After the Affair: Striving and Thriving in Jesus by Telie Sumner


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”
Isaiah 43:18
 
Many months after learning of my husband’s affair, the day I had feared for so long finally arrived. I rounded a corner at my workplace and ran right smack-dab into the other woman. It was a huge surprise to us both! I don’t remember either of us saying anything. All I could think about was getting back to my desk and picking up my Bible to see what God had to say. The Scripture above is exactly what He gave me, and I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated it to myself since that day!
            When I look back, it is so clear that for years God had been preparing me for the day I asked my husband about his affair. We were high school sweethearts, and on the eve of our 29th wedding anniversary I confronted him about it. Though we had spent most of our lives together, in that moment, with his cold, unremorseful response, he seemed like a total stranger. He said that he had been unhappy for a long time and was determined to leave our marriage. I was shattered and numb. But rather than dwell on what I could not change, God immediately spoke to my heart about what I needed to take ownership of in the demise of our marriage.
For example, God led me to address with a counselor a significant event from my childhood that I had stuffed deep down in my soul. Many of us are in bondage in ways that we are not even aware of. My husband was the only other person with whom I’d shared about this, but it was early in our marriage, at a time when people rarely addressed past woundedness. After so many years, God was bringing it up to the surface and opening the door to set me free!!! I also began to realize that in many ways I had prioritized parenting and busyness over my husband and our relationship. 😊
In the days and weeks that followed, I spent hours each day on my face seeking God, reading His Word, and allowing Him to breathe truth over me. Never in my life have I felt His presence so vividly as during this season. God became not just my Lord, but my husband, my counselor, my healer, and my precious Heavenly Father. He gave me unexplainable JOY in the midst of complete uncertainty. Whether or not my husband returned, I knew that God would take care of me.
Early on, God gave me Psalm 32:10, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Each time I had a conversation with my husband I would leave knowing that it was God, not I, who had done the talking. God gave me the confidence to know that in spite of what Satan was trying to tell my husband, I knew him better than anyone on this earth! And even though he said he was “happy” with his new life, I knew he was headed to a place of deep misery. God was able to use me as His instrument, equipping me to act more as a friend and less as a wounded wife during this time. I was able to extend forgiveness and show him that no matter what happened, I was not going to live my life with bitterness towards him. As I began to pray on behalf of our marriage, God directed my attitude and demeanor in every conversation we had. Only through God’s grace was I able to communicate with him solely as someone who cared about helping him understand why he was in this situation. True surrender is not being a doormat and submitting in the wrong way but giving of ourselves in a way that allows others to know our true intent is for their good, no matter the outcome for us.
In God’s perfect timing, He worked in my husband’s heart and gave him the courage to end the other relationship. We spent the next year examining our marriage with a fine-tooth comb to expose many things that needed to be worked on. We changed the way we communicated, knowing that we were not each other’s enemy, but the ENEMY was our enemy. Instead of holding things in and allowing bitterness to grow, we learned how to feel safe sharing our deepest thoughts and concerns about our relationship. We changed our demeanor and tone of voice in ways that brought bonding rather than conflict. More than anything, God used physical intimacy, the very thing that Satan had used to try to destroy our marriage, to begin to heal our marriage. I completely surrendered to God this aspect of our relationship, though it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and learning how to love my husband better through sex. Through that surrender, God gave us a joy and completeness that far outweighs anything my husband could find in someone who was not his wife. What we have discovered exceeds all that we had in the first 29 years of our marriage.
            Even though I thought I was doing all the right things to make my husband feel loved and respected, I have learned that one important thing he needs from me is to love him behind closed doors with total freedom, just as God directs us in Song of Solomon. It has now been 13 years, and we can truly say that we would go through it all again to have what we have today. God continues to give us “a brand new thing” as we lean on Him through every stage of life, striving toward obedience to Christ and thriving in God’s love toward us. Our marriage is safe in His arms.