Forgiveness- the Ultimate Strategy for halting the Crazy Cycle
1. Learn to decode each other’s messages
2. Don’t step on each other’s air hoses
3. Forgive as Christ forgave you
-understand the “why” behind his behavior
-Like Christ did on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” Look beyond how he’s treating me and look at his upbringing/wounds.
2. Relinquish the offense to God- surrender whatever it is that I have against Matt to God; let God’s
Will be done
3. Anticipate- have hope and trust God to work
Let go of your concerns. Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth. Be still and know I am God Psalm 46:10
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
He MAKES me lie down in green pastures. He doesn’t just ask or hope I do….He MAKES Me!!!—
HUGE THANKS TO Jenny (my mother-in-law) for stressing this to me as I cried my eyes out sitting on
my basement steps one night after putting the kids to bed when Matt left again.
Matt’s parents were a true source of Godly support, understanding, advice, and accountability then and now!!! Thank you guys
It goes without mention also that my mom, my friend Heather, Joelyn, Janet, Tonya, Barry & Bobbe, Alicia, Dr. Aikin, Terry, Lori, Mike, Pastor Whitie, Dave & DelRae, Mel, Jodi, and countless others who prayed and supported us, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Mom- a special thank you to you for letting me vent, throw things, scream, cry, and pour out my heart to you. I feel like I owe you an apology for doing all that in front of you, but I know you understand. Thank you for always being there and never giving up on us! You are a gift from God I would never exchange I love you!!!
God sees the end- He has me in this position for a reason…maybe to help others and develop friendships.
For our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, powers, authorities of this dark world…
Fortunately, we had family to help with the kids. The next morning was a Tuesday. Very nervous and afraid I’d lose my job, I called my boss to say, “I have another emergency.” He asked if everything was o.k. again, but was getting frustrated with my unreliability (and understandably so). I replied, “I have to take some time for my family. Thank you for asking.” I said I’d be gone the remaining four days of the week. This was so uncharacteristic of me, a hard-working, driven, career-oriented woman. Matt and I decided we would get the kids off to school and just drive. No specific destination was planned. We were very vague to family and friends, to say the least. In Pennsylvania, it was probably about 25 degrees, so we packed winter clothes. We began driving south. Ten hours later, we ended up in the Carolinas! I imagined my family and friends were freaking out! My mom was on a trip to the Holy Land, which she had planned for months. Knowing she would be worried of my where-a-bouts, I made an expensive long distance call to her in Israel to let her know we were o.k. On the entire trip, I listened (not just heard) to Matt divulge anything and everything he wanted to tell me about Shannon. To be honest, I heard more than I wanted to, but God carried me. I felt it would be beneficial especially for him to let it all out. After breakfast at our hotel, we continued to drive south, still unsure of where we would end up. Our final destination was South Miami where we stayed until Friday. We had an awesome time! A couple even came up to us as we walked home from dancing one evening and asked, “Are you guys dating?” We told them we were married for almost 16 years. The joy they saw in our faces on the dance floor made them think we had just met. We talked about anything and everything. I remember feeling very nervous though. I went to get my hair done one day and I was afraid to let Matt alone for fear he’d contact Shannon again. Months later, he admitted he was very tempted to, but praise God he didn’t I don’t know if you’re seeing the picture here yet, but I was living life on “egg shells” happy with our progress, but scared of how flippant Matt was at the time. I longed for honest, true commitment!
We drove all the way home to Pennsylvania from South Miami on Friday, February 4, 2011 with the help of One Hour Energy drinks for Matt! The kids were coming down with colds, so we cut the trip short a day or two. For a couple weeks, things seemed better. Matt attended counseling three times in February. On February 14, Valentine’s Day, I remember things were very stressful. We had been discussing the need for a new refrigerator. I objected because I didn’t feel it was necessary since ours worked fine. Our fridge was small. Matt felt it was time to replace it with a bigger one. We had it for about 13 years. Being raised in a home where our philosophy was, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I found it unreasonable to make such a big purchase. I recognized my fault and texted him to see if he would meet me at the mall to look at refrigerators that morning. I wanted him to see I was giving him control and allowing him to take charge finally. I appreciated his willingness to meet me. I bought him a Dunkin Donut coffee and muffin on my way to show him my love When I got to the mall, I handed the coffee and muffin to him. He thanked me, but I knew he wasn’t doing well. It was a Monday. Mondays were notoriously bad for us! He often reverted back to thoughts of Shannon on Mondays. After about 15 minutes, we were purchasing a nice, new fridge and he was back to work. I don’t remember him giving me a kiss or much of a good-bye. He was so distant. I was glad he showed up though and I was trying to focus on the positives. This was a HUGE battle 24/7 though! I felt like a yo-yo taking one step forward and two giant leaps back constantly.
Things continued like a roller coaster the next two weeks. Some days he was stable. On those days, he would talk occasionally, telling me only the basics about his day. On the tough days, he would leave the house without telling me or just come home later than normal. He never gave explanations, and to be honest, I knew where he was. It was also around February that he purchased a full bedroom set, including a nice dresser, queen size bed/mattress, and night stand/lamp and all the accessories, so he could have his own place in the basement. The day the furniture arrived, I remember I was so angry he ordered it without informing me. I wouldn’t even sign for it when it arrived, so it got taken back by the delivery man. This really pissed him off. So much so, that he laid into me to get revenge. He had to call to track it all down and have it re-delivered. This was a huge source of contention. He was spending money left and right. I remember finding sexual stamina drinks in his gym bag one day when I was looking through his stuff. I feared what I felt would be “the worst” then: He and Shannon must be having sex. During our intense week of counseling later in the year however, he looked me straight in the eye and claimed it never went that far. I believed him. Although, for 4 ½ months I lived under the torture of thinking he “went all the way” with her.
I remember bawling in that bathroom as he sat on the toilet with the most stoic, uncaring look I’d ever seen. It was the same look I’d seen on him for most of 2011. I recall thinking, “Who is this man? He is not the man I married. Something has come over him.” Now, I know with certainty that “something” was Satan and all his evil forces. We went out to our bed and he began to text Shannon and laughed at their conversation, right next to me as I laid there sobbing. I literally felt like I wanted to shrivel up and die, but I knew I had to be a mother to our two children lying just feet away from me on the other side of the partition. Unfortunately, what ensued next, I’m sure they heard loud & clear. I asked him to please stop texting her in front of me. I knew it was far too much to ask of him to stop texting her completely, but ATLEAST don’t do it in front of me. “I can’t handle this anymore”, I cried out. “This has to stop!” What was I going to do? It’s not like I could get up and leave in the middle of a strange town, in the dark, snowy mountains of the Poconos all alone. I wanted to call my mom, Heather, Bobbe, anybody who could just please help me. All these people were several hours away though! I hurt inside worse than anyone could possibly hurt. In my mind, I cried out, “Why God, why me, what did I do to deserve this?” Despite my efforts to get Matt to stop texting her, he wouldn’t. I asked again and he insisted he had to. I reached for his phone and asked him to give it to me, but he wouldn’t. We both began to tug and pull at each other to get the phone and neither one of us was about to give up. All the while, we screamed at each other. My heart is hurting now even though it’s 2 ½ years later. I’m so sorry Chris and Brianna that you had to endure all this. I wish I could go back about 14 years and re-do my life.
