i walked into an affair

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Filed under: life | 28 Comments »

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.

Jenni can be found on facebook, you can follow her on twitter and you can read more of her writing on her website.

Thank you, Jenni, for sharing your story with us!


28 Comments »


28 Comments on “i walked into an affair”

  1. 1 Serena Woods said at 7:29 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    Your story of survival is beautiful, Jenni! It's such an honor to be able to host you here.

  2. 2 Jenni said at 7:37 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    thank you, Serena. i am honestly beyond humbled to write about my journey here. thank you for hosting me and for reminding all of us that GRACE is for the worst of sinners… even me.

  3. 3 brent(inWorship) said at 7:40 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    Jenni, you and Brian are an example to learn from. People to listen to. And, a couple to respect.

    You both have taught all of us so much and I am proud to call you friend!

  4. 4 tam said at 7:47 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    i love your story. sounds weird…that a story of adultery and lies would be worth loving…but its not about the story…its about you and what God has done in spite of it all.

    your testimony is huge! Gods purpose in this is even more huge!

    i love you, jenni – and am beyond honored to call you my friend!

    serena, thank you for letting jen share here. you are precious. much love to you…

  5. 5 Rand said at 8:02 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    Wow, Wow, Wow! THIS is the gospel. I am very glad that everything worked out as it did and that God healed you guys and that now you can be a testimony to others. Thank your for your honesty. I pray that this will help others come out of the darkness of adultery.

  6. 6 Brian said at 8:02 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    Serena,

    Thank you for getting these stories out so God can be glorified. People need to know that there is hope even after ugly sin has taken them hostage.

    I love hearing from people who read our story and are encouraged and challenged. It is only a happy ending because of God's grace and the strength He has given us to fight through the brutal days.

    Now we get to experience more Joy than pain but there was a major price to pay to reach this point. Especially for Jenni, she has been so brutally humbled and broken through all of this yet chosen to be faithful. I am so proud!

  7. 7 Lindsey @ A New Life said at 8:06 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    LOVE this!

    I especially love the imagery of divorcing the old marriage and celebrating a new one. Such a precious and beautiful gift.

    Please know that your story has touched my heart and brought me needed encouragement and healing on my own journey.

    Thank you!

  8. 8 Jenni said at 8:21 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    WOW… thank you all for your comments. Brian and I pray EVERY STINKIN' DAY that our story can not only help the broken see possibly restoration in their future, but also help those who haven't fallen yet to take better precautionary measure to prevent it.

    None of us are immune to an affair or addiction.

    Brian… baby… you bless me. God has given you to me though I am not deserving. I am forever grateful you chose to stay and fight this together WITH me… and not AT me. Thank you for showing me Jesus every day. I love you.

  9. 9 David said at 9:27 pm on November 8th, 2009:

    Hey Serena, just wanted to say how much I love the name of your blog and what you're doing this week.

    Jenni, and Brian, thank you for continuing to use your testimony to shine Light in the the darkness. I'm so honoured to know you and be your friend.

  10. 10 Lynse Leanne said at 3:55 am on November 9th, 2009:

    Jenni, i thank you for being willing to share your WHOLE story. I know that it has brought freedom to me and to many others, i am sure of it. You are a light in a dark place that few are willing to be vulnerable about.

    Jenni, i love you.

    Serena…loving your blog…will have to subscribe for sure.

  11. 11 Jason said at 4:19 am on November 9th, 2009:

    Jenni Clayville is an incredible woman of God. The example she's setting is more powerful than a thousand televangelists screaming about repentance. She's embracing it, she's living it and she's unapologetic about her need for Christ to be in the driver's seat. Her story of redemption needs to be screamed from the hilltops.

    If I can do an aside, I want to give props to her church family for not throwing her away. So many units in God's Army shoot their wounded and the loving manner in which her church surrounded her and helped her restoration is an encouragement.

  12. 12 Jenni said at 5:41 am on November 9th, 2009:

    David & Lynse – you guys have no idea how much I love you guys. You two have done your share of lighting up dark places this year as well.

    Jason – WOW! Your words humble me and give me more hope than I thought I had this morning. Thank you for our grace! I am in agreement with you… Church at Bethany is AMAZING… and it's because Matt & Cindy Payne lead out of love and grace. Again, thank you!

  13. 13 Nicole said at 7:09 am on November 9th, 2009:

    Serena, I'm looking forward to this series.

    Jenni, I love you. And Brian. Thank you for allowing God to use your story to heal others. Amazing.

  14. 14 Morgan said at 7:15 am on November 9th, 2009:

    So great to read your story. Thank you for sharing! What a great testimony for others going through the same thing.

  15. 15 Jenni said at 7:28 am on November 9th, 2009:

    Nicole – i love you too, sweet friend! thank you!

