affair recovery · spiritual growth

The Secret Life of a Tattle Tale

As children we were quick to learn the pros and cons of being a tattle tale.  We learned that sometimes we could be a hero when being a tattle tale, especially if the behavior of others might have unintentionally caused someone to lose a limb.  In these instances, the parent often chose to overlook the tattle-telling that was occurring for the safety of others.  Other times it didn’t fare well to be the bearer of  disappointing news.  When there was a small injustice, and the parent was 7 weeks into summer vacation a tattle-telling instance may have been met with rolling eyes and sharp words from an exasperated parent.

Over the last couple months, I have been learning a great deal about being a tattle tale.  The person I am telling on is myself.

In a marriage where infidelity has occurred, there is a change in what accountability is required for the betrayed spouse to feel safe.  It isn’t unusual for couples to share an email or Facebook account to help maintain safe boundaries.  I can only imagine that every couple will deal with relearning trust differently.  There are different trigger points for everyone, and the couples will have to learn what those triggers are. According to affairhealing.com if accountability isn’t freely given, it’s going to be much harder for the couples to move forward towards lasting intimacy.

…if a cheating spouse has a genuine change of heart, he/she will want to prove their sincerity and will take the initiative in opening up the hidden areas of their lives to give assurance of their honesty.

Prior to my having an affair my husband was inquisitive to knowing what was on my mind.  He was always interested in knowing my heart–I was the one with the block, and I chose not to be honest.  I understand this differently than I did prior to my affair being disclosed, and now I want to open up to my husband–not because he stands over me watching every move I make.  I have a greater understanding of my triggers, and a better understanding of the reasons why I should not only listen to my thought life–but share it with him.  I have an understanding of how hiding small things will eventually grow to hiding larger things.

So…that’s all fine and dandy…but, what does that look like for the person who has nothing to hide? Ahhh…see, this is where the enemy gets us. There is always something to hide. Sometimes it appears harmless, but there are moments in all of our lives where we are in the position to open up and share–or keep silent. Keeping silent is a step towards isolation.

Our tendency is to try to conquer our demons on our own. We don’t see the monster we are facing as the GIGANTIC, SHARP TOOTHED, BLOOD-THIRSTY, EVIL CREATURE that it is. We see it as ‘a struggle’. We see a half truth as less offensive than a lie. We may even have the best intentions, “I don’t want to cause him to feel insecure…” Sometimes, we may even want to avoid a fight.

Not being completely honest may not be the same as having a secret cell phone, but withholding any part of ourselves from our spouse is the first step to giving ourselves to someone else.

4951204501_9e8a5ba3d2_zFor myself, I am learning to “tell on myself” when I am struggling with the emotional after affects of the affair.  I tell on myself when I am feeling sad. That may seem harmless, even silly, to some. Why would I struggle with telling my husband I am sad? Well, quite simply, since I am the one who caused all the heartache, I feel guilty when I am sad about the trials we are now facing.  The guilt I already felt for my betrayal was compounded when my husband lost his job due to my behavior. If I am not open and honest about my sadness and guilt, those emotions have the ability to morph into something more unpleasant and even sinful. Over time they can become a wedge between us.

When possible, I concentrate on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. But, when what I am facing is not one of these things–I quickly become a tattle tale.

affair recovery · marriage

The Lies We Believe

I am an obsessive researcher, but only compulsively.  Driven by this nature, God spoke to me in a most unlikely place. Through a Google search I wound up on an advertising website reading an article entitled, Changing Beliefs Vs. Changing Behaviors. The article stated that while it is easy for advertisers to change customers behaviors, changing customers beliefs is a daunting task. In other words, if you are a die hard Coke fan, you may purchase Pepsi because it is on SALE–but deep inside, you still believe (and may be willing to argue) that Coke is better than Pepsi.

Now, I am not interested in the cola wars, or even in advertising. What I am interested in is the truth. Recently, I made a lot of self destructive decisions that ended up causing a great deal of pain, and knowing the truth about my motivations matters to me greatly.

One of the things that I’ve come to realize is that my belief about how I felt about my marriage was a major influence. According to Rick Reynolds, Founder and President of Affair Recovery,

“Most of us believe that the path to a better marriage is through better behavior, but that is not the full truth of the recovery process. In fact, it might not even be the most important thing. More frequently, the path to a better marriage is through changing the lens through which we view our mate.”

