an affair: part 3 {day 7}

realhardloveUp today: the final installment of my friend’s story of her husband’s infidelity. Their marriage, by God’s amazing grace, survived three affairs. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

And here’s my friend with Part 3:

I am about to lay his phone back down when I see a message scroll at the top of the screen.  He’s an avid Words with Friends player.  Someone he’s playing has sent him a message. As I once again begin to lay the phone down, I feel a pressure from within – a pulling.  

Check the message. 

“Are you coming today?  What time?  I understand you want to spend time with your wife.  If you don’t come I will understand, but I really want you to come.  I love you.”

I walk to the bathroom.  I ask my husband calmly about his plans for the day.  He’s going to work.  I show him the message; he still lies.  I hit him – not my proudest moment  – but a fact.

“Yes, I am having an affair with her.”  My friend.  It has begun while we were at Passion.

I look heavenward.  It’s really too much.  Three affairs in four years.  And this time the repercussions are greater.  This woman is married.  Our families – our children – are friends.  The family is rooted in our community.  No one’s moving this time.

My mind is racing.  I call our pastor – not the same pastor as the first or second time, but the pastor who’s been walking with my husband.  We’ve just been to Passion together.

He’s in disbelief too.  We meet him at the church.  My pastor’s anger rivals mine.  He’s not easy on my husband.  He asks hard questions.  The looks of sympathy coming my way are unbearable.  I am humiliated, embarrassed, crushed, and seething.  I do NOT want sympathy.

My pastor asks what we want to do. Divorce?   I am ready to say yes, but then I hear my husband say no.  “No, I love her.  I don’t know what I am doing.  I don’t know why.  I am a mess.”

I hear myself talking nonstop.  All the counseling.  All the books I have read.  I have “laughed my way to a better marriage”; I know my husband’s “love language” and he knows mine; I know all 10-steps to a better marriage by heart; I am a “communicating in marriage” expert; we “love and respect” one another – in fact, we’ve been to the conference.

We’ve done it all.  We followed the lists, read the books.  We both have accountability groups.  We are the poster children for how to affair-proof your marriage.

So, how did this happen?  My pastor has no answers, but he says something that I will later deem “the heart issue.”  When I ask him, “What next?” He responds, “Christ has to be the center.  He can’t just be your center.  He has to be his center too.  Then, together, he has to be the center of your marriage.  All you do and decide has to be filtered through the Gospel.”

Divorce would remain an option for the next few months.  My heart was filled with a deep sadness that I couldn’t articulate.  I truly wanted out.

Before leaving the house, I’d give myself a pep talk – a reminder of how to act, appear, and be.  I couldn’t show any cracks in my armor.  If I did, then people would know.  And what would they think?

Our pastor thought it was time to share; my friend counseled me many times to tell.

But, I didn’t. I once again remained silent.

I knew my heart.  My motive for telling would be nothing but revenge.  I wouldn’t be telling to seek help and prayer.  I wouldn’t be telling to free me and my husband of guilt and shame.  I wouldn’t be telling to honor God.  I’d be telling to make him pay.  To make her pay.  To ruin them both.

And, in that pain, God spoke again and again. He carried me.  Each morning I would ask for grace and mercy for the day.  And day after day, God would show up.  He’d give me peace and understanding through His word.

He called me to remain in my marriage although I planned my divorce more than once.  He gave me friends who knew just when to call, just what to text, and just when to remain silent.

He supplied my every need.

It’s been a year.  My heart is healed, but I remain on a journey to trust again.  My husband’s heart has been awakened to Christ and mine has been fully surrendered to Him.  Christ is the center of our marriage.  We still use techniques learned through counseling and books, but we know, understand, and live Christ as our center.

Each morning, we renew our minds through his word and prayer.  We do the same before bed with our kiddos. Each day we compliment one another and send a note from our phone detailing our love.  We also exercise and study together.  Yes, it takes much time.  But, extraordinary marriages take much time.  A relationship with God and one another has to be intentional.

I often mourn the person I was prior to 2007.  I laughed more then.  I know I’ve changed and I often struggle with exactly who I am.  But, the only “I Am” I know for sure is Jesus.

I am His.  His daughter.  I am loved unconditionally.