I was at the Rec working out one day. I think it was February. I saw an older lady wearing a shirt that said, “Lancaster Bible College” on it. My mom worked there, so I struck up a conversation with her. Turns out, it was what I call a “God moment or divine appointment.” One thing lead to another and I found myself telling her to please pray for me also. I was so needy and just wanted one more person of God to be praying for our situation. She told me of a 24/7 prayer chain at her church and a Divorce Care group. She gave me the website. Eventually, I got in touch with a lady named Lori. I certainly wasn’t considering divorce; however, Lori was exactly the “manna” God wanted me to have at that point in time. God provided what I needed day by day, but never in advance. If he gave me too much too soon, I guarantee I wouldn’t have grown to trust Him like I did!!! We met together on several occasions. It was weird meeting with her at first since I had never met her, but I just told her about my situation and how I came in contact with her. She was so kind and intuitive. She listened to me and just gave me Godly counsel as she felt the need to do so. I loved that she let me cry and was comfortable with it. I knew I could always call her if I simply needed a friend. The prayer group at Ephrata Community Church (Gateway House of Prayer) fervently prayed for me many times and continued to email me asking how things were going even months later! He never gives us more than we can handle. Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not harm you.”
By the end of February, Matt had attended about three counseling sessions independently. After the Pocono weekend, he attended two more during March. Our son even started going to see a counselor. Matt had apparently had a descent talk with his good friend, Gary on March 15 which spurred the appointment for our son. I was grateful for Gary and his talks with Matt since he overcame a similar issue in the past with his own wife. Matt and I had originally planned to go to the Florida Keys from March 7-11, but the trip was booked prior to the affair. Since we took the impulsive drive to Miami in February, we felt it best to cancel this trip to the Keys, so we did.
By mid-March, Matt was receiving threats from Shannon’s husband which prompted him to get a hand gun. Shannon was married (unhappily) and had three children similar ages to our two. Taking into consideration how strange and impulsive his behavior was at this time, I began fearing for my own life. I knew he would never hurt our kids though. He purposely did things to piss me off. He would call and talk to her in our home within earshot of me. The verbal abuse to me was so mentally draining that I even inquired at the attorney’s office about a PFA or some kind of protection against this torture. Matt threatened to cut off the finances and close the bank account during this time also.
On Sunday, March 13, we met with our long-time Sunday school teacher, Mike. I had been reading James Dobson’s awesome book, “Love Must be Tough.” I wrote my version of a letter that I read in that book to read to Matt that morning in front of Mike. It was my “ultimatum” to him. I wanted Matt to know first and foremost how much I loved him. I also wanted him to see how hard I tried to hold our family together; but at this point, I couldn’t continue living the way we were. It was too difficult for me to “co-parent” as he put it and try to maintain my sanity. I didn’t believe it was God’s plan for us to live in the same home, raise our children, and yet enable him to continue an affair with another woman. That was not acceptable to God. I asked him to get help and he reluctantly agreed. It was a half-hearted turn-around for him. I praised God for the minor improvements though. Anything was better than nothing these days! I remember we both felt we needed to solidify things after this stressful, emotional talk. We left church and decided to go out to lunch together. Matt loves sushi, so that’s what we had! It was so fun talking again and deciding how to move forward and make improvements. I knew in order to show my commitment to change; I needed decrease my hours at work.
Friday, March 11 was my last day at the orthopedic office. Now, this was HUGE for me! I was raised in a home with a very strong work ethic and I really enjoyed my job. I felt obligated to be there. Unfortunately however, my job became my life. I didn’t even give a notice, I just quit. My reasoning, well….Matt said he needed me to be with him 24/7 to help him overcome his addiction with Shannon. He wanted a baby-sitter basically. I certainly felt pressured to quit so he would know I loved him. He worked out of our house, so I could be at home with him; go to the gym with him, etc. This was a complete lifestyle change for me. I was used to working 40+ hours/week! Matt openly admitted his struggle to me within the first few days about how difficult it was for him to resist the temptation to go see her whenever he wanted. She was a police officer and he was once a police officer too. They had things in common, especially the fact that they both were “in a miserable marriage.” This was the topic of their first conversation the first night they met, when he went to a bar alone. As he was there, Shannon’s friend approached Matt and asked if her friend could come over and talk to him. He said she could and that’s how this whole story initiated!
I feel I need to also add that many other fateful events contributed to our downfall. Matt had a friend at our gym who said some key comments about religion in general that led to Matt doubting his belief in Christianity. Matt also was spiritually devastated when our Senior Pastor was let go. This was a man he greatly admired! Matt often surrounded himself with friends who were not grounded in Christianity. I’m sure he could even add a few more things to this list if you ask him.
The following week, which was my first week home without a job, went surprisingly well. We re-visited the topic of moving. We had discussed this before because I believed it would be much better for our marriage if we were not so geographically close to Shannon. Matt was also in favor because his current duty station with the Army was Fort Dix, NJ (1 ½ hrs. away). So we put our house up for sale that week and even went to look at homes near Fort Dix on March 20, 2011. We cleaned our house from head to toe, and enjoyed the hard labor together. It was amazing how much dirt and hand prints had accumulated over 13 years and two kids! The following Tuesday, I flew to Columbus, SC to be with him during an Army convention for 2 days. We had an awesome time. Sex was great! I remember I read “Sacred Marriage” as I lay out at the pool. Matt’s friends even commented, “Who’s that sexy lady out there at the pool,” which made us both feel pretty good
The day I flew home, he already “fell.” He called Shannon again. Now, she had a new cell phone number. She gave it to Matt and everything started all over again. The following Monday, March 28th, Matt gave up. He willfully declared he was tired of lying and wanted nothing more to do with our marriage. He wasn’t going to move to NJ because he wanted to be with Shannon. I told him he needed to contact our realtor, who just happened to be his best friend’s Dad, to admit that he was taking our house off the market already, just 2 weeks after putting it up. It was that same night that I asked him to move out for the first time. I knew the timing was right. I had been asking God for wisdom about this for weeks!!!! Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I was sick of his foolishness. I knew his lifestyle behaviors would have detrimental effects on me and the kids, so it was time.
I believe it was that same Monday evening or else the next Monday, our kids both had music lessons. Chris played the guitar and Bri did drums. I was preparing supper and trying to help Brianna do her homework. I can picture everything in my head. I was expecting Matt to arrive home, but it was getting later and later, with no sign of him. My anxiety was creeping up again. I hated to let my kids home alone at ages 9 & 11, but I just couldn’t stand it. I didn’t really pray extensively about this, until I got in my car. I had this sneaky suspicion Matt was at his house a few minutes away that he hadn’t moved into yet (I had asked him to move out but all his things were still in our home). I drove over, parked a couple houses away to avoid being seen. His car and Shannon’s were both there. I rang the doorbell which clearly worked. Nobody answered. I walked around the house and nobody was outside. I rang the doorbell again and heard voices this time. It took a couple minutes for him to come to the door. My mind was racing with thoughts of them having sex, making out, etc. Matt finally peaked the door open and stood there. To this day, the shirt he was wearing that day brings back bad memories, but God is healing this “trigger”. He said, “What do you want?” My response was not my own. I’m not a flamboyant, charismatic kind of Christian; however, what I said was truly the Holy Spirit speaking through me. Miraculously, I replied with calmness, “Could you please step outside the door? I’d like to talk. I don’t need you to come home tonight. I can take the kids to their lessons. I just want you to know Matt how much I love you. No matter what happens, I will always welcome you back with open arms if you can just get your life straightened out with God.” He didn’t really have much to say, so the conversation was brief but to the point. It wasn’t until much later that God revealed to us that it was my calm, forgiving nature displayed that very night and throughout the following months(by the power of the Holy Spirit), that sparked a spiritual change of heart in Matt. I had been praying so much for this.
