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The Hurt and The Healer

images-1All of the articles prior to this one were written in October 2015, just weeks after discovering the affair. All articles published from this day forward, I am writing now. Writing about the affair has been instrumental in the healing process. I am not there yet, but each sunrise brings me a day closer to the truth that one day I will be able to look back on this experience without that familiar stab of pain in my soul. My marriage is prospering; we haven’t been this close in years! Personally, it’s a long way back and I feel like I’m clawing my way out of a dark pit.

I lost who I was- I know I am Todd’s wife, I am the mother of Nathan, Kelly, Teagan and Noah. I am a licensed professional counselor and an ordained minister of God. Beyond that, I simply don’t know who I am anymore. I closed my counseling practice in December 2015 and began full time as a therapist at a local psychiatric hospital. I needed a change. I needed to know that I still have some measure of control in what happens to me. I’m just getting through the days the best I can. Praying and hoping God will make sense of my husband’s adulterous affair. For now, I plan to continue writing my blog on A Broken Vow and New Beginning, but I need time to think and process before I publish anymore of my thoughts.

I was able to read some of the emails my husband exchanged with his affair partner. I can’t get one of the comments she made to him out of my head “Each hour I feel that a part of my soul is being torn apart.” This she said in response to his ending the affair. I can’t discard the thought because if she thinks her soul is being torn apart…imagine being the wife of the same man for almost 20 years…I knew we had some problems, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed and suddenly I discover my husband was considering throwing me away like trash for someone who couldn’t measure up to me when I roll out of bed in the morning. This unimpressive affair partner has caused unimaginable pain and sorrow in my soul and our family. Our children, parents, extended family members and a few friends are aware of what happened and they are all deeply hurt.

MercyMe sings a song called: The Hurt & The Healer. I’m including the lyrics in this post because nothing else seems to capture my emotions quiet like these:

Why?
The question that is never far away
The healing doesn’t come from being explained
Jesus please don’t let this go in vain
You’re all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it’s rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

[x2:]
Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
And find Your glory even here

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part XIII: Surface & Root

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As stated in my previous article, I have noticed a common trend: the presenting issue (reason why someone came to counseling) is never the actual problem. I see problems in two broad categories: surface and root.

The surface reasons my husband provided for his unfaithfulness were:

  • Emotional: He felt a cataclysmic void by the disconnection in our relationship. He was torn in his soul at the “seeming” loss of what we shared; alone and emotionally abandoned, he finally shut down and sought comfort outside the marriage.
  • Physical: In the past year we were hyper focused on everything wrong with each other and failed to pursue romance both physically and emotionally.
  • Cognitive: He made the assumption that I did not love him and believed I wanted out of the marriage. In his private mental world, he thought I was “disgusted” by him. Not once did he bring these concerns to me for discussion.

I acknowledge these reasons as an honest evaluation of our relationship at the time; they are valid emotions and obviously he was extremely hurt. However, he made the choice to cross over the boundary line of monogamy and have sex with another woman. That’s not okay with me. Ideally, he should have approached me and together we could have discussed these feelings so we could work towards a mutually satisfying marriage. This would have been an opportunity to improve our emotional intimacy, instead he chose to cheat and no reason or excuse can justify that decision.

These are the root causes the man I love identified for breaking his code of honor by committing adultery:

  • Insecure: The conversations we were having prior to the affair centered on him celebrating his 50th birthday within a year. He was looking back on his 49 years feeling dissatisfied with his accomplishments at that particular juncture in life. People who are insecure need to prove they still have what it takes because deep down they don’t feel good enough, desirable enough or whatever enough. He used an extramarital affair to reassure himself that he still had it going on especially since he was missing this assurance in his primary relationship.
  • Damaged: Todd’s first marriage came to a screeching halt when his ex-wife and her lover concocted an elaborate scheme to ditch their spouses and share the same address. Todd was repeatedly lied to, deceived and made to feel a fool for being an “overly jealous” husband. He was verbally beat down for not wearing the right clothes or being a high (enough) income earner. When it was clear his dead marriage could not be resuscitated he left, but the damage was done. When I met him, his spirit was broken. He was angry, bitter and licking some pretty deep wounds. Their union produced a son, which necessitated continued contact between the two. Unfortunately even after their divorce communication remained volatile. He never processed the painful and intense emotions of his ex-wife’s affair. In the context of our marriage, he was acting out from this traumatic experience. He had felt the sting of rejection in his first marriage and he was not about to feel it again, so he figured he would call the shots this time. His motivation to leave me was fear driven.
  • Confused: Todd explained that after we drifted apart, he felt he lost his best friend and soul mate. He ached to the core of his soul, as he desperately wanted back what we had, but assumed I didn’t want him because if I did, I would have pursued reconciliation. For him, the root cause of the affair was about our missing connection. He didn’t want to feel the rejection he felt in his first marriage, because…well it hurt. If the relationship was going to end, he wanted to be the one to decide when and how. Enter affair partner.