God saved me.  He saved my husband. He saved our marriage.  The only explanation for the life we have now is God.   Forgiving one another, forgiving the other women, leaning into God’s promises, and trusting He is sovereign and working for our good – NONE of that is humanly possible.

I am incapable of forgiveness, unconditional love, and joy in the suffering.  But, the Christ who lives within me is not.  He died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sin before I was born.

He loves me unconditionally.  He worked supernaturally in and through me to heal, restore, and redeem.

And, for that I am indescribably thankful.

Wow. Just wow. Makes you want to grab her and hug her hard, huh.

And friends, thank you so much for your kind responses and prayers. And thank you for those who have been courageous enough to e-mail me and ask me to put you in touch with my friend,

Can I just say one thing to address something that has come up a lot (fb messages, comments, in person, texts, e-mails) these past few days? So many of you have expressed fear and concern that this will happen to you. It’s filled you with a sense of dread, making you think there’s nothing you can do to stop it from becoming a part of your story as well.

I’m going to ask you to stop and take a deep breath. To ask God to calm your heart and to set your fears at rest. I want you to ask him to help you trust him. Then I want you to ask him what steps you can take to help both you and your spouse make Christ the center of your marriage.

I love you people, and I want God’s best for you.

And I want to say a big, big thank you to my sweet, brave friend for sharing hard stuff to help us all grow closer to God and each other.

24 thoughts on “an affair: part 3 {day 7}

  1. Tonya

    I have walked a similar path, and my heart ached and my eyes filled with tears for your friend. Betrayal of this nature is VERY VERY personal. It is deep and devastating.
    But, you know what is cool about the God we serve? He makes beauty from ashes every single time, if only we let Him! In a culture that throws away broken things, it blows peoples minds when we stay in a marriage like this, and fight for it.
    2 years later, I am thankful to say, my “perfect happily ever after marriage” before has paled in comparison to my restored marriage. What doesn’t break you, DOES make you stronger. And my favorite part of all, when we give the Lord the shattered pieces of our broken marriage……,He creates a beautiful mosaic for HIS glory. Praise His Name!
    God bless you on this road to healing friend, total and complete healing is possible! Keep walking in faith!
    ~Tonya from 4 little Fergusons

  2. Pingback: my friend responds {day 9} | Marla Taviano

  3. jenn

    One commenter asked “what are we supposed to take from this story?” I’ll just share that what I took from this story is that no matter what we do in life, no matter what steps we follow or what helpful hints we put into action, it’s all empty without Christ truly being the center and source. There is nothing wrong with knowing our spouse’s love language, or practicing love and respect–those things are good, very good. But those things are empty if we look to them as our source of our hope, while we sideline Christ. I am thankful for this couple that the counsel of the pastor in the last instance pointed them to the real source of hope and healing, and I pray that they will continue to grow in Christ.

      1. marcy

        Marla, I was just going to say what you said to Jenn’s reply. I am learning to make Jesus the center, not because of having the same story as your friend, but because life has come to a crux where there is no other way that makes sense to turn. Jesus is my center and I am learning more and more every day what this looks like.

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  5. Nicole

    I love the fact that your friend kept this story anonymous for a few reasons…
    a) I don’t think her goal was to have people pity her, I think it is to let people see how God helped her through a major trial in her life.
    B) if their names were given people would condemn her husband, and people from her general area may be able to figure out who the “other ladies” were, which would cause them to condemn 4 people, not just 1. We are not here on his earth to condemn, but to love even the least of these.
    C) people are able to comment on this and your friend can see the encouragement that others are giving, without knowing who it is… There are times when we would not respond the same to strangers as we would friends….if this was a friend of mine I would probably say something along the lines of ” are you crazy” and block out the rest….but I don’t know who this sister in Christ is and I read her story, thought about the underline message and really received some great encouragement and guidance in following the life God wants me to live.

    I think the underline message is not for women to tolerate a similar situation, but to really place God first in your life. You never know what you may be able to make it through when He is the center. And what better way for this husband to see the true meaning of Love. Even when we don’t deserve to be loved, we are loved. Jesus suffered a lot of abuse too, but he still died for our sins and died so that we may live and be set free.

    God bless your friend, her husband and their families. I hope their family members are able to read this and be able to see the forgiveness and love within the story. I don’t think they would be able to do that if they knew the names.

