Lishcia Name: LishciaLocation: GeorgiaOccupation: NurseSpouse Testimonial: Read Laverne's Story HereChildren: 2, ages 16 and 20Discovery Date: August 1999 and April 2009Story: Doc and I met in June 1985 and dated for 4 years. Our dating relationship was at times off again, on again due to his habit of seeing other people and lying about it. I rationalized staying in the relationship at first by telling myself we weren’t married, he didn’t have to be faithful. When we became engaged, I believed he would be different; that the deep values and beliefs instilled in him by his parents and his church would come to the surface once we were married. And for the first 8 years or so, I was right, he seemed to change. He was busy with medical school and then residency. I was busy working as a Labor and Delivery nurse, and having our babies. On the surface, we looked happy. But I always felt something was missing. We never connected at a deep, intimate level. In July 1997, we moved to a small town in Georgia and he began working in private practice. I poured my heart and my time into our girls, our home, volunteering at their school, and in church activities. On the surface, we looked like the perfect family. Around 1998, he began to sleep around. I didn’t know for sure, but I felt even more distant from him. During the summer of 1999 I found the strength to face the feeling that he was being unfaithful. I had no real proof, but couldn’t quite figure out holes in his stories about where he was at different times. As a doctor frequently on call and called in at all hours, it was very easy for him to lie and tell me he was working. Late on the night of August 30, 1999, I asked him if he was having an affair and he said yes. I remember feeling like I was watching our conversation from a distance, like I wasn’t really there. He told me it had gone on for about 6 months and, over the next few days, also admitted to more short term affairs. He did not want to leave. I didn’t want him to leave. I just wanted it to go away. Our girls were 3 and 7 and we did not want to split our family. He agreed to talk to our pastor and begin counseling. It took him about 6 weeks to truly end the relationship and sever contact with the other woman. We went to counseling for about 15 months, began to talk more and established a deeper connection than we had before. A year after my discovery of his affairs, his best friend and business partner was killed in a car accident. His friend’s wife was my best friend. They had been our main support throughout the difficult months of the past year. I fell into the role I fit in best: care-giver. I took care of my friend, her children, our children, and as much as he would let me, my husband. Over the coming months, our counseling ended and my friend remarried and moved away. I felt numb and certainly didn’t want to let anyone close enough to hurt me again. I poured my energies into volunteer work, kids’ activities, fund raising, anything and everything to keep busy and keep from thinking too much about why I felt so empty inside. I kept everyone at arm’s length. My husband was always there for the girls’ activities and his responsibilities at work and at home. But we were distant and the distance continued to grow. We continued this way for years. He had several affairs, mostly short term, with little or no emotional attachment. I didn’t know about them at the time. From time to time, I heard something, or sensed something, but I couldn’t face the pain of acknowledging the possibility again. Emotionally, I was so tired. We never really fought much. He was withdrawn and I was irritable and snappish. We went to church, but never really had a personal relationship with God. I felt drawn to God from time to time, but never dwelled on it very long. There was always something else to distract me. In the summer and fall of 2008, I began to face thoughts that he might be having an affair. I even mentioned my suspicions to a friend, but didn’t have the desire to look for proof. In November 2008, I convinced him to go see the movie, Fireproof, with me. I cried through it, but tried to hide my tears from him. He appeared as though the movie didn’t affect him at all, other than being angry because I was emotional. By January, 2009, I had let some of my volunteer responsibilities go. I was afraid for my marriage and began to spend more time at home. I began to listen to Christian music and to think about where God was in my life. I began to pray, off and on. I would find myself in tears and couldn’t figure out why. In late January, 2009, I was looking in a bookstore in the marriage section hoping to find something to help us. I picked up the book, The Love Dare. It was the series of dares from the movie, Fireproof, that we had seen in November. I read the introductory page and one line stood out, “If you will commit to a day at a time for 40 days, the results could change your life and your marriage.” I continued to read, and on the next page, it said, “The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse to be the person you