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part XII: Why?

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Why did he cheat on me? That’s the million-dollar question for any betrayed spouse. Unfortunately, the unfaithful partner may not have keen insight into the “why,” at least not initially. After we embarked on the journey of counseling, my man began the excruciating work of self-reflection and only then was he able to get to the underlying reasons for the choices that drove his behaviors

I think it’s crucial to know and understand what motivates infidelity for three reasons: (1) it can prevent future affairs, (2) increases marital intimacy, and (3) facilitates relationship recovery. Affairs are the result of woundedness and character deficits (lack of honor, integrity and honesty) in the person committing the act. These need to be addressed to heal properly as a couple, especially if your goal is to be stronger post-affair than pre-affair.

There were three people in my marriage for 16 weeks. Even after the affair partner exited, infidelity remained in the relationship, looming heavily in the room as if it were a person. Ever present, infidelity was sucking the joy of life from me. The only way to kick this nightmare from my life was to make sense of my husband’s betrayal and the only way I could do that was to understand “why?” Why did he do it? Was I not good enough, pretty enough or thin enough? He ALWAYS assured me I was beautiful, sexy and desirable to him. But affairs are not about looks or even sex. In my husband’s words, this affair was about filling a void that I had left. She paid him the attention he was lacking at home.

Men and women cheat for different reasons based on which of their perceived needs are not being met in the primary relationship. I am not going to get into all of those differences; I am going to keep things in the context of my own experience with adultery. I will begin by examining the differences between presenting and root problems. In the next article (Surface & Root) I will discuss the reasons why my husband said he cheated. Finally, I will discuss the root problems he uncovered that ultimately drove his decision to be unfaithful.

In nearly all of my cases, I have noticed a common trend: the presenting issue (reason why someone came to counseling) is never the actual problem. I see problems in two broad categories: surface and root. In the context of adultery, it looks something like this:

  • Surface– This is what motivated the couple to come to therapy. The reasons given might include: affair, deception, primary relationship troubles, disconnect in the marriage, poor communication, fell out of love, apathy, sexual dysfunction, emotional abandonment, incompatible, etc. Some of these issues may run deep, but they are not the root problem. They do need addressing and based on the counselor’s therapeutic framework used, these issues will typically receive the greatest amount of attention.
  • Root– Root problems drive surface problems. Examples of root problems include: family of origin issues (e.g. cleaving to parents/siblings instead of spouse), sexual trauma, trauma from childhood (such as abuse) or past relationship issues (such as betrayal) unresolved anger or bitterness, insecurities, narcissism, etc. Resolving these problems requires deep introspection and getting under the covers of what is driving your behaviors. It takes a brave soul to venture into these dark corners of your heart. An experienced licensed and trained therapist will help you successfully navigate the journey.

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part XI: Saving Grace

DSC_0053The 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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!
  1. 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.
  1. 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
  2.  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part X: Grief StagesFinal_Screen_shot_2011-10-26_at_11.28.49_PM

The Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle focuses on five key stages: shock, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. For each stage, I will provide a summary and describe my own reality and time frame for moving through the grief cycle post affair.

