I’ve been putting off writing about this part of our story for months. It’s one thing to tell you all about me and my love. We’re both adults who have mutually decided to share our story. But talking about our kids in depth is another thing. Like me, they didn’t ask to be thrown into this story. They’re victims of the terrible decisions of another. I want to protect them as much as possible. Still, deciding how to handle the family dynamics after intimate betrayal is a major problem that everyone in this situation has to navigate, and my readers have asked again and again for more information on why we decided to tell our kids, how we did it, and how they’ve handled it. So, here goes.
(Please understand, if you’re a regular reader, you probably won’t find quite the level of transparency you’re used to here. I’m sorry, but their safety comes first.)
An Idea Built on Lies
For many, many years the idea of telling our kids (or anyone else) about their father’s sexual addiction didn’t even cross my mind. As far as I was concerned, it was a private issue between me, him, and God. At that time, I believed we were navigating the problem. I knew my love had a porn problem, but I believed him when he told me he was actively trying to stop.
Our relationship was good. Maybe even great. (Or so it seemed to me) We had so much fun together, we talked about everything, (or so I thought) we liked each other SO much, and we were great teammates. I loved doing life with him. Whatever problems we had seemed best kept private. We’d just work them out together.
What we both wanted to present to our children was a happy, healthy, loving relationship. We wanted to model a godly marriage to them, believing this was one of the best possible ways to point them toward Christ. Of course, If I had known it was a sham I wouldn’t have felt that way, but I had no idea.
I didn’t know his addiction consumed him to the level it did.
I had no idea he was actively seeking relationships with other women.
I was completely unaware my love was living a double life.
Keeping Up Appearances
Yet, even after the first discovery of infidelity, we still decided to keep our secret from them. “At least for now.”
We talked about it at length, trying to figure out what would be best. Of course, now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I realize everything my love said was simply a frantic attempt to hold on to his secrets.
Once again, I was believing his words instead of looking to his actions for verification. He admitted to the affair, but claimed it was the only one, (it wasn’t) it was over, (it wasn’t) and he was never going back to that again. (He did) There had been extenuating circumstances surrounding that affair. (Not really) It wasn’t a habitual problem. (It was) In my ignorance, I believed we could handle it.
I knew telling the kids would be just as devastating and life shattering to them as it had been for me. If it was at all possible, I wanted to spare them that pain. If this was something we could work through without turning their world upside down, that’s what I wanted to do. So, we put on the masks and kept up the charade.
The Dangers in Secrets
While I believe my intentions were genuinely good when we made that decision, there was still so much about this addiction I didn’t understand at that time. Not to mention, I don’t think I properly sought God on this particular issue. I just did what my own human reasoning told me was best. And that, is always dangerous!
See, in keeping this massive part of our lives a secret, I was forced to live a lie. I was absolutely reeling from the trauma of discovering our marriage had never been what I believed it was. Yet, I had to keep going through the motions in front of everyone else. This was dangerous for everyone and carried serious consequences I had not foreseen:
Keeping up the charade was impossible, and of course, I failed miserably. Everyone, especially our kids, knew something was wrong. But because we had so carefully kept all his issues hidden, no one guessed it had anything to do with my love. They all thought there was something wrong with ME!
I was the one acting crazy. I was the one who looked like an extra fresh off the set of the walking dead. I was the one who now cried uncontrollably, seemingly out of nowhere, and for no reason at least once a day. I was the one who suddenly couldn’t walk into a grocery store without having a full-blown anxiety attack as soon as I saw women in provocative apparel. (So… pretty much the second I got through the door!) I was the one who snapped at the kids for no reason or stared blankly at them while they were trying to talk to me – unable to focus on what they were saying. I was the one who was a mess!
In short, the decision to keep his secret made ME the bad guy.
Not only was it dangerous for me, though, keeping his secret from our children was dangerous for my love too! It allowed him to continue living a double life. It allowed him to keep his place in the eyes of our kids (and frankly, in his own twisted mind) as a man he simply was not.
