My husband stood at the front of the hall, looking handsome in a dark jacket as he made last minute preparations for a ceremony he would soon officiate. The room was filled with about twenty formal dining tables, and guests were trickling in and finding their assigned seats. I found my place at table #5, glanced around the room and finally allowed my eyes to settle on the beautiful sunset coming to life outside the large windows. As I waited for the ceremony to begin, a lighthearted conversation developed between myself and a woman seated to my left. We mentioned the weather, commented on the decor, and complimented the other on her accessories.
And then the conversation shifted. You know what I am talking about: We unintentionally found ourselves in a meaningful conversation which pulled strangers beyond the guest list and into a spiritual and transformational moment.
Somehow in a conversation about why my husband and I relocated from California to Arizona, the topic of my infidelity came up. (This is where my closest friends shake their heads and mutter, “…of course it did.” ) My willingness to talk openly and be transparent about what has transpired in my life over the last year may seem like an oddity to some, but I have come to learn that while I am in the minority of those who talk about what we are going through, I am (sadly) not in the minority of those who have gone through it.
After I had shared with the woman at my table about my infidelity there was a little awkwardness. It happens. I am learning to be okay with that uncomfortable moment, because I remind myself that the person is processing what has been shared. Their inner conflict has little to do with me and much more to do with their own story. I don’t know their story, and I work hard to not guess what it may hold. I’ve received messages and have had conversations with people who have been unfaithful, people who have been betrayed, and adult children who have watched their parents navigate this path.
For this particular woman it took about ten minutes before she opened up and began to share. She leaned in and whispered, “How did your husband let it go?”
Following her initial question came her story. She shared the details of a familiar storyline that included betrayal and heartbreak. Even though I’ve had other interactions with women whose husbands have been unfaithful, I am always awestruck. It amazes me that this woman didn’t throw water in my face, accuse me of being a “woman-like-that”, and move to another table. What draws a woman who has been betrayed to seek community with a woman who once betrayed?
She related how her husband’s actions were still affecting her. It had been several years since the affair had happened and ended, and she couldn’t let it go. She couldn’t walk away from the wounded place of disbelief. And living in that place where she had been wounded had transformed her into an angry woman. She admitted that she treated her husband differently than every other person in her life.
She shared how slowly, over time her husband had become the target of all her disappointment. Her rage and her anger were consistently aimed at him. At one point she asked, “How did your husband stop that from happening? How did he move forward and forgive you?”
It was frightening to hear the details of the way her anger was affecting her marriage. It was even more frightening that she was asking me for input. She was asking me a new question. She was asking me how my husband had navigated this journey. My heart pounded a little differently as I told her simply and honestly, “I don’t know if I can answer that for you.”
And my answer made me feel a new wave of shame.
My selfishness did not end with the affair. As I had been so focused on my own discovery and path to recovery, I had failed to ask my husband a basic question. Why did his forgiveness come so quickly? We have talked about a lot of things he has experienced, but I had never asked him that particular question.
During my affair my husband was an unhappy man. He was lonely, and he felt an isolation he didn’t understand. For over half of his life I had been his partner and his best friend. During this brutal time he felt more alone than any other time in his life. He couldn’t comprehend what the root of the problem could be or what to do to bridge the ever widening gap between us. Even when we were together, I was absent. The more he would try to engage me, the more I would pull away.
After the affair was disclosed he saw hope. He immediately understood his own sense of isolation and abandonment. Things he was questioning and witnessing with his own eyes suddenly made sense. There was a freedom that came to him in the knowledge of the truth because it meant he was not losing his mind.
Anymore, my husband and I don’t spend a lot of time talking about what our marriage was like during the affair. I ache for my husband when he has a reminder of that time period. At this point in our marriage, there is only death in going back to that place. Life comes with everything that has followed since the affair.
This was an “after-the-affair” question; maybe it would be life giving to talk about it. It made me feel selfish that it hadn’t been discussed to the point in which I could answer the woman’s question easily, so my motivation for asking him was also to break any barrier that may still exist between us.
After a few days, I finally worked through my own pride, shame and guilt and breached the question to my husband, “How did you forgive me for everything so easily?” As soon as the words “so easily” had rolled off my tongue, I was filled with regret.
- How in the hell would I know how easy or how difficult it was for him to forgive me?
- Can I read his heart?
- Had I been assuming it wasn’t hard for him to forgive me?
The entirety of that conversation cannot be shared in one blog post, because honestly–it’s still happening. That was the first of an ongoing dialog about forgiveness.
My embarrassment over having used the term “so easily”, and my profuse apologies for assuming it was easy made us both aware that there is a difference between something being done easily verses something being done quickly.
Just because someone does something quickly and intentionally does not mean it was done easily.
