BeliefsMarriageThe Pain Project

The Pain Project: For Better or For Worse Means…

“I think with any mom with young children, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday emotions and exhaustion. You need to talk to another adult. You need that person to support you and cheer you on and when it’s not there because they’re pulled away in a different direction or giving all their time to something else, then the relationship suffers. You desire a connection like that from someone. The days feel like they just drag on. Then your husband comes home and he’s been with adults all day talking and he doesn’t want to talk anymore. That’s just frustrating.”

Emily: I was alone in my thoughts all weekend. I had kicked Andrew out of the house earlier that week so he had the kids and I was just driving around town collecting my thoughts. There was a pastor on the radio that said, “No matter what you’ve done, you can start over.”  I grew up in a Christian home so I’ve heard that said a million times before, but this time was different.

In that moment, it was so evident that God was clearly speaking to me. I had to pull the car over because I completely lost it. I said, “Ok Lord, you have to take over my life. I want to start over, please forgive me. If there’s any way You can make this work between us then have Your way. But I knew I had to tell Andrew.”


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Our Love Story (Andrew Speaking)

We met and started dating when we were in college. We were both young Christians and had intentions of staying only friends, but that didn’t last long. We fell hard. And with that, came the temptation of premarital sex, which we succumbed to. It was a cycle of shame and guilt the entire time we dated. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop us.

We almost had a pregnancy scare, so we figured it was probably a safe bet to get married. Two young teenagers married right before either of us were 20.

They say that first year of marriage is hard; we just had no idea how hard it would be. Our life revolved around us and we were still naïve, selfish teenagers focused solely on doing what we wanted with little consideration for the other person. We would go home at night, dive into our hobbies, and go to bed with little interaction. Rinse and repeat.

There was one night shortly after we were married that Emily turned to me and said, “I have to tell you something…I’ve been chatting with James (ex-boyfriend) online.” I completely lost it and was immediately outraged. My parents had to come over to diffuse the situation and fortunately, we were able to work it out that night.

To be fair, though, there is a reason why it hit a nerve with me. My family had a history of infidelity.

On the surface, my Dad was a good suburban guy with a blue-collar job. What none of us knew, however, was that he was addicted to strip clubs and would spend so much of our money going to these places. We had no idea why we were coming up short every month. My mom was insecure and suffered from depression so she frequently accused him of cheating. He had never cheated at that point, but all her badgering eventually pushed him to it.

One day when my Dad was home, he felt an urge to confess his double life. (We didn’t know it at the time, but it was by the conviction of the Holy Spirit). Upon hearing his confession, my mom immediately kicked him out of the house and he moved in with a family friend. Unbeknownst to my Mom and I, my Dad had given his life to the Lord at a Promise Keeper’s conference.  Eventually, both of us gave our life to the Lord and my parents started over in their marriage.

I never knew the full details of what occurred until later in life, but I do remember witnessing the pain in my parent’s marriage. The flood of memories came back.

Where Things Started to Slip

Time went on and we fell back into a routine. About 8 months after we got married, I made an impulsive decision one day to quit my corporate job and join ministry full-time. Emily knew about this decision after it had occurred and she was livid. And rightfully so. I hadn’t given her a choice and it didn’t help that she had been really sick with a parasite for about a month.  Soon after we moved out of our first apartment and into the ministry building, we found out we were expecting. Then we had our first child which brought us so much joy but only made the hard things harder. The time was such a struggle trying to raise a family while immersing myself in full-time ministry. This took a toll on our marriage, but we pressed on and made sure that we appeared to be that strong Christian couple.

Ministry is a very intense occupation and after trying to make it work, we had to get out. I entered corporate America again and by now, we had 2 kids with another on the way. We were barely getting by and relying on food stamps to feed our kids. Our marriage continued to take a back seat and our lack of intentionality only made matters worse. I didn’t recognize the issues at the time, so I actually felt optimistic about life. I’ve since learned that Emily didn’t feel the same way.

