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?


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.


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!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Trying Hard Will Never Be Enough

"Why doesn't my husband just get it?"

That's the kind of question we've heard so many times. We receive a steady flow of comments and emails from this site and from our Facebook page. Each story that you all share with us has its own unique facets, and yet we hear many sorrow-filled questions and pleas over and over again. This is one of them. What makes the recovery process stall out, exactly?

It seems only logical to think that, if a cheater were bold enough to admit their mistakes, and they had the courage to stick around for the aftermath of this revelation, then they'd have the fortitude to see it through. It's not quite that simple, though. The path is often unclear and filled with obstacles. Why doesn't the transgressor just... get it right? One of the most alarming signs for a betrayed spouse is the notion that nothing's changed. After all, if nothing's changed, it could happen again. If nothing's changed, the threat is still so real.

The idea of not making progress is a nightmare to someone who's been betrayed.  It's an ever-present reminder of the possibility for future harm.  It can be maddening, and I can tell you from the transgressor's perspective... the healing process can be maddening for us in its own way as well. Because it seems like, no matter how hard we try, we just aren't gaining the traction we want.

Therein lies the folly of our thinking, because trying hard will never be enough. Putting on a performance so your spouse will stay is not what your marriage needs. Your relationship needs renovation and nothing less. I believe that when the victim feels unconvinced of their marriage's progress, it's often a matter of repentance. Let me explain.

The way I see it, repentance requires two things -- a change of heart and a change of ways. If your spouse strayed, but they confessed their sins and they want to find reconciliation, that's merely step one. When their heart still seems hardened towards you, and they furiously insist that you should "just get over it" or "trust them already", their heart is hard. They're not fully repentant. Likewise, when they claim to be penitent for their affair, but their behavior shows otherwise, their ways haven't changed -- they're not really that sorry. Repentance is essential for the future of your healing journey, and it requires a change of your heart and your behavior.

Sadly, when spouses stray, their heart is in a place of calloused coldness. An affair only serves to exacerbate this. Once the affair ends, the callouses on your spouse's heart can remain. Changing behavior is easy -- changing your heart's posture is not so simple. Remember that a person must be in emotional and spiritual shambles to cheat, and that broken nature does not suddenly heal itself once confession occurs. Mending takes time.

If you find yourself wondering why you've lost footing on this road to redemption, take heart. Restoration is possible, but you must first strive for a true transformation in your marriage. Anything less is building towards what you had before... but don't you want more than that?  As always, thank you so much for reading, and feel free to contact us by email or on Facebook if you need anything.

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.  Please share your thoughts on this post by emailing us or commenting!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Churchwreckers. every marriage battling with the baggage of infidelity, there is another person who lurks in the shadows. Some people call this character a homewrecker, although I think this affords the antagonist a little too much credit. The term homewrecker suggests that the other party succeeded in their efforts to dissolve a relationship. My marriage has withstood the assault, and I believe that the walls of many marriages can prevail against the same opposition.

On this blog, I have addressed each party involved with a very specific message. To the victim of unfaithfulness, I offer a simple and passionate reminder that you did not deserve this betrayal. To the cheater in disguise, I plead for honesty and radical repentance. Today, I address the one who indulges themselves on affections that are not rightfully theirs.

I must admit that I've been wanting to visit this topic for awhile, but I've struggled to formulate a plan. In all honesty, I want to be graceless. I want to be brutal and savage in my dissection of the homewrecker. Everything in me that loves justice and hates my mistakes urges me to lace this entry with vitriol and disdain. But alas, I must deny these instincts for the sake of a greater message.

First and foremost, if you are the other person you must know that you are treading on sacred ground. Forget Christianity -- nearly all major religions view marriage as a profoundly holy institution that should not be tampered with. If you consider yourself to be any person of faith, your actions must stop immediately.

Perhaps I can illustrate this particular idea another way. In a previous post, we examined how the Bible tells us that marriage parallels God and His church.  Many people have a superficial and superstitious view of church buildings, and would never deface a temple or chapel. Nonetheless, this is exactly what is happening when an affair takes place. Would you ever burn down a church? By encouraging unfaithfulness, you are mimicking the act of arson spiritually. In light of this, maybe we ought to call the wayward lover a churchwrecker instead. If you are engaged in an illicit relationship with a married person, you are vandalizing God's property, plain and simple. I cannot articulate the words to express the severity of your actions in the spiritual realm. Stop immediately.

Furthermore, you may have convinced yourself that you are acting in affection towards your lover. You are not. The very nature of antagonizing a marriage proves that you are an enemy, not an admirer. The greatest sign of respect you can show is to totally disengage from the affair. If you are interested in what's best for the other party, cease your wicked actions and comply with whatever is needed in the healing process. Stop all communication and claim ownership of nothing aside from your own responsibility. Do what it takes to swiftly and comprehensively end this tragic chapter in the lives of a couple.

You are not beyond redemption, but your relationship is. It is perverse by definition and cannot be made whole or holy. You cannot be friends. Do not be mislead by our culture's insistence that you are not culpable for this, morally speaking. You also shoulder the weight of this impropriety. If you are reading this and you have been the temptress or siren that's swayed a married person from their rightful path, now is the moment to change your course. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for repentance.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Six Word Epitaphs

I love to write. There is a popular literary challenge embraced by Ernest Hemingway that encourages writers to create a compelling plot using only six words. This one rule constrains the writer to be efficient, and it results in some truly stunning wordplay. I read one that simply stated "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn" and another that said "Car accident: twin becomes only child".  Many six-word stories are tragic. Some are strange. Then, the other day, I saw one that is true for so many people:

"Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers."

