Remember “The Truman Show” (1998 movie with Jim Carrey)?
It was about a boy, Truman Burbank, who was raised on the set of a T.V. show. He lived in a 1950s utopia, but none of it was real. Everyone he interacted with – the people he thought were his parents, wife, children, friends, co-workers, and neighbors were all actors. Every relationship in his life was fake.
But Truman is not an actor. He was chosen before birth to be the one “real” person on this “unreality” show. Audiences around the world tune in to watch Truman 24×7, captivated by the idea of watching this unsuspecting person navigate a carefully constructed, fake world.
Truman thinks he lives in a small, island town call Seahaven. This “town” is actually a large set constructed inside a huge television studio. A newsreel in the movie tells us the studio is one of the few landmarks that can be seen from space.
The show’s producer, Christoph, a rather creepy character, uses psychological tactics to keep Truman from ever leaving Seahaven. Of course, he has convinced himself and others this is all for Truman’s good.
For example, when Truman is only eight-years old, in order to give Truman a fear of water (one of many travel-related fears the producer works into Truman’s life), Christoph scripts a “scene” in which Truman’s “father” takes Truman on a boating trip. A storm comes and the father “drowns.” Of course, the actor does not drown, but Truman does not know his father is an actor or that his life is a T.V. show. From his perspective he has lost his father and will never see him again.
As if that weren’t cruel enough, the events and dialogue leading up to the drowning were carefully orchestrated to leave Truman feeling his father’s death was his fault. This belief is subtly reinforced by other actors in the show who profess to care about Truman but are merely playing a part. For example, when he is thirty years old, we see him discuss his father’s death with his “mother,” who sweetly says, “but I never blamed you,” subtly reinforcing his belief that he is to blame.
When Truman is in his early thirties, “married” (his wife is an actor, playing a part, and even the events that led Truman to marry her were carefully manipulated by Christoph), “working as an insurance salesman” (his employer, coworkers, and customers are all actors; the work he believes is meaningful, has no meaning), and considering becoming a father, he begins to notice some inconsistencies in his life.
As he investigates these incongruities, he notices more things that don’t add up.
Then the dismissed actor who played his father years ago, sneaks onto the set, and Truman catches a glimpse of him before he is swept away by “police.” Everyone in Truman’s life immediately tries to convince him that he imagined it all. Despite their acting skills and carefully scripted lines, Truman is, for once, not buying it.
He continues his investigations in secret and, despite the best efforts of the cast and crew to keep him ignorant, piece-by-piece begins to realize that everything and everyone he has ever known is fake.
I can relate.
My husband lived a double life for a large portion, possibly all, of our marriage. At the very least, he kept major secrets, related to pornography and other women, from me throughout all of our courtship and marriage. He was actively involved with other women for at least the last four years of our marriage, possibly all.
When I discovered this, I had to go back and reconstruct my understanding of my life with him. It was like there had been a thick curtain ever-present in our marriage. But I never saw the curtain or what was on the other side. When the curtain was finally lifted, I went back through the events of my life with new eyes.
What I found was horrifying.
For every major decision we made in our married life, his input into that decision was completely motivated by his desire to continue his affairs in secret.
For every move, including deciding where we would serve on the mission field, his input into that decision was motivated by his desire to be close (but not too close) to his affair partners.
There were multiple decisions involving our children’s health and safety that he made (or pushed for us to make together) based entirely on his desire to spend more time with his affair partners.
The many times when I sought his input into my life, trusting him as a godly man who had vowed to care for me, his responses were not based on caring concern for me, as I trusted they were, but on his own desire to keep me “off track” from discovering the truth about him.
Looking back on some of the most emotionally intimate moments in our marriage, times when I felt he was opening his heart to me, I now realize he was feeding me carefully constructed lies to keep me from suspecting his double life.
Financial, employment, and ministry decisions – at least his part in them – were all made with the number one goal of continuing his secret without discovery.
Perhaps, most hurtful of all, he used my faith, and my love for Jesus, to manipulate me. He told convincing stories of spiritual events in his life, that I now realize were manufactured to keep me off track.
Throughout all this, there was the overarching lie that he was fulfilled in our marriage. Whenever I suspected something was wrong and tried to broach the subject so we could work through it, he was all smiles and gentleness and convinced me that all was well and he was completely satisfied.
Even the few “complaints” he had about me during our marriage, I now realize were not things that actually bothered him at all, rather he was manufacturing “arguments” to keep me off track from discovering the real issues.
The truth is, it did not matter to him whether our marriage was “fulfilling” or not – he was looking elsewhere for his fulfillment. Our marriage was only important for him as part of a façade to keep up a respectable and godly appearance for others. It did not matter too much to him what I did or didn’t do, so long as I was not “on to him.” (And as long as I made him look good, but that wasn’t an issue because it was usually the case – Proverbs 31 says that a good wife brings honor to her husband, and I was a good wife.) The only thing that mattered to him, at least for the last four years, was to keep me deceived.
When I tell people my story, most people think the most hurtful part was my husband’s sexual sin. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Others think the most hurtful part was the rejection – that he chose other women over me. That certainly was hurtful.
But the deception was so much more hurtful.
When I tell this to people who haven’t been through it, they think they understand, but they think I mean the obvious act of deception – that he was having affairs and he didn’t tell me.
Yet the deception was so much more than that. It was an overarching deception. My entire marriage for at least the last four years, and important parts of my marriage going all the way back to our courtship, was a deception on the scale of the Truman Show.
(I have more to say about this, but I think that’s enough for one post. I’ll do some follow-ups when I’m emotionally ready.)
Copyright 2019 Rebecca Nazzer. All Rights Reserved.