Dear Anna Duggar,
You don’t know me, nor do I know you. Unfortunately, I only know you because your name has been smattered around the Internet this week, again, thanks to your husband and his “sins.” And though, I am not in your situation, I have no influence on you or your relationship to your husband, I do know quite what you are experiencing right now because I’ve been there.
Note: For those unfamiliar with the story, here is the People.com article.
Thankfully, when I was in this “place,” my name wasn’t splashed all over the headlines; people weren’t debating if I should leave my (now ex) husband on social media, or digging up our financial records, and wedding photos. Yes, I ended up leaving him, but it took 5 years and him failing me and my daughter again before I had the courage to stand up for myself and walk out the door.
I was just like you. No, my family was not Christian and did not go to church, and we certainly were not in the public eye, but I was very involved in the church for many, many years. I grew up learning about God and his laws, taught that divorce was wrong and worked on trying to uphold the Biblical standards of the sanctity of marriage as was taught to me in the church. Our stories are very, very, similar.
I won’t get into the sordid details to protect my daughter as long as possible, but three times he betrayed me. Where was this Bible believing, family values preaching, upstanding Christian man that I married? I stayed. I stayed because I was scared. I stayed because I was taught that God hates divorce. I stayed because of my daughter. I stayed because I thought that is what Christians were supposed to do. I clung to my faith.
He repented. He was sorry. He was a sinner. He was going to seek counsel from the church. I turned to my faith. I was broken. My rose-colored, Christian-tinted glasses were yanked off. I prayed. I sought counsel. I did what a Christian “should” do. He sought forgiveness. I tried to forgive him and learn to trust him again. And 5 years later, I found out he was cheating on me again.
By that time, I had learned a few things.
- I learned that I deserved so much better than a man who was a hypocrite, who showed the world one side and behind closed doors was someone completely different.
- I learned that my daughter deserved so much better than to be in an environment that looked stable on the outside but was full of secrets and lies within.
- I learned that the church is really good at covering things up and keeping things secret, even if it’s to the detriment of its believers.
- I learned that though forgiveness is possible, once trust is broken, it can never, ever be put back together again the same way.
- I learned that people can change, but many times they don’t.
- I learned that the shame IS NOT mine.
- I learned that this was NOT my fault, no matter how much he tried to shoulder the blame.
- I learned the importance of having self-respect and boundaries in relationships.
- I learned that faith and belief in God isn’t as cookie cutter as I was raised to believe.
- I learned that everything would be okay without him.
My heart breaks for you and your children, Anna. I am saddened that you’ve been put under the microscope of the world and that your husband’s shame has put your family out there for the world to point at and judge. Because he stood on such a high moral ground publically, his downfall is even harder than everyone else.
Can he truly change? Sure, people change all the time. Do you have to be there to support him? You can and you probably believe that you should. I thought so as well. But what I really should’ve done was supported myself and my daughter and kicked my ex to the curb. How different my life would’ve been had I chosen to leave all those years ago. I have no regrets, because the struggle of those 5 years has made me who I am today, but if I had the decision to make all over again, knowing what I know now, I would’ve grabbed my daughter and run as fast as I could in the other direction.
Of course, you’re not me and I am not in your shoes. You have a long road ahead of you. I hope that your faith is enough and that your friends will understand how to support you in one of the darkest hours you’ll have ever experienced. It wasn’t near enough for me.