Charles Name: CharlesLocation: TexasOccupation: MinistrySpouse Testimonial: Read Ana's Story HereChildren: 2Discovery Date: Spring 2011Story: It was April 24, 2011. Easter Sunday. I had been gone speaking at a youth event and came home Saturday night, after midnight to my family fast asleep. I had baptized my wife the previous Sunday. We went to church the next morning and had my wife’s parents and grandparents over for Sunday lunch and an Easter egg hunt with my kids. That evening I had casually checked Facebook on my phone when I saw what amounted to a tweet that my wife had sent and was posted. It wasn’t incriminating, but was very odd. I asked about it and she immediately grabbed her phone and deleted the post. I asked and she denied and denied and denied. I guess I wore her down and bits of truth came out. It was the most painful hours of my life. She initially only confessed having an affair with a guy from our church. Something didn’t feel right so I kept asking and that’s when she admitted to another guy at the theatre. The torture of hearing everything in bits and pieces was ridiculous. She had confessed to an “indiscretion” from 2005 right after it happened and promised me it would never happen again. I believed her. Now here I was, married 10 years and she had been unfaithful for half of them, with 3 different guys, including one that we had been on a double date with and one we went to church with. Struggle: I felt like such a fool. She said it wasn’t my fault, that it was her issue. I didn’t know what to believe, but it sure wasn’t going to be her. I had this gigantic hole in my heart, and because of my job as a pastor, there was no one to talk to. This stuff happens to other people, not me. I had counseled couples in this but never expected it to happen in my home. Yet here I was feeling like my entire marriage was a fraud. I knew I was going to lose my job, my marriage, my reputation, my friends, everything. I didn’t want to start over and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the work to save my marriage. My fear and depression pushed me to share with my pastor who connected us with Rick. Even then I wasn’t sure I wanted a cheater to be the one who we turned to for help. He would just take her side and tell me all the things I needed to change since it was probably my fault. What I found instead was someone who did understand both sides and who did not justify what she did. He diffused my anger by asking her, “What are the consequences of sin?” She said, “death.” “And what is mercy?” he asked. “Getting what you don’t deserve.” “Then anything short of Charles killing you is mercy, right?” I was stunned by the candidness with which he addressed our issue. My anger was never fully directed at her. I was very angry with the men involved. As men, we are to be leaders. They used this God-given mantle of responsibility for evil. Not that my wife was not a willing participant, but I held them to a certain level of responsibility as well. Course of Action: Because of my schedule, it was 4 months before we could attend EMS. I read all I could in the Recovery Library and tried to fake my way through it for all the people that did not know. We tried to set boundaries and get explanations. My biggest question was always, “WHY?” Rick told me that was the one question that was off limits. That was the one question I wanted answered. Everything else was secondary. He explained that she doesn’t even fully understand the why yet and that it was his job to dig down to it and I needed to be patient. At EMS, we were finally able to stop feeling alone and isolated like we were the only ones going through this. Hearing others share their story built some safety where I knew we wouldn’t be judged. We were given exercises and a pivotal moment was when the therapists at EMS were able to guide her to finally understanding just how much her infidelity hurt me. Seeing her realize in a tangible and verbal and broken way as we sat face to face was a game changer. So much hurt and pain and confusion and anger came pouring out in my tears as she spoke. That was the first real step to healing. Lessons Learned: It sucks to be told that you should plan on 18-24 months before you find a new normal. That seemed so far away and there was so much life to do and we had kids to protect. But it’s not all bad for 18-24 months. It’s not like you spend up to two years in the same misery as D-Day and then suddenly the clouds part and birds are singing on month 18. You work at it, and every day it gets a little better. Some days you’ll slide back, and others you’ll bound forward. The goal was never to get our old marriage back. It was obviously not the best it could be. The goal was, and is, to grow into a new and better marriage with better understanding, better communication, better trust, better boundaries, better accountability, and a deeper love than we could imagine. Are we there? No. Are we where we were? No. Thank God. Are we a work in progress that still gets messy? Absolutely. Are there still triggers? Sometimes. It seems like every show on TV uses an affair as the major plot line. One of our biggest keys was boundaries. It still is. Ana was always willing to do whatever I needed to heal, which was enormously helpful. Rick suggested we set up some boundaries to help me feel safe enough to work on our marriage. The main boundaries were: No social media. Ana deleted her Facebook and Twitter accounts that day. Not being alone when I travel. Either she came with me or her mom would come stay with her and the kids. Sharing all passwords She would no longer participate in theatre (since two of the 3 affairs had occurred in a theater setting.) Calling and checking in throughout the day. When Ana is singing for the worship team, there always has to be another female present at practices. (I talked this over with the worship pastor for her so this boundary wouldn’t cause any issues.) Willing to answer questions, even if it’s the same question over and over. (Rick explained to her that it wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, it’s that it doesn’t make sense to me. I feel compelled to keep asking because it reassures me to hear the same answer over and over, so I know the rug won’t be pulled out from under me again.) Keep in mind she holds me to the same standard I hold her to. The name of the game is honesty. Rick taught us that it was OK if I didn’t trust Ana for a while, and that we could substitute honesty and transparency for trust. Safety is more important than trust when you begin recovery. In the beginning, every time I wasn’t sure where she was and who she was with my brain would just begin to unravel. Since Ana was safe enough to handle my questions and concerns, trust grew. Encouragement: Is there hope? YES! My vows specifically said “I will not divorce you.” My family tree is full of broken branches from affairs and divorce. I wanted those words in there to show my family that I would not end up like them, no matter what. I had no idea that I would be challenged to my core to actually live those words out in the face of a justifiable reason to quit. I believe that, like a puzzle, my wife and I are the perfect fit. She may have tried to fit with others, but I am the one fit for her and she for me. I will fight for that as long as I have breath. I believe God has the power to redeem even the nastiest of situations. It was Easter Sunday 2001 when I asked her to be my wife. It was Easter 2011 when it was shattered. As a Christ follower this is supposed to be the holiest of days and now it was ruined. But Easter 2012, God redeemed the day when I was able to baptize my son. He has redeemed several others things that I thought were gone forever, and I honestly believe that I will have an even greater marriage than I do now as we continue in recovery.