This is where is gets tricky, because this is where I unload some of my baggage, or “air some laundry.” Prior to meeting my husband, I had a habit of dating young men  who were not chivalrous. I gave myself completely to several relationships, and each relationship followed the same pattern of intimacy & thrill followed by rejection & heartache. My draw towards people who would treat me poorly increased. At the ripe young age of 21, I understood and even empathized with Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction.

Then I met a very kind young man who treated me differently. His composure with me demonstrated the love that my Heavenly Father has for me. He was respectful and faithful. As much as I knew this was a good thing, it was equally confusing. During our engagement period, there were signs that I was struggling. I did not understand why I didn’t have the erratic feelings that I had experienced in the past. What I didn’t know was that the feelings to which I had become accustomed to were not associated with love, but rather with rejection.  I did not understand how to allow myself to be loved rather than used.

Being used was familiar and understood. This was new territory, and while I attempted to understand it–I didn’t talk to anyone about what I had come to believe, because sadly, what I had come to believe was that I had made a mistake. I had taken a vow, and I had started a family–what I felt was irrelevant. I assumed that as long as my behavior emulated a strong Christian wife, my heart would follow suit and walk the line.

Circa 1988

“If I just had the right behavior, it wasn’t important what I believed.”

Over the last several months, that lie has been shattered. I did not make a mistake when I married my husband. It’s a terrible lie and I don’t believe it anymore. It is also true that believing that lie is dangerous. Every single lie we tell ourselves is harmful. Every. Single. One.

Changing patterns of belief may be uphill work, but the Lord is in me and He is driving every step I take. Sometimes it’s unpleasant and ugly, but I am not interested in looking good on the outside and being confused on the inside. I am not interested in presenting a persona that isn’t true to who I am. The only reason I would strive for that would be if I were selling something. And, once again, I am not interested in advertising.

affair recovery · marriage

Outtakes of a Crisis

Over the last 12 weeks, David and I have been on a journey, and because we had our situation announced to the large ministry I was a part of, we decided that we would not hide what was happening in our lives from the people who were interested and invested in walking this journey with us. We’ve posted pictures of us at the Grand Canyon, scriptures that have touched us deeply, moments with our granddaughter, and other updates. This morning, as I lay awake in the too-dark-to-get-up-hours, I began to scroll through pictures that haven’t made the cut. These outtakes made me smile and reminded me of some simple things I’ve come to learn.

my family

I didn’t lose everything.

Initially, the enemy wanted me to believe that I had lost everything.  “You’ve lost your job… you’ve lost your reputation…you’ve lost friendships…you’ve lost your platform…you’ve lost your voice!” he laughed at me.

 But, really…I did not lose the most important thing. My husband and my children stood close to me on the day I disclosed my affair. It was not easy for them to do, but in their anger…they did not sin. They chose to forgive me over focusing on their pain. We’ve had hard moments. Ugly, tense, tear-filled moments. But we’ve had them together.

boys will be boys

There are young men watching it all. 

My husband did not sign up for this. He wouldn’t have chose it, and given the chance to redo it all, I wouldn’t have chose it for him either. But, here he is. An example to younger men. We have an all male college/young adult Lifegroup that meets in our home weekly, and these young men were told in the first week what was happening in our marriage. They have continued to gather in our home, and they are like family to us. As they come and go from our home, they have seen my husband talking and praying with me on our front porch on many occasions. The way he has treated me is penetrating them in ways they aren’t even fully aware. Seeds are being planted without them having a foreknowledge of their future trials. How will they respond if their wife should fail them in this way, or another? Will they ask her to leave? Will they punish her and treat her badly? Or will they walk with her through the mess she created? 

beach family

We get to share what we are learning. 

That’s such a great privilege. It’s one I don’t feel I deserve, but God has already begun to redeem this sin in this way. In the same way that young men are watching my husband and how he responds to me, we are watching our adult children differently. We are open and honest about the ways we neglected small issues early in marriage.They are asking questions and we are willing to share honestly–with a broadened perspective.  We are blessed to have this time with people who want to learn from our mistakes, so that they can make different choices…better choices.

us at the parkIsla at the park

We are going to be okay.

Sometimes it’s scary. Last week when the leaders of the church decided that there was no longer a job for my husband at the church, we were heartbroken. It felt like it would be the final blow when we were already down for the count. But, that’s not the truth. God is still on His throne. He wasn’t surprised by the affair, and He wasn’t surprised by the reaction of others. He has had a plan for us that included the responses of everyone involved. God is the redeemer of all.

isla selfie

God’s timing is perfect. 

