Written By: Stéphanie Rourke Jackson
On August 25, 2011 my husband of 19 years came home and confessed of a 3 month affair with a staff member from the church we had been attending. SHOCK was a word that came to life in a very real way. Then in almost rapid succession the full wheel of grief: anger, denial, loss, confusion and overwhelming sorrow. This was NOT happening, not to me, not our perfect life!! We were the couple that everyone asked "How do you do it? What's the secret to a good marriage?" How did infidelity worm it's way into our lives?! My world imploded. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. Would it ever feel whole again? Years of our history together seemed forever altered by the disillusionment of what I thought we were and who I was, really wasn't. Yet, this was the beginning of learning my true identity.
After breaking every wedding photo, chucking a carton of milk & a bottle of Tide at my husband we went upstairs and did something normal; we folded laundry, then we went to bed. At 6am, after no sleep, I finally cried and looked up "what to do after an affair" on my phone. I had no roadmap for this type of crisis. My husband called our pastor who arrived immediately and began to develop a plan with us for healing. Some more secrets came out that we had both been hiding. He said "divorce is an option but I really don't think that's God plan for you." I clung to those words believing God would see us through even though at the time I couldn't really see how even the Lord could heal this deep wound. My understanding of His grace was not well formed in my moment of deep grief. That would come though, through the long journey of surrender, gratitude and forgiveness.
We saw a Christian counsellor a few days later. She was tough. We did the homework. My husband took full responsibility for his actions. I knew that it was his choice and not my fault for why the affair happened, yet the experience wasn’t lost on me either. I went to work to peel back the layers of my own behaviours in order to make changes in my life. We attended a Christ centred recovery program, traded rock music for Christian music, beauty magazines for books on marriage restoration & rebuilding trust. We cleared our schedules and spent time reading scripture, praying, listening to sermons and having long, painful but deep and intimate conversations about our past, fears, hopes, dreams, secrets, desires and what we needed from each other. Even though we had a great friendship, parented three lovely children together and had a good sex life - we really didn’t know each other deep down. There were a lot of things we were scared to feel and to talk about. In all of the repair and healing, we chose to see God's grace offering forgiveness and real love to each other even when it got brutally difficult. We made many intentional choices to humble ourselves and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through us.
A year later, my husband re-proposed & we celebrated our 20th anniversary with a vow renewal in front of 100 friends who knew our story and had walked alongside us. Hope bubbled up. A new marriage- built on truth. We now serve in different areas of ministry; my husband leading worship at Celebrate Recovery and checking in regularly with men in his small group who struggle with pornography and sexual sin. I have started a women's event called Psalm 40; A Night of Story & Song at our church and we both facilitate a Marriage Oneness course in our community. I am also a Life Coach specializing in helping women move through difficult situations in order to live their full potential. Life is good again. A new normal. My heart has been mended, but with cracks where the light of Jesus can shine through so others can see hope from a very wounded place. Our marriage is stronger, yet vulnerable, in a very authentic wholehearted way. Leading with forgiveness and love is a daily choice.