My Husband Cheated: Healing and Thriving after Infidelity

I begin my story by giving all the glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him, this story would have a completely different ending. It would have ended in divorce as most marriages with infidelity do.

My husband and I were happily married in 1991. We both wanted children but initially struggled to get pregnant. After a few years, God gave us the beautiful gift of a son.

On the surface everything appeared to be going well. We both worked full time jobs and were raising our child. However, we were so busy working and taking care of our son that we forgot to pay attention to each other. Although we didn’t have intimate relations anymore, we never fought. There was no physical abuse or name calling. We went to church every Sunday and sent our son to Catholic schools. We were a family. We were looking good!

shy-863056_1920Then one day in the fall of 2006, my life fell apart. I learned through my two brothers (they all worked in the same office for my uncle’s company) that my husband was cheating. He was having an affair with a woman in their office. I was completely devastated and filled with anger.

I cried. I screamed. I yelled! I tried to gather myself to think of what to do next. Not only had my husband betrayed me, but my own family had also betrayed me by not coming to me or my husband when they first suspected the affair (many months prior).

During our crisis, my family and even some close friends distanced themselves from us. They completely abandoned us and did not speak to us. One family member handed me information to see a divorce attorney. It blew my mind.

My family may have abandoned us but God showed up in a big way! He sent His angels to support us through our tough trial. My husband’s family was also very supportive. They wrapped their arms around us tightly. They walked with us and encouraged us to fight for our marriage. I also had a dear friend who stepped in and worked every day with both my husband and me. God truly anointed her to nurture us back to see His love and grace. She spent many long hours listening and reminding us of God’s love for us and our marriage.

I needed to separate from my husband in order to begin healing. My husband moved in with a relative so my son and I could stay in our home and keep our routine of school and work. Through this separation we stay connected and maintained a relationship through our shared commitment to our son. He was our first priority.

We placed our faith in God and asked for His help and guidance. My husband had reached out immediately to our pastor at our church. Knowing God was with us and having immediate access to confession and the Eucharist was such a comfort. The sacraments began our healing process from the inside.

We both started going to a Christian counseling center seeing different therapists. We did this for many months and slowly started to talk and see where we had neglected one another for so many years. As our eyes opened, we began to realize and address how each of us had failed to care for each other and our marriage. Then we began seeing my husband’s therapist together.

I struggled with forgiveness in a big way. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It took a good year to truly forgive my husband and I had to check myself on that at times. My faith is what enabled me to forgive. I would contemplate what Jesus endured through his passion and crucifixion and it helped me through my struggles.

It was very difficult for me to forgive my family. I found it harder than forgiving my husband. I have made a great deal of progress but still struggle on occasion. I pray about it every day as most of them still do not speak to me, my husband, or son after nearly 10 years.

The healing process took time but we eventually grew in our relationship. I must say I never felt like giving up only because I saw the work my husband was doing and the change that took place in his heart. God, in His mercy, allowed me to see that first hand. Our faith in God did not allow us to end what God put together.

Today, we are not a surviving married couple, we are a thriving married couple! We make the time to pay attention and really talk to each other every day. God gave me back a new husband and I became a new wife for him. We are better connected today than when we dated!

There is always hope. Hope in Jesus Christ. He died for all of our sins, even the ones not yet committed. He saved our marriage when there were many people who kept telling me it would fail. The naysayers now stand back years later only to see we have defeated what this secular society believes should end in divorce. Every day I thank God for where He has brought us and where I know He is taking us.Praise the Lord for He is merciful! To Him be all the Glory!

The Ache of Empty Arms

pregnant-971984I lay in the ultrasound room looking at the image of my perfectly formed baby on the screen. I could see the profile of his face and his little hand. I had a hard time believing my doctor’s gentle words: “I’m so sorry. His heart isn’t beating.” The next day I held my son in my arms after delivery, and we named him John. Eight months later I lay in another ultrasound room and again heard the words I most dreaded: “The baby is measuring smaller than she should be, and there is no heartbeat. I’m sorry.” My daughter was beautiful, and we named her Agnes. Another six months, and a phone call with lab results confirmed what I already knew: we had lost our third baby to an early miscarriage. We named him Michael.

