Christan: Thank you, Chad, for your willingness to be part of this series on suffering. We're talking today about something radically personal, and I'm grateful you're okay with opening up to us. The pain of betrayal woven with deception is like none other. My hope is that by your openness, others who've experienced infidelity in their own relationships or broken marriages for other reasons will hold fast to the hope for redemption. Tell us your story.
Chad: Okay, let's see. I was married for 12 years, and the last couple years of marriage my wife had seemed at times unhappy, not only with our marriage but more with life and with her relationship with God... and was kind of at a point where she was wanting to rebel against the Church, rebel against anybody putting any kind of any standards or any kind of rules on her. She reconnected with this guy she knew from high school because she felt like she had shunned him when she became a Christian. She felt very much like it was a mission to repair a relationship and potentially lead him to Christ.
Christan: So you continued to confront her?
Chad: Yes, her intentions and the need for it. I was very naive and didn't suspect any kind of infidelity. I was way naive. It was against my wishes, against my will, when I felt like there was some hanging out and some time spent together that shouldn't have happened... coming home late. When it was questioned, I was told by her that I should let her be and that I should let her figure it all out, that there was nothing to worry about, nothing to question. Even against the better judgment of her friends, she continued to pursue the relationship.
Christan: Did you tell anyone what you were going through?
Chad: Yes, I had a couple friends I was trekking with and they helped me process my frustrations.
Christan: How did you figure it out? When did the truth of it all become evident?
Chad: I went out of town to visit my dad. He was about to die, as he was suffering from terminal cancer. So I left town unexpectedly. I left at a time when she was down and depressed. She wasn't going to go with me because she was trying to finish up some grad school stuff. Her friend -- this guy -- ended up calling her and she went to hang out again. I guess that was the first night she spent the whole night with him.
She ended up in the hospital a few days later, right about the time my dad passed. She was having panic attacks, and I didn't really know what was going on. Basically, I made a choice to miss my dad's funeral to take care of my wife in the hospital. At that time, I was still very unsuspecting and naive. There were a couple other instances that week where she left to go see him and and finally I confronted her and she admitted she was having an affair.
Christan: Did you ever feel like it was your fault?
Chad: I didn't necessarily blame myself for the affair. If anything, I blamed myself for being so naive. I knew she was unhappy. We had tried very, very hard for a very long time to deal with it in counseling. It was several years of counseling that dealt with unhappiness and depression and disappointment, marriage not being what she thought it would be. In her mind, she struggled with the thought that I wasn't her soul mate. She wanted me to be her soul mate, but she felt like I wasn't, felt like I wasn't made for her. She sort of second-guessed being married and didn't know what to do with the feeling like, "Maybe I married the wrong person."
Christan: Did people judge you because your marriage started to unravel?
Chad: I don't think so. However, I think she felt very judged by the Christian community. Where I struggled was the fact that I always wanted to be on the end where I was helping people, not on the side where I needed help. But besides that internal struggle, I felt supported by the Church.
Christan: Were you mad at God?
Chad: Not necessarily mad at God... at times I was frustrated that I didn't see this coming, but mad at God? No.
Christan: So then what happened? Did you seek a different type of counseling? Did you guys separate?
Chad: Our counselor recommended we spend some time apart to clear our heads and figure out what each of us wanted. The counselor specifically encouraged my wife to decide what she wanted. For me, I needed space and clarity of mind to figure out how to deal with the fact that my wife cheated on me. However, I found it extremely difficult to all of a sudden pull apart and not have contact after eleven years of marriage.
Christan: Even though she had hurt you?
Chad: Yes. It was really tough because I was so hurt by her, yet she was my best friend. We used to talk through everything and now we were distant. I was upset. I still loved her and wanted to understand why it happened. After out time apart, I was willing to dialogue with her and try to figure it all out.
Christan: Was she ever repentant?
Chad: I would say initially because of the effects of things... I think she was sorry. I don't know if she ever got to the point of repentance because after trying to work through things for a couple months, she re-engaged with the relationship and decided she didn't want to be married to me. At this point I went to the church and said "I need some help. I need to know how to walk through this." I wasn't ready to give up on my marriage, and I was asking the Church to step in and try to help restore it.
