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Jewish World Review
August 30, 2011
/ 30 Menachem-Av, 5771
This past March, I shared with permission my friend "Denise's" story of discovering her husband's long-term infidelity. She sent me excerpts from her journal at the time, including this one:
"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."
Readers might know it was only a few weeks ago that I shared an update on Casey, a young woman whose affair with a married man ended when he "betrayed" her after his divorce.
The time seemed right to revisit the other side of a similar-though-unrelated narrative.
Denise (not her real name) told me she continues to feel tired and stressed, but is increasingly confident that her marriage can be made whole again. It will be a different kind of wholeness, surely, but this is where they are now:
Denise's husband convinced her early on that it was his intention, at least, not to return to his affair. But there was a lot of anger on his part at first. He felt a little trapped. Still, Denise was hopeful that she would see real repentance over time.
Since then she believes that, by God's grace, she has. That he is taking real ownership of his sin, which in turn is allowing her more and more to get to the place she longs and needs to be: where she can put the affair behind them both, and never bring it up again.
She told me that she feels a key to the ongoing healing is a structure for accountability for both of them. Meaning, for starters, seeing a counselor they both trust on a weekly basis, and attending church together every Sunday. Her husband's desire to meaningfully engage with her on several levels has, she thinks, been a basis for repair. No doubt it was and is a bellwether of his commitment to his family.
Eventually they will get to the dynamics of the marriage itself and how to make those more satisfying. (Though it's worth reiterating that she was not responsible for his actions. Like all spouses, Denise is not perfect. But no spouse should ever have to compete with the lure of an illicit relationship.)
Denise told me that they have grown closer, for now, as a result of walking together through the mire. One thing that struck her? "I now have a better sense of the sin people are capable of." She's including herself there, too.
They are not "back" yet. There is still anger and frustration on both sides, and the emotions sometimes come when they least expect it. She is still scared. She knows of similar stories where things seemed promising, but then further infidelity craters the marriage.
I like the song "Slow Fade" by the group Casting Crowns. It speaks of sin, especially infidelity, as being a process: "People never crumble in a day/It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade" the lyrics go in part. I think that's true. Recovering from sin can be a process, too.
Right now, Denise is determined to do everything she can to succeed and to help her husband. He seems to desire in turn to help her. They both know they need God's grace in this.
Sure, there will be rough patches, but the couple seem to have the big picture right. That's why, unlike Casey's narrative, I believe that Denise and her husband's might become a genuine redemption story.
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