    We are all given trials and tribulations, it’s how we deal with them that shows our character and helps us grow as people and followers of Christ.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thank you so much for this, Nicole. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the whole point is to put God first. I love this–“You never know what you may be able to make it through when He is the center.” I agree 100%.

  6. Julie Sibert

    Thank you for sharing Marla…

    What I found myself thinking through reading this is how incredibly unique each marriage is. I too have known marriages that have survived affairs, even repeated affairs. I also have known plenty that have not survived, whether it be one affair or several.

    Only the two people in the marriage know whether their particular difficulties, betrayals, sin, etc., will be the death of their marriage or a testimony of redemption and restoration. Regardless, I have no doubt that God is steadfast with His love, comfort and guidance.

    I think it took courage for your friend to share this. My prayer would be that anyone reading it would receive her heart and would recognize that this is one person’s journey… not for us to judge or second guess or analyze. She and her husband made a choice; other married people facing similar circumstances may make different choices, yet those choices would be no less honoring to the Lord. Adultery is certainly grounds for divorce, but that does not mean divorce is the right option for every couple. After all, we cannot lose site of the fact that there are indeed marriages that have survived adultery… the simple fact that such marriages exist should humbly remind us that it is indeed possible.

    I pray your friend and her husband embrace their journey, courageously recognize it as uniquely theirs, and never feel like they have to “justify” or “explain” their choice. My guess is that they know better than anyone that others may choose differently when facing infidelity… and your friend and her husband would likely be the last to cast stones on such choices. They understand deep struggle and deep pain.

    Blessings Marla! Keep up the good work. Sorry this got long. 🙂

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Julie. I love everything you said. I’ve been chatting with my friend today, and while she doesn’t feel the need to defend her choice, she absolutely wants people to know that her story is, in no way, a formula for all marriages. It’s between the couple and God. Every marriage is different. She wants to be there for people who are struggling, but as “someone who gets it” not someone who knows all the right answers.

  7. Leslie @ Geek Mama

    Well, I have some thoughts on your friend’s very personal and brave story. I haven’t seen comments similar to what I’m about to say, and maybe that’s by design. Maybe the more pragmatic thoughts that I share below aren’t what you’re looking for on these posts. And that’s ok – your blog, your rules. But I couldn’t rest until I shared what I’ve seen first-hand.

    1. First of all, please thank your friend for sharing her personal story so that hopefully something good will come out of it. It must have been really difficult to write it out and relive some horrible moments. I imagine many tears were shed. While I would make different choices, I respect her decisions for herself and her family. I am especially moved by her desire to help others out of her pain.
    2. I think that she made a great move by sharing her story anonymously. I personally have been encouraged to share painful moments from my past publicly to help others, but my response to that was a big, “No way!” While I’m not keeping secrets for anybody and will share my experiences one-on-one with people when appropriate, there’s no way that I would share them on my blog or to a room full of people. In my situation, it would do more harm than good. We have to be so careful about public proclamations when other people are involved.
    3. I couldn’t help but think about women that may read this brave testimony that are going through a similar hardship. While I haven’t had to deal with infidelity in my own marriage, I’ve been pretty close to a similar story and know that the choices that your friend made are not for everyone. So to anyone reading this that is going through a similar situation of repeated infidelity:
    – Please see a good Christian counselor. I’ve seen the overt sin of infidelity accompanied by more subtle sins designed to make the victim of the infidelity doubt themselves and believe that they deserved it. I would call that emotional abuse. I have seen an intelligent woman believe ridiculous things about herself and chalk terrible behavior up as “normal” that she wouldn’t condone in another family. It took years of subtle (and not so subtle) words and actions by her husband to get her there, and her husband’s family certainly helped it along. I think if she’d been talking to an impartial third party like a counselor (not a friend! not a family member!), her thinking would not have been so damaged.
    – Please keep an eye on your finances. I know of a couple of situations where the philandering husband was very controlling of the family finances and didn’t want the wife involved at all. I’ve seen a man not allow his wife even go to the grocery store on her own, which is an extreme. But I’ve also seen a couple instances (which are probably more typical) where the husband simply wouldn’t discuss their finances at all. It’s easy to hide money that way. (I’ve seen it.) If the relationship does end, please be sure that your divorce attorney has an investigator on hand to search those things out. At the very least, every woman should know enough about her family finances to handle all financial matters and pay bills if something happened to her husband. It’s the responsible thing to do.
    4. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes you have to remove yourself from an abusive relationship (and I would call repeat infidelity emotional abuse), at least far enough away so that the abuser doesn’t have power over you. Staying in the situation while trying to forgive is not always wise, and can actually be very damaging. Forgiveness does not mean that you have to continue to remain in the situation. You can love from an appropriate distance.
    5. While this story is very brave and honest, I’m not entirely sure what the point of it is in the context of this series of posts. I agree that any marriage is hard…SO HARD…at times. I try to tell that to my single friends, but I don’t think they entirely believe me. But what are we to learn here? What’s the message? If the message is “Here’s a woman that is learning to forgive after horrible repeated betrayal, so we can all certainly learn to forgive in less extreme circumstances,” then I can totally get behind that. But I’m afraid that some will hear the message “If you really wanna be a good Christian wife, you should be ready and willing to stay married to a man that repeatedly shows that he doesn’t respect you or your marriage.” If a pastor said that to a woman, we’d call it spiritual abuse. I doubt that’s the message trying to be stated here, but maybe some clarification would help?

