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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Six Word Epitaphs

I love to write. There is a popular literary challenge embraced by Ernest Hemingway that encourages writers to create a compelling plot using only six words. This one rule constrains the writer to be efficient, and it results in some truly stunning wordplay. I read one that simply stated "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn" and another that said "Car accident: twin becomes only child".  Many six-word stories are tragic. Some are strange. Then, the other day, I saw one that is true for so many people:

"Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers."

Read it a few times and think about it. Let it sink in... seriously.

I found this posted on a website and many people were commenting about the tragic demise of their marriage. They'd say things like "I'm going through a divorce right now... this is my life." A handful of others chimed in about the parallel of their divorce in this story, but no one in a functioning relationship said a word. Well, the fact is that this six word story is the epitaph for so many marriages that are technically still whole, but they are shattered secretly inside. They are the walking dead. Divorce is not the only way for a relationship to die. Sometimes the expiration of a relationship takes a much more subtle form.

There was a particular moment when I realized that, after my affair, our marriage could falter in two ways -- overtly and covertly. In an overt sense, we could eventually get divorced. After all, Hannah is more than justified in leaving me. But the less obvious, and perhaps more likely possibility is that of a covert death. Hannah can remain physically present in our home even though our marriage's flame can still be quenched. This is the battle I fight, not against the shadow of divorce, but against the very real potential for an emotionally hollow marriage.

In all honesty, when I read that particular six-word story, it brought tears to my eyes, because I know that it can become true for anyone. Any relationship can become the empty husk of its former self over time, only appearing to be alive, and I desperately want to save my marriage from taking that path to destruction. My actions and my affair have made our success so much more difficult. I cannot assume the success or good health of our relationship.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating -- even if things seem to be going well in the recovery process, success cannot be assumed. It must be fought for. If you've made the same mistakes I have, then the day you rest on your progress will be the moment you begin to slip backwards. There's more to do -- more shadows to chase off and baggage to unpack. I don't want our progress to transform into complacency. Hannah's been so strong through this journey, and I want to honor her efforts by trying my hardest even when the tears aren't flowing and the tempers are not flaring.

"Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers." Is this the story of your home? Has distance come between you and your spouse, despite the fact that you're technically still married? There's still hope. There's still a chance to change your narrative. Don't let this become the brief descriptor on your marriage's tombstone. Re-connect with your spouse, and start at square one -- friendship.

We're praying for you, because recovering from a tragic event is so difficult but it is possible. Feel free to email us or comment below with your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Through the Valleys

Marriages are measured in seasons. Our lives continually change as time passes by, and with each new season, relationships transform into something utterly different. This summer has been a particularly trying time for us. I believe it's imperative that we share both our victories and our obstacles with you, because the road to recovery after an affair is not guaranteed to be smooth.

This entire blog is an exercise in honesty. Through this platform, we get to share our hearts on a global scale and our readers get to bear their burdens in return. Although it can often be quite tragic, I still appreciate the countless people who anonymously share their experiences through emails and comments. That's why I write to you today, to continue in this pattern of transparency. This season has been profoundly difficult and we've been struggling. We've faced some daunting challenges recently.

We have faced setbacks in virtually every foreseeable way -- spiritual, financial, physical, and more. This is our voyage through the valley. This summer has been a season of unrest and unpredictability for us and that's why things have been quiet here. Why do I bring this up? Not because I want to air the details of our daily life with you all -- I will spare you that much. Simply put, we need your prayer as we navigate the paths before us, and we want to expose our struggles to encourage you on your own travels.

One thing I've realized lately is this -- if two people are trapped in a pit, they cannot help each other out. Someone has to escape. I must admit that I've always seen serving your own interests and needs in marriage as selfish, and therefore antithetical to your relationship. However, sometimes caring for yourself and tending to your needs is the best thing for your marriage. After all, you've become one. This means that caring for yourself is a part of caring for your union. You are a pivotal part of this new creation! This is especially vital in the realm of spiritual well-being. How can I lead Hannah out of a spiritual rut when I am caught in one myself?

How we respond to trials and setbacks is so vital to the future of our marriage. I want to cling to my wife during times of frustration and disappointment. I want us to become a team, not bitter enemies that war against one another. I want to find us on the same side of an issue. Most of all, I want us to soberly face the facts of where we stand. It does our marriage no good to romanticize our journey, portraying it as something perfect and complete when it is most certainly not.

I encourage you, especially if you're dealing with matters of infidelity, to be honest about your own path. You will have victories and you will face moments of weakness -- be candid about both. This road to healing is tumultuous at times, but it can be beautiful and life-changing.  Our path hasn't been perfect and yours won't be either. But, as I've said before.... God doesn't want perfect marriages, He wants redeemed ones. Seek redemption, not perfection.

Our story isn't over. It continues to unravel before us, and we discover it one step at a time, as if we're walking through a heavy fog with only a lamp in hand. Walk with us and pray for us. For our regular readers, know that we care deeply about you all, and we treasure this community.  As always, you can reach us by email or in the comments below. Our story is an open book, and it chronicles our triumphs and our failures. Thank you for reading.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook and comment below if you have questions or thoughts!