Ask A Married Woman: Have You Ever Cheated On Your Husband? Have You Wanted To?
Editor’s Note: This month we have been answering questions from our readers that they would ask a married woman, if they could. I am ever grateful for the wisdom that has been shared this month. Dozens of our readers have asked, “Have you ever cheated? Have you ever been attracted to another man? What about emotional infidelity? Is monogamy possible?” There is no proper way to answer these questions without a story. Lindsey Hartz has given us the gift of her words, and her life. Lindsey, thank you for your open heart, and the brutal honesty of your story. – Lauren
“Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
I stand up to meet him, ready with my friendly façade. Hand to hand we touch, a handshake, a formal introduction. Our eyes lock, and I am immediately unsettled…a violent reaction crashing through me, a hint of darkness, and devastation.
I blink, unsure of what just happened. I want to snatch my hand away, furiously wipe his touch away, turn and run away. Dancing around the edges of my unexplainable fear is the awareness of etiquette, of maintaining my composure.
We casually chat, the talk of strangers in a business world. He asks me to lunch, and my unease grows even as I accept. I don’t know, then, that the Holy Spirit is frantically beating at the doors of my hardened heart…warning me, trying to steer me away, before it is too late.
The next day, we walk to lunch. His gaze slides over me, up and down, settles. He glances back up and catches my eye, says, “I like your shirt.” I blush furiously, mumble thank you, try to change the subject, knowing it’s not my shirt he’s focused on.
The lunch drags on, and he seems to grow aware of my awkwardness, my discomfort. He says something funny, the mood grows lighter. I start to wonder if it is just me, misinterpreting his actions, his words, his glance.
The weeks pass by, and we fall into an easy relationship. He is funny, charming, charismatic, as we talk about work, family, God, church.
The mention of God fills me with wonder and hope, and makes me dismiss my initial feeling about him. I have been lonely, empty, scared for so long. The devastating fallout of painful abuse in my childhood and the crumbling pieces of my marriage have been crashing down for years. I follow the rules; I am a good girl, but I also define myself as a victim. Seeing the world through the eyes of despair. And I think that maybe, this thing called God, can help. And maybe, this man who appears so full of God, can help.
* * *
One day, we talk more about my childhood, the effect it has had on my marriage, my husband. He asks, “Are you together?” I look at him, my naivety wrapping itself around me. Then I realize what he means, and that feeling from the first day we met rushes back in. Only this time, I ignore it, and I shake my head no, too embarrassed to say out loud how empty my marriage has become, how I have failed my husband emotionally, physically.
I needed a friend.
And in my desperate need, I made him my savior.
This pattern in our relationship goes on for months. The ebb and flow of casual friendship interspersed tragically with more moments like these. Inappropriate connections and conversations, me willingly hanging on to and encouraging the slivers of attention and acceptance dangled in front of me. The small doses of hope meted out whenever he sent me Bible verses or talked about God.
By the time it finally happens, we are both already lost. We have continually compromised, steadily given in to the monsters inside. We have gazed into the abyss of our hearts and justified our need, our selfish desire for far too long, flirting with disaster. All the while Satan has waited, crouching, laughing for the final surrender.
In this moment, I am no longer following the rules, being a good girl, being a victim.
I willingly become a whore.
Stolen moments pass and days full of agony and shame drift by. I know I am drowning in a foul pit of destruction, know I am bending and swaying to Satan’s siren call.
And the most devastating knowledge of all? The foretold rottenness ingrained in the very nature of my soul? It is uncovered, raw, exposed:
I don’t care.
* * *
Then we are caught. And life implodes with fury and hurt. Consequences for the affair come swiftly, and they come hard. I feel my identity being ripped away; the separation violent and bloody. When I made my choice, I threw away the beauty of being a wife, a mother, a friend.
Trying to put that skin back on in the aftermath feels uncomfortable, like I am trying to wear clothing meant for someone else, someone more worthy, someone more pure.
But there is also love, has always been love, between my husband and I. The only tenuous thread we have to hang on to in the middle of the storm raging between us. My first real glimpse of God occurs the morning after, when my husband says,
“I love you, I always have. I will never leave you, and I am sorry I did not protect you from this.”
A new bond between us is made in an instant, a feeling of awe and the gentle sigh of hope that he (and He) could still love me, after what I’ve done. God is already moving, rushing in to take back what has been lost.
* * *
My inability to forgive myself creates an aching rawness in my soul. I go through the motions of attending counseling and recovery, try to use God as a band-aid over my gaping wounds instead of as the Healer, wrestle with God and what He is asking of me.
I do not want to believe His love for me.
I do not want to let go of the control I think I have.
I do not want to let go of my crushing unbelief.
Our church and community continues to surround us, fills our lives with grace and stories of a merciful and loving God who abhors what has happened, who weeps with us, who is waiting for us.
And one day, the veil lifts, and grace rushes in. Only then, as I accept Christ as my Savior, do I finally feel the weight of my sin, cry out in agony, laugh with joy, beg forgiveness. Only then, do I forgive myself.
* * *
Since then, this journey towards God has been full of steps forward and back. Even so, I can so clearly see the devastation of my life without Christ, and have found such precious hope and beautiful peace in the promise of my new life with Christ. It certainly has not been easy; this process of learning how to receive grace and learning to accept that
I am forgiven,
I am loved,
I am free.
My husband and I are on this journey together, our goal united. We live and breathe everyday to glorify God through our new life and love, our marriage, our painful past. Simply so that others may know Him and love Him too.
And now that you have read our story, I leave you with a question and a challenge.
Whatever you are doing, whatever you have done, whatever has been done to you…
Are you willing to stop, willing to take a deep breath full of mercy and power and love, and allow your story to become His story?
He’s waiting for you, and He loves you right now, as you are. Even in the midst of your own abyss.
That’s what grace is.
That’s who God is.
All you have to do is cry out, and believe.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. -Psalm 40: 1-3
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