The #8 most referenced reason Marriage Gets Messy: Adultery.
To prepare for this series, “When Marriage Gets Messy,” I pulled out the workbooks from my own pre-marital counseling and saw that the one thing my husband and I both agreed would bring an end to our union was Adultery.
So, I am astounded when marriages survive this most grievous assault. I’m honored to be sharing part of Karen and John’s story here this week. Her words are in italics. For the full testimony (which will bring you to your knees) please visit Redeeming Love.
A Beautiful Beginning
Karen and her husband, John, were living their dream. Their happy family of 8 was well known and respected in business, community, and church.
But then, after 20+ years of marriage, things began to change. Karen says, “My husband’s heart began hardening. It seemed he wasn’t interested in me anymore. Spending time with our children appeared more like a chore for him. He sought out fun in other things like music, surfing or hunting, (something just didn’t feel right in my gut ) His hobbies and passions were overtaking our marriage, our family, our ministry, and I could feel the distance and division steadily growing between us. I would try and talk with him but he didn’t care to listen, continuing to leave on trips and seeking out things that didn’t include his wife and kids.”
A Conflict Cycle
For a few years, Karen did everything she could think of to keep her husband from slipping away. She says, “I thought if I did this or that or looked a certain way that his heart would change. But it didn’t, nothing I did mattered. I began to lose clarity and got lost in the mess. I began to realize then that there was absolutely nothing left I could do, except to keep praying for him and for God to change his heart ( I prayed this prayer a lot ).”
Conflict continued and a cycle of toleration and resignation took hold, until John was simply gone and Karen was left alone with their children in their dream home. After reaching out to him repeatedly with no response, Karen turned her cries to God, “I had to constantly remind myself to cry out to God. Because I knew He heard my cries. He cared about me.”
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18 ESV
Then, God began to work in Karen’s heart. She says “After some time, I finally started to realize that I could only be responsible for me and for the ways I acted and responded to the situation. My crying, begging, and pleading was only pushing him further away and making me absolutely miserable. (Seriously, I was one hot mess!)”
That’s when Karen realized she had to,“get out of God’s way and let His will be done.” Understanding her husband must be deeply troubled with issues beyond their marriage, gave her the courage to completely surrender. “After years of tirelessly trying I was ready at last to hear the way He wanted to work in me. It was freeing – freeing to let go and give it all to Him. I felt God was all I had left as my entire world crumbled before me, but I began to genuinely believe that He was all I really needed. His peace graciously kept pouring into my heart and into my deepest hurts.”
A New Understanding
With a new understanding of what the covenant of marriage entailed, she says, “I knew in my heart that I was called to stand in the gap for my marriage and my family while I waited on God’s timing. I knew our kids were all watching my actions; I had told them about Jesus their entire lives, and now it was time for me to walk the walk and tangibly live out my faith before them. All the while I continued to hear God speak softly to my heart, saying ‘Wait on Me, not your husband.’ He reminded me again and again not to rush into any decisions.”
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”
Psalm 62:5 ESV
God’s grace enabled Karen to endure an impossible season. She says, “I went to counseling and began to find my own worth and value in Christ, once again. I learned what healthy, loving boundaries looked like. I did some really deep work in my own heart and I started to see my circumstances from a completely different perspective.”
She began to see the crumbling of her marriage as an attack from Satan.“I believe the enemy is out to steal, kill and destroy families. He had been persistent with us and eventually found a hole, an open door through temptation, and used those desires and lies to lure my husband away.”
“Stay alert! Watch out for your enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.”
1 Peter 5:8-9
Fighting on Her Knees
So, she petitioned God’s heavenly host to fight for her marriage in the spiritual realms. “I put him on prayer lists. I plastered his side of our bathroom mirror with scripture the kids and I wrote. (war room) I would ask others to pray for him. I filled my heart and mind with God’s word and worship music all day long. I needed Him to get me through every day, sometimes every moment.”
Slowly God replaced Karen’s fear and anxiety over her husband’s whereabouts and the fate of their marriage with empathy and compassion. “I started praying for his heart in a different way. I knew he was in God’s capable hands, and I knew The Lord would pursue his lost heart relentlessly. In fact, I actually began to feel compassion for my husband, realizing how miserable he must have been to be living the way that he was.”
God was not only healing her heart, but also preparing her for the challenges that still remained ahead. “He would gently remind me that He could accomplish His purpose through my surrender. I didn’t understand it at the time, but as I surrendered my will to His will, traded my life for His ways, and learned to trust Him no matter what the outcome. He accomplished more than I could have ever have thought or imagined possible. The courage to persevere came from God and God alone.”
