Adultery is a Pandemic

3c8e503a9d8358d897cce3ac62bf30f2It’s been a while since I wrote my last article. I cycle through these periods where I struggle to articulate what is in my soul. I withdraw until another story brews in my spirit and then I put fingers to keyboard. I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for now and work on my book- title to be announced after I obtain my ISBN.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage and it is not okay with me that most relationships do not endure the pressures of infidelity. Survivors of adultery are often left without a voice. We are told not to air our dirty laundry because no one needs to know our business. We are shamed and asked “What did you do to make him/her stray?” We are admonished when we do share our stories and feel we need to hide. It is more acceptable to talk about all our ailments and diseases or post pictures of our daughters on social media wearing scantily clad outfits and bikinis than it is to talk about infidelity. Adultery is a pandemic, it is a global problem of epic proportions and it is ripping families apart, but no one wants to talk openly about it! Just boggles my mind!

I recently finished my latest John Maxwell book, Intentional Living. He asks his readers three questions: (1) What makes you cry? (2) What do you sing about? (3) What do you dream about? The answer to all three questions for me is, my marriage and my children. So for their sake (yes I said “for their sake,” it could happen to them one day), I am breaking the code of silence and I am writing and I will continue to write until I die because marriage and family are my passion. I am sharing the story of our reconciliation, redemption, grace and forgiveness. I am talking about my emotions and the agony of betrayal. This is not something you “just get over.” It doesn’t go away after a month, or six months, or a year. This isn’t the same thing as overdrawing the bank account or spending frivolously at the mall.

It has been nine months since I discovered my husband’s affair and every time I think about it (which is pretty much every hour) I get angry. I still break down and sob in his arms at night because last summer after 20 years together, I stopped being enough for him. In spite of all my anger and pain, I have forgiven him and I am learning to trust again. If I can do this, others can too- but how will they know if we don’t talk about it?

 

 

5 Things He Never Gave to the Affair Partner

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31

Your view of adultery strongly depends on your understanding of the sanctity of marriage. If you believe  lovemarriage to be a relationship between two people that exists for as long as you think you’re in love, you have missed the entire point. Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, who before God establish a vow to love, honor and cherish one another until parted by death. It is an exclusive, two-person arrangement that requires forsaking all others, cleaving only unto one another. Marriage is unique among all other human bonds because it symbolizes Christ’s relationship to His bride, the Church. Marriage partners are stewards of a sacred covenant and as stewards they are charged with guarding against intruders. Because third parties threaten the marital union, it must be guarded with fierce devotion.

We stopped guarding our marriage in 2015 when my husband crossed the monogamy line. Discovering my husband’s affair was the hardest day of my life. A close second was the day I learned that he and the affair partner were still in contact some seven weeks after I believed the affair ended. I gave this man everything, including my youth and the best years of my life and he gave away the most intimate and precious part of our relationship as a husband and wife. However, as I walk this long and winding road toward healing, I have come to realize that there are five things that he did not give to the affair partner.

  1. Commitment– The most important ingredient to a long-term successful relationship is commitment- not love, not communication, not attitude. Commitment is deeper than love and says, “I am determined to make this work regardless of how I feel, no matter what it takes!” As a couple, we are committed to each other and our family. There was a brief moment in our history when my man was not as committed, but when I look at the broader picture and consider that his indiscretion lasted a mere 19 weeks out of our 20 years together– well, that is really just a blip in time. Todd has sacrificed time, money and plans for our children and me. He has worked at jobs he hated to provide for our family so I could stay home when our children were babies. He is committed to restoring broken trust and honoring our sacred vows to one another.
  2. His support- My husband supported my decision to stay home when our kids were born, he supported my decision to go back to school and become a therapist. He even supported the bad decisions I made without his knowledge, like the time I bought a car while he was on a business trip (I’d like to forget that one!). But what makes him a real keeper was the support he gave to me when I had cancer. He held my hair while I tossed cookies in the toilet, carried me when I was too weak to walk, served meals to me in bed, helped empty my catheter bag, listened to my endless complaining about the whole cancer smancer thing and wiped away all my tears.
  3. Honor- Honor seeks to protect another person’s dignity. Outside of this affair, my man has held me in high regard. I have never felt threatened by wandering eyes or flirtatious remarks because he has always demonstrated high moral standards. He has a pulse so I’m sure he noticed other attractive women, but he refrained from admiring them in my presence. For the exception of the five months he was emotionally absent in our marriage, he has treated me with great respect; he has never withheld information or kept secrets. Today, he is open and transparent about the details and causes of the affair. I feel honored by this man once again.
  4. Love – Romantic love is the first step in the “falling in love” process and is often confused with lust because of the similarities. Certainly we have romantic love in our marriage- I still get a case of the butterflies when he walks into the room, but our love has matured and we have reached a higher level of intimacy. The biblical definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 13:4-8). Love endures when it is allowed to go through the transformational process from romantic love (the lowest level) to agape (biblical/highest level). Most couples that do not understand this process quit when they no longer feel the rapture and intense chemistry they felt at the beginning of the relationship.
  5. Sacred vow– On October 10, 1997 I stood at an altar with the man of dreams beside me. Hand-in-hand before God, our pastor, family and friends we promised to love, honor and cherish one another- forsaking all others for as long as we both shall live. That sacred vow still stands. My husband regrets his decision to cheat every single day. Today, he works diligently to protect my heart so our relationship can experience the safety we once enjoyed effortlessly.

