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!

33 comments:

  1. What are your thoughts on an emotional affair that hadn't gone undetected long enough to possibly become physical? Still feel so betrayed and it's from someone at his work that he rarely sees but none the less. I am struggling with the thoughts as he goes to work each day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rightfully so. An emotional affair is just as much of a betrayal as a physical one. Affairs don't start in the bedroom... they start out much more "innocent" and escalate from there. My husband's affair was rather short, relatively speaking. But that did not make it any less painful to deal with.

      Our prayers are with you as you as you recover! Thank you for your comment!

      Delete
    2. A month ago a caught my husband in an emotional affair online. In the scriptures we read that He who loooketh upon anither woman and lusts after hernhas committed adultery in his heart. We are now separated and time will tell if our marriage can be saved. Your betrayal is valid. I treat my husbands betrayal no differently than if he had been physical.

      Delete
    3. I've been there. And it hurt as much as if it was physical. Looking back I can see were alot was because Iwasn't been the wife I should have been
      But that doesn't make it right. Its been over a year and still sometimes hard. But our marriage is alot better. Spent many a nights praying and studying my bible. Still don't trust 100% and may never. But trying to be the best wife and leave it up to God.

      Delete
  2. I really appreciate these thoughts. When my husband's affair came to light I felt like I died, and that was definitely one of the things I've had to wrestle with. Why her? Was she prettier? Better in bed? More interesting than me? And for a while I almost worried that he wanted me to change to be more like her to keep his interest. But you're exactly right, it wasn't that she was better than me, it really was because she was the most accessible, and least morally sound person in his life. And now my husband chooses me every single day. Its been almost 2 years, and my marriage is miraculously healing and growing and its the most joyful part of my life. So thanks for doing this. We really can all heal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You happy to hear that you guys were able to fight and overcome this obstacle! It is definitely a difficult battle to fight. Thank you for commenting and encouraging us with your words!

      Delete
    2. We came across your blog a couple weeks ago and have both really appreciated it and been inspired by it. Thanks for sharing your story! I'm really glad that my husband and I stayed together and did the work to have a healthy (and wonderful) marriage, and its really fantastic that you are both helping other couples see that they can have the same. I think the biggest shock to me has been the number of people we've met that have had similar situations in their marriage and somehow we all feel like we're the only ones who have ever felt this pain and embarrassment and failure and loss. It is an unfortunately common experience and the more we can talk about it, the more people will have access to tools to heal and grow. And I would hope that the more aware we are, the more we can help each other avoid infidelity and heartbreak.

      Delete
  3. Keep writing! I hang on every word until the next post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! That means so much to us both :)

      Delete
  4. This makes so much sense. Unfortunately, adultery was one of the many reasons that my kids' dad and aren't married anymore. I wasn't the innocent one either. I still carry the burden of guilt to this day. Our marriage of ten years and four kids seemed to be falling apart because their was no communication, he drank a lot and I felt like I had done everything their was to save it. Once I turned my back on him I lost an innocence (in our marriage) that I didn't know existed. Before I knew it we were both seeing other people and my kids paid the ultimate price. Now they're growing up in two seperate homes and if I could go back to 3 years ago and change things, I would've fought and prayed harder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow! thank u for saying that! we are newly battling saving us and ur comment really gives me hope for the battle!!! thank you and God bless you!

      Delete
  5. Approaching one year of reconciling... My question isn't why her, I knew from the beginning she was devoid of anything good. My question is does he think about her when we're intimate? Do I do enough to keep him happy? Does he know I'm still faithful? When will the question of his actions end? The slightest abnormality makes me question everything. Well it ever really get easier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are definitely valid concerns and questions. I've wrestled with those same questions on occasion. I can say that it does get easier but I don't know if it ever completely goes away. The thing that I have to remind myself is that my husband did *not* have an affair because of problems that he had with me. Ray had an affair because of problems he had with himself. Instead of dealing with his issues, he found another troubled person and the fed off of each others issues and misery.

      Keep fighting for your marriage! The first year of recovery was extremely hard for us. It took every ounce of energy that I had. The second year got significantly better. As long as we continue fighting for our marriage, I truly believe that it will get easier with each passing day. That is, as long as we continue to work on things.

