Friday, April 15, 2011

Ask Us Anything Friday

Again, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and interest in our story.  Due to the unexpectedly large number of questions we have decided not to answer all of the questions we received this week.  Plus, we want to save some of them for a later date.  :-)   If you still have questions, please send them in and we will continue to answer them as best as we can.

Also, remember that every situation is different.  We are in no way trying to give all encompassing answers.  The answers we give are primarily based off of our experiences, the experiences of some of our friends and people we've both counseled.  These are mostly just opinion and should be looked at in this way.

What happens if you have an affair, but after two years you still haven't told your husband? What if the person who had the affair knew this was never going to happen again? It's over and has been over for quite a while. There is no contact what-so-ever with the other person. Do you tell your spouse what happened?
Jesse -- Almost nothing stays hidden forever. And even if it could stay hidden, do you want to live with that shadow looming over your heart everyday? Carrying the burden of an unknown sin can be a weighty struggle even for the strongest of us. I look at it this way. If your marriage is strong then being honest and forthcoming, though difficult as it may be in the short term, will strengthen the relationship and relieve the unfaithful partner of the burden they currently bear. If your marriage is on shaky ground then it will be difficult no matter what. However, if it comes out on your terms than it will be received better than if it comes out some other way. As far as the conversation goes, I would make sure that they are prepared for difficult news before you deliver it, but preface it by saying it's only out of a desire for honesty and to strengthen the future years of your relationship that you want to let them know. This is a difficult situation, but I know, as for me, I could not live with the burden of knowing something I had done to hurt someone else for the rest of my life, even if they didn't know about it.

Lyryn, if Jesse's went back to his old self before you ever found out.. would you want to know the truth years later or would that just cause unnecessary pain?
Lyryn -- Ephesians 5:11-13 "Do no participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful to even speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that comes visible is light." I believe that if there is a secret in a marriage there is no true way to be transparent with one another. I believe that without exposing the sin not only can the adulterer not heal, but the marriage will slowly chip away to nothing. I would want to know. I would want to get to healing together. I would want to understand what I wasn't giving to the marriage to make my husband do that and I would want there to be complete truth and transparency. I want my marriage to bear fruit and if there are lies and secrets within that marriage we would not be able to come together and produce that fruit.

What are some words of encouragement that those of us who have never experienced this can offer those who are? I have a tendency to try and be supportive and end up sticking my foot in my mouth. :)
Lyryn -- Great question!! I'm hoping to do a post on this alone because this is such an uncomfortable situation to talk about with friends. Honestly, friends tend to always say the wrong thing because they just have no idea. For now, I would tell a friend, first and foremost, don't act like you know what we are feeling and don't tell us what you would do if you were in our situation. Until you have walked in the shoes of someone who has been completely and utterly betrayed by the most important person in their life; you will have no idea what you would do. Instead, love on your friend silently and when they are ready to speak listen.. JUST LISTEN. That's all. Ok... there are a million more things I want to write, but then I'll write a post. Great, question! We'll get to this!

Jesse -- I have never felt uncomfortable with people's judgment of me, but it doesn't mean that I didn't feel their judgments. I felt more frustrated with the way people treated Lyryn for taking me back. Unfortunately not everyone will understand or agree the hurt partner's or the unfaithful partner's decisions. Just keep it loving, if they've decided they are going to try to work things out then support them in doing that. If they have kids, offer to watch them so they can get out of the house. If they don't have kids, invite them out on a double date to get something simple like ice cream. Every situation is different, but oftentimes people will try to project themselves into a situation. This is not helpful. Be an encouragement. Be a distraction. The hurt partner and the unfaithful partner are walking this out every day and don't need everyone's opinion or even everyone's verbal support. Sometimes it's better to just be a friend, help them take their mind off of everything.

