Monday, February 25, 2013

The Affair Doesn't Have to Mean a Divorce

When you find out the husband or the wife that you've given yourself to heart and soul has cheated on you with someone else, there really isn't a more devastating feeling. I still remember the night my husband confessed his affair to me.  I literally felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.  I couldn't breath. All the air felt like it had left me. I wanted, very badly, for it all to be a lie.  I wanted him to tell me it wasn't true.  

The part that made it worse was that the affair was with a woman I thought was my best friend. I trusted her in every regard. Loved her like a sister. Our kids played together. I would have done anything for her.  It was hard to understand why she had chosen to hurt me this way.  When I confronted her with what she had done, she was angry. Angry with my husband for telling me the truth. Angry with me for being angry with her. Angry, in short, that she got caught.  

I had warned my husband before this that if I caught him cheating on me it was over. I was going to find the name and phone number of the nearest divorce lawyer and we would be done for good. That night, though, I chose mercy instead of justice.  I chose the marriage instead of the divorce.  

I chose to reflect on all those times in my life when I had cheated on God, turned on Him, chose to pursue other things as if they were more important than Him. I chose to recognize that my husband was asking forgiveness for his failure, and to remember all those times when I had failed him in a very real way and he had given me this gift of mercy when it was his choice.

Don't get me wrong. This was not the easiest choice I ever made. Trust was not easy for my husband to win back.  In the beginning, the pain was fresh and constant.  Everything I saw, everywhere I went, everything that happened reminded me of what had happened. I spent a lot of time crying. It was one of the loneliest moments in my life because now I couldn't even share this with a friend and get some consolation. My two best friends were the very cause of all the pain I was going through.  All I had left was Jesus.

Gradually, the time between memories, the time between the pain, decreased.  At first I was able to go a few days without feeling it come up again. Then weeks.  Then months. Our marriage healed. In some ways it became stronger than ever. He knew that there was room for failure, even big failures, and he knew that my love truly was unconditional.  

If you're thinking that things would be different if I had discovered the affair rather than being told about it, if it had been a stranger rather than my best friend involved, you're right. It was.  When I found out a year and a half ago that he'd been having a virtual affair with a lady he'd met playing video games, I was no less hurt and no less devastated.  I chose mercy. I chose forgiveness. I chose love.

Do I know for a fact that my husband will never cheat on me again? I don't. The honest truth is that when you have a sexual weakness, it never really goes away. It's something you have to battle every single day.  Do I understand why some women choose the divorce? I do. It's an incredible betrayal, something that tears at the very fabric of your soul and shreds your self-esteem.  I also understand, though, that the affair isn't the problem. The affair is just a symptom of the relationship problem that's been festering for a while, untreated and untended.  You can use the affair as a reason to divorce or you can seek to cure the disease that caused it.  The power is in your hands.

A lot of people think that the affair just has to lead to the divorce. The divorce is the easier path, sure, but it isn't the better path. There can be happiness again after the affair.  Love can flourish and grow again, sometimes even sweeter for all the fertilizer the affair provides for those areas of your life.  So, if you are willing to rough the bumpy spots and committed to making it through to the better parts - don't Google your nearest divorce lawyer.  Offer a prayer, spend some time with Jesus, and remember that Easter Sunday never comes except through the crucifixion of Good Friday.

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