Monday, July 18, 2016

Keepin' It Real

This is Why I Post

So many of you are at different stages of your journey.
Some of you are suspicious that your spouse might be cheating.
Some of you have evidence and you are trying to figure out how to confront your spouse.
Some of you have already faced the unthinkable and have confronted or been confessed to.
Some of you are panicked, worried, and desperate to find answers.
Some of you have chosen to separate and possibly divorce, simply because you couldn't imagine any alternative.
Some of you have chosen to try and make it work.
Some of you have chosen absolute forgiveness and are striving to pursue restoration.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, my wife and I made the decision to share our story to encourage you, pray for you, stand beside you, and to give you our perspective through our journey.

Many times you'll hear about ideas, plans, strategies and 'helpful' tips from marriage counselors, speakers, authors, and others. But it seems so far removed from reality. Yeah, that sounds nice and all...but does it actually work? I've never met anyone real who's gone through that. Sounds like something out of a textbook, thought up by a bunch of 'professionals' who don't have a clue about reality.

Well, here we are. Two real people. We've got kids. We've got jobs. We've been married for over 2 decades. I cheated several times. I filed for divorce. My wife forgave me. I didn't believe I could change. My family continued to pray for me. 2 years later, we are completely in love with each other. My heart was totally changed. Our marriage is unshakeable.

We share our story because we know firsthand that God can heal, change, and fully restore. When we encounter His grace and redemption, He makes a completely new creation out of us (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Our journey isn't a cakewalk. We have bumps, bruises, and difficulties along the way. I try to share some of those difficulties so that you can see the reality of the journey.

Recent Difficulty

Here's something that happened just this week. We were on an escalator in an upscale outdoor shopping center. I saw someone that I thought I recognized and so I looked at her for a moment. My wife is extremely sensitive about where my eyes focus. She made a comment about how my gaze followed this particular person, who happened to be thin and blonde.

Right away I understood how it looked. I did try to explain myself- that I thought I recognized the person - someone I hadn't seen in almost 10 years. It didn't matter. The fact is, I was looking at another woman for several seconds. That impacted my wife.

Our 10-year-old son asked me, "Why did mom say something about you looking at other women?" I told him that because of the hurtful things I've done in the past, she's extra sensitive. I said, "You know I don't check out other women." He nodded his head approvingly. I took great affirmation in his agreement. He is also ultra-sensitive. He was deeply affected by the divorce papers.

People always say, children are resilient. That just isn't true. Children are fragile. Their entire world stands on the foundation their parents create for them within the walls of their home. That is one reason our culture has completely crumbled into hatred, selfishness, entitlement, rage, and every other destructive condition you see displayed in the news. Without Godly men leading their families in prayer, and submission to God's Word (the Bible), there is no hope for positive change outside of the home.

Sorry - I went off on a tangent for a moment. Probably better to save that for another post.

As I was saying, children are NOT resilient. They are deeply troubled and wounded when their parents hurt each other with their words, actions, and separation. God's design was for both parents to function as one (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8). One team. One purpose. One love. One vision. One life together. One family. One in submission to God and to each other.

Two years after the fact, I still see our children exhibit signs of trepidation. Thankfully, they are slowly gaining confidence and trust.

What I've Got to do

I am not tempted to check out other women. I will not allow myself to fall into that typical male pattern anymore. Regardless, I am now reminded of how much more carefully I've got to walk through life. My job is to love and protect my wife. I damaged her self worth, trust, and confidence in the past. If I now have to avoid looking at a person I think I might know, then so be it. Which is worth more - trying to figure out if I recognize someone, or protecting my wife at all costs?

I'm voting for the latter. I may have violated my marriage vows in the past, but I will uphold them at all costs from now until the day I die.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Vulnerability is Key

Infidelity is Painful

Thank you Captain Obvious for that heading. The pain experienced not only by the one who is betrayed, but also by the one who has cheated is probably one of the worst kinds of pain a human being can endure. Yes, the one who cheats also experiences pain, shame, guilt, self-loathing and many other secondary negative emotions. If you haven't read the post, "Raw Words From My Wife," from the perspective of one who has been cheated on, I'd encourage you to take a look at the way she's expressed herself.

The Results Leave Us Captive

When a person makes the conscious decision to let their thoughts wander, "If this marriage doesn't work out..." it causes a tiny and almost unnoticeable callous to form on their heart. From there, they begin to fantasize, "If I were married to that person instead..." Their eyes wander, and the construction of small protective stones begins to build up around their heart. The likelihood of an affair is much more possible at this point. Sometimes people can even enter into a marital relationship with stones covering and protecting their hearts from prior hurts. Vulnerability with their spouse isn't even possible anymore because they have sealed it away behind thick, cold layers.

The Bible has wisdom to prevent such things.

I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman - Job 31:1

If we made covenants with our eyes not to lust, the 'if this marriage doesn't work out factor' would not enter into the equation.

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart - 2 Timothy 2:22

If we truly fled from youthful lusts and desires, while pursuing righteousness, an affair would not happen - even within one's mind or thought life.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord - Ephesians 5:22

If wives submitted themselves fully to their husbands, they wouldn't give in when someone else offers attention or affirmation that might be lacking in their marital relationship.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her - Ephesians 5:25

If husbands sacrificially loved their wives in the same way that Christ Jesus loved the church, they would not allow their minds to even entertain the thought of having sex with another woman. They would never go out of their way to make another woman the object of their desire.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church - Ephesians 5:28-29

It's so easy for someone to hear words of wisdom, recognize the truth of those words, and still not apply that wisdom to their own life.

I was captive by a calloused heart. In my deepest heart of hearts, beneath all of the protective layers, I never wanted to be a cheater. I never wanted to be the kind of person who caused another person to experience heart-piercing pain.

Dealing With Vulnerability 

After all was said and done: I confessed, I filed for divorce, my wife continued to pray, my wife chose forgiveness, I ended up recanting the divorce papers, and of course there was still the issue of vulnerability.

In the beginning of our journey to restoration, I was unable to recognize my lack of vulnerability. I was unable to recognize my hidden and protected heart. I was unable to make conscious steps towards full vulnerability.

Through prayer and willful decisions to open myself up to the possibility of being hurt (and that's the major reason for a lack of vulnerability - the desire to protect oneself from being hurt), my heart began to emerge. The calloused layers peeled back.

Where We're At Now

I love my wife with all of my heart! I understand that there is risk when you truly and fully love someone. I understand that I've opened myself up to the potential for deep pain. But this is where trust comes in. I trust my wife not to hurt me. I have made a choice to trust her fully. She has never done anything to violate that trust, but the hurts from my past made that decision difficult.

My wife wants to fully trust me. My wife wants to be fully vulnerable with me. Over the past two years, she has come a long way in that regard. This decision feels dangerous for her, in terms of what my past actions have taught her.

We are moving towards full trust and vulnerability. One day at a time.