Read it a few times and think about it. Let it sink in... seriously.

I found this posted on a website and many people were commenting about the tragic demise of their marriage. They'd say things like "I'm going through a divorce right now... this is my life." A handful of others chimed in about the parallel of their divorce in this story, but no one in a functioning relationship said a word. Well, the fact is that this six word story is the epitaph for so many marriages that are technically still whole, but they are shattered secretly inside. They are the walking dead. Divorce is not the only way for a relationship to die. Sometimes the expiration of a relationship takes a much more subtle form.

There was a particular moment when I realized that, after my affair, our marriage could falter in two ways -- overtly and covertly. In an overt sense, we could eventually get divorced. After all, Hannah is more than justified in leaving me. But the less obvious, and perhaps more likely possibility is that of a covert death. Hannah can remain physically present in our home even though our marriage's flame can still be quenched. This is the battle I fight, not against the shadow of divorce, but against the very real potential for an emotionally hollow marriage.

In all honesty, when I read that particular six-word story, it brought tears to my eyes, because I know that it can become true for anyone. Any relationship can become the empty husk of its former self over time, only appearing to be alive, and I desperately want to save my marriage from taking that path to destruction. My actions and my affair have made our success so much more difficult. I cannot assume the success or good health of our relationship.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating -- even if things seem to be going well in the recovery process, success cannot be assumed. It must be fought for. If you've made the same mistakes I have, then the day you rest on your progress will be the moment you begin to slip backwards. There's more to do -- more shadows to chase off and baggage to unpack. I don't want our progress to transform into complacency. Hannah's been so strong through this journey, and I want to honor her efforts by trying my hardest even when the tears aren't flowing and the tempers are not flaring.

"Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers." Is this the story of your home? Has distance come between you and your spouse, despite the fact that you're technically still married? There's still hope. There's still a chance to change your narrative. Don't let this become the brief descriptor on your marriage's tombstone. Re-connect with your spouse, and start at square one -- friendship.

We're praying for you, because recovering from a tragic event is so difficult but it is possible. Feel free to email us or comment below with your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Through the Valleys

Marriages are measured in seasons. Our lives continually change as time passes by, and with each new season, relationships transform into something utterly different. This summer has been a particularly trying time for us. I believe it's imperative that we share both our victories and our obstacles with you, because the road to recovery after an affair is not guaranteed to be smooth.

This entire blog is an exercise in honesty. Through this platform, we get to share our hearts on a global scale and our readers get to bear their burdens in return. Although it can often be quite tragic, I still appreciate the countless people who anonymously share their experiences through emails and comments. That's why I write to you today, to continue in this pattern of transparency. This season has been profoundly difficult and we've been struggling. We've faced some daunting challenges recently.

We have faced setbacks in virtually every foreseeable way -- spiritual, financial, physical, and more. This is our voyage through the valley. This summer has been a season of unrest and unpredictability for us and that's why things have been quiet here. Why do I bring this up? Not because I want to air the details of our daily life with you all -- I will spare you that much. Simply put, we need your prayer as we navigate the paths before us, and we want to expose our struggles to encourage you on your own travels.

One thing I've realized lately is this -- if two people are trapped in a pit, they cannot help each other out. Someone has to escape. I must admit that I've always seen serving your own interests and needs in marriage as selfish, and therefore antithetical to your relationship. However, sometimes caring for yourself and tending to your needs is the best thing for your marriage. After all, you've become one. This means that caring for yourself is a part of caring for your union. You are a pivotal part of this new creation! This is especially vital in the realm of spiritual well-being. How can I lead Hannah out of a spiritual rut when I am caught in one myself?

How we respond to trials and setbacks is so vital to the future of our marriage. I want to cling to my wife during times of frustration and disappointment. I want us to become a team, not bitter enemies that war against one another. I want to find us on the same side of an issue. Most of all, I want us to soberly face the facts of where we stand. It does our marriage no good to romanticize our journey, portraying it as something perfect and complete when it is most certainly not.

I encourage you, especially if you're dealing with matters of infidelity, to be honest about your own path. You will have victories and you will face moments of weakness -- be candid about both. This road to healing is tumultuous at times, but it can be beautiful and life-changing.  Our path hasn't been perfect and yours won't be either. But, as I've said before.... God doesn't want perfect marriages, He wants redeemed ones. Seek redemption, not perfection.

Our story isn't over. It continues to unravel before us, and we discover it one step at a time, as if we're walking through a heavy fog with only a lamp in hand. Walk with us and pray for us. For our regular readers, know that we care deeply about you all, and we treasure this community.  As always, you can reach us by email or in the comments below. Our story is an open book, and it chronicles our triumphs and our failures. Thank you for reading.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook and comment below if you have questions or thoughts!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Spoonful of Poison

Today I am going to share a heavy burden on my heart. There is a source of great shame that's weighed on me continuously and I'm trying my best to shake it. Before my affair, I was very active in our community. I lead worship, played in bands, wrote faith-centered songs... I was a good Christian, by superficial terms. Inside, I was decaying, and now I leave a legacy of sorrow in my wake. I am going to share a pointedly specific part of our journey with you, and then I will demonstrate how it applies to so many other struggling marriages.

