Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pre-Existing Conditions

Recently, a reader commented and asked for us to delve into the causes of infidelity. They wanted to know how the stage was set for this tragedy in our lives. We are so thankful for this suggestion and we encourage you to chime in with other topics you'd like to see us explore. Feel free to contact us via email or through the comments section with suggestions.

Although the topic of infidelity is complex and there are many variables that fluctuate from one couple to another, there is undeniably a few key elements that exposed us to this tragically common situation.  The setup may vary, but there's no doubt that affairs do not occur in a vacuum -- they are often symptoms of a greater underlying issue. An affair can be the most alarming manifestation of a systemic and possibly fatal sickness in your marriage.

In order to battle and overcome the sorrows of my affair, Hannah and I have worked tirelessly to uproot the foundational problems that placed our marriage in harm's way. Here are four pre-existing conditions that exposed us to the fallout of unfaithfulness.

Pre-Existing Conditions

1.) Neglect of Responsibility. First and foremost, I must face my role in this process as the chief person responsible for our marriage's well-being. I am the husband and the leader of our home. For years, we lived in turmoil as I haphazardly and inconsistently guided my family. Our life was like a fun-house mirror, where everything God had expected of me was distorted beyond recognition. I was passive; I was a coward. I bottled up frustrations, acted immaturely, and I failed to tend to the daily needs of our young marriage. I set the stage for this to happen, plain and simple.

2.) Spiritual Stagnation.  In the weeks and months leading up to my affair, our marriage was stranded in a spiritual wasteland. We had settled into a church that we didn't like out of complacency, choosing to be a part of a very superficial community instead of investing in deep friendships. We were an island, with no deep and meaningful connections and no one to help steer us back on course. Again, this reflects poorly on my performance as a husband. It was my duty to shepherd my family spiritually, and I failed.

3.) Unresolved Baggage.  Every person walks into marriage with some degree of baggage, no matter the source. Perhaps there are conflicts with your past, upbringing, or past boyfriends/girlfriends. The question is not whether you have baggage, but what you do with it. It can become the cinder block tied to your feet as you try to establish your new marriage. I had a myriad of unresolved problems regarding my past, and I thought I could simply forget them in time. I was wrong.

4.) Sheer Naivete.  Like most couples, we began our relationship with a great deal of ignorance regarding the road that was before us.  When it came to infidelity, we sometimes thought "that could never happen to us" or "my spouse loves me too much". Those concepts are based in fantasy, not reality. Your spouse is subject to temptation just like every other person that walks the Earth, and you must fight to stay faithful to your vows. Success is not a guarantee, and neither is fidelity. Once again, I neglected to prepare our marriage for the trials that lay ahead of us, and it cost us dearly. I walked into our marriage ill-prepared and aloof to what we would be facing.  I will be discussing this idea of marital naivete more in a future post, so keep checking back.

As you see, the common thread that is woven through each of these elements is my failures and lack of willingness to rise up as the husband I should be. I was the reason it happened, and my wife did not deserve the torment that my immaturity has caused. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to earnestly examine the foundation in which their marriage is set on, because it can influence so much about your future.

You are reading a post on The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from unfaithfulness. Click here for a brief introduction and make sure to subscribe by email(on the right side) for regular updates.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I’m Going to Fight.

Note: This is my first official post on The Meaning of Repentance. Beware: I am not a writer like my husband. So bear with me! - Hannah

On February 27th, of 2012, my life changed forever. My husband and I had been experiencing some turbulence in our marriage and I knew that something big was about to shake the foundation of our relationship. I had no idea that it would be this major of an issue. My husband came home on the night of the 27th and confessed to an affair with a coworker. Never in a million years did I expect for this to happen. But there we were, dealing with the aftermath of this heartbreaking tragedy. So what did we do? How did we survive?

I could share all the details of what happened, how it happened, and how I responded but I don’t think that it would be helpful. What I do want to share is a very real concept that could save your marriage... if you choose to embrace it.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of dealing with infidelity in your relationship, whether you’re the transgressor or the victim, you need to decide right here and now that you are going to fight with each other to save your marriage. My husband has blogged about this idea in the past, but I wanted to write about it from my perspective as well. The idea is simple: 

I'm going to fight.

Both husband and wife need to decide that they are going to put everything they have into fighting for their marriage. This may mean that other things get put on the back burner for a while. Ray and I put everything on hold for the first few months of the healing process. We worked and took care of our family, that was it. Our hobbies, friends, church activities, etc., all became last on the priority list. Our focus was survival

Very early on, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to wallow in the victim mentality. After experiencing this kind of betrayal, it is natural to want to crawl under the covers and never face the light of day again.  That can’t happen. Not if you want to survive this. Not if you want to defeat this very real threat that could rip your marriage and your family apart. I chose to fight with my husband to salvage our relationship.

For me, this was only possible through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is my ROCK and without Him, I would not have been able to carry this burden. I know that not all of our readers are Christians, and that’s ok! We don’t ever want this blog to become a platform for preaching at people. But in the spirit of transparency, I can’t tell my story without mentioning Jesus. 

Only by the grace of God are we still fighting this battle together. It will be so easy to turn against your spouse throughout this journey. As the victim, you’ll want to attack the person that has broken your heart. As the adulterer, you’ll want to fight back and defend yourself against those attacks. Neither can happen if you want to make it out alive. Fighting against each other will kill your marriage. Fight together.

Take a few minutes to watch this video: Cheater. *Disclaimer* This video may be hard to watch, but it contains a valuable perspective on this issue. Resolve to fight for your spouse and for the future of your marriage, because it is a battle worth waging.

(New to The Meaning of Repentance? Click here for an introduction and visit our About section for more info on the Hartsfields.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

[You didn't deserve it.]

    This is a message for every person who feels like they're mortally wounded. This is for the downtrodden and defeated. It's for my wife and the countless other people like her, battling their inner voices in quiet convalescence. You didn't deserve it.

    No one earns this kind of betrayal. Despite your flaws or failures, you did not warrant being cheated on. Nothing carries this as a penalty. The pain you feel is not the consequence of your actions, but instead it is the result of profound weakness in your spouse. Blaming yourself will give your the illusion of control, but the scary thing is that you can't control this. Not really.

   Normally, we use this blog to explore various concepts related to marriage and healing in great detail. Not today. In this moment, the message is clear and simple:  You didn't deserve it. There's a choir of voices swirling around you, both internal and external, that will tell you that you made this happen. Your inner voice will scream this. Maybe even your spouse (or his/her lover) has insisted that you brought it on yourself. Do not entertain this painful idea, even for a moment.  You didn't deserve it.

   Perhaps you have no one around to assure you that this wasn't your fault. Seek healing anyway. You can find solace in music, scripture, and the embrace of trusted friends. Maybe, as you read this, you're not the victim, but instead you're the transgressor. If you've betrayed someone like I have, let these words be a motto to live by-- "you didn't deserve it". Repeat it to your spouse constantly and live it out through your behavior, until at some point they actually start believing it.  Let it define your heart's posture towards them.

Because they didn't deserve it.

(New to The Meaning of Repentance? Read our brief introduction here and check out the About page to learn more about The Hartsfields.)