For better after worse:
recovering your marriages joy
Valentine’s Day celebrates love, and there is no deeper bond of love than that of marriage. For some, however, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of idealistic dreams that were lost and the sobering realities of failed relationships. Their names have been changed, but the following three couples — who saw their marriages restored — pulled no punches when sharing with Today’s Pentecostal Evangel some of the toughest challenges to their marriages. These couples also share their stories at conferences held by Marriage Restored, an Assemblies of God affiliated ministry. (For more information about these conferences go to www.marriagerestored.com.)
Brad and Danielle: Healing after pornography’s wounds
Danielle: I woke up to discover Brad was not in bed. It was late and I assumed he had fallen asleep on the couch as usual. When I went out to get him to come to bed, he was in the outside building where he had his office. I was curious why he was out there at such a late hour. I went out and opened the door. I was shocked to find my husband, whom I had trusted with my whole heart, turning to other sexual outlets and not to me. I felt as if he had an actual woman there with him. At first, I was numb and in disbelief. Then it sank in and I wanted out of there. I told him our son and I would be gone by morning. I turned to pack and leave.
Brad: We had been losing thousands of dollars trying to renovate our older home. We were new parents. During this time our church had some problems and we just found it easier not to go. The reality of daily life with a toddler soon hit us. We no longer had the time or could afford to go out to eat and do other things together. I began leaving much of the parenting responsibilities to Danielle.
All of this stress took its toll on our relationship. The problems with our house and our life angered and frustrated me. There was no excitement or sense of vitality. The goal was to make it back to the same bed it all started at each day. As I look back, Danielle and I entered into a cold war. We lived in an environment of quick verbal jabs, then silence. We were still physically intimate, but our love had grown cold.
In the middle of all this I allowed pornography, particularly videos, to come back into my life. Christ had freed me from porn when I accepted Him as Savior at 22. But I turned to it once again to escape the reality of my anger and frustration.
When Danielle discovered me, I knew she was serious about leaving. I got up from my chair and asked if we could go in the house and talk. I honestly expected her to say no. But she agreed. As we talked, we not only discussed the incident at hand, but other issues like where our marriage was and where our relationship with God was too. Our conversation took us long into the night. I asked Danielle for her forgiveness. God did a miracle that night. Her forgiveness had a powerful impact upon our marriage and on me personally.
Danielle: I made the decision to forgive Brad because God reminded me of the grace He has given me over the years. The more I showed forgiveness and grace to Brad, the more he opened up to me. He shared with me how he would rent another video and tell himself it would be the last time. Time and again he would do it, and afterward he felt dirty and regretful. He called it an addiction. When he put it that way, I could see it had nothing to do with me. Yes, it still affected me, but I could see that he wasn’t saying I wasn’t good enough. I started to see him not as my husband who was turning away from me, but someone who had an addiction and needed help. He asked me to keep him accountable. In that forgiveness we were feeling a closeness we had not felt all the years we had been married up to that point. We knew we had to face this addiction head on and keep no more secrets between us.
Brad: When Danielle extended healing grace to me, a new freedom and closeness was released into our marriage. The feelings of guilt and shame were wiped clean. Healing grace restored our closeness. It put us back on the same team. It allowed us to move forward together as God intended.
John and Stacy: Faithfulness as adultery’s answer
John: The most pain and suffering in our marriage resulted from our unfaithfulness to each other. Shortly after our wedding, we moved to a town just south of our hometown. With the church bells still ringing in my ears, I was the first to be unfaithful. It was a miserable excuse for a relationship. I was searching for peace and pleasure and thought I would find it in another woman.
We soon returned to our hometown, and I found the answer to the peace I had been looking for. I became a Christian and was forgiven and cleansed inside and out. The next morning, I confessed my adultery to Stacy and asked her to forgive me. She said she would. I thought the matter was closed. I was wrong.
Fast-forward our marriage 25 years, right on the heels of my mid-life crisis and Stacy’s own menopausal symptoms. Stacy and I were watching a Christian video about adultery; I stopped the video so Stacy and I could talk. I asked Stacy if she really had forgiven me for the sin I had committed years earlier. She said she really had. Then I asked her if she had ever done the same thing. It was a while in coming out, but she admitted that shortly after I had confessed my sin to her, she had gotten even with me with one of my family members.
That began the best and worst year of our married life. “Best” because we experienced many good times of crying ourselves to sleep in each other’s arms. I truly loved Stacy now more than ever. A weight had been lifted. Now I knew “everything” about the one I loved. Now, there were no more secrets. When I allowed God to live and love Stacy through me, we truly experienced a honeymoon relationship that year. But, the honeymoon was often interrupted with fits of anger and rage. I both loved and hated the one I was married to. “How could you?” “Well, you did it first,” and “Yes, but I confessed my sin” were much of our conversation.