I was in a band during my affair. A christian band. Now, the group was practically broken up during my affair -- we had one practice and one, final farewell show during my unfaithfulness, and yet seeing the band's name or hearing our old albums brings us a great deal of grief. Why is that, exactly? Certainly, our pre-affair life was lackluster, but we face other things from our former days regularly. We still live in the same house, we still have the same friends, and we still frequent the same places in the same town. We can't just start over.  Why, then, does my old band haunt us?

It's because of the overlap. No matter how small the time period was, my affair has soured the legacy of that band.  The group was together for two years, singing songs about God and trying to lead others to Jesus, and yet that brief overlap has tainted it all. I say this with a sober spirit, knowing that this experience is Biblical. In Galatians 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 5:6, we are told that "a little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough". In other words, the presence of sin, no matter how small it may seem, can totally alter certain things in your life. I know this; I feel it in my heart and see it in my life. A spoonful of poison has turned our past into something truly toxic.

After an affair comes to light, navigating through the details of the recovery process can be extremely difficult. I am convinced of one thing -- during your healing journey, some things should be salvaged and other things should be surrendered. There are things in your life worth redeeming for the sake of your marriage, and there will be things you must relinquish for your spouse's benefit. If you had an affair, one of your greatest battles is determining what to salvage, what to surrender, and how to do this gracefully.

If your affair happened at work, perhaps your job should be surrendered. It's a reasonable price to pay for your errors. If you met your mistress at the gym, then it's time to cancel your membership.  There will be things that must be cast aside for the sake of your marriage. On the other hand, there will also be battles to fight. Do not simply surrender everything -- fight to redeem things for your spouse's benefit. Your sex life is worth redeeming, for example. The city you live in, the world that surrounds you, is worth redeeming. Your friendship with your spouse is worth redeeming. The rest is up to you and your partner.

I'm slowly in the process of wiping my old band's name from memory, because I have no doubt that it must be surrendered. I cannot redeem it -- I must forsake it instead. As I continue to clear the group's name from our lives, I feel a sense of peace in my soul. This project was poisoned by my actions, and my marriage needs for it to be sacrificed.

Today, I encourage you to search the world around you. If your marriage has faced great turmoil, analyze your life all over again. Determine what must be redeemed and what must be forsaken, because the presence of something poisonous can totally change the tone of your married life. As always, we are praying for you, and we encourage you to contact us via email if you need to talk.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, and we urge you to contact us if you need help with the recovery process. We offer support services in-person and via Skype/Facetime.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Choosing to Refrain

There is a battle waging in the hearts of so many married people. It is a conflict of what they know against what they feel. So often, affairs begin when a husband or wife unduly places their emotions on a pedestal, making an idol of their own heart. I know, because I've been there. Temptation finds root in our feelings, and I write today as a person who's looked this dreadful beast in the face. Temptation itself is not the source of a marriage's downfall, however, and here's why.

Temptation is a matter of feeling. Temptation's dark allure appeals to our primal and selfish desires, regardless of our conscience's objections. By contrast, faithfulness is a matter of choice. In the past, I've written on the topic of temptation from my own personal perspective, but I feel it's necessary to present a better alternative. If married couples wish to resist temptation, they need something else to embrace in its place.

Our society has elevated feeling to a place where it does not belong. Our emotional center should not be the compass of our lives.  Though feelings have their own value, we must submit them under a greater and more enlightened authority. We often hear of a person's emotions being centered in their heart, and I believe that each person is at odds constantly. There is a battle raging between our heart (what we feel), our mind (what we know), and our hands (what we do). We see it every day in the world around us. It's time for each of us to question where our allegiances lie.

You've heard it on TV before -- couples claim that their marriage was dissolved because they merely "fell out of love", as if their vows depended on feeling warm and fuzzy about each other. We've received emails like this before, and I can tell you with certainty that your marriage isn't won or lost on the basis of feelings. Instead, it is your choices that make the difference. The desires of your heart are always in flux, like the cascading waves in a vast ocean. Temptation cannot uproot your relationship by itself. Your response to temptation will either make or break you.

Desire is a feeling; restraint is a choice. The desires that influence a marriage cannot overcome it without the surrender of a spouse who's willing to give in to temptation. By indulging our flesh's base desires, we are giving up to the lower and more primal part of who we are. This is where affairs begin, when we allow the ever-changing current of our emotions to overcome our intellect and volition. As I look upon my own journey, I feel like my bow to temptation demoted me to the level of a mindless animal. I forfeited a part of myself in that moment.

Today, know where you stand. Your marriage cannot stand strong on the basis of how you feel. Knowing is superior to feeling, so embrace what you know is right for your home regardless of your emotions.  Faithfulness is a matter of what you choose, not what you want in the moment. If you find yourself drawn to the siren's song of temptation, choose to refrain. It is your choice that will either preserve your marriage or destroy it.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, and we urge you to contact us if you need help with the recovery process. We offer support services in-person and via Skype/Facetime.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I have a memory that stands out so vividly in my mind. One day, as I was riding through a small town with a group of friends, I saw a house on fire. This dwelling was not simply burning, though, in the traditional sense. Usually, when we think of house fires, we imagine windows pouring smoke and the glow of a flame concealed somewhere within. Not this time. The building I saw was reduced to a mere skeleton, torched to the frame by the swirling fireball that overwhelmed it.
It wasn't burning; it was incinerated.

