I got to put my Barbara Walter pants back on today, and conduct yet another interview.
We here at Mother Freaking have now interviewed a Lady I Know Who Raised a Mother-Freaking Good Kid, a Girl I Know Who is Overcoming a Mother-Freaking Hard Addiction, and today, a Girl I Know Whose Husband Had Mother-Freaking Affairs.
I love this girl, and the truth of the matter is, I love her husband, too. He’s godly and honorable and respectable and he’s good to my girl…but it doesn’t change the fact that some number of years ago, he DID do something mother-freaking crappy. Something not EVERY wife would be able to forgive. This girl did though, and today, their marriage is amazing…admired and desired by all those who know them.
After talking today to this friend of mine…(we’ll refer to her as Petunia, because I’m not telling you her real name, and why NOT Petunia?) and hearing all that she had to say, I truly believe that your marriage, whether troubled or not, will be better for having read this interview.
Listen to her story, and find out the How’s and the Why’s behind the forgiveness granted, the grace poured out, and the trust that was eventually rebuilt.
How long have you and Wilbur been married (his name may or not actually be Wilbur)?
15 years. And thank you for starting with something simple. I’m more nervous than I thought I would be!
Tell me a little bit…or a lot, if you wish….about how you knew Wilbur was “the one” for you?
Wilbur was the first person I ever dated who had a true relationship with God. So that drew me to him a lot. He was normal. Ha. Good looking. Likeable. Not like a “dorky” Christian. There was an ease in being with him. Not stressful. Just natural. Whenever we were together, I never wanted the time to end, and I couldn’t wait until the next time we saw each other.
What did your marriage look like, leading up to the Big Event (which we shall discuss in a moment)?
First five years were great….enjoyable, adventurous, intimate…just really good. All that a marriage should be.
Kids came. One, then another, then another. So close together. And somewhere in the midst of all that, things started to not feel right. I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really what marriage is like? I felt disconnected from Wilbur. There was a lack of companionship. I felt saddened by my marriage, and not complete by it.
And then what?
And then one night we were at a neighborhood gathering, and I noticed Wilbur was missing, and I just felt like I really needed to go find him. I walked downstairs at the house where the party was at, and I found him and my closest friend (at the time) kissing. The next day, he divulged to me a whole slew of other inappropriate relationships and behaviors he had been engaging in, that were not honoring to God, not honoring to me, and certainly not honoring to our marriage.
Describe how you felt in the very moment you learned of all this:
Lifeless …like every part of what I knew about security and safety and comfort was completely stripped away from me, and I was absolutely exposed.
So in that moment, you felt lifeless. But, there were hours and days and weeks and months still to come…what did THOSE look like? What was life like in your home, inside your head, and inside your heart, as you moved forward?
The first month or so after learning the news, I was in pure survival mode. Living in a proverbial black hole, and literally just surviving.
The themes of months two through four were:
-learning new things about myself
- a new found reliance on God
a new found dependence on God
a brand new level of intimacy with God
new discovery of what my life COULD look like
What do you mean by that?
I mean… I realized for maybe the first time the potential of actually thriving, versus just surviving.
I mean…a new awareness that marriage and a spouse weren’t absolutely NECESSARY for me to thrive.
I mean..a solid and steady internal decision that if God chose to heal our marriage, then I would choose to be “all in”.
Anyway, the next six to eight months was mostly spent putting new patterns into place.
Tell me, what KINDS of patterns, Petunia?
Forgiveness. Looking for ways that I could be a safe place for my husband. Learning how to battle the enemy when he would feed lies to me. Reliance on God, prayer, delving into God’s word, and scripture memorization.
What do you mean when you say “be a safe place for my husband”?
Wilbur needs to know that he can come to me with his struggles…be honest about them…bring them into the light…a nd I will offer no condemnation, no judgement. He needs to be able to come to me with something that is hard, and know that I will be able to embrace it in a loving way.
You described how you guys made it through the first year. So by the end of that year, do you feel like you had healed? That your marriage had healed?
Yes. I do.
And then came D-Day 2 and D-Day 3. In the Affair World, “D-Day” means “Discovery Day”. A year, almost to the day, after D-Day 1, I found out about another instance with Wilbur, and a best friend of mine from years prior. The friend had decided to confess to her husband, what had transpired years before, and Wilbur knew that once she did, it was only a matter of time before I found out too, so he told me on his own. Then the next morning, I was greeted with ANOTHER D -day, as Wilbur decided to come completely clean, and confess to me his last and final transgression, with yet another friend of mine.
After finding all of this out, did you know that you would stick it out with him, or were there times you thought about leaving?
I didn’t know anything, I felt like I was just in a posture of questioning “can we survive this?”
In your darkest moments, following all of these revelations, what were the truths you would constantly remind yourself of?
God is enough. I will forgive because I was forgiven. I will choose love even when it’s not easy, and even when I don’t feel like it, because that is what Christ modeled. I had Romans 12:2 running on a loop in my brain, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…His good, pleasing, and perfect will”.
How were you able to be the wife God was calling you to be, in spite of the feelings of anger and bitterness you must have been feeling?
Total dependence on Him, surrounding myself with a trustworthy, godly community of people that would speak truth and love to me, meditating on scripture literally day and night. I would probably spend 8 hours a day in God’s word and scripture. I’m serious…day and night. I didn’t have the self -control to NOT think bad thoughts..NOT think through the scenarios…so I had no choice BUT to replace the thoughts with other things..truth.
What has the process of regaining trust looked like for you guys?
