I am believing God that this isn’t the end of our story. I am hoping and praying that there are many more chapters to come – wonderful chapters. But this is the chapter we’re in now. It’s a chapter that started a little over 3 years ago. It’s a terrible, painful, life altering chapter. But God is faithful. In all of the mess that is this chapter, His love shines through. His sustaining power can be seen everywhere. My hope is that His redemptive power is what will prevail. That it will be the reason for all the chapters to come.
The Big Compromise
Like I said, this chapter started about 3 years ago when my love had his first affair. It was an awful year already. Other events in our life left us feeling betrayed and alone and completely vulnerable. He found himself in a situation he knew was dangerous and rather than run or apply appropriate safeguards he chose to take advantage. He wanted to escape from all the stress and do something that would just make him feel good. The irony of that thought process is that it was such a lie. It may have felt good for a few minutes, but then it felt terrible. It didn’t relieve stress, it added it. It didn’t provide an escape, it enslaved him in a terrible trap! He found himself in a web of lies and deception and guilt that came with an appetite for more and more and more and could never be satisfied.
The affair didn’t last long, but the door had been opened. He had finally made the big compromise, and he believed he had gotten away with it. I had believed the lies. He could do it again. He went into full on predator mode. Every woman was a potential partner. He would talk and flirt. He would find information to reveal vulnerabilities and then exploit them. He would pick up on every chink in their armor: A lingering look or a smile or a compliment that told him it was working. He was gaining ground, she was interested. He could take what he wanted from her. When his efforts came up empty he would turn to porn, or fantasies, or other “professional” women to satisfy his never ending appetite for more and more and more. Then somehow, he would turn it off, switch gears and come home to us each day and pretend to be someone else. Live as if all of that wasn’t happening and we were a perfect, happy family just living life and following God. The weight of the lies had to be unbearable. I can’t even imagine the guilt!
Two years after the first affair God finally stepped in. He opened my eyes. He showed me where to look. He reveled to me which questions I should ask and where I should press. Over the course of the next few months I finally learned that my love had been unfaithful. The web of lies does not easily unravel though and my love guarded the secrets with clenched fists. He would admit to just enough to make me believe that he was coming clean but hold on to all the rest. However, he did finally admit to the one affair, and that revelation was enough to cause some very serious changes in his heart. This sin lives in the darkness. It feeds on it and it grows there. When you shed light on that darkness, things change. The more light, the better!
We started reading some books and finding some resources to help us figure this out. We added more steps, more safeguards, more rules. (What we would eventually realize is that all the rules in the world won’t change anything if the heart doesn’t change too.) Of course, I was devastated. I had believed so many lies and it was all coming undone. I insisted that we get some help because I had no idea what to do. We started counseling, he joined an online support group for sex addicts, and we enlisted the help of another couple (our best friends.) We started meeting with them weekly for support and accountability. We started reading every book we could find to help us figure out how to go forward. We spent hours talking about the problem: Why it had happened, what we could do to change it, what other problems were symptoms of the same underlying issues, and what we needed to do to bring restoration and healing to our relationship. Eventually my love even agreed to confess the affair to his parents in order to enlist more support for me and more accountability for him.
At first, I felt like a zombie. Dead on my feet. Everything went numb and I was in survival only mode. Some days even that was a stretch. I thought far too often about the gun in our closet. I tried to hold myself together enough to make our children and the other people in our life believe that everything was okay, but I’m a pretty transparent person. Everyone knew something was wrong, although no one guessed it was as bad as it really was. Time passed and big things started to change. My love started reading the Bible and praying with me every day. Within a year we had read through the whole New Testament together. He started reading the Bible on his own each day as well and in that same year read through the entire Bible for the first time in his life. (It does not return void!) He was treating me so much better. He was treating the kids so much better. He was treating people in general so much better. I started to feel like things were really changing and as time passed I started to recover from the wounds of betrayal. I started to feel like we could still have a wonderful, happy marriage. We just needed more time and lots of help from God. Things were looking up. We were going to make it.