That's what I want to do with the memory of my affair.

I don't want to merely move past my wicked actions -- I want to utterly destroy them. If there was any price I could pay to right my wrongs, I'd pay it, but this is a debt I can't afford. How can anyone who has stumbled so profoundly overcome their past? Maybe we can't erase our mistakes, but we can certainly respond with urgency to the wounds we've caused. No one can truly take back their own deeds, but we can work endlessly to undo their unjust repercussions.

Over the past few years, Hannah and I have talked to a lot of couples who have struggled with the cumbersome weight of infidelity, and each marriage handles it differently.  One thing's for sure -- many couples don't survive this. I don't mean this as a condemnation, it's simply a statement of statistical fact. I believe that couples can overcome this tragedy, but it's a matter of how. Those who survive the initial trauma of an affair often lose traction in the following months and years. There must be a better way to move forward.

There's more to recovery than staying together. Once you withstand the initial fallout that comes with an affair, there is a great deal of work to be done, especially for the one who strayed. For the transgressor, this means toiling tirelessly to help heal the wounds you've created. Every person who cheats has a choice to either act with urgency or fall into stagnation. How a person responds to their affair can make all the difference in the journey to recovery.

Step back for a moment and take an earnest look at your past. What have you done to radically combat your mistakes? There's more that can be done. Do not settle for a life of silent, married misery. If your former lover is in your life, sever them from it completely. If your spouse feels disgusting and ugly because of your wayward affections, tell them that you adore them every. single. day. until they believe it. Examine the issue and torch it. Do not settle for hanging by a thread.

If your spouse has agreed to stay, do not stop in your efforts to make things right. Your spouse's grace is not the end -- you can do so much more. Honor the mercy of your partner by tearing down the idols and monuments that your affair has constructed.

For me, part of incinerating my affair is this blog. Through this website, Hannah and I get to make an effigy of my affair. Unfaithfulness was supposed to conquer us, but instead, we are using it to heal and encourage countless people. We are taking our trauma and turning it into a weapon instead. It's beautiful and ironic.  If you are the victim of infidelity, evaluate the state of your marriage and honestly tell your spouse what you need. More quality time? Alright. Do you need them to change jobs because the affair started there? That's a reasonable price to pay. Tell them what you need, as difficult and painful as it may be.

Finally, if you are the transgressor, examine your actions, your inner self, and your marriage.  Discover the places where your affair still stands tall, and find a way to burn it to the ground. As long as your spouse is still around, you have the beautiful opportunity to counteract this dreadful error. More than ever, we want to encourage you all to contact us if you need help -- we're here for you and we pray for you. There is hope.

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The Meaning of Repentance
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014


In the wake of an affair, your mind can feel truly haunted. Dates, locations, images and words swirl around your brain, taunting you constantly. The morbid details of infidelity become seared into your heart, and to overcome this torment, I believe you must establish new memories and benchmarks for your relationship. You must celebrate your love and create measurable points for your progress. For our recovery process, we used tattoos as a visual reminder in our personal campaign to re-claim lost territory.

Try to guess what mine is.
For those of you who didn't know, Hannah and I like tattoos. A lot.  In fact, we don't wear any kind of wedding bands or rings normally, instead opting for tattoos on our ring fingers instead.  Although I think this may receive mixed reactions -- some people think it's nifty, and others think that it makes us look like ex-cons -- I believe in this decision and I love this way of commemorating our vows to one another. We used to wear rings, but in the light of everything we've been through, we established this new way of reflecting our love and commitment.

Lately, I have been re-evaluating all of the familiar tropes and traditions that accompany weddings and marriages. I believe that wedding culture has become more about vanity and spectacle, and less about the beauty of marriage itself. In a previous post, I wrote about how I walked into our marriage with some pre-existing conditions that played a role in the turbulence we've faced. I have to wonder if these traditions that we embrace are helping us or hurting us, and I will probably write more about this in the future.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I don't think there's anything wrong with the traditional wedding ring. I actually enjoy wedding bands for decorative purposes, but when it comes to signifying the commitment we have to one another, only a permanent mark on our hand will truly suffice. Sure, rings are pretty, but they don't really represent my relationship with Hannah. Here's why I love marriage tattoos.

They're actually permanent.

I find it perplexing that we allow wedding rings to symbolize our marriage relationship, when they can easily be taken off and thrown in a drawer. Our tattoos, by comparison, cannot be hidden in any practical way. I cannot simply remove this symbol of our love because it is literally a part of me. Likewise, getting a wedding tattoo after surviving infidelity is so fitting because you have shown your marriage to be tougher than steel. If you have overcome the sorrows of unfaithfulness, your marriage is virtually indestructible. Even unlike other tattoos, which can easily be concealed by clothing, a mark on your hand is very visible at all times...just like your marriage should be. I couldn't think of a better way to represent our commitment, as an always-present part of our bodies.

They hurt immensely.

The pain of my ring finger tattoos rivals any other discomfort I've experienced. Honestly, it felt like my finger was being severed, and  I think that's a fitting experience for something that represents my marriage. Whereas a diamond ring comes with a hefty price tag, a tattoo's primary cost is measured in pain. It requires a sacrifice, just like marriage itself. A large diamond brings the wearer glory, but what does it cost them? Too often, we want the glory and privilege of marriage without the cost that comes with it.  Although my tattoo was very painful, I would get it again if I had the chance. In fact, I have to, because...

