Jewish World Review April 19, 2011 / 15 Nissan, 5771
Saving a marriage after infidelity
By Betsy Hart
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My friend "Denise" -- not her real name -- came to me in despair a few months ago. Married for more than 20 years and with children still at home, she found out her husband had been having an affair for some time.
Denise didn't listen to close family members who basically told her to kick him to the curb and start a new life on her own. That seems to be our culture's prevailing attitude, as well. Instead, she is choosing to fight for her marriage because there is so much at stake.
Denise has asked me to walk with her in this; I suppose because she knows how strongly I believe she is doing the right thing. Of course, she's not doing it by herself. Her husband agreed to end the affair, and to work with her to save the marriage. That's not easy. Pulled out of a "double life" because of discovery, but not regret, suddenly being faithful again is new to him. I give him great credit for trying, instead of just walking.
Still, emotional explosions have not been uncommon between them. Of course, it's a roller coaster.
This is her story. Actually, I guess it's their story. Denise has wisely worked to limit those she's personally told. However, she agreed to let me share their struggles here -- while protecting their anonymity -- in the hopes this might help someone else.
Denise recently sent me a bit of her journal. She wrote that "several months in (after the discovery) and I am still here. I am still alive and I am still in my marriage trying to make it work. ... I have never been so tested in my life. I just keep trying to stay focused on how I want this sad story to have a happy ending, especially for my children."
What Denise hopes for, she told me, is real repentance over time from her husband. And it does take time for someone pulled out of serious sin to come to repentance. She eventually hopes for a new marriage with the same man.
Denise needs her husband to take ownership of what he did. In turn, he needs her to acknowledge that he's really trying to change. They found a counselor they trust. While they are digging deep at the moment, she's held out to him that she wants there to come a day, and soon, when this is put behind them for good and she does not have the right to bring it up again. Ever. That, in turn, gives him hope that he can have his family back without this hanging over him forever.
Also from her journal: "We have had some wonderful moments of intimacy that reacquaint us with the connection and love that brought us together decades ago. We have also had some wretched and painful evenings where the pain and guilt swallow us both whole."
No kidding. It's a tough road. But right now she's optimistic, and I think she has reason to be. It takes real strength -- in the form of God's grace -- to do what they are doing.
And this isn't over yet. Denise knows someone caught up in that life has a real chance of going back to it. At the same time, she rightly doesn't blame herself for the affair. Even faithful husbands and wives are never "perfect." Maybe that's why we are called to love and be faithful to our marriage partners even when -- especially when -- that's hard. For better and for worse. Will her husband choose to walk that path now? Time will tell.
She'll be OK if he doesn't. They and their children will all be so much better off if he does. I have real optimism that they can repair and rebuild. But if they do, it will only be because, for starters, both of them will have turned their backs on the "it's all about me" culture.
I plan on writing more about their story. I hope, and believe it's very possible, that the next installment will be a happy, well, new beginning.
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