Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Perspectives from the Rear-View Mirror

In both blogging and marriage, days quickly dissolve into weeks. Weeks, in turn, cascade into months. It all flies by and becomes this hectic blur of colors as you ask yourself "where did all of my time go?"  It's been awhile since we've actively updated this page, and I recently began soul-searching as to why this has been the case.  In the process, I've discovered some insights about our healing journey that I feel compelled to share with everyone who has faced the sting of infidelity as we have. Let me summarize it by saying this: I have some good news for you.

I've said it before and I will repeat it again -- marriages are measured in seasons. Every new phase of your life comes with its own themes, motifs, and obstacles. Where are you right now? How would you describe the season that your marriage is traveling through? For many couples who have dealt with the burden of an affair, much of this depends on how long it's been and how your initial recovery process went. The logistics of piecing your relationship back together, one shard at a time, are complicated. I fear that many people stagnate in this introductory path to recovery, stuck in bad habits and poor communication. Couples don't struggle with a lack of intention to stay together -- they struggle in figuring out how.

That brings me to the issue of why we haven't been as active here lately. We are in a new season. This February marks three years since my affair took place. Although it is still on our horizon, we are blessed with the distance that time provides. The era of our relationship now is utterly different -- the defining issue of our life is not my affair anymore.

Instead, we are increasingly facing the issues of our extremely busy schedule. Both Hannah and I are full-time college students. We are part-time youth pastors at a church. I teach music in the evenings and I have a day job too. Hannah is a stay-at-home mom and that, in itself, is enough to exhaust anyone but she is also a part-time nanny to a sweet little boy. Our battle is a grey one, where there is no bad guy or enemy at which we can redirect our efforts. We are facing the entropy of adult life and the moonshot of changing careers. It's a different kind of struggle entirely, and we are blessed to be facing it.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. The scars are still there. We aren't just "over it" now... There is no "over it" as far as I'm concerned, there is only the daily walk towards a better future. The pain still throbs and my infidelity still has a murky, ambient influence on our life altogether... but it doesn't define us. It may have defined one of our seasons, but it doesn't define our whole lives.

That's my good news to you. Whether you are on day 1 of the aftermath, or day 101, know this: the affair does not define you. It may define this season, but it will not define you. You are more than the sum total of your grievances. Trust me when I say that the image from the rear-view mirror looks very different.

It's our sincere desire to begin writing here again -- but the tone may change a bit. The outlook of our marriage is one where the infidelity looks different, because time and experience has molded our vantage point. So, we encourage you -- talk to us, share your stories, and help us share the one we've chronicled on our page. Ask us questions and give us suggestions. In marriage and in testifying about experiences, we are not done. We are just moving forward.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates or follow us on Facebook!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Distractions & Diversions

If you are currently navigating through the recovery process after an affair, the holiday season can either bless or burden your marriage. Normally on this blog, we tend to take a high-level view of the journey to healing because the path is so different for each individual. However,  today I want to impart a very specific kind of advice for anyone who's experienced what we have. There's a conversation you need to have with your spouse before the holidays, and it all starts with this question:

Are times of busyness, like the holiday season, a distraction or a diversion? In other words, does it bless your marriage to have a momentary change of course, or does it harm your marriage by derailing your healing process? In our marriage, I have seen both, and it is so important to manage this idea with care. So what's the difference between a distraction and a diversion?

Distraction


During times when our calendar becomes more and more overloaded, it has sometimes hampered our healing because it doesn't leave time for the necessary conversations and quiet moments. Early in our healing process, if we got so busy that it prevented us from communicating about our burdens, it would really set us back emotionally. All of a sudden, our dialogue was off-track. We got sidelined, and that's not good.  Take a holiday for example -- the victim of infidelity may often feel like they can't talk about their sorrows  because they don't want to spoil the mood of the occasion. This is counter-intuitive though, because holding those thoughts or fears in makes them turn toxic, only to come out magnified at a later time.

Don't bottle it up and don't sweep it under the rug. If your marriage is having issues, you should always be able to find the time to discuss it. If you are with family for the holidays, step out for a bit to have some alone time. If you can't comfortably talk out loud with family near, text or write one another. Do whatever it takes to keep the cogs of communication turning. To the victims of an affair: we know your pain doesn't take a day off, and your marriage's healing process shouldn't either.

