All marriages hit rough patches when the communication doesn’t flow as smoothly as it should or the connection feels a little strained from the stress of daily living. Finances, health problems, demanding jobs, and not enough time together can take their toll; but, with hard work and dedication from both spouses, a struggling marriage can get back on track.
What do you do if your partner drops a bomb- something unexpected and out of the ordinary- on your marriage? Can your marriage survive a direct hit of shocking proportions that threatens to break apart everything you ever had? Are there some hits too massive and explosive to ever overcome?
Shannon is a 38-year-old mom of two who recalls the moment her ex-husband dropped a bomb on their marriage. They had, for months, been arguing frequently, distant with one another, and going through the motions of a marriage for the sake of their children.
In an act of desperation, they sought help from a marriage counselor to help them try to salvage their marriage.
At first, Shannon thought counseling was working miraculously. The sessions seemed to clear the air of many of their frustrations and they were beginning to talk- even laugh- together again. They started to make plans together again as a couple, even regularly scheduling a babysitter so they could go out for dates, something they had neglected to do since having kids.
She clearly remembers leaving a session moments before the bomb dropped. It was a beautiful, crisp October day, and they were lifted by a sense of optimism as they discussed potential plans for a date as they stepped into his car and drove away.
It was while driving to lunch that he grasped the spirit of the moment and asked if he could confide something in her without her becoming upset. What could she say? She was pleased that he wanted to open up to her and hopeful that talking openly would continue to break down barriers that were dividing their relationship. She was, of course, also curious. What news could he have to share with her that would make him apprehensive of her reaction? Should she be afraid or touched that he was ready to be so exclusive with her after months of ice between them?
She swallowed hard, fearing the worst, but encouraged him to be honest with her because she was willing to do anything (so she thought) to save their marriage. His confession was nothing that she expected.
He said “since we’re being honest about who we are and what we need in our relationship, I need to tell you that I’ve always wanted to be with a man, and it’s something that I feel I need to do now…”
He continued to talk about the events that brought him to this realization and what he had in mind as he drove and she sat frozen, not knowing how to respond. She felt her stomach flip in disgust; but she struggled with what her reaction should be. He assured her that he was still attracted to her and wanted her. She struggled with what the correct response of a wife should be?
He had made a bold gesture by exposing a very sensitive and risky subject. He certainly knew that divulging this secret was a gamble because she could either reject or stand by him.
She found herself not immediately able to process the information. She was raised to believe a marriage should be fought for and made to work no matter what. She just didn’t know if she could be party to or accept his needs. She was accepting of homosexuality, but she felt hijacked by his disclosure because that was not the life she signed on for, and she had not known the man she married was harboring a hidden bisexual side. It was one thing if a couple knowingly entered such a relationship, but she now felt trapped in a situation she never bargained for.
She felt bad condemning him for his honesty, but she kept imagining him with another man and she wondered how this new side of him would fit into the life they had worked to build over the last decade? What about their children and their families? What about their intimacy? Was this really a secret she wished to share with him?
He suggested joining a swinger’s site to locate partners to experiment with. She toyed with trying to be cool with it and accepting of his desires, but it just felt dirty and wrong from every angle she tried to examine it from. To each their own. If a couple is mutually interested in such an adventure, that’s their business; but, she just couldn’t get on board with it!
Eventually the bomb that landed on this couple’s marriage contributed to its demise. Their marriage had already been suffering, and this new ingredient to the relationship pushed the limits of compatibility beyond salvage. She has kept this secret from most to protect her children from learning something about their dad which could be harmful. The one or two people she did tell about it wouldn’t even believe it because of the way he presented in the public eye, and she knew he would vehemently deny it if ever questioned.
A bomb can take the form of many different things: infidelity, addiction, a huge mistake of some sort. One thing they all share in common is roots in some sort of secretive activity, something the person who holds it is ashamed of, or something he or she hasn’t been quite honest about- with their partner, and perhaps with themselves.
A bomb could develop over the course of a relationship if one partner doesn’t feel they can be open with the other, for many reasons. It could also be something that, in all fairness, should have been shared prior to becoming partners to allow the other partner the opportunity to agree with what’s going on, or at least have full disclosure when deciding to open their heart to the other.
These secrets can be exceedingly difficult to share because, most often, they may be controversial or a danger to the relationship. Yet, in not fully disclosing about ourselves we risk a meaningful relationship just for having hidden a part of ourselves. No doubt about it, if a secret is allowed to fester and grow to its full potential, it can be devastating and wreak havoc on a committed relationship! Honesty, even if it is risky, is the best policy to avoid the worst possible reaction!