“Do you want to save your marriage?”
It was a predictable question from our therapist. My wife and I had come in a state of crisis after she revealed the affair she wasn’t planning to end.
Of course, I answered “yes,” but I was secretly hoping he had an ace up his sleeve that would end our session with a fixed marriage and remorseful wife. Ha! That’s just how stupid, arrogant, and self-centered I was.
My position was simple—an affair is wrong therefore you end it. But in the next two years I would come to understand it wasn’t simple at all. My wife’s infidelity was merely a symptom of much bigger problems in our marriage—ones that wouldn’t go away with more therapy sessions, seminars, or a silver bullet of wisdom.
As the session ended, I made the decision to neither separate nor file for divorce. Instead, I was willing to see I had let my wife down repeatedly and that my failures as her husband contributed to her need to seek comfort elsewhere. My wife on the other hand, was not in a place to make concessions and remained unwilling to end her affair.
It was from this seemingly hopeless place I set out on a journey to save my marriage. I ventured into unknown territories armed only with a fierce determination to save my family from ruin. And even though my desire to make up for the past was heartfelt, I would come to appreciate I was less than enthusiastic about the idea of changing.
As my wife continued in her affair, I felt as though I was dying a slow and painful death. Finally, after many months of persevering without any reason for hope, I had had enough. Like a bursting dam, the pain poured in. I felt utterly hopeless and contemplated ending my life. Floating there in the grayness of my despair the phone suddenly rang. The shock of it freed me from my misery prison. It was a friend calling to check on me or maybe, just maybe, an angel to rescue me.
The result of enduring in pain and then ultimately, staring death in the face, was that I had been humbled. Made vulnerable, I came to the understanding that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life; my life is not my own. That isn’t an easy thing for a control freak to accept but I did. So, I took a leap of faith and started letting go of my need for control. I let go of my wife. I let go of the idea of her loving me. I let go of expecting her to come back to me. I let go of my codependent ways. It was new and scary but I grabbed a hold of Jesus and held on for dear life.
Running the race in this way reinvigorated me as it gave me hope. But even so, there was a hurdle I needed to clear – it was taller and more intimidating than the rest. I needed to forgive my wife and the other man too. But I knew if I didn’t forgive, I could not expect God’s hand in reconciling our marriage.
Through this experience I came to see the love and approval I need most can only be found in my relationship with Jesus. As a result, I desire to obey Him by denying my self and my pride by forgiving just as He commands. I do this because I understand now that His love is worth dying for.
In February 2011, nearly two years after the affair was revealed, our family was reunited as my wife and I reconciled. We signed the legal papers to end divorce proceedings on Valentine’s Day—that was the Lord’s idea, not ours.
I have to be honest, the road back hasn’t been easy, filled with bumps and even wrong turns. But now, there is a critical difference as we journey as a married couple —we walk side by side with our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus.
Winning back your spouse requires winning back yourself first. To do that, you have to take a good, hard, honest look at yourself. Your spouse strayed because the marriage is failing, and your marriage is failing because of two reasons: you and your spouse. You can’t change your spouse—you can only work on you. And since God is the one who created you to be you, the pursuit of winning back you, starts with a relationship with Him.