2 years on

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I have promised here long time ago to include Charlie’s side of the story. He attempted a few times to write down his thoughts but never got too far with it. I could try to find excuses for him, and probably would find many, but the bottom line is – it still isn’t done. Hopefully some day it will because it’s worth hearing.

He goes away once a year for a “boys weekend away” – a time with his old friends to relax and feel ‘young’ again. Their last trip fell in the same time as the second anniversary of our D-day. Thoughtfully, he left me a letter to read on that day which, after agreeing it with Charlie, I am partially going to share:

“To my darling wife,

Well, by the time you read this I should be safely over the border. Thank you for allowing me to go – on this weekend of all weekends. I am sorry to leave you to the painful memories of two years ago, yet am so grateful to you and thankful to God that we are in a place that this is possible.

The past two years have been an incredible journey together- from the darkest of days to the present where we continue to see such enormous blessing in every area of our life – it’s actually mind blowing! The change in me had been phenomenal and though, I remain less then perfect (!), I am SO MUCH HAPPIER in myself and consequently in our marriage and in our family.

You have given me the space to change. If you had reacted differently, I know I would be alone in a terribly dark place. Your faith in me, your continued belief in me has transformed my life – and I will never, ever forget that. I know that it is your faith in God that allowed you to show me such mercy – and I will never forget your initial reaction to the revelation of my sin – to lead me to salvation. My life, my happiness and my sanity is forever in debt to you.

Two years on, the future continues to shine bright and I know we are safe in God’s hands. We will celebrate the renewal of our vows on the 24th of October and reflect on all the Lord has done for us since we rededicated our marriage to Him.

We are in a great place and I love you with every ounce of my strength. I am committed to you and to our shared future. Please God we will have only brighter days ahead – but no matter what, we will have each other and we will walk through this fallen world together, certain of His protection. I want this blessing for us. (…)

I love you now and always,
Charlie”

And thus, I have reached the end of our story. A story of life, love, betrayal, forgiveness and most of all: salvation. We have been saved from sin, saved from years of bitterness, saved from divorce. Saved to live a joyful life, as a family, in the fullness of God’s blessing.

Three things made it possible: God’s grace, Charlie’s repentance and my forgiveness. We couldn’t have made it without any one of those things.

I know of at least two married couples who split up recently because the husband wanted to follow his new dream. In both cases there are children involved. Both husbands feel completely entitled to exercise their free will in pursuing new relationships without looking at the consequences. Both believe it won’t have any impact on their children because “children are resilient” and “they adapt easily”. It is heartbreaking that a father could actually buy into this way of thinking.

What makes it the hardest to forgive and move on in these situations is the refusal to admit guilt, admit “I hurt you”, refusal to say sorry. The betrayed person gets stuck in its own pain, feeling like it was somehow their fault, like it was them who had failed.

What carried me through our darkest days was the pain I saw in Charlie’s eyes, his presence beside me when I cried, awareness we were in it together. He never tried to shift guilt but looked inside his heart and dealt with the issues that brought us into this mess. In return I found it easier to address my problems knowing he loved me just the way I am: his decision to stay together didn’t depend on me making changes.

If you want to keep hearing from us let me know, otherwise I will say goodbye.

Let all your stories be the happy ending ones. And if you have to go through a valley of darkness and brokenness, let God use it for your advantage because “…we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28

And be sure to remember as well that:
“…I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

He is the Only One you can trust and He will never disappoint you.

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The power of blessing

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Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28

I have discovered the power of blessing and forgiveness many years ago. I started from small things: it may have been a mean teacher, or a friend who suddenly turned against me, or just someone making my life difficult. Doesn’t matter. I learned to pray and forgive such person quickly, especially if my feelings were telling me to do the opposite. The power of it was amazing. Not only was I free from negative, bitter feelings but the situation would always change for better. Sometimes even miraculously.

Jesus taught to not only love and bless those who are good to us but also those who are our enemies and don’t wish us well. His goal wasn’t to make us seem nice and kind to other people. He knew what power it brings to the world: to break curses, change hearts, turn the events.

A friend of mine, let’s call her Martha, told this testimony to the power of blessing, recently in the church. Her house was broken into during the night. She was home alone with her children and thankfully nothing happened to them but they lost a few things: some cash, a phone, jewellery and what she was most sorry about – her engagement ring. It was an unusually shaped ring which she actually got 3 years after they got married because, simply, they couldn’t afford it earlier. Heartbroken and upset she put up posts on social media and in second hand jewellery shops asking for it to be returned. There was a reward waiting for someone who had it. Most importantly, she added a note to the thief saying she doesn’t judge the person, forgives and even blesses him/her. Not what they’ve done but the person, because she didn’t know the full circumstances in which this person committed that crime.