They require upkeep. Just like my marriage.

Many tattoo artists advise against having work done on your hand, and other areas of your body that may be especially prone to fading. Your hands come into contact with everything you do, which means that your ring tattoo will fade faster than something on your bicep, neck, or ankle. Because of this, ring tattoos need to be touched up and redone on a regular basis. The tattoo requires upkeep, just like marriage relationships do.  Diamonds are forever, but tragically, many marriages are not. Perhaps we should view our marriages like some view their ink -- as something that requires tending to in order to maintain it's initial state. Your marriage is not made of diamond.

Now, I'm not telling you to go out and have some pierced-up guy mark on your hands. Depending on your line of work, that may be a terrible idea. Regardless of how you choose to signify your love, I urge you to re-evaluate it and re-establish it. Spend time pondering the depths of your commitment and how you choose to express it. Be intentional, and no matter the avenue of your expression, your marriage will benefit from it.Your marriage is a beautiful thing, and it deserves to be commemorated and honored somehow. How you do that is up to you.

What are some special ways that you have honored your marriage? If you've gone through a similar recovery process, how did you commemorate your healing? Gifts, holidays, getaways, lifestyle changes... Tell us in the comments below! You can even comment anonymously!

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance. Connect with us on our facebook page and check out our new nonprofit initiative -- The Marriage Mission.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Infidelity is everywhere.

Sometimes it feels like our world is obsessed with unfaithfulness.

When your marriage is recovering from a betrayal, dealing with the dreadful reminders of the past can be especially difficult. One comment or incident can incite a flood of negative emotions, casting a black cloud over your entire day. Navigating through these triggers is hard enough already,  until you realize that entertainment media is absolutely littered with mentions of cheating.

Television and movies use infidelity as a plot device constantly. I don't mind this in theory, because it is a common human experience -- statistics suggest that between 30% and 60% of couples wrestle with unfaithfulness at some point. Obviously, if the issue is common, it will also be widespread among fictional characters. I have no problem with that.

I do, however, take issue with any medium (music, TV, movies, books) that makes light of cheating or glorifies it. There is nothing redeemable or worthwhile about an affair. It is not funny, entertaining, or admirable.  An affair, and the aftermath that follows it, is not desirable to anyone who knows the reality of it. So, when a comedian or sitcom character jokingly extols the virtues of straying, I am disgusted.

In the beginning of our journey, I used to despise any mention of unfaithfulness because I saw it as another unneeded reminder of my errors. Honestly, there have been moments where I could happily smash my television set because of the discomfort it caused. Over time, I have discovered some value in fictional portrayals of unfaithfulness, when handled tastefully. Any time I see a couple earnestly struggling with the effects of an affair on a TV show, my heart breaks.... and the characters aren't even real!

I believe that the arts (especially music) can have a cathartic effect on us. They allow us to gain a vantage point on an issue that seems insurmountable. Music has played a pivotal role in our recovery process, but it can also inflame old wounds if we are not very intentional about our consumption.

If you've dealt with infidelity or any other painful betrayal, I'm sure you can relate. The world around us simply doesn't understand our plight. Although I believe we can benefit from fairly depicted portrayals of cheating in TV and movies, I also know with certainty that there is a time for shielding and a time when insulating your marriage is a necessity.

If you are walking down this road like we are, do yourself a favor. Be intentional about your media consumption. Reject any movie or show that glorifies cheating. Cut it off and remove it from your sight. Be mindful of what you allow inside your mind, because your brain is a battleground. Do not let the TV screen be an obstacle to your recovery. In this area, and all others, prioritize the health and well-being of your marriage with urgency and passion.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, and we urge you to contact us if you need help with the recovery process. We offer support services in-person and via Skype/Facetime.

PS - Vote for The Marriage Mission to win $25,000 from Wells Fargo!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Child's Love

As Father's Day approaches, I've been reflecting on how my two precious daughters (ages 2 and 4) fit into our story of recovery. They have been witnesses to our journey, for better or worse, and they love us immensely despite the turbulence we've faced. I suppose this re-examining has caused me to acknowledge how invaluable their presence  has been over the past two years.

So often, when marital strife arises, there is a notion which insists that couples should "stay together for the kids." I'm not here to debate the virtues or flaws in that logic, but I think that we often take for granted the fact that children play a tremendous role in a marriage's narrative. I have no doubt that our children have altered our trajectory, and not just because of some hollow desire to stay together for their benefit. Their love changes our marriage, period.

During our darkest moments, the embraces of our daughters have held us together. Their affections have warmed the coldest moments and strengthened us for the difficulties that come along with unfaithfulness. I cannot express how instrumental they have been in this area. No matter how challenging the day has been, I can find joy in their presence. No matter what's going wrong around me, I have my children, and that is a profound blessing.

Beyond simply doling out affection, they also motivate us to press on. Their faces give us hope each morning, when we may feel totally crushed by the weight of our baggage. Being a parent beckons us to a greater calling than simply serving our own interests. We have a responsibility to uphold, and it's not just to "stay together". We must portray the gospel story of love, especially during seasons of turmoil.

Christians are often urged to teach their children about grace.  In a beautiful and poetic twist, my children have been teaching me instead. Our daughters show Christ's love to me, when I need it the most and I deserve it the least. They exemplify the gospel by loving me when I can't love myself.

