Category Archives: Marriage
In college I cheated on a boyfriend.
More than once.
In fact, one boyfriend told me I should have a big red sign on my forehead that read, “DANGER.”
It’s a wonder I’ve been married for 12 faithful years. By grace alone.
But here is what I want to tell you about what I know about cheating and consequences from a place of experience.
To the Person Who Hasn’t Cheated But Is Considering It
Picture this: Your husband is sitting on the couch and just read the story about Ashley Madison. He looks at you and says, “Have you ever cheated?” Your stomach turns. Your palms begin to sweat. It was just a kiss. At first. Oh God, help me. You smile, a little, out of nerves. His eyes are searching yours now and he knows. “Yes.” You tell him. Your heart is beating wildly and is about to jump out of your chest. He tells you to tell him everything, and through tears you tell him, and you hate yourself in the telling, and he starts crying, and everything is falling apart. One of your kids walks in and asks what’s going on…
You can fill in the blanks from there, just use your imagination. And yes, I’m seriously telling you: use your imagination. Think about the consequence your cheating would bring. Think about the fall-out, the destruction, the look in your children’s eyes. Actually think it through.
It’s not worth it.
So run. Run from temptation. Tell a friend. Talk to your spouse. If there are issues in your marriage and you feel alone and unloved, talk to him, or to her, or to a safe friend or counselor. But don’t go down that treacherous road of adultery. What looks like glitter is shard glass that will cut you up and leave you to bleed.
“…each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:14,15
To the Person Who Has Cheated But Hasn’t Told
Walk into the light. For one, you will be free, and for the other, the other person will be free, free to choose whether or not to stay with you. But at least that’s honest and real and there is no hiding.
And speaking of hiding, it is a terrible, lonely, broken place to stay in the dark. Yea, it’s terrible to confess a sin like adultery, but once you do, you’re free. Free to be honest. Free to heal. Free to begin again. The consequences may be painful and heartbreaking, but there will be light and freedom.
In college I was seeing a counselor for my many issues, and in the session I told her about my cheating. She said, “You need to tell him.” I didn’t need to. I could hide. I could pretend. I could cover it all away by “not lying” just “not telling.” And then she said in so many words, “You will never change if you don’t face the consequences of your sin.”
When you face what your sin has done, or could potentially do, you are ready to change.
I went home that day from my counseling session and I told my boyfriend what I had done. He told me to get out, that I was just like my mother, and that I would never change.
And it was painful. But you know what that did? It made me grow up. It made me look directly at my sin and the pain and upheaval and damage it caused. Do you think I ever what to face the consequences of that sin again? Emphatically no.
In fact, the times I have felt tempted, I have pictured what it would be like to look into the eyes of my husband and speak the words, “I cheated on you.” I have imagined looking at my children and explaining to them what I’ve done, or why mommy and daddy are going through such turmoil. I don’t ever want to have to tell my family I cheated.
For All of Us
The sin of adultery lures us in and makes us feel good. We feel wanted and loved and seen and beautiful and chosen. We feel powerful and seductive and we feel like we have no choice over our bodies and our reactions. What deception. The pleasure of sin is fleeting. It feels good for a time, but afterward it wrecks you and those around you.
We Have a Choice
Do not believe the lie that you can’t choose. You can. There is hope for everyone and for all marriages.
There are thousands of couples who have been faithful for years and years and years of marriage. They have integrity and vision and they see that this world is short compared to eternity. They have perspective and wisdom. Whenever I want to give up hope that there can really be faithfulness in marriage, I am reminded of the faithful ones who have gone before me. My in-laws. Sally and Clay Clarkson. Dave and Cathy Bowman, to name three off the top of my head. They’ve all been married 30 or more faithful years.
And I’m reminded of myself. Yes, me, the once cheater who did change because a wise counselor taught me to face the truth and the pain, and because I cling to a God of grace who at every turn has given a way out.
If You Need a Way Out
Call a friend. Tell your spouse. Get out the secret before it gives birth to a full-fledge affair. It will be hard, and maybe embarrassing, and it might hurt for a time, but it will save you.
You are not alone in your temptations, but you do have a choice. A choice to run away, a choice to tell, a choice to be free.
There is always hope, and there is always a way out.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.” -Tim Keller
12 years. Faithful and free (hard-fought). Praise be to God.
With love, SM
P.S. I just got an email from a woman who had an affair. She gave me permission to share what she wrote:
“You mention in your article to confess KNOWING that things will get ugly…just do it…you are so right! There is such freedom in the light…even through the pain, shame, guilt…the freedom is still there! And, my husband still loves me. I’ll admit, I don’t understand that…how he can love me despite my betrayal.