    Morgan – God is in the business of restoration. So often, we tend to see Him more as a stern disciplinarian… which is sad, because all He wants is for His children to come home, no matter the amount of baggage. I'm learning that… slowly… and I so pray that others will learn that quicker than I did. Thanks for reading!

  16. 16 Sue said at 7:48 am on November 9th, 2009:

    I don't think I've ever commented before, but just wanted Jenni to know that I follow your blog, it is often the first one I read in the morning. I hope that you and Brian continue on your walk together with God in restoring your marriage. Your story gives a lot of hope to other people who have suffered from the sins of affairs. I hope that more people will read it and know that they have the option of working through their crisis' and not just divorcing. Thank you for sharing.

    Serena, I've also subscribed to your blog (via a reader) and look forward to catching up on your entries.

  17. 17 Jenni said at 9:21 am on November 9th, 2009:

    Sue… thank you! i appreciate comments and feedback. i still have a lot to learn, so i hope you continue commenting. 🙂

  18. 18 Freddae' said at 5:33 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    Thank you so much for your candid and genuine confession. I'm so grateful for God's grace and love in all of our lives. Bless you, your family and your story.

    Freddae'@coffeegodandme.blogspot.com

  19. 19 Crystal Renaud said at 5:45 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    Serena,

    Thank you so much for bringing this issue to light this week. It is such a prevalent issue in the Christian community— I am not married, but I have seen it going down all around me (almost all of which have been those in ministry). Jenni and Brian are really close friends of mine, and watching their journey has been inspiring. Inspiring because God is such a deeming and restoring God—when we're willing to be broken. Jenni and Brian are true examples. I am honored to call them my friends.

  20. 20 Crystal Renaud said at 5:48 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    obviously, i meant "redeeming" not deeming. 🙂

  21. 21 Traylor Lovvorn said at 6:25 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    Thank you Serena and Jenni for bringing this into the light. Melody and I love hearing from others who have obviously experienced healing pain in their lives.

    It changes you and gives you an entirely different perspective on grace.

    Amazing grace.

    Oh how sweet the sound.

    Kindof like the sound of your story…it has God all over it. Thank you for your courage in sharing!

    Traylor

  22. 22 Jenni said at 8:04 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    freddae' & traylor — thanks for your words and thanks for reading. grace is a WHOLE new concept to me now.

    crystal — i love you buckets full. see you soon!

  23. 23 Rachel Durban said at 8:34 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    I love reading about stories on how our God is working miracles! Yall's story is beautiful. I'm thankful that you are so transparent and humble about being broken. I recently have been broken, and RE-broken through the divorce of my parents and me harboring anger towards them…God's been working on me for a good year and a half now. 🙂

    Thanks for being transparent! Blessings!

    Rachel

  24. 24 Makeda said at 2:40 am on November 10th, 2009:

    Thank you for sharing your story so openly, beautifully and honestly. I have a similar story of "walking into an affair", only I was not married and I walked into two different affairs with two different married men. God's grace is beyond my ability to even begin to comprehend but I know that I am so grateful for His grace. Thank you again for sharing your story.

  25. 25 Jenni said at 6:01 am on November 10th, 2009:

    Makeda – i'm so sorry for your pain. God's grace is available AND sufficient for you even though you can't comprehend it. none of us comprehend it… we just accept it and try to accept ourselves as we are, broken and in need of a Savior. i've added you to our prayer list and promise to pray for you.

    Rachel – thank you for reading! isn't it amazing how brokenness opens our eyes to such beauty if we let it.

  26. 26 Sisterlisa said at 6:09 am on November 11th, 2009:

    For those who might question a public confession for fear of too many people knowing, hear this; If people in your community know and they don't know the couple is getting help, they live with a dirty secret that they hate knowing. They need to be released from knowing about it. It's a painful humiliating process, but seek God in knowing if that's the decision that needs to take place.

  27. 27 Larry said at 7:48 am on November 11th, 2009:

    Jenni,

    Thank you for your openness. I can't praise Brian enough for his love for you. I also am thankful of your love for him. I totally agree with you that you can not return to the same marriage you left. It had to become new. Healthier. New in the way that God can make things new, incorporating the junk of yesterday and making a work of art.

    May God bless you with the new joy of each other.

    lw

  28. 28 Jenni said at 9:18 am on November 11th, 2009:

    Sisterlisa – ABSOLUTELY!!! it's not fair to ask those people to hold your secret for you. i believe true healing happens only when it's ALL out, but i guess i say that only because that's my experience.

    Larry – thank you for your words of love and encouragement. Brian is pretty amazing! I wish I had seen it sooner… but I'm beyond grateful for the second chance to see it now.