Overcoming infidelity is a difficult and messy task, but it is possible. Here’s how.
You come to love, not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.
We met when I was 18 years old. I was a baby! We became very good friends, and I thought the world of him. He just had all his ducks in a row and he loved Jesus and he played guitar. Who could resist? It wasn’t until about a year later that our friendship morphed into something more. I knew after one month that I would marry him.
2 years and 2 months later, we were husband and wife. Brent and I were married on September 22, 2007, surrounded by friends and family, and rooted in a very naïve and shallow faith in God. I mean…we both thought we were strong in our faith, but it’s really easy to be all about Jesus when everything is rainbows and roses, right?
Our first year was bliss. So of course it was time to get pregnant, and we did. Seven weeks later, I lost that tiny baby. It hurt so deep. A few months later, we were pregnant again. And, 8 weeks later, I lost that tiny baby, too. My heart was shattered. I was so angry and hurt with God. I did not understand why I was going through this.
We had grown up in church and been youth group leaders and I HAD BEEN TO FREAKING AFRICA for Jesus. Everybody continued to ask when we were going to have babies and it was a constant reminder of these deep losses. My heart grew bitter, and I shut down. I did not want anything to do with a God who would turn His back on me.
My husband had no idea how angry I was. He would gently ask me if I wanted to try again and I would say, “I don’t care.” But I was terrified. I didn’t want to experience the heartbreak again. Several months later, I got pregnant for a third time. I ignored it. I did not want to let myself believe that this baby would live. Yet he did. Levi came into our lives on December 6th, 2009 and made me a mama. I loved him more than I could have imagined loving anyone in this world.
During my pregnancy with Levi, I let myself bask in the anger and resentment. I decided I wanted nothing to do with God. It didn’t make sense in my head or my heart how He could let ME go through losing 2 babies. So, I did things my way. I was going out with old friends and partying like I was not about to become a mother…like I was not someone’s wife. Naturally I ran into an ex-boyfriend, and we were still attracted to one another, and his marriage was “just ok”, and we began a very flirtatious relationship.
I still loved Brent. I did not intend for things to happen the way they did. But they did. We began our affair and I became that person I used to judge.
It had been going on for about a year and I felt stuck. I was between a rock and a hard place, and had to tell Brent about this other relationship. He was so mad and hurt and so heartbroken. But, he was so full of grace for me and chose to love me through my shitty choices. It was hard for us to move forward, mainly because of me. I still didn’t want anything to do with God. And I really wasn’t over this other guy either. I felt I had fallen out of love with my husband and fallen in love with this other man. In reality, we were addicted to each other.
Another year went by, and I was deeper into this mess. Living two lives. I was selfish and manipulative. And the day finally came when Brent found out, again. All of my lies were revealed. I was buried in my own web. There was no other way out of this but to begin to tell the truth.
So I opened my life up to him again. He would ask a question, and I would answer it. Every answer broke his heart. I had broken this man I had promised to love and cherish for the rest of my life. But with every truth that came out, I felt more and more free. It was horrible and wonderful at the same time.
I knew that my marriage could very well be over, but I felt God saying “I love you. You are mine. I am redeeming you…” It was fresh air. It was me drowning and Him rescuing me. It was the first time in a long time that I was open to God. I needed Him at that moment. I had nobody else. It took me a very long time to actually believe Him. I still have to make the choice to believe His words over the lies that are in my head. But over in over, for many months, in my spirit I heard, “I love you. You are mine. I am redeeming you…”
That was May of 2011. Less than three months later, I received a phone call at work from my dad. It was the call you pray you never have to get. My only brother had been killed in an accident at work. Brent stood by me and loved me and held me. And when I dealt with the indescribable feelings of guilt and shame that my brother’s death was my fault, he would tell me he loved me and that we would make it. I didn’t know why he was still there. But he never gave up on us, even though I had broken his heart. You don’t find this kind of love unless Jesus is at the center. It’s impossible.
I realized that Brent meant everything he said on our wedding day. He promised to love me for worse, in sickness, for poorer, through depression, through miscarriage, and even when I chose to love someone else. He said he would always point me to Jesus, that he would love me despite my faults, that he would never give up on us. It took that kind of love for me to become soft again.
I made the choice to just try to save my marriage. We were so, so far from the “better” part of our vows. We had a long road ahead of us.
I read a blog recently where the writer said, “One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat.” In Christian circles, adultery is taboo. No one talks about having feelings for someone other than your spouse. But it is happening everywhere. I have felt the shame, guilt, and unworthiness of adultery. I still deal with it. But God reminds me that he makes all things new. His mercies are new every morning, and His grace covers my sins just as His grace covers yours.
I started to listen to the promises God had been whispering to me throughout the time I was away from Him. I learned through counseling and community to use truth to combat the lies. Who does God say I am? Because that is truly all that matters. I forgave myself and let my husband forgive me. It was not easy. I felt like I was supposed to hold onto the guilt and the shame for an “appropriate” amount of time. But that is not at all how God’s grace works. Our burden is so light! We have the choice to carry it all in our own strength, or release it to The One who makes every single thing (even an affair) work together for our good.
My prayer and hope for sharing our story is that we can offer hope over doubt. When you feel as though your marriage is too far gone to rebuild it, you can start with one step, one brick on a new foundation. It’s a choice. Some days it’s a struggle. Some days you go backwards instead of going forwards. And it really sucks sometimes. But, one day, you look back and those baby steps have grown into miles of growth in your relationship. It is a beautiful thing when a marriage survives the “worse” to get to the “better”.
*This is part of the “This is My Story” series. Click here for more.