Month: December 2016

Life After Infidelity

Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Has it been 4 years or five? I asked myself this question at a recent book signing. The woman purchasing my book was asking how long it had been since I discovered my husband texting another woman. I chuckled to myself as I realized that I could not remember if it was four years or five.Stronger Than Broken Book Cover

If I really want to, I can still dredge up the memory of when the pain was so fresh, so raw, so real. Each day brought a song on the radio that made me sad. I may be innocently walking through the grocery store and see the back of someone’s head that had the same color or style hair that she had. Maybe I was just cooking dinner and my husband was late getting home from work. There went my mind, wandering again and thinking of a dozen inappropriate reasons why he might be late.

If you are the recovering spouse of an affair, do not think that forgiveness will make all of those hurt feelings simply go away. Forgiveness is just the beginning of what may take up to a full year to get through, and a lifetime to fully understand. With my situation, it felt similar to the loss of a loved one. It was in fact, a loss of trust which can be just as painful. As with the loss of someone dear to you, that first year seems so difficult. The first Christmas without them, the first time their (or your) birthday comes around you are tempted to feel that loss. It is the same thing for the recovery process in getting through the affair. I remember the first Chrismas after the infidelity thinking about what a crummy gift I had received the year before when he was giving her a much nicer present. The first birthday after the affair I lamented how the last year he had snuck out to see her after giving me a 99 cent card and a cake from the grocery store.

If you and your partner have decided to rebuild the marriage, think of it as reconstructing a house. You may have to start from the foundation and work your way up. If that is the case, then expect some sawdust, splinters, and drywall dust as you work on this new and improved “house”. Expect that you will have days where you hardly think of the infidelity at all, and other days when all you can do is feel like a failure. Be strong. Good times do come if you are faithful in your commitment to continue to love this person.

The best advice I can give is to avoid the huge temptation to play the guilt card. For about a year or two after the affair, when I felt that I was not getting the kind of attention, love, or time I felt I deserved, I would work into the conversation that she got the texts in the middle of the day or the lunch at a restaurant on a weekday and I didn’t. I felt it really set us back as a couple, as Jimmy was truly trying to put this behind him, and there I was, throwing it in his face again. Why? Was it just to get a little more attention? Did I think making him feel guilty would make him drop everything that was going on in his life and fawn over me like a lovesick teenager? It was a bitter pill I had to swallow to step back and realize that he was trying his best and still is trying to be the best man he can for me. Am I doing the same to be the best woman I can for him? I think of Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Continue to love, respect, honor, enjoy and laugh with your spouse. Keep the lines of communication open and honest, and eventually, you too will be scratching your head saying “Hmmm, has it been four years, or five?”

Keeping Intimacy Alive

hpim0771Marriage can be a delicate balance of the mundane and the passionate, the ordinary and the romantic. For many, mundane and ordinary take precedence over the passion and intimacy. When you were young and madly in love, I bet you never thought it would get so vanilla. It is common for intimacy to lessen, but only if you are the average couple. If you want a stellar relationship, you have to be above average and willing to work at a continuing development of the partnership.
Comfort in the relationship is often the reason why our intimacy lessens. A wife may feel like she can get away with coming home from work and donning the sweatpants. A husband may let that beer gut protrude a little more.  A busy lifestyle with distractions like TV shows, attending the kid’s concerts and sporting events can leave little time for each other.
Can you start to recreate that spark by spicing things up in the bedroom? It keeps the mystery alive. Recently my husband surprised me by taking out the back seats of the “mom” van and filling it with pillows and blankets. He drove me to a secluded place and made love in the van like crazy teenagers.
Once in a while, I will take my husband on a mystery date. The latest one was to take him to a winery where we enjoyed painting our own set of wine glasses as we drank.  Now, every time we use the glasses, we are reminded how much fun date night is, even after 30 years of marriage.
When you have been married for years and years you may feel like you know everything about them, but you will never fully know your partner, as we are (and should be) always evolving, growing, learning and changing. Therefore, it should be fun and easy to continually attempt new things. Perhaps a new genre of book you can read together, a different restaurant, meeting new friends, going up to a couple you have never met at coffee time after church and chatting with them, redecorating a room together, learning how to play a game or sport that only the other spouse excels at are just a few ideas that come to mind.
Some of my married friends feel like they are living separate lives from their spouse and think that it is healthy to maintain some autonomy. I am not entirely sure that couples should maintain separate lives. I never enjoyed drinking and dancing on date night. I prefer dinner and a movie. But, when my husband complained that I never liked the bar scene, I was totally fine with him going out with his male friends to tie one on. Later I discovered that the man he hung out with was divorced and that they would dance with women they met. The seemingly innocent night out with the guys led to an affair that I had discovered had been going on for about 5 or 6 months. When he and I decided to resurrect the marriage, I had to learn how to enjoy an occasional drink and to be ok with looking like a fool on the dance floor.  It was a lesson for me that my husband didn’t care how stupid I looked dancing around. He just wanted a fun night with his wife. When I stayed home or worked an evening job, I deprived him of the opportunity to enjoy being with me.
That being said, we do enjoy different things. He loves to shoot his bow and arrow at a target range. I love to grow organic vegetables. He likes Clint Eastwood movies. I don’t.  Do you see where I am going here? It is fine to have different interests that make our lives richer for being able to share our differences. I enjoy watching him shoot at the target and he enjoys eating my garden goodies.
If you think you have seen it all, it is time for a meeting. Yes, I know, it is no fun to have a board meeting with a spouse, but often times you must approach your mate with your concerns and your goals for keeping the love alive. Make a list if you have to, of all of the things you would like to try. Read a relationship book and assure your husband that you are not trying to “fix” anything, but simply continuing to love and grow with him. You never want to get to the point of where one of you is looking for something outside of the relationship!
For me, I have not looked outside of the relationship for fulfillment unless you call changing careers looking for something more. As of late, I have changed my circle of friends to include more people who are committed to healthy relationships and prosperity. It has been an exciting thing to expand my breadth of knowledge as I go into my 50s.
To avoid confusion and heartache, I recommend that you do not be subtle in your relationship. Your needs must be known, heard and understood. Subtle often does not work when dealing with your spouse. It’s ok to be blunt if you can do it with love in your heart.
If you need more suggestions, read a risqué chapter from a book, throw away the flannel pajamas, get new sheets, put some different music on the MP3, gaze into each other’s eyes, or role play. You are only limited by your own creativity. Just remember that love and happiness is a choice. Choose love!