It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
The sun shone brightly against the backdrop of a tantalizing bright blue sky. The horizon gleamed with only an occasional wisp of white clouds, the sole deterrent in the ocean of blue hanging above us. Ron and I arrived at the restaurant with our friends – all of us laughing and talking after spending the weekend together. Ron opened the door, climbed down and then turned to take my hand as I stepped out of the van.
We walked, hand in hand, chatting and laughing together up to the entrance of the restaurant.
As we made our way up the steps, a couple appeared before us bursting out of the restaurant doors. A woman dressed in a lovely skirt and jacket outfit with soft leather peep-toe pumps and matching designer purse, rushed out yelling at someone we could not yet see. Then, a man appeared behind her. He was dressed in a sharply pressed dark blue suit with a colorful tie and pointed alligator shoes. This same man followed the angry woman out the door and then down the steps, walking several feet behind her with his head hanging low.
“I am sick and tired of you!” the lady shouted back at the man.
“Don’t you ever disrespect me like that again. You disgust me.” The man, dejected, barely glanced up as he followed the woman, we presumed to be his wife, to a pristine car parked near the van we left behind. As he sheepishly made his way to their car, she then suddenly turned around and drew her arm back and landed a hard smack on his arm. She continued to shout at him for disrespecting her and humiliating her before she threw open her car door, vaulted into her seat, slammed the door, skidding out of the parking lot. The man stood rooted to his spot, numbly staring at the taillights of the car as it drove off.
No sooner had she left, than she circled back and squealed to a stop in front of him. He opened the car door and climbed into the car before she sped off again. We all stood there as witnesses to the tragic display of a dysfunctional relationship full of hurt, distrust and unfaithfulness. My heart truly ached for them. With this in mind, I knew what they were going through. I clearly remembered the pain of unfaithfulness and the effects it significantly had on our relationship.
"Couples don’t normally create that kind of public display unless there are unresolved issues."
Had we not experienced unfaithfulness in our relationship, it would surely have been easy to judge the couple who were arguing in the parking lot. Because we ourselves grappled the aftershock that came with recovering from Ron’s affair, we could feel their pain and grief as if it were our own. The husband appeared to be the victim, but we knew that the chances were very good that he had inflicted a very deep emotional wound upon his wife as he betrayed her trust. I knew that this couple had a “before and after” story. Couples don’t normally create that kind of public display unless there are unresolved issues. Disappointment, dishonor, and disgust had taken root in their hearts and dictated their actions.
Our journey back from unfaithfulness was long and messy.
From the outside, I am sure it looked easy. From the inside, it was one of the most difficult challenges we faced. Yes, even more difficult than Ron’s imprisonment. As I think about it, I believe that is because going to prison was not a choice he made; but having affairs was without question his own choice. In that season, my heart was broken and I felt utterly dishonored. The ache I felt in my chest was as real as any physical pain. I genuinely felt as though I had been stabbed through my heart. In the first days, the pain was constant. It was hard to breath, and hard to go about life.
The Next Chapter
Slowly, the pain subsided to a dull ache that I could set aside for days, weeks, and even months. During that chapter in our lives, it took very little to make me feel threatened or disrespected. When I felt either of those feelings, I would react rather than respond. My reactions, always strong, were also born out of a fierce desire to protect myself from more pain. What a tough time that was for our marriage! We argued about the smallest things; and we fought over misunderstandings more often than we agreed. The effects of unfaithfulness were causing me to become someone I did not like. I was jealous, suspicious, and argumentative. Frustrated, I knew I had to do something different or I would become a bitter woman who no one would want to be around.
I prayed earnestly for the Lord to take away the pain and the anger I felt toward my husband. Slowly, the disappointment began to seep away. As time passed, I realized that Ron and I were rebuilding our relationship on a new foundation. Moreover, I worked hard to manage my unreasonable responses, as I became intentional in communicating my fears and doubts. The more we talked together and worked through conflict, then the closer we became.
Over the years, we have been able to set a new precedent in our marriage and our lives. We deliberately focus on the present and the future as we rebuild our marriage. The relationship we have now is not perfect, but it is healthy and permanent. To be sure, we work hard every day to keep it healthy. Gone are days of explosive arguments and angry outbursts. Now, we set time aside to resolve issues — and we block time to connect to each other. These deliberate steps keep our marriage affair-proof.
Building a life together takes commitment, dedication, and also requires a willingness to invest in each other. You will not find another return on your investment more valuable than a strong, thriving marriage.
I am rooting for you!