want them to be.” I thought to myself, “If it doesn’t change him, what’s the point?” and I put the book back on the shelf. Over the coming weeks, God continued to draw me. I felt teary when I heard Christian music, and while listening to sermons. I began to pray more and more. In late March, I was on the way to the mall with our daughter, and I felt an overwhelming urge to buy the Love Dare book. I did the first of the dares on March 30. It was to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to my spouse. The next day, the dare was to do one unexpected gesture of kindness. Each day, the book explained a Biblical characteristic of love, such as patience and kindness, and gave me a challenge to show them to my husband. I began to see that I had never really understood love; that it is putting another’s needs ahead of my own, it is choosing to love when I don’t feel like it, to be patient, to guard my heart, to lead it, not to follow it. Many days, the tears flowed as I recognized that we had wasted so many years, not because we didn’t love each other, but we didn’t know how to express love and we had not resolved from the beginning to put God first. On day 20 of the 40 days (April 19), the title was Love is Jesus Christ. As the book spoke of the tremendous love God had for us when He sent Jesus, His only Son, to die for us, I began to weep. I had grown up in church, I had heard it all before, but I never really felt it deep in my heart. I thought about what it would be like to love someone enough that I would be willing to send one of my children to die for them, and I could not fathom a love that great. The book says it like this, “He was willing to love you even when you didn’t love back. He was able to see all your flaws and imperfections and still chose to love you. This means you can now share this same love with your spouse. You can love even when you’re not loved in return. True love is found in Christ alone. After you have received His gift of new life by accepting His death in your place and His forgiveness for your sins, you are finally ready to live the dare.” The challenge or dare for the day was to pray, “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner, change my heart and save me by your grace.” As I sat in my kitchen with tears streaming down my face, I had no idea how God would ask me, and then enable me, to show my husband the same love and grace that He had shown me, that He would help me love even when I wasn’t loved in return. At the time, my husband was out of town, partly for work, and although I didn’t know it at the time, partly to spend time with his affair partner. For some time, I had felt drawn to an acquaintance from my church; a woman I had heard had lived through infidelity with her husband. I asked her to lunch on the spur of the moment, and was finally able to pour out my pain and my suspicions to someone else who had been there. The date was April 24, 2009. On April 25, my husband arrived back home later than he should have been. He told me his flight was delayed. I was suspicious, so I checked his flight status online and found that it had actually landed on time. While he was sleeping, I found a receipt in his belongings for a restaurant meal while he was gone that cost far too much for one person. I felt I had found my proof. Later that day, I said to him, “I know your flight was on time. I know about the receipt for the expensive meal in your bag.” He replied angrily, “You don’t know anything.” Over the next few days, the truth came out in bits and pieces as he admitted that he was having an affair that had lasted more than a year. He felt that he loved the other woman and he had no idea what he wanted to do. And not only that, but he had been sleeping around for years with several other women. As each piece of news came out and broke off another piece of my heart, I had God and His promises that He would never leave me, that He loved me, that He was my hiding place, my rock, my salvation. In His way of providing before I even knew what was coming, He had tenderly brought me to a place in which I knew He was real and could feel His presence. He had also given me the gift, less than 24 hours before discovery, of a godly friend who believed in marriage and the healing power God can have if we allow Him, someone who became my rock, my support, and the person who would drop anything and pray with me and listen to me during the difficult months ahead. Most of all, even during the hard moments of discovery, God gave me the gift of hope. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and my husband could not decide. He would tell me he had ended it, I would find that he hadn’t. I was hurting, scared, and trying to trust God but still grieving. I lost 30 pounds in a few weeks and had to belt a size 0 to keep it on. The emotional pain was so severe; it felt as though my heart was literally breaking. I had moments in which I felt dizzy and faint just from having a conversation with him. I couldn’t eat more than a few bites at a time. I couldn’t sleep more than an hour or two each night. I felt like my mind was racing and I found it difficult to focus. The only thing I had any desire to focus on was God. I read the Bible, I wrote Bible verses on note cards. I read books about who God is and how much He loves us. I was trying so hard to hide everything from our girls, who were then 13 and 17. Friends were concerned because I mostly didn’t leave the house. After about 3 months, I started counseling. I started an antidepressant. The medication helped some and I gained a little weight and was eating and sleeping a bit more. By August, 2009, my husband still had not been able to end the other relationship and stick to it, so we decided he needed to tell the girls and move out. Watching him admit to his teenage daughters that he was seeing another woman and was moving out was heart wrenching. I was left to comfort two girls who were angry, shocked, disappointed, scared and just didn’t understand. But in the midst of all that pain, God was just beginning to work. My husband and I had been talking more in those months between April and August than we had in years. After he moved out, we continued to communicate. In November, with the holidays approaching, he did manage to end the affair, and I allowed him to move back in. However, he didn’t cut all ties with her. He allowed her ways to contact him, and in no time at all, he was seeing her again. I knew almost immediately, but just wanted things to feel normal for Christmas. In January, 2010, we agreed he should move out again. He went through the trauma of once again telling our girls and packing his bags. And God continued to work. We continued to talk. God was giving me the ability each day to love my spouse, to show him grace even while apart. We began to read a book together and go on weekly dates to discuss each chapter. The book was called Messy Spirituality and its message was that God is a God who loves us in spite of our sins, that He wants nothing more than a relationship with us. It told us that it is not about the rules; it is about love, and with that love, comes the willingness to obey the rules. In March, 2010, we repeated the cycle again of him ending the affair, moving back in and then starting it again. Even though it had been almost a year since discovery, I still had hope, but I knew the only way my husband could change would be through God. I prayed, I journaled my prayers, a habit I have continued that is very meaningful to me. I had hope, but I was looking for something, for anything, that would move him to end the affair and surrender to God. I did a search online and found the Affair Recovery website. As I read the testimonials and other information there, I saw even more hope. However, we were in Georgia and Affair Recovery was in Texas. I prayed, “How am I going to convince this man who thinks he is in love with another woman to travel to Texas to attend a weekend seminar with counselors and people we’ve never heard of?” I felt that God was telling me to just ask my husband and He would do the convincing. When I asked him to look at the website, he did, and without much hesitation, he agreed to go. I was surprised, but thrilled. In April 2010, almost one year to the day after discovery, we attended EMS Weekend. When we started our rental car at the airport in Austin, the song Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North, was playing. The words to the song are, “The walls you built up are just glass on the outside. So let ‘em fall down. There’s freedom waiting in the sound. When your walls fall to the ground, we’re here now. This is where the healing begins.” I was encouraged that we were in the right place and I’ve looked back at that moment many times and am always stunned by how God spoke to me very clearly through music. Music was a lifeline throughout this ordeal and it seemed that most songs I heard had a message meant for me. EMS weekend was the most emotional 3 days we have ever had. As I began to understand more about the dynamics of an affair, I began to see how it had occurred and how we were prime candidates: two people who did not put God first, had no idea how to truly love, and had walls sky high around our hearts for years. As we went through the homework in the evenings and the soul searching that the weekend helped us do, we began to feel even more of a connection. By the end of the weekend, I just knew we were going home to a changed life and marriage. My husband resolved to end the affair, by phone, with an accountability partner listening in. He did, but I knew within days, his heart was still not really home, that he had not truly surrendered to God. He began seeing her again very soon. On May 17, 2010, 3 days before our youngest daughter graduated from the 8th grade and 6 days before our oldest daughter graduated from high school, he moved out for the third time. I was devastated. The connections we made at EMS proved invaluable as I continued regular phone counseling sessions with Leslie Hardie, one of the counselors who was present that weekend. I also enrolled in Harboring Hope and found