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.

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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!