When our daughter died in 1995, our younger son was an infant. Days after we buried her, I remember glancing over at our messy little nine-month-old boy in his high chair and saying, “well, hello.”

God had given me an infant to love at the darkest time in my life. My baby was completely dependent on me and he didn’t have a clue as to the depth of my pain. He just knew that he wanted his Momma. And here I am, nearly 20 years beyond those dark days,  and I have found myself revisiting some terrible days filled with terrible fears. And then there is Isla. God has given me this precious little granddaughter to love at one of the darker times in my life.

How can I doubt a God who took these things into consideration? He knew these wonderful hearts–the way they would be burdened by my sin, and He still showed mercy on me. I did not deserve the mercy I have found, and I will never be the same after experiencing it.

 

 

affair recovery

A Bike of Integrity

Recovering from a double life and restoring a marriage after infidelity is the furthest thing from easy that I have ever experienced. It was brought to my attention that some people believe I am making this look easy. The reality is quite the opposite. This last month has brought to life a new kind of pain and new weight to the gravity of my sin that I never fully understood. However, it has brought a new strength I never understood, as well.

For the sake of imagery, I will liken it to riding a bicycle. For the last year, I was on a bike that I was trying to pedal uphill, with 200 pounds of weight on my back. I was not making progress towards the heart of God–I was actually being pulled backwards into a deep pit. The level of anxiety I carried was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

And, I was alone.

I did not open myself up to anyone with the emotional or spiritual maturity to help me overcome my temptations and turn away from my sin. For someone like me, who shares so much of what she is feeling with those who are willing to listen, I was wedged into a place that seemed inescapable. The lies of what would happen if I confessed my sin, held me captive. I did not imagine the forgiveness I have received. I was far from the heart of God, and I was unable to believe His love for me would be enough to carry me.

Over the last month, I have been on a different kind of bike ride.

The bike is light, and it has training wheels which have been reattached in the form of complete honesty and accountability and most importantly, I am not alone. I have others with me on the journey; praying for me and praying with me. They are the ones who have chosen to stay by my side even though they now know the truth of my hypocrisy, and the length of time that I lived in it. I have the Holy Spirit inside me–alive and pushing my legs with a strength that is not my own. In some ways, it looks like this:

photo 2

And this is what I want it to look like.

I want to have a childlike faith, a belief that God still has a plan for me that includes goodness and purity. So, this is what I dwell on and this is what I present in social media. When I focus on the good, I am not ignoring the pain that others are facing. I am aware of that pain, and it is a burden I will carry for the rest of my life. Because of the burden of what I have done to other people, because of the work that it takes to relearn how to live honestly, and because of the memories that come up from an inappropriate connection to the wrong person, there are many moments where I feel more broken than I can express with words. In many ways, it looks like this:

photo 1

I have moments where I feel like I have crashed and I am beat up. I cannot concentrate on those moments. I will not dwell on the past to the degree that I give the enemy a new foothold in my life.  I have to wash my face and get back on my bicycle. I have to lift my eyes to the cloudy sky and trust that the clouds will eventually move on.

I lived as a hypocrite for quite some time, and I have no desire to go back to that lifestyle. I want God’s wisdom to reach my innermost parts so that I can be a person of true integrity.

Living in truth means owning all my choices and fears to those who are closest to me. It does not mean owning them to everyone who is watching me.

God is using this terrible time in our marriage so that we can recognize where we need to be transformed as individuals. Being transformed individually is mandatory for us to be able to have a marriage unlike the one we had for many years. Idolatry was the first sin that led me to adultery. I allowed the opinions of others to matter more than the opinions of God and those of my husband.

So, know the truth. Some days I am outside in the sunshine riding a small bike with those who stuck around, and some days I am beat up and crying with the same people. But, at all times–the Spirit is within me–and He is the one who makes the most difficult times appear achievable.

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”

Psalm 32:3-4

 

affair recovery

Not in Egypt

I am not in Egypt anymore. I left Egypt less than two weeks ago, kicking and screaming the whole way out. I wish I could say that I ran from Egypt with my heart completely ready for the journey I was about to face…but I didn’t. I was an Israelite who would have stayed in that place of slavery had God not intervened to save me. The slavery of that sinful place had become familiar and comfortable. Miserable as I was, I clung to it.