the information in the curriculum was very helpful to me. Leslie wrote Harboring Hope and it was very helpful to be able to also discuss all my feelings with her. My husband, even with the affair continuing, periodically continued phone sessions with Rick. They continually reminded us to listen for God. Almost every session, they would ask, “What is God telling you?” That question helped us listen for the one voice that mattered. When you are going through this, you get tons of advice from your well intentioned family and friends. Unless they’ve been there and have a relationship with God, that advice is not always what you need. So thinking about what God was telling me helped me stop and listen for Him, to let Him guide my decisions. I tried to continue to pray and trust God. Some days I succeeded. By this point, God had provided me with two more Christian friends who supported me, prayed with me, and encouraged me to listen to God’s voice above all others. But I was confused. I was depressed. I began needing more and more sleeping pills and anti anxiety pills to get through the nights and the days. My husband and I still communicated, but he seemed more distant than before. In July, 2010, my mother had open heart surgery. I spent much of two weeks at the hospital with her and then another week caring for her in my home before she was able to go home on her own. Immediately after, one week later, I helped our oldest daughter move into her college dorm and said goodbye to her. That same weekend was our 21st wedding anniversary. Two days later, our youngest daughter had her wisdom teeth removed, and I spent the next few days caring for a child in pain, with very little left to give. I felt I couldn’t take much more. At the end of that week, my husband came over to check on our daughter. He stayed only a few minutes and as he was leaving, I asked, “Are you going to her?” meaning the other woman. He said “yes” and walked out the door.Struggle: Compared to the previous months of trauma, you would think that wouldn’t mean much, but it was like the proverbial last straw. As he walked out the door, I felt so helpless, so hopeless, so tired, so far from God. I took 2 sleeping pills and went to bed. Every time I woke up for the next 3 days, I took more pills and went back to sleep. I remember very little about that weekend, but know my husband was in and out, and so were my friends. On Monday, with my judgment clouded by several days of too much medication and several months of pain, I decided I didn’t want to live. I got up, took a shower, let some of the medication wear off enough that I seemed more normal to everyone. My husband picked up our daughter for some back to school shopping. I sat in our bed wishing I could pray and just wanting the pain to go away. I poured the contents of all the pill bottles on the bed and looked at them. I wrote notes to my husband, to my girls, and to the other woman. I sat and stared at the pills for a long time and then felt an overwhelming feeling that I should not do it. I put them back in the bottles, hid the notes, took two sleeping pills and went back to sleep. When they came home later, they had no idea what I had almost done. My husband had been looking for the pill bottles all weekend. He found them and took them so that I could not continue to sleep through every day. Over the next few days as my head began to clear, I realized how close I had come to dying, how I had not trusted God, and I was overwhelmed with sorrow. As I was praying and asking God to forgive me, I felt Him say to me, “My child, I was holding you the entire time.” I felt so loved, such a sense that no matter what happened, God loved me, had a purpose for me, and would somehow bring good from all this pain. My husband, as a result of the weekend spent watching my pain, once again tried to end the affair, but did not surrender to God, and the cycle began again. I began to feel as though I could not hang on much longer to the hope of our marriage working out. I knew that God would be there for me, but I was so disappointed that things were not working out as I had hoped. I had seen an attorney three times over the year and a half, but never felt that I could follow through with actually filing for divorce. In November, I resolved to collect the remaining financial information I needed in order to file. Because of the approaching holidays. I met obstacle after obstacle and finally resigned myself to waiting until January to file. I decided to pour myself into enjoying Christmas with my daughters and one last Christmas with my husband, if he wanted to be involved. He did and spent most of December in our home, although he had not moved back in or ended the affair. Friends thought I was crazy, but I was praying, and I could feel God leading. We spent time as family, relived memories, and enjoyed traditions. A few days after Christmas, through God’s way of working in ways we least expect, a friend of mine heard that the other woman was bragging at work about her new boyfriend. As she found out more details, my friend realized