If you have children, you can relate to this. Sometimes our little ones have no idea how much we benefit from their presence. I wrote a song about this recently, and I'm sharing it with our church this Sunday. I hope to post it here as well, because some ideas are better expressed poetically. Someday, I'll thank my beautiful daughters for loving me and embracing me despite my flaws. Perhaps they don't fully understand it, but they have been so pivotal to our journey.

(Read my previous post about "a father's love" here!)

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. Follow us on Facebook here or on Twitter here, and check out our new project -- The Marriage Mission!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Haunting Question

The recovery process that follows an affair is complex, to say the least. Within this process, there are many facets spanning the emotional, spiritual, and physical. Those who feel the sting of betrayal are often troubled by their inability to make sense of what's happened. In particular, one haunting question may plague them more than any other.

Why her?

What was so great about her, that she could not be resisted? It seems logical to think that affairs happen with particular people for particular reasons. In the frustrating search for insight, many victims falsely assign value to the mistress without understanding the true motivations beneath the affair. Our culture doesn't help either. If the cheater's spouse is considered attractive, people are quick to ignorantly exclaim "you cheated on that?!", as if a husband or wife only deserves faithfulness if they fulfill certain aesthetic requirements. There's a wealth of misinformation on this topic. so let's answer the question.... Why her?

Society reinforces the worthless notion that mistresses are chosen due to their appearance, values, or virtues. In reality, it is quite the opposite. The defining attribute of someone who could become the object of an affair is a distinct lack of virtue. Moral deficits and calloused consciences are the breeding grounds for unfaithfulness, and it takes two misguided hearts to align and cause this tragedy.

The bottom line is this: every person has a dual nature within them that is constantly at war.  Christians refer to this as the flesh and the spirit, but whatever you label it, the idea is the same.  A man's flesh, his lower and primal nature, is drawn to a woman who is first and foremost morally bankrupt and devoid of virtue, regardless of appearance. Our wicked nature embraces the temptress, not the partner of our dreams. Our preferences were put on display at the marriage altar, in the public's eye. By contrast, affairs happen in the shadows, colored by shame and guilt. Mistresses aren't chosen because they're better. In fact, they are literally chosen because they're worse.

Hannah and I have faced down this dreadful question on many occasions. We have discussed it at length, and it is my heart's desire to assure her that the other woman, the outsider, was not chosen for her beauty or remarkable nature.  Affairs are crimes of opportunity, not preference. Through marriage, I chose the woman I wanted. In my affair, I settled for the most morally insolvent person in my proximity. This is the true nature of infidelity.

Today, if you are tending to the wounds of your marriage, rest assured that the other person, the outsider, was not chosen for their admirable qualities or natural value.  Just like the affair itself, this was the product of madness, immaturity, and moral uncertainty. You are the spouse, the chosen partner, and you can be victorious over the questions that swirl around your mind constantly. As always, feel free to contact us if you need to talk. We want to hear from you.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. Follow us on Facebook here or on Twitter here, and check out our new project -- The Marriage Mission!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, TMOR! [Big Announcements...]

As of May 31st, this blog will be one year old. I can hardly believe it. It has been such a blessing to share our story with the world, and we've received so much support and encouragement in return. Seriously, we value all of our readers deeply, and we look forward to every comment and message. Even the feisty ones. Thank you for sticking with us and becoming a vital part of our journey.

As the one year mark began to approach, Hannah and I contemplated what direction to take next. As we've mentioned before, we have an undeniable burden on our hearts to do more. With this in mind, it seems only fitting to announce a few of our upcoming endeavors on this occasion. Here's a few things on our horizon...

We're writing a book.

There is still so much left to unravel about our journey and so many ideas to expand on. This summer, we will begin the creation of a book that elaborates on many of the themes and concepts outlined in this blog. Our prayer is that this daunting project will open new doors for our message of hope, reaching more couples than ever. We are still in the planning phase of this book, but we will post updates on this blog as they arise. We also want to hear from you -- what would you like to see us explore or expand on? Comment and tell us! But that's not all...

Our online presence is growing. Big time.

Spreading hope through the digital realm is really a unique (and challenging) experience. The internet is a frontier, and it can be a place of endless wisdom or a vessel for deception.  We want to connect with our readers in new ways, so we have established various social media platforms to adapt our message to the medium that best suits you. Check the resources page for links to our various social media pages, and don't worry, this blog isn't going anywhere.  We will be updating this regularly as we pursue these new channels of communication as a complement to the blog. In fact, we are more dedicated to the cause of healthy couples than ever. That's why we are starting this...

We are launching a non-profit organization committed to the betterment of marriages.

The public response to this blog has convinced us of one thing: marriage is desperately in need of support throughout our community. Marriages are the foundation of our society, and this institution's cornerstone has tragically fallen into disrepair. We cannot deny the calling in our hearts, so we are taking the plunge in efforts to impact, influence, and fortify more couples than ever. I encourage you to check out our new website, to learn more. The Meaning of Repentance will become one of many planks that make up the platform of our cause.

Whether you are a new visitor or a long-time reader of this blog, we encourage you to visit The Marriage Mission's website and browse the services we offer. Feel free to contact us through the site or by email, and let us know how we can best serve you. We are sold out to the cause of creating better marriages. Thanks again for reading, and stay tuned for more updates!

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery from infidelity. Click here for a brief introduction and make sure to subscribe for updates via email.

