Our story is important. We have been incredibly blessed by the work of God in and through us, and for those going through the traumas and trials of affair recovery it can serve as an encouraging beacon of hope. But to really tell it right, I think it’s important to go back to the very beginning and just tell the whole thing. So here it is.
Most of it was written during the darkest days of our recovery journey. It’s a little raw in some parts. But as I’ve gone back and revised it through the years, I thought it was important to leave that rugged transparency in. There’s nothing easy about betrayal. Often times the details of our stories can get a little fuzzy. We’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t. That’s just the reality of it, and we were no different.
So below you will find the background of our story from the time we met, through the time we started blogging about betrayal; all of it written in those first weeks after discovery. It was originally published as three separate posts, but I have combined them here. It is long.
Our Story Part 1: The Early Years
We met when we were 16, became a couple within months of meeting and were completely enamored with each other in almost no time. We were young, but even then it was obvious to us and to most everyone who knew us that we were meant for each other. There was just something about us that fit together like puzzle pieces.
We waited the years our parents made us wait, finishing high school and then spending a few years preparing for our future, and then we got married.
We were 20, we were broke, and we had no idea what the rest of our life was going to look like, but we knew we were going to face it together. This was going to be our story, and we were pretty sure it was going to be awesome!
It sure didn’t take long at all for the realities of life to set in. We got pregnant almost immediately which was terrifying to both of us. We hadn’t even figured out how to take care of ourselves, how in the world were we going to take care of a BABY? We were still babies! We weren’t ready to be parents! At least, that’s what we thought.
On top of that, my love hadn’t really figured out what he wanted to do with his life yet and money was tighter than tight. We thought we had more time for this stuff. We were scared!
The pregnancy was a nightmare. I was sick the whole time and starting in the fifth month was put on bed-rest because they thought I was going to go into pre-term labor. To add insult to injury, my love’s business was failing and he had no idea what else to do. We were in full-on panic mode. Bills were piling up, there was no money and this baby was going to be here any day.
God’s Plan – What Our Story Has Always Really Been About
Then she came. Our perfect little blessing from God. She was our first lesson in God’s perfect timing! We were overwhelmed with love for this precious gift, and named her Athaiah, which we found in Nehemiah 11:4 and a Bible concordance told us means “whom Jehovah made,” or “God’s timing.”
I had never been one of those girls who just loved to be around kids and melted over babies. I didn’t really think I even wanted to have kids at all to be honest. Boy was I wrong! Within days of becoming a mother I knew this is what I was made for! Suddenly I wanted a whole house full of children, and my love (who came from a big family and had always liked kids anyhow) was right there with me! Of course, he carried the weight of how to provide for this big family we were going to have, so he wasn’t quite as gung-ho as I was, but he definitely liked the idea.
The next 5 years were a roller coaster. My love found jobs and lost jobs. He floundered trying to figure out his path. Then, one day, he got it. He figured it out and he went after his new career with gusto. Each year brought significant increases in salary as he worked his way up the corporate ladder and we went from having almost nothing to relative comfort fairly quickly. (Sometime I’ll write a post dedicated to that – God is amazing!)
We moved 3 times in those 5 years but by the end had purchased a home that I loved and that would accommodate our growing family. We also had two more babies – boys. With each new baby my passion for that big family grew, however with every pregnancy it also became clear that each one was a miracle, a gift from God, because my body did not get pregnant easily and did not go through pregnancy well. (There was a very difficult lesson in contentment and trust coming, but that lesson belongs to the next chapter.)
Lessons Learned in the Early Years of Our Story
In these years we learned that we really do like each other just as much as we thought we did when we were dating. Maybe even more! We learned how much we enjoy spending time together – always. We learned that we had very similar parenting philosophies and approaches. In fact, we learned that in most areas of life we were very like-minded despite the fact that our personalities were almost exactly opposite from each other. We learned that those differences in our personalities were extremely complimentary and seemed to offer balance to life whenever we work as a team.
We learned that I’m a little OCD and my love is a bit of a slob. We learned that I am TERRIBLE at handling finances and can’t pay a bill on time to save my life. (He handles ALL bill paying now and life is much better!) I learned that you have to take the plastic wrap off a frozen pizza BEFORE you put it in the oven. (I know – I really should’ve already known that!) We learned that I am not very “stuff” oriented and that my love really likes to buy things on impulse.
But the biggest lesson we learned (or at least started to learn) was that God’s timing is always better so we can trust Him with the details even when they don’t seem to make any sense to us. Let’s be honest, does anyone ever truly learn that lesson? Of course, we still tried to make our own plans and of course, our feathers still got ruffled every time God said, “No, I’m gonna do this instead. Trust Me.” But we were learning.
They were happy years.