that it didn’t sound as though the other woman was describing my husband. I kept it to myself and asked God that if He wanted me to tell my husband He would show me. On New Year’s Day, my husband was very antsy and distant. He told me he didn’t think he could end the affair and be faithful to me. I could only ask him one question, “Before you decide that for sure, are you certain you can trust her?” He looked at me funny, and for several hours seemed angry and withdrawn. Later that evening as we were talking a bit more, I told him I had heard she had a new boyfriend. He didn’t seem surprised, said he had to leave, but would be back. When he came back later, he had found the proof he needed that she was seeing someone else. I found myself in the unusual position of comforting my husband as he dealt with the pain of finding out the other woman had lied to and “cheated” on him. With God’s help, I made a choice just like I had over and over for two years, to love him even when he didn’t deserve it, to see his flaws and imperfections and still choose to love him. I made a choice to continue to show him grace and mercy, and in that process, we both deeply discovered what love really is. Over the next week, once again, God put something in our lives just when we needed it. We attended a weeklong series at our church with a speaker who was so hard to schedule that he had been scheduled 18 months before. Only God knew how much my husband would need to hear, at that moment, the message the speaker so eloquently delivered: that Jesus wants to be our friend in spite of our failures and shortcomings, that He loves us, and wants a relationship with us. My husband finally surrendered to God, ended the affair, and moved back in on January 9, 2011.Course of Action: Recovery has been a process of learning to show love in different ways, to communicate without walls and to express appreciation. For me, trust was reestablished much easier than I ever thought possible because he did and still does everything he can do to be accountable. I trust God with him, and in turn, trust him. I have seen the man I married become a different person, one that puts God first and then me. One of the things Rick and others had told him for months is that if he continued the affair; either he or his affair partner would repeat the same pattern of lying and cheating on each other that they had done to their spouses. Her actions proved Rick right. We did have some struggles with her attempts to continue to contact him. However, my husband has been up front with me about any attempt on her part, and together with Rick and Leslie, we decided the best way to handle those attempts are to ignore them. We returned to EMS in April 2011 for a second time to go through the weekend again with a different perspective: after the affair, not during. We continued counseling with Rick and Leslie, separately and as a couple, for about a year after reconciliation. We have learned to put God first, to voice appreciation, to have fun, to laugh, and to recognize when we start falling back into old patterns of behavior and to make changes immediately. Our marriage is better than it has ever been; better than I ever dreamed marriage could be. We aren’t perfect, but we know the God we love loves us in spite of our imperfections. This past summer, on our 23rd wedding anniversary, as we stood overlooking the ocean, with our girls looking on, we renewed our wedding vows. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had been a part of a miracle.Lessons Learned: Learning forgiveness has been huge. What does it look like? How is it possible? For me, forgiving the other woman was much more difficult than forgiving my husband. I saw the change in him as he accepted God’s forgiveness and it truly seemed that he was a different person. Forgiving him came easily. However, it did not for a woman whom I do not know, and based on her efforts to continue to try to insert herself into our marriage, did not show any change. I’ve learned, though, that forgiveness is not based on the other person’s actions or lack of actions. I still struggle some days, but the way my heart softens so that I don’t hate her is to look vertical, not horizontal. God forgave me, He forgave my husband, He is willing to forgive all of us. He loves her as much as He loves me. Her sin in His eyes is no greater than mine. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I talk to her or have any contact with her. It just means I let go of my desire to get even. I wish her no ill will. I recognize she is a sinner, just as we all are. And she is loved by a God who wants nothing more than a relationship with her.Encouragement: It’s now been two years and two months since the affair ended. I’m thankful every day that we made the choice to do the work and allow God to heal our marriage. I am even thankful for the affair. It was the catalyst that brought us to where we are today, happier and more content than we have ever been, knowing we are loved by each other and by a God who is so much bigger than the pain of infidelity.