PS: You can find us on Facebook here!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beyond Redemption

In our society, there is a collection of phrases that have somehow been canonized as empirical truths. They cite no sources and often have no observable evidence to back them up.  They are the proverbs of a disbelieving and cynical generation, and I find most of them to be utterly absurd, to be honest with you (like "following your heart", for example).

In the past few weeks, we've received a handful of comments and emails insisting that Hannah is wasting her time by giving me another chance, because of one such saying:

Once a cheater, always a cheater.  

Well, this little mantra may sound wise at face value, but the response I always want to blurt out to our critics is this: If you think cheaters can't change and shouldn't be forgiven, I sincerely hope you don't think you're a Christian.

Now, it may seem audacious of me to assume that our naysayers are Christians, but an enormous percentage of the US population claims to believe in this faith.   For many, religion is merely a social construct. It is the way you're raised and the values you inherited. Nonetheless, the masses overwhelmingly claim to believe in forgiveness in one breath and cast a stone of condemnation at the same time.

This doesn't mean that infidelity is not unbelievably painful or that a person should subject themselves to further wrongdoing. It also doesn't mean that forgiveness is owed to me -- it's not. Grace is a gift by definition, and it often comes at great cost to the one who dispenses it.

If you do not claim any ownership of the Christian faith (or a multitude of others that allow penitence), then by all means, let loose with your graceless catch phrases. But if you even call yourself a believer on a superficial level, you must realize the absurdity of placing hope in the cross while damning your fellow man.   In fact, Jesus acknowledged the nonsensical nature of this contradiction Himself in Matthew 18:21-35. Read it for yourself.

Calling someone irredeemable is literally the opposite of Christ. Christ's love shows us that there is a path to absolution, and that He has paid the price of redemption for us despite how massive the debt may have been. To say that there is no forgiveness for cheating (which someone told me just last week) is to say that Christ's sacrifice wasn't enough to cover that. His suffering wasn't sufficient to truly restore us. Your emotional trauma supersedes His divinity. Now that is audacious.

Again, if you place no faith in the blood of Jesus, the popular phrase "once a cheater, always a cheater" is totally logical. Unfaithfulness is heinous and totally despicable. But if you believe in the gospel of love and yet find yourself repeating societal proverbs that preach the opposite of salvation, you are profoundly at odds with yourself.

It must be said that, although this post is boldly stated, I do not think I deserve forgiveness for my wretched actions. I cannot stress this enough, and I hope that my previous posts show you this as well. I deserve solitude, sorrow, and damnation. My boldness comes from my faith and understanding of scripture, which expects believers to forgive radically in the same way that God has done for us.   The gospels are not about getting what you deserve. Without a doubt, forgiving someone for such a tremendous transgression must be unspeakably difficult, but God's word shows us that it is possible. In my state of absolute and soul-piercing guilt, this is where I find hope.

In conclusion, I have one simple reminder for every believer who feels conflicted about their ability to forgive. Let us not lose sight of Matthew 18's core message, because it is of vital importance:

 Forgive radically, because you were forgiven for a much greater debt than the one owed to you.  

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.  Please share your thoughts on this post by emailing us or commenting! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Famous Last Words

There is a great deal of naivete surrounding the concept of marriage and it's inner workings, and honestly, it scares me. Recently, we outlined the pre-existing conditions which contributed to the dreadful affair that wounded our marriage a little more than two years ago. One of the elements listed, naivete, may seem surprising, but in today's entry, we will explore this further.

Far too often, couples expect to prop up their marriages on false ideals. If your relationship finds its footing on emotions, physical attraction, or other temporal notions, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. Since we began to share our story, we've heard other couples reflect naively on their own marriages by saying things like "he loves me too much to cheat" or "my spouse could never do that kind of thing".  More importantly, we know that other people are thinking this, even if it remains unsaid.

Yes, your spouse could do this too. In a moment of weakness, after years of frustration, when the bank account is empty and their soul is in turmoil. After the weight of life has crushed them, and they've surrendered in their own internal battle, they could do this too. When circumstances align in the most terrible way, it could happen. Do not deceive yourself for the sake of romance -- it benefits no one. If you believe in your spouse, ask yourself one important question: why?

This type of thinking is dangerous because it invests confidence in all the wrong places.  Denying your spouse's ability to hurt you is an audacious choice to ignore their human nature. They are capable of amazing acts of kindness and deplorable wickedness, as we all are. If you cannot admit your spouse's potential for wrongdoing, you have a very unrealistic view of them. How can you fight for your spouse if you cannot face the reality of who they are?

"Why does it matter?", you may ask. Why not let couples live in a fog of romantic illusion? Because what you build your marriage on is fundamentally important. Our culture is building marriages on shifting sand. We're leaning relationships on an illusion. For the most part, weddings have nothing to do with marriage, and pre-marital counseling is often a formality instead of a real examination of married life. We have to do better, because we are setting up young people for failure. We cannot be satisfied by finding solace in how much our spouse loves us (however that's measured) or what kind of person they are. There must be something greater to establish our marriages on.

I hope you have confidence in your marriage, but more importantly, I hope you are prepared to do battle for your spouse's sake. If idealism and naivete are handicapping your ability to be the spouse your partner needs, cast it all aside for their benefit. Do not embrace mindless optimism and look away from the task at hand. There's work to do, and naivete will only serve to distract us. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share your opinions (signed or anonymously) in the comments below or via email.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We urge you to subscribe via e-mail and consider donating using the Paypal link so that more couples can hear this message of hope and wisdom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Coming Clean

    This is a message to the transgressor in disguise. A few posts ago, I addressed the victims of infidelity with a plain and simple notion-- "you didn't deserve it." No bullet points, no ten tips for a better marriage, just a brief reminder that you didn't earn this betrayal. No one warrants this kind of sorrow, no matter how imperfect you may be. Today, I am turning to the ones who have strayed, and I am pleading for honesty if you haven't come clean.