Because of my lack of awareness of our marriage health, I thought it would be a good time to consider public service so I signed up for a Masters course in political science. This meant that when I finished my full-time day job, I jumped right into my studies spending most evenings reading and doing homework.  It’s hard to study with 3 young kids around so naturally; I studied anywhere but at home.

Emily verbalized her frustrations. She had to put the kids to bed every night alone. We were constantly fighting and all I could hear was her telling me about my shortcomings. She originally agreed to me going back to school for Political Science so why did she suddenly not commit and support me any longer?

Then she threw a curveball at me.

One night while we were fighting, she said: “I don’t think I love you anymore.” I had no idea how to respond to that. Didn’t every marriage have problems, too? Why would our problems cause her not to love me? I fed them, I provided for them, and I didn’t abuse them. I was doing the best I could. Was it not enough?

The fighting continued. It got worse until it escalated into a massive fight that caused her to walk out of the house. We tried counseling through a family friend, but all I felt from that meeting was embarrassment, shame, and anger. I was so mad that she brought me to that counseling session to be martyred.

We kept our distance. The busyness made it easy to avoid dealing with our problems.


The Confession (Emily speaking)

I texted him and said, “Hey are you home, I want to talk you about something.” He had heard the same words spoken years earlier in our marriage when I confessed to talking to my ex-boyfriend online. He probably sensed something similar was coming. I’ve never felt more nervous driving to my own home than now, my heart was beating a million times per minute.

Andrew: When I received the text message from Emily, I felt very optimistic. The date was January 8, 2012.

Emily walked through the door and sat down next to me. From the expression on her face, I could tell something was heavily weighing on her heart. She looked at me and said, “Remember on Christmas when I went back home to see my family? Well, I took a girl’s trip with my friend and met up with my old boyfriend. We ended up sleeping together.”

Time stood still. I could hear my heart beating in my chest.

My first thought was I wanted to punch her in the face…but then the cops would show up and I’d lose custody of the kids. Bad idea.

Her next words were “I’m so sorry”. It’s a little late for that. Even though she made the choice, I knew I had pushed her to it. But this changes a lot of things.

I was calm at first and then it turned into outrage. I had to leave the house. I called some of my buddies from church and we met up to talk, but they weren’t helpful so I left feeling discouraged. I knew my next stop would have to be my parent’s house.

Emily: My mind raced back to how the affair even transpired. I had gone home to visit my parents several months ago and while attending a high school football game, I noticed James from the corner of my eye. Though we didn’t speak that night, I remember thinking it might be OK to reach out to him on Facebook just to “say hi.”

We started talking and he took the time to listen. He actually cared about what I had to say. I didn’t see it at the time, but I was already committing an emotional affair on my husband. It would only be a matter of time until it went further.

Andrew and I had been fighting still around this time and I went home with the kids for Christmas to see my family. Andrew had a change of heart and wanted to come join us, but I had asked him not to come because of how much he disappointed me. After all, my parents agreed to watch the kids so my friend and I could have a girls weekend.

I had planned on meeting James there, too. Mostly, to see him again and “catch up…”

We met at a bar and instantly the feelings I had for him when we were dating came flooding back. We started drinking. It felt good to let loose and be devoid of my responsibilities so I took another one back. Soon, I was completely drunk and lost control.

We went back to one of James’s friend’s house and as the night slipped away, so did my commitment to Andrew.

Andrew: I walked into the door of my parent’s house and my Dad immediately saw it on my face. He asked me, “What happened? What’s wrong?” I prefaced my response by saying, “I don’t need you to cry for me, I need you to be strong for me.” I looked up to them and said, “Emily cheated on me with her ex-boyfriend.” Immediately when those words left my mouth, the reality of the situation sunk in. I just started wailing and weeping and my parents held me in their arms, remaining strong as I had asked them to.

