This is Day 10 of a 10 day No More Perfect Marriages series chronicling our journey from infidelity to restoration. You can click here and find all of the posts in this series.
Mark returned home two months after Easter. We continued counseling for another 7 months after he returned home. Our counselor was an hour away, but it was worth it because we felt it was the right fit for us. We had started counseling a few weeks after I discovered the emotional affair so by the time this was all said and done, we were in weekly counseling for 18 months. It was a sacrifice of time and resources we were willing to make.
I knew that rebuilding trust was going to be a full-time job for me for a while. I answered any question asked. I installed the Find My Friends app on my cell phone and Jill’s cell phone so we could always see where each other was. I apologized when new information or an answer to a question would bring Jill to tears. I committed to stay steady and to not get exasperated with however long it took to rebuild trust.
As we’ve loved on other couples who have walked this journey, we’ve often been asked about how much is healthy when it comes to the betrayed spouse asking questions about the affair. What I tell people is every marriage is different. You have to do what brings healing to YOU. There’s no right or wrong.
For me, facts were important so I asked a lot of questions. For others who are more emotionally wired, they may not want to ask too many questions because it’s just too hard emotionally. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to healing. You have to do what is best for you. I’m grateful that my husband is patient with me. Notice I said “is” and not “was.” There are days I still ask questions three years later. It’s far less often than it used to be, but we’re still in process.
What we’ve also found is that any time we bring something that’s hiding in the darkness of our heart to the surface, it’s healthier for our marriage. As long as we keep something inside of us, the enemy can have a heyday with it. The minute we bring it out in the open, it breaks the hold it has on our heart and takes much of the fear away. This is a truth for any married couple. Get things out in the open in an honest, respectful way.
We’ve also learned from our experience that emotional and even physical issues can play a role in marital difficulties. Depression and anxiety can contribute to marriage challenges. People with ADHD can behave impulsively or lack executive function. Even sleep problems can impact emotional stability. It may be important to explore some of these because they can be undiagnosed contributors to marital strife.
Once I was on the right medication for my depression, it made a world of difference. You can start that conversation with your medical doctor.
For the first year, anniversaries of when I discovered the affair and when Mark left were hard. As we approached the one year anniversary of Mark leaving, we chose to reframe the weekend with a two-day getaway for just the two of us. It was relaxing, restorative, and just what we needed. There were other reminders of the affair we chose to reframe as well. That’s an important part of healing when there’s been hurt and betrayal.
I’m also often asked about forgiveness. I’ve come to understand that forgiveness is a process. It’s not a once and done things at all. In the initial days, I’d have to forgive each time I was reminded of the affair: when I’d drive by a hotel they met at or when I’d pay the credit card bill. (The affair and two households drained our finances and I had to use the credit card to pay bills for a while.)
Forgiveness is a choice…never a feeling. I chose to forgive each reminder, each situation I bumped up against. Books like Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver and Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken: Finding Forgiveness and Restoration by Cindy Beall were helpful along the way (we will share more resources on Monday).
I had to forgive myself. I also had to work to experience conviction without tripping over into condemnation. Conviction says “I did a bad thing.” Condemnation says, “Therefore I’m a bad person.” I made a choice that caused deep hurt to even the most extended members of our family. The consequences of my choices have taken years to get over and I’m still dealing with some of those consequences today. However, I’ve seen the truth of Joel 2:25, “God will restore what the locusts have eaten.” God’s grace is a beautiful thing.
I love what Rick Warren said in one of his devotionals, “Your past is past. You are not your past. Your past influences you, but your past does not define you. What matters today is not your past. I don’t care what you’ve done, who you did it with, or how long you did it. That’s not you. Satan will tell you it’s you, but that’s not the truth. What matters today is what direction your feet are headed right now.”
When Cindy Beall, author of Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, was trying to figure out what to do after her husband’s infidelity, a wise pastor said to her, “I would respect you if you felt that you needed to remove yourself from your marriage. What you’ve endured is very hard. But you are not a fool to stay and be a part of the redemptive work in a man’s life.” Those were powerful words for me to read and I can say I’ve had a front row seat at being part of the redemptive work in my husband’s life. It was hard, but it was a privilege.
We know not all marriages make it. We know it requires two people to make a marriage work. However, we want you to have hope, no matter where you are in your journey. Your circumstances may change but your God has not changed. As you face mountains in your life and marriage, keep your eyes on the Mountain Mover.
We want to thank you for joining us for this series. Many of you have told us that you don’t want it to stop. We don’t either, honestly. We’re happy to announce that we will be starting to do Marriage Monday blog posts again starting this coming Monday. In fact, on Monday we’ll be providing a list of all the marriage resources we found helpful in our journey. It’s a nice way to wrap up the series and give you resources for the future! We are also already beginning to work on the No More Perfect Marriages book and we hope you’ll pick that up when it is released in early 2017.
We encourage you to use these posts in your own marriage if you can. If you haven’t already, share them with your spouse. Use them as a discussion starter for your own relationship.
If your marriage is hurting, please know we are praying for you. If you’ve already sent us an email, we’ve already prayed for you by name. If you haven’t and would like us to be praying for you, you can send us a confidential email at jillsavagespeaking (at) heartsathome.org.
If your church is looking for speakers for a marriage event, you can request us as speakers through my website.
This verse carried us through our journey and we offer it to you as you continue on yours:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
There are no perfect marriages, but there is a God who wants to “perfect” us through this thing called marriage.
When it comes to marriage, may we be clay in the Potter’s hand.