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.
   
   

Monday, October 13, 2014

Contents Under Pressure

Stress can profoundly mold a person. If you've ever had a doubt about this, take a look at some before-and-after photos of US Presidents. Long-term stress and worry can have a very real impact on your emotional and physical health. Our world is saddled with a heavy load of anxiety and it's slowly crushing us. The thing is, sometimes we bring these burdens upon ourselves by how we communicate within our marriage. Today I want to show you a part of who I was when I made the dreadful mistake of straying, and I hope that it resonates with someone out there. If only one person sees their own reflection in this message and decides to change their course, I will be so thankful.

Prior to my affair, I was a man yoked by self-induced misery. I bottled my problems up, internalizing them until they turned into a fireball churning inside of me. I neglected to face conflicts as they arose in my marriage, and I certainly failed to be proactive about resolving any problems that were occurring in my home. I was an empty husk of a husband -- I looked the part but inside, I was dying. I sincerely believe that bottling up my problems wrecked the inside of me in a dark way, and it definitely compelled me to making a series of terrible decisions. If this is you, it's time to change.

How we respond to life's pressures, especially within marriage, says a lot about our character. As I've written before, I was a coward. Plain and simple. I lacked the spine and the resolve to wrestle through problems with my wife. I forfeited real resolution for cheap peace-keeping. I gave myself the illusion of progress by simply packing my problems deep down inside. There were no arguments, but there was no growth either. My spirit was a canister of compressed grievances and mistakes, and I was ready to explode at any moment.

The first few years of a marriage are formative. Precedents and patterns are set, and they are not easily undone. A quiet and detached husband will soon define himself as such. Five years into our marriage, we faced the cracked foundation beneath us, and sometimes it seemed impossible to repair underneath everything else in our life. If you are newly married, take the time and expend the effort to set good precedents -- it's easier to create good habits than to hurriedly unravel them when tragedy strikes. Don't wait for a major crisis to wake you from your daze -- change now.

I'm not going to sugar coat this. If you are a spouse who's forfeited your voice in the home, it's not easy to step back up to the table. It's not easy, but it is necessary. Starting to speak up and help in decision-making will be awkward at first. Arguing will be uncomfortable. Conflict will make your skin crawl... but this is the prescription for your internal decay.  If you love your spouse, engage with them in every facet of life. Be a real partner in marriage, not just a placeholder. It will hurt sometimes, as all growth does, but it will be worth it.

I'm praying for every single person out there who's living under the pressure of their own silence and absence.  Change is possible. As always, feel free to contact us if you need to talk. We love you guys.

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!