I never anticipated the self-loathing, the self-hatred, the shame, the guilt, the complete loss of all you knew to be true, the loss of yourself. Even from a purely selfish point of view affairs are NOT worth it. And, then, as a believer you add in the separation from God, grieving the Holy Spirit…it’s a disaster…of your own making. But, then the glorious takes place…conviction, confession, repentance, redemption and restoration!!! Praise God for His love for us. Praise God that he’ll leave the 99 for the 1…all for His glory!
So, just…when temptation comes…RUN!!! When you have to start making excuses for why someone “befriends” you, how they speak to you, how often they contact you…regardless of their position…RUN!!!”
It was our 11th anniversary.
We had hardly any money, but we wanted to do something special. For our 10th we went to NYC and it was such fun. But this time around, we were going to have to stay local, no pizazz, just be together. And that was okay.
We ended up going out for breakfast, just the two of us, at a sweet little restaurant that serves the best homemade quiche (my favorite). We sat down in our own little world and sipped coffee and talked and took our time. Eventually, Jesse got up to get food from the buffet while I stayed back to enjoy my pretty little slice of heaven.
I smiled. Time to savor. Time to pretend. Time to imagine I’m in a cafe in Paris with my love.
I took a bite of my quiche and ate it slowly, relishing in each cheesy bit. Jesse sat across from me, his plate filled with eggs and bacon and toast and pancakes and all sorts of food from the delicious selection.
He started to talk and I asked him for a moment of silence. I wanted to really taste and savor my food. I closed my eyes. I am so dramatic. He loves me anyway. There is something about eating without talking that helps me fully engage with my food. This sounds weird, I know, but I don’t care. My quiche was wonderful and I wanted to enjoy it fully, because I was pretending I was in a Parisian café, and I was eating a French quiche made fresh that morning.
We carried on our conversation, and had a delightful time. But every now and then, I would close my eyes…
I heard a chair move, and I opened my eyes.
Jesse was heading back to the buffet; I had stopped counting how many times he’d filled his plate.
Finally I said to my loving husband, “Listen, you have to tell me when you’re making your last stop at the buffet because that’s when I’m going to eat the crust.”
The crust, the best part.
As I finished up, I realized that right there, in that sweet little place with my best friend, I was wherever I wanted to be. I just had to close my eyes and imagine it. It didn’t matter if I was in a café in Paris or in Pennsylvania Dutch country thousands of miles away. The quiche was just as enjoyable because I made it so. And I was in good company, and the place faded away and the moment was there and it was just right.
Here’s what I know now: it doesn’t matter where you are; you can be anywhere you want to be in your mind. You can imagine it. You can enjoy it. This is not an escape, it’s choosing to be fully engaged with your life right where you are, with just a spritz of imagination.
I didn’t need Paris or the cafe; I needed the moment, the experience. And I had it, right where I was.
What are you longing for? Wake up your imagination and see how you can bring that longing, that dream, into your reality today in a small, but meaningful or fun way.
We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose our perspective.
Much love, SM
I don’t remember who I was telling (maybe my editor?) that I would never write a book on marriage because I stink at it. Marriage is not my forte. I got nothin’. Except, you know, a marriage. BUT IT’S HARD AND I’M NO GOOD AT IT. I will be winning no good wife awards. In fact, I told an audience this past weekend that I had bad thoughts about my husband, and not the dirty kind. Just the bad kind.
I struggle with marriage.
I struggle with the idea that I have to try in my marriage. I don’t want to try, I want to just be. When I try, I get mad that he’s not trying. Again, this is why I will not be writing any books on marriage. BUT I have learned a few things in my almost 12 years of marriage. A tiny few that might, maybe be helpful to someone out there. So here they are…
Be Sickeningly Honest
There was a time that I flirted with a guy online and it could have gone farther. I was frustrated in my marriage and I was acting carelessly and I just thought, “I’ll know when to stop.” Incredibly, as the Lord does I believe always providing a way out at some point, my husband got his hands on the book, “Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough”. He was reading it, and he said to me, “Have you ever wanted to cheat on me?”
“Yes.” I said.
Remember, I was in a don’t care stage and I got all honest. It was the best thing ever.
He called me over to him and I sat on his lap and I told him all about the flirting and the guy and that I was struggling. I can’t believe I told him, but I did. And he listened, which is crazy because my guy is the kind of guy that would FLIP OUT if I ever cheated on him. Like, out the door. But he listened, and we had the best conversation about our marriage. The best part? The power of the sin was broken. I didn’t even want to talk to that guy anymore. There is power in the light, and when I told the truth, light came in and the darkness vanished.