My BFF Susan -- Lyryn and I have been best friends for over 11 years and there have been plenty of moments during those years where I said the wrong thing. Thankfully our relationship has remained intact despite my lack of judgment and sometimes ignorance. I'm ashamed to admit that when the news of the affair came out I once again said things that were insensitive and hurtful. I *thought* I was being helpful but in hindsight I can see how it wasn't what she needed. I'm learning this firsthand now as the result of my own broken engagement to my fiance 6 weeks ago. I had to go back to Lyryn and apologize to her for statements that I made during that time. I thought my advice and words of wisdom would help but when you're in the midst of that much pain the reality is that it helps very little. What people need to hear is, "THIS SUCKS! I'm sorry you're going through this. Is there anything I can do for you?" They need someone to sit with them and let them cry or scream or heck even curse if they need to (and Jesus will still love you. He understands). They need to hear that it's okay to feel all those emotions and express them in whatever way helps. Often we give advice and say things out of our own "need" to fix things because let's face it- pain makes us uncomfortable. Who wants to see anyone suffer? Especially someone they love and care about. I also earnestly believe that the best thing you can do is PRAY PRAY PRAY. God is the only one who is going to heal their hurt and pain and the time line is different with every person and situation. So let's learn to be uncomfortable. Learn to sit in the pit with them. Be present in their pain. Because it's just nice to know that you aren't alone.

Many women in your situation would have kicked the hubby to the curb and divorced them after they found out the hubby cheated on them. Why didn't you? What made you stay and work on your marriage?
Lyryn -- I HATED when people would ask or say this to me! You would not believe how many times I got this. I hated when people told me how strong I was because if they had this happen to them, they would have served him with the divorce papers that second. Grrr.... (let it go Lyryn and just answer the question asked) Moving on.... I didn't kick my husband out because I was still madly and deeply in love with him. I had a long history with him and a child. I also knew God was preparing me for this... something so devastating that it would be the "make it" or "break it" of our marriage. Though God allows divorce in cases like this he also let us know how much he HATES divorce. Malachi 2:16 "For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and him who covers his garment with wrong. So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."

What made me work on it? He was the love of my life and I didn't want to lose him. People can say that they would throw away years and years together over something like this, and some have... but the devil wasn't going to win that easily. I was at least going to give it what I had and try to salvage this marriage. Does God give up on us that easily? When we deny him over and over again, does He divorce us? When we live selfishly in the world does God just stop loving us? That is what made me stay and work on this marriage.

The problem is that I cannot get the other woman out of my head. I don't know any details of whether she is still with her husband or not, whether she regrets the affair, and if she still thinks about my husband. It literally makes me sick when I think about it. I know that what she is doing these days and what she thinks are not important. I just wish that I could get her out of my head. Any suggestions?
Lyryn -- As I read this question, I laughed and told Jesse I feel like I wrote this! I promise you I did not. Here's the deal, I don't think about her everyday, I don't even think about her every week. It changes with what is happening in our lives and how secure I feel in my marriage. Unfortunately, I still do think about her occasionally. Since I am still having trouble forgiving her (which I am working on) I still think about those exact things.
For me, I do know a few things about her. But I do not know where her heart is and how she is healing from all of this. I too wonder if she regrets the affair or if she still thinks about my husband. But if I get to the root of why I ask these questions, I think the only reason I want to know is because I haven't completely released and forgiven her. I hate that I confronted her when I did because I feel like I was only getting the "caught" Lauren's apology. Yes, I realize that I am completely judging her heart on this one and I can tell you that I know that I'm wrong. But... at this point it's still the way I feel.

Will there ever come a time where I'm not picturing him with her?  The constant thoughts of "did he do that with her?"  
Lyryn -- Everyone is different, so I'll just answer for me.   Sadly, I still do it occasionally.  It makes me angry and hurt.  Thoughts of  "was she better than me?" or  "was she better at this than I was?" still tend to get to me at times.  I'm still reminded that she has a piece of  my husband's heart because of that soul tie they selfishly chose to make.  It still makes me cry that I am no longer the only woman who "knows" him intimately.  There is still pain, and reminders of all of it... but when that time comes I'll be sure to let you all know.

