“Oh Anne, I wish I had this in 2003/2004. My 27-year marriage DID end after my husband's affair 'tore it asunder'. I ended up moving, went back to school, and became a counselor at a Christian agency. I now use your website and writings to help my clients.
“But, my heart still hurts some times. My husband, who was a leader in my church, left everything for her. He married her, changed jobs (and his career took off -- I don't understand why he's been so blessed financially now while we struggled for so many years), he left the church, he moved --twice. His relationship with our kids was damaged but they do still see him. They struggle to be civil to her. She will always be The Other Woman.
“Any words of wisdom for when you don't get the chance to heal your marriage?”
(Please note! 1. This article is intended for someone whose betrayal is more than 2 years past. The woman who wrote in experienced this 10 years ago. 2. I have answered this woman in the context of her Christian faith. If you don't share her faith, look for the principles that still apply.)
My heart aches for every man or woman, who ends up cast aside like a used garment being dropped off at the Salvation Army thrift store. You were once a prized possession, and now you are cast aside for another as if you don’t matter at all. It is not fair, and it is definitely wrong when all you long for is a chance to put your marriage back together.
My first reaction, sincerely, is you NEED to be at the “Take Your Life Back” retreat for the betrayed. This is exactly what I designed this retreat for. While I am going to do my best to help you with an answer, ultimately, no one can write a brief article, resulting in you saying, “thank you for sharing. I get it now. After reading what you wrote, I’m over it.” I know that’s not what you expect either. Just a word of advice, right? So here goes.
It does feel worse when the person who hurt you seems to be blessed. Part of us wants them to be punished, to hurt, to pay a price, to learn a lesson for the wrong they have committed. That’s human.
As a Christian, there is a part of you that knows this attitude is not altogether right, certainly not good for us, not serving us well. But it’s important to acknowledge that we feel these things. It’s okay. It’s normal. It’s part of the human experience.
Most people are familiar with the biblical story of Jonah and the whale. Jonah tried to run away from God. It didn’t work out so well. A giant fish swallowed him, where he remained for three days and three nights, until the fish spit him out onto the beach.
Why did Jonah run away from God? It’s for the same reason you are struggling. Jonah was called to preach to the people of Nineveh. They were the most evil and wicked people of Jonah’s time. Jonah wanted them to suffer (and be wiped out) because of their great evil. Are you with me?
Jonah was afraid that if he obeyed God and preached to the people, they might possibly listen, and if they listened, they possibly might quit being evil, and Jonah, being fully acquainted with God’s character knew there was a good chance that God might forgive them and cancel their punishment. That’s why Jonah ran away. He wanted those people suffer.
You don’t say whether your husband experienced remorse and repentance, after walking out on you and marrying his affair partner. Sometimes, we don’t see the one in the wrong show any sign of remorse or change, and sometimes things go well for the person who does wrong anyway.
Sometimes, some people do the right things, and suffer undeservingly. I’m sure every person reading this can think of someone, probably yourself.
Take Jeremiah the prophet for example. God called him to preach. He did the right thing, followed God, and did and said what God told him to. What happened to him? He was thrown in a well and suffered. (God did intervene and save him in the end, but to Jeremiah it may have felt like too little too late.)
So what did Jeremiah say? Jeremiah, a good person … nice … following God … trying to do the right things. It's not what you'd expect!
He said, “… Let their children starve to death and let the sword poor out their blood! Let their wives be widows and bereft of all their children! Let their men die in epidemics and their youths die in battle! Let the screaming be heard from their homes as troops of soldiers come suddenly upon them, for they have dug a pit for me to fall in, and they have hidden traps along my path. Lord, you know all their murderous plots against me. DON’T FORGIVE THEM, DON’T BLOT OUT THEIR SIN, BUT LET THEM PERISH BEFORE YOU; DEAL WITH THEM IN YOUR ANGER.” – Jeremiah 18:21-23
(Nice Christian attitude!)
Can you relate to this? While it’s important not to take matters into our own hands, it’s human to want those who hurt you to be punished for it. And it is hard to see them seemingly get blessed instead.
When you’ve been betrayed (and your betrayer is, or you fear your betrayer might be blessed in their life) …
After expressing your anger in a healthy manner, if you want to take the chance to put your marriage back together:
1. Get Support. Share your feelings with a friend or counselor. No one can successfully go this journey alone. No man is an island. No matter how smart you are, when your own emotions are involved, you’ll benefit from an outside perspective from someone who can help you get a grip, and focus on the right things.
2. Forgive your betrayer. Let it go. (This does not need to involve them, nor reconciliation, nor putting yourself in a position where they can continue to hurt you.) It’s a heart attitude you choose.
