“On December 12, 2018 at 6:38 p.m. my world literally shattered. I tried to talk but words would not, could not, come out. We had a 2-week-old infant and two toddlers. My babies needed a daddy and I needed an emotionally available husband; but daddy/husband was having an affair with someone he had met years before. Someone he, then, worked with. Someone I considered a close friend. Someone I trusted my children with. I had never felt so betrayed, panicked, devastated, and confused in my life. In hysterics with a newborn in my arms, tears covering my face and head in my sister’s lap, all I could say was, ‘I’m going to die. I’m going to die,’ over and over again.
God carried me through the next several months post-affair discovery. There is no other explanation for how I navigated life as a single mother of three babies, while my husband sought addiction and affair recovery, other than God. The bible tells us God will restore the years the locusts have eaten, and my marriage is a testament to that truth. Maybe you’re walking through a marital trauma and life feels dark; the time will come, some time, I don’t know when – but you will feel the darkness lift and the light shine in again. This is our personal story of addiction, affair, recovery, and faith.
Ryan and I met when I was sixteen working as a lifeguard. We began dating the summer I left for college at Stephen F. Austin and did a long-distance relationship for eighteen months before I transferred to a college closer to him. I ignored the parts of me that wanted to stay in Nacogdoches, which was the birth of our co-dependent relationship and my ongoing attempt to provide him external happiness by abandoning parts of myself. These were the thoughts that perpetually reared their ugly heads: Why was I so afraid to speak my truth? Why was I ignoring the part of me that screamed to stay? Why was I so dishonest with him about my true feelings? What if I used my voice?
After I transferred colleges, Ryan asked me to marry him on December 1, 2012 and we were married in early 2014. Just a little over a year after getting married, we had our first perfect daughter, Brynlee. I didn’t know at the time, but Ryan was battling an addiction to pornography, alcohol, and gambling behind closed doors. In hindsight, I can look back and reflect on the dysfunction that existed early on in our marriage, but at the time, I chalked it up to being newlyweds navigating through ‘breaking away’ from their family of origin and creating a life together. Ryan is not the villain in this story. If I have learned anything through our journey of reconciliation, it is sometimes there is no explanation for another person’s behavior other than we are all broken and in need of healing.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with our second daughter, Harper, that I discovered Ryan’s pornography use. Horrified, baffled, and devastated, I got into fix-it mode – working tirelessly and endlessly to try fix and change Ryan. Does he need therapy? Of course he needs therapy. Is this my fault? How about a twelve-step program? Should I make counseling appointments for him or trust he will do it himself? How can I be a better, more desirable wife in the future to ensure he never watches porn again? These are just some of the thoughts that swirled endlessly for weeks on end.
I would love nothing more than to sit down over a warm cup of coffee with my younger self and tell her Ryan’s porn use has absolutely nothing to do with her. People’s actions generally have very little to do with us and everything to do with what is going on inside of them. I would hug my younger self and explain to her she has nothing to fix here; this isn’t her side of the street or her mess, this isn’t her fault or her responsibility. I would remind her there is hope for reconciliation once Ryan chooses to get honest with himself and that his identity isn’t wrapped in what he has done, but who he is. I’d hold space for her insecurities and extend compassion. I’d comfort her and prepare her for what lies ahead in the coming years: gut-wrenching discoveries that would bring her to her knees and rock her faith like never before, but a transformation on the other side of the mess that can only be explained by the goodness of God.
Now is the point in my story where I should let you know I grew up in a home of recovering addicts. My parents got sober before I was born and currently have several decades of sobriety. I wondered, as I was navigating life with Ryan who was displaying some real signs of addiction, if perhaps I was tainted in some way by my upbringing. Am I overanalyzing his behavior because of what I know about addiction? Am I naïve? I would revisit those questions often over the next few years.
By the time Harper was born, Ryan and I were operating in a pretty predictable cycle: a major slip in his behavior, his promise to make a change, an intentional and attentive few weeks, maybe a couple of nice ‘I’m sorry’ gifts and sweet text messages throughout the days. Fast-forward a few weeks and we were back to square one with Ryan numbing out on any one of his addictions. In response to the craziness unfolding around me, I was going through the motions on autopilot – burying my head in the sand for self-protection, pretending everything was fine and picture perfect to the outside world while collapsing on the inside, pouring every ounce of my existence into being a mother, and looking to my children for fulfillment and happiness. I now know Ryan’s affair began 8 weeks after Harper was born. In hindsight, I understand why my world felt like it was spiraling out of control. A strange thing happens when you’re in a broken and unfaithful marriage; you can smell the smoke, but you can’t see the fire.