In short, it allowed him to remain in a place of pride when the thing he needed most was to be humbled! I didn’t understand this yet. I still believed that it was good for him to be made to feel like he wasn’t a failure. I was still trying to protect him. I was still insisting on getting between him and his rock bottom.
FOR OUR KIDS
Here’s the big one though you guys. While my intentions were to protect our kids, what we did actually hurt them. We lied to them. Nothing good ever comes from lying to your children… or, to anyone really.
Our children believed we had an idyllic family. Much of their identity was wrapped up in that belief. Even more, most of their security was built on that foundation. In short, we had carefully crafted a beautiful image and encouraged our children to more or less, worship that (false) idol. Though at least my heart had originally intended for this image to point them toward God, it was not based in truth. And how can anything that is not true point anyone to THE TRUTH? Let me assure you, it won’t!
Instead of finding their identity in the One True God, our kids found their identity in our “perfect Christian family.” Instead of planting their feet on the firm foundation of Scripture, our children were secured to the ever-eroding shores of a ‘stable home.’ In our foolish human wisdom, our attempts to protect them had actually set them up to come crashing down. HARD!
The TRUTH Will Set You Free!
That day finally came. The day when the idols I’d spent my life building were finally smashed to dust.
I discovered another affair, and in the confrontation that followed my love finally hit bottom. He finally realized the only way out of the mess he’d made was to stop trying to “manage” it himself, and just be obedient to God. He had to tell the WHOLE truth. He had to tell me about EVERY. SINGLE. THING. In the telling, I finally came face to face with reality. I finally saw what my marriage really was. And I knew, I couldn’t pretend anymore.
Beyond that, my love finally recognized the damage he’d done to me by asking me to keep his secrets. He realized the people in our life needed an explanation as to why I’d fallen apart. It had to start with our kids.
It was the most agonizing conversation of my life. We sat in our living room. Our three precious children gathered around us. Knowing what we had to say was going to change their whole world. It was going to break them!
And it did!
Rebuilding on Truth
That day broke us all. It shattered our perfect little world into thousands of pieces and scattered them beyond repair.
We made a vow to our kids that day. We apologized for the lies and promised to tell them the truth from that day forward.
As far as exactly what we told them, it was the whole truth but without any unnecessary details. In other words, Dad has been unfaithful with a number of women, he has an addiction, it’s not mom’s fault or your fault, it’s been going on for a long time, stuff like that. If there were questions, we answered them.
In the weeks and months that followed, we had the opportunity to rebuild our family. This time, upon the truth of Scripture. This time, upon the firm foundation of our Solid Rock – Jesus Christ.
The Forgiveness and Redemption of Jesus
The crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ – Forgiveness & Redemption. The whole of Christianity hinges on those two events, and what they made possible. As we head into Holy Week I thought, what better time to talk about how those two words – Forgiveness & Redemption – have impacted our little family in this past year?
Romans 5:8-11 – But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Ephesians 1:7 (NIV) – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.
In the days and weeks that followed that nightmarish conversation with our kids we learned what it is to live out these concepts, and let me tell you, just as in salvation, these are only possible through the work of Jesus!
Forgiveness: The Crucifixion
Matthew 26:28 – This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.
The impact of the crucifixion is this: We were all born helplessly lost in sin – Separated from God with no hope of getting back to Him on our own. We needed a sacrifice. A perfect sacrifice. The blood of one who was sinless, and spotless is the only thing that could cover our sin. Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a sinless human life. He willingly gave that life for us, shedding his perfect blood so that we could be forgiven. The crucifixion is what made forgiveness possible.
Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore, it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
So on Good Friday, when we commemorate that day more than 2000 years ago when Jesus hung on that cross – beaten and bloodied, struggling for breath as He slowly suffocated, may we whisper a prayer of solemn praise. We did not deserve it. He did it out of His great love for us, and we are forever made right because of it. May we praise Him forever for the crucifixion – the forgiveness of sins! (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 4:10, Romans 3:23-25)
Colossians 1:13-14 – For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His Dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Acts 13:38 – Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness of sins.