My life at this time consisted of getting on my hands and knees and praying frequently. I had never really done so before. Now, it just seemed necessary and more natural. I sang praise songs and listened to Christian music as much as possible. It was my “spiritual lifeline.” I wrote Bible verses and encouraging words on little notes which were strategically placed in my car, refrigerator, mirror, etc. I needed God’s presence to permeate every aspect of my life in order to function. My life seemed to be a shambles. I was going to see my counselor, Alicia at least every other week. I cried daily and felt like I needed to call people frequently just to get encouragement. I worried continuously. If I wasn’t worried about the current situation, I was worrying about the next day. I continued to lose more weight, my blood pressure continued to rise, and I was not sleeping more than about four hours a night. Gradually over months, God revealed to me (through my outstanding Christian counselor Alicia and others), I needed to COMPLETELY SURRENDER MATT TO GOD. I can’t stress this enough! This was a HUGE TURNING POINT IN MY HEALING!!! For months, I was trying to do everything within my power to get Matt to come back to Christ. However, in so doing, I was driving him farther and farther away. I needed to let go of him in order for God to have him. I was interfering with God’s plan. I learned that Matt’s transformation needed to come from him. Nothing I did, spoke, or coordinated would help matters. It was just making things worse. He needed to come to his own realization of his need for change. I needed to start moving on with my own life. This is not to say that I was preparing for a divorce. I was simply letting go of Matt, so God could do His work in him. I wanted to believe Matt was a Christian. If so, God would not let go of him. He would bring him back like a sheep into His fold (wise words from Del-Rae).
I believe it was around March or April that I discovered a letter in our mail about the purchase of a car. I knew Matt & I hadn’t bought one, so I asked him about it. He revealed nonchalantly that he helped Shannon buy the car “because she needed one.” In his mind, this was perfectly acceptable. Satan was weaving his nasty, intricate web in Matt’s mind, filling it with lie, after lie, after lie. As I look back on this time, roughly $20,000 was spent on things like her car, counseling, his home he rented and only lived in for three days, and multiple dates with her. He never hesitated to get her what she wanted. He wanted to “rescue her from her terrible life with her husband.” He claimed he wanted to help her come to know Christ and also to get in shape. She was so depressed because of the “weight she gained from having kids.” Even when we moved to North Carolina, I still found myself struggling every time I saw a tan Chevy Malibu because that’s what Matt bought her. I felt like I should look to see if it was her and she found out we moved here. Thoughts of her like this are what led me to decide to pray and fast for a couple days several months after moving. I felt compelled to just “get her out of my system.” It was during that time of prayer and fasting, God helped me release all the “crap” and actually pray “blessings” on her and her life, family, marriage, etc. I know that sounds a bit far-fetched, but I really did do it WITH GOD’S HELP ONLY!!!
In March, Chris and Brianna were with Matt one day at the mall and it just so “happened” that Shannon was there with her kids at the same time. From what I heard through the kids and Matt, all the children ended up playing together in the play area! This bothered me. I didn’t want my kids to know Shannon, let alone see their own Dad interacting with her in any way, appropriate or not! Matt didn’t share the same feelings. At one point, Matt asked our kids who they would want to live with if we separated! I heard this from the kids, not him. On Tuesday, March 29th the kids had their gymnastics class in the evening. Matt had planned to take our kids with him to see his new house he moved into. He also had Shannon with him! He didn’t see anything wrong with this idea. His new house he was renting was just two minutes from our own home. His parents even furnished him with beds for our kids so they would have a place to sleep when they were with Dad. I was also infuriated with the idea that Matt planned to take the kids WITH Shannon to see his new place. By now, it seemed to me that he was introducing our children to another woman and presenting his new life as perfectly acceptable in God’s eyes.
On Wednesday, March 30, 2011, I took it upon myself to get our kids into counseling. I found a male counselor who participated in our insurance network. I felt Chris did better with him than with previous counseling, but still had difficulty. Keep in mind; he was 12, a critical age for boys and fathers in development. He was showing signs at school and at home of increasing behavior problems. His focusing issues with ADHD were turning into outright defiance. Detentions, suspensions, and conferences with teachers were becoming a weekly occurrence!!! The separation and the home situation were really taking a toll on Chris. The need for a Godly father in the home was so apparent and yet so lost! It wasn’t as serious in Brianna, but still there.
That weekend, April 1-3, Matt was in Pittsburgh for the weekend with the Army. He admitted to me later that he often would meet up with Shannon on these trips, talk to her on the phone, or stay longer than necessary because he didn’t want to return to me. He also confessed he wished I would be in a car accident, so I wouldn’t make it home. Who ever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me???” Even though I had asked Matt again to move out about a week prior, he still hadn’t officially done so. He would go over to the house when he needed a break, but he wasn’t actually living there. His new bedroom set and belongings were still in our basement. When he returned from Pittsburg, he claimed he wasn’t allowed to move in till June 1 according to the landlord. I was so fed up with his verbal and mental abuse, so I re-iterated to him that he needed to move out. I didn’t care where he went. I just needed him to stop treating me like I was an object for him to vent at and also as an object to gratify his sexual pleasures at his own will. I told him he could go live in a hotel or go to his parents. I just couldn’t handle him living at home anymore. It was such a constant, awful trigger for me whenever he would leave to go be with Shannon, which occurred at least once a week. On these evenings, the kids would often ask me, “Where’s Daddy going?” At first, I covered it up with some cute little answer, but as months passed, I began saying, “Dad is with friends and he needs our prayer, so let’s pray for him right now.” He often forgot who he was texting and would accidentally text me a sensual text which was intended for Shannon. I even recall him accidentally texting me once when I left the house. It said, “Ok, Jen just left, so I’ll see your sexy ass in a half hour. I can’t wait.”
I was getting so mentally fatigued. By April, I had lost roughly 15 pounds. People noticed and asked if I was o.k. I was so tired of the repeated cycle. Matt would leave in the middle of the night sometimes. I slept upstairs in our bedroom, but I’m a light sleeper, so I always heard him leave even though he was sleeping in the basement. He would go be with Shannon, play poker, and hang out at bars, sometimes never coming home until the next day. We had an alarm system. That was another contentious point. I wanted to feel safe and set the alarm as we always had in the past when we went to bed. With him leaving in the middle of the night though, I didn’t want to be woken up, nor have the kids wake up at the sound of it beeping when he came in. Our bedroom was above the garage, so whenever he would raise the garage door, I’d wake up. Eventually, he began to park on the street. We agreed this was about the only available option if I didn’t want to be woken up. Unfortunately though, the alarm system couldn’t be utilized because he would set it off when he came through the front door. Hence another reason for me to feel unsafe and unprotected by the one man who God intended to make me feel safe and protected! One night, I heard something in the middle of the night. I hoped it was just him, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t even know if he was home or not. Part of me was afraid it was an intruder. I was exhausted and forgot that the alarm was activated. I think I had turned it on that night because I thought he was home already and in the basement. The kids were sound asleep. I opened the front door, activating the alarm. Immediately, I began panicking. I rushed to disarm the alarm, fearing I woke the entire neighborhood up. Chris and Brianna both woke up. The police showed up within minutes. I remember they asked me if everything was o.k. I had been crying. I recall responding with “umm, I think so.” My eyes however longed to convey to that police officer, “I need help. I need to feel safe and protected, PLEASE.” I felt the exact opposite, sleeping alone, crying myself to sleep as I read the Bible. Chris even asked me, “Why did you fall asleep with your Bible on your lap? Did you know you did that?” I take comfort knowing he saw an image of his mom hurting, but leaning on her Heavenly Daddy many nights.
