Did Chris Burns Ever Love Us? We Struggle to Understand Why He Abandoned Us

Today, If I am being more honest with myself than I feel comfortable with, I miss my partner–someone I believed was my soulmate. I feel ashamed to say that. I feel confused feeling it. I judge my cognitive abilities when I realize my thoughts because I tell myself I am supposed to hate him for what he has done. But divorce, not having him in my life, was never a scar I wanted to wear–never a wound I wanted my children to carry. I always think, “Do it to me a million times over, but how could you ever do it to our children?”

But I also think, “why not just choose to love us? Are we so unlovable–because our most desperate desire was to have you…here….

Starting about 10 years ago, I would have the same dream maybe twice a year. I would be on the beach in total darkness and somehow I would get in the water and find myself floating away from shore. You were standing on the shore, and I would call out to you for help, but you couldn’t hear me, and I drifted farther and farther away until I couldn’t see you anymore, until I was only surrounded by darkness and water. I was terrified in those dreams–to be by myself, alone in the darkness, pulled out from the shore by the movement of forces beyond my control–nowhere to land, no shore to stand up and find my footing.

The thing is, now my perspective is that the roles were reversed….you drifted away from us until you were finally out of sight. You, our love, were missing, and we were left as Arabella says, “with two hearts, because our one is broken down the middle.”

When someone betrays me so deeply, I think I should have plenty of incentive to throw them out of my heart, or at least put them in the same space in my psyche where all other voices of worthlessness and abandonment have become only a whisper. But my mind wanders today, almost as if I could re-write the last twelve months, or maybe it’s years. If I could find the moment when we were sailing along in life, and we got off by one degree. That one degree moved us across an ocean of years toward a different destination–a place unimaginable to any of us–certainly not the place we hoped to call home by the age of six, fifteen, seventeen, and forty.

Could our now be different? I wish my imagination was real, and I could go back and navigate the path towards safe waters. I just thought we were supposed to do this together, forever. 

It is so lonely, and in my loneliness, I get scared of my own desperation. Desperate for different circumstances, for a different life than the one I live every day. Desperate for a life where you are still my partner, my best friend, my lover–the teenager who captured every piece of my heart and soul. I adored him. He was always the smartest person in the room. Sometimes quiet, but always stunning. Always able to make people laugh and feel comfortable in their anxiety or fear. The one who was helpful and had quiet confidence compared to the other egos sucking the air out of the room—he breathed life.

If you met him, especially early on, I promise you, you would have loved him. I always called him my gentle giant. On our first date, he held my hand, and I felt lightning rush through my arm directly towards my desire. His hands were so much larger than mine–they felt safe and steady. He felt safe and steady. But, always ready for an adventure. He needed to move and live and find joy in life. And in the beginning, we were joy together.

To my memory, we both experienced ecstasy the day Philip was born; as our newborn son slept on my chest moving up and down with the rhythm of my breath, we did our first three-person hug. As Chris and I wrapped our arms around each other with Philip cuddled up in between us, we breathed in our baby’s smell and said, “Philip is the sweet cream” because he was such a plump baby who completed our double-stuff Oreo analogy.

From the first ultrasound, we called Philip Chris’ mini-me because he had a sonogram profile picture with the same substantial forehead as Chris. Chris was the only one who could get him to sleep most nights. He would hold him in his bear-like arms, walk in circles in the second room of our two-bedroom apartment, and pat Philip’s back to get him to finally accept peaceful sleep.

Once Gavin was born, he would carry both boys together–one in each arm as they hooked their arms around his strong neck and buried themselves into his chest. He was their protector; he was calm love. In the beginning, I really never heard him raise his voice–ever.

What I remember feeling was that he was the steadiest one among all of our tantrums and emotional outbursts. I had never seen him glow until I saw him hold Arabella for the first time. From everything that I lived and was the most intimate witness to, he just adored those kids.

I have discovered, though, that my memory deceives me because I thought that you adored me too…I only remember questioning that around four or five years ago. That had been my internal timeline for a number of years. But, I have since found journal entries I wrote to myself that reveal skipping stones of love. I’m not sure when I started having such deep feelings of disconnect, but I started writing journal entries about it in 2009.

I was in a cycle between having you follow me around every morning chit-chatting as I was trying to get the boys ready, being expected to watch a movie with you every evening when you got home from work, and listening to your ideas about ministry as we fell asleep in bed together. And then I would begin to notice that I was alone in the morning with the boys, you would stay late during the week and hang out at the church (or eventually your office) on weekends. We wouldn’t go to bed together, and our texts were mostly about who was picking up which child, and what I was planning for dinner. We went in and out of this for months at a time.

Is this what it feels like when someone says a loved one is “in and out of their lives?” I would hunker down and justify it as a “season” of our lives, but the mirage of having a consistent intimate marriage beat me up inside during those times, especially when I was considered a  pastor’s wife.

We had an image to represent, to protect, to portray, to reinforce, to produce. 