      Thank you so much for reading and don't hesitate to contact us via e-mail if you ever need to talk!

      Delete
    2. Typing through tears so bear with me...
      I need to clarify something first, the infidelity went both ways for us. I had an emotional affair, that led to his sexual affair and ultimately my 3 one night stands.
      Either way it wasn't right or fair on either side and we both realise that now. Thank you for this. I've wrestled with asking him or not many times. Even asking other women for advice and they said it was time to let it go. That keeping the dialogue about it kept the wounds open. So I've been swallowing back and not asking him. Reading your confirmation that it isn't a problem he had with me but rather himself helped so much! The pain that we caused each other has always been in the bottom of my heart and I know that over time I'll have to let it go but right now I'm doing my best to guard my heart. I'm afraid, I'm scared and though he knows that I struggle with it from time to time. We learned a lot from our separation and I feel it was necessary for us to see the value of our marriage. Reconciling has been hard but so much easier than not having him. Thanks again.

      Delete
  6. Is is necessary to know about the details of infidelity (how many people, when it started, how long has he been faithful, etc) to forgive? I can't seem to let it go. I want to know WHY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Honestly, this is a topic that I strongly disagree with most people on. The average person encourages spouses to share as little details with each other as possible. I do not believe that is necessarily the best option.

      Only you know what you need and how much you can handle. For me, I *had* to know every single detail. I needed to know what was said, what was done, where they were, dates of specific events, etc. And we discussed things in great detail over and over again. I actually had a notebook where I wrote things down because I would forget the answers to some of the questions that plagued my mind. So instead of having to ask my husband over and over, I would refer to the notebook.

      We had several friends and even pastoral figures suggest that this was very unhealthy. But all of the people suggesting that it was a bad idea had never had to recover from an issue like this. Like I said, you know how much information you can handle.

      Just know that the details won't help you understand why. The reason affairs happen have nothing to do with details of the affair itself. The reason someone chooses to have an affair has everything to do with flaws and weaknesses within *that* person.

      Thanks for reading and feel free to ask more questions. And you can always e-mail us at contact@themarriagemission.org if you need to talk in greater length.

      Delete
    2. You are right, the healthy thing depends on what the wounded spouse wants, and that is different for different people. The first time this happened to me I wanted to know nearly everything. Now? There is too much, I don't want to know details. But your post about they why of the affair, that it is his problem with himself, is spot on. So many people get that part wrong, place blame on the wife (or betrayed partner). I found out over a year ago that my husband is a sex addict and the affairs were endless. While the situation is different, there are many similarities to what y'all are saying/writing here and I so appreciate your words. I'm not ready to share our story yet but it is one of miraculous redemption and grace.

      Delete
  7. My husband and I are a little over a year out from the affair and I still have my struggles. For this long, I have been searching for the why her, why this, etc. I have looked far and wide for something from a couple that actually survived an affair and came out stronger. Today, I stumbled upon your page and read this, and I'm so happy that I did. God bless the both of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Ray and I literally pray every day that God would bring those that are hurting to our blog. So glad that you found us! Thank you for reading.

      Delete
  8. My husband had an affair that lasted 8 months until I found out. That was just over 5 years ago. We found Retrouvaille and it saved our marriage. We are a stronger couple today than we ever were. We no longer take each other for granted. I would be lying if I said that once in awhile I don't get a fleeting ache of thinking about the affair and think to myself "has he thought about her". The pain is no longer there though. We continue to dialogue and work on putting us and our relationship first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a blessing to hear that your marriage has survived this tragedy! So many don't and it's always heartbreaking. Thank you so much for sharing some of your story!