There was no reply, no sign of the ring for months. During this time she kept praying for it and kept the forgiving attitude. When she felt she was loosing it, she prayed for strength.

In the meantime, her husband was looking to buy a similar ring but could not find anything like it. He wanted it especially for Martha’s upcoming birthday. Finally he gave up hope and prayed: “Lord, you are almighty, I know that. My faith in getting the ring back isn’t great but I believe you can do it.”

A few days later, on her birthday, she got a message from a woman she didn’t know, saying she thought she had Martha’s ring. It was 2 am in the night. Sure it was a birthday joke she didn’t say anything to her husband until the morning. Then they both decided it must’ve been a joke but they wanted to meet the woman anyway. She came in the evening, with her husband and… the ring! The actual one!

Turned out her child was playing in a park and found it (what are the chances?!), she then remembered coming across an ad about it some time before that, was able to find it and locate Martha through it and then she returned it to her on her birthday, professionally cleaned! She wouldn’t take any money for it and only asked for a prayer and blessing.
There was a lot of joy in their house that night!

There were many times in my life when I had to practice this act of forgiveness and each time it got easier. By the time my real trial came I knew the blessing and freedom it brought. Still, the power of emotion made it hard, the mind reasoned against it and there was so much temptation to get even. But the little, quiet voice inside my heart kept saying: you won’t win unless you forgive.

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean the same thing. Forgiving Charlie I was giving him a chance to change and prove he still wanted our marriage, forgiving Ana I was letting her go free, without wishing her bad and forgiving myself was admitting I failed too and I needed grace just as much as them. Even if my fault was only 10% it didn’t give me any right to seek revenge.

Soon the 2 year anniversary of Wicked Wednesday, our D-day, will pass, so far the hardest day of my life. I have learned to see it as the day of deliverance, “letting the captives go free” and as such I am going to celebrate it but it would not be the same had we not experienced the power of salvation and forgiveness on that day and on the days that followed. It was a long and difficult journey but worth all my pain.

I have been looking forward to the 2 year mark as that’s approximately how long it takes to heal from the hurt of the affair but reading other blogs and stories of infidelity I am aware how hard it is to find peace and to trust, even years later. I am so glad that the source of my peace and trust is God himself. I will never be betrayed by Him.

Telling others

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The further we move away from D-day and the painful memories around it, the more I ask myself: is there any point in telling others about the affair?

Obviously we don’t want everyone to know but there are people who are a big part of our life and sometimes it’s tempting to reveal the whole truth about our seemingly perfect marriage. Or it might be that it feels fair to tell because we don’t want the secret hanging over us for someone else to reveal. There are also those who go through similar problems and we want to encourage them, tell them that victory over an affair is possible, that when you invite God to be a part of your story it takes a completely new turn and the impossible becomes possible.

It is difficult to predict how others react if you share your story of unfaithfulness and forgiveness. On the one hand they may be curious to hear it but on the other they don’t want to pry. Some will say they are sorry, others might secretly feel happy it never happened to them (or foolishly think it never could). Some people are very discreet and won’t tell a soul, especially if you ask them to, others will promise to keep it to themselves but will “secretly” share it with somebody else at the first possible opportunity. Sharing an infidelity story may bring you closer to those who had experienced something similar and can relate to it but may also create a division between you and those who will judge and define you by it.

I also find it difficult to predict each time how I react telling someone new about what happened. Most of the time I cry as it all comes back but when I talk with someone who already knows, I’m fine.

Not many people around us know about Charlie’s affair. At the time we had to look for help to survive the first days and weeks so we reached out to older couples we knew we could trust, like our pastors, parents or our friends. I don’t think they will ever know how much their presence, prayer and words of encouragement meant to us.

We shared it later on with a few close friends with whom we felt we had to be honest but we decided to keep the children out of it as much as possible. All they needed to know was that we were going through a difficult time but we were doing everything we could to resolve it. We made sure they felt loved and secure. Maybe if Charlie had decided to move out (or I had decided to kick him out) we would have had to tell them more. I think I didn’t want them to lose the love and respect they had for their dad and to have to digest stuff that was far too advanced and grown up for them.

Most people we told were very helpful and understanding. No judgement or condemnation, just support and encouragement to keep going, to try to resolve our problems and save our marriage. Some remarked affairs are far more common then most people think. But I was still afraid of gossip and misunderstanding in case it got out.