Enough was enough. He finally moved out on Saturday, April 9, 2011. His home wasn’t really furnished, but he had a mattress at least. Talk about a difficult thing to do: assisting him with carrying the furniture from our basement to the SUV and then into his new rental home. As I write this, my thoughts are bittersweet because I was relieved he was finally getting out, but so depressed that my life had sunk this low. I never imagined I’d be in this place!!!
Well, that didn’t last long. Maybe however, it was all God felt Matt needed. The next day, he was home in the evening helping me get the kids to bed. I remember him asking Chris after we all had a family Bible story with them, “Chris, do you want me to come home to stay?” Of course, Chris replied an emphatic, “Yes!” Matt asked, “Why?” What followed was a phrase I’ll never forget: ”Because that’s what Jesus would want you to do.” Wow….powerful words from an 11 year old!!! Two days after moving out, he moved back home. I know he had been “suffering” for months. He was sleeping only about 2 hours a night, literally crapping blood, breaking out in strange rashes and suffering from extreme mental torment, anxiety/depression. He was always a people-pleasing person, so in his mind, this was so difficult. He didn’t want to disappoint Shannon by breaking up with her, nor did he want to hurt my feelings by leaving me. Monday morning when he moved back to our home, I remember him saying to me, “Do you want me to go upstairs with you and please you?” Words that confused the heck out of me! I didn’t want his sexual gratification. I wanted his faithfulness!!! Months later, he told me that as he was touching me that morning in April 2011, he was very tempted to ask me about going to “His High Places” for counseling. He didn’t actually say anything about it till the following week. Good things take time. If God gave us everything we wanted all at once, we’d never learn what he intends for us to learn!
I was elated when he finally brought up the idea of going to “His High Places (HHP)” for counseling. My sister-in-law Mel had told me about this place down south. I had been praying for months and hoping Matt would take an interest. The past four months seemed like an eternity to me. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity and told Matt I’d call and see how soon they had an opening for us to come. As it turned out, the next opening was in two weeks. When Satan knows you’re on the verge of something life-changing for God though, he attacks with every fiber of his evil being!!! It is only by God’s great power that we made it there on Sunday, April 24. We stayed till Friday. It was the most intense week of “spiritual surgery” we’d ever endured. Two days before leaving to go there, Matt spent time with Shannon again and seemed very irritable toward me. I was very worried that he was going to back out on going to HHP. Keep in mind that every week for the past nine months, he had been spending at least 3 or more days a week with her, whether it was working out over lunch, going out together, or just meeting in the evenings somewhere when our kids would go to bed. He later divulged to me some of the places the two of them would go. To this day, I have a tough time driving by these local establishments. I don’t even like going into the city where I know she patrolled.
HHP was truly life-changing and pivotal in our healing process; however, it was not an immediate cure. I could write a whole book on everything we learned there but that’s beyond the scope of this journal. The first night we arrived, our counselor/messenger from God asked us kindly if we’d be willing to hand over our cell phones for the week. I was thrilled to do so. Much to my surprise, Matt willingly gave his up! This act alone made me see there is a God because up until now, he was so resistant to admit the phone was a problem or that he needed God’s help in any way. By surrendering to God our phones, we allowed Him to gradually tear down SO MANY WALLS WE BOTH had built up over the years! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND HHP TO ANY COUPLE!!! Even if you think your marriage is fine.
The following is a short message I wrote at HHP that year:
It’s April 24, 2011, Easter. We just arrived at HHP in Boone, NC. I’m reading about ways to de-stress. Perhaps journaling will help. Due to the depression from the stress Matt and I have been through over the past 4 months, I’m not going to write it all out. It’s indelibly imprinted on my brain, but that is why we’re finally here for help and counseling. He consented to come also. I’m not controlling him anymore. God is helping me daily to release him into the Holy Spirit’s hands. He is molding me into His “masterpiece.”
On our way home, we started getting a cell phone signal after driving for about a ½ hour down the huge mountain. One of my first voicemails was that our son Chris had missed a day of school. We discovered he had intentionally skipped a day. My father-in-law dropped him off at the bus stop assuming he would get on the bus. As soon as he left, Chris walked home and figured out how to get in. He spent the day watching TV. and pigging out instead of being in 6th grade! Obviously, that created tension for Matt and me. I remember even though I just had “spiritual surgery” about how to be a submissive wife, I already slipped back into my old habit of getting upset with Matt and his Dad for not ensuring that Chris got his butt to school. Matt was taking his Dad’s side and saying he shouldn’t have had to stay at the bus stop. True, but at that time, I was being stubborn and finding every reason I could to argue. I also found other reasons to be the “old Jen.” I was so busy listening and responding to text messages and voicemails from the whole week that I was not respecting Matt and responding to him in love. Satan was on the warpath again already!!! Our armor was NOT on!!! Only 1 hour after we left!!!
The following week (first week of May), Matt seemed so tired and run down. He had no motivation. Normally he is a very intense, talkative person. He was really struggling still in his mind. His depression was getting much worse. I could see it in his work and everything. We were only home for 1 week from HHP when he went out with Shannon again! He wanted to be away from me because I represented his sin. I sunk deeper and deeper into my “pit” now as well. I felt like we just wasted thousands of dollars for nothing. We were fortunate that our insurance reimbursed us some for HHP because we had a legitimate medical diagnosis, “marital discord, adjustment disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.” Boy, we sound MESSED UP! God wasn’t finished with us yet (and never will be)!
In May of 2011, I found a job that was part-time as a Physician Assistant. I was becoming more afraid of the unknown. God was really working on me. I was scared Matt would leave me and not provide for the kids and me. I know he promised he would “always take care of me” that first night; however, he lied repeatedly, so I lost all trust in him by this point. As for me working part-time, he agreed that would be alright. I struggled with this though because mentally I was scared to death about being away from him. I was terrified that he would go visit Shannon while I was at work. Nobody at work knew my situation and thankfully didn’t ask me. I was way too fragile to talk about it at this stage.
We continued to have ups and downs. Matt still was communicating with Shannon and quite likely seeing her. I wanted to be rid of all his lies because it was tearing me apart emotionally, but I couldn’t imagine life without him. Up till now, my life revolved around Matt and I was still in love with him. I wanted so much for him to come back to Christ, but I didn’t think that was going to happen based on his behavior. I had to start taking medication more frequently now for panic attacks. I never took such meds before, but now I had them for emergencies only. I had to take at least one a day. I didn’t want to be dependent on them, but they certainly helped me get some much-needed rest that year.
