In April of 2009 our couples’ therapist asked me; “Do you want to save your marriage?”
My wife and I had come to him in a state of crisis after she recently revealed her involvement in an affair. I should make clear this wasn’t something she had admitted doing and now it was over. No, it was something she was currently doing without any indications she might be willing to stop.
Truth be told, as I answered “yes”, I was secretly hoping my therapist had some secret little gimmick up his sleeve that would have us fixed-up by the end of the session with my wife returning to the marriage and profusely apologizing for her momentary lapse of reason. HA!!! That’s just how stupid I was!
Stupid, arrogant, and self-centered.
You see following my wife’s revelation my position was a simple one – an affair is wrong therefore you end it. Simple. Right? Wrong! Over the course of next two years I would come to understand it wasn’t nearly that simple. My wife’s infidelity was merely a symptom of much bigger problems the result of years of conflict and strife. It had taken years to destroy the marriage it would take just as many (if not more) to heal it. For sure healing would require time but healing would also require something more. Something more that, at that time in our lives, neither one of us could have imagined. It wasn’t more therapy or couples’ workshops or seminars – we had done them all. We had spent thousands of dollars in the pursuit of the one person or bit of wisdom that would be the silver bullet to change our relationship from an unsatisfying misery to a happy fulfilling one. That something more, the thing that we could not have imagined, was salvation and transformation through a relationship with the merciful God who created us.
As the therapy session ended that day I made the decision there would not immediately be a filing for divorce or even a separation. Instead I chose to take a different route. A road less traveled. I accepted that I had contributed to my wife’s need to seek comfort elsewhere. I was willing to see I had been a lousy husband.
From the start of our relationship I was a foolish and headstrong control freak trying to control that which would not be controlled. More problematic then my controlling need was an addiction far worse than any drug or drink and that was something, for all my years of therapy, I hadn’t heard before…codependency. That is using someone else to get your needs met often resulting in controlling and manipulative behaviors. It is considered a pathological condition like an addiction to alcohol or heroine. Either I hadn’t heard this word before as part of our counseling or more likely I wasn’t listening. So, as a long-practicing control freak, “letting go” was going to be primary to my transformation and I would have to make the move from co-dependent to independent. I had to learn there’s nothing attractive about desperation. As a result of the uncontrollable situation I found myself in, my behavior was modified. Make no mistake, the changes didn’t happen easily and I didn’t change altogether willingly. Like any unruly brat I needed to feel the consequences of my actions and OH-BOY did I feel it! The pain and the amounts of it were great.
So great was my pain that one gray September morning after enduring the situation for more than five months with no real end in sight, I felt I could no longer continue. I contemplated very seriously ending my life. I had reached my lowest point. Thanks to God’s intervention in the form of a well-timed phone call from a long-lost friend, disaster was averted. This friend, or maybe more appropriately, this angel, would deliver an important message and provide support to aid in the recovery of my self. Also contributing was a substantial support network in the form of a therapist, pastor and my church family. Thanks to them all I was able to turn my moment of despair around. Most critically, thanks to God in His mercy, I was saved that day.
Looking back I understand the dynamic clearly. Just five months before this gloom-filled morning I had been baptized. But I see now I did this under false pretenses. Acting more out of desperation then heart-felt desire I saw baptism as a potential quick fix to my situation. The events and experiences in the months following would provide a cleansing pain bath that would ultimately humble me. Made vulnerable, I came to the understanding and acceptance that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. The meaning of this is that my life is not my own. Not an easy understanding for a control freak to come to but I did. It was then I took a leap of faith and began the process of letting go. I let go of the entire situation. I let go of my need to control it and predict its outcome. I let go of my wife. I let go of her comings and goings. I let go of the idea of her loving me. I let go of the idea of her appreciating my efforts to keep the family intact. I let go of the idea of her coming back to the marriage. Most critically, I let go of needing her. In doing so, I made the all-important move from codependent to independent. It was scary and new for me but having made the leap I grabbed a hold of Jesus’ cloak and held on for dear life. Trusting Him and adopting the philosophy professed in the Bible to live for today as if it were my last with yesterday gone and forgotten while leaving tomorrow to worry about itself.
As a result of this process of transformation, a truth has been revealed to me and that is, no matter the circumstances, winning back your spouse is a two-fold plan. First, you’ll need to take a good hard, honest, look at your self. Your spouse strayed because the marriage is failing. The marriage failed for two reasons; you and your spouse. That’s it. And because the only thing in this entire world you have control over is YOU, that is the extent to which you can control the outcome. So, in knowing this, work on YOU. Second is acknowledging “you” begins and ends with your relationship with the God who created “you”. I strongly suggest that the pursuit of changing you starts with a relationship with Him.
This past August my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary together. We reconciled in the winter of 2010 and the family moved in together again in February 2011 – just a month short of two years since the affair was first made known. In that time we separated and there was a filing for divorce. We signed the papers to end the divorce proceedings on Valentine’s Day. This was God’s idea, not ours. I confess that the road back hasn’t been easy. It’s been filled with its share of bumps and even wrong turns but now, as we journey, there is a critical difference. Now, my wife and I walk the path together, side-by-side, with our gazes fixed on the One who goes before us, Our Father, Abba, who loves us so dearly.
If your marriage needs help, consider the Marriage Helper 911 workshop. The workshop helps save marriages that are in danger of separation or divorce due to anger, lies, infidelity, bitterness, lack of intimacy and other issues.