In 2008 there was a video surfing the internet. It was filmed during a Women’s Collegiate 600 Meter race where Heather Dorniden was the favored frontrunner. During the first 200 meters of the race the commentators are generous in their appreciation of her style and the likelihood of her win.
Then Heather falls.
What happens to Heather immediately after she falls is almost not even on the screen. The cameras are moving with the runners who didn’t fall, but at the edge of the screen you can see Heather get up and start running immediately. She does not hesitate even for one minute.
She runs hard and fierce and she not only catches up to the other runners, but she passes them. She races like a winner, and rightfully so, because in a photo finish…she wins. Had she not gotten up, she would not have finished. Had she hesitated to get up for one second, she would not have won. Victory came to her because she responded quickly.
The day my husband learned his wife was guilty of the worst kind of betrayal, he had to make a choice: quick & hard or slow & harder. Because that’s one of the realities about an unforgiving heart. What starts as hard, will oftentimes become harder. And in the same way that hard can transition to harder, the difficulty continues to transform. Eventually slow & harder can evolve into something far worse: never & bitter.
When the word “bitter” comes up, my husband is quick to identify his desire to stay far away from bitterness as being a huge influence. He has difficulty remembering exactly what his thoughts were to break it down completely. He says it was love. He knows it was the Holy Spirit. Whatever the motivation, it appears as though my husband made a quick choice to forgive me on the first day he learned of my infidelity.
But I am not sure that’s what really happened.
The more I’ve considered the patterns of his life, the more certain I am that my husband made the choice to run a race with a grace-filled forgiving mindset long before his wife was unfaithful. Long before his wife had an affair he had allowed himself to be transformed into someone who would choose grace and forgiveness. The decision came quickly because the decision had already been made.
He was intentional with forgiveness because grace was part of the nature he had been striving towards long before it was needed. He was ready to run in the way that was most Christlike. He was ready to run in a way that would make us both stronger so we might both cross the finish line.
10 thoughts on “A Husband’s Choice”
Good morning Jackie and David. I like how you pour your heart out to God and your friends. God is hearing you and using you to help other people who could not do this or who are going through this. May God continue to Bless both of you and make your marriage stronger. Miss both of you but know God has put you in this place.
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Connie, thank you for writing this comment. It is very encouraging. Sometimes the enemy wispers negative things to me that say the opposite if what you are saying. God is blessing us. We are not unaware that we are both very blessed to have each other. Things could have turned out quite differently, and His grace saved us both. I miss seeing you every Sunday morning. You were a light in my life.
I want to start out by saying I have loved reading your posts on the healing and forgiveness I have seen in the life of David and Jackie. To me, nothing is more powerful than when forgiveness is achieved after an affair from either side and nothing in my opinion glorifies God more. I have however come to a few concerns lately. Originally I brushed them off as me being judgememtal of the situation and quite honestly it being none of my business. This is your healing your life and who am I to have an opinion? Yet I sit here, convicted. Please know that I say all I am about to with love and respect in Christ. Here are the concerns placed upon my heart. Number 1) the concern that sharing the affair with anyone and everyone gives power to sin becoming your identity. When we fail, make mistakes, even in times we chose to sin, those sins and failures are never meant to become our identity. Jesus comes into our life to renew and restore us, to “make us white as snow.” (Psalm 51:7) when we continually discuss a topic, in this case our sin, we allow that sin to become a stronghold in our life. It becomes WHO we are rather than what we did. Without even intending that to happen. Words are so powerful. Jesus tells us “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will be moved because nothing is impossible.” (Matthew17:20) The key phrase here is “say”. When the disciples after Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons, they did so through words. God spoke the universe into existence through the power of the spoken word and we became living beings by the breath of the almighty God. Words my friend are indeed so powerful. A study was done several years ago where a scientist froze ice and as it was freezing he spoke negative, cruel, ugly words to the ice. Using terms like hate, ugly, sin, etc. When the ice froze he looked at it under a microscope. The water crystals were dark, misformed, and dirty. Then he did it again, this time using positive words, words for blessing. When he was finished, the ice crystals were bright, brilliant in clarity, and gorgeous.”Thoughts could pollute water,” he said. (Masary Emoto) I encourage you to look it up. My point is this, words have so much power and when we continue to speak of the sin in our life on a regular basis we are mishaping the world around us by using our words unwisely. My husband and I attend conferences on a regular basis and we heard a man speak at one. He was frustrated and disheartened because the group of men and women who put on the conferences every year had been speaking of the economy crashing for the past few years leading up to the crash. He said “by the power of the spoken word we ourselves have caused the very thing of which we spoke.” Jesus says “By your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34). Number 2) we tend to give way to pride. When we overcome or are in the process of overcoming something major in our life it is normal to want to tell everyone, but it is dangerous because pride can so easily develop in the heart without us even knowing it. We intend good, we intend to make it not hidden so as not to fall down the same path, we think “God would want me to be honest.” And He does, but satan can so easily grab that and twist into pride slowly over time without us even knowing. Sin is a slow fade and the evil one is a master of manipulation. Now i am by no means saying to never speak of your affair. I do not agree with the brush it under the rug method in churches. I will speak of all my sins when needed for my audience to hear the message of God. And, As you said recently “nothing good grows in the dark.” But what I am saying is this, “there is a time and place to speak of what needs to be told. So use your words wisely my friend.” I’ll end with this, when the adulteress woman is brought into the courtyard, Jesus first removes her acusers and then tells her “Now go and sin no more.” He does not tell her to go make mention of it and sin no more, he just says “go and sin no more.” He is telling the woman, “it is finished. You have already been forgiven.” Jackie I want you to continue writing, you have so much to share. When God places you in a situation that calls for the discussion of the affair, speak. In the end, use wisdom in how you move forward, speak wisely, using your words for blessing and encouragement toward others. Be cautious not to allow the sins of your past to create your identity, be on alert of the enemy sneaking pride through the back door of your heart. And remember, you have already been forgiven.
