“In the summer of 2007, I graduated college and married my high school sweetheart. I remember almost everything about that summer. It seemed I had everyone’s attention. My family and friends were swirling around me as they hosted parties, bridal showers, and worked for hours getting the details of my wedding day shored up. Details, for some reason, I didn’t really care to pay attention to.
Looking back, even though I was having fun celebrating, I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of a performance. I was making a very intentional choice to marry him, but in retrospect, I wasn’t sure about it.
I was only 22. I was bold and I was vivacious, but I had not yet learned the power of trusting my own intuition. I didn’t have words to describe how I was feeling, but I knew something wasn’t right about marrying him. However, everyone loved us as a couple, and I convinced myself the opinions of others were more trustworthy than the nagging feeling deep inside me.
My ex husband was well known in our community, and eventually a pastor at our very large church. It always seemed he made everyone happy, but I noticed he rarely connected on a deep level. With me, he avoided deep connection, and there was a part of him which was genuinely irresponsible with my heart. But at the time, I wasn’t fully aware of this reality.
But how could I know? Though I was nervous walking down the aisle, I watched my soon-to-be husband look me in the eyes and vow his life to me. I took a deep breath, gathered my courage, and I promised my life to him in return. He seemed so happy and sincere. He seemed honest, and I had no idea he actually wasn’t. It never occurred to me on the day he vowed his life to me, there was a nine-year-old little girl somewhere he would eventually trade me for 10 years later when she was just barely an adult.
We were married for a decade, and had two beautiful boys. Not every moment of those ten years were bad. There were a lot of fun times. But when I look back on those ten years a thick cloud of sorrow hangs over that decade. I remember being more lonely, angry, ignored, isolated, and out of control than I ever thought possible. I quite nearly lost myself completely.
I spent way too much energy in trying to keep his attention, but nothing I ever did (or didn’t do) would ever make him treasure me. Over a long period of time, he chronically undervalued my worth which snowballed into him choosing to discard me for someone else. What I would come to realize is marrying him and ignoring my intuition was the greatest mistake of my life God would use to bring forth my two greatest joys, my babies.
This is where regret and joy peacefully co-exist in my heart.
I remember getting coffee with my mom before I found out about my ex’s affair. I had already told her and all my close family and friends he was threatening to leave, and his explanations didn’t make much sense. I have always had a core fear of betrayal, and also of losing my family. For better or worse, I was so protective of him because he was part of my family. And it paralyzed me to think, as I worked to protect him, he was working to hurt me by stringing a web of lies.
During that coffee date, my mom asked me, ‘Do you think he is cheating on you?’ ‘No.’ I said, (rejecting my instinct). ‘He says everyone is crazy for thinking that. Besides, I have no evidence, and I just can’t believe he would want do that to me!’ Then my mom said, ‘If he is cheating, or if he leaves, I don’t want you to close your heart to love, Lauren.’
I was holding back anger. She was describing something that could be found only after my worst fears came to fruition, and I had zero emotional capacity to look beyond my fears. I told her, ‘Marriage has drained me, and if love is like this, I’d rather be alone.’
I wasn’t long after when I found out about his affair. Early one morning I woke him up and I confronted him with evidence. He confessed and wasn’t remorseful in the slightest. The affair had been going on for months just like my intuition had been telling me. When he finally let the truth come out, something shifted. I was face to face with my worst fears, and it didn’t overcome me. The bold girl inside me showed up as a woman, and I overcame it.
I shoved him out of the house and slammed the door shut. It was extremely symbolic for what happened in my heart at that very moment. As I slammed the door on him, my heart for him slammed shut as well. It was over. I was done. I had enough. I would no longer protect him or love him. He lost the honor to hold any piece of my heart. I filed for divorce within two weeks, and though it would take a while for the wounds to heal, I never missed him, not even for one second. That reality is still true today. I was devastated and relieved all at once. The truth was a heavy blow to my heart, but it was also the catalyst to my freedom. There was no going back.
That’s the reality I found myself in, an injustice I was at war with. Used. Disposed of. Discarded. Abused. Tossed aside. Broken. These were some of the labels infidelity tried to stamp on my soul. But my story was in God’s hands, and God doesn’t ask permission when he sets out to write a masterpiece.
While I was attempting to clean up the mess my life had become, Blake (along with his very young daughter) was living one block away from me, grieving the loss of his beautiful wife, Jenna. Just about a year prior, she had lost her battle to cancer at too young of an age.
Blake and I have a lot of mutual friends, but our paths never really crossed until Christmas Day, 2017, (very soon after I kicked out my ex-husband). I was taking a very emotional walk with my dog that afternoon, and I absentmindedly turned down Blake’s street. Blake was sitting outside his house, and he approached me. He gave me a hug and said, ‘I heard what he did to you, and no man has the right to treat any woman the was he treated you. You never deserved that. You deserve far better.’