Side-note: If you ever think about having an affair, think of the after. Picture yourself telling your husband and children. Yea, not fun. I learned in counseling in college that a great way to learn from our sin is to face the consequences of our decisions (ask me how painful that is). Instead of facing them, how about just picturing them and not doing them. You’re welcome.
The Dark Thoughts Want to Keep You Locked Up
One of the things I’ve struggled with the most in my marriage is intimacy.
I’m this complicated mess and it’s been a tough road for my husband and I. One of the things I’ve felt so ashamed of is my thoughts. I felt so awful and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I couldn’t tell anyone because they would think terrible things about me. Shame. That’s what it does, it locks you up and keeps you in bondage. Eventually, I just wanted to be free and I wanted to deal with my intimacy junk because I hated it. I went to a prayer counselor and we talked and prayed and I shared a little bit. Then I was with some friends at a bible study and I, with fear and trembling, shared my deepest secret thoughts. And you know what? They said things like, “Me too.”
Their thoughts weren’t the same as mine, but they struggled with shame and sinful things just as I had. That’s the thing about shame, it makes you think you’re alone. But you’re not. And when you confess, and there is “me too” there is freedom. Again, when you confess and share the things you are afraid to share, and someone receives you, the power of the darkness is broken. I finally shared my secret thoughts with my husband, and you know what he said? “That’s it?” I mean FOR REAL. I couldn’t believe it. Shame had so locked me up and kept me in the dark that I thought I was disgusting. The thing is, sin infests all of us, I think that’s why confessing is so powerful; we learn we aren’t alone as sinful humans.
It turns out, when you turn the light on, there really are no monsters under the bed. (Tweet that)
With this new freedom and a massive gratefulness for grace, I decided to be a receiver of people. I would be a “me too” person. With my husband, this was the most important thing I could do as a wife. I don’t know what it means to be a “good wife” and whatever it is I’m probably not it, but I do know about grace and freedom and shame, and so with my husband I receive him and all his mess. When he confesses to me, I say, “me too”. When he is stuck in shame, I tell him, “I love you and I’m with you and for you.” Because I am. Even when I’m so mad at him I can’t stand him, I’m for him. Because I am him. I am human and sinful and in desperate need of love and grace.
Believe that God Knows What He’s Doing With Your Life
I have had the thought, “Did I marry the wrong person?” I have been hurt and angry and at my wits end in my marriage, and I have dreamed of ways out at times. But at the end of the day, I believe that God knows what He’s doing with my life, and that I’m supposed to be with my husband. He is a good man, even when he ticks me off. He’s a good man and God is doing a work with us as a couple and for His glory on this earth. Somehow, someway, us being together brings His Kingdom to bear on this earth, whether in our personal sanctification and/or with how we raise our children and/or what we do as a couple that affects this world. We are meant to be together, and God works it all out for our good and His purposes. I believe it.
Duh, It’s Hard
Our first year was terrible. Heck, we barely made it to our honeymoon. Seven years in, I was done. I actually cried on my Mother-in-Law’s laundry room floor telling her I couldn’t take it. You know what she did? She just listened to me and told me she understood. She didn’t try and give me advice or change my mind, she just felt with me. And I needed that. I needed to know I wasn’t alone or crazy, but that marriage is just hard. How can it not be? It’s two sinners living together! Marriage is a crazy thing, but it’s God’s thing. He made it; it means something. And it’s good. It’s hard, but it’s good. I remember back in high school hearing Dr. Laura (don’t laugh) say that coveting just made you miserable, and it’s true. The more I thought about not being married the more discontent I got. When I accepted my marriage, when I chose to believe God for it, I stopped being so discontent. And when I stopped being discontent, I started enjoying my marriage. My husband is my best friend. Do we fight? YES. Do I sometimes think bad things about him? YES. Do I drive him crazy and cause him to have non-dirty bad thoughts about me? I’M SURE OF IT. Because I’m a sinner too. But I love that man, and I’m glad he’s mine. For all the things I can’t stand, there are more good things. He is my biggest supporter and encourager. He lifts me up and he speaks truth into me when I believe lies. He makes me laugh, and he has the best laugh ever. I love watching Netflix with him while eating wings and drinking beer. He is my man, and he is a good man. When I think about that and the good things, when I turn my laments to thankfulness, I am a happier, more content woman. And maybe even a better wife.
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It appears that making my husband my word has inspired some others to do the same.
Which is AWESOME!
So hey, how about a link-up?
If you have made (or want to make) your husband your word of the year, leave a link to the post where you declare it! I might even post some challenges along the way for you…what do you say?
Here’s to the blind leading the blind! Oh wait. Well, it’s kind of true. At least the lead part. Heh.
But it’s okay, we can totally stumble through it! You in?!
Link up! And don’t forget to link back here so others can join in!
Love, Sarah Mae