Christan: Did it work?
Chad: Initially she was receptive to the help, but the Church asked her to cut off her relationship with the other guy. A few months later, however, she was still involved with him. At that point, she told the church leadership, "I'm not interested in you guys intervening" and she blamed the Church for not helping her and for not being more involved.
I knew at that point nothing was going to change, and I knew I would have to file for divorce. The Church asked me to wait 30 days and allow for opportunity for change to happen.
Christan: How did you find healing?
Chad: After the shock hit me, I literally retreated for two weeks by myself. I found a friend who had a house that I could use over Christmas break. It was just me. I basically spent two weeks with God. I dialogued with friends from time to time, but I wanted to hit things head on. I decided to just dive in and deal with the situation. I think that was probably the biggest thing that helped... to take it straight to God and spend time by myself... to spend time in prayer... to soak in His grace and be where I was and not pretend it didn't happen.
Christan: I find it fascinating that when everything became so clear, so many people shut God out of situations. You ran toward Him. We typically blame God. We don't want Him.
Chad: My parents are divorced, and I don't think that my parents ever dealt with the divorce. They just moved on. I don't think they ever ran directly into it to deal with it. I knew I'd have to deal with it sometime.
Christan: Has God redeemed any of the brokenness? How has He restored your perspective on life? Your perspective on women?
Chad: Redemption. I think that two week time period allowed me to go to the core of who I was. I was able to peel away layers and get to the core of the real issues in my life that I needed to deal with. There was redemption in that. I asked people to walk along side me. There was redemption in that. And I felt like that was a greenhouse of growth for me - to get through to the other side and know I've learned from it.
Where am I now? I did meet someone later. She and I connected on suffering and with losing a spouse. With grief. Connecting with her on those issues opened a door to a new marriage. I have a chance to start again. I think I understand marriage a lot better now. I understand my own shortcomings a lot more than I did in my first marriage.
Christan: Do you think your journey through betrayal has impacted your ability to trust others?
Chad: Great question. If I had not dealt with what I did, if I hadn't run to God immediately, I would probably still struggle to trust people. But I don't think it affects me. I allowed it to be what it was. I understood it wasn't me that caused the infidelity, so for me to be cautious in outside relationships doesn't really make any sense.
Christan: How have you used your suffering to help other men and women struggling through hard marriages?
Chad: Since I've gone through this, I've had four or five friends who are at risk for infidelity in their own marriage, who are on the edge of divorce, or have gone through divorce, or have had some similar things happen. And it's amazing to me -- it's totally God -- that you run into people with similar stories. And I can help people through their stories. I've encouraged several people. Even my wife now -- she's taken some of my insight and encouraged her own friends who are going through similar stories.
Christan: Have you been able to forgive your ex-wife yet?
Chad: That's a tough question. Yes, I would say yes. But put in the same room -- would I still feel tension and hurt and stress? Yes. Does that mean I don't forgive her? Not necessarily. But I do think for the rest of my life, I'll struggle with those feelings and give them back to God again. Do I regret my choice of being married the first time? Absolutely not. Do I regret any of the experiences I've been through? Absolutely not. God uses all of it to make you who you are. The place where I am now and the way God has grown me is a result of what I've been through. Forgiveness is a choice.
Christan: Thank you so much for your vulnerability and transparency. I know, Chad, that you'll continue to help many people.
May we choose to see everyone through the eyes of Christ. People like Chad. People like Chad's ex-wife. And while Chad's story is not my own, I have felt the sting of betrayal. And I have hurt others through my choices.
In some ways I've seen God redeem the pain. And in some situations I'm still waiting for full healing. My own. And others.
If only we could move time and immerse ourselves in past situations and choose differently. But our Maker knew how sin would unravel each of our lives. He knew He'd have to be the Redeemer. And He chose that for Himself. Oh, the irony of the Gospel. He chose to be broken to heal my brokenness.
Let's join Him in healing the world.
See you Thursday as we look at Parenting a Child with Disabilities.