Just last week I was reminded of how right I was when it comes to judgmental attitudes and it came from someone I would never suspected of it. We were discussing the upcoming American elections and the terrible choice of the candidates at a tea break at work when our colleague said about Hillary Clinton: “The fact that she took her husband back after all he had done shows her lack of morals.” We went quiet for a moment not knowing how to react. The fact that she judged Hillary on this more than anything else showed that people can be more tough on the forgiving party then the guilty one.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it for at least a few days. Is that how people see me because I took Charlie back? Do I lack morals because I forgave? Is it better to kick the ass of the cheater and turn away from him, even if there are children involved and you know your relationship is basically good? Is it a sign of a weakness in their eyes to reconcile with someone who had wronged me so much?

There are women (and men) who accept their spouses back after an affair before they had a chance to fully repent, or the remorse shown is not genuine, rather an attempt to cover up a sin. I don’t believe anyone should rush into reconciliation unless the guilty party is fully aware of the gravity of the harm done but refusing forgiveness and cutting off the way back into relationship simply because cheating is seen as a deal breaker isn’t right either.

I think that instead of judging we should open ourselves to honest talk about the reasons for cheating and there are many – not all of them stemming from unhappy marriage or character flaws.

Our permissive society seems to be fine with an all present lust and nudity, personal happiness and satisfaction above all, we portray perfect life as a trail of successes and then we are rejecting those who fall victim of that way of thinking.

So often I’ve heard the line ” it’s none of my business” when it comes to people’s marriage problems but IT IS our business to ensure that the most important of relationships in our society is healthy and supported, and healed if it needs to.

Above all else, guard your heart

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What do you guard and protect in your life? Your loved ones, home, health, looks, possessions? They are all worth caring for but what the Bible tells us to protect most is our heart – the source of life. In Proverbs 4:23 we read: “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.

Note what are the most vulnerable parts of our bodies, the ones we protect most in accidents, shootings or fights because by hurting them we are less likely to survive? The head and the heart. The same goes for your inner man. Your mind with it’s thoughts and your heart with it’s desires determine the quality of your life and where it brings you.

Another translation of the same verse is: “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” If you have your own spring or a well you want to keep it clean and protect it from all contamination so that you can be sure you drink clean water. How much more then should we guard our own hearts if that’s the spring of life! Do not contaminate it with lies, hate, grumbling, pessimism, lust, greed, bitterness, etc. The list goes on.

I have heard people say about their affairs “It just happened”? As if it fell on top of them out of the blue.

I personally believe affairs start a long time before the actual act of betrayal. They start in the heart and in the mind of the betraying person, initially as an insignificant thought, maybe ignored, put aside and not dealt with properly, and then slowly growing to a size of a full blown desire that reaches the point of no going back. But before that final stage there is a lot of time to stop and think: is that what I really want to do to my marriage / relationship, or even myself? It is in those early stages that the seed is sowed and out of that will grow life or death of your marriage. Be very careful which thoughts you give attention to, which seed you give water to develop.

The problem is that we often come up with a thousand excuses why we are entitled to feel and think like we do. A classic one is blaming the spouse or feeling that somehow we ‘deserve’ it, some people may even say they were ‘pushed’ to do it by their spouse. They are all selfish attitudes that revolve around our egos as if our husband/wife didn’t deserve happiness. Choosing an easy way out by leaving or getting involved in an affair is often a step to ending a marriage – one of the biggest investments of your life.

But there is another side of infidelity which can ruin the marriage too and it also starts in the heart – unforgiveness.

Last weekend we attended a family reunion in one of the most beautiful places in Ireland to celebrate Charlie’s parent’s 50 years of marriage. Stunning scenery, delicious food and lovely company of Charlie’s 4 brothers, their wives and children. I came back rejuvenated and refreshed.

On a few occasions during that weekend I reflected on how their marriage also wasn’t free of flaws but despite that they both saw the big value that it had and carried on through ups and downs to what my mother-in-law called “the happiest years of their life”. The stability of a home with a mum and a dad and a respect and love they had for each other, plus their faith, surely had a very positive impact on the boys and how great they turned out.

On Sunday, as part of family activities we went to mass in the local church and the moment the priest spoke out I knew there was LIFE in him. He delivered a beautiful sermon on forgiveness, on how important it is to forgive and to be forgiven, to let go of the past and move on, to not let the unforgiveness stunt your growth. He described forgiveness as a decision at first that starts a process of healing. You don’t need to “feel it” to do it. It also does not mean you excuse the wrongs done to you or say it was ok.

One of the things I remembered most from the book “The Shack” was a description of forgiveness: to forgive someone who hurt you is to let go of his throat. Quite a literal view of what it’s like to hold a grudge!

I was listening to the priest knowing first hand how true those words were. Not too long ago I was the one who knew that if I didn’t forgive I would poison the spring of my life and have my own input into the fall of my marriage. I knew those words were going deep into Charlie’s heart too and I was afraid to look at him in case someone noticed and read it in my eyes.