On Wednesday, May 11, 8 days before Matt’s 36th birthday, I asked him again, “If you’re not committed to this marriage and you’re continuing to spend time with Shannon, please move out again.” On Thursday, May 12, 2011, I tried to begin a civil conversation up in our office room. Rarely did our conversations go well. Matt had a way of blaming my past mistakes for his current poor decisions. I often felt like everything was my fault because of how he presented things. He in turn, would become defensive and deny any wrong-doing on his part. One negative thing led to another and I asked him to leave. I had been warned by many people including attorneys that I should not leave our house. If anything, Matt needed to leave. He began to say that the computer couldn’t stay, nor most of my clothes because he “bought it for me.” I had already sought legal counsel and assured him he couldn’t do that. Well, our anger quickly escalated, he grabbed the computer tower and headed for the door, claiming he would come back to take my clothing. I grabbed it too, insisting he couldn’t take it. “I needed it for work, the kid’s school and everything,” I said. We got in a struggling match over the silly computer. He took the tower into the garage and pulled the door shut quickly behind him, nearly crushing my forearm in the doorjamb. I was crying and he was yelling. At this point, being only a 4 foot 10 inch 93 pound woman up against a 6 foot 1 inch 180 pound man, I felt helpless and in fear of my life as well as my children. I finally gave up and called 911. I also called my brother. I was so scared! He struggled to get my phone and stop me. Within minutes, two police officers arrived. By then, Matt had the computer locked in his car. He was adamant that “everything was fine and they could leave.” I was a wreck. I stood behind his car holding Brianna next to me in an effort to keep him from leaving with the computer. As the police tried to help us, Brianna cried out half in tears because I was crying and she didn’t know what the heck was going on, “Daddy, just leave the other girl and everything will be alright.” Words that are embedded in my brain for eternity!!! Very true, however it misses the point of what Mom was doing that contributed to this. There are always two sides to every story.
All this happened about an hour before Brianna needed to be at her school for her Spring Concert. Oh, what a night! God was holding me with his strong right hand, but it felt more like a shredded piece of string that had been through the washer many times. I’ll never forget that night. I managed to get her there on time. My makeup was a mess from crying, but to be able to be there was such a joy. Nothing could take my mind off my current situation; however, seeing Bri sing and play her recorder was so good for me. About a year later, I noticed Brianna chose to frame the picture of the two of us that my sweet neighbor, Dawn took that night. I still have it
I went to counseling the following week preparing to discuss inevitable separation/divorce due to what transpired the previous week. Alicia helped me prepare by giving me the following Biblical points of wisdom. I wrote in my notes that I’d go to my mom’s house for the weekend. Forgiveness is shown as releasing him into God’s hands, not reconciliation. I can forgive even if we don’t reconcile. Let go of the hate, bitterness and revenge. I need to take care of myself, so I have no more roller coaster emotional rides. If we are going to separate, we need space. Tell Matt, “I won’t go to your rental house without notice, so please respect my space even if you are paying for it. I realize I may have to start paying for some of this, but for now, we are still your responsibility financially. This is no longer your home. You can have the kids some weekends.” I had looked into receiving financial support through Domestic Relations, etc. if it came to that point. My counselor also discussed the possibility of support groups appropriate for me.
One week later, Matt was traveling back from Fort Dix, NJ and texted me. It said, “I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt you. I’d like to come home. This isn’t the life I want and I want to come home.” By now, I had lots of safe boundaries built up to prevent me from being mentally wounded anymore (thanks to Dobson’s book, “Love Must be Tough”). After some careful thought and prayer, I called him. My heart ached for him and I wanted more than anything to hold him in my arms and love him, but I also had a great fear of being hurt all over again by his behavior. This call was important and I didn’t want to screw it up. I wanted to be strong and let him know that I loved him, but I couldn’t just let him walk back into my life as if nothing ever happened. I proceeded to tell him, “I will allow you to come home, but we need to talk.” When he arrived home, we talked in our bedroom. He gave me the rite to explain my boundaries, so I told him that I didn’t want him sleeping in our bed until “I felt ready for that.” I explained that I didn’t know when that would be. I also didn’t want him to try to touch me or kiss me unless I initiated it. It was so easy for me to fall back into the trap of letting my emotions take over if I let him touch me. He agreed to comply and expressed understanding of how he hurt me. Even though the next day was his birthday, there was no “birthday sex” because I wasn’t emotionally ready. He seemed to understand and respect that. The following day, he asked me to forgive him and said he wanted to be friends. He still slept in the basement, shared the kid’s bathroom, and had strict “boundaries” with me. Keep in mind; we knew each other for 21 years, so these boundaries were tough for us to keep. We both never fell out of love for each other.
After Matt committed to staying and working on things at home better in May of 2011, our marriage very slowly started showing improvement. Emphasis here on “slow.” By the end of May, Matt’s affair with Shannon was going on 10 months. I on the other hand, only knew about it for 5 very long months. It was rocky with Shannon too because he would go to her periodically and say he was going to break it off because he wanted to work on our marriage, but nothing ever stuck. Matt was so unstable and impulsive. His insecurities that started in childhood manifested now as intimidation toward me. He shoved his finger in front of my face one day and yelled at me, insisting that I couldn’t keep my clothes if we separated. I felt like he was taking me on a wild roller coaster that I never wanted to go on. As a result, my mind was trained to react in panic when I experienced “triggers”. Triggers are those things which occur in our lives that evoke a particular emotion. For example, whenever I heard Matt’s cell phone chime a certain sound, I knew he was getting a text. For months, I would literally either go into a panic attack or at least experience intense anxiety symptoms. I eventually asked him to please change the ringtone so I wouldn’t have to hear that particular one. I still remember that exact ring if I hear it when I’m around people. It was an audible trigger that instantly reminded me of Matt’s affair. When he would text me, I would get anxious wondering if it would be a loving remark or a negative one. He often would text me very nasty comments that I wouldn’t even finish reading because I learned to “sift out the trash.” God doesn’t want us to focus on “trash, but on the Truth.” If it wasn’t going to uplift me, I learned not to keep reading.
In July, my family had our annual vacation. I remember I was reading an excellent, yet very conservative book entitled, “Created to be His Help Mate” by Debi Pearl. We were doing well, going out on dates, etc. Matt said he had to go home mid-week because of work with the Army. He left and unbeknownst to me, he helped Shannon move into a home he had looked at for himself just a few months earlier. She contacted him and asked if she could move into it and he agreed. She was moving out of her house and taking her kids. She was intending to divorce her husband so she and Matt could hook up. Matt had not lived in the home she was renting, but it was one of the two homes within a couple minutes of our house that he had looked at earlier that year in case he needed it!!! I came home three days later all excited to see him and looking my best, and then I was hit with this news! I had no idea any of this was going on. I was under the impression he was not in contact with her anymore. The roller coaster was taking a drastic nose dive again! Panic set in, my heart began beating louder, harder, and faster, my hands literally shook. Now, I would have to deal with the likely possibility of seeing her around town, at the grocery store, school functions, etc. Her three children would be in the same schools as our two! Yes, I did see her at these places on more than one occasion. Matt’s defense was that he knew she needed help and had nobody else would be there for her. He saw nothing inappropriate about helping her or allowing her to rent the home he apparently still had dibs on.
