There is a mistress in my marriage

Real Help for Real Living

by Rev. Tony Marciano

When my daughter was in college, I tried to convince her to go pre-law. That lasted one semester… she wasn’t wired for it.

Instead, she became a theatre major. You know who is going to be in my checkbook for a long time. She also found a very special niche in the theatre department: costume design. She’s better than good at it; she’s incredible.

She returned home after graduation and some time later became involved with belly dancing. I told this to a woman at church who thought I said my daughter was a “ballet dancer.” I proudly corrected her and said, “No, belly dancing.” She gasped.

But let me get back to the story.

Belly dancing started off as one night a week, then increased to two nights, then three and also Saturday. Since her vision prevents her from driving, my wife drives her to class. While I was excited about this newfound artistic expression, I realized it was producing stress in my life.

Three nights per week I came home and ate dinner alone. I felt as though I were single. While I was glad for my daughter, I wasn’t happy with the fact there were days I didn’t see my wife. I felt that at this time of my life, I should be able to come home and spontaneously take my wife out if I wanted. That wasn’t possible because she wasn’t home. She was driving my daughter to and from class.

It came to a head one night. I was on the deck grilling when my daughter came out to visit me. She talked candidly about how she could feel my stress and the impact it was having on her. Let me pause for a moment. You’re thinking that since I’m a minister, I looked at my daughter and hugged her followed by a kum ba yah moment. That didn’t happen – at all.

I looked at her and said, “There is a mistress in my marriage.” There was this huge pregnant pause. I continued, “It is your belly dancing.” It was as if we were from two separate planets, each speaking a different language.

I prayed about creating a win-win situation for the both of us. I didn’t want her to give up belly dancing; I knew how much it meant to her. But I also need to spend time with my wife. So, we came up with a plan. At least one night per week, I would not go home from the office. Instead, I would meet my wife at the belly-dancing studio and from there we would go on a date.

A few weeks later, my daughter gave me a greeting card. On the outside it said, “Thanks.” On the inside, she expressed her appreciation for the change I had demonstrated regarding her belly dancing. I still have the card. It sits on the nightstand next to my bed. It’s a reminder to me how important relationships are in my life.

It is so easy to allow difficult situations to attack the foundation of our marriage. Let me speak to those of you who provide care for special needs children, aging parents or both (in addition to my daughter living with me, my 91-year-old mother also lives under my roof).

Eighty percent of married couples with special needs children get divorced. As you serve as a caregiver to the people you love, let me encourage you not to neglect your marriage. The normal drift in marriage is to go from intimacy to isolation. Even if divorce does not occur, it’s too easy to become roommates instead of lovers. I think God’s plan is for us to be passionate lovers, no matter how many years we are married.

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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