How does one cope with the loss of a child? I have shed more tears in the past year and a half than I have probably in the rest of my life combined. I grieve for each of my babies. I struggle to accept God’s will. But there is joy too, and my heart has grown with love for the children I can no longer hold.

I imagine my children in heaven—probably romping around causing mischief together. Surely kids can cause mischief in heaven, right? I’m no theologian, so I guess we’ll find out when we get there. My husband and I have joked that our kids probably have their elbows on the table at the heavenly banquet, and the Blessed Mother is up there gently scolding them. Heaven seems more like a real place now, not an abstract idea but the home where my children live. I look forward to having a big family reunion there someday.

As I have processed my own grief, I’ve also connected with other women who have lost babies and have seen their pain. People at our parish have shared about their own losses when they heard about our babies, and friends I’ve known for years have told me about babies I never knew existed. So many couples are suffering silently as they grieve their children.

I also have friends who struggle with infertility. I understand and share in their desire to raise a family, although I don’t know the monthly disappointment of being unable to conceive. They also suffer silently and feel the ache of empty arms.

Bishop Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington will lead a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe for those suffering
from infertility, miscarriage, and infant death beginning on December 4. Please join in praying for those of us who carry this cross. We appreciate each and every prayer.

Novena for those suffering from infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss

Mexican_oil_paint_on_tin_retablo_of_'Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe',_19th_century,_El_Paso_Museum_of_Art

Weathering the Good and the Bad with this Man

I have written before about my marriage and the fruit of obeying the Church in being open to life. Now I am at the stage where I am getting too old for more babies. This has made me look at my marriage in a different light. I would still love to have another baby…my kids remind me that many women in the Bible were over 100 and I am just half of that! But the reality is that I am entering a new season of my life, of my relationship with my husband.

3238440598_46f82f4b75_mGod is so good! He has done so much for us. I have always thought I had a good marriage. But I am seeing that after almost 24 years, my love for my husband is growing. Weathering the good and bad with this man has yielded many blessings. When I look at him, he is still the dashing hero with whom I fell in love. I look at photos of days gone by and see how we have aged, but I don’t see it when I look at him.

I also see a gift of marriage that is not talked about for good reason. It is private and intimate. God has healed us from our past sins against chastity during these past two decades. Memories of sinful days before we met are faded, sometimes erased. It is in the marital embrace where I feel young. Maybe not young, but perhaps out of time. It is free and beautiful. I feel God intensely. There is no longer an embarrassment or disconnect between our lovemaking and God. He is there with us. I have read much about Theology of the Body and understood it in my mind. But in the past few years, I am understanding it with my heart. I wonder if couples who enter marriage chastely have this gift from the beginning. I hope so.

At the same time, I have a renewed strength to love my husband as best as I can. I want to forget myself, my aches and pains, my tiredness and ask him about his. I get up to make him his favorite breakfast. When he comes home from work, I want our home to be a respite for him. I want to cheerfully ask him about his day. I look for ways to serve him as my spouse, my best friend.

I realize that this flies in the face of our world. But I know this is pleasing to God. I know my husband lays down his life for me every day. We serve each other, as we do God’s will. All the years I wasted looking for how my husband could serve me, listen to me, help me! I know being self-centered is sinful. I asked God to show me how He sees me – and my eyes were opened to my selfishness. Now when I am grumpy I try to remember to say to myself, “Don’t be selfish, don’t be selfish. How can I serve others?” Suddenly, I am feeling at peace. God is good!

Photo Credit Liz West

Unequally Yoked

When my husband and I got married we were both Catholic, but we weren’t fully practicing the faith. Not only were we not well formed, we didn’t know it. My husband and I went to Mass on Sunday occasionally, if it was convenient, and also on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter.