We have really clung to the principle of “coming into the light”. Nothing stays in the dark, nothing stays hidden. Again, this ties into the concept of me being a safe place for him. He can come to me with his struggles and expect no condemnation, no judgement. We practice that with little things….open communication….if something happens during his day, and there is temptation, or a thought, or an opportunity for betrayal, he comes openly to me with that, and I do the same. Especially in the beginning. If I had an angry thought. If I contemplated divorce. If I started feeling justified in my right to leave. I would come to him with ALL of it. We talk about triggers a lot too…which situations/circumstances trigger us back to those old feelings or emotions, and be vulnerable with those.
What was one very specific way you can really remember feeling God’s presence during that time? Maybe a cool way He really showed up? A small mercy that you knew was from Him? Something like that?
There were a lot, but one that really sticks out, is on that second D Day…immediately after Wilbur told me…I gave him a hug, told him I forgave him, called my best friend, (the one he had cheated on me with), and told her I forgave her, too. Absolutely none of that was in my power…that was all the Holy Spirit taking over. My friend wept. She couldn’t even speak. Three years later, her husband called me, and said, “I don’t know how you were able to do that. I wasn’t able to. But the love of Christ that was shown in that moment was displayed more clearly than I’ve ever seen it.” It eventually prompted him to call Wilbur, and offer his forgiveness as well.
What does your marriage look like now?
It’s a beautiful symphony of love and forgiveness. Ultimate intimacy with one another. Wilbur knows the depths of my soul, and I know the depths of his. We aren’t perfect. We are still messy. But we are each other’s source of support and encouragement as we navigate through the all the messes of life TOGETHER.
Do you have any any advice for “affair-proofing” a marriage?
Not really. You can’t affair- PROOF it. I do think there are things you can do to keep your marriage healthy, be on guard, be proactive. I think it’s important to implement healthy patterns, similar to the ones I mentioned earlier. It’s so important to remember who your first love is…God. Loving God first and most doesn’t suppress our other loves… it enables us to love them at a greater capacity. Be in the light. Be vulnerable . Recognize that temptation in itself is not a sin, but it definitely can open the door to negative patterns. So come into the light with those temptations. Learn the ways that make your spouse feel loved. Convey to them what makes YOU feel loved. Seek out ways to know each other more intimately. Appreciate the differences they have, and dive into THEIR world, and experience it through their lens. I used to be a “dream-crusher”. But diving into his world and his dreams makes me feel closer to him, and him to me.
Tell me one thing you learned about yourself during that time?
I always thought the worse thing that could happen to me would be an affair, and in hindsight, seeing the personal growth, it was worth it.
Tell me one thing you learned about God?
God is enough. He is sufficient.
What did you learn about Wilbur?
He is no more of a sinner than I am.
We hear a lot about the concept of “beauty from ashes”…what beauty do you think came out of your ashes?
When you go through something that hard together, and come out on the other side, there is an intimacy that develops that is so rich and deep…it maybe couldn’t come about without the hard times.
Do you fear Wilbur could be unfaithful to you again? Why or why not?
Occasionally. I give that fear over to God, though. Ultimately, I put my trust in God, not in Wilbur…because he MIGHT fail me again…but God won’t.
What do you love most about Wilbur?
I love that he dreams big.
Respect most about him?
He puts his faith in those dreams, and in God’s leading, more than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life.
Do you feel like your children were affected by Wilbur’s choices,in any way, good or bad?
No. But I look forward to the day that God allows us to reveal it to them, so that they can see a good example of God making beauty from ashes.
Were you ever angry with God?
No. Always only comforted.
What Wilbur did is obviously not your fault. That being said, in hindsight, do you feel there were things you did, or didn’t do, that contributed to the problems which eventually led him to make the choices he did?
Wilbur needs quality time…it’s his love language…and I didn’t make it a priority. I didn’t feel like I had much left in me to give. I had young children. I chose sleep and rest. I got lazy in terms of being intimate with him…sex, that is. Meanwhile, sex and intimacy has always been what makes Wilbur feel comforted and assured. So when that was gone, he wrestled with insecurities in our relationships, and with himself. On top of all of that, when I was struggling with my questions and dissatisfaction regarding our marriage, I never brought that to Wilbur. It’s almost like I kind of just surrendered to Satan, and settled for “it is what it is”, instead of wrestling through the hard questions, and facing our issues head on.
What were some things Wilbur did during that time that were helpful, in terms of you healing, gaining back trust, getting answers to your questions?
He held me no matter how often I cried. Took on the role of comforter. Implemented patterns in his life that made me feel more comfortable. Chose to not do or watch certain things, even if he wasn’t affected by them, just to make me feel more comfortable. He told people. For some reason it was really important to me that he get it out into the light. We decided, “we are not getting a divorce over this. We aren’t talking about it or threatening it. It’s a non-issue” That put both of us at rest, because we knew we HAD to figure it out. Also, there was and is no secrecy allowed. I can ask anything. See anything. Have access to anything.
To other women, suffering through the same type of hurt/betrayal you experienced, what advice would you offer them?
Choose to love your spouse well, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. The only way you will be able to do that, is to lean into God and His word. Doing this may not transform them, but it WILL transform you.
So thanks, Petunia, for doing this with me. I was going to say “I know it was so hard for you”, but you know what? It actually wasn’t. The amount of healing God has brought to this marriage is so great, that my girl Petunia barely even remembers some of the details of all of this. It’s an entire lifetime ago. I asked her, “are you going to cry a lot while we do this?”, and she said, “Girl, no. This entire situation has been bathed in so much healing and prayer, I’m not even scarred by it anymore”.
THAT is a true miracle, and a testament to just what God is capable of doing.
It’s mine and Petunia’s hope that if you are reading this, and you are struggling in your marriage, that you won’t give up just yet.
(If your marriage is suffering, due to an affair, and you are interested in taking the first step towards healing, please visit www.affairrecovery.com)