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Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

My Wife’s Affair Shattered (and Saved) Our Marriage

  • Ron Anderson Contributing Writer
  • 2010 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
My Wife’s Affair Shattered (and Saved) Our Marriage

I searched her eyes for the familiar fire. Seeing none, I thought, who is this woman?  My wife of two years had become an instant stranger.  She repeated the sentence I could not understand, "I'm moving out."

I asked, "What are you saying? Why do you want to leave?"

"I'm unhappy…lonely…miserable actually.  There, I said it.  You make me miserable. Maybe with a little distance between us—we'll get closer."

I touched her arm but she pulled away as I said, "That doesn't make any sense. How can distance make us closer?'

"I don't know, but I do know that I can't stay here.  I need some time to sort things out—a little space. I'm not even sure I even love you…that I ever did."

I stood, frozen as I begged, "Please don't go now. Can't you wait until tomorrow?" 

She silently picked up her suitcase, flung her purse over her shoulder, and with a dramatic toss of her hair, walked out our front door.

I knew that I hadn't been the best husband, and that I got angry at her too often and that my need to be "right" often made her wrong. I knew that, lately, she had been distant.

But what I didn't know was that my wife was having an affair.

During the month Nancy was gone, I was a mess. Each time I called her, I would start to cry and ask her what I could do to get her to come home, but she evaded my questions with one-word sentences. Then she would abruptly say, "I gotta go" and hang up.

I asked friends to "spy" on her and they said that she seemed fine... happy. They told me to move on with my life and try to accept the fact that she was gone. When Nancy told me she was filing divorce papers, I believed that our marriage was over.

However, one night, after a miraculous change of heart, (for the full story, read Nancy's book) she came home and said, "I've been lying to you for months, but I'm going to tell the truth now. Ask me anything."

"Is there another man? Are you having an affair?"

She looked away and whispered, "Yes, with a man at work.  But it ends today. I'm going to quit my job tomorrow and I will never see him again. I hope that you will take me back and we can stay married."

I do not regret my choice to forgive Nancy.

Her affair was a symptom of a terminally ill marriage.  I'm not excusing her behavior, but I was NOT an attentive, loving, encouraging husband.  She repeatedly told me how sad, lonely, and discouraged she felt and I selfishly tried to talk her out of her needs. I didn't compliment her enough and I was not the spiritual head of our home.  Our marriage was a mess and a lot of that was my fault. I was also tempted to stray and might have if someone pursued me.

The decision to forgive came quickly, but the rebuilding of our marriage took a long time.  I would feel good one day and hopeless the next. Then she would get frustrated and confused. There might be a week where we would be caring and loving, and then we'd slip into old patterns and have to remind ourselves to get back on track.  

The first thing we did was go to a Christian marriage counselor, and then we started seeking out materials like the Home Builders Series. We knew we had to find out, "Okay, what does a husband do? What is my role? What does that look like?" She had to find out, "What is the wife's role?" So we had to learn some practical things. Probably the one thing that helped me the most was the verse in 1 Peter 3:7 where it instructs me to dwell with my wife in understanding.

For years and years, every comedian on television says, "Oh, I can't understand my wife." It's the proverbial joke in our culture. But if the Bible tells us to dwell with our wives in understanding, it must be possible.

That became my personal mission—to understand my wife.

I learned that my wife is more sensitive than my buddy.  I can tease and make wise cracks at my friend's expense, and he's just going to respond with a playful insult. But when I make fun of my wife, it breaks her down emotionally and spiritually. It hurts her and she pulls away from me.

I learned that if my wife says, "You're tailgating and it's scaring me," I should stop tailgating.  If I love her, why would I want to frighten her?

The more I understood about my wife, and respected those God given differences, the less we argued.  We often had "brush fire arguments" they are the little spats that turn into World War III in 90 seconds.  The more of those brushfires we eliminated, the more the intimacy grew, the more the love grew.

When we got back together, it was a good day if we were just polite to each other. If we could say "please" and "thank you" and not fight or yell, that was as much as we could have hoped for.

We offered each other mercy while we were trying to change.

When we slipped up, we tried not to get too bent out of shape over it because we both knew we were trying. It was like we were two parallel pendulums swinging back and forth, just missing each other. But through self-control and studying God's Word, and putting those principles into our marriage, eventually we became like two pendulums, swinging in sync--together. But it took a time, lots of hard work, and a strong commitment.

Many of the habits we had established were very difficult to break. Before, we were just waiting for the other person to make mistakes so we could point it out. But when we began this new cycle. I was trying to please her and she was trying to please me.

Through these new insights, Nancy realized how much my forgiveness meant to her. She thanked me many times for being willing to take her back.  She treated me with new respect and I began to appreciate her.

It's been over 25 years since Nancy's affair but we've never stopped learning from it.

Our theory is: always be fine-tuning your relationship. Never let your guard down for a moment. Never take each other for granted and be careful not to get caught up in emotions because emotions can deceive us.

We had to learn that the Word of God is our value system. That's the premise we started from, and although our emotions may change, God's Word doesn't change. The truth is the truth.

We are amazed at how far we've come ---we laugh a lot now and really enjoy each other. When we disagree, we do it without a brushfire. Our 21-year-old son often sees us holding hands and he knows that we are living examples of mercy and restoration. 

We had a broken home---but with the Lord's help and a lot of hard work, it's fully restored--stronger than before. My wife's affair shattered and saved our marriage.

Originally posted February 26, 2007

Author Nancy C. Anderson (www.NancyCAnderson.com) and her husband, Ron, recently celebrated their twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. Together they conduct couples' retreats and marriage seminars to help others to predict, prevent or pardon infidelity.