Monday, February 8, 2016

Five Things I've Learned One Year After Reconciliation

This has been a long hard year. Anyone that knows me wouldn't deny that. It has been full of tears and work. But even through all of that there have been moments of joy and laughter.  I've learned a lot about myself and my family. These experiences taught me more than I ever would have learned without them. Am I grateful for the pain? No. I don't know if I'll ever get there. But I want to share some of the things I have learned one year after infidelity and reconciliation.

1. My faith in God was not based on Michael

There were many moment over the years that I questioned my own faith. I had come to know God before meeting Michael but feared that my continued faith was carried because of Michael's job and our involvement in ministry.

It's just what we did. We worked teaching about God. And so I let that be my faith. Or at least that is what I thought. But in one move I had lost my husband, my ministry and my church. It was gone. Everything that I had known in my adult life was no longer what it used to be. But God did not leave.

And I prayed. I prayed like I haven't prayed in a long, long time. And I wasn't praying because I was being an example. I was praying because I needed my very real God to hold me in the very worst moment of my life. I remembered who God was and is. I spent time with him. When I felt so lost and confused he stayed with me. He was there. And after days of praying and crying and sinking I eventually felt him lift me and bring me hope.


He didn't make it hurt less. He didn't "cure" it. But he was with me. And that was enough.

2. Forgiveness is a must

I believe that God spent many years working on my heart. Because forgiving has never been a natural reaction for me. I am a grudge holder and will hold on to things for years like they just happened.

I've held on to a lot of hurt my whole life. Stuff I didn't even know that I was holding on to. Things that I didn't even know I needed to forgive. I had been hurt more than I wanted to admit growing up. But over time God was slowly showing my the power of forgiveness, the freedom it offers and the peace that it can bring. I had weight lifted off of me that I wasn't even aware of.

And so my heart was prepared.

Not for the affair.

Not for the betrayal.

My heart was ready and willing to forgive Michael.

And it surprised me. I think it surprised me more than it did anyone else. Because I am bitter grudge holder. So how can I forgive when betrayed? But I could.

And forgiving him did not dismiss the hurt or repair the broken trust but opened me up for healing and repairing my heart, my marriage and my family.

I had to eventually, between God and myself, forgive the other woman as well. It took longer (because, you know, holding grudges). And there are moments that I have to remind myself that I have chosen to forgive. The debt she owes me I've handed it over to God and it's now between her and him. It no longer has nothing to do with me.

And not having to carry it anymore helped me move on.

There are still moments of immense sadness because it still hurt but it is without the anger and bitterness that I would have added on to it.

3. Challenges and Attacks made us stronger

After Michael asked for forgiveness and asked to come home and reconcile we had to put strict boundaries and accountability in place. We had to start from ground zero. There was no trust and I had to do my best to protect my heart and our kids that best I could.

It was slow going.

But what helped bring us closer together to work towards being a solid unit were the constant stream of stalking and phone calls that came from the other woman for months after the affair had ended.

There was an agreement that there were no more secrets and no more lies. Even if it hurt. End of story.

So every she tried to call, I knew about it. Every time she sat outside of Michael's job, I was informed. Every time she drove past our home, I was told or I told him.

It was hard. But it forced us to unite together to face the attacks on our marriage that were coming. We had already faced the worst of it. We almost lost. But we came out on the other side of it ready to fight.

We made decisions together on the best ways to deal with the harassment. We talked about everything. We wanted to protect what was important to us, our marriage and our family.

So every single attack brought us closer together.

Every time that she was trying to break us apart only strengthened us. We found out that together we could stand up to anything that came at us.

4. Finding outside support helps

This has been a year of growth and healing. And I couldn't do any of it on my own. For seven months I had an awesome counselor that walked me through so much. She listened to me talk and offered sound advice. She kept God in our conversation and asked me the hard questions that challenged me to think in new ways and to see things more clearly.

We also, together saw her for marriage counseling. We were given tools to help us communicate more and better. We were given support and encouragement.

And then we have also been attending out local Celebrate Recovery and going through their step study program. There is so much more involved in healing that just forgiving and moving on. If I just forgave Michael and went back to life like everything was normal I would have just stuffed the hurt deep down and carried it with me the rest of my life. Instead I have had the support of string women who want to see me succeed and see my marriage grow strong. They have listened to my story countless times and have watched me cry and have helped remember there is hope.

Michael as well has been through his own personal counseling, is attending CR and involved in step study.

Without this support we would have been left to do it all on our own. And in the moments when we felt alone we really would've been. I know that encouragement and support is just a phone call away.

5. I love Michael

I don't think this one comes as much of a surprise.

I love Michael. I love my husband more than I thought I could. I don't want to do this life without him. He has always been who I love.

And I would love him again. Given the choice. With all the hurt and all the pain. Through all the tears. I would love him again. I would choose him all over again. I would walk up to him again, just like I did 15 years ago when we were at youth group and tell him that he smelled like shaving cream. I would laugh at his jokes, even the stupid ones. I would hold his hand. I would kiss him. I would tell him all about my life and let him meet my family. I would say yes when he proposed. I would marry him. I would have three beautiful babies with him.

Even if I knew I would have to go through the hardest thing in my life all over again I would. Because I know that I love him with a love that it real. It's not infatuatuous. It's not fantasy. It's not short lived. It is real, honest to goodness, I still get butterflies when he holds my hand- smile when I see him, will hug him when things are hard, never ending, for the rest of my life kind of love. I would choose him without a second thought.

And I am happy to love like this.

Have you had to learn lessons from unexpected experiences?