My question is more for Jesse:  How were you able to block "Lauren" out of your thoughts?  Also, how were you able to forgive yourself for being unfaithful?
Jesse -- This can be a tough thing to work through.  There have been two different things I have done to move past the thoughts that come uninvited back into your mind.  First, memorize one scripture a week.  Whenever you have a distracting thought speak out the scripture, internally or externally is fine.  The reason I say only one a week is because after reciting the verse frequently it won't be as much of a distraction as when the week first began.  The second thing that helped me is to try and redirect your attention on something or some things that you cherish about your spouse.  It's simple enough, but can be quite easy and quite difficult all at the same time.

Since my husband was "caught" and didn't actually come clean, how do I ever get to a place where I'm not constantly wondering if he's doing something he shouldn't?   People tell me that it will just take time and a proven track record to regain the trust, but to me this is like a catch 22.  I have to trust that he's being truthful with current track record, right?  I mean, I trusted him before and look where that got me.
Lyryn -- Trust was a huge thing for me.  I loved him so much that I wanted to trust him like I did before, but then if I did trust him I felt like I was letting him off too easy.  It was more of a battle inside me.  I can remember talking with my girlfriend Kerstin about this and how I felt like it was so easy to go back into WANTING to trust him.   The bottom line is that it does take time!  You can't trust after only one week, I don't think you should trust him after only three months!  There are still feelings to work through and in my opinion it's just not enough time to trust someone like that after they betrayed you like they did.  ONE thing could send them spiraling back to that person... I think it took me a good year and a half to REALLY start trusting Jess again, but let me tell you he WORKED for it.

 My Amazing Friend Cara -- This is a super hard question and I am sure Lyryn will talk more about this in the series but all I can say is forgiveness. True forgiveness is the only way you will ever be able to trust him again. I will also say this, chances are if you have been through this once…if it (God forbid) happens again, you will know very quickly. Because you probably know the signs better than you did the first time it happened. You will know when you start to feel him pulling away, when you start noticing strange things, when maybe your sex life changes or he starts spending too much time away from the house. But even with all that said, I think forgiveness is the key to getting that trust back in your life. Once you have forgiven him (which involves A LOT more than just saying “I forgive you”) then you can begin to trust again. And once those two are in place, you will start to feel at peace again with your relationship and with your husband.

Is there any part of you that still holds on and judges him?
Lyryn -- A little, I think it's more out of fear of him doing this again and me going through all that pain again. I only get this way when we have a big fight because that normally triggers me to feel the way I did when we fought then. Lots of my judgments or fears come from those triggers that I haven't completely healed from yet.

I know Jesse mentioned in his earlier posts, how he convinced himself he no longer cared about you. How did he justify to himself not being there for his child. I always wanted to believe that my dad was a good father, despite not being a great husband, but I wonder how does a father choose to spend that much time away from his kids and family in order to pursue another relationship?
Jesse -- I hate hearing myself even say this, but things may have turned out very differently if Jayden were not in the picture.  On the same token things may not have led in the direction they did were he not born.  I kept saying to myself, "but for Jayden."  This anchoring helped keep me from making a life-altering decision.  I knew what I needed to give as a father and a husband, but felt very trapped in the life I had decided to lead.  I wanted out.  It sickens me to think that I actually had this mindset.  I somehow (and I'm honestly not sure why or how) rationalized that once things played out I could still be there as a great dad regardless of the outcome.  Ultimately it came down to self -deception.  I had told many of the people close to me that I lied to myself as much or more than I did to Lyryn.  I chose to believe that somehow I would be able to balance all the lies and deceit that I was living out despite my absence as a father.

