Part XI: Saving Grace
The saying, “What you have done, you will do again,” in the context of adultery means: once a cheater always a cheater. I reject that belief. As God’s children, when we repent (change our mind about our sin) and turn to God, sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14). Having one affair is not the same as being a serial cheater. Todd and I have history together, I know my husband’s personality and behaviors and because I know him so well I am able to say with a great degree of confidence that prior to the summer of 2015, he was never unfaithful to me.
Of course I don’t have a guarantee that Todd will never cheat again, but then I never had a guarantee to begin with. No human is above falling. Our saving grace was that beneath his hardened heart, Todd still had a conscience and he still loved me profoundly. Together we made a decision to honor our marriage vows and rebuild our relationship. There has been no magic recipe for healing, but these twelve steps have been instrumental in the rebuilding process.
- Forgiveness– I didn’t forgive the man I love because he deserved it; I forgave him because love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). I wanted to save my marriage and failure to forgive would not help me achieve that goal. More importantly I didn’t want to become bitter. There is nothing fair about forgiveness; it is a costly gift the betrayed spouse offers to the unfaithful one.
- Recommitment– Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long-term successful relationship. The higher the commitment level, the more likely you will be to stay together when the storm winds blow. Trust can be re-established, love can be revived, but once you throw in the commitment towel, the relationship is essentially dead. Fortunately in our situation, we were still committed and refused to quit.
- Communication– As in “cutting off” communication with the other woman. This conversation flowed logically (and within seconds) after deciding to reconcile our marriage. Although he initially lied to me and said he cut strings with her, he did not. He continued with the deception for another seven weeks, his “insurance policy” (his words) in case I was just trying to win his heart back and then revert to putting him last again. After Relapse Day, he suggested we craft a “no contact” message to inform her that all communication should cease immediately. He blocked her from his cell phone, social media and email accounts.
- Disclosure–I advocate for full disclosure as both a therapist and wife. Details for me did not necessarily mean I wanted to know every spoken word and read every text/email sent. While some people may need that information, I did read a few and opted out on the rest. I just wanted a summary of who/what/when/where and why. I do make it a rule to ask questions based on my strength and ability to hear the truth.
- Secrets– Affairs thrive in secrets and marriages thrive in transparency. When all secrets were on the table, I knew who and what I was up against and I could move forward in the healing process. We agreed to an open communication style where my husband said he would “squeal” if he heard from the affair partner. He got this very opportunity three weeks after Relapse Day. The affair partner “butt dialed” him twice and sent a follow-up “apology, I miss you” text. He brought the phone home, showed me and together we deleted the text and blocked her number. We also agreed to share our social media accounts. Passwords are hard coded in our computer and we never change the passwords without consulting with the other partner.
- Remembrance– Emerson Eggerichs introduces the 80:20 ratio in his book Love and Respect. This concept says that 80 percent of the marriage can be categorized as good or great while 20 percent is troubling. This was certainly true of our marriage, but we were hyper focused on everything wrong with each other. We had to make a conscious decision to remember the good, get the derailed back on track, forgive the flaws and make new memories.
- Romance– We were sabotaging our marriage by spending more time on things that annoyed us about the other partner. We were watering the weeds and strangling the romance. Our attraction for each other was still there, but we had to make a deliberate choice to revive the expression of our chemistry. That meant flirting, laughing, kissing, and when going on dates- leaving cell phones in the car and not talking about the other woman.
- Counseling– Attending weekly sessions helped us concentrate on meeting each others needs by speaking our partner’s love language. We evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of our relationship, defined realistic goals and established a core vision statement for our marriage. Through introspection, Todd was able to process his character deficits that led him to go outside the marriage. More importantly, counseling gave both of us a safe place to voice our opinions and concerns about the affair.
- Partnership– Both of us have felt alone for the last three years. Most evenings would find us in separate corners of the house pursing our own interests. Not so any longer! We now prepare meals together, pull weeds, plant flowers, tend the garden and take long walks by the river. This amazing man I love, now leads our prayer ministry at church and asks daily how he can make my life easier by transporting the kids to their events. We are a team once again!
- Grief– One of the best gifts I gave to myself was permission to grieve the death of my marriage, as I knew it. I can never again say that my lover has only been with me since our wedding night; our marriage bed has been defiled (Hebrews 13:4). I set up a support system of friends who allowed me the freedom to be real and writing helps me express my anger so I don’t take it out on my husband.
- Boundaries– Trust can be re-established, but it takes time and patience. My man used to have boundaries; apparently they went by the wayside when he cheated. New boundaries were set in place, which include: not discussing our relationship problems with women and no meeting with women in private settings without other people present. I know some folks who include their spouse in all manner of dealings with the opposite gender, but that is not always feasible for me. I cannot drop everything and run up the road to RTP and sit in on a work luncheon with him and I don’t expect him to attend my gynecological visits with my male doctor. Although, I do have his cell phone and email passwords-I do trust, but I also verify. I can’t police his every move, he has to live above reproach (Philippians 2:15
- Prayer– After Reconciliation Day, Todd and I returned to our nightly routine of devotional reading and prayer. Even when he travels we are faithful to read and pray together over the phone, but that can get a little tricky when he travels outside the Eastern Time Zone. We have to make it a priority.