Restoring a Marriage in Crisis
By Brenda Ransom
It was date night. My husband and I were enjoying Chinese and talking about our youngest just leaving for his freshman year of college. We had been married 26 years and I was looking forward to it being just Phil and me again. Our meal was interrupted by a call from our daughter who was temporarily living at home. She said she needed to speak to her father right away.
On arriving home, Bethany confronted Phil with a romantic email she had found from another woman. And so began the revelation that my husband was in love with another woman and having an affair. She was from another state, so much of their romancing had been done over the computer, but they had shared a hotel room for a weekend during one of his business trips.
Surprisingly calm, I called our pastor and asked him to come right over. Our pastor was not only our friend, but my husband’s boss as he was on staff at the church as the pastor of worship. As we waited, I asked my husband the many questions flooding my mind. The immense hurt and betrayal began to set in. I was stunned that he would do this to me.
Phil moved out that night to stay with friends and had to immediately resign from his position at church and turn over his ordination certificate. I thought of having to tell our son and families. It seemed my only prayer at first was, “God, please help me get through this.” A meeting with the church board and a congregational meeting where Phil would go before the church and confess his sin soon followed. A letter was sent to the entire church membership. Such a private and devastating matter now became known to hundreds of people. I no longer was a ministry wife; part of me had been taken away!
On that first Sunday, pretending I was okay, but actually dying inside, my soul ached because I knew all of these people would be hurt by this too. Yet deep in my heart, I felt the God I love begin to comfort me. When I cried at night and could not sleep, when I closed my eyes and all I could see was my husband with this other woman, I asked God to reassure me from His Word and He led me to Psalm 57:1, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” I needed the ‘shadow of His wings’ for my strength and security. I asked God to help me learn from this hurt so I could use it for His glory.
Once our church knew, many of them sent cards and made loving phone calls asking, “What can we do?” They supported us through this entire trauma. God was using them to hold me up with their help and prayers because I could not stand on my own.
It was difficult to go to work each day as a teacher in a Christian school, but the staff prayed me through many difficult days. The hurt seemed unbearable, the loss overwhelming, I had no self-esteem, I felt so alone! Even so, I sensed the peace that God was giving me in all of this pain.
And so began the restoration of a marriage that needed much repair. I knew God was impressing on me to stay in the marriage. Phil wanted to stay and work on it as well.
The church set up a restoration team of men to hold my husband accountable. They were in contact with him daily. These Godly men diligently prayed for and walked alongside my husband as he looked for and found a job. Several women that I chose were there for me during the restoration process as well. We met and talked often and to this day they are two of my dearest friends.
Since we hadn’t been open and honest with each other for years, we had to begin. We started seeing a Christian counselor, first separately and eventually together. Phil had to face his sin head-on. Once he owned it, our counselor helped him understand how he had let our marriage unravel. I was able to share ALL of my anger, hurt, disappointment, and acknowledge my responsibility for our decline. Phil shared his feelings too and told me there were places in his life where he simply didn’t trust God, even in his relationship with me. But he began to work hard to show me he wanted this to work. Phil began to leave notes in my car, text messages on my cell phone, and told me what I meant to him. He showed me he didn’t want to go back to her; he wanted to stay with me. The men on the restoration team held him accountable on a day-to-day basis. As he demonstrated his renewed trustworthiness, Phil came to trust God again (that was big for me) and my trust in him slowly returned.
At times it was very sad to look back and discuss the deterioration in our marriage, but we were finally learning things and sharing inner thoughts we had kept hidden for years. We began ’dating’ but I was still so hurt, many times I couldn’t stay out for an entire evening with him. But we pressed on and in time we discovered:
- There was so little communication that went deep.
- There was a loss of affection physically and emotionally, and we had become very selfish.
- We did very little together; we were wrapped up in our own jobs, hobbies and friends.
- We had become comfortable with this arrangement over time.
Could I ever forgive him? That challenge came up in counseling. After months of counseling, I began to sense the Holy Spirit nudging me to do so. Not all at once, but situation by situation. As God brought each one to me, I began to forgive and my love and respect for Phil began to grow piece by piece. Healing was taking place; I was learning things God wanted to teach me. But, what haunted me the most were the pictures in my head of my husband with this woman. Finally, I began to take those thoughts captive and give them to the Lord asking Him to replace them with a song, a Scripture verse, or a positive thought about my husband’s love for me. It took so much effort and at first was so exhausting, but it worked! Even after two years, I still have to do this at times, but God has been so faithful; I will continue to trust Him with this.
After six months of separation, my husband moved back home. The dating was over, and reality had begun. Phil had a new and intentional focus that did not allow him to be passive at home anymore. I had to gradually allow him to be the head of our home. It felt new and there were times neither of us liked it much, but we were determined to live in God’s strength now.
As we continue in this process, we have set up safeguards to protect what we are re-building:
- Our cell phones are available to each other.
- We can open the other’s mail / regular or email.
- He doesn’t visit computer chat rooms anymore, ever.
- We share an instant messaging ID.
- We can access each others computer information by sharing required passwords.
- We do not use credit cards without each other’s consent.
- We have joint checking and savings accounts.
- We see our counselor several times a year (proactively now) and stay in close contact with our restoration friends.
- Most importantly, we pray together every day.
It’s been a process, but God has restored our marriage and family. We are resolved to not let that gradual deterioration return! My children have forgiven their father and it is so great to be together and enjoy one another again. God has renewed my husband’s desire for ministry and so we wait on Him for those opportunities.
Last September, my husband’s ordination credentials were returned before the congregation that prayed for, loved, and supported us through this difficult journey these last two years. Are there still difficult days? Yes. But I know where to turn and I have found that He truly does provide that refuge in the shadow of His wings until the disaster has passed.
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