      Hannah and I get a lot of feedback from this blog. The vast majority of our interactions are with women who have been wronged by their husband. This is no coincidence, I suppose. Does this mean that women never stray? Of course not, but the deafening silence of men must mean something. In any case, it's undeniable that there are some people reading this blog that have profoundly faltered, and it's time to face your true condition so that you can take the beginning steps to correcting your course.
    If you are reading this blog right now and you are concealing some kind of betrayal from your partner, now is the time for action.  If you've been waiting for a sign or some kind of inner voice to shake you from your sleepwalking, this is your wake-up call. Arise and do what's right to change your course, because you are on a path that leads to destruction.

   Confession is not the end of your life, it's the beginning of it.  It is empowerment through surrender. If you are hiding an affair or some other wrongdoing, you have become a captive to your own mistakes. Someone once told me a profound truth -- if you can't discuss the issue, it's become to big for you. When you lose your ability to face the problem, then it has become a burden that's too heavy for you to shoulder. I couldn't agree more.

   Holding onto your secrets is an illusion of control. In reality, the parasite is controlling you. Come clean, and you will gain your life back by losing it.  Confession is empowerment through surrender. Every moment that you waste before repenting is another instance of betrayal. 

   Real confession requires radical, comprehensive honesty. Do not withhold the details that your partner demands for fear of losing them. They have been wronged, and this healing process must begin on their terms.  Leave no question unanswered and be totally open, because the future of your marriage hangs in the balance.

   Do not delay in doing what is right -- come clean. There's no better time than now.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery after an affair. Check out this brief introduction and make sure to get connected.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"The Stumbling Stage"

Let me preface this by saying that I am not really a "fan" of T.D. Jakes... or any other TV preacher for that matter. However, a friend of mine shared this video on Facebook this morning and I am so glad that I decided to click on it. Check it out and then scroll down to read why I feel like it is relevant to marriage and more specifically, how it relates to infidelity.

After my last post, I'm Going to Fight, I received a lot of e-mails asking essentially the same thing. How do I overcome the pain, how do I get over it, how do I feel better about myself, how do I trust again, how do I forgive, etc. To be honest, I'm not always sure what to say. I am always scared of saying the wrong thing, giving bad advice, or stepping on someone's toes. However, after watching this video, I feel like I have a better handle on what I want to say. So here goes...

Being the victim of infidelity sucks. I know this. I don't want what I'm about to say to sound like I'm trying to downplay the pain that you may be experiencing. I've been there and I know that it is one of the most crushing emotional pains a human can experience. So then, how do you overcome it? How do you move past this pain that is crippling you?

          1. Decide that you want to overcome it.

Maybe this isn't true for you, but for me, I had to decide that I actually wanted to move past it. In the midst of hurting, letting go of what happened and moving on meant letting myself become vulnerable again. I would catch myself clinging to the pain and the hurt like a baby clings to a blanky. Letting go also meant forgiving my husband. That was hard because I thought that by forgiving him and moving on, it would somehow encourage him to do it again. By holding on to the hurt, I could continue to punish him and make him more sorry for what he did. (FYI - that is a crazy idea and it doesn't work. More on that subject later.)

          2. Track your emotions.

What does that mean? Stay with me for a minute... Carry a notebook with you for a while and every time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with the pain of what's happened, write about it. Write down what triggered it, what you're feeling, etc. After a few days or even weeks of doing this, you should start to see some repetition. -- When I did this.. I felt like this. When I went here.. I thought about this.

          3. Make a plan.

Once you start to understand what you're feeling and what triggers your feelings, make a plan on how to avoid these situations and/or how to respond to them. For example, there were whole sections of town that would cause me to completely fall apart just by driving through them. (Ray wrote about this here.) Now, obviously I couldn't avoid driving through half the city. So Ray and I decided that if/when I had to drive through these parts of town, I would call him. Distracting myself with a conversation was the best solution to this problem. I could call Ray and say "I'm on such-and-such street" and he would know exactly what I needed. After a while of doing this, I would catch myself driving down one of these streets and realize "Hey! I didn't call Ray but I'm ok!" -- It's almost like I had to train my brain to not think about the past. So make a concrete plan on how to deal with the pain. It's not going to magically go away. You have to work towards happiness and peace.


It may sound simple.. maybe even dumb. But this is what worked for me! Now what does all of this have to do with the T.D. Jakes video? The point is.. don't get stuck. Don't let ten, twenty, thirty years pass you by only to look back and realize that you've been stuck in the pain of what happened. Don't let an affair ruin your life. Don't let someone else's mistakes keep you in the stumbling place. Fight to overcome it. If what I've written here doesn't help, keep looking for what will help. This problem, this pain is not so big that you can't get past it.  Decide you want to over come it, figure out what specifically causes you to feel stuck, then make a plan to move out of the stumbling place. And never stop fighting for your marriage!

(If the video link won't work, here is the direct link to the YouTube site --

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their journey to recovery after infidelity. Read this brief introduction and always feel free to contact us.

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.