I didn’t have a lot to say to him in return. I was still dizzy with emotion, and honestly, I didn’t feel like talking. But I just remember watching him talk and my whole being began to feel safe. My life changed that day. Not by what was said, but more by his presence. And the reality is, I changed his life that day too. Blake stepped into my path, and I boldly stood still. I didn’t run or dodge. I stood there having had overcome my greatest fears, and I would soon find out I had the emotional capacity to see love beyond fear. And standing right in my line of vision was Blake.
We became fast friends. He was one of the only people who could handle my raw emotion which was covering my daily life. And that was because he was as intimately acquainted with grief as anyone could become. We understood each other, and friendship and support felt very natural.
He would regularly pick me up from my house and we would aimlessly drive down back roads and side streets for hours. Some times we talked a lot, and other times, we would say nothing. We were just happy to listen to good music and watch the landscape move past. It was the most beautiful space for me to work through my pain. With a safe, non-judgmental friend, and the scenic backdrop of the rolling hills of Kentucky. He gave me a place to breathe, be, cry, scream, and give into the deep exhaustion that came from going through an unjust divorce.
There were times the trauma of infidelity would get the better of me and I would push him away, but he knew my pain wasn’t who I was and he didn’t let it dictate his reactions. In every moment, he reminded me I was ok, and I would eventually be more than ok. He reminded me my true identity was far more powerful than the false identity the behavior of my ex tried to impose on me. And I just need to say this; any man who encourages a woman to reclaim her own power is a rare find. That man is a force to be reckoned with. That is the type of man Blake is.
Obviously, it didn’t take long for us to fall in love. In a cyclone of emotion, backed by a soundtrack dominated by Coldplay songs, our hearts forged a bond deeper than words can express. I never knew love could be like this, and my heart was not only open to it, my heart thrived. Blake, who had the emotional fortitude to sacrificially love and honor Jenna, fully and completely, until she took her final breath, now decided to love me. Blake is a miracle of a human being, and now he is my miracle. I have no idea how I got so lucky.
The love we had was so deep. We were not madly in love like children get, we were deeply in love. Our love was solid even though the emotions were still dizzying at times. He told me regularly he knew from the first time we met he could never see another day go by without me in it, and it didn’t take long for me to feel the same way. In fact, in the times I pushed him away, it felt like my intuition was screaming at me. I knew in my gut if I rejected his love, I would be making the biggest mistake of my life. You see, finding out the truth about my ex’s infidelity ended up being about so much more than that. Every lie that was exposed, was a truth which led to my personal vindication. Every moment of ignoring my intuition and being tricked into not trusting my own gut vanished, and I stepped onto center stage. And even though it seemed crazy to move on so fast, I refused to ignore my intuition for one more second and I gave him the green light to propose.
The day he proposed to me he told me, ‘Before I met you on Christmas Day, I felt lost. When you came into my life I didn’t realize you were brought to save mine even though you felt broken. I will never leave you or your boys. I will always fight to protect you, and us. You are a treasure I will never let go of.’ He asked me to be his wife, and I said, ‘YES’ with an explosive confidence and excitement. I had never been more sure about anything in my life.
We had a Christmas wedding and so many friends and family came to celebrate with us. I was not nervous vowing my life to Blake. I confidently walked myself and my boys down the aisle towards he and his daughter, knowing it was the best decision I have ever made.
With that said, I was completely aware I had a lot about marriage to un-learn, as well as a lot about myself to re-learn, and it was difficult to adjust to a new life at first. But this beautiful man has never stood in the way of any of my healing.
Recently, I woke up and Blake wasn’t in bed. I didn’t realize it, but he had woken up with one of our kids who had been crying. Triggered, I felt my heart race without warning, and I got out of bed to look for him. I found him sitting in the kitchen. And though it hasn’t happened in a long time, my heart was uncontrollably bracing itself for something bad. Blake just beamed when he saw me, and he reached out his arms. He wrapped me up, and said, ‘I’m never going to leave you. We will be together until we are old and gray.’ I just melted into his chest and felt years of torturous nights fade from my memory. Only real love has the power to do that.
And I also know this: our wounds do not have the power to define us! Every bad story we thought was the end, may likely be the beautiful beginning to a story we never dreamed possible. No injustice, no battle, and no dark night last forever. It will always give way to the blazing dawn of hope. The truth is, the nighttime was once my enemy, but now I consider it a friend. Because it was in confines of the dark I was set free to take flight with the rising sun, and in that, I will always rejoice.
Hold on to hope, friends. The light is coming, and it brings with it a redeemed story.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Maddux of Louisville, KY. You can follow her on Instagram here. 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.
Read more inspiring stories about life after infidelity here:
‘Please don’t leave me. You can have us both.’ I panicked. I must’ve dropped the ball somewhere.’: Woman recalls pain of infidelity, finds happiness with new husband, ‘I didn’t think people like him existed’
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