One of the readings that day was the parable about the two men who owed a debt, one more, one less. Jesus made a point about the fact that when you owe a lot and your debt is forgiven your love and gratitude is bigger too. It is interesting too that some people don’t even know they owe anything when their sin is small and they have to go really low to realise they are sinners too and they need salvation. That unfortunately was Charlie but when it happened he knew immediately he needed help, salvation and forgiveness. It made it a lot easier for me to forgive.

No matter which side of the infidelity (or other sins) you are remember: we are all imperfect and we are all a “forgiven something” in Christ. Those imperfections are a constant reminder that we need the perfect Lamb in our lives.

I attach a useful link on the subject from Surviving Infidelity page I used to read a lot in the first months after our D-day:

http://www.survivinginfidelity.com/healing_library/reconciliation/forgiveness.asp

Loved

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Do you know what difference it makes to your life when you feel loved?

A few weeks ago we were asked by our friends to look at a house they were thinking of buying. It was a small, country house in a need of repair and redecoration but in a location they liked, with a big garden where they wanted to plant vegetables and keep hens. When we approached the house we could see the front garden: well kept and tidy. Inside the house there was something about it which warmed our hearts.

It was small but cosy. A bit quirky but charming. Draughty but warm. Old style but authentic. I took some photographs as there are less and less places like that and I wondered: what was it that made this place so special? It wasn’t until I showed it to my colleague at work who said: “It just looks LOVED”.

That was it! Loved! How did I not see it before? It was loved and cherished. That was an unseen dimension which reflected in every little detail throughout the house and although there wasn’t much going for it otherwise, it made it attractive.

Same rule can be applied to people. You will know who feels loved by the way they are and behave. It is what makes them happy, positive and secure. Loved people emanate joy, peace and self acceptance. They know their own strengths and accept their weaknesses and flaws because they know they are loved despite them.

The problem with affairs is that where you previously felt loved and secure you are no longer sure of anything. The smallest doubt can throw you back into despair, even years later, when you think you’re fully recovered. Triggers are hiding in the shadows and can take you by surprise.

I was doing so well for a long time that I started to get worried I was detached from my feelings or I was suppressing them. Nothing could move me to tears over the affair: no memory, no thought, no place, no object… until Charlie put a CV on my desk.

“What do you think?” he asked.

A young girl, master year student, foreign, looking for a summer job. Good qualifications and experience in previous jobs. Strong, confident poise on the photo. I noticed some similarities to Ana.

In a few seconds it all came back. It felt like I was opening a murder file. I remembered how cunningly he made everything look so normal, how stupidly I would suppress the bad feelings and convince myself I was over sensitive. I remembered the first days and weeks after Ana started the job, the time which I still find the hardest to deal with, as it was then that the foundations for the affair were laid, the rest just rolled from there.

And immediately I thought: what if he does it again? Maybe he’s planning it already? I looked at his face across the office and tried to find signs of deceit.

There was no other reason to doubt his sincerity then that CV. We are good, we are as much in love as ever, he is growing in his relationship with the Lord but still, my trust is as limited as unlimited the works of my imagination. Where previously I would classify my doubts as just that – my imagination – I can no longer do it because the truth turned out to be even worse.

I spent the morning silently wiping the tears and pretending my sniffles were an unusual cold at the beginning of the summer.

We talked about it later and he apologised for even suggesting it and for showing me the CV. He said he normally deletes those offers now but this one came from our good client who is helping a friend to find a job. I wasn’t angry with him, I knew he didn’t mean any harm.

What shocked me most was how small I felt looking at that CV and the photo of that girl. The betrayed side of me was telling me that she would come and sweep Charlie off his feet and she would be so much better then me in just about everything (apart from loving our kids, that is). I could logically reason against it but in my heart that was what I believed.

Those lies are a legacy of Charlie’s affair, of my father’s emotional neglect, of my mother’s own negative beliefs about herself, of my sinful nature which chooses to believe in them rather than in the truth God speaks about me. Sometimes I feel like I am a slave to them.

But I will rise against them every time and proclaim God’s promise:
I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt so you would no longer be slaves. I lifted the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk free with your heads held high.

I am LOVED with an everlasting love.

Reasons why

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“Why do we cheat? And why do happy people cheat?” That’s how Esther Perel starts her Ted talk about infidelity. I have listened to it numerous times and asked myself the same question – WHY?

Was he unhappy in our marriage? Did he feel trapped? Did she seduce him? Did he fall in love? Did he not love me anymore? Why did it happen to us?