It is absolutely imperative to a victorious, abundant life that each of us come face to face with the absolute wretchedness of our own hearts. We are all utterly sinful! I had to face that fact many years ago. I had to stop believing that I was “good” and recognize that on my own there was not a single “good” thing I could do. Even those things that looked righteous to those around me were motivated by sin if I was being honest.
I had to have that moment, we all do, in which I realized that it is only because I have been forgiven that I have been declared righteous. There isn’t anything I need to do or can do for that matter. It is finished!
Romans 8:1 – So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Hebrews 10:17 – Then He says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.
Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold – along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned – to pay the debt.
But the man fell down before his master and begged him, “Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.” Then the master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. “Be patient with me, and I will pay it” he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you? Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Redemption: The Resurrection
Romans 6:4-7 – For we died and were buried with Christ in baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over Him. When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Oh what glorious victory there is in that empty tomb! Friends, our God’s love for us is so great that He didn’t stop at forgiveness. He didn’t just offer His Perfect Son as a sacrifice for our sins, but He CONQUERED sin and death forever when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The crucifixion (the shed blood of Jesus) covered our sins and offered forgiveness. But the resurrection – praise God, the resurrection made us new! It made possible not just forgiveness, but for God to pluck us up out of our sinfulness and REDEEM us! (John 11:25,Romans 4:24-25, Ephesians 1:4-6)
So often in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, the author expresses his deep longing for the readers to be able to “understand” some truth about God. For me, this is one of those times. How I pray, even now as I write, that we can understand what it really means that we are redeemed. What it means to be made new. It is an understanding that will change everything!
Now, we are no longer identified as the same people we were before we believed. Once we accepted that free gift that He offers, we became all together new. That sinful person we were was crucified with Christ, and a new creation was raised with Him. We are free! Free to live in victory each and every moment we surrender to Him. Free to live, as our Lord does, for the glory of God – alive, and whole!
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Our Forgiveness Story
This is the tough part. It’s easy to accept forgiveness for ourselves. It’s even easy to be overwhelmed with thanksgiving for that forgiveness. BUT, to humble ourselves to the point that we realize we are no better than anyone else, and that just as we have been forgiven, we must also forgive? Well… that’s not so easy. Is it?
It wasn’t easy for me, and it wasn’t easy for our children. When we all had to come face to face with the fact that the man who was supposed to love us, and protect us, and lead us had betrayed us so deeply – well… it shook us real hard.
There were a lot of tears. There were a lot of nights spent holed up in our rooms, wrestling with God. There were four of us who had to forgive. There were four very different ways of getting to that forgiveness.
In the interest of protecting my babies, I don’t want to tell you much about who struggled with what. I’m going to keep it vague:
For one of our kids, it was a devastation as if the mightiest of warriors had fallen in battle. A hero had died. This child had to reconcile how the person he/she most looked up to in the whole world could possibly be the same person who had betrayed us all so deeply. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t line up. Who was this child going to look up to now?
For another, it was about security. The safety of our home had been shaken to its core, and this child reeled in the aftermath – trying to right a world that had been turned upside down. What was real, what wasn’t? Who could be trusted, who couldn’t? How could he/she ever feel safe again?
The third child might have seemed the least impacted, but through the silence, I wondered what wasn’t being dealt with deep down. To be frank, I still worry a little about what might turn up one day, and earnestly pray that what appeared to be a bit of naivete and a quick forgiveness was exactly that.
As for me, I think what drove me to want to deal with the situation in the most God-honoring way possible… was them! I was acutely aware that how I reacted was being watched. I knew they were looking to me to lead them. Honestly, I didn’t love that position. It didn’t feel fair. But in hindsight, it was a great mercy!
