In 2006, I walked into an affair.
At that time, my husband, Brian, and I had been married five years and our oldest son, Chance, wasn’t yet a year old. This man and his wife were close couple-friends of ours. We went on family vacations together, spent holidays together, our kids played together, we did ministry together… close.
I could make up excuses to how I let this happen: “I came from a divorced family”, “I grew up without a dad”, “My mother was abusive”, “My husband was distant”, “The other guy made the first move”… blah blah blah… but what it all boils down to is this:
I made my own grown-up choice and I WALKED INTO adultery.
I walked into a relationship that didn’t belong to me and didn’t walk away until I let it overtake two years… no… THREE years of my life.
In April of this year (2009), I finally told Brian about my affair. The affair had lasted two years, but I let it steal three from my family and me by hiding it and not revealing it in all its ugliness.
You see, secrets were something I kept well. I had a lot of secrets, so I thought, “why not just add this one to the list?” I never told ANYONE. I was never caught. But as I tried to keep this one hidden, it felt as if my soul was tearing away from me. The affair was no longer taking me away from my marriage and family, but now, I was stealing ME from myself. Worst of all, it was claiming everything I ever had with Jesus.
In my secrets, I was holding back any and every blessing I could have been or given to my kids and husband. I thought I was self-preserving… but in reality, I was self-mutilating my heart. I was failing at everything. In my quest to prevent complete brokenness, I soon found myself failing even that.
Brokenness ensued… and I embraced it.
The next six months proved to be the most trying time of our lives. After some prompting from Brian, I ended up telling all our closest friends and family about my affair. Some were gracious… some were not. That’s part of the package of sin… and I had to learn to not own their feelings as my own. That’s a whole ‘nother post though.
In our time of healing and recovery, there were times of good and bad. Sometimes, we clung to each other, grateful because we almost lost each other. Then there were the other times, when we didn’t know if our marriage was going to weather the storm.
Brian and I dove head first into counseling and life-coaching, dealing with our issues face-to-face 3 to 4 times a week. We needed surgery on our marriage. It was brutal, painful and exhausting… but every minute was worth it, because God was stitching us back together better and tighter than we ever were before.
In all rights, Brian should have left me but ultimately chose to stay. We didn’t want a divorce, but a divorce HAD to happen. We divorced our old marriage, and took on our new one. It was painful. Though there were many bad memories in the old marriage we didn’t mind getting rid of, there were also just as many wonderfully BEAUTIFUL ones we had to abandon roadside. We mourned our losses. We still find ourselves mourning those sometimes, but today, we also find ourselves making brand new, even more amazingly gorgeous memories… untainted by the memory of an affair.
One of the biggest healing agents to our marriage was prayer. Not just ours, but prayers from friends and friends of friends. We ASKED for prayer.
Allow me to stray from my story for a minute and address something. I have received over 1,000 emails/notes/messages of people sharing how they have experienced or ARE experiencing an affair and their marriage didn’t/isn’t survive(ing). The reason is simple: Satan still has a hold on it.
I’m not saying that there’s an easy fix to the dilemma at hand or that your situation isn’t complicated. You’re definitely wedged in between a rock and a hard place. What I AM saying is your marriage hasn’t completely been handed over to God.
Maybe the affair isn’t over.
Maybe your spouse can’t get over the hurt.
Maybe you can’t trust they won’t do it again.
Maybe you just can’t forgive.
Maybe your spouse won’t change.
Maybe the relationship can’t heal right because it wasn’t broken enough. Sometimes, when you break a bone, it doesn’t heal correctly. The only way you can ever get that bone to work correctly for you is if the Doctor RE-breaks it and you sit… and allow it to re-knit itself. Both of you need to choose to be broken, but you CANNOT control or choose for your spouse. You can only choose for yourself.
“Breaking you” may mean you need to tell your secret not only to your spouse and family… but to your community… your church. Let all the secrets out (I’m not saying to reveal every little detail, in fact, I would advise against that. Tell your story in categories… not in details) so you may be released from Satan’s hold. Satan cannot bind you if you don’t give him a rope and duct tape.
After telling my story, only my actions proved my new boundaries. Revealing it all left me raw. Friendly male encounters that didn’t used to faze me now left me feeling VERY uncomfortable. I knew this was good.
My boundaries had changed. Instead of running up to “the line” and testing how fast I could stop before stepping on it, I deeply planted a very thick hedge in front of the line. If I were ever to get bumped towards the line, I would wrestle with that hedge a bit, but would be SO far from that line I’m certain I would never cross the line.
Today, Brian and I have a marriage that is stronger than it’s ever been. We are finding ourselves more in love than we ever thought possible. Our healing has been nothing short of a miracle… but His miracles aren’t only for us.
Three questions for you:
1. Are you willing to tell your story? All of it?
2. Are you willing to be TRULY broken?
3. Are you willing to plant that hedge?
None of this is easy… but I can assure you, it is ALL worth it.
Thank you, Jenni, for sharing your story with us!