Affair healing Blog
After my affair, I could never attend a wedding without being reminded of the promises I once made and eventually broke. The marriages of my own children, however, have always been particularly thoughtful occasions.
My children love me and have forgiven me for the affair that broke their family twenty years ago. Their grace washes away the shame that would otherwise spoil the celebration of their marriages. But the past is always present, and so in their vows I hear echos of my own.
I don't try to hide the story of my infidelity from my children. I hope that maybe they, and their spouses, will learn something from it and avoid making the same mistakes. And so recently, the week before another daughter was about to be married, I wrote the following letter to her fiance, my soon-to-be son-in-law.
When I stood in front of a church full of witnesses and said “I do” to the woman who would one day give birth to your bride, I could not have been more sincere in my vow. Without a hint of uncertainty, I promised to love her and be faithful to her for the rest of our lives, despite whatever disappointments or difficulties we’d face.
I’d known her for four years, pursued her for most of them. Even the break we took from each other only reinforced my desire to spend my life with her and so, after a summer apart, I surprised her by asking if she would marry me.
Let me wind back to the year we met. I was a sophomore in college and she, an incoming freshman, caught my attention on the first day new students arrived. From that moment on my thoughts constantly turned to her.
I have one vivid memory: an afternoon after leaving class, on a sidewalk between the classroom and my dorm, I imagined what my future would be. It was an “I’m going to always remember this” thought that I wanted to someday compare to the eventual reality of my life.
I wondered what kind of woman I would marry and if it might be her. I imagined what kind of life we would share and how many children we would have. What kind of father I would be? What kind of success would I experience in all the things that college life was suppose to prepare me for?
Many of the details of that imagined future are forgotten, but the feeling of it—the longing, the hope, the joy—is easily recalled. In that moment, when I anticipated the life I would live and the man I would be, there was no hint of isolation or secrecy or betrayal. If anyone had suggested that infidelity and divorce would be part of my story, I would have utterly and sincerely denied it.
Now you are going to make similar promises. I trust your sincerity and your love for my daughter. She has become a mature, thoughtful woman who makes smart choices, so I know that her commitment to a life with you comes with a certainty that I trust.
Neither of you knows what the next years will bring. I hope they are stuffed full of good surprises and wonderful discoveries together. But no couple escapes the harder experiences, those moments of disconnection or disagreement. What I never understood was that my failure to love in those moments contributed to a problem that grew over the years and, eventually, became my justification for cheating.
If I could go back to where you are now, if I could start over with all I’ve learned (and am still learning), I would have loved my wife better by pursuing her with more honesty and vulnerability. I would have done battle against that part of me that shuts down emotionally, even though it seemed so justified, because I know that real love fights for reconnection with our partners even when it seems scary to do so. I would have spent a lot more time trying to understand whatever “stuff” got in my way of moving toward her (instead of away from or against her) lovingly and truthfully.
If I had done that, I think we would have not just avoided divorce, I think we would have experienced a more satisfying relationship. I wish I had given that to her. I wish I had given that to my children. I wish I had understood my promises and done the work required to keep them. Not just to stay faithful, but to love well.
No matter what happens in your lives and in your marriage, I know there is grace on the other side of it. I’m thankful for that. Because I needed plenty of it, I think you can always expect it from me… but I hope you won’t need too much.
The two of you don’t have to create an awesome marriage. I’ve seen the inside of many, many good ones and none of them live up to that hype. You just need to build one that is secure and satisfying, one that maintains trust in each other by doing the everyday work of building and keeping a connection you both enjoy.
I’m glad you found each other! I’m excited for the future you are creating together. Your marriage will always have my support and blessing.
Welcome to the family.