My biggest fear was that he fell in love but he denied it numerous times. I was surprised to hear that his predominant feeling right after the disclosure was… relief. Relief that it’s over, that it’s the end of the lies, that he didn’t need to act anymore. He got himself into a trap, locked it and couldn’t find the key. Turned out that confession and facing the truth opened the door into freedom again. It was scary and hurt like hell sometimes but it was the only way. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

So why did he do it in the first place? We spent weeks and months trying to get to the bottom of it. We identified a few key reasons:

1. Lust – first and foremost on our list was lust fuelled by pornography addiction, kept in total secret and slowly getting out of control. He described his actions as “getting worse by degrees”. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, yet step by step was feeling braver to cross the lines. Again, in his own words – “You don’t even know when suddenly you are completely off the course”.
There were things he did even during the time of the affair that showed he was not in love but trapped in lust.

2. Stress – huge pressure at work and a lack of knowledge how to deal with it. Many times after coming home his mind would be spinning and he was snappy and angry. It took time every evening for him to cool down and even during holidays he wasn’t fully relaxed until a few days passed. We are working on it and I’m learning how to help. A few key methods: prayer, sport, time together, talking. There will always be pressures and stress, always more things to be done but when you stand together and commit everything to God you can conquer it.

3. Feeling of inadequacy – this came up a few times, a vague feeling of being a failure, of not measuring up, not achieving some goals. This wasn’t based on any real failure but rather on a lack of self esteem and a pressure from society to achieve and be successful. Again, learning to live in thanksgiving for what we have and seeing that other people are not happier even if they seem more successful, helps.

4. Being ‘stuck in a rut’ in our marriage and not even realising it. It had crept upon us in between all the chores at home and in the office and although we took steps to keep our love alive still something new felt more alluring.

5. Midlife crisis – he laughed when I mentioned it the first time but stopped laughing when I found an article describing what goes on in the mind of someone going through it and it all fit perfectly. The following are some of the common symptoms of midlife crisis taken from http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/isdivorcethesolution/f/midlifecrisis.htm :

– Unhappiness with life and the lifestyle that may have provided them with happiness for many years
– Boredom with people and things that may have been of interest to them before.
– Feeling a need for adventure and change.
– Questioning the choices, they have made in their lives and the validity of decisions they made years before.
– Confusion about who they are and where they are going.
– Anger at their spouse and blame for feeling tied down.
– Unable to make decisions about where they want to go with their life.
– Doubt that they ever loved their spouse and resentment over the marriage.
– A desire for a new and passionate, intimate relationship.

Much could be written about each one of those points. Sometimes just realising what is going on and naming your problems is a big help, other times you might need the help of a professional therapist to guide you to what lies at the root of it all. It is useful to know that we often confuse our need to run away from our spouses with wanting to run away from ourselves and from what we have become.

At last I finished reading Jane Eyre. For most of the book I thought Ana’s love of it came from identifying with the main character – Jane, and to some extent I am sure she did. That’s why she panicked and became jealous when Charlie employed a new girl whose name was almost identical to Jane Eyre, fearing she would take her place, but there was more to it. The book compares real, deep love with a marriage for practical purposes. When I got to that point I had to put the book down and cry. I saw how she really believed theirs was the ‘true’ love and our marriage was just an empty shell.

I cried because I knew Charlie must have given her that impression. I cried because no one had ever doubted we married out of deep love, no one had ever disrespected our marriage. I cried because I loved and cherished our story. I cried because I knew Charlie did too.

How many more girls like Ana are out there in the world? Using the weakness of their work colleagues, bosses, friends to get attention, romance, short lived feeling of love? Do they know the trail of destruction they leave behind? Do they realise how clichéd their affairs are and how quickly they end? Unfortunately ours is not the only story of this kind I have come across recently. And not all of them have happy endings.

If you are like Ana, stop, think and choose a better way.

New beginnings

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Last year one of my old friends was diagnosed with cancer. She hadn’t been feeling well for a while but because she worked and traveled a lot to Africa she thought she caught something there. After undergoing a lot of tests, the real reason was revealed. She was immediately moved to a hospital and started treatment. Her illness started a chain of prayers for her recovery and people of faith from various denominations stood united in the fight for her life. The miracle happened and not too long after that her tests showed she was on her way to full recovery. She hasn’t lost any part of her body apart from weight and hair. The relief and happiness is back on her face although the smile was there all the way through.

Recently she sent an email to all her friends and those who were praying for her, titled “Victory”. At the end of it she wrote: “Paradoxically, it has been one of the best periods in my life. There have been so many good things that took place because of this illness. He showed His Glory. The Body of Christ has been strengthened, integrated and encouraged. And I was secure and enveloped in His love, free from fear. Praise be to the Lord who uses the worst and changes it into something so beautiful.