Shara, It took me a long time to reply. Over a year, actually. Initially, I couldn’t reply because I was surprised that you, an acquaintance (not even someone I had ever spent time with…or even met) would choose to leave this type of comment. My sin is no different than anyone’s sin. Yet, you want me to remain silent about the mistake that I made. You want me to carry it in silence, less it define me. Your fear is that I cannot see myself as a woman who committed adultery and a child of God at the same time, that my identity would be perverted. Framing your thoughts like that makes you see that I don’t feel the same way as you do. I don’t feel that a woman who had a baby out of wedlock should hide her pregnancy or keep that part of her life quiet. I don’t feel that there is a time and place for her to share with the world that she has finally found love in a new husband who is now going to be the father to her son. I feel that she has the ability to see herself as a woman who fell sexually and a child of God at the same time. The two need not be separated.
I only recently stumbled upon your comment, and now I wish I had had the courage to respond right away.
The use of the passage from John 8 where Jesus tells the woman to “Go and sin no more” was a poor example. No, Jesus didn’t say to go and make mention of it. He also didn’t tell her to hide it from the people who might be offended. The best thing I ever did when you left this comment was to push you away. You were not safe a person.
This was the most insightful post that you have made that has given me a positive look at what I am dealing with my in my life right now. I am on the other side of your situation, and yet I have nothing but love for you and your honesty. I love reading your blog and wish nothing but the best for you and your family. Happy Thanksgiving to You, David and the Family. God has a way of healing us through those we meet.
Keep writing my friend.
Your love and friendship is evidence of the Holy Spirit manifesting itself in your life. I am very sorry you had to go through a betrayal. I will never pretend to understand how painful that has been for you to overcome.
I am blessed by you, as I was blessed by you when we had the opportunity to serve the Lord together. You know, your daughters are beauty and light. The enemy detests beauty and light and would like you to only see the pain that happened at the end of your marriage. Never give the enemy that foothold. You are good and you have a good life. Love you. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. God bless you!
Hi Jackie, in our case it was I who made the choice to forgive. I would say it came rather quickly but not easily. It came quickly because I wanted our marriage and our family to survive and because I saw how deeply repentant my husband was. One thing we have not done is to share our story with others. Our friends and family knew we were separated but not the reason why. Even our adult kids do not know. I’ve never been sure if it was the right thing to do and do not want to ask my husband to if it would cause him pain. I know God wants to use our pain to help others but am not sure how to go about it. You are very brave! I think I need to seek God on this. I do not want to be hiding a part of our lives, especially from our kids. Thanks for sharing and listening. God bless you and your husband.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for taking the time to comment. It means a great deal to me that you were even open to read what I wrote.
I am very sorry you went through that trial in your marriage, but it gives me hope to hear that you overcame what you faced.
The Lord is quick to show His will when we ask for His guidance. I was scared of what people would think of me when I decided to share our story online, but I would rather be in the will of the Lord than anyplace else. For us, this is what’s right. He will show you what is right.
Interestingly, at the time it happened, my husband spoke of telling our kids and I told him I thought it wasn’t necessary. The youngest was 19, the oldest 26. I think I wanted to protect my image as much as his. It was very embarrassing for me as well. The infidelity was many years ago but I learned of it 14 years ago. He told me himself after first telling a counsellor. Our marriage is good but we have not talked much about it except that occasionally he will tell me how sorry he is. We have really focused on God’s forgiveness of all of us for whatever sins we have committed. Thanks for listening. This has given me pause to consider seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, Jackie.;
The internal work you are doing and the authenticity with which you share your words is evidence of the beauty of God’s economy, in which there is simply, no waste.