      Delete
  9. I appreciate the blog and appreciate all of people's comments. I no longer feel like I am the only one going through this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! And that is honestly one of that main reasons we started this blog. Adultery is extremely common and yet, all those that go through it, feel as if they are alone. Myself included! Thanks for reading :)

      Delete
  10. it's been 7 years since my wife had an affair.I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my chest.I found out a little at a time as I dissected the lies. I made the decision to forgive although I have to admit partially because of the turmoil I was seeing in the lives of my four children. To this day the effects of this affair reach into our lives. My mind is tormented with questions wondering if i still know the whole truth.the intimacy of our marriage has suffered.the romantic feelings that i once had for her are gone. sometimes i still wonder if i made the right decision.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would like to encourage you to continue to seek healing in your marriage by sharing my experience. My husband had an affair after 17 years of marriage. Our sons at the time were 5, 12 and 14. His affair turned into a scandal as it was with a co-worker and he lost his job plus was sued for sexual harassment by this woman. I was heartbroken, both for myself and our sons. We went to one counseling session and he walked out. Six months later I filed for a divorce as he had shown no remorse or interest in saving our marriage. He then came to me and asked for a chance to work on things. By this time I was so hurt and my heart was hardened toward him and so I refused.

      I tried to put together a life for my sons but I must say it was so hard and painful. The divorce only added to the hurt, it did not make me feel better as I hoped to be done and move on. My sons all suffered deeply from the break up of our family. It has now been 19 years since out divorce. My oldest son is married and I have three grandsons. I remarried 6 years ago and my ex-husband is also remarried. We neither one have an especially great marriage. We have the struggle of blended families, which usually are very difficult even if the children are grown. My sons and my current husbands daughters all morn that they can't come home with the grandchildren to grandpa and grandma's house. There will never be that comfortable familiarity that our original family can give us. They will never be able to share family stories and photos the same way.
      There will always be scars and painful reminders which become even more apparent when our grandchildren come along. I know of very few successful re-marriage stories. They are mostly a struggle which no one seems prepared for. In hind sight I wish I would have chosen to work toward restoration and forgiveness with the father of my children. It is a precious thing that can not be replaced. One last thing I forgot to add is the extended family. I loved my husbands family and my family loved my husband. The nieces and nephews along with brother and sister-in-laws now need to embrace the new wife, as they should, and I no longer have the same opportunity to share holidays and fun times with them and it is a huge loss we have all grieved.
      I do hope you will seek God and trust him to relieve your mind from the past. I think your heart may have turned hard, as my did with my husband. I pray you will have a healing and softening in your heart so you can open it up to your wife and allow yourself to love her again. I sure wish I would have.

      Delete
  11. does ther LENGTH of affair matter? we celebrated out 20th duringt he affair, it happened 3 years ago and lasted about a year. We are now 44, just celebrated our 24th anni.
    The length of time kills me, not like it was one night stand.. OOPS kinda thing...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand why the length is such a hard thing to overcome. My husband's fair was very brief, about a month all together. However, it was more than a one night stand. It wasn't just one mistake. It was a deliberate choice to engage in sinful activity for several interactions.

      The only thing I can say is that sin blinds us. During your spouse's affair, he/she was in a very dark place and making rational/healthy decisions is hard to do when you are in that frame of mind. I do believe that it will be harder for you to forgive but not impossible. If your spouse is truly repentant, it will show. Praying for wisdom as you embark on the hardest journey you will ever engage in. Recovering from an affair is exhausting. It will drain everything out of you but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

      Thank you for reading and feel free to contact us directly at contact@themarriagemission.org

      Delete
  12. Thank you so much for this post! After my husbands year long affair with my next door neighbor (and supposed friend) this is the number one question that I ask myself. It has been almost 3 years since I found out about the affair and we somehow started the process of salvaging our marriage. We are doing well...but I admit I still have my days where I really let myself get down over the question "why her?" It haunts me. Your words are beautiful in this post and pretty much the same thing my husband has told me about his relationship with this woman. I just need to remember it and know that in no way was she ever better than me. Thank you (BTW-we thankfully were able to sell our house and move far away from this person-although I have forgiven her...I am so grateful I don't have to see her every day anymore)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey there guys! If you think your spouse has committed adultery...what would you say the top 10 warning signs are? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for asking! This is a great question that I've been contemplating for awhile. We're going to post a blog entry in response to this soon, because it may be larger than the scope of what a mere comment can do :) Stay tuned!

