an affair: part 1 {day 5}

realhardloveToday’s Real. Hard. Love. story is another anonymous one. It wasn’t going to be. My friend told me weeks ago that she’d been preparing to share the whole story on her blog at the end of January. On the one-year anniversary of her husband’s third affair.

His third affair.

She had his permission and his blessing. I had been praying for them both, knowing this wouldn’t be easy.

And then the anniversary came and went. And no blog post. I asked her if she (or her husband) had had a change of heart. No, they hadn’t. But someone related to her husband by blood (and very protective of his reputation) had. This person accused my friend of being narcissistic, of selfishly sharing the story just to get attention. This person said my friend’s entire blog is about her, her, her all the time.

“Do you think that’s true??” my friend asked me.

I told her of course not. Blogging, by nature, is narcissistic. I blog about myself. That’s who I know. That’s whose life I’m living, whose contact lenses I see things through. I told her I love her blog, and that her heart for Jesus and others shines through it.

Then I said, “Let me extend you an offer. If you want to, you can tell your story on my blog anonymously. Then God can use it to help people heal–like you want him to–but no one can accuse you of narcissism.”

She sent me a message at 4:00 a.m. the next day. She was up praying, agonizing over what to do. And it hit her. If her motives were truly pure, she should take me up on my offer. So she is.

And for the next three days, she’s going to share her story. One affair per day. In three short blog posts, we’ll experience what, for her, has been five-plus years of heartache and grief, restoration and healing. Real. Hard. Love. 

May God get much glory through her words.

Here’s my friend:

I am lying in the physical therapist’s office.  A car accident weeks earlier had left me stiff and twisted.  While waiting, I try to text my husband, but the text won’t go through.  We don’t have unlimited texting, but we’ve never reached the limit.

I call him; something is off.  Vague answers and a nervous tone make my stomach drop.

Deep down I’ve felt weirdness from him for a few months. Since our return from a missions trip, I have sensed he’s not fully there.  If I am honest, I have thought for a while he’s too close to our children’s pastor – a young, single gal who is with us much.

I remember wondering why he’d taken up running.  Why he was often late.  Why his workload had increased.  Why our texts were over the limit.  Why he was more interested in church than ever before.

Deep down, I knew.  Why I didn’t admit it to myself or simply ask, I have no idea.  Perhaps the truth was simply too hard to face…

My husband was having an affair with my good friend and our children’s pastor.

I go home to confront him.  He lies.  I persist.  The truth is revealed.  I yell, kick, scream, and throw books from the nearby shelf.  There’s nothing I can do with all the rage inside me.  He said, “We’ve already broken off the relationship because the pastor told us to.”

What?  Others know?  Yes.  Two pastors know.  Another suspects and has already confronted her.

I can’t breathe.

My husband is cheating.  Those charged with protecting their sheep from wolves have hidden the truth.

My five-year-old and two-year-old are in the next room.  I can’t register what they’ve heard or seen.  I want to protect them, but I can’t.  I have failed as a wife; I am failing as a mom.

I call her…our children’s pastor, my friend.  I warn her that I am on my way to the church.  I know this warning is only to protect her from me.  She’s crying and begging, saying she’s sorry.  She’s broken it off. I wasn’t supposed to know.  That was the plan.

Too bad. I know.

As we walk into church, the secretary takes our children to play. The senior pastor directs my husband and I to a room.  She’s there. I want to beat her up.  I know that’s not right or appropriate, but if I can get near to her, I know I will hit her.

I sit by husband on the right side of the table.  She sits across from us, sobbing.  Her hands on her face, head between her knees.  My pastor sits at the head of the table.

I hate them all.  I hate my husband and friend for ruining my life and marriage.  I hate my pastor for hiding it from me.  I feel the Holy Spirit praying on my behalf.  Prayers are flowing up and out of my heart, but they’re not of me.  I want to shut them off.

I want to scream at her, “you’re not allowed to cry, so stop acting as if you give a crap. You did this!”

I may have actually verbalized this.  I am not sure.  We all talked.  I asked our pastor, “How do we tell our children?  How do we tell our parents?  How do I tell my friends?  What happens now?  How does one get a divorce?”  It’s too much.  I don’t know how to do this.

And these words changed my life – for better or worse – forever.  My pastor says, “I encourage you to tell no one.  Why tell?  How will that help? “

Okay.  That sounds easier in this moment.  No one will know.

We walk out, gather our kids, and begin the long road to healing.  Someone at the church – I still don’t know whom – makes a plan.  We’re scheduled to leave for the beach in four days.  We will go the beach.  The children’s pastor will clean out her desk and read a letter to the church on Sunday morning, which details her decision to return to seminary.  She’ll leave quietly – not even the deacons will know.

No one will know.  We won’t divorce.  We will seek counseling and pray.  I will sit and listen to my friends lament the leaving of the sweet, kind children’s pastor.

“She was so loving…she beamed Jesus…my little girl just loved her…I hope she comes to visit…I’ve never known anyone sweeter or more in love with Jesus,” they’d say.

I’d sit and smile, praying, begging God for help – for peace.  My heart was shattered, and just when it couldn’t break into smaller pieces, well-meaning friends would unknowingly bust it up more.