Lyryn, honestly if someone would have came up to you in the early stages of this horrible gut feeling of this affair, would you have believed that person or shunned away and be shamed of that person?
Lyryn -- Honestly?!? A few friends did have a "gut" feeling about Lauren and Jesse. I can remember sitting with a Sister-in-law in my bedroom asking me what I thought about Lauren and her telling me she did not trust her. I had the same feeling, but I remember telling her "no way." I just didn't want to believe it. She knew how badly I was hurting and her gut was telling her that it was Lauren, so a few weeks later she asked the woman Lauren was living with if she thought anything fishy was going on between them. Somehow it was dismissed. So there you have it... My closest friend at the time tried to tell me (even though I felt the same way), she even got more info for me and I still didn't want to believe it. But I didn't shun her...

How can I help a friend or someone I know whose husband has no desire to make things better or who wants out of the marriage?
Lyryn -- Well, it all depends on the circumstances.  Is the spouse who wants out having an affair?  Because of course they would want out especially if it's an emotional affair!  Jesse even wanted out. He told me several times that he wanted a divorce.  The person having the affair believes that they are in love with this person.  They believe life would be better with this person, so they give up trying in their own marriage.  I would tell that friend to keep searching and help him or her search.  Find the root of why their spouse no longer wants to make things work.  There has to be a reason!  If it's an affair, expose it and then see what he/she wants to do.  Things change dramatically when an affair is exposed.  If it's not an affair.... I still say fight!  If your friend is willing, tell that friend to email me.  :)

Jesse -- People go through stages in life.  And sometimes, as I did, people feel trapped.  These feelings shouldn't be encouraged, but they shouldn't be chastised either.  Getting the person to understand and verbalize the reasoning for their desire to get out is paramount.  The difficulty with people that are having affairs can be they won't be honest about their intentions.  They look at the situation and say, "I want to be with my extra-marital partner.  I also want to maintain my standing with my friends and family.  If I leave my spouse while no one knows about the affair, then we can start a 'new' relationship that won't be suspicious, but if people know about the affair the relationship won't be accepted."  This way of thinking is selfish, naive and insulting to your friends and family.  If they aren't having an affair and they verbalize their frustration things have a very good possibility of changing, as long as their requests are reasonable.  I complained about a lot of different things during the affair and Lyryn fixed many of them, but none of that changed my mind on my dissatisfaction with Lyryn.  Chances are that if a person refuses to respond to a spouse who is understanding to their needs then there is more at play.

Did you ask questions? Like all the details of the affair?
Lyryn -- Because Jesse was told to be completely transparent with me, he was. I did ask him things... things I don't think I should have ever asked.

Jesse -- I was always willing to be forthcoming, but many times I would counter before answering, "I'll tell you that if you feel it will help you heal, but I don't know that it's something you really will want to know."  There are many things that don't need to be answered, but if the hurt partner asks for any detail it is important to be open and honest.

When you confronted Jesse about the things you had found while playing PI, did he ever get angry and turn things around on you? What I mean by that is, did he ever get angry and start accusing you of not trusting him, invading his privacy, and/or telling you that you were wrong in going through his stuff?
Lyryn -- YES, YES and YES! He started out by getting very upset that I didn't trust him anymore. He didn't want me looking at his phone so he would tell me how much it hurt him that I didn't trust him and then I would feel bad so I would TRUST him! Ugh! Let me tell you, if this would ever happen again I would KNOW he was cheating because now I can look at his phone whenever I want...

My Amazing Friend Cara --Yes. The first reaction I got was anger (duh he got caught of course he is angry), and it most certainly was turned around on me immediately (which I was prepared for and knew would happen). It was not until I finally realized I needed to remain calm and stay in control and state the facts and only the facts that he was put in his place and realized he wasn’t going to turn this around on me (because it was not a fight, remember I was simply stating the facts) and have that control over me. Here is what I said and how I said it (mind you this was after I felt the tables turn) I explained; this is what I know, this is how I know it and this is what I am doing about it etc. I pretty much said in plain words (calmly). I wouldn’t have anything to accuse him of if he wasn’t doing things that were not on the up and up. I basically said if he wanted to go and turn things around then I wanted to clear some things up before the conversation went any further. Number one, while I suspected that he was doing things that were unfaithful, I did not know for sure. Number two, this was my marriage and my life so yes, it was my business and I was going to make it my priority to find out what was going on. Then I explained, at this point in time I was letting him know what I knew and how I knew it and that now this was on him to make this right and fix it. Period, end of story, no need for any more conversation on me doing what I did to find out that he was being unfaithful.