  1. Shock/Denial– In this phase the activating event is ignited. The brain processes daily life in narrative form, but a traumatic event is not processed in the same way. The body goes into protection mode; one of the first responses to trauma is shock. It is common to deny what has taken place and you might even find that you avoid the subject altogether. You could experience fear and or elation. In my situation the shock began as a tingling numbness that eventually penetrated my whole body. For three weeks I walked around dazed and confused. When engaged by other people in conversation I experienced cognitive delays in information processing. I told myself the affair was a lie, that my husband just made it up to make me jealous. When reality set it, fear seized my heart. How will I afford to live if he leaves me? Will I have to move? Will the kids have to change schools? Will I lose the support of his family and our friends? It took about four weeks for my appetite and sleep to stabilize.
  1. Anger– Frustration, irritation and anxiety dominate the emotions in this phase. You might be tempted to skip over this aspect of grieving, if you do you might find it returns to bite you in the rear. Anger is a natural human response to loss; it is not a sin, how it is expressed can be (Ephesians 4:26). The chief responsibility here is to resolve indignation. Anger is a secondary emotion; it is the result of some other potent primary emotion. To demonstrate this point, I use the following formula in counseling to assist clients in identifying and discussing their true feelings: fear + hurt + frustration = anger. When I examined what I was truly feeling, it was fear and hurt. I was afraid I would wind up with an STD. Even worse, I was terrified the affair partner would end up pregnant. I only stayed in this phase for two weeks and had two meltdowns. I was committed to forgiving my husband and making my home in one of the more positive phases…like acceptance. When I felt consumed by my wrath, I’d call a friend and vent or write another article (on adultery) for this series; it was quiet effective!
  1. Bargaining– You will recognize this phase by comments that begin with “if only.” “If only I recognized the signs earlier,” “If only I had done this or that differently, the affair would not have happened.” You might find yourself hyper focused on what you could have done differently to prevent the betrayal. The good that came to me from this stage is that it forced me to examine my own actions and admit to the harm I caused the relationship. The problem I encountered was remaining in the past trying to negotiate my way out of the pain instead of staying in the present. I really didn’t stay in this phase more than a few days. I moved out of this town fast!
  1. Depression– Every human gets depressed at some point in life and it’s common during this stage to feel overwhelmed and helpless. I hit my lowest point two weeks after the confession. My love was in Kentucky on a two-day business trip and I was home holding down the fort, paying bills and chauffeuring the kids to basketball practice and sleep overs. On a gray drizzly Friday afternoon, I pulled into the garage, shut the door behind me and sat in the car while the ignition continued to purr. For just a few seconds I wondered what it would be like to inhale the noxious exhaust fumes and allow myself to slip away. No more suffering or humiliation, simply peace with my Father in heaven. A dose of reality slapped me in the face when I realized that my 17-year-old daughter would discover my body, so I quickly turned off the motor and exited the vehicle. It took about six weeks to work through this phase; it was agonizing. My emotions fluctuated wildly. One minute I hated my husband and the next I couldn’t live without him. In the end, I made the decision to forgive him and forced my feelings to follow suit.
  1. Acceptance In the final phase, you are exploring new options and you have a plan in place for moving on. You’re pervasive mentality might be “It is what it is, I can’t change it.” This phase was the most difficult and took the longest to work through, about six months. Here I struggled to find new meaning, I began reaching out to others and shared my story. These articles are the fruit of my new meaning. As a professionally trained speaker I am seeking ways to share my story so I can assist other couples. As a licensed therapist, I am creating a marriage boot camp for struggling couples that I will launch by late 2016 or early 2017.

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part IX: Permission to Grieve

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Dictionary.com defines grief as the following: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. It’s also worthy to note that grief is not linear; there is not a straight arrow to the finish line. Grief is a cycle and it is the job of the one grieving to move through that cycle. Mourning over painful losses is a natural human response. It’s also natural to want to stuff the pain and never think on it again, but sorrow always finds a way out either through anger, depression, or some kind of mental or physical ailment. So if you want to get well, you will have to talk and think about what hurts the most.

If sorrow is such a natural human response to the tragedies we experience in life, why do so many people deny themselves the ability to mourn? The best medicine for me is to give myself permission to grieve my losses. I follow the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle that focuses on five key stages: shock, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In the next article I will explain what to expect in each stage and provide a description of my own reality and time frame for moving through the grief cycle post affair (as a guideline only).