Marriages thrive in transparency and truth. Affairs thrive in secrets, fantasy, lies and deceit and this is what the affair partner gained in the brief encounter she had with my husband. Yet this behavior does not define the man I love. He is giving, loving, affectionate, open, and forgiving. He is a man who is committed to me and our children, he is supportive of my decisions, he honors and respects me (again), he deeply loves me, he is standing by our sacred vow and his arms are still my safe haven.

 

Why Forgive?

Almost everyone has been hurt by the words or actions of another person, either intentionally or unintentionally. Smaller offenses such as snapping at someone due to stress or forgetting a lunch date with one’s spouse can usually be forgiven rather easily and can even be forgotten after a little time has passed. More serious; however, are offenses such as abuse (physical, emotional and sexual), infidelity and lying to name a few. These violations can actually leave soul wounds; such an imprint can carry life-long implications.

Considering the emotional suffering associated with soul wounds, it seems only natural to react in anger and desire revenge. The mere suggestion of forgiveness, seems not only unfair, but ludicrous. Yet forgiveness is the exact healing agent needed in order to move forward and live freely. I can identify three foundational reasons to forgive.

1. Forgiveness breaks the bondage of hatred and pain and sets the captives free. Retaliation is a typical response when one has been hurt, it’s human to want to make the offender suffer in similar ways. Left unchecked, bitterness grows like cancer and infiltrates an already calloused heart. Before long the injured person has unintentionally created an emotional prison filled with anger, hatred and pain. This leaves the guilty party in a position of control as they continue to yield power and influence as events of the transgression are replayed over and over in the theater of the mind.

Remaining in unforgiveness is like picking a scab from a wound before it has a chance to heal. Clearly, the benefits of forgiving far exceed the alternative…remaining in unforgiveness. The greatest benefit is often experienced by the person extending forgiveness because it offers release from a self-created emotional prison. The act itself is contrary to the flesh and a near impossible task without Jesus.

2. Forgiveness is both, an act of grace and a gift. Forigiveness is not to be confused with a “pardon” which is letting the perpetrator go free without punishment, it’s not letting them off the hook and it’s not pretending the transgression never happened. Forgiveness is a conscious choice to cut the cords of an oppressive burden and let it roll away. Forgiveness is an act of grace [the giving of something that is unearned and undeserved] and leaving room for God “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, NASB).

3. Offering forgiveness improves the quality of one’s relationship with others, allows for spiritual growth and may lead to better health. Dwelling on past hurts robs precious time from those who matter the most (family and friends). Choosing forgiveness frees up the mind and emotions to be present here and now and opens the door to enjoy greater intimacy with God while experiencing inner peace and compassion for others.

Releasing the strangle hold of unforgiveness and choosing forgiveness makes room for emotional health and can lead to lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, and a lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse (Mayoclinic.org, 2011).

After two people have so seriously injured one another, even after apologies have been exchanged, regaining spontaneity and carefree affections doesn’t happen overnight. Some relationships may even be irreparable, but you can walk in peace knowing you did the right thing.