I was very unsettled about having Shannon live so close. My anxiety was not subsiding at all. Matt and I were trying to work on our marriage, but knowing she was so close set my mind into tons of racing thoughts. For those who don’t know what this is, I understand. I didn’t know what racing thoughts were either till I experienced them. It is when your mind continuously thinks about something and won’t take a break. Sleeping is very difficult and your heart races, making you exhausted mentally!!! All I could think about was Matt just going over to her house whenever he had a chance, especially while I was at work. Fortunately, after a few weeks of being back and lots of good communication with him about my thoughts, he agreed to come to my work about once a week, just to assure me he was trying earnestly to avoid temptation. He also would text me frequently with POSITIVE remarks finally!!! It’s a pity to have to say this, but I felt like I needed constant communication with him all day just to make it through. We were both “fragile, wounded soldiers.” I was working about 6 hours/day and that’s all I could handle. I felt like I couldn’t manage being away from him any longer than that. I can see now as I look back, God’s plan was working itself out. This prompted us to begin thinking even more seriously about moving. Being just minutes from her was not good!!!
Within a few weeks, after things settled down, I made a bold decision. After lots of prayer, I felt God was empowering me to go to her house and simply express my thoughts to her. Bear with me here. This moment and the previous moment when I went to Matt’s house, were two times when the Holy Spirit was undoubtedly doing the talking through me. I was just a vessel. I swear I don’t have a clue how I did this, but except to say, “It was God working in me.” Thank you God!!! So, I went. In the short drive over to her house, Matt contacted her. I didn’t really want him to, but that’s beside the point. She knew I was coming. Her older daughter answered the door. My heart was pounding, but I felt a calmness still inside. It didn’t take more than a couple minutes. I simply said, “Shannon, I just want you to know Matt and I are seriously trying to work on our marriage and things are going well. I just kindly ask you to please stop contacting him in any way. No more texts, phone call, emails, Facebook, or anything. It has to stop here right now! Please move on and separate yourself from him.” I remember her saying something; however, I honestly don’t recall what it was. I was so intent on getting my words out clearly. She seemed to respect it, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so I left. I remember thinking she was a pretty blonde with an obvious boob job she was quite proud of! She seemed to present herself with a confident posture, but underneath lacked self-esteem. I left feeling relieved and glad I did this. Something about seeing her helped me put a face to the name and hopefully an end to this horrible ordeal.
I look at August and the following months as months of re-building. My job was to learn to be Matt’s “cheerleader,” while his job was to learn how to re-build my trust. “Cheerleader” may sound odd, but that’s exactly what I needed to do. I needed to intentionally learn how to be his friend again. I am a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” kind of girl, so cheerleading didn’t come naturally to me. I began reading lots of books and Christian websites (https://www.reviveourhearts.com/resource-library/30-day-challenges/30-day-husband/) to learn how to be his “cheerleader.” It wasn’t easy. I really had to intentionally teach myself. I even wrote myself reminders and put them in my car, in my work stuff, on my phone and anywhere else I knew would help me remember to do something special for him every day if possible. Many of these pointers came from Debi Pearl’s book, “Created to be his Help Meet.” I still have many of them in my phone today. For example, “Draw out what he thinks I said. Think of Matt as a wounded soldier. Ask, “Can I make a suggestion?” We made it a priority to go out twice a week now. Nothing gets in the way. Every Wednesday and Saturday are date nights now and I love it!!! I know some ladies may think that’s too much. I used to think one date every other week was enough, so you can clearly see God has changed me. Matt wanted twice a week so we do twice a week now If He can change my stubborn self, trust me, He can change anyone!!! He loves to deal with the impossible and I was impossible.” Nothing is to Him though As the Fall season continued, God continued to reveal to me my issues and help me let go of trying to change Matt. I still had control of reigns that I shouldn’t have controlled. As I let go, God was able to do even more in his life. I had to realize I don’t want to live with Matt for the rest of my life if he was going to continue to live the way he was at that time. This is a key point as well. I didn’t realize it until a year or so later, that Matt didn’t really want to change or see the need to until he noticed me giving up control of him to Christ!!! Wow, that was powerful to me
Well, forgive me for a bit here, but I’m going to get personal and go off on a tangent. First, I must preface this with the following: I am writing this from my heart. A sinner who is forgiven, redeemed, a “saint.” I have no desire or intention to put my husband, Matt down in any way. He is also a “saint,” saved by God and changed into His likeness. We both know and understand we are no longer the person we once used to be, thanks only to God’s grace, power, and love. Please do not read this and think that I am bashing him in any way. He is by far the most amazing man I have met in my entire life, bar none!!! He has exceeded everything I’ve ever wanted in a man. Thank you Matt.
Well, here I go. As I look back over my notes, I feel compelled to enter in some of the negative experiences. I considered leaving them out so as not to offend anyone, but after lots of prayer, God has showed me I need to put this in. I also want this book to be real, authentic and to impact the hearts of those who can relate to what Matt and I went through. You know who you are. The following is a list of the things I heard Matt say to me or things I thought:
• “Should I leave her (Shannon) now or in 10 years?”
• When I admitted my wrongdoings and apologized to him for my actions, I asked “Are you willing to give this marriage another 8 years since it took that long to get into this mess?” His response, “I think.”
• “Jen doesn’t love me. She won’t care if I re-marry or date.”
• Matt frequently talked to Shannon right in our home on the phone where I could hear
• He talked about her to me. I knew her life story basically
• He threatened to cut off finances/closing bank account if I sought legal assistance
• He tried to take the computer from me
• He claimed everything I had, especially my clothing, was not for me to keep because he bought most of it.
• Fear about my health: my blood pressure for months stayed around 170/110 (normally I’m less than 100/70); went from 105 pounds down to 90.
• He raised his voice at me one day as he left saying I should just discuss with my counselor “how to co-parent, because that’s what we needed to do.” (He planned to live in our house, continue to be with Shannon and still be a father to our kids).
• I repeatedly asked him to leave and he wouldn’t
• He would not tell me why he was buying guns or how many he had; he would take them with him, leaving me and our children home alone unprotected
• He began yelling more and more; Told me to get out; Called me a “bitch”
• I worried about the possibility of contracting an STD, Shannon becoming pregnant with his child
• He yelled at our daughter to get out of the room one evening when he wanted to read (Brianna loves spending quality time with her Dad—that’s her love language- fortunately now that’s been restored).
• He shoved his finger in front of my face yelling at me during an argument
• He intimidated me by putting me in a situation where I felt forced to take 2 weeks off work spontaneously to take a trip to Florida and then quit my enjoyable, full time job to prove my love to him
• Our funds went from about $20,00 in savings down to under $800 due to him supporting two families (he helped Shannon purchase a car, lease a house, dates spent on her, etc.)
• We terminated our security system due to the cost and the fact that we anticipated moving, but then we never did move till the following year. In the meantime, I felt very unsafe in our home with him being gone during the nights and coming home in the early morning hours.
• I had to find out how I could legally protect myself and the kids through an attorney
On the other side, the following is a list of things my counselor asked me to do for homework. She said,
“Make a list of Matt’s complaints about you. Pray over the issues and decide which ones you’ve apologized for. Apologize for those you haven’t and do it in an unassertive manner.” Talk about a humbling exercise but perfect for me since I needed some humbling!
• Recently I took my cell phone on a date and discussed job opportunity emails for New Jersey (this was when we thought we were moving there). This act convinced Matt I wasn’t changed and I’d continue to push to get a job as soon as we moved even though he wanted me to take at least a summer off to get moved in and help kids get established with school, etc.
• He said to me on the phone recently, “I gave up a promotion for you. Don’t you know how that feels?” He obviously knew how it felt. He said I didn’t love him then and I would never change. (Now, I see that since I didn’t respond the way he expected and kept looking for work, I wasn’t respecting his wishes).