Time passed.  Counseling helped.  Praying never ceased.  Healing occurred.

That was August of 2007.  In December of the same year, my dad suddenly became ill.  In January of 2008, he passed away.  While that’s another story entirely, this daddy’s girl was barely able to keep going.

I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome; I had no idea.

But God never relented.  He pursued and refined me in the brokenness, growing my faith and relationship with Him.  He was my only hope when all worldly hope was gone.  He redeemed my marriage, my husband, the children’s pastor, and me.

In fact, the children’s pastor is now my friend again.

As much as I like cliff-hangers, I desperately wish my friend’s story of infidelity ended right there. It doesn’t. Part 2 tomorrow.

If you can relate to my friend’s pain and would like to talk to her, e-mail me, and I’ll put you in touch with her.

And can I add one more thing I think is really important? If you’ve been through the hell that is infidelity, and your road led to divorce not reconciliation, please know that there is no condemnation here. Not for one single minute. You are not less-than or a failure. You cannot force another person to change, and too much is too much. If you need a (virtual) hug and some prayers today, please let me know.

18 thoughts on “an affair: part 1 {day 5}

  1. Pingback: an affair: part 3 {day 7} | Marla Taviano

  2. Pingback: an affair: part 2 {day 6} | Marla Taviano

  3. kc

    This story stirred up anger in me. The handling of the affair was a big coverup. Sin in the church needs to be brought into the light so there can be repentance, restoration & healing for all involved.

  4. Hannah

    I am so blown away by all these Real Hard Love stories/revelations. Including yours, Marla. I am eleven weeks away from making my own lifetime commitment of marriage and I wonder what hard stuff we’ll go through. It scares me to one day think I might hate this man I so love right now.
    My fiance’s parents went through a period where his dad suffered incredible anxiety (so much so he couldn’t get out of bed and go to work). They are so strong and in love now. I know that period of vulnerability on both their parts strengthened their bond. I pray it will strengthen you and Gabe!
    Thank you for sharing the sometimes hard reality of marriage. Definitely entering into it with open eyes!

    1. Marla Taviano

      I love you, girl. Don’t borrow trouble. You just love your man and pray for the strength to handle whatever comes. It’s okay to be aware of possible scenarios, but don’t let it rob your joy! 11 weeks!! EEK!! So happy for you!!

  5. wanda

    I am blown away by her courage to even share it anonymously. Hisses to the one who called her narcissistic, really? Take a walk in her shoes.
    I’m grateful for her willingness to blog about a pain so deep most of us couldn’t even imagine. God love her & heal her heart completely!

    Thanks for helping someone else.

  6. Andrea

    Oh, wow. My heart hurts. Sin is so sneaky and rampant. I do not think either party needed to be called out in front of the congregation, but the way all involved were asked to keep the situation so secret and the way pastors handled it before it came to light does not sound edifying to any party. This situation is so hard and so hurtful and yet she writes redemption. I know that part is coming, but I also know there are two others as that is how she started this post. Isn’t it so hard to see the redemption coming when we’re just down in the midst of the muck? Trusting and praying with her.

  7. Jennifer

    The pastor’s behavior in all of this just baffles me! Why he (and the church) didn’t automatically ask for the resignation of this children’s minister and exhort her husband to come clean is… well, I can’t figure out what he was even thinking. And I say this as someone who once was a young, single children’s minister who had to fight against the temptation of being around so many young, married, godly fathers when I so desperately wanted to be married to a man just so like so many of them. My heart just HURTS for your friend and for what she was made to endure, on top of her husband’s infidelity, because this pastor failed at being a shepherd to ALL of the people involved, starting with that children’s minister, who was under his authority and watch as a staff member. I commend your friend for standing strong in the Lord despite the way she was expected to just go on as if it had never happened. I can’t even imagine. (And for what it’s worth, she should totally be free to write whatever the hee haw she wants on HER blog, especially given her husband’s blessing. It wouldn’t have been narcissistic to write about this! If anything, it’s a HELP to share this with others and brings glory to Christ by showing how faithful He was through even this kind of heartache.)

    1. Marla Taviano

      I appreciate your perspective as a former young, single children’s minister. That’s a vulnerable place to be in. Not an excuse (of course), but I can see the temptation.

      And “whatever the hee haw she wants?” I love that. You’re not from the South by any chance, are you? 😉

      Thanks for your encouragement, friend!

  8. Missy June

    Whew – I related to so many of the emotions in this post. I’m so angry just reading that this woman was asked to keep secrets which will always make healing more difficult. Always. I’m angry that she is accused of being narcissistic for sharing on her own blog, as if it is a story she would choose! I understand all too well as a former ministry wife (now divorced) but thankful that our leadership handled matters differently while supporting us firmly. There is a difference between shameful secrecy and godly discretion.

    I look forward to reading the continuation and praise the Lord for the reconciliation which has taken place. I’m sure it is an ogoing process. Hugs to you both.

  9. Lisa Davis

    I read this and think “I would not be strong enough to deal with this.” Just reading someone else’s story gets me choked up. Is it ok to pray that it will never happen to me?!

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