A New Beginning
Karen sent one brief text letting John know she had been praying for him that led to a year of back and forth through inconsistent counseling. “God had been pressing into him, while I was out of the picture and out of the way, (go figure, right?) Looking back now, though, I can clearly see God was always working and moving.”
Karen remembers, “I was actually in a pretty healthy place from all the work I had been doing in my own heart. John on the other hand, he was still all over the place. (he was the hot mess now!) Everything felt very strange, I didn’t really know him anymore. ( I didn’t even like him, to be honest) A very long and confusing year to say the least. But, the Lord re-captured my husband’s heart in that time and graciously waited to pull him out from the dark pit and into the light.”
Even though John had recommitted his life to Christ and God was slowly bringing his heart back home, “there was so much guilt and shame that had taken residence inside him because of what he did. He describes it like living in a pit of darkness, stuck with no way out. (yep, a real life pig pen) And he was there for so long that he started to believe he deserved to just stay there for good. The enemy tries to keep us stuck in the lies and entangled in our sin, but GOD always wins!”
Eventually John confessed. Karen says he, “disclosed years of lies, an addiction to pornography and the most painful, betrayal. In one short minute, my heart shattered all over again into a million pieces. Our family was already deeply broken and it all looked too impossible to ever overcome. The weeks following are some of the ugliest parts of our story. My entire being was paralyzed. I went numb in the shock. Intense pain and trauma set in, I really struggled to make it through each day. But God… He stayed right beside me, right beside us.”
After time, John, “chose to finally forgive himself and to accept the beautiful gift of God’s grace. And when he did, the fear and pain he once ran so far from, was finally faced with courage, humility, vulnerability and transparency. His childhood wounds and fear to face pain which helped tear our marriage apart, became the very things that brought about healing and restoration. Together we exposed our deepest inner hurts allowing each of us to be fully known yet fully loved and accepted by the other (emotional intimacy: into- me you- see).”
Beauty from the Brokenness
“Completely broken, both of our hearts surrendered, both of our hearts trusted, and both of our hearts opened up to healing. We were in deep crisis and at times we struggled to see a future of redemption. But day by day, moment by moment, we walked by faith, together. As we did, the Lord began to redeem and restore everything. He stood with us in the miry mud of our mess –
His beckoning arms reaching out to my husband in the deepest, darkest pit, and His comforting arms reaching out to me in my inconsolable anguish and despair.”
“My husband was completely willing to rebuild the trust I needed and he learned to hold my hurt and hear my pain. And although he says with great regret that he had to break my heart in order to find his, the Lord’s Redeeming love is what eventually healed both of our hearts. It wasn’t easy, but broken together we walked. Jesus + John + Karen”
“My husband and I stand as witnesses to the God’s faithfulness, recipients of His unending grace in the midst of our darkest days. Through this journey we have grown stronger together and closer to Him. We now openly embrace our brokenness as a beautiful blessing that will forever keep us continually dependent on our Redeemer.”
Overcoming The Mess of Adultery
What I’ve learned from Karen and John’s story is that God’s grace can overcome even the mess adultery makes in marriage. Both parties must willingly submit to God’s will for their lives and commit to living out their marriage covenant. This means accepting and extending forgiveness, fighting for your marriage on your knees, following God to work in ways we cannot imagine, trusting in Him more than even our spouse, and waiting on His timing.
If your marriage is facing the mess of adultery, please know I’m petitioning heaven on your behalf. You are not alone and there is hope for God to transform and redeem your marriage. No matter the outcome, Karen reminds us, “God sees you and is drawing you close to His heart. He has a powerful purpose and good plans for you. I know the journey is not an easy one, but through this process God will transform you in a beautiful way. He never wastes our pain.”
For an additional resource check out this Focus On The Family article about how You Can Stop Adultery Before It Starts.
Karen and John now live in Dallas surrounded by their 6 children, two sons-in-law, and 4 grandbabies. They share their story to encourage others who have been impacted by sexual betrayal. Karen is a certified and specifically trained Betrayal Trauma Coach who leads support groups, coaches women every day, and works with BRT.org and XXXchurch.com. You can find her coaching page, the full testimony, and a treasure trove of resources at Redeeming Love.
Don’t miss the other posts in this series:
and the #1 reason marriage gets messy is because God Isn’t Invited
Liz’s printed workbook, When Marriage Gets Messy is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble on-line. It’s an 11-week workbook for wives who want to overcome 10 common messes married couples make. The comprehensive workbooks contain daily prayer, reflection questions to help you dig deep into heart issues, word studies, Bible Study material, date night ideas, memory work (not what you’re thinking), additional resources, and of course S-E-X! It makes a great individual or group study, or even a wedding gift!
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Thought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul Survival, Monday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.