Our Story Part 2: The Slow Fade
The slow fade is what I’m calling the part of our story in between the first five or six years of marriage and the years when we faced off with the monster that threatened to tear us apart. These middle years were all over the place, filled with many highs and many lows. It was during these years that I began to realize some of the realities of my love’s sexual addiction. It was during these years that God began to teach me what unconditional love really looks like. During these years I learned that thankfulness is simply a perspective, and it’s possible in every circumstance.
A Dream Dies
There was no area in which that truth was more evident than in our pursuit of that big family. While the early years had blessed us with a new baby just about every other year, that pattern came to an abrupt end after baby number three. Life became an agonizing month by month roller coaster of trying to get pregnant only to find that once again, we were not. As months turned into years I began to visit doctors looking for answers, but was disappointed to find very little help. We considered adoption, but for whatever reason never felt that it was the path God had chosen for us. Finally, six years after the birth of our youngest I found a wonderful doctor and we started to get some answers. Unfortunately, what we learned was that it had become necessary for me to have a surgery that would put the nail in the coffin. We were never going to have another baby. For sure.
I wrestled with God. I longed for more babies and couldn’t understand why He would put that desire in me only to deny it. (I still don’t really understand that, if I’m honest.) My loving Heavenly Father patiently waited while I questioned Him. Then He showed me that when He tells us in His Word that His ways are not our ways and that His ways are higher than our ways He speaks the truth.
He showed me that while I’m not always going to understand what He’s doing right now, I can trust Him. He’s the One who has the whole picture. The One who knows the whole story. He’s the Author of the story who has already worked out the ending. He is the One who wins!
As I said before, this particular struggle also taught me (eventually) to count my blessings rather than focus on what I didn’t have. To choose thankfulness. We had three precious babies and as we learned more and more about my health we realized those three babies were absolute miracles. God did not hold back blessings, he showered down blessings – THREE of them! It would have truly been a miracle for me to have one baby. God gave us THREE! I am overwhelmed even now as I think about it. I am so undeserving. He is so good!
Other Happenings During the Slow Fade Years
On other fronts, life was in full swing. We were raising our three miracles: making decisions about boundaries and discipline, deciding what path we were going to take when it came to their education, sending them off to school, managing sports schedules, planning vacations… just living life. We were figuring out and falling into our separate roles.
I absolutely loved being able to stay home and dedicate myself full time to nurturing our family and raising our kids to love God, respect authority, and be kind and considerate to all people. My love enjoyed doing a job that he was good at and providing our family with a comfortable lifestyle. As his career progressed, it took him into the world of management and we learned that he is an excellent leader! People enjoyed working on his team, trusted his skills and knowledge, respected his decisions, and just wanted to follow him. We were both good at what we were doing and we both loved doing it.
The Monster Around the Corner
Unfortunately, about half way through these years I caught my love in an inappropriate relationship with another woman for the first time. The reality of the slow fade was in front of us, but I didn’t see it for what it was. Fortunately, I caught this one early. They had crossed lines, but not any physical lines yet. I found emails that broke my heart, and I found lots and lots of phone calls.
There was a devastating confrontation, and he admitted to me that he had been trying really hard to have an affair. He told me he absolutely did not want out of our marriage, he loved me, and he was happy with our relationship. He had just gotten caught up in the idea that he could have both. He had believed he could have the perfect family life and the perfect marriage at home and a little something on the side too.
I didn’t even know how to process this new information. That wasn’t the man I was married to! How could it be? I had known for some time that he really struggled with pornography and masturbation, but didn’t all men? I had believed that if I just tried hard enough to meet all of his sexual needs then his desire for those lesser things would go away. I thought no one would choose a fake experience over a real life person who was willing to do anything for him and who loved him! I was wrong.
We went through some counseling with one of the pastors at our church and I believed we were on the road to healing. Thank God, I had caught it early. I believed that this had been a one time incident and that we had dealt with the issue and it would never happen again. I would make a greater effort to be there for him, and everything would be fine.
I processed my pain, I processed the betrayal and resolved to forgive and to love. I developed a deeper understanding of how I make God feel each time I do my own thing instead of keeping myself for Him only and it broke my heart. If God continued to forgive and love and pursue me, shouldn’t I do the same? We moved on.
In the years that followed, though, I often caught him back on that path. And with each incident there was a slow fade into deeper and deeper sin. I would find emails with various women, porn on his computer, all sorts of different things that told me he hadn’t really changed. Beyond that, the way he treated me got worse and worse. I became more and more an object for his use rather than the treasured partner that he loved.
He was headed towards an affair and I finally knew it.
Each time I caught him in something inappropriate I would confront him, we would talk about it, and I would make it clear that this behavior was unacceptable. I told him that eventually it would lead to an affair and that beyond that it could lead to the end of everything we had together.