One Sunday, we arrived at Mass and found there was a new pastor. This pastor’s homilies were like nothing I had ever heard before. In fact they made me angry! I didn’t speak to the pastor, didn’t even shake his hand on the way out the door, but for some reason I felt like I was arguing with him and so I started going to Mass every Sunday to continue the argument.

Each Sunday I would go to Mass and I would leave angry because I had just been informed of yet one more thing that I was doing wrong. I was overwhelmed with all of the rules. I was also skeptical of the pastor. I thought, “He can’t possibly know what he is talking about. He must be some kind of Catholic wacko.” I started researching and I didn’t have to dig very far to find that my pastor knew what he was talking about.

As I sat in that pew week after week I discovered that there were many areas of my life that were not in line with Church teaching. I had walked in the door pro-choice, pro-contraception, the list goes on. I found out that I was wrong.

Many other parishioners left. Several of our neighbors started shopping for a new parish with softer homilies. Some went to neighboring parishes; others went so far as to leave the Catholic Church. My husband found the difficult homilies amusing. When I tried to engage him in discussing our faith and what we should do, he would say, “Whatever you decide is fine.”

I decided we would stay. Somewhere deep inside I knew that this wasn’t about shopping for the right message so much as it was about finding the truth. My only explanation for this is that God, in His great generosity, must have given me a huge dose of grace. I began to change. I studied Catholicism. Everything I learned made so much sense that I couldn’t help but to grow in my faith. I fell in love with Holy Mother Church. I began going to daily Mass and volunteering in earnest. I was disappointed that my husband wasn’t interested, but I didn’t let that hold me back.

My new faith and his disinterest started to put stress on our marriage. It became really clear to me one Valentine’s day, when I received a Valentine’s gift basket from a girlfriend of mine. When my husband saw it I asked him to guess who had given it to me. “Probably Father Jones or Deacon Smith or the Youth Minister,” he said and walked out of the room. I was stunned. He proceeded to tell me how tired he was of my life revolving around God and the Church. He thought at first that it was a phase and that he just had to wait it out, but it was pretty clear that it wasn’t ending any time soon. He was tired of it and he wanted it to stop. I was no longer the person he had married.

unequally yokedI was devastated and yet it was clear to me that he felt jilted, like I had dumped him for God. I could understand that. My husband had been the center of my universe and now God was, and rightly so, I thought.

I sought counsel from a priest during confession and he told me that perhaps my cross right now was that I needed to tone things down a little. He didn’t mean for me to be less faithful. He meant that I should tone down my outward expression of the faith to give my husband a little space. This was my cross to bear. I left the crucifix on the wall but pulled the holy cards from the refrigerator. I cut back on my volunteer responsibilities. As I considered my primary vocation as wife, I realized that God didn’t want me to neglect my spouse in pursuit of my faith.

There was however, one area in which I couldn’t compromise. We were contracepting. Very early in my conversion process I stopped contracepting and at that point my husband chose to continue. This was very painful for me. I had learned of the beauty of the marital embrace and all that God had intended for it—that it be a complete gift of self. I yearned to give myself to my husband. And yet each time we came together I made my desire to be open to life clear and each time he denied me. The act that was supposed to be unitive was tearing us apart. I found myself wishing for a marriage “do-over”. It was humiliating to go to confession and confess my participation in my husband’s contraception. I was hurt and angry at my husband.

I finally realized that my wish for a do-over was nothing more than a pity party. I started to treat my husband with charity, not because I thought he deserved it (to the contrary, I thought he was being quite a jerk) but because I loved God. I began Natural Family Planning (NFP) on my own. My husband would have nothing to do with it. I began to refuse him on fertile days (not because I was opposed to conceiving but because history had proven that he would contracept). He continued to contracept on the other days but I found much peace in my own practice of NFP.