How often do we go through the “valley of death” only to discover it leads to a fuller life? The light is there all along if only we allow it to shine over us. God not only takes you by your hand but He hides you in His. That’s how I felt in my darkest moments when pain and fear threatened to get into the core of my heart – it couldn’t because that place was already taken. I had given it years earlier to God when I asked Him to fill it with His Spirit. I may doubt sometimes that He’s there, particularly if the world shouts louder then the Word but in those moments when you’re squeezed, what’s in comes out.

The day of the renewal of our vows came at last. Before Charlie left for his half day at work he said: “Listen to Spirit Radio this morning, I left a message there for you”. And surely, not too long after that, while I was having my breakfast it was read out loud on the airwaves: “This morning I would like to thank God for helping me to get through the most difficult time in my life and my wonderful wife for being there with me. I’d also like to ask for a prayer today as it’s a very special day for us.

It felt really good to hear it. Kind of confirmed to me again that he wanted it and meant it.

The place was chosen some time ago, I got my ring done at the jewellers, my mother was visiting for a few days and we were going away the next day. The cliffs and the “devil’s cauldron” were not too far away, we could make it there and back in one afternoon. Luckily the weather was not too bad for this time of the year, otherwise we would be risking being blown away.

We decided it was going to be just the two of us before God. We wrote down our vows, they were very personal and only we knew their real meaning. Nothing of the setting or our clothes was like the wedding day but in our hearts we were as ready to do it as the first time, only more mature and wiser.

When we got there the sun was shining, it was a bit windy and I was worried for a while that a freak wave would wash Charlie off the cliffs when he was throwing the other ring away (the one we got back from Ana). Then we sat down on a rugged, wind blown bench, held hands and exchanged our vows. It was still shining when Charlie said his part, started raining when I was saying mine, then it stopped and a rainbow came out (yes, if you know Ireland you know it’s possible…). We couldn’t have planned it any better. We took plenty of photographs and went back home to pack for the next day.

I have very fond memories of that day although I was carrying a lot of pain in my heart. Day of a new beginning, hopefully this time better.

A well known Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel, in her popular TED talk about infidelity, said a few things that stayed with me:

“…because I think that good can come out of an affair, I have often been asked this very strange question: Would I ever recommend it? Now, I would no more recommend you have an affair than I would recommend you have cancer, and yet we know that people who have been ill often talk about how their illness has yielded them a new perspective.”

And another one:

Today in the West, most of us are going to have two or three relationships or marriages, and some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?

Innocence lost

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There are moments in your life when you ask yourself: “What the hell am I doing here and how did I get there?”. That’s how I felt going to my GP to get checked for STDs. It was probably one of the last reasons I thought I’d be going with to my doctor and I certainly didn’t think Charlie would be the reason for it.

Explaining why I came, I felt embarrassed. Talking to a stranger about the most painful thing in my life I couldn’t stop the tears but I did my best to not let myself break down in front of her. She was very understanding and supportive, advised marriage therapy and gave me some contacts. She also said she recommends her patients to get checked for STDs every now and then because “you just can never be totally sure”.
Oh how I agreed with her now.
I said “If you had asked me a month ago how my marriage was I would have said – perfect”.

This disillusionment with the human state, a more realistic view of what we really are and what goes on behind the closed doors of many married couples is a direct result of the affair. Innocence lost. It’s no longer “somewhere, someone”, it’s us. And if it’s us it could be anyone.

I’m thinking of all those trusting wives who blindly believe in their husbands fidelity. You think that if there aren’t any obvious signs all must be fine. If he is of good character and goes to church, you’ll be spared. Don’t get me wrong, trust is beautiful. How could we live being suspicious all the time? Smelling a rat every time our spouse goes away? Going through their things to check if maybe there is a clue of their infidelity? That’s not my idea of marriage, or any relationship, and I’m sure most people would agree but reality is different, cruel. We are broken human beings. Lust has become the norm, we are taught to desire from a young age and told we deserve it and are worth it. It goes equally for material things as well as other people.

About 6 months after our D-day Charlie went away for a few days. He was invited on a trip abroad, all expenses paid, I couldn’t say no. By then I had recovered enough and gained enough trust to let him go. In any case I made up my mind I would never be a controlling wife. If he wanted to cheat it was his problem and sooner or later it would catch up with him. But I was more aware this time about what goes on at these trips: outings to night clubs, free, unsupervised time, girls and so on, prostitutes even. Men only wait for a chance like that but I had faith that this time he was going as a changed person.

There was a group of guys and they were going out every night to a pub. Charlie kept finding excuses to go back to his room at a reasonable time and we talked on the phone much more then on previous occasions like this. On the last night, however, he stayed with them longer. One guy was pretty drunk and Charlie decided to ‘mind’ him. There were two young Brazilian girls sitting at the next table. After an hour or two of conversation the girls got ready to go home. Charlie’s companion made up his mind to go with them so Charlie went too. When they got to their place, the guy tried to invite himself in but Charlie told the girls to ignore him and they parted their ways. When they were walking back to the hotel they had an interesting conversation.