Each person’s experience and duration in the phases are as unique as their individual circumstances. Your ability to move through the process effectively will be hindered or propelled by using solid coping skills (journaling, exercising, listening to music, etc.) and having a good support system (counseling, friends, family, church family, belief in God, etc.).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part VIII: Affair Partner

 

As a wife and mother it is hard for me to fathom why a woman would even want a man who is willing to walk out on his wife and children. I would like to think thalg-adultery-jpgat it occurred to the affair partner at least once, that if my husband was capable of abandoning me after 18 years of marriage (and his children) that he would do the same to her when she failed to meet his needs. Apparently, adultery was behind the demise of her own marriage. Familiar with the agony of betrayal, isn’t it interesting she was still willing to begin a relationship with a man who was doing the same thing to his wife?

It is fascinating what people are willing to tolerate: lies, deception, adultery- so long as it is directed towards someone else. It becomes easier then to justify the married partner’s actions by exchanging the truth for a lie and falsely believing the adulterous relationship to be “unworldy.” Although the phrase “I love you” was exchanged, through introspection my man has come to realize that what he “loved” was the adoration he saw mirrored back to him in her eyes. The precise thing he wasn’t getting from me.

Frank Pittman, an American psychiatrist who used to write a regular column for Psychology Today, found that the divorce rate among those who married their affair partners was 75 percent (menstuff.org). That’s a good reason to stay in your current marriage. Affairs thrive in secrets and that is what makes them so enticing, but they are not realistic in terms of the daily grind of real life. When my husband was in the midst of his extra marital relationship, he was sleeping in a hotel (while traveling for business) and eating out for every meal.

All he had time to do with his affair partner was hang out at sushi bars, the beach and play tennis. He admitted that she paid him all the attention I stopped giving him and he liked it. But, they didn’t have any responsibilities together, just a fantasy based on lies and deception. Perhaps one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high for marriages born from affairs is the dose of reality that comes with the status change! You know… guilt, bills, in-laws, guilt, stepchildren, guilt, alimony, guilt and child support.

As a therapist, I understand that her participation in the affair came from a place of loneliness and desperation. She has her own losses, insecurities and damaged emotions to work through. She has little understanding of the sanctity of matrimony, a poor self-image and no concept of her value through the lens of God. A person’s standards are extremely low when they are willing to accept lies and secrecy as a method to furthering their union. No one should have to settle for crumbs in a relationship; both partners deserve to be the others priority.

You are not your partner’s priority if he/she is married, has a family and financial obligations (house, car, business, etc.) with someone else. I might have felt sorry for the affair partner if she didn’t know he was married, but when the affair started, my man was wearing his wedding ring, so she knew. Although he was the one who (initially) pursued her she didn’t seem to have problems responding to his advances, going on dates or climbing into bed with him.

My point is this, If a married man is coming on to a single woman and the single woman has issues with the band of gold said man is wearing, why give him a business card with contact information? I believe she gave the card hoping he would contact her. It’s not like they’re in the same line of work; she is an interior designer and he is in the pharmaceutical industry. If we needed design and decorating services we could easily contract with someone in North Carolina. I’m sure we have plenty of talented design experts in this state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part VII: He Tells Details12036418_10208215807659570_363755532195090777_n

It turns out the full details of an affair are never given with the first confession. Those particularities are given in short narratives over time. Three days after we reconciled, I approached Todd to let him know I was ready for more information. As a therapist, I advocate for full disclosure on an able-to-handle basis and I felt strong enough to hear the truth. We agreed to maintain our nightly routine of devotional reading and prayer before discussing any new dimensions of the affair. After our spiritual time of strengthening, he drew closer to my side and bravely answered what I thought I needed to know.

My initial questions centered on the physical nature of the relationship. I knew in my heart there was more than he was admitting, but I wanted him to say it out loud…and he did. He confirmed my worst nightmare. More questions. Did he use a condom? What about STDs? Pregnancy? What began as a tingling sensation in my fingertips turned to numbness that infiltrated my entire body. My heart pounded inside my chest cavity- I thought it might explode. Breathing was labored, palms sweaty, dizziness set in and I clung to consciousness by a thread.