Since you left, I started reading. Now, I think my “seasons” are a term called intermittent reinforcement. Maybe that’s the reality of all of this–I always wanted to feel continual love, so when it wasn’t there, I told myself it would come back like it had when we were young, or the season before. I am not ready yet to explore the depths of intermittent reinforcement. I’m not ready to understand how that makes me feel about myself, why I would let that go on for so long, or if I even had a choice. I’m not even sure you had a choice–sometimes I believe I would feel closure if I could just know if it was intentional–but it’s a dead end. How could I ever find meaning in your intentions now? They say abuse victims get to a place where they don’t really have an ability to make conscious decisions within emotional manipulation–but I’ve never held myself to a standard where I didn’t own some part of my decisions and experiences in life–how exactly do I let that in now?

Someone told me to read a book about brainwashing; I ordered it, but it sits stagnant on my nightstand.

I never sat on the other side of the table as a client, but I know he made people feel special. It was second nature for him to listen to people and ask them about their dreams, promising to help them to achieve them. I don’t have a clear picture of how that worked, but I know that when we were in a room with other professionals, people wanted Chris’ attention. They wanted to talk to him, to be around him, and even whispered to me, “He’s such a genuine person considering the industry he’s in. You’re lucky to have such a great man.” That person was a great man. He just wasn’t real.

One evening, about two and half years into owning his own business, we met with a life coach for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. After an hour or so, Chris introspectively said he believed that he had a need to be a savior, a knight riding in on a white horse. It made him feel worthwhile. I wasn’t able to figure out if he saw that as a positive or a negative.

At night I have dreams, where he is there, and I throw my arms around him begging him to stay, to tell me this is all not as it appears. Eventually, my subconscious slips him out the backdoor of my REM cycle, and I wake up with crusted tears in the corner of my eyes and on my cheeks. I don’t know when I cry in my sleep, but the traces are left for me to discover in the early morning daylight.

A heart that has loved for almost twenty years doesn’t just stop in a day or even a year or years.

 Perhaps the greatest tragedy happens the moment I open my own soul to the chaos of letting go of someone who my heart desires to be real…bruising my heart through the cognitive dissonance it takes to tell myself that person doesn’t exist in this world anymore–even if they still exist in the world.

How many hours have I laid in bed in silence, contending with blank answers to my own thoughts “Who is he? Why do I struggle to stop loving? How could the world and I experience him as so genuinely when he was the factual opposite?”

I have all this evidence that he truly was the person I thought he was, but I have even more evidence that he was not the person I thought he was. This is a heart torn in two.

I was always proud that he was my loving husband. Now, I walk through Publix worried someone might recognize me as Chris Burns’ wife.

The only loving act he could do now would be to turn himself in. Every day that goes by that he doesn’t, his children drift farther from him. They see him choosing to keep them in pain, and to any child that feels cruel, especially coming from a parent. If the FBI has to be the organization to bring him in, there won’t be an opportunity for him to have a relationship with them or their children in his lifetime. In their vulnerable moments, they admit to still loving him, but they also admit that in the end, if he doesn’t make this one right choice, this one last opportunity to plant a mustard seed of goodwill towards them, they have verbalized that it is now their choice to expel him from all the sweet cream that is their future. How does anyone give up all this love, the potential for future love with his kids–to live a life waiting to get caught?

5 thoughts on “Did Chris Burns Ever Love Us? We Struggle to Understand Why He Abandoned Us”

  1. My heart aches for you Meredith 😢and your wonderful children. We also thought of Chris as a kind, smart and wonderful father and husband. His actions shock us to the core! I don’t know when he changed but I do think he loved and adored you and the kids. That was real and whatever evil took over can’t change that. I’m so sorry for the pain and loss you have endured. You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing through your blog. You are a wonderful writer and should write a book.
    Sending you love and so many prayers💕
    Elizabeth

  2. Amazing and vulnerable words. Thank you for opening up about your journey and letting us walk with you.

    I remember as a little kid, the Burns coming over and playing Nintendo Duck Hunt, I remember a ridiculous boy band inspired dance at Goldrush one night. Obviously nothing compares to the 20+ years, but thinking back to the smiles and joy, there’s now a pause or skip in the memory as you wonder about who he is now.

    My heart breaks for you and especially for your kids. The strength you must have to be able to work thru, for you and for them, this is nothing short of amazing. Your words give it such reality for us all. You are a wonderful mother.

  3. In these pictures are so many great memories …..of what we thought was true…. And I imagine way back then they were. How could our son- in- law, who we loved like a son, change so horrifically! In running away he stomped right over our hearts just as Meredith has so poignantly described. Keep on writing precious daughter…. I see it as part of your healing… and I know God can use your experiences to help others. God has given you an incredible talent!

  4. I read all your posts. I’m so proud of you & your courage. Your children are learning an important lesson I wish I could have taught mine. But as hard is is to hear one day you will look back and realize everything happens for a reason. As hard as that is to accept here’s what I tell myself. Before we came here we had a soul group & one or all of us of us wanted to have an earthly experience to expand their soul & of course their soul group agreed, because they loved each other. Fast forward the soul group is born & upon being born everything is forgotten but somehow one or two of them connect & feel intense love. It may not make sense on this side what you & your family are going through but once you get to the other side it’ll all make sense. I wish you & your family all the best & please keep us updated on your earthly experience 🙏💜

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