Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

    Things have been quiet on the TMOR blog lately. Hannah and I have been so incredibly busy with our college classes and everything else we juggle (work, kids, ministry) but we want to keep sharing our story and the hope we have in our marriage. We should be picking up steam as the semester draws to a close. Whew.
    For my birthday, Hannah took me to see the film Interstellar because I am a huge space nerd. Don't worry -- this isn't a post about space or intergalactic travel, I'll spare you this time. This is a plea to keep fighting. I'll show you how these two things are related.

   In the film, Earth is dying, and humanity has been granted one last extraordinary chance for survival. A wormhole has opened in space and a crew of voyagers are sent to another galaxy to find a new home for the human race. It's a long shot, for sure, and the characters admit this. It's almost a suicide mission. Nearly every moment of their journey is filled with extreme danger, but this is the chance they take.
       The lead character in this film, Coop (played by Matthew McConaughey) has to leave his two young children behind for this life-risking adventure. It's not for his own benefit, though -- he's informed that, unless something is done, his children will be the last survivors on Earth. After them, it's over. Humanity will conclude. The curtain will close and they will have no hope for a future.
    For those of you who have children, think about that. How far would you go if you knew your kids didn't have hope for a future? What would you do to afford them the chance to live, love, and have children of their own? Universally we all feel compelled to act in this scenario, but sadly, so many couples refuse to fight like that for their own marriages. We will fight for our children but not for our spouse -- why is that?
    Through the course of the film, a famous poem is recited several times. This poem is called "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"  by Dylan Thomas, allegedly written as the poet's father lay on his deathbed. It is a command to keep living, to keep fighting. Do not succumb; do not surrender. Here are the most famous lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

   If your marriage has seen the grisly aftermath of an affair, this needs to become your anthem. In this poem, the writer implores a dying man to "rage against the dying of the light". In other words, don't just die. Fight, scrape, and claw your way back as best you can. Do not let your marriage just slip through your fingers, even if it's wounded.
    To the person who's strayed: don't take the easy route. It is the coward's path to allow your spouse to leave without begging, pleading, and repenting on your knees. Sure, it's easy to just let them walk out. It's less uncomfortable than having to go over the details and face your crimes, but it's cowardice.  If you had the guts to cheat, have the guts to stay and work it out.
   To the person who's been wronged: if you can find the strength within you, muster up all you have to stand firm for your marriage. There will be days when all you can do is simply stay, and if that's all you can manifest within you, that's progress. You can beat this. Do not go gentle into the cold night of divorce and misery. Do not go gentle into defeat and disrepair.
   Interstellar is a space movie, sure. But more importantly, it's a movie about the persevering spirit within every human. As Coop says, "we will find a way. We always have." You can make the journey to recovery, one step at a time. It is a road filled with setbacks and frustration, but it is also paved with redemption and love. Rage against the dying of your marriage. Stay up late with your spouse to talk things over. Change jobs. See a marriage counselor. Move. Do whatever you have to do. You haven't come this far to simply walk away.
   I really feel like someone needs to see this. Someone is on the ropes of the rebuilding process, and they want to just throw in the towel. Don't.  This is your reminder that the fight is hard, but the struggle is worth it. You have no idea what you're capable of -- keep pressing forward. Go further. You can thrive beyond this temporary misery.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Contents Under Pressure

Stress can profoundly mold a person. If you've ever had a doubt about this, take a look at some before-and-after photos of US Presidents. Long-term stress and worry can have a very real impact on your emotional and physical health. Our world is saddled with a heavy load of anxiety and it's slowly crushing us. The thing is, sometimes we bring these burdens upon ourselves by how we communicate within our marriage. Today I want to show you a part of who I was when I made the dreadful mistake of straying, and I hope that it resonates with someone out there. If only one person sees their own reflection in this message and decides to change their course, I will be so thankful.

Prior to my affair, I was a man yoked by self-induced misery. I bottled my problems up, internalizing them until they turned into a fireball churning inside of me. I neglected to face conflicts as they arose in my marriage, and I certainly failed to be proactive about resolving any problems that were occurring in my home. I was an empty husk of a husband -- I looked the part but inside, I was dying. I sincerely believe that bottling up my problems wrecked the inside of me in a dark way, and it definitely compelled me to making a series of terrible decisions. If this is you, it's time to change.