In the beginning when you (Jesse) started to pull away even before the actual affair, is there anything that she could have done to reach out to you? My husband is starting to pull away/detach emotionally and am concerned that he might be headed down that path.
Jesse -- Lyryn was struggling with and denying her postpartum depression and didn't really have the ability to reach out to me.  How things played out over time made things much more difficult to manage for both of us.  Getting another mature man who your husband trusts is important, but it is also important to be careful how you approach this person.  Don't set yourself up for a bad situation to begin brewing.  If I had been able to get away from it all for a weekend with a close friend who supported our marriage I may have been able to save my ship before I felt I was taking on too much water.
Depression is real.  People who haven't struggled with it can't really understand how much of a grip it can take on your life.  How hopeless it feels and how little joy can be found in anything.  Some people will need treatment.  I chose not to get medical treatment and wouldn't go back and change that part of my life.  However, for some it may be important or necessary that they get some type of intervention.

Was there ever a time you didn’t have the desire to make your marriage work and thought about just giving up? If so, how/why did that change?
Lyryn --Yes, yes, yes.  In the beginning, mostly.  Not only was I dealing with a million emotions that were made a gazillion times worse from pregnancy hormones, I was also dealing with Jesse still having "feelings" for Lauren and me feeling completely inadequate.  I felt like I was never going to measure up so why keep trying?  I felt that I was NEVER going to get over the pain, so why keep fighting?  It did not change until March of 2009.  It was like a switch in Jesse turned on (I'll write more about this later too). But after that HE started wanting me, fighting for me, fighting for our marriage.  Putting everything he had into building me up as a woman, mother and wife.  He was showing me that he could be trusted and that what we had together was irreplaceable. The more he loved on me the more I wanted this marriage as much as he did.  I was lucky...

Jesse -- Frequently in the beginning after it ended I struggled.  There were two reasons.  The biggest was I didn't really give up on my affair, but also because I still believed a lot of the lies I had told to Lyryn and others.  Lyryn was not easy to handle after the affair came out, by her own admission she came down on me like a hurricane of rage.  Somehow we both moved beyond these struggles and came out on the other side.  One thing that really changed things for me was finally admitting to myself  that having a real and lasting relationship with "Lauren" wasn't truly possible.  Up until then I think I still believed that it was possible.


Rachel said...

You guys are going to help so many people with this series, I doubt you'll ever know the full extent of the impact you're having on them :)

very married said...

i gotta tell you, there were two questions that particularly hit home for me. the first was how to be a good friend when you've never been through it before.

the other was the one asking jesse how he could do it w/ kids at home. when i was very young, my parents divorced because of my father's repeated infidelity. i asked him once when I was probably about 11 years old why/how he could do it. he responded, "i just wanted a better life for myself." those words still rip through my heart. it's been over 15 years.

Cara S. said...

Giiiiiirl, I give you SO much credit for going through these questions and answering them! It is NOT easy to rehash these emotions and answer them. As always you and jesse both answered the questions honestly and openly. Thank you for taking the time to do that. Love ya

Cait said...

I wanted to thank you for doing this series! I am a young newlywed, feeling secure and blessed in our marriage, but I know that even the happiest marriage takes careful tending and guarding from the devil. I'm sure that this has blessed many, many people and I'm thankful that you've opened up hard, hard things to be able to help and teach others. Thank you!

Moments and Impressions said...

Wow... you guys are really being so open and honest. How amazing. I love the help for the friends. I have been a friend to someone and you feel clueless on how to be there for them. All good advice.