In March of 2017, at Harper’s first birthday party, I found out I was pregnant with our third baby, Baker. It would be ten more months until I discovered Ryan’s affair. Those ten months weren’t all bad memories. In fact, Ryan had agreed to attend some sessions with a counselor and dipped his toes into assessing his relationship with alcohol. We took a family vacation to Disney World and the beach, celebrated my 26th birthday over a kid-free weekend in Nashville, and prepared for our first son to make his entrance into the world. I can vividly remember another harsh disconnect between us hit around Halloween of 2018. Another gambling binger had me consumed with stress, and this was just weeks before I was due with Baker. We communicated to one another through fighting followed by silent treatments.
I remember telling a therapist, ‘We sit on opposite sofas in the living room, but I feel like we are on opposite planets. It’s silent and tense. I’m so lonely in this marriage. The loneliness is paralyzing. There’s no intimacy, there’s no passion. He wants nothing to do with me and I feel the same.’ I knew all too well his head was somewhere else. I worried his heart was also elsewhere. I suspected an affair, questioned him about it and begged for the truth. He denied and got defensive at such accusations. I dropped the topic, shamed myself for thinking such things, convinced myself I was crazy and bought into Ryan’s gaslighting. It all felt so emotionally unsafe and unstable, dangerous and toxic.
December 12, 2018 felt much like any other day. We woke up to the happy chaos of having three children under three years of age – diapers, bottles, waffles, and Mickey Mouse. Ryan woke up and went straight to the gym, stayed at work much later than necessary and came home with a case of beer. I tended to the toddlers and the newborn while I waited for him to get home. I chose to spend a lot of my time, back then, waiting on Ryan to get home. I chose to allow my life to revolve solely around being someone’s wife and someone’s mother. Convicted to check Ryan’s phone while he was outside with our toddlers, I discovered the messages that confirmed his affair. It was an out of body experience. I remember feeling like I was watching myself from afar as I scrolled through conversation after conversation my husband was having with another woman. Screenshotting the messages and sending them to myself, I was planning to build up a portfolio of proof I would present in divorce court. I really believed the emotional pain of the discovery would kill me. I had to actively remind myself to breathe and not accidentally drop our ten-day-old infant, who I was carrying in my arms at the time of the discovery. I couldn’t bear the knowledge of an unfaithful husband.
We separated immediately and Ryan moved out of our home. We individually pursued recovery and therapy. I wasn’t sure what the future would hold for our marriage, but I was sure I needed to process and heal from the trauma of infidelity. I was sure Ryan needed to get healthy to be a present, loving father. I agreed to pursue the path of reconciliation through weekly marriage counseling and trauma therapy. Ryan got sober in a recovery program and, in December, celebrated two years of sobriety from alcohol and pornography. In the early days of our recovery, I wondered if reconciliation was the best choice. It was hard to choose love when the love was so painful. I learned Ryan’s affair had nothing to do with me being prettier, smarter, godlier, or more desirable. He was looking to satisfy a need from God and it played out in an affair.
I hardly recognize the person I was before d-day. It seems cliché to say God can take horrific circumstances and use them for His good and perfect plan, but I am living proof of a stronger, smarter, happier and more content and confident woman than I ever was before this tragedy struck my life. Today, I am a small business owner working from home while raising my babies. I live one day at a time; taking my days in strides, one foot in front of the other. Most days I am okay…resting in God’s unfailing love and feeling so thankful for the gift of healing. If I had the pen and was writing my own story, I would have never chosen this journey. I would have written things so differently, free of hurts and pain, free of addiction and infidelity.
When I reflect on how this tragedy shaped my present-day circumstances though, I am so beyond grateful. The marriage I have today, the relationship I have with myself, my faith and my perspective, it’s collectively all so much greater than I could ever imagine. We are far from perfect and some days are excruciating, where I find myself unable to bear the knowledge of Ryan’s affair, fearing living with the knowledge of his infidelity forever will break me in half. Perhaps this is why ‘one day at a time’ and ‘just for today’ works so well. We know God is for marriage. We know He is the ultimate redeemer. We know we don’t have to sort it all out on our own. We are all responsible for the choices we make, and indeed our choices matter, but God is not limited by our earthly choices. He is continually working everything out according to His plan and His purpose. What a sweet relief and sweet reminder.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Ray of Houston, TX. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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