Diversion

For some couples, a temporary change of pace can be a beautiful thing. If we are not careful, our whole lives can become consumed by the sorrow of our past. There's got to be more than never-ending convalescence. You can bring peace to your marriage by simply providing a new focal point for your time together -- don't just stew on your past, do something. Make your marriage more than a place of sorrow.

The power of diversion is a huge reason why we think it's important for couples in healing to create new memories together. Take trips, try new things, share experiences. Your marriage may feel defined by infidelity, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, for you to truly find reconciliation, you have to one day allow your marriage to blossom beyond what you're dealing with now. You need a marriage that points to something higher. Focusing inward forever will weaken you.

Does your marriage need a diversion, or does it need to avoid the dangers of distraction? That's the question to answer. Perhaps you need to walk into the holidays with a strategy in place. Either you need to plan on communicating despite the odds, or you need to let the tide of this season just sweep you away for a bit. Find out what your marriage needs and embrace it wholeheartedly.

I have a challenge for you today. If you are reading this and you don't know where you stand, share this article with your spouse right now and just simply tell them, "I want to talk about this. I want to have clarity." No matter where your relationship stands right now, it will be strengthened by the communication that will come from this much-needed conversation. Happy Holidays, and we'll see you in the new year.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates or follow us on Facebook!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

    Things have been quiet on the TMOR blog lately. Hannah and I have been so incredibly busy with our college classes and everything else we juggle (work, kids, ministry) but we want to keep sharing our story and the hope we have in our marriage. We should be picking up steam as the semester draws to a close. Whew.
    For my birthday, Hannah took me to see the film Interstellar because I am a huge space nerd. Don't worry -- this isn't a post about space or intergalactic travel, I'll spare you this time. This is a plea to keep fighting. I'll show you how these two things are related.

   In the film, Earth is dying, and humanity has been granted one last extraordinary chance for survival. A wormhole has opened in space and a crew of voyagers are sent to another galaxy to find a new home for the human race. It's a long shot, for sure, and the characters admit this. It's almost a suicide mission. Nearly every moment of their journey is filled with extreme danger, but this is the chance they take.
       The lead character in this film, Coop (played by Matthew McConaughey) has to leave his two young children behind for this life-risking adventure. It's not for his own benefit, though -- he's informed that, unless something is done, his children will be the last survivors on Earth. After them, it's over. Humanity will conclude. The curtain will close and they will have no hope for a future.
    For those of you who have children, think about that. How far would you go if you knew your kids didn't have hope for a future? What would you do to afford them the chance to live, love, and have children of their own? Universally we all feel compelled to act in this scenario, but sadly, so many couples refuse to fight like that for their own marriages. We will fight for our children but not for our spouse -- why is that?
    Through the course of the film, a famous poem is recited several times. This poem is called "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"  by Dylan Thomas, allegedly written as the poet's father lay on his deathbed. It is a command to keep living, to keep fighting. Do not succumb; do not surrender. Here are the most famous lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


   If your marriage has seen the grisly aftermath of an affair, this needs to become your anthem. In this poem, the writer implores a dying man to "rage against the dying of the light". In other words, don't just die. Fight, scrape, and claw your way back as best you can. Do not let your marriage just slip through your fingers, even if it's wounded.
    To the person who's strayed: don't take the easy route. It is the coward's path to allow your spouse to leave without begging, pleading, and repenting on your knees. Sure, it's easy to just let them walk out. It's less uncomfortable than having to go over the details and face your crimes, but it's cowardice.  If you had the guts to cheat, have the guts to stay and work it out.
   To the person who's been wronged: if you can find the strength within you, muster up all you have to stand firm for your marriage. There will be days when all you can do is simply stay, and if that's all you can manifest within you, that's progress. You can beat this. Do not go gentle into the cold night of divorce and misery. Do not go gentle into defeat and disrepair.
   Interstellar is a space movie, sure. But more importantly, it's a movie about the persevering spirit within every human. As Coop says, "we will find a way. We always have." You can make the journey to recovery, one step at a time. It is a road filled with setbacks and frustration, but it is also paved with redemption and love. Rage against the dying of your marriage. Stay up late with your spouse to talk things over. Change jobs. See a marriage counselor. Move. Do whatever you have to do. You haven't come this far to simply walk away.
   I really feel like someone needs to see this. Someone is on the ropes of the rebuilding process, and they want to just throw in the towel. Don't.  This is your reminder that the fight is hard, but the struggle is worth it. You have no idea what you're capable of -- keep pressing forward. Go further. You can thrive beyond this temporary misery.