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.

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.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

There's No Such Thing as Snooping

     This month, we are focusing on issues of honesty and accountability. As we continue to promote this cause, we will be exploring specific ideas in depth. Healthy communication and deep, whole-life intimacy is so vital to the preservation of a marriage, and we've seen the dreadful effects that come when communication breaks down.

    We live in a time of unprecedented connectedness. Technology allows us to learn and communicate in unique and powerful ways. Unfortunately, it can also empower a wandering spouse to live a secret life beyond the view of their partner.  This digital age provides so many avenues for dishonesty to take root, and we must face this fact soberly. We must commit to getting ahead of the issue, not waiting to respond once tragedy strikes.

   Now, technology is not the issue. Dishonesty and a lack of accountability are the true problems, and they manifest themselves through whatever channels are available. Nevertheless, it's so important for couples to put controls in place so that their digital lives can remain free from discord and dishonesty. My affair was birthed from a lack of honesty, and I used technology for my own malevolent purposes. In the wake of this, Hannah and I have learned so much on how to protect ourselves in this digital frontier.

   One of the simplest ways in which we can forge accountability and transparency in our marriages is by allowing free access to our accounts to our spouses. There's this bizarre notion that, if your spouse looks through your emails, they're snooping. That's absurd. There's no such thing as snooping in marriage. Your lives are united as one -- you share finances, meals, children, and memories together. Give your spouse every password you have. Hold nothing back.

   Here's the deal. If your spouse begins to squirm when you reach for their phone or their laptop, they're probably either looking at porn or cheating on you. And that's the bottom line. If this is the current status of your relationship, it's time to change. Now is the moment when barriers can become torn down between husband and wife. There may be pain in the process, but it must be done.

    Honesty means having nothing to hide. We should desire that-- we should strive to live a life where we have nothing worth hiding. Check your partner's accounts. Honestly, that might be the thing they need the most. If they are ensnared in some secret sin, the only way it will come to light is if you are willing to get your hands dirty. Your willingness may lead to their deliverance. Do not look at snooping as a sign of distrust, but rather an action of deep concern for the health of your partner and your marriage.

  Of course, a spouse that is bent on betrayal will find a vehicle for their dark desires. The purpose of promoting accountability in your marriage isn't to stop your spouse from hurting you at all costs. Accountability is a form of honesty, and we must treasure honesty in every form.  We must foster these values in our marriage in hopes of deterring tragedy and unfaithfulness, all the while knowing that our actions can only reach so far. Do what is right. Your spouse needs you to guide them and keep them accountable.

   Lastly, I want to encourage you to check out The Digital Defense Pledge, an initiative that Hannah and I have created to encourage honesty and communication in marriages. Review it, sign it, and e-mail it to us. Let's show the world that married couples can fight for their spouses and for the future of their own relationships.

(New to The Meaning of Repentance? Check out this introduction and read more about the authors here.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Call to Action: The Digital Defense Pledge

It's time to take action.

This month, we will be focusing on issues of honesty and accountability. Honesty is the lifeblood of a healthy marriage relationship, and we believe that there are practical steps every couple can take to foster transparency in their marriage. As walls come down, your intimacy will grow. With that being said, we challenge you to join us in this effort to spread the agenda of accountability within marriage by taking action.

I've known far too many couples saddled with the crushing loss of trust that comes with issues such as infidelity and porn addiction. That's why we've created The Digital Defense Pledge, a five-step action plan that will help couples safeguard themselves from catastrophe. We encourage you to review it, take action, and sign it (electronically, if need be) to show your support for this. You can return it to us in-person or digitally by emailing us here.

Furthermore, we ask that you would share this page in hopes of encouraging others to foster honesty in their relationships. Perhaps this five-step plan is easy for you and your spouse -- for others, it may be extremely painful, but desperately needed. By joining us in this cause, you can help liberate couples that are burdened by the baggage of their struggles.

Throughout the month, we will be writing about related topics such as the idea of snooping within marriage, and the importance of being proactive instead of reactive in your relationships. Through this concerted effort, I hope we can equip couples far and wide to value and sow into their marriages in a new way. What if accountability went viral? What if marital honesty became a trend? We can impact the world around us by standing firm for these values.

This is a powerful and simple way to proactively take charge of your marriage. Don't wait until pornography sneaks into your home to begin battling it. Do not wait for barriers to build up between you and your spouse before you commit to honest and open communication. 

Embrace the challenge and defend your marriage
It's worth the effort.

To download the Word file, click here
To download the PDF file, click here.

(If you want to sign the pledge digitally, simply type your name and date into the appropriate area, save it, and email it to us here.)