Infidelity? Can a Marriage Survive?
Today's post comes from one of my readers, who asked that I share her story anonymously. Please remember that it takes courage to share about something as devastating as adultery.
Each person's story is unique. May you gain insight from her experience, and if any of it resonates with your own story, may you find hope in that. At the end of the post, I also point to other resources you may find helpful.
Here is her story...
It's been almost a year now since he had an affair with another woman, since our marriage and my faith was torn apart, since hopelessness and sin invaded our lives.
Our tenth anniversary is in June and our marriage has grown more in this single year than in the past nine years combined.
I just want to say that I was hopeless.
I didn't know how to fix our marriage. I didn't know how to stop my husband from cheating on me and I didn't know if I could ever love or trust him again.
I was mad at God. I doubted that He was good. And I doubted that I could trust God. I was shocked and in a place of deep despair and was desperate to find a way out.
My husband said some really hurtful things to me. He said that he wasn't sure if he wanted to stay married to me if our sex life wasn't going to be different and he fell in love with another woman.
Once I discovered the affair, something happened to change him and he decided that he wanted to stay married. I didn’t decide anything until much later about our marriage.
I had a huge battle to go through with God and myself.
I had to decide to trust Him and not myself and I had to decide that God was good. I would drive myself crazy trying to figure out how to stop this from ever happening again and the only solution I could come up with was to leave my husband.
Somewhere along the way, I sat down and thought really really hard about what I wanted.
Did I want to leave my husband, be a single mom for awhile, go find another nice Christian man and start over, never to be hurt again (right, like that wouldn’t happen no matter who I might get married to)?
Or did I want to stay married?
I got this beautiful vision in my head (with the fading sunlight and everything) of me and my husband in our future with our daughters. We were laughing, we were happy again, and we were so in love.
In my made-up vision (not prophecy or anything), he was holding one of our girls and playing with her and I was right next to him, happy and watching. We were a family, we were where we were supposed to be, and I knew that this is what I really wanted.
I wanted him, not another man. I wanted us to stay together. So that is what I decided to do.
I was very frustrated with God because He wouldn't promise me that an affair wouldn't happen again. That is what I wanted most.
So I really didn't want to trust Him. For awhile I thought that if I could be sexy, skinny and wonderful enough, I could figure out how to keep my husband on my own….it was exhausting, demeaning, and I knew I wasn’t going to last very long before giving up.
So I decided that God was smarter than me, even if He decided to let the affair happen again.
I let go. It was very hard for this type-A personality to do so.
Not only did I have to figure out that God was smarter, I had to figure out that God was good and trust Him. Let me tell you, with all the lies going through my head attacking me, I couldn't do this one on my own.
My head was telling me lies...
"Your husband is still in love with her."
"Your marriage will never last."
"This is impossible."
"You are not worth loving."
"You will find more happiness with another man."
So to combat the lies, I had to find the truth. I had to tell my common sense that it didn't know what it was talking about. So I went to the Bible, because I couldn’t come up with truths on my own. God was good. He gave me what I needed every day. I just needed to go to Him.
"...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." ( Isaiah 40:31)
When you are in the pit, soaring like an eagle sounds impossible.
Psalm 18. Yes, the entire psalm. There is something very satisfying about a God that can violently crush your enemies.
This trusting God and forgiving my husband was something I had to do on a daily basis, several times a day, every single time my mind attacked me with lies and hopelessness.
Next, I got some very wise counsel from the book "Holding On To Heaven While Your Husband Goes Through Hell" by Connie Neal. She laid out some boundaries for marriage that I needed.
Basically I am supposed to not mess with my husband's spiritual life (that is between him and God), I am not supposed to mess with his work life, and I think there were others. It was the spiritual one that was a problem for me, (although she did say I could pray about it).
I wanted to make sure that he did not commit this sin again and I was going to preach to him, make him do devotionals, do everything in my power to stop it. It was such a relief to hear that I don't have to be in charge of his sin -- that his sin is not my fault, and that God has a plan for him that might be completely different from God’s plan for me.
Connie Neal also mentioned some boundaries in my husband's life that I can mess with that are our shared boundaries. They are our home, our sex life, our relationship, and our kids.
She said to repair our marriage and make my husband feel loved, I needed to focus all my energy into our shared boundaries. So, that is what I’m doing.
I’m focusing my love on these areas; making our home a wonderful place to be, making our sex lives fun and exciting and loving, loving our kids. If I did these things, our love is supposed to gradually grow.
Skip ahead one year.
It is working.
God has worked His miracles in our lives. God is good. You can trust Him.
We still mess up all the time, both of us, but we are living in grace because we know that we can't do this on our own. My husband loves me, and I really feel love for him. I'm not anxious about our future (other than the occasional bout, which I have to battle).
We have fun together, we flirt, play together, laugh together, play with our kids together.
I have seen God bless us through this difficulty and I would never want to go back to our marriage pre-affair. That is hard to say, but I'm glad the affair happened now, because we would never be where we are today without it.
Trust God. He really does know what He is doing.
I am grateful for this reader sharing her story. THANK YOU!
I also want to make you aware of the below stories and resources with regard to infidelity. If you know of other sites and resources that have been helpful, please add them to the comment section:
Traylor and Melody Lovvorn. I really find their story amazing and filled with such raw authenticity and humility (they actually divorced and then remarried after 6 years). Traylor guest posted on my site here. If you scroll down on this link, you can see the video testimony of their story. So powerful. They also have another site that explores porn addiction and infidelity. I really appreciate what they are doing.
Gary and Mona Shriver. They wrote a book called Unfaithful, and have a ministry specifically ministering to couples who have experienced infidelity. They offer weekend intensive support groups as well -- a couple trying to heal from infidelity should consider one of these weekends. I met the Shrivers at the Dallas conference of the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries and have a lot of respect for them.
Jenni and Brian Clayville. Their story is powerful (there are four links under the heading Our Story of Redemption). She had an affair with someone in their church, and shares so incredibly about what it took to redeem their marriage from such devastation. DEFINITELY watch the video of their vow renewal. I cried the first time I watched it.
Jenni Clayville also has this page on her site with testimonies from other people who have journeyed through infidelity. Well worth it to take a look at these.
As I said... if you know of other resources, please please please -- share in the comment section so others can benefit.
Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.