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.