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!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Churchwreckers. every marriage battling with the baggage of infidelity, there is another person who lurks in the shadows. Some people call this character a homewrecker, although I think this affords the antagonist a little too much credit. The term homewrecker suggests that the other party succeeded in their efforts to dissolve a relationship. My marriage has withstood the assault, and I believe that the walls of many marriages can prevail against the same opposition.

On this blog, I have addressed each party involved with a very specific message. To the victim of unfaithfulness, I offer a simple and passionate reminder that you did not deserve this betrayal. To the cheater in disguise, I plead for honesty and radical repentance. Today, I address the one who indulges themselves on affections that are not rightfully theirs.

I must admit that I've been wanting to visit this topic for awhile, but I've struggled to formulate a plan. In all honesty, I want to be graceless. I want to be brutal and savage in my dissection of the homewrecker. Everything in me that loves justice and hates my mistakes urges me to lace this entry with vitriol and disdain. But alas, I must deny these instincts for the sake of a greater message.

First and foremost, if you are the other person you must know that you are treading on sacred ground. Forget Christianity -- nearly all major religions view marriage as a profoundly holy institution that should not be tampered with. If you consider yourself to be any person of faith, your actions must stop immediately.

Perhaps I can illustrate this particular idea another way. In a previous post, we examined how the Bible tells us that marriage parallels God and His church.  Many people have a superficial and superstitious view of church buildings, and would never deface a temple or chapel. Nonetheless, this is exactly what is happening when an affair takes place. Would you ever burn down a church? By encouraging unfaithfulness, you are mimicking the act of arson spiritually. In light of this, maybe we ought to call the wayward lover a churchwrecker instead. If you are engaged in an illicit relationship with a married person, you are vandalizing God's property, plain and simple. I cannot articulate the words to express the severity of your actions in the spiritual realm. Stop immediately.

Furthermore, you may have convinced yourself that you are acting in affection towards your lover. You are not. The very nature of antagonizing a marriage proves that you are an enemy, not an admirer. The greatest sign of respect you can show is to totally disengage from the affair. If you are interested in what's best for the other party, cease your wicked actions and comply with whatever is needed in the healing process. Stop all communication and claim ownership of nothing aside from your own responsibility. Do what it takes to swiftly and comprehensively end this tragic chapter in the lives of a couple.

You are not beyond redemption, but your relationship is. It is perverse by definition and cannot be made whole or holy. You cannot be friends. Do not be mislead by our culture's insistence that you are not culpable for this, morally speaking. You also shoulder the weight of this impropriety. If you are reading this and you have been the temptress or siren that's swayed a married person from their rightful path, now is the moment to change your course. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for repentance.