That responsibility drove me into the Word, and onto my knees – no doubt greatly expediting the process of forgiveness. Knowing little hearts dearer to me than anything in this world would be impacted forever by my response forced me to very quickly recognize the vastness of the debt I had been forgiven, compared to the debt I was being asked to forgive. How could I withhold what I had so freely been given?
Ephesians 4:31-32 – Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Friends, what all five of us have realized since then is this: Forgiveness here on earth does much more for the giver than the receiver. Though it often feels unfair when God asks us to release another human being from the great debt we are owed, putting justice in God’s hands frees us! Holding on to bitterness, and rage, and anger, and harsh words, and all the rest – it only tightens the noose around our own souls. Living in that place, well, it just sucks! It’s miserable!
One child in particular had a really hard time with this. That child held on to the anger longer than any of the rest of us. He/she got so knotted up inside that the world seemed to continue to crumble all around day by day. Only growing more and more unstable. More and more impossible to manage. Anxiety and Depression took hold. It affected everything. School, friends, everything!
It was all such a mess because he/she was such a mess! I worried this child was going to completely fall apart. We spent hours talking it out, but the poor thing just couldn’t let go.
Praise the Lord, that child also sought comfort in the Word of God. It does not return void, my friends! In time, as its life-giving words sunk deep into that knotted up heart, we finally saw a glimmer of hope spark in the darkness. Each day brought another cautious step towards releasing the burden of unforgiveness. It was… it IS a slow process, and I can’t say there was one single moment of knowing it was done. It may be years before it’s fully done. For all of us! But it is BEING DONE.
Praise God that child, along with all the rest of us chose obedience. What a blessing it has been! I get the privilege of living in freedom and seeing my most treasured ones doing the same. Gone is the constant dark gloom we lived in for several months. There is a joy in our home again.
Don’t misunderstand, we still have difficult days, or even weeks. We still get sad sometimes. But it is not constant, it is not all-consuming, and it is accompanied by peace even on the dark days.
Friends, God does not ask us to forgive to be unfair. He does it for our own sake. Won’t you choose obedience too?
Luke 17: 3-4 – If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.
Mark 11:24-25 – I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.
Matthew 11:28-30 – Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Allowing Redemption to Win
Jesus didn’t stop with forgiveness, we have been redeemed. But too often, we don’t live in that redemption. We revert back to our sinful selves. We catch ourselves living in Romans 7 instead of turning the page and realizing we belong in Romans 8!
Too often, it doesn’t feel that simple. We listen to the lies the enemy whispers in our ears. He tells us we “deserve” vindication or tells us we have the “right” to hang on to our hurts. After all, they cut so deep. Suddenly instead of living in the freedom that forgiveness offers, we find ourselves right back in the turmoil of executing justice or trying in vain to change what has already been done. It is a vicious trap that only leads to misery. We don’t have to live there. We have been made new, and we CAN choose to let that truth rule our lives.
For our family, this simple fact has been the key to victory. Each of us has decided to live redeemed. And just as understanding our own forgiveness leads to the ability to forgive others, understanding that we ourselves have been made new leads to the ability to allow redemption to win in others as well.
Because I recognize that God took me from a place of utter sinfulness and made me into a beautiful creation in Him, I can accept that He can do the same for my love. Even though the enemy may try to convince me that his sin is worse than mine. Even though Satan may whisper to my soul that my love is beyond redemption. It is a lie!!! I can choose to see that truth and celebrate the work of God. The greater the sin, the more cause for celebration when that lost sheep comes home!
Y’all, the simple truth is this: Our family is living in freedom. We are happy. There is joy and peace in our home. Simply because we individually followed the example of Christ and allowed God to forgive us and redeem us and then chose to celebrate that forgiveness and redemption in each other.
We talk about it. We’re not trying to get back to “normal.” Normal sucked! Instead, we’re trying to embrace the new thing that God has made from our broken little family. For it brings Him far more glory than “normal” ever did! It cannot be credited to anything we have done or can do. It is His redeemed creation, and it is beautiful!
1 Peter 1:3-7 – All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.