“What were you trying to do?” asked Charlie, “you are married.”
“My wife wouldn’t know.”
“But you would.”
“Eh, it’s nice to know you still ‘have it’.”

Don’t we all want to know we still ‘have it’? The age, gender or marital status doesn’t matter. Our ego strives for it – to be liked and desired and it’s probably the number one reason behind affairs.

That day I went to the doctor we decided to spend the whole week sharing bread and wine in the evenings, to pray for a full deliverance from lust and addiction. We found a bottle of wine called “Puerta Novas”, meaning New Door and opened it that night. It was like a week of private counselling. Every evening brought something new into our relationship and understanding of each other. We had planned a trip abroad months before that, which was to be the following week and we hoped it could be a new beginning. My new ring was being adjusted at the jewellers and we finally knew where to get rid of the other ring we got back from Ana. The last thing we needed to do was to renew our vows.

Reminders

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I’m going to digress slightly from the story and jump ahead to present time. Christmas was a success despite the constant rain and the havoc in the house. I’ve grown to love my sister’s boys even more and my relationship with her has strengthened as well. I’m happy about it, there was a time not too long ago when I thought I’ve lost her forever. Funny how motherhood and marriage changes people.

Last weekend we went away with our kids and had a truly wonderful family time. When trying afterwards to define one particular moment that we liked most, we couldn’t pinpoint it, we all loved it from the beginning to the end. It was one of those very blessed times when things just seem to fall into place in the right time and way and even those moments when it could go wrong it turns out for good – God’s perfect planning.

It started with Charlie saying recently he would like us to do something special after Christmas, since most of our time during Christmas holidays we were with my sister and her boys. It was a great time too but in a different way and we missed just being ‘us’. Soon after that he booked a room in a hotel and we headed off. We went to a museum, did some shopping, went to a fun swimming pool, met friends and had a nice meal. Kids were thrilled, they enjoyed every moment of it and they even got their own room in the hotel!

It would all be totally perfect if it wasn’t for one small incident. I woke up in the morning while Charlie was still in the dream world and I couldn’t fall asleep again. I was in bed when I heard a couple behind the wall having a rather loud lovemaking session. I’m not sure if ‘lovemaking’ is a correct word in this instance, I would use another, less polite word but I don’t want to soil this page.

It’s funny the kind of thoughts that come to your head in a situation like this. Who are they? Did we see them the previous night in the restaurant? Are they young or old (judging by the energy probably young ;)). Are they married or dating? And then the one – maybe they are having an affair? Maybe one of them (or both?) is betraying a spouse? Maybe this act of passion is someone else’s tragedy and horror? After that the other questions just followed: was it like that for THEM? Were THEY like that couple behind the wall? I knew of at least three situations when Charlie and Ana were together in a hotel, my imagination started to run wild again. What if he misses it?

Strangely I wasn’t upset, just uncomfortable. It doesn’t hurt so much anymore. Healing has come in stages, I have accepted the affair and everything else that happened. God’s promise about the wound becoming only a scar got fulfilled quicker then I expected. There was plenty of heavenly medicine applied to it – tears, talks, honesty, prayer, fasting, repentance and forgiveness. It was helped by not being picked at, not getting infected by bitterness and by the fact that there was just one clear cut to get the ‘puss’ out. It took a couple of weeks to be completely clear but once it was out there was no going back to uncover more. Knowing that he told me everything and there is nothing hiding in the shadows, helps.

But there was a time when reminders hurt. I dreaded them: certain places, objects, thoughts. I didn’t avoid them because familiarising with them meant getting over the trauma. Yet still, at that time the only Spanish thing allowed in the house was Spanish garlic (apparently healthier then the Chinese equivalent) and I couldn’t stand the sound of the Spanish language.

I reminded Charlie recently of one of those times when his behaviour was particularly offensive. His response was “I was very sick” – it summed it up pretty well. I have thought about it this way too, that it was his sickness, his low and I had promised to be with him in sickness and in health. It is easy to promise when everything is good and you expect it to last forever. When you are young, your understanding of sickness is a week long flu, not something that affects your whole life. But it can be anything – disability, mental illness, addiction, deep rooted sin, personal weakness. When do you give up? Isn’t this the point of marriage, that we help each other up in those lows? And what if your spouse’s actions seem to be directed against you and they are not able to see beyond their selfish desires? Do you give up or fight?

Reminders are everywhere, even in the little things like a tag Charlie had on his bag last weekend. He got it in a hotel at one of those occasions which I’d rather like to forget. I asked him to take it off when we came home, which he gladly did, and I felt a relief, as if he took a pin out of my body. Those reminders pinch but they don’t trigger waves of sadness anymore.