• Many years ago he recalls a time we had a fight and he walked home from Kmart for 8 miles. I don’t really remember this well, but he still brings it up, so obviously it hurt him.
• When Bri was a baby, frequency of sex went down and he recalls that I said sex was “just for him and I got nothing out of it.” This apparently according to him was the beginning of his downward spiral
• When Chris was younger he remembers me saying, “No husband of mine is going to sit around all Sunday watching football instead of playing with his son.” (I don’t recall saying things as harshly as he put them, but I honestly don’t’ remember saying many of the things he so vividly remembers. As was pointed out to me by a wise counselor, if we remember it, it was something of significance in our life).
• Repeated controlling efforts (body language, facial expressions and comments) that have made him feel like he needs to do everything a certain way to make me happy. If he “does one thing wrong,” he views it as a complete loss and “can’t do anything to make me happy.” i.e. Chris’s eye patch, making dinner, lessons, baths, Bible story, reading, homework
• Mikaela (our foster daughter)- I was the one who initially wanted to get a foster child. We started the process a couple years before the affair happened. Long story short, I also ended up working over 40 hours/week during that time…..obviously not a good scenario for bringing an additional child into the home. Matt ended up being the main care-giver for all three kids which included weekly visits for Mikaela that took most of his evening.
• My job overtook way too much of me mentally, physically, etc.
• Matt took on the responsibilities at home and caring for the kids
Hopefully, this helps you understand what I went through. I realize it’s very negative sounding. Praise the Lord though; I have become a positive woman once again. My true nature is to be a very empathetic encourager. I finally got that personality back. Thanks Jesus
On June 18, 2012 (1 ½ years after I found out about Shannon), I wrote:
Wow, I’m not a journaler, but God has sure brought TREMENDOUS healing into our lives. My main struggles still are not letting Satan pull me down mentally with thoughts of Shannon. Because she moved to a house within 2 minutes from our house last July, I still worry that I’ll run into her, or Matt and her will “meet up” again. Her 3 girls are in Cocalico School District, like Chris and Bri. I’ve seen her twice, once at Zia’s Restaurant while Matt and I were on a date- (that was tough) and then again at Adamstown Elementary school’s roller skating party last Fall. There, she was with a new boyfriend. At Zia’s Restaurant, she was alone and “on the prowl”- scared me!!! I’m anxious to get to NC, so I won’t run into her around town.
I’ll miss Barry and Bobbe Sauder, family and friends, and especially Heather. The kids are excited. Bri is apprehensive about making friends which she’ll do fine with, I assured her. Those 2 fight frequently as expected and Chris antagonizes her by saying she won’t make new friends. She’s maturing too FAST. Chris is lagging behind—poor guy. He’ll catch up.
I’m in a Bible study with our new Sunday school class and loving it. It’s young moms I can share my story with. Homebuilders (our older class) had a surprise party to say good-bye last night- so nice. Matt’s family and mine are adjusting. My mom will probably struggle most. Now Ben and I will both be far away. Tom, Janet and their kids are still in Lititz.
I’m planning to just get us all settled in, kids adjusted to new school, church- then study for Boards—take them in Fall and try to find a part-time PA job. If I can’t find a part-time job as a PA, I’ll take another part-time job doing something else. I won’t go back to full-time till kids are older. I learned my lesson the hard way. Marriage and family must come before job.
Once, I admitted my job overtook me and the kids overtook time for Matt, and started responding to him in loving ways, things began to change. Matt said, I felt like I needed to “toss you some bones Jen before you came in the door after work.” Sad huh!? I tried to be less annoying and more approachable. I admitted to Matt that I needed his help in a loving, gentle way. Even though I seemed angry and cold toward him, I told him I needed him to hug me to break that bitterness in me.
I know earlier I referred to how Matt thought I was “vindictive.” When I look back in my notes, I see I had many times where I wrote about how I wanted him to deal with the consequences of his poor choices and “suffer withdraw.” To an extent, that’s true. Breaking any addiction is going to require suffering and sacrifice. I just don’t want to overlook my duties:
• Admit I wronged him and God has forgiven me and shown me what I need to do in my life.
• Verbally say, “I’m totally sorry, will you forgive me?”
• Thank him for not going out with Shannon when he chose to stay home
• Tell him I know and understand how much stress my job put on you and how much you sacrificed; never assume your spouse knows your gratitude---SAY IT!!!
• Don’t point out any of his faults. He already knows what they are.
• Stop focusing on what he needs to do and focus on what you need to do
• When he comes home, work like mad to make him happy
• Bathe him in prayer
• Don’t say things like, “Did you have your devotions?” or “Did you talk to (accountability person) lately?”- Sad to say, but I did this….treating him like a kid.
• Set Godly boundaries to protect yourself and don’t waver
• Be patient- I put in my notes, “Don’t return until there’s reason to believe he’s changed. If it takes a year, so be it. He must acknowledge he has a severe problem and promises to get help from a Christian counselor.” Praise the Lord, this eventually occurred. I still have the small piece of paper that he wrote down his confession on to show me. It revealed his commitment to get counseling as well.
This seems like a good point to start talking about the healing tips I learned through my journey.
Daily prayer and devotions (Try to do with your spouse occasionally if you can)
Make dates a PRIORITY and not just once a month folks- be real, that’s NOT ENOUGH
ACTIVELY PRAY for your spouse- if bitter roots/vows are still present in his/her life, pray for brokenness and healing. I wrote this once, “God whatever your truth is, open Matt’s eyes and ears to it. Let him see you. Take him on the journey that teaches him about you.” I’m sure I heard someone else say/write this. I’m not that eloquent
Pray that your spouse would see redemption is possible, see the vision of God’s grace and not lose faith; Pray for deliverance.
Regardless of the outcome, remember that God has happiness for you on the other side. This is not our home as Christians Jer. 29:11
Ask God to forgive you for the pain you caused your spouse
HAVE FUN with your spouse
Go out to lunch- surprise him/her
When things are rough, don’t discuss deep emotional stuff. Talk about the past and dream about your future together when it’s appropriate.
Make emotional conversations face-to-face (not via texting, etc.)
Love is an ACTION verb; actions speak louder than words (God showed His love to us in that while we were still sinners, He died for us)
THIS IS PRICELESS WOMEN SO MEMORIZE AND APPLY PLEASE!!! Taken from Emerson Eggerich’s book, “The Language of Love & Respect:” CHAIRS
C- Conquest- Recognize and thank your man for his desire to work
H Hierarchy- Thank him for his motivation to protect and provide for me/us
A- Authority- Acknowledge his desire to lead- don’t subvert his leadership
I- Insight- listen appreciatively to his ideas and the advice he wishes to offer (eye contact; put cell phone etc. away Jen); Appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel
R- Relationship- Value his desire for me to be his friend and enjoy shoulder to shoulder time with him (i.e. watch a football game with him even if you don’t like football)
S- Sexually- Respond to his need for me sexually; don’t deprive
That’s all of us: Chris (14), Jen (me), Matt, and Brianna (11) in 2013 at Myrtle Beach on vacation with my family, the Allshouse’s. This picture has become our “family capstone/heirloom/landmark” whatever you want to call it. It’s the picture of the Miller’s healed, free and happy, ready to help others grow and be all God wants them to be
Now, I’d like to just add a few articles I read to help me followed by documents I made for myself in 2011. If you can’t read my notes on the side, it’s because they’re in short hand.