The Tangled Web
The thing about lies is, they have a way of coming back to bite you. We do not battle with flesh and blood my friends, but against evil powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour! When we lie, we give the enemy a foothold, a tool he can use to weaken our resolve and pull us back into the darkness. This was certainly the case with my love. The secrets he had kept from me were used to remind him that he was guilty, a wretched sinner who would never get it right. Why try? Despite the real progress he had made in defeating the monster of sexual addiction, it didn’t take very long for the lies to pull him back in. They aroused the feelings again and before he knew it he was not only back at it, but was worse off than he had ever been – having more affairs and telling more lies to cover them up. Only this time he was also trying to maintain all the new habits of being a loving, spiritual leader at home. Attempting to help me recover from the betrayal I knew about while simultaneously betraying me over and over again. It was unsustainable, obviously, but liars believe lies. He thought he could do it, he thought he could get away with it. But my love is a child of God and that means the Spirit of God resides within him and the Spirit of TRUTH does not abide with lies!
Once again, God showed me what I needed to find in order to know what was going on. This one caught me totally off guard. I really thought things had changed. I came undone. I immediately confronted him and he rushed home from work to try to hold on to the very thin thread that was left of our marriage. While he was driving home I called his parents and pleaded for their help. They dropped everything and rushed over. I cried out to God with everything in me. I needed help that only He could give.
My love got here first and came to me broken. He told me this was it. He was going to tell me everything. He was certain that once he had, I would be done with him, our marriage would be over, but he finally realized the secrets had to end. Then he proceeded to tell me so many things. So many terrible, heartbreaking things. There had been SO MANY affairs! The one I knew about had been the first, but there had been so many since then. I was paralyzed. How could this be true? How could I have not known? How could he do this to me? Did I mean anything at all to him? What in the world was I going to do now? Then his parents got here. He confessed the same things to them that he had to me, but in much less detail. We all sat in stunned silence trying to figure out what to do next. My love was shocked to find that I was still there and he was willing to do anything I wanted to keep me there. We all agreed, the kids had to be told. The rest of the family had to be told. I couldn’t keep going through this alone.
It’s Where We Are
That terrible day was about a month ago. These past few weeks have brought both victories and defeats. We have been truly facing off with the monster like never before. Sometimes that fight looks like two soft hearts working together with God. Other times there is great resistance either in my heart or in his. The biggest step has been to shed as much light as we can on the darkness while at the same time breaking down the pride that we believe is at the core of this problem. My love has confessed his sin to our children, to both sides of our families, and to our entire church. He confessed to his boss, the CEO of the company where he works and tried to quit his job because it is such a huge source of temptation for him. The CEO surprised us and insisted that before he quits he take two months to work from home and spend as much time as he can working on repairing and rebuilding our relationship. He told my love that his family comes first and he needs to do whatever it takes to save it, but if they can still keep him, they want to. (What a blessing from God!) Next week we will be heading off to a week long “intensive.” It is a program that includes extensive counseling with a man who has an entire ministry dedicated to helping couples recover from sexual addiction. I am hopeful that it will offer a great deal of help. That’s it folks. That brings us right up to today.
Looking to the Future
Will all these steps of courage and humility make a difference? I really don’t know. I understand that I have no real reason to think that this time will be any different. I could (and let’s face it, likely will) find myself right back here again at some point in the future. This isn’t just going to go away. But I serve a God who makes things new. A God who created marriage and puts great value in it. A God who has forgiven me when I have failed Him over and over again. I have to keep trying and I have to keep putting my trust in Him to show me the next step. Some day that step may be to end this marriage. It’s not today. Today I am going to keep fighting.
Now that you know our story I would love for you to join me on this journey. I will spend the next few months revisiting specific aspects of this story and delving in more deeply. I will share my struggles both in the past and as we go forward. I believe that with God’s help I can be an encouragement to you and that you can be an encouragement to me. Let’s write the next chapter together!