There are good reminders too. The picture “God answers prayer” hangs beside my desk and holds a huge value to me. It draws my attention every time I pray at work, whether it’s for something personal or for a project I’m working on. It’s both a promise and a reminder of prayers already answered.

Moving on

I would love at this stage to introduce Charlie but I’ll need to be patient for just a little while longer and wait for Christmas, in hope he’ll find a few spare moments to reflect and write down his thoughts and feelings. We’ve talked about it already and he wants to add his side of the story, even if it’s only one post. It’s been a year and 2 months since D-day and time is really flying.

This year for Christmas our house will be full. We’ll welcome 3 little rascals and their great mum who happens to be my little sister. We’ll do our best to make it a memorable one and bring a little light into their life which went into a spin in the last couple of months. Her battle is harder then mine but we’ll fight it together and pray it will bring even more glory to God. Her story is in the making and maybe one day it will want to be told too. It started on Bloomsday this year, the day I started writing this blog… There have been lots of ups and downs, dreams, visions and tears. Let’s just say for the moment we are praying for the eyes and heart of her husband to be opened to see the treasure he’s about to throw away.

And I’m back to my story…

I felt a relief after Ana left. At least I wasn’t nervous walking the streets any more in case I bumped into her. There was also this crazy fear at the back of my mind that she might plot something against us or our family. Totally paranoid but I couldn’t get rid of it. In reality we didn’t know her that much and we knew nothing about her background. As they say: “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned”. Being a mama bear means being super vigilant.

I realised we were very lucky to be able to end this whole affair like that – to send her thousands miles away. She was now far away across the sea and it made it so much easier to move forward. It is difficult to get over an affair in any circumstances but it must be almost impossible if the affair partner is still somewhere on the scene.

The concert was one of the breakthrough moments and gave us energy to keep going. On Sunday the next day, while in church on Sunday meeting, Charlie was asked to break bread. No one apart from our pastor knew what had happened. Charlie consulted it quickly with him to make sure it was ok and before he prayed over the bread he said:
“I shouldn’t be here. The only reason why I am standing here is because Jesus saved me. And if he could save me I believe he has great plans for all of us. I might say my testimony some other time but today I just want to ask the church for forgiveness for two things: first – for bearing a false witness, and second – for taking bread and wine when I was in no fit state to do it.”

I was so happy to hear those words coming from him and proud of him too for admitting in front of everyone that he wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. He didn’t need to say anything more, it wasn’t the right time to do it.

That Sunday was the third one in a row when we fasted. We started just before WW and continued for four weeks. Each time brought a change, more freedom, more closeness to each other and to God. The chains were being broken and prisoners set free.

What followed was days and nights filled with very honest, very personal talks. We opened to each other like never before, without masks, without hiding. We talked about our pasts, our parents, old relationships, mistakes we have made and secrets we haven’t discussed with anyone else. We read the Bible together and prayed every day. Sometimes we would get so engrossed in all of it we didn’t pay any attention to time. Once we even forgot about bringing children to school.

My trust in Charlie was severely limited though. For many weeks after I was veering between being positive that we are moving on and feeling heartbroken and cheated. 3 days after Ana left Charlie had a late meeting with a client. I knew exactly where he was and with whom, plus his father was with him and still I found myself panicking suddenly while he was gone. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. After knowing the truth about all the lies I was told in the previous year, my trust was so low that if someone had told me then, that he wasn’t at the meeting but with her, and that she never left but just pretended, I would have believed. I felt I couldn’t tell truth from lie anymore. I once was confident that I could but I didn’t know anything anymore now. That’s how Charlie found me when he came home. I told him my thoughts and we cried together.

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The word for today – 14 Dec 2015

“Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” 2Cor 7:10

The word ‘repent’ means to acknowledge your sin, renounce it, seek God’s forgiveness, and try to live differently. It means doing an about-face turn and heading in the opposite direction. If you go twenty miles down the road in the wrong direction, it requires doing a U-turn and coming twenty miles back. At first this can seem discouraging. But it’s profitable, because next time you’ll think twice about where you’re headed. Repentance sometimes means making restitution to others. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who got rich by overcharging people. But after he met Jesus he said, ‘If I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times as much’ (Luke 19:8 GNT). God is more than willing to forgive you, but He may allow you to experience the painful consequences of your sin in order to motivate you towards obedience. ‘No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way’ (Hebrews 12:11 NLT). Satan will try to tell you that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace, but you’re not. The Prodigal Son wasted his inheritance and ended up in a pigsty. But the day he decided to come back home, his father ran to meet him and restored him to full sonship in the family. And God will do that for you too. ‘Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously’ Isaiah 55:7-9 NLT