This went on for 3 years until I became pregnant and subsequently miscarried. My husband had surprised me by welcoming the pregnancy, and then was greatly disappointed and saddened as well. This loss was a turning point for me. I was done. I told my husband, “No more contraception. I won’t participate.” I had been patient and prayerful for 3 years but now I was done. I prayed for God to please pick up the pieces of my marriage and hold us together and mercifully He did.

Since that day my husband has never contracepted.

Several years have passed. I am at peace because my husband’s concession has allowed me to live in alignment with my faith. I continue to tone down my outward expression of my faith, and my husband is slowly but surely growing in his faith. We both have a long way to go, but praise be to God at least we are heading in the right direction!

Have You Ever Been Truly Loved?

I tear up every time my daughter watches Frozen and gets past all the blockbuster songs to the climax of the movie. What gets me is the scene where Olaf the Snowman explains, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” Within minutes of this epiphany Anna is willing to sacrifice her life for her ungrateful sister, who in turn finally realizes that perfect love drives out fear. It must be the most profound and Christian 10-minute segment ever found in a Disney princess movie.

Maybe part of the reason this movie chokes me up is because, by that definition, I can’t think of any human being who truly loves me.

I grew up in a broken home and my parents are still a mess. My husband has changed dramatically since we married and no longer even goes to church. My closest friends have moved away and I struggle to build new friendships.

My children do love me, for which I am very grateful. But I long for the self-giving love of adult relationships.

I do not write all this because I am looking for pity, though I admit self-pity is a constant temptation that I fight. I write this to personalize the painful situation that I believe most souls face!

Large swaths of the population have families just as broken and often much more so than mine. Thinking globally, it’s possible that the majority of the 6 billion people in this world probably go through their adult lives never feeling “truly loved” by another.

In a recent confession I was told that God calls some people to heroic sacrifices to make our hearts larger. And at the start of Lent Pope Francis warned us that those who are comfortable often forget about others and breed the “globalization of indifference.” So I am learning to give thanks for these challenges because my heart has more space for God’s love and can be more sensitive to the suffering of other souls.

In Scripture, God often explains himself to us by analogy to family relationships. God our Father, Mary our Mother, Christ our Bridegroom, fellow believers our brothers and sisters. But what happens when our experience of these earthly relationships is one of emotional pain far more than true love? Is it still possible to experience God’s true love?

I write to witness that you can know the infinite wonder of God’s true love in the Eucharist, even without having the experience of being truly loved by any other person. Many times after receiving the Eucharist, I have mystically and ecstatically felt the Real Presence of Christ flood my heart. Fed by the Bread of Angels, I am not empty – I can share this true love with my family and others.

At the prayer vigil before the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of sharing Christ’s love in today’s culture:

“[Evening is] the most weighty hour for he who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of broken dreams and plans: how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes was the wine of joy less plenty, therefore, the zest – and the wisdom – of life….

“To search for that which today the Lord asks of His Church, we must lend our ears to the beat of this time and perceive the ‘scent’ of the people today, so as to remain permeated with their joys and hopes, by their sadness and distress, at which time we will know how to propose the good news of the family with credibility…

“Grant us this creative charity which consents to love as Jesus loved.”

Have you ever been truly loved? If you have, challenge yourself to share that love with the hurting souls around you who have not been so blessed, and consider prayerfully how to “propose the good news … with credibility” to those who lack an experience of human love.

If you haven’t ever been truly loved, know that God does truly love you, and He can fill your heart even if nothing in your outward circumstances changes. Go with your empty heart to the Sacraments and let it be filled with the Grace that surpasses all understanding.

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Editor’s Note:  This story was originally posted in March.  It was lost due to some technical difficulties.  I reposted it today, April 8, and have tried to repost as many of the comments as I could find.

Healing Through an Annulment

My husband and I recently celebrated the first anniversary of our marriage in the Church – even though we’ve been married six years. We were originally married civilly in a small ceremony in October, 2008. But this year we had our marriage convalidated, which is the official recognition of our civil marriage by the Catholic Church, elevating it to a sacramental marriage.

