“‘You deserve better than me.’ The words popped up on my screen. I knew my marriage was stressed but I had no idea it was about to snap like a twig. I thought the tension was from juggling a new baby and a toddler. I asked what was going on. ‘You should leave me,’ was his response. I was shocked and instantly felt tears sting my eyes and fear rip through my gut. What was going on?! I headed out of the office early to get home and calm things down.
The situation began to spiral out of control from there. He had been drinking. After being sober for 6 years he informed me he was drunk. 6 years of sobriety gone in a flash. 6 years ago, his drinking almost caused us to call it quits. I told him then if he started drinking again, I would leave. That was way before even the thought of kids. He agreed to go back into AA and counseling. Then he looked over and said, ‘I need to tell you something, but you will leave me.’ My response was unkind but honest in that moment, ‘I might be leaving you either way, so you might as well be honest.’
Then he confessed to the affair. I was in complete shock. He was the last person I ever thought could do such a heinous act. I was appalled by the person sitting next to me. I held it together in front of our young son, but when I went into the kitchen to give the baby a bath, I let go. I’m pretty sure my sweet little baby was showered equally with my tears as much as the bath water. That night was a blur, but I know I asked questions. They were along the lines of ‘did you love her?,’ ‘How long,’ and ‘why?’ He slept on the floor while I cried myself to sleep upstairs.
The next day started a journey I was not expecting. I started off educating myself with lawyers about divorce. I thought it was the next option for me. I prayed and prayed and the only thing I heard God whisper was, ‘Wait.’ Waiting was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to come up with a solution and fix it. I’m a problem solver. I waited to make any decisions. My husband pleaded for a second chance. I finally agreed to go to a counseling session with him. There the therapist reassured us we could overcome this. I didn’t believe him. Over the next 5 months my husband and I remained separated. We both started going to our own therapist. He also started AA. I also gave him a list of changes I wanted if we were going to have a new life together.
I was so hurt, and the pain ached in deep places. The pain was turning into bitterness. One afternoon it poured out like venom as I yelled at my little boy. In that moment I knew I needed to do more to heal and let go of the pain. I poured into myself into all the books, devotionals, podcasts, and articles. I watched YouTube videos on whether it was possible to survive something like this. Everything I found was from a therapist point of view. I could not find a survivor telling her own story. Through my healing I was able to forgive the other woman. I remember the day sent her a text letting her know, ‘I forgive you.’ It took a load from my soul that had become unbearable.
As I progressed through my healing, I decided to take part in a divorce care class. I joined a group that was already underway. Looking back now, this might have been why God needed me to wait. I had to first get through the baby steps of healing. This class was going to be the leap of faith and the push I needed. The night I joined was about how divorce affects children. I listened to stories from counselors, couples, and children recount how horrible an experience it is for them. I knew that divorce wasn’t always the best for children, but I had no idea the deep and long-term effects. My role as a mother had been my priority over the last 5 months. I felt like I would be failing my boys if I didn’t give my marriage more of a fighting chance. Divorce went from option A to further down the alphabet. I was lucky to have a husband that wanted to reconcile. I had a husband who was working hard towards to trying to fix the damage he had done. Our home life was not negative or nasty. My children were not in danger of a raging alcoholic father. Things were good, I am a lucky.
This is going to sound so random, but I remember a long time ago reading a survival guide book, but it was about random things. One of the situations to survive is if your hands and feet are tied together and you are thrown into a lake or pool. The way you survive is to allow yourself to sink to the bottom. You push yourself off, so it propels you to the top. You catch your breath and propel yourself towards the shallow side a little at a time. In the beginning I would hit bottom every few hours, then every few days, then weeks. Now it is only occasionally that a memory will try to drag me to the bottom. My husband is there to offer reassurance in those moments and create new ones.
The counseling continues, and I think it always will. It is healthy to have a place to talk in a safe and supported environment. I have become a healthy person through all of this. To rebuild my self-confidence, I became a body coach. I pour love and support into other women. I don’t want anyone to feel unloved or not good enough. I carried those feelings for too long. I work regularly through personal development and spiritual growth. I show up daily for my marriage and my children. They will know a story of grace and forgiveness. That life isn’t easy, but even in the mess it can become beautiful. God doesn’t allow the awful things to happen without there being good in it.
I must work on forgiveness daily. It was a hard concept for me to wrap my head and heart around. How could I ever forgive something like an affair? Then I saw this quote and from my own experience I knew it was true. ‘Forgiveness doesn’t excuse one’s behavior; Forgiveness prevents one’s behavior from destroying your heart.’
I share my story so others might know there is another way. I searched for one like mine. One that offered some answers, hope, and peace. This has been a long, hard road; but divorce isn’t always the answer. Know there is no shame in trusting again, in loving again. A friend of mine told me at the beginning of my journey, ‘remember you fall the way you lean.’ I decided to lean towards love. If no other person supports your decision, know that I support you!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Lula Theriot of Georgia. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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