October 13, 2009 by Eirene
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 3:12
Over the course of my new life in Christ I have become quite expert at diagnosing and correcting the problems of others in this life of faith. Even from a distance, I can tell what is wrong with you and determine what needs to be done to fix it.
There’s only one problem…..it would be the plank. You know the one that’s in my eye.
While it is scriptural to look after others and be concerned for the state of their soul, I better be sure that I am tending after my own spiritual condition and heeding what the Spirit of God is saying regarding the condition of my own heart.
The Lord deals with me in a fairly consistent way when I begin to have judgmental thoughts towards another believer. In a short period of time after I begin to have these thoughts, the Lord will bring me into a situation where I have a conversation with this person, or learn something about them from someone else, regarding the reality of their situation or the depth of their struggle. In those moments it’s as if a spotlight is shining on me, exposing the hardness and ugliness of my heart, and contrasting it with the humility and brokenness of the other believer.
I am slowly recovering from plank syndrome. The medicine God is giving for it is quite effective.
God will give me what I need for TODAY. I don’t need provision for tomorrow yet. Going through this will bring me out as a stronger person.
Pray with the kids – for the evil one not to have a stronghold on their life; that they would have strength and put on the Armor of God.
5 Steps in Full Forgiveness
1. Express Regret:
“I’m truly sorry for ______________________”
2. Accept Responsibility: “I was wrong for _____________________”
3. Genuinely Repent: “With God’s help, I’ll try not to ever do that again.”
4. Request Forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me for_____________________”
5. Make Restitution: “What can I do to make it right?”
An article I read for homework during counseling by Alicia that opened my eyes to my sinful contribution in this whole fiasco:
PREDICTING DIVORCE – JOHN GOTTMAN
John Gottman has spent years studying marriages - both marriages that
have endured, and marriages that have eventually ended in divorce. He
studied marriages with the intent of uncovering the reasons why some
marriages work and why other marriages fail.
After studying marriages for 16 years, he has learned to predict which
couples will eventually divorce and which will remain married. He can make
this prediction based on the ways couples argue, after listening to the couple
for just five minutes, with 91% accuracy. He can make these predictions
with such a high degree of accuracy because he has discovered which
behaviors will lead to a breakup of the marriage. He has pinpointed five signs
that a couple will most likely suffer a future break-up.
The First Sign: A Harsh Startup
The first of these signs that will predict divorce is the way the discussion
begins, because 96% of the time the way a discussion begins can
predict the way it will end. When one partner begins the discussion using
a harsh startup, such as being negative, accusatory or using contempt, the
discussion is basically doomed to fail. On the other hand, when one partner
begins the discussion using a softened startup, the discussion will most likely
end on the same positive tone.
The Second Sign: The Four Horsemen
A harsh startup can lead the couple's discussion down a path of negative
interaction. This type of negativity can wreak havoc on a marriage. Indeed,
there are four types of negative interactions that are so lethal to a marriage
that Gottman has labeled them the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse.
"Usually these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the
following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling"
(Gottman et al 27).
The first of the lethal horsemen is criticism. Gottman distinguishes between
criticism and complaints, because one partner will always have certain
complaints about his or her spouse. Complaining about one's spouse is
normal, however, the way one goes about expressing these complaints is
most important. The problem arises when complaints turn into
criticisms. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism
attacks the character of the person. An example of the difference between a
complaint and a criticism is the following:
Complaint: "You should have told me earlier that you're too tired to make
love. I'm disappointed, and I feel embarrassed."
Criticism: "Why are you so selfish? It was really nasty of you to lead me on.
You should have told me earlier that you were too tired to make love."
Criticism is very common in relationships, and when used often, can lead to
the second horseman.
The second horseman, contempt, often follows criticism. Criticism can lead
to contemptuous comments directed at one's partner. Some examples of
contempt are when a person uses "sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eyerolling,
sneering, mockery, and hostile humor" (Gottman et al 29).
Contempt is the worst of the four horsemen because it communicates
disgust to the person it is directed toward. As a result, the conflict escalates.
It becomes impossible to solve a problem when the message being sent is
that one partner is disgusted with the other.
Typically, when one partner uses contempt, the other partner becomes
defensive, which is the third horseman. Becoming defensive is a very
common reaction to being treated with contempt. Many people become
defensive when they are being criticized, but the problem is that it never
helps solve the problem at hand. "Defensiveness is really a way of blaming
your partner. You're saying, in effect, the problem isn't me, it's you"
Gottman et al 31). As a result, the problem is not resolved and the conflict
The escalating conflict usually leads to one partner tuning out the other, and
is the sign that the fourth horseman, stonewalling, has arrived. Usually
when the first three horsemen are used in a discussion - criticism, contempt
and defensiveness - following a harsh startup, one partner will tune the other
Stonewalling is more common in men than in women. It is a way for
them to avoid the feeling of being flooded that usually occurs when a conflict
escalates. The stonewaller tends to ignore his partner and does not give any
signs of responsiveness, which makes his spouse even angrier. This behavior
tends to enter marriages later, once couples have had a significant period of
negative override. "It takes time for the negativity created by the first three
horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an
understandable out" (Gottman et al 34). Each of these four horsemen can
predict divorce by themselves, but typically they are found together in an
The Third Sign: Flooding
The third sign that signals a marriage is headed toward divorce is when one
partner becomes flooded. "Flooding means that your spouse's negativity -
whether in the guise of criticism or contempt or even defensiveness - is so
overwhelming and so sudden, that it leaves you shell-shocked" (Gottman
et al 34). Many people protect themselves from feeling flooded by
disengaging, or stonewalling. This emotional disengagement can protect one
from these intense feelings of negativity, but as the same time it can also
lead to divorce.
The Fourth Sign: Body Language
Physiological changes in the body that coincide with flooding, such as an
increased heart rate, the secretion of adrenalin, and an increase in blood
pressure, are the fourth sign that enables Gottman to predict divorce. These
physiological changes in the body make it impossible to maintain the
Your ability to process information is reduced, meaning it's
harder to pay attention to what your partner is saying.
Creative problem solving goes out the window. You're left
with the most reflexive, intellectually sophisticated responses
in your repertoire: to fight (act critical, contemptuous, or
defensive) or flee (stonewall) (Gottman et al 37).
A problem solving discussion that leads to one or both partners becoming
flooded is doomed to fail. Consequently, their problem cannot be resolved.
The Fifth Sign: Failed Repair Attempts
The fifth sign that a marriage is bound to end in divorce is when one
partner's attempts at repairing the conflict fails. Repair attempts are
efforts made by the couple to deescalate the conflict. The "repair attempt" is
the happy couple's secret weapon. This refers to using any method of
preventing the negative emotions from spiraling out of control. A repair
attempt can be a simple gesture such as a laugh, a smile or an apology;
anything that helps the couple ease the tension. However, if one partner is
feeling flooded, these repair attempts will be unsuccessful. The flooded
partner disengages from the discussion, making repair attempts futile.
The Sixth Sign: Bad Memories
The final sign that divorce is inevitable is when the couple recalls their past
life with a negative view. "Couples who are deeply entrenched in a
negative view of their spouse often rewrite their past" (Gottman et al 42).
Excess negativity leads to a distorted perception that can affect the past,
present and future of a relationship.
Interested in learning more about Gottman's Theory?