Today's column covers a subject I pray I will never be able to write about. I have seen the results of cheating in marriage in my divorce mediation practice, and I promise you it is not pretty. But, as you are about to read in a guest column from Gary and Mona Shriver, affairs do not have to mean the marriage is doomed and over. If you, or someone you know, is going through the trauma of an affair, please read all the way through to learn about an upcoming intensive weekend that could provide help equal to years of therapy.
Healing after adultery
"If you ever cheat on me, this marriage ends." I said those words to my husband on more than one occasion. And I meant them sincerely. But it had always been said in response to hearing about it happening to someone else, because adultery wasn't anything we, a Christian couple, would ever have to deal with. We loved each other, we were best friends. Besides, we were both smarter than that.
Then one cold night in January, 19 years into our marriage, Gary came home and said, "I've betrayed you." His confession of an affair forced both of us to consider just what we would and wouldn't do. Did this mean our marriage was over? Gary said he wanted to work on it. I didn't know what I wanted, the pain I was feeling overwhelmed my body, mind and soul.
The relationship we had lay in shambles all around us as tangibly as if a bomb had exploded. Yet we had three children whose lives would be significantly impacted by the decision we made. We'd never known anyone whose marriage had survived adultery. The only ones we did know about were divorced or were miserable. Miserable wasn't an option we would even consider. Was divorce the only answer? Could our relationship be rebuilt? Could we heal from this? We didn't know. But we decided to try. Frankly, in my heart of hearts, I didn't believe it could be done, but I felt I had to at least try.
Our journey began by educating ourselves about adultery recovery. We didn't have a clue how to even begin, so we read through a book together. We talked. We screamed. We cried. We soon started seeing a professional Christian counselor. I wasn't sure why. He couldn't make it go away. But we were dying, and we had to do something. We learned how valuable a good counselor could be. He heard us and spoke into us. He helped us through the rough times and encouraged us when we made progress. Sometimes, it took all we had just to survive another day. Recovery was one baby step at a time.
One of the needs that soon surfaced was to be able to talk with another couple who had successfully navigated this healing process. Someone to tell us it was worth trying. Someone who could look us in the eyes and tell us it really was possible to heal. Someone who had done it. Our pastor and counselor told us they were out there, but we never found them. Two years later our counselor approached us to be that couple for someone else and a ministry was born.
Healing a marriage broken by infidelity is a scary and arduous process. It feels like a long and lonely walk in the dark. Weariness becomes a constant companion in the battle for your marriage. Those on this journey need encouragement and tools to not only successfully navigate the path, but also to simply stay on the path when you feel as though you cannot take another step.
That couple our counselor called us about joined with us in co-founding Hope and Healing Ministries in 1998, now a 501c3 California Nonprofit Religious Corporation. We are a Christian-based support system committed to helping couples who are facing the heartache of adultery. We are couples who have experienced infidelity in our marriages and not only survived but healed our relationships. These couples support, encourage, offer hope and provide practical strategies for couples willing to grow through this trauma in their marriage.
What we had so wanted for ourselves became support for others, and they validated the positive impact that support had on their healing process. That led to our book, "Unfaithful, Hope and Healing after Infidelity," being written to offer that same support to those in other geographical areas. In addition to other resources, Hope and Healing offers Weekend Intensives for couples going through adultery recovery, a three-day retreat led by experienced facilitators. The goal is to provide a solid foundation for the healing process or to jump-start a process that has hit a roadblock. In fact, we'll be in Albuquerque on Sept. 12 to 14, and there are still some spots available. For more information on healing, visit our website, www.hopeandhealing.us.
Adultery is not an automatic death sentence to a marriage. Marriages can heal. You can rebuild or even build anew a marriage with love, trust, intimacy and respect. It will not be easy but it is worth it. And the good news is you don't have to do it alone. To borrow from one of our facilitators, "I would never have chosen the path we took, but I wouldn't trade where we are today for anything in the world."
Thinking of the consequences
I'm back, and oh, how I wish I didn't feel the need to run a column such as this one. While I greatly appreciate Gary and Mona Shriver, I just wish folks would consider the consequences of their actions a bit more before they jump into someone else's arms and bed. No matter the thrill or exhilaration of the moment, it just cannot possibly be worth the fallout and pain to follow.