3. Pray for God to bless the person who hurt you. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do, but I’m telling you that when you do, you begin to be set free and blessed.
And don’t be like our daughter, whom we shared this principle with when she’d been betrayed by some other girls at school years ago. “I do pray for them, Dad, it’s just that I always end up saying NOT afterwards.”
3. Stop letting your husband and other womans lives occupy so much real estate in your mind. You choose what you think about for extended periods. If your ex has moved on and there is nothing more you can do, think about your life, not theirs. You may need a little ongoing help with this for a while. Most people are up and down a bit, with good days and bad days. You’ll need someone to help you stop your unhelpful thought spiral on the days when you sense it gaining negative momentum. We all have within us a higher self and a lower self. When your lower self is in control, call a support person, and let them help you refocus on what is actually true, and the good that is in your life.
4. Give yourself a period of time to be upset and hurt, and to talk about it. Embrace the grieving process. When your allotted time period is up, stop. (Just because the extramarital affair and divorce were years ago, does not mean you ever gave yourself permission to embrace the grief and hurt.)
5. ACCEPT the fact that some times bad things happen to good people who don’t deserve it, and SOMETIMES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO PEOPLE WHO DID BAD THINGS AND DON’T DESERVE THE GOOD. Life does not always make sense, and life certainly is not fair.
5. Stop talking about that person (after giving yourself time to process). Don’t let yourself go there. Don't silently stalk them on Facebook. Get some other, better, topics to talk about. Sometimes you can sense it’s time to quit talking about your betrayal, when you’re out for dinner with a good friend who has been a support, and somehow you can just see on their face, their thinking, “Not again. I don’t even want to hear that name. (Your Ex)”
6. Trust God. Believe that God is a just God, and that God will punish what needs to be punished, and he will forgive what needs to be forgiven. God will do it better than you, and God will do it on his own timetable, not yours.
We do not know the heart of another person. Who am we to be their judge? If good things are happening to someone who wronged me, who knows the reason? What I do know is that I am called to do good, and I am responsible for my own life – not theirs.
Do we really wish them to suffer? Probably not.
We long for justice. We probably just wish that they would be sorry, see how wrong they were, apologize and change. What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing that could happen to you?
7. BELIEVE THE BEST! “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future!” – Jeremiah 29:11
Do the right thing. Believe your time is coming. Let it go. And watch what happens.
Passionate Life Coach Gayle was married to a minister/motivational speaker for 35 years, when he went off the deep end, married a 19 year old, and left Gayle destitute. It was shocking, unbelievable, and cruel. She suffered tremendously. It wasn’t fair. She had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life in her sixties. She, a good Christian girl who supported her husband, never expected to be divorced.
Piece by piece, she walked out her healing, stepping out of her comfort zone, and being obedient to what God asked of her. When things looked bleak and impossible, she waited for God to open a door.
In the due course of time, she ended up working for us, so I had the privilege of walking along side her during the second half of her healing journey. I cried with her and I was angry with her husband too. The outrage of it all!!
Then one day she told me something had happened. She hadn’t seen her husband now for years. She’d forgiven as far as she understood to at this point, and it was over.
“What happened?” Turns out her husband ended up in the hospital. There was a possibility he might die. Her grown son called and encouraged her to go and visit his dad, her ex. She told her son, “no way.” And me, the forgiveness specialist, said, “You didn’t go did you!”
Apparently a verse from the bible had quickened within her spirit while she wrestled with what to do, “I was … sick, and … you visited me … when you did it to the least of these my brothers you were doing it to me.” – Mathew 25:35-45
She went, and forgiveness was completed. (No she did not reconcile with her husband.)
But since then good things have happened in her life, infinitely beyond what she could’ve hoped for, asked or imagined.
She believes obedience in this final step of forgiveness was the key that opened up the door to move beyond the pain completely and receive God’s greater blessings in her life. (And to hear her tell this story in its entirety in person is a life changing experience!)
God is not a respecter of persons, and our lives and happiness are NOT dependent on the choices of others. While we do not choose many of the cards we are dealt in life, we do choose our response, and this makes all the difference.
I sent the link below out last week, having no idea I would receive this question and write this answer this week. Here’s the link again. It sums up what I’m saying perfectly. Life is a pilgrimage through an obstacle course of adversity and suffering. Each person is dealt a different hand of cards, which we are unable to control. But the one thing we can control is our choices in how we will respond to the cards we’ve been dealt. This makes all the difference.
“You can either be angry for what you don’t have, or be thankful for what you do have.” - Nick Vujicic
©Copyright 2013 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.