Each time he seemed so remorseful. He seemed like he wanted out of that life. He seemed like he wanted to be committed to me and to our marriage and to our wonderful life together. We were best friends. He loved spending time with me. He loved our kids. He felt trapped by the sin, enslaved to it, but this time was going to be different. He was done with all of it. Each time, this was the one that was going to stick. He wanted out and he was going to stop. Each time he would set up a new set of rules or steps to take that would ensure his success in breaking free from the sin. And each time I believed that he was sincere. I looked for reasons to trust that this was the one and I ignored obvious signs that it was not. I clung to the hope that this was the time he was going to change.
Despite that hope, I began slipping deeper and deeper into depression and anxiety. (Although I didn’t realize it at the time.) I felt paralyzed by my life so I spent countless hours crying out to God for help, for protection, for victory.
I begged Him to save my husband, and to save our marriage. I begged Him to help me continue to find issues before they became too serious. I begged Him to help me love this man because I just couldn’t keep doing it in my own strength! I begged him for the power to face the rest of my life because I couldn’t see how I was even going to get through the week! I begged Him for wisdom to know how to respond to each betrayal, and to know how I could help my love so that it wouldn’t happen again.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had picked up the only weapons I had at my disposal: prayer, the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit; and I had gone to war. As the slow fade into sexual sin took my love captive, I was fighting the invisible enemy at the heart of that oppression one battle at a time, and each battle was leaving me wounded and bloody. But the way I saw it then, as long as God gave be breath I was going to fight and with His power we were going to win!
Our Story Part 3: Facing Off with the Monster
And so began the third part of our story through sexual addiction, intimate betrayal, repentance, and healing. We were facing off with the monster of sexual addiction and as we did, we discovered some wonderful truths about the faithfulness and the power of God. So we decided to make our journey public for anyone who might be walking the same road. This ministry was born in that terrible chapter. Let’s go back again to January 2017.
The Big Compromise
This chapter of our story started about 3 years ago when my love had his first affair.
It was an awful year already. Other events in our life left us both feeling betrayed and alone and completely vulnerable. So when he found himself in a situation he knew was dangerous, rather than run or apply appropriate safeguards he chose to take advantage. He wanted to escape from all the stress and do something that would just make him feel good.
The irony of that thought process is that it was such a lie. It may have felt good for a few minutes, but then it felt terrible. It didn’t relieve stress, it added it. It didn’t provide an escape, it enslaved him in a terrible trap! He found himself in a web of lies and deception and guilt that came with an appetite for more and more and more and could never be satisfied.
The affair didn’t last long, but the door had been opened. He had finally made the big compromise, and he believed he had gotten away with it. I had believed the lies. He could do it again.
He went into full on predator mode. Every woman was a potential partner. He would talk and flirt. He would find information to reveal vulnerabilities and then exploit them. He would pick up on every chink in their armor: A lingering look or a smile or a compliment that told him it was working. He was gaining ground, she was interested. He could take what he wanted from her.
When his efforts came up empty he would turn to porn, or fantasies, or other “professional” women to satisfy his never ending appetite for more and more and more. Then somehow, he would turn it off, switch gears and come home to us each day and pretend to be someone else. He would live as if all of that wasn’t happening and we were a perfect, happy family just living life and following God. The weight of the lies had to be unbearable. I can’t even imagine the guilt!
Revelations, D-Days, and a Faithful God Who Sees
Two years after the first affair God finally stepped in. He opened my eyes. He showed me where to look. He reveled to me which questions I should ask and where I should press. Over the course of the next few months I finally learned that my love had been unfaithful. The web of lies does not easily unravel though and my love guarded the secrets with clenched fists.
He would admit to just enough to make me believe that he was coming clean but hold on to all the rest. However, he did finally admit to the one affair, and that revelation was enough to cause some very serious changes in his heart. This sin lives in the darkness. It feeds on it and grows there. When you shed light on it, things change. The more light, the better!
We started reading some books and finding some resources to help us figure this out. We added more steps, more safeguards, more rules. (What we would eventually realize is that all the rules in the world won’t change anything if the heart doesn’t change too.)
Of course, I was devastated. I had believed so many lies and it was all coming undone. I insisted that we get some help because I had no idea what to do. We started counseling, he joined an online support group for sex addicts, and we enlisted the help of another couple (our best friends.) We started meeting with them weekly for support and accountability. We started reading every book we could find to help us figure out how to go forward. We spent hours talking about the problem: Why it had happened, what we could do to change it, what other problems were symptoms of the same underlying issues, and what we needed to do to bring restoration and healing to our relationship. Eventually my love even agreed to confess the affair to his parents in order to enlist more support for me and more accountability for him.
At first, I felt like a zombie. Dead on my feet. Everything went numb and I was in survival only mode. Some days even that was a stretch. I thought far too often about the gun in our closet.
