Are Jesus’ teachings on lifelong faithfulness in marriage too hard to keep? Recently Plough editor Miriam LeBlanc heard this man tell his story and recorded it for our readers with his permission (he prefers to remain anonymous for the sake of his family). Married in 1991, he and his wife had three children before she left him after ten years together. Today he leads a ministry to strengthen marriages and help those suffering after separation.
I’m alone because I’m married, but also divorced. We have three children, and have been separated for twelve years of marriage. My wife left me to be with another man. I don’t want you to judge anyone, though. In a separation, two people are responsible.
This said, I decided to remain faithful to my wife. The moment of separation was a conversion for me. When you’re abandoned, you experience a moment of rebellion: “Why us? Why me?” I felt my abandonment more keenly because I’d been betrayed: my wife was not just leaving, but leaving me for someone else. Separation in my case opened very deep wounds. I had all this to cope with, and it was too much. I was destroyed, annihilated. You don’t know any more who you are, where you should go; all your landmarks have disappeared. Marriage is depicted in Genesis as finding your other half—a man becomes himself through his wife. Being separated means being lost.
But that was the moment Christ came into my life. It was too heavy to bear, but I felt Christ had joined me. I was really alone, but these are decisive moments, because from then on anything becomes possible. Some people feel revenge and despair. As for me, I held Christ’s hand. The time seems long; but if Christ was acting faster, it would not be as deep. Eventually I discovered I was healed, in that I had faith in Christ. I still had all these wounds, but now I could grow, which I never could before.
It’s also a story of reconciliation—reconciliation with myself. We have two main commandments: God says, You shall love me with all your heart and soul; and you shall love others as yourself. It is difficult to love others when you don’t love yourself. I had to understand my flaws and limitations. It’s cleansing, it’s a grace when you can say to God, “Show me my sins.” This allows you to be purified. People have a wrong conception of Christ as judgmental, when actually, through grace, you can let your sins evaporate in the great love of God.
Still today I realize I have my flaws—vis-à-vis my wife in particular. It’s tough, because we don’t have the opportunity to speak together about it. I know it’s not possible for my wife to come back to me. At this stage I know it will not happen, but I do hope spiritually we’ll be able to reconcile and forgive each other, even if we won’t start a life together again. The love I had and still have for my wife, I am no longer able to express. It is a kind of transcendent love, though. My wife doesn’t want my love anymore, but I can give it to anyone I meet.
It’s important to understand at the beginning of married life that love entails deep suffering. My experience is painful, but I can find the Lord’s hand in it. Thanks to Christ, the wounds, the suffering inside of me, are the source of all my love. I’m not alone; I am part of a larger group of people who’ve experienced similar things. It’s a paradox, and often others don’t understand. I introduce myself, though, as being married, not divorced. You cannot be divorced if you’re not married, from a civil point of view. But marriage in the Lord says, “I take you as my wife for life,” and at the beginning of our life together, I said this. Just because my wife is unfaithful doesn’t change my decision to remain faithful. She probably would be happier if I would remarry. However, I did not take the decision to be faithful at the day of separation, but at the day of our marriage. I’m a married man! I’ve taken a decision to remain faithful.
We have to remember that marriage is something God encourages. Young people today are afraid to make a commitment. They’d rather live alone, or live together with no commitment. Others have a civil marriage and hope to have a “nice life.” There is an attraction, but if it’s going to last, it needs something deeper. When you decide to get married before the Lord, you invite him to be present in you as a couple. You decide your love will be a sacrament. Such an alliance between a man and a woman in Christian marriage is extremely beautiful and a symbol of God’s love to us.
Today, in spite of all the suffering I have gone through—and I’m still suffering of course, because my wife lives with another man—there’s another aspect to my suffering: my wife has contributed to my salvation, because my love for her has led me to go beyond my capacities. The Lord says, “Forgive your enemies.” I’m not sure I can forgive yet, but I hope one day I can shake the hand of the man who lives with my wife.
When I married, I never imagined the path ahead. It’s certainly “the road less travelled”—but sometimes if the road is rough, it’s not that you’ve taken the wrong road. The Lord is there and can give grace.
Can you relate to this man’s experience? We invite you to share your own story, in brief, below.