      Delete
  14. I realise this post is from a year ago but can't help but feel that too many times we blame the "other woman" and tend to ignore the fact that the only person that owed you, the wife, anything - is your husband.
    It's too easy to band together and hate someone else & blame them for all the problems but I don't think we hear from the other side enough.

    I've been on both sides, my husband cheated numerous times then walked out & divorced me leaving our 2 children alone in my care. I constantly thought about the other women, and that if they didn't let it, the affairs wouldn't have happened. How foolish of me! So instead of allowing him to be responsible/accountable for his own mistakes, I took the focus off him & onto the other women.

    Then on the other side, I have recently found out that the man that I fell in love with lied to me & was never divorced from his wife but married the whole time. So I have unknowingly become the other woman, and received the attack from her. I can say it's been an interesting perspective seeing a woman lash out - so desperate to forgive her lying, cheating husband & in the same breath condemning me. He has repented to her so can now walk around feeling righteous, never mind the fact the path of destruction left in my life remains.

    I realise that every situation is different, but perhaps next time you think of the "other woman" as this seductress, jezebel type, I challenge you to think of her as a human being who also has feelings & your unfaithful husband chose to disrespect not only you, but another woman by using her for whatever reason. I feel that men that cheat have a deep disrespect for both themselves and for women. Food for thought I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Considering your most recent experience, I understand why you said what you did. However, that simply does not apply to my situation.

      This woman knew before anything began that my husband was a married man with children. In fact, their first conversation only happened because she stopped by his office to congratulate him after he announced at work that I was pregnant with our second daughter. She even commented to him that his wife was a beautiful woman when she saw my pictures on his desk. That makes her responsible for her actions. Period.

      She lied repeatedly and even went to some insane lengths to manipulate my husband during their affair. My husband was also not the first married man that she had an affair with at their workplace.

      The night that my husband confessed, Ray and I met with her and her husband. She confessed openly to her side of things and showed zero remorse for her actions. She was proud of the fact that she had lied to her husband by telling him that she did certain physical things with my husband that never actually happened. She would taunt her husband every night when he got home from work by claiming that she did certain things with my husband in their home. It was literally fun for her to torment him.

      When her husband asked her "I know you hate me and want to make me miserable but why do this to them? You knew he was married.. why did you go after him knowing what it would do to his wife?" She said with a smile... "Because I'm a cold hearted b*tch."

      After confessing to me, Ray went in to his employers and told them everything that had been going on which initiated an investigation to determine what happened between the two of them. When it was all said and done, she was fired because she blatantly lied to her employers. She claimed that nothing had ever happened between them. Ray took responsibility for his actions and received a formal warning but ultimately kept his job.. she refused to take responsibility for her actions and was fired for lying. It didn't help that she was his supervisor and had manipulated company records to cover up her inappropriate relationship with my husband.

      I am aware that she is a human being with feelings. But actions have consequences and she is 100% responsible for her actions. No one "used" her. In fact, I would argue that she used my husband. That doesn't mean he isn't responsible for his actions but I can assure you that you are 100% wrong in trying to paint her out to be some sort of victim in this situation.

      She is a very damaged, broken person and instead of dealing with her baggage, she chooses to lash out and destroy the things around her because misery loves company.

      I would also urge you to reevaluate your opinion of men and women concerning this subject. Women are not inherently victims. Men are not inherently evil predators.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your reply - wow, given her determination to hurt I definitely agree with what you said about her being a damaged, broken person. While she is not a victim in this situation, I'd like to hope that as Christians, we can pray for even those who hurt us.

      I did not mean any offense, rather I feel that due to my own experiences, I have seen that too often it is easier to place a lot of blame on external parties. Each situation is different and there is no predator/victim mentality that goes with cheating, rather its adults making bad decisions.

      I felt inclined to comment I guess because it can be challenging sometimes to remember that not always is the other woman lacking in virtues or morally insolvent - I've realised that I have no idea what my ex-husband told his mistresses to excuse the adultery, just in the same way that I see myself as a good, confident, God-pleasing woman who out of trust, naivety, and love have found myself play a role that is un-desirable. Thank you for sharing your experience, it is an area that unfortunately is too common in our world. Praying for God's healing & peace for all.

      Delete