Many things happen to a person when they allow themselves to become engulfed in a secret sin for any amount of time. Having a secret from everyone–changes you. Having a secret that I shared with only one other person for a significant amount of time created a bond to that secret and to that sin. Breaking away is not easy. I want it to be easy, but let’s be real, if it was easy to break away…would I REALLY be breaking away? Or would I simply be pushing it down in an effort to say the things that others want to hear, only to be drawn back to it at a later date?

I am not in the Promised Land. I know the stories of this land, but I can’t see it. It’s in the distance, and right now–it’s difficult to believe it really does exist. So each day, I pull my mind away from Egypt in faith and pray for God to move me toward the Promised Land.

I was unfaithful to the man who loves me, and he has chosen to walk in authenticity to a place of healing. Marriage is hard, even without an unfaithful spouse. God in His sovereignty has blessed me with a husband who wants to arrive in the Promise Land with me. Our goal is not the marriage that we once had. Our goal is the marriage we have never known.

So while I make efforts to be sensitive to those around me who have been injured by my sin, I also work to be honest with what is happening inside me. Allowing a sin to control me for as long as it did makes it difficult to deal with the thoughts I am battling. Facing moments of insecurity–which are greater now than ever before–cannot be dealt with in the way I had become accustomed to dealing with them. It’s not possible to sooth myself in the manner I had become accustomed to soothing myself. I have to relearn how to walk in faith.

Hebrews 11:26 recalls the faith of Moses; “considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt for he was looking to the reward.”

Every moment of every day is stripped, scrubbed, bathed and wrapped in prayer. Every motive that arises within me is questioned in light of the scriptures I am washing through my mind. Living new again in repentance, I have to retrain my thinking to believe the truths of God’s Word will free me. I have to deny the desire to believe the lies that once held my heart so tightly.  I find comfort in knowing that while there are moments that I feel like I do not have the faith of Moses, God has surrounded me with others who do. When I don’t know how to pray, I call out to others to pray for me.

I will not go back to Egypt. In faith, I will consider the reproach of Christ greater riches and keep believing in the reward that lies ahead.

affair recovery

Exposure

How could I maintain such a false life?

Why would I make choices that I know are wrong? Why would I lie to the people who love me? Why would I risk hurting so many innocent people? Why would I protect my sin so fiercely? How could I see myself as more important than the truth?  How could I move through each day with what appeared to be joy when there was such depravity and sadness happening inside of me? Didn’t I know this would cause immeasurable damage?

As little as two weeks ago, I could not sit alone with these thoughts. It was too painful to acknowledge the truth of what I was doing. The sin was the only thing that could take my mind off of the truth of the situation. The sin seemed like the only relief from the pain that the sin was causing.

Being bound up by my choices, I had created a hell that I could not escape. I created a situation that was a viscous cycle of lies and continual betrayal. I was not in it alone, but I was alone while in it. I had isolated myself. I pushed people away, while skillfully making them think I was being transparent. I kept conversations light and covered my shame and fears with humor. I could not let down my guard even for one moment.

EXPOSURE = ADULTERESS

There is nothing anyone could say about me that I haven’t already said about myself. To imagine what you are capable of is minimal with knowing the truth of that which you are capable. People who love me want to protect me from the “A” word. People who love me want to protect me from wearing a scarlet letter. People who love me want to minimize the shame that I will face. I plead with them to stop protecting me. I feel these things to the depth of my innermost being. What someone else may think is minimal compared to what I know.

EXPOSURE = TRUTH

It’s 4 AM in the morning and I sit on my front porch holding my bible. In the darkness I know the world is spinning. The light from the sun is breaking the darkness, and the world spins into a new day. For the first time–in a very long time–I am not trying to out-spin it. Love pours down on a soul that has lived for a long time waiting for judgement. The love hurts. Judgement feels appropriate. Having the anger poured out against me would be easier than the grace with which I’ve been met.

Disclosure of the affair meant exposure. Disclosure meant consequences. Exposure and consequences are painful.

The pain washes over me…this is my new reality. I close my eyes and listen to the silent morning, trying to pull the silence into me and soften the blow of the voices that scream out in pain. I heard my own voice crying out for a long time. In moments, the pain exploded everywhere. One voices multiplied into several. Several multiplied into hundreds. I did this.  I long for the time when the pain was just my own and I was not responsible for the pain of others.