In the ensuing moments after this latest confession, I wrestled against hatred for both of them. He claimed he pursued her, but seeing how he didn’t rape her, I saw two consenting adults. I must admit I had visions of driving to the West Coast and killing her, the only thing that stopped me (besides my conviction that murder is wrong) was the thought of what the six o’clock news headlines might say, “Jealous Wife Drives Across Country to Kill Husband’s Summer Fling in California.”

I decided this unnamed woman wasn’t worth prison and hell, but I did seriously consider throwing my husband out of the house and taking back my promise to forgive him. Then I came to my senses and decided again to forgive him precisely because he didn’t deserve it.

I knew this was possible because Jesus demonstrated it on the cross when he said, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). I forgave because it is hard and few expect to be forgiven for such deception. The truth is, those who have been forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47, NLT) I knew if I could offer complete forgiveness, my husband would love me even more.

In her book, Not “Just Friends” author Shirley Glass uses the analogy of windows and walls in the context of affairs. During the affair the affair partner is given a window into the marriage and the betrayed partner is given a wall into the affair. When the affair ends and the couple decide to reconcile, this must be reversed. The betrayed spouse must be given a window into the affair and the affair partner must receive a wall.

With each fact my amazing husband provided about the infidelity, the fortified walls he had built around the affair came tumbling down and I was able to walk in greater peace. For three months this stranger had a view into my life and marriage, she knew details about me and I didn’t even know she existed. That had to change if our marriage was to survive. I had to have a clear view into the affair and she had to have a barrier into our marriage.

The healing process is hindered when the unfaithful spouse fails to provide the information the faithful spouse needs in order to move forward, this is why full disclosure is crucial after a betrayal. My husband owed the affair partner nothing and any promise he made to her was already trumped by the sacred promise he made to me in 1997. I am his one flesh partner, no one else; God blesses marriages not adultery. My wall into the affair became a window and I got everything I asked for. She had no right to expect identity protection and in the end, she didn’t get it because he tells details as often as I inquire.

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part VI: Mission Possible

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The chasm between us was never as wide as the evening he confessed to having an affair. That night for the first time in our 18-year marriage, my husband and I slept in separate rooms, but sleep eluded me. I prayed continually until the sun faithfully arose in the East. My job is to counsel couples and families in crisis, now I was in crisis. I could not function properly so I cancelled every appointment on my calendar for the day. I went back to my war room where I formulated a strategy for keeping my family together and prayed until I lost my voice. My three chief requests from God were (1) Protection from the enemy (the one responsible for this debacle), (2) My husband to break off the affair, and (3) One morsel of encouragement…quickly.

My darkest moments on earth were those immediately following the initial disclosure of the betrayal. By the time the kids came home from school Thursday afternoon, I had not slept or eaten since Tuesday. They found me curled in the fetal position in bed, crying hysterically with the blinds drawn. The three of us prayed together for God to save our family and then I made a strategic first move, I asked the kids to write letters to their father explaining how they felt about him moving out and deserting his family. When kids are involved the entire family gets a divorce. He wasn’t just leaving me, he was leaving his children too and he needed to know how his selfish actions were impacting them.

That night God answered the first of a landslide of prayers. I asked for “one morsel” of encouragement and he gave me three. The first sign that the tide was changing came when Todd said he wouldn’t move out “just yet.” A while later, as he read the letters from Teagan and Noah, he broke into a sob. I was doing the dishes pretending not to notice, but I have to admit, at this point I knew God was working and I had to smile from my view in the kitchen. The final morsel came when he slept in our bed. He was stiff as a board and slept as close to the edge as possible, but it spoke volumes. God was fighting for me and God was winning!

I relentlessly pursued God in prayer, devoting hours each day to the task of spiritual warfare. I was determined to give God no rest until my family was secure from the enemy’s clutches. At the time of the affair, I calculated that Todd and I had spent 995 weeks or 230 months together and I was not about to lose my man to a woman he had known for 12 weeks! I wasn’t playing to lose. Everything I loved was on the line and I was going to give this battle every ounce of my energy. I was like Rocky Balboa fighting Apollo Creed, only I wasn’t fighting for a title I was fighting for my family. I was in hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy brawling for the man I loved more than life.