4641589345_a74996f89f_qMarriage means so much more to me now than the first time I said “I do.” I now know that marriage is a gift from God, and not to be entered into lightly.

Most of my friends and family know that I was married before. My ex-husband and I had dated for five years before we married. We lived together beforehand, and although we were both cradle Catholics, neither one of us lived a very religious life. We attended the required pre-cana training for months, had a Catholic wedding ceremony, and then continued on with life as we always had. Nothing we learned or experienced changed our thoughts or values, or what marriage meant to us.

We divorced civilly less than two years after our wedding day. We chose to do this as amicably as possible. We had no children and didn’t share any bank accounts or property, so the separation was easier than many couples experience.

Within two weeks of the finalization of my civil divorce, I was diagnosed with leukemia, which made me question my life, death, and what was important to me.  I received the Anointing of the Sick and spoke with a priest who said that God loves each of us, even if we are divorced. At one time during my treatment, I felt a deep sense of peace that I was loved by God and that everything would be all right, even if I died because of my illness. It greatly affected how I viewed my life from then on.  I met my second husband shortly thereafter.

I didn’t begin the Catholic process of annulment until two years after that, when I was already civilly married to my second husband.

I had been back and forth with wanting to be “whole” in the Church for a few years before I actually sought an annulment. The process of civil divorce is quite different than the process of annulment in the Catholic Church. Depending on the state you live in, civil divorce can be mostly about filing the correct paperwork and paying the required fees. But divorce doesn’t exist in the Catholic Church. An annulment means that your marriage was never actually valid.  It was missing one or more of the required aspects that make it binding in the first place.

Many people believe that if you offer the Church enough money, you can get an annulment no matter what. This is simply false. I paid nothing to the Church in the process of my annulment. Some people may offer donations, but there is no guarantee what the results will be. You have to wait and hope throughout the process.

And what a process it is. You are required to meet with a priest who is part of a marriage tribunal and verbally recount your story.  You also do this in writing. Your ex- spouse is also encouraged to participate. Other friends and family on both sides are asked for their testimony.  It can take years. Mine took two years from start to finish. Every piece to this process is inspected closely to come up with a final determination. There is a back and forth with the responses to each inquiry.

It is a challenge to wait, especially if you have already moved forward with another relationship in your life. I often questioned all the “rules and regulations” that the Church had for marriage and living one’s life.  I would try to become comfortable with the philosophy that my father and many friends had, that if you were a good and loving person, you were OK with God (if He even existed) and everything would be all right; that sin really didn’t exist as I had learned it. But there was something so deep and eternal about the Church and at mass that seemed to go beyond the feel-good philosophies I was trying to adopt.

Our parish priest met with me frequently during this time and helped me to understand what I was feeling, and why an annulment did indeed matter for me.  He helped guide me to start the annulment, and redirected me at the times I drifted away again during the process. I also couldn’t receive communion during this time which made me feel like I was missing out on the grace that might help me get through the ordeal.

I may not have made it through without his support. But it was totally worth it. There were many times I simply wanted to give up and tried to convince myself it didn’t matter whether the Church granted me the annulment. But deep down I knew it did.

My husband and I celebrated when my annulment was granted, and then began the next step of having our marriage recognized. Since then we have been blessed with a son and are currently expecting our second child.

To those of you who are divorced and ready to start dating, begin the annulment process, and finish it first before they begin dating.  It has a healing quality that may be helpful before you date again.  It helped me to understand just how important and sacred marriage is.  This is essential to understand for any faithful Catholic who is considering dating. The waiting is difficult, but ultimately is a wonderful time to draw close to God, to discern his will for our lives, and how we are to live moving forward.

To all those contemplating starting this process or who are already in it, stay the course! No matter the result, you can find consolation and healing. Pray often and ask Mary for help and courage to make it through. I will be praying for you as well.