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When You are Tormented by a Painful Love

A Weeping Willow by the Lake

The willow weeps for the pain in the hearts of this man and woman.

The willow weeps for the pain in the hearts of this man and woman.

When Love Can't End in Marriage

It sometimes happens in life that people are unwise about how they handle their relationships. Sometimes one's heart can deceive one into thinking conventional wisdom and wise advice is just for other people. Sometimes two people have emotional needs that tempt them to connect in unhealthy ways. Those same needs may also blind them from seeing the sickness in the relationship until breaking the unhealthy ties will create great pain for both, and possibly to innocent bystanders.

We live in an age when it's easy for married men and women to form friendships and even share their innermost thoughts with people other than their spouses. It's most likely to happen when people see each other regularly in the normal course of life -- at work, in classes, even at church or at home.

That's probably why so many affairs spring up in the workplace. People tend to dress attractively for work, and men and women often work together closely, and sometimes they are alone. How natural to start having more personal conversations. It seems very innocent to inquire about the other's sick child or recent vacation. Maybe just small talk. But then one day the a man has a spat with his wife and feels free to tell his co-worker "My wife doesn't understand me." (Yes, it's almost a cliché now, but it still happens) The details spill out. Maybe the woman isn't married and begins to care -- too much. In fact, she may discover that even being married doesn't make her immune from beginning to care more than she knows she should. It becomes an emotionally satisfying relationship.

It could also work the other way. Maybe the man comes to work to find his female coworker in tears because of a fight she had with her husband before work. He asks what's wrong. She tells him. He is sympathetic. Their relationship becomes more personal, and suddenly they discover they are attracted to each other. It may or may not turn into a physical affair, but it still might offer the woman an alternative to her husband when it comes to discussing her problems and distract her from trying to solve whatever problems exist in her marriage. It's much easier to turn elsewhere to satisfy her emotional needs.

Unfortunately, when people begin to share their most important thoughts with each other, physical attraction often follows. It's natural. Those who have moral reasons to avoid infidelity begin to face the truth that a very emotionally fulfilling relationship on which they have become dependent will need to be broken if their marriages are to be saved.

Breaking the relationship can be an emotionally wrenching experience. People deal with it in different ways. Some pray a lot. Some cry. Some try to stay friends but create emotional distance. Some quit their jobs to create physical distance. Some simply find one or the other can't totally cut the ties and keeps trying to communicate. Some write poems. Some get counseling. Some do more than one of these things. The hardest part, perhaps, is to go home at night, emotionally broken, to an unsuspecting partner, and act like everything is normal. (Of course, a perceptive spouse probably knows something is wrong, and is already trying to figure out what it is.)

For some, the emotional infidelity leads to physical infidelity, and that makes it even harder to break the relationship because of the added intimacy. Some come to realize that they are really addicted to the excitement of this kind of secret life. They will face more complex problems that those trying to break a relationship they headed into through lack of wisdom when neither meant it to get out of hand. The books I have suggested will help each kind of problem get resolved, but the hardest part is being willing to look at reality and deal with it.

Some people learn from their mistakes, work harder at fixing the problems in their marriages, and all concerned are able to get on with their lives in a healthier way. Some people simply break -- especially if only one sees the need for the relationship to end or is willing to act on it. In each case, choices have to be made and there will be an emotional toll to pay for each possible choice. The best choice would have been to be wise in the beginning by heeding centuries of wise advice. The wise advice is contained in some of the recommended books.

Yet those who have been unwise do not have to give up hope. They will have to face their emotional consequences, and it will be painful. But they can change their behavior. There will be relief in no longer living a double life. It will feel good not to carry the old guilt all the time. They can begin to do what is right if they determine to live one day at a time by God's grace.

It won't be easy to put your marriage back together when you may not still feel "in love" with your partner, but nothing is too hard for God. He can help turn your heart back to your spouse, and heal your marriage. It may be hard to believe, but when you rebuild your marriage without the unrealistic expectations you may have had on your wedding day, your marriage can be better than it ever was before.

Couple On Beach Gazing at Ocean

Couple in a beach hideaway. Do you see them on  the bench under the tree?

Couple in a beach hideaway. Do you see them on the bench under the tree?

Prayer from a Tormented Heart


Why won't this woman

Whom I have partly known, leave me alone?

Why is it that she continually intrudes upon me

In the inner chambers of my soul?

Why do her eyes still search mine for recognition?

Can she not of her own volition accept her condition?

On my wounds which are so sore, why must she so often pour

The salt which stings me to the core, as I remember yesterday?

How can I shut the door?

Yet I can feel her situation, her hunger for communication.

Once I knew that same frustration

Of longing for that culmination

Of our dream to really know the fullness of each other.

I, too, knew the torment nightly

As in my dreams I held her tightly to my breast,

And pressed my very soul into her,

Wishing I could feel what was real,

And hoping for a sometime.

But now my dreams lie dead.

I buried them alive

And there they serve as compost nurturing the seeds

From which my hope will grow

For new and different flowers in the spring.

So, Lord,

Why can't this woman

Whom I have partly known,

Leave me alone?

What is that force, that energy, within her

That forces her to stuff herself in envelopes

To burst into my consciousness

Even as she knows I do not want to see

The misery she feels without me.

I must forget, forget, forget.

And yet,

Like her,

I do not want to be forgotten.

I want to be forever as she saw me --

Perfect in my imperfection

Strong in my weakness,

Brave in my trembling,

Holy even in my sin,

Elijah on Mt. Carmel

Calling fire down from Heaven quietly

Is that really me?

Did she ever really see?

Surely she knows I'm neither strong, nor brave,

Nor holy.

She knows I am but dust.

She saw the lust, the lack of trust.


And yet,

When he found it hard to pray,

Even Elijah ran away.

O, God!

Did I ever love her really?

Or did I only love the way she

Reverenced me, trusted me,

Wanted me, needed me?

But God,

You know I loved her

You know that's why I left her --

Left her clinging, crying,

Possibly believing I don't love her.

Yet through her doubts, her fears, her tears,

I know she blesses me, and prays for me,

And trusts my love,

Even as my silence and my eagerness to seek another

Pierce her heart.

O, God,

Why won't this woman

Stand apart

Out of my heart,

And let me start

This new adventure free?

Perhaps because

She's partly

Wave Breaks toward Man on Rock

See the small man on the very left atop the rock? He watches the waves that that just keep coming, like his emotions, in waves of torment.

See the small man on the very left atop the rock? He watches the waves that that just keep coming, like his emotions, in waves of torment.

The Christian life is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. The Apostle Paul talks about this conflict in Romans 7, which is summarized in verse 22-23: For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin, which dwells in my members." In chapter 8 he rejoices because Jesus set those who walk by the Spirit free from the law of sin and death and from condemnation. We learn that the Spirit helps us in our weakness and helps us to pray as we ought.

When we come before God, we must face ourselves and Him honestly and not pretend to be better than we are. We will be tempted. We will sometimes yield to temptation. We know it. He knows it. When we struggle against our own emotions to do what is right and to try to remedy that which we've done wrong, we can cry out to Him with honesty, and receive his forgiveness and strength to fight new battles. He promised to heal the broken hearted.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17

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