I threw the winning jab on Friday morning (two days after learning about the affair). I awoke with renewed fervor. After my husband left to take the kids to school, I entered the battle zone like a victorious warrior determined not to leave my space until I heard from God. For Ninety minutes I prayed with zeal that my husband would end the affair and work on our marriage, and then I heard God speak, “She cannot stand against your prayers.” That was all I needed to hear. I left for the office with a spring in my step. We reconciled later that night!

After committing to reconciliation, my beloved knew that I would want answers soon. Out of respect for me, he made the decision not to withhold anything I needed in order to heal. I knew the answers I sought would be devastating, but I was committed to forgiving him no matter what I heard. I did have moments (especially after Relapse Day- November 2nd) when I wasn’t sure I could go on knowing that he had given away the most intimate and precious part of our marriage, then God reminded me, what seems impossible in my strength is a mission possible for Him (Luke 18:27, NIV)!

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part V: Boiling Pointadultery_2

So, what happened? How did we get to the point where my committed man slid across the boundary line of monogamy for an extramarital liaison? Well like the song says, “It’s a slow fade…people never crumble in a day” (Casting Crowns).

As 2014 faded into 2015 arguments ensued. Seemed we couldn’t agree on anything, I stopped listening to him, we didn’t make time for each other anymore and we were not on the same page financially. Although he gave his blessing for me to enroll in an expensive coaching and speaking certification program, he really didn’t want to spend the money. I was insulted, just couldn’t believe that he didn’t think I was “worth it.” I was spinning too many plates at once. I opened my own counseling practice, launched a new church plant as the lead pastor and completed my leadership coach and speaking certification, and I worked part-time at a psychiatric hospital…all at the same time.

I was passionately pursuing my dreams, I was singularly focused and success driven. Yet I was passionless toward my marriage and neglected my husband. He didn’t even rank on my top five list and the saddest thing is that I never realized the damage I was causing. I’m not saying it was my fault he cheated, affairs are never the fault of the betrayed partner, but I do hold a responsibility for the deterioration of the relationship and I own that.

Spring arrived and Todd took a new job requiring frequent travel. Although things were at an all time low between us, the subject of separation and divorce never presented and he continued to pledge his love to me daily. Still, I suspected something wasn’t right for weeks and I asked him at various intervals if there was someone else, which he always denied.

The boiling point came when he returned from his final business trip to California. He exited the aircraft rude, irritated and detached from the entire family. Out of nowhere this new personality possessed my husband. Four days later when there was no change, I recognized whose handiwork I was observing; I’ve fought this enemy before and his strategies never change. I left the office early that afternoon, grabbed my Bible and went to my war room where I advanced against an unseen opponent.

I knew this was a spiritual battle and I needed my Ezer Kenegdo (God’s military name meaning Mighty Strong Power) to fight for me. At the end of my prayer, the Holy Spirit confirmed in me there was indeed another woman. All I needed was tangible evidence and a confession.

I visually spanned the room wondering where I might find such evidence to prove what I knew in my spirit to be true. I noticed Todd’s suitcase lying on the floor unpacked. I rummaged through his things until I found a stash of receipts in a hidden pocket. As I examined ink on paper, my heart sank; I now had my evidence. I sent the kids to a neighbor’s house for the evening and waited for him to come home.

Twice I queried, “Are you seeing someone else?” Twice he replied with a weak “No.” My gut told me differently, so I pulled out the receipts I found indicating two guests, two entrees, drinks and one dessert along with others of similarity. As I read each one to him, he dropped his head and remained silent. Minutes later, he confessed to an emotional affair. I would soon learn the first confession is never the full story. As the evening wore on, he announced he would be moving out by the weekend. That’s it…18 years of marriage, two children and it was that easy for him to just walk away!

I cried out like a woman in labor as an invisible sword pieced my soul; the first wave of pain swept me off my feet. Panic wrapped its wicked fingers around my throat and squeezed the breath from my lungs. “I’m a therapist,” I thought to myself. “I can do this…” “breathe,” “breathe deeply,” “count…1, 2, 3,” “you can do this!” I had to be my own cheerleader; my husband’s arms were not for me that evening. My only source of comfort was Christ Jesus, who I knew was for my marriage and not the affair. Broken and emotionally hemorrhaging, there was one ray of hope that night: the secret was finally revealed. Now I could plan my strategy for winning back his heart.