    1. Heidi

      Thank you SO much for sharing these points. I have been ready everyone’s responses for the last three days and thinking “does no one else see this woman has been abused?”. Marla, your friend is incredibly brave for sharing her story. And her desire to help others through her pain so so admirable. Yet, a couple of points cannot be ignored. This woman was in an abusive relationship and God never called any woman to remain in an abusive relationship. Three times??? THREE times in four years?? And she never left…even for a period? No pastor or counselor worth his salt would not advice a spouse to take a period of time AWAY from the spouse and situation. It seems like her only option was divorce or stay in the marriage under the same roof as her abusive husband with no reprieve. Never a single period of separation??
      I really truly hope for your friend’s sake that third time is a charm. If not, how many is enough? How long do you feel you should stay in an abusive marriage? Would you cover it up for him a fourth time? Do you have daughters? What kind of relationship might she end up in if she grows up seeing this as her model for marriage?? Does your son idolize his father? Will he become a philanderer too? There are easier ways to teach your children about forgiveness and redemption but what about respect, trust, honor, self esteem.

  8. John McCollum

    Marla, this stuff is heartbreaking. I’ve seen infidelity and betrayal ruin marriages, childhoods, churches and ministries. I hate it, hate it, hate it.

    In fact, I know of nearly a dozen couples enduring this tragedy right now. Four of them are families where one or more of the spouses is in “full time ministry.”

    God bless and protect us all.

  9. Jennifer

    God bless your friend for sharing this hard story. Praying that the Lord would protect this marriage and make their reconciliation into one that would serve as a testimony to others who are struggling.

  10. angela

    There is a crown waiting for your friend in glory. What an example of God’s grace for all of us. How often do we mess up and he still loves us and forgives us. I am not sure I have the strength and faith to forgive x three. God bless her that she does. She will never know how many people her story will reach and minister to. I feel sad for her that a family member is standing in her way of posting her own story. Mostly because I think it would be healing for her. Maybe one day she will feel that freedom. For now though, bless you for reaching out to her and offering to bless others by sharing her story on your blog. I will pray for continued trust for her.

    1. Tara

      I couldn’t agree more with angela’s comments. Your friend’s strength and forgivness is amazing and certainly a gift from God. I am also sad that her family member isn’t supportive of sharing the story, because it would be healing for both of them. I also wanted to say that her story has led to some wonderful discussions with my DH. His first wife left him for another man, made false accusations, and destroyed a family. It has taken a long time for him to heal from that. Given his past, I wasn’t sure how he would take it when I shared the story; however, her story gave us the opportunity to open our hearts and have a great discussion.

  11. wanda

    This is so powerful! I can’t comment without being totally honest. As a wife, so much of this betrayel angers me. I don’t say that to drag her or anyone living with this sin backwards toward unforgiveness. I just feel in my soul such anger for repeated betrayal.
    Possibly that’s what makes this story so incredible and COMPLETELY GLORIFIES GOD— because of His intervention & mercy on them both.

    Thank you sweet anonymous friend. May God blanket you & your spouse with a shield so strong that no man can penetrate it. Ever again.

  12. Gail

    Thanks for this right on truth I only went thru 1 of these situations and still married 40 years this August I lean on God continually we go back and forth and now I really understand why !

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