her love for her Father because the guy who is supposed to look to God is looking to her and it confuses her. And when she fails to perform, we grow resentful - but we bury it. We distance ourselves emotionally. We lose ourselves in our work; or other distractions because we still can’t recognize that wound inside; the one left by our earthly father that has driven us to mistrust God and look for our own solutions to that deep yearning.
Sometimes guys will go to another woman right away; others will deny themselves that option (even though they still have the yearning for SOMEONE to fill that place that is reserved for God alone) until midlife hits. Then, guess what happens? All the disciplines that they have been relying on to help them control their longing disappear and their lives begin spinning out of control. There is little or nothing left to “restrain” the longing; and now the option of another woman becomes almost irresistible. And once a man enters that foreign land, it takes time, suffering and God to bring him to his senses. Midlife may devastate and cause tremendous grief for many people, but God can and does use it to bring men back to Him; to let them know that the wound they carry in their masculinity -- the wound they have forgotten about, can only be healed by the one who is Father to the Fatherless. And that's His goal in the long run -- to bring men back to Him where they can mature and become real men.
Forgive me for rambling on about all of this, but the more I look back on my life the more I am convinced that I was set up for failure long before my ML ever hit. I thank God that He has become to me the Father I needed; the one who gave me a new name and spoke into my heart that I am loved and I have what it takes. I pray that He will reveal Himself to your spouses in time so they can “come to themselves” and begin returning home.
I also want to encourage you all to view your husbands as God’s men first and foremost; and when the tendency arises to view your life as damaged because your husbands are gone either physically or
emotionally, that you will remember that your purpose here isn’t diminished at all by what your husband is going through. God is your strength and your reason for living. Let him fill you to overflowing with His grace and His love so that you can truly be a "light set on a hill" to guide your husband back into the arms of Jesus.