I tried to hold myself together enough to make our children and the other people in our life believe that everything was okay, but I’m a pretty transparent person. Everyone knew something was wrong, although no one guessed it was as bad as it really was. Time passed and big things started to change. My love started reading the Bible and praying with me every day. Within a year we had read through the whole New Testament together. He started reading the Bible on his own each day as well and in that same year read through the entire Bible for the first time in his life. (It does not return void!) He was treating me so much better. He was treating the kids so much better. He was treating people in general so much better.
I started to feel like things were really changing and as time passed I started to recover from the wounds of betrayal. I started to feel like we could still have a wonderful, happy marriage. We just needed more time and lots of help from God. Things were looking up. We were going to make it.
The Tangled Web Unravels – Finally Facing Off with the Monster
The thing about lies is, though, they have a way of coming back to bite you. We do not battle with flesh and blood my friends, but against evil powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)! When we lie, we give the enemy a foothold, a tool used to weaken our resolve and pull us back into the darkness.
This was certainly the case with my love. The secrets he had kept from me were used to remind him that he was guilty, a wretched sinner who would never get it right. Why try? Despite the real progress he had made in facing off with the monster of sexual addiction, it didn’t take very long for the lies to pull him back in. They aroused the feelings again and before he knew it he was not only back at it, but was worse off than he had ever been – having more affairs and telling more lies to cover them up.
Only this time, he was also trying to maintain all the new habits of being a loving spiritual leader at home. He was attempting to help me recover from the betrayal I knew about while simultaneously betraying me over and over again. It was unsustainable, obviously, but liars believe lies. He thought he could do it, he thought he could get away with it. But my love is a child of God and that means the Spirit of God resides within him and the Spirit of TRUTH does not abide with lies!
Once again, God showed me what I needed to find in order to know what was going on. This one caught me totally off guard. I really thought things had changed.
I came undone.
I immediately confronted him and he rushed home from work to try to hold on to the very thin thread that was left of our marriage. While he was driving home I called his parents and pleaded for their help. They dropped everything and rushed over.
As I waited for everyone to get there, I fell on my face on the floor of our bedroom and cried out to God with everything in me. I needed help that only He could give.
My love got here first and came to me broken. He told me this was it, he was going to tell me everything. He was certain that once he had, I would be done with him, our marriage would be over, but he finally realized the secrets had to end. Then he proceeded to tell me so many things.
So many terrible, heartbreaking things.
There had been SO MANY affairs! The one I knew about had been the first, but there had been so many since then. I was paralyzed. How could this be true? How could I have not known? How could he do this to me? Did I mean anything at all to him? What in the world was I going to do now?
Then his parents got here. He confessed the same things to them that he had to me, but in much less detail. We all sat in stunned silence trying to figure out what to do next. My love was shocked to find that I was still there and he was willing to do anything I wanted to keep me there.
We all agreed, the kids had to be told. The rest of the family had to be told. I couldn’t keep going through this alone.
Asking for Something New
That terrible day was about a month ago. These past few weeks have brought both victories and defeats. We have been truly facing off with the monster like never before.
Sometimes that fight looks like two soft hearts working together with God. Other times there is great resistance either in my heart or in his.
The biggest step has been to shed as much light as we can on the darkness while at the same time breaking down the pride that we believe is at the core of this problem. My love has confessed his sin to our children, to both sides of our families, and to our entire church. He confessed to his boss, (the CEO of the company where he works) and tried to quit his job because it is such a huge source of temptation for him.
The CEO surprised us and insisted that before he quits he take two months to work from home and spend as much time as he can working on repairing and rebuilding our relationship. He told my love that his family comes first and he needs to do whatever it takes to save it, but if they can still keep him, they want to. (What a blessing from God!) Next week we will be heading off to a week long “intensive.” It is a program that includes extensive counseling with a man who has an entire ministry dedicated to helping couples recover from sexual addiction. I am hopeful that it will offer a great deal of help.
Looking to the Future with Hope in God
Will all these steps of courage and humility make a difference? I really don’t know.
I understand that I have no real reason to think that this time will be any different. I could (and let’s face it, likely will) find myself right back here again at some point in the future. This isn’t just going to go away. But I serve a God who makes things new.
He is the God who created marriage and puts great value in it. The God who has forgiven me when I have failed Him over and over again. I have to keep trying and I have to keep putting my trust in Him to show me the next step. Some day that step may be to end this marriage. It’s not today. Today I am going to keep fighting.
Now that you know our story I would love for you to join us on this journey. I will spend the next few months revisiting specific aspects of this story and delving in more deeply. I will share my struggles both in the past and as we go forward. I believe that with God’s help I can be an encouragement to you and that you can be an encouragement to me. Let’s write the next chapter together!