SHARED BY VANESSA
Running on Empty
My story is about forgiveness, love, and restoration. This is my story.
I never thought these events would be part of my story, but I am glad they are. My husband and I have been married for about seven and a half years. We married when I was twenty-three and he was thirty-two. I always thought marriage would be easy as long as we loved each other. The first few years were great because we were still in the "honeymoon" stage. We had our son in 2012.
A couple years after that, my husband started working for a friend and only worked part-time as a driver at his original job. This meant a lot of out-of-town work. He wasn't home, and I started to feel neglected and unloved. Around the same time, he began working out at a gym in our area. He would go there on Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons when he was not out of town. His schedule was full, while mine was empty and mostly consisted of being the caregiver for our son. I felt so unimportant. I never had a voice in our marriage, so I never said anything. I would ask him from time to time about not going to the gym, but he would still go. I had nothing against him working out, but I saw it as competition for his attention—and I was losing.
We were not connected. Something inside me told me: this isn't how it should be. I wanted to take a marriage class at church. When I suggested it to my husband, he said, "That's for marriages that are really in trouble," and that was that. I started to feel like there had to be more to life than we had.
I began volunteering at a startup nonprofit coffee company with a guy I used to work with. I was attracted to him because he made me feel important and attractive. It was exciting to be noticed by someone and not taken for granted. Our relationship developed into an emotional and physical affair. I felt like I deserved this affair. I felt like my husband was this horrible person, and that's how I justified my actions.
My uncle passed away in the fall of 2014. My aunt and cousins lived in Wisconsin, and I spent a few days there without my husband, just with my family. It was there that I realized the gravity of my choices. I saw what I could lose if this affair were to continue. I knew that it couldn't—for the sake of my family. I came home and first told the man I was involved with. I then cut all ties with him and the others at the nonprofit. I had told my mom, and she encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do. I knew I had to tell my husband. I wanted to start over with him. I was so afraid of what he was going to do. He had every right to leave me, but I hoped and prayed he wouldn't.
He was hurt by my betrayal. The first month was probably the most awkward. I didn't really know what to say or how to act. I tried to make it up to him by cleaning or doing everything around the house. We started going to marriage counseling, and we took the marriage class I had wanted to take before. We made it a point to go on dates and make time for each other. He went back to his regular job and didn't have to be out of town anymore. Things were going so much better than they had before. I thought we were doing great.
A year later I caught my husband pleasuring himself after I had gone to bed. I was shocked and confused. I told him the next day how I felt about it. I told him I don't like it, and I thought it was sinful. I was shocked when he told me he would try to stop. I didn't want him to try, I wanted him to not do it anymore. A day later I couldn't sleep and decided to go through his phone. I found sexual text messages between him and another woman. I was devastated. I asked him if he was cheating and if he even wanted to be with me. He told me he never met up with her and never cheated.
That weekend was Halloween weekend. We went to his brother’s house in Wisconsin. Again, I could not sleep, so I did some more digging in his phone. I found everything! It turned out he did sleep with that woman, and he was messing around with another woman from our church. I found a booked hotel on an app. He also signed up for multiple websites that help married people have affairs. I kept my cool until he woke up in the morning—then told him I knew it all.
My husband had been attending recovery meetings at our church for over ten years. He was a leader. I reached out to the church to let them know what was going on and to ask for prayer. He had to step down from his leadership position and started attending a meeting for sex addicts. I thought all the addiction stuff was behind us. I didn't have a good opinion of addicts, much less sex addicts. I admired people who were able to overcome their demons and get sober. My husband’s addictions had not affected my life until now.
I couldn't understand how people could do what they did when they hurt the people they love so much. That's how the addictive mind works. Those with addictions don't think of anyone but themselves. Their mind is so focused on getting the next high, whether it be drugs, alcohol, or sex. The brain depends on the chemical it releases when they get whatever they are addicted to. Nothing else matters.
Recovery and Restoration
I'm so grateful he got help and his addiction didn't continue. My husband had some childhood trauma, and that had a lot to do with all of his addictions. He was molested as a young boy. That has played a huge role in his adult life. When we both cheated, we had some big underlying issues that were never dealt with. I cheated because my husband wasn't meeting my needs. I realize now that God is the only one who can; He is perfect and will never disappoint me. My husband wasn't dealing with his trauma in a healthy way. Once we got to the root causes of our issues, the real work and restoration could begin. My husband forgave me, and I forgave him.
I go to a meeting every week, too. I’ve been going to recovery meetings since July 2015. I started attending because I wanted to spend time with my husband. I heard in the meeting that everyone has issues and should come. I didn't know if I belonged but quickly found that I did. That October is when I found out all about my husband. I have a friend in the group, and I saw her the first Wednesday after. I just cried when I saw her. She told me she joined this group because her husband is a sex addict, too. We started this journey together, and I love how God had brought us together. His gentle hand guided me to the place I needed to be. I thought I didn't belong, and I was so wrong! I have support from other women who have gone through the same things I have. We talk about our struggles and our victories. My husband and I work on our own stuff, and we work on our marriage together.
If you are going through the same thing, I want to tell you: it will get better. I was angry all the time in the beginning. I felt so many things, but mostly anger. I had a right to be angry. My heart was broken, and my trust for my husband was gone. All I knew was to be angry. After some time, the anger slowly went away. That was weird because I was used to feeling angry, and anger carries a lot of power. I felt like I was losing that power. Slowly, I began to feel normal. I was scared by this, as well, because I felt like, if I wasn't angry or trying to control the situation, that meant I didn't care. But I was really just letting go. I can't control my husband or his actions. I can't control whether or not he will betray me. He is an addict. He may slip up, and I have to be there for him. I can offer grace to him and love him. I'm not saying that he can walk all over me. I'm putting up boundaries and I enforce them, but I can still love him.
Boundaries and Forgiveness
Some of the boundaries we have in place are concerning the people we have connections with on Facebook. It seems like a trivial thing, but some images of athletic females are very upsetting for me. Also, Twitter is not restricted at all, and I saw what was on his account. Let's just say I threw a lot of things in the house.
Now, we can look at each other's phones without worrying what the other is going to find. We also check in with each other. We do a weekly devotional and talk about it at church. We ask how the other is doing emotionally, and we talk about whatever has been bothering us. I have to trust God. I have to trust that God will make me see what He needs me to see. I believe that those nights I couldn't sleep, God was whispering to me to check my husband’s phone. My husband never gave me a reason to check up on him. I never looked at the bank account. I am not naïve anymore. I have a voice, whether my husband likes it or not. It's okay to talk about something that I'm not okay with. My husband and I have real intimacy. Nothing is hidden.
I no longer carry the shame of my affair with me. I know I am forgiven by God, my husband, and myself. We are both sinful people who will disappoint each other, but God will never disappoint us. God can heal a broken heart and use these situations to bring us back to Him. I know I said I never thought these events would be part of my love story with my husband, but these events have changed me. I have grown so much the last two years. I really believe in the beauty of pain. Without this pain, I would never truly know the love of God. When I was going through the hardest part of my husband’s betrayal, I would picture the hands of God holding my broken heart and gently putting it back together.