After they comforted me and prayed with me for a while, they turned to me and said, “Would it be ok if we go see her?” and I said, “Do whatever you want to do.”

Emily: I spent the rest of the afternoon crying. I confessed to my parents and my brother and they cried with me and prayed with me. Every moment after I confessed that day is still a blur. Then around 9 o’clock at night I heard a knock on the door.

It was Andrew’s parents. When I opened the door to let them in, they immediately wrapped their arms around me and gave me a huge hug. I was undone. I immediately began to apologize to them for what I had done to their son. They continued to embrace me and said words that I will never forget, “No matter what, we love you and you’re our daughter too. We just want to love you and support you.”

They stayed with me for a couple of hours and continued to pray over me. In the days to follow, they came over every day to help with the kids and anywhere else I needed help. Never once did I feel judged by his parents.

Immediately, I contacted a counselor to get help right away. I knew that no matter what happened between Andrew and I that I wanted to work on my relationship with God.

Andrew: I could tell during this time that she was really pressing into the Lord. I wasn’t. After Emily confessed to me what happened, I started looking at pornography again. This was a problem before our marriage and while I knew it was wrong, I also didn’t care. I even told a guy at work whom everyone knew regularly cheated on his wife and he said, “Man, it’s just sex dude. She said she was sorry. You should forgive her.” I was looking for bad advice and even this guy was giving me good advice.

But the Holy Spirit convicted me so I started to seek help to avoid my downward spiral. I remember distinctly listening to the song by Jason Gray and repeating the lyrics over again:

“…in the mirror all I see is who I don’t want to be, remind me who I am…”

I remember crying over these lyrics and praying, “God, I don’t know what to do, I’m just so hurt.”

Emily: Though Andrew probably didn’t want to be around me, we had recently gutted our entire upstairs so he still came to the house every night to work on it. We would cross paths but never made eye contact. Our communication was limited to email and texts regarding the logistics of raising our kids. I could tell he was still really angry and hurt, so there would be moments where he would email or text me saying horrible things to me. I took it.

During this time I was reading a book about affairs and how to move past them and I was also doing the Love Dare. I made sure to work on my heart first before attempting to save our marriage. The days and weeks after my confession was filled with lots of time in the Word- trying to make sense of everything and get my life back on track.

Eventually, we begin to see progress.

There was one night 2 weeks later that he needed help putting drywall up and so he asked me since I was the only one there. We had a normal conversation and I could see the glimpses of hope through our communication. As he was getting to leave one evening, I remember him stopping at the door. It was awkward for a moment and then he said, “I feel like I’m supposed to give you a hug.” It was surreal. It felt like a huge weight was lifted and in that moment. It felt right.

Andrew: I felt, that night as I was getting ready to leave, that the Holy Spirit told me, “Give her a hug before you go and give her some hope.” I must confess, it felt really awkward and a part of me was reluctant.

When we hugged, the only thought that was running through my mind was “I miss you so much, but I’m so hurt.” It was also the first time we had looked each other in the eyes since finding out.

A few nights later after I had finished helping Emily tuck the kids into bed, we were talking on opposite ends of the couch and I asked her to come sit closer to me. As she scooted closer, I asked her if we could pray together.

We sat there with our raw emotions, my arm around her, just praying together for the first time and praying for restoration in our marriage. I asked if I could stay. She said yes. I called my parents to let them know that I wasn’t coming to their house and planned to stay here tonight.

This was just the beginning of our healing.

Prelude

A month later we attended a marriage conference and then another one after that. We continued to go to counseling separately and eventually, together. Healing took time. There were triggers that would set us back. A year later, however, things finally started to feel normal and better again.

It’s been 6 years since this happened and God is continually renewing us daily. There is a HEALER bigger than anything you’re going through. There is HOPE for the hurting.

This couple would like to let anyone know who has been through this or is currently struggling with this that they would love to be a resource in your marriage. Please message me privately to get in touch with them.

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