In the fall I went to a retreat for women who are married to men with same-sex attraction or sex addictions. It was a profound experience, one of the key defining points of my life. It was strange, and wonderful, and heartbreaking, to be in a room full of women who live with the same struggles and sorrows I experience. So many times, as they told their own stories, I found myself thinking, “What! You, too?” There was an unexpected universality to our experiences.
One woman spoke of how her husband cringes when she touches him. I know that cringe well. Another spoke of her anger at being deceived and lied to and blamed for what had happened in their marriage; I know that situation well, too. One spoke of how unfeminine and undesirable she had come to feel, and I wanted to cry (and, later, I did cry. Buckets, I think. A box of tissues’ worth, at least — and I don’t cry) because that is what I have lived with every day of my life for many years. More years than she has been alive. More years than any of them had been alive.
And this retreat was glorious! – but coming home and returning to real life is so hard. Living alone, I had a buffer and my season of grace dragged out much longer than that of the other women, who had families to return to, and family needs to address. For once, I have seen my solitude as something of a luxury.
The luxury couldn’t last, of course. A visit from a beloved friend sent me into a tailspin. I became so anxious during the visit – of being boring, or annoying, or that my house (which announces my coexistence with the black dog to anyone who comes in) would appall him . . . when I wanted him to be comfortable and at peace and to see me at something resembling my best, I certainly was not.
There are still bruises and when those bruises are bumped, I yelp. And my friend bumped into one I hadn’t yet encountered, and I don’t think I really recovered from that – and I didn’t yelp, I roared.
It is so hard to love someone, and at the same time to feel that these circumstances of my past have so battered and warped me that I am no longer worthy of being loved. “Would Christ Himself see you that way?” he asked, when I confessed this to him, in fear and trembling, one evening. Ahh, Darling, but Our Lord is not so fastidious as mortal men. He sees beyond the superficial things that are, so often, all that we mortals can see. There are times when spiritualizing a corporal problem doesn’t help, and this is one of them.
Nevertheless, I will go back and re-read my notes from my retreat, and I will talk with these other women some more, and I will write, and I will try to live well and to see and honor my best self — even if.
But it is hard to feel condemned, rather than called, to being alone.