Stacy: Just as Adam and Eve fell into temptation in the Garden of Eden, which destroyed their unity with the Lord, both John and I had allowed our sin of adultery to destroy our unity. Once we confessed our sins to one another and the Lord, and asked forgiveness of one another and were willing to forgive, then we could work again on our unity. With the Lord’s help, we could be a unit of one again. The Lord has always desired for our marriage to be in unity. His ways have not changed any — we are the ones who change. We are the ones who get caught up in our selfish desires and ambitions and get pulled away from our spouses.
As part of our healing, John and I wrote letters to each other expressing why our marriage is important to us. Something John wrote really ministered to me. “I am not John, the sinner; I am John, the man that loves you. You are not Stacy, the sinner; you are my wife that I have laughed with, cried with and prayed with.” After we shared our letters on the value of our marriage, I don’t think there was any doubt that we both knew what we wanted.
If you have ever gone through major surgery, or known someone who has gone through a major surgery, you know there are certain precautions that need to be taken during the recovery stages. In a way, John and I went through a major surgery in our marriage, and we needed to follow a few precautions ourselves during the healing in our relationship. We had to be very gentle and loving with one another. We needed to take our medicine daily, and when we didn’t, it was very obvious in our attitudes towards each other. That medicine was a gentle touch, a reminder to one another that we loved and forgave each other, a smile, or just sitting and holding hands. By choosing to forgive one another and deciding to work on the mending process in our marriage, we have developed a richer, more beautiful relationship based on honesty and trust than we ever had before.
Steve and Melinda: Trading rage for renewal
Melinda: Misery came early in our marriage when I found out what a terrible temper Steve had. I had seen him angry while we dated four years before we got married. However, I didn’t find out how bad his temper was until I lived with him every single day. He was usually pretty easy going until something would hit him wrong. Then he was like a time bomb exploding. I never knew what was going to set him off. He would yell and throw things when he became angry and I was afraid of him many times.
I often wanted to tell Steve how I felt about his temper, but I was afraid of his reaction. When he would lose his temper and lash out at me, I would feel hopeless and very afraid. There were many times that I feared that he would hurt me or himself. He would be in such a rage I never knew what he was going to do. He had made several comments on different occasions that he thought I would be happier if he were dead. I often felt that he was suicidal.
Steve: I could be as happy as a kid in a candy shop one moment and hurling hurtful and abusive words at Melinda the next. I never knew when it was going to happen and I definitely didn’t plan it. I couldn’t tell you what triggered it. Though I do know the source from which it came.
I was sexually molested by an older cousin when I was about 8 years old. As the molestation developed, I just accepted it as a normal part of my life. I guess I must have been 11 or 12 when I began to realize it wasn’t normal and began to distance myself from this person. However, the sexual feelings and sensations that I had experienced wouldn’t go away. In fact, they only grew stronger, especially since I was entering puberty.
I struggled even more with these temptations as I became a Christian at age 13. Somehow I thought it was all my fault. Sexual feelings and sensations only served as daily reminders of what a bad person I was. I made regular trips to the altar as a teenager thinking that I had somehow lost my salvation during that week because of all of those bad feelings, thoughts and desires. That’s when I noticed my temper begin to flare up. I remember even losing my cool with my parents, at times, and spouting off at them. The pressure, guilt and shame were beginning to take a toll on me. I didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to. Who was I going to tell this awful secret? Not even my pastor seemed like a viable option to me. So, I just kept it all inside and carried all that baggage right into my marriage.
Melinda: An action and decision on my part helped start renewal in our marriage. I made a decision to love Steve no matter what. I decided to actually listen with my heart to the words of 1 Corinthians 13 and live out the characteristics of godly love described there.
Steve: I knew I had to share with Melinda what had happened. I felt like I was going to die if I carried the secret around by myself much longer and I knew my marriage was going to die if I didn’t do something to rid myself of my volcanic temper. One evening, I finally mustered up enough courage in myself and trust in Melinda to share with her what had happened so long ago.
I was so afraid she would never love me the same anymore. But as I began to pour out my soul to her, she was like a mother bear hovering over her cub for protection. She held me so tight and rocked me in her arms like a baby. All of those feelings of pain, guilt and condemnation began to flood away like water through a broken dam. Even after years of verbally abusing her, her love surrounded me like a warm blanket on a frigid night. I know it was only by the grace of God, and a wife who loved me unconditionally, that we made it through those years of disillusionment, misery, suffering and even dying to parts of our lives. The renewal and resurrection we experienced in our marriage and the healing that has taken place have brought us into a joy we would have never experienced otherwise. God has taken our tests and given us a testimony. That testimony is that “love bears all things” and “love never fails.”
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