How we respond to life's pressures, especially within marriage, says a lot about our character. As I've written before, I was a coward. Plain and simple. I lacked the spine and the resolve to wrestle through problems with my wife. I forfeited real resolution for cheap peace-keeping. I gave myself the illusion of progress by simply packing my problems deep down inside. There were no arguments, but there was no growth either. My spirit was a canister of compressed grievances and mistakes, and I was ready to explode at any moment.

The first few years of a marriage are formative. Precedents and patterns are set, and they are not easily undone. A quiet and detached husband will soon define himself as such. Five years into our marriage, we faced the cracked foundation beneath us, and sometimes it seemed impossible to repair underneath everything else in our life. If you are newly married, take the time and expend the effort to set good precedents -- it's easier to create good habits than to hurriedly unravel them when tragedy strikes. Don't wait for a major crisis to wake you from your daze -- change now.

I'm not going to sugar coat this. If you are a spouse who's forfeited your voice in the home, it's not easy to step back up to the table. It's not easy, but it is necessary. Starting to speak up and help in decision-making will be awkward at first. Arguing will be uncomfortable. Conflict will make your skin crawl... but this is the prescription for your internal decay.  If you love your spouse, engage with them in every facet of life. Be a real partner in marriage, not just a placeholder. It will hurt sometimes, as all growth does, but it will be worth it.

I'm praying for every single person out there who's living under the pressure of their own silence and absence.  Change is possible. As always, feel free to contact us if you need to talk. We love you guys.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates or follow us on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Trying Hard Will Never Be Enough

"Why doesn't my husband just get it?"

That's the kind of question we've heard so many times. We receive a steady flow of comments and emails from this site and from our Facebook page. Each story that you all share with us has its own unique facets, and yet we hear many sorrow-filled questions and pleas over and over again. This is one of them. What makes the recovery process stall out, exactly?

It seems only logical to think that, if a cheater were bold enough to admit their mistakes, and they had the courage to stick around for the aftermath of this revelation, then they'd have the fortitude to see it through. It's not quite that simple, though. The path is often unclear and filled with obstacles. Why doesn't the transgressor just... get it right? One of the most alarming signs for a betrayed spouse is the notion that nothing's changed. After all, if nothing's changed, it could happen again. If nothing's changed, the threat is still so real.

The idea of not making progress is a nightmare to someone who's been betrayed.  It's an ever-present reminder of the possibility for future harm.  It can be maddening, and I can tell you from the transgressor's perspective... the healing process can be maddening for us in its own way as well. Because it seems like, no matter how hard we try, we just aren't gaining the traction we want.

Therein lies the folly of our thinking, because trying hard will never be enough. Putting on a performance so your spouse will stay is not what your marriage needs. Your relationship needs renovation and nothing less. I believe that when the victim feels unconvinced of their marriage's progress, it's often a matter of repentance. Let me explain.

The way I see it, repentance requires two things -- a change of heart and a change of ways. If your spouse strayed, but they confessed their sins and they want to find reconciliation, that's merely step one. When their heart still seems hardened towards you, and they furiously insist that you should "just get over it" or "trust them already", their heart is hard. They're not fully repentant. Likewise, when they claim to be penitent for their affair, but their behavior shows otherwise, their ways haven't changed -- they're not really that sorry. Repentance is essential for the future of your healing journey, and it requires a change of your heart and your behavior.

Sadly, when spouses stray, their heart is in a place of calloused coldness. An affair only serves to exacerbate this. Once the affair ends, the callouses on your spouse's heart can remain. Changing behavior is easy -- changing your heart's posture is not so simple. Remember that a person must be in emotional and spiritual shambles to cheat, and that broken nature does not suddenly heal itself once confession occurs. Mending takes time.

If you find yourself wondering why you've lost footing on this road to redemption, take heart. Restoration is possible, but you must first strive for a true transformation in your marriage. Anything less is building towards what you had before... but don't you want more than that?  As always, thank you so much for reading, and feel free to contact us by email or on Facebook if you need anything.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates.  Please share your thoughts on this post by emailing us or commenting!