Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
David C. Cook; Revised edition (November 1, 2009)
After going through therapy to save their marriage from a devastating affair, Gary and Mona Shriver searched in vain for another couple who could offer them tangible hope that they could heal. Responding to this need in their community, the Shrivers cofounded Hope & Healing Ministries, Inc., an adultery recovery peer support ministry. They are members of the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries (AMFM) and participants of the AMFM ministry team for Reconciling Troubled Marriages. The Shrivers are also members of the Stanislaus County Healthy Marriage Coalition in California.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Revised edition (November 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light. Job 12:22
It must have been about 9:30 p.m. as I pulled into the driveway. Everything looked dark and settled down for the evening. As I stopped the car, my heart pounded in my chest like never before. For a moment I wondered if I might be having a heart attack. I took a deep breath, got out of the car, and headed for the back door. I unlocked it and walked onto the back porch. The house was quiet. The three boys were in bed. The only light was a dim glow from the master bedroom at the end of the hall.
Our bedroom. I wondered if that would be the case in the aftermath of the bomb I was about to drop. I stopped and asked myself, Should I really go through with this? This could be the end of everything I know as my life: my family, my church, my business, my friends. Not one area of my life would be unaffected by the event about to occur. Should I tell her or just keep living the lie?
No, I couldn’t continue deceiving her. I had just spent the last two hours in my senior pastor’s office confessing my sin. I confessed the double life I had been living for the last few years. I couldn’t believe his first response. “Are you serious?” he asked. “I can never tell when you’re kidding me. Are you really serious?” I sat in his office with tears streaming down my face, and he asked if I was serious.
He also didn’t want it to be true.
I just nodded, and he let it sink in. We talked and prayed, and he kept looking at me. I knew what was going through his mind. He was saying great words of spiritual wisdom and offering encouragement, but behind his words, shock and disbelief were apparent. He referred to spiritual leaders who had fallen. He said, “This is happening all around us.”
At that point, I could only think, That doesn’t make this any less ugly. I knew he was trying to encourage and comfort me in my darkest hour, but the darkness that enveloped me was beyond penetration. He and I both knew that everything was not all right and that it wasn’t going to be.
He asked if Mona knew. I shook my head no. He looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you intend to tell her?”
“Right now,” I said. “I need to go right now.”
It had taken all I could muster to meet my pastor and confess my dark and horrible behavior. I had to complete my confession. And I had to do it now. On my way home I thought of other men I knew who had committed adultery and who hadn’t said a thing to their wives. They seemed to have gotten away with it. But a Bible verse kept ringing in my ears: “You may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
And that it had. Earlier that afternoon the recording studio engineer at my production company had confronted me with this “problem” he thought I had. He came quoting Matthew 18:15–17, saying that if I didn’t come clean, he would go to my pastor with the affair he believed I was having.
Affair. What a fluffy word. It sounds so cheery and acceptable. Let’s call it what it really is: adultery. Black-hearted, not caring anything about anybody else, completely self-centered, the absolute epitome of selfishness. Adultery. And I was an adulterer. Finally after years of my wrestling with Him, God had brought me to a point of brokenness. I just couldn’t go on like this anymore. I had to tell Mona. The only way I could ever hope to save my marriage was to be totally honest. God was chasing me. I had to deal with it now!
I walked into the bedroom. The lamp on her bedside table glowed. There she lay, leaning back on her pillow propped up against the wall, reading. She looked up and said, “How was your meeting?” Just about then our eyes met. “Honey? What’s wrong?”
I hadn’t rehearsed anything. I didn’t know what to say. I sat down on the bed next to her and looked in her eyes.
“You’re scaring me,” she said.
I started to cry.
“Now you’re really scaring me.”
“I’ve betrayed you,” I whispered.
Her eyes glazed over. She seemed to stare through me. “What?”
“I’ve been unfaithful to you,” I repeated.
She went limp. I thought for a second she was going to pass out. Her stare went from distant to direct and cold.
“Who?” she demanded.
I said the name.
“I knew it,” she said.
But I knew she hadn’t known. I tried to hold her. She started to hold me but then pushed me away. She was shell-shocked.
“How long?” she asked.
I whispered, “A long time.”
“A couple of years.”
“Years? Ever since you started working with her?”
Her lip quivered.
As her world crumbled around her feet, my heart raced again. This time I could feel it in my temples. How could I say more? How can I, Lord? I can’t tell her everything. Yet God was insistent: Tell her!
I felt like Moses must have. I can’t, Lord. I can’t!
Tell her now! God demanded.
I had to tell her everything. God burned into my heart that if our marriage were to have any chance at all, it had to be with a clean slate. No more lies. No more secrets. I had to tell her everything.
“More? What do you mean more?”
“There was a one-night stand with another woman.”
I honestly did think she was going to pass out at that point. Her eyes rolled back into her head, and then things got eerie.
I knew at that moment our lives had changed forever, and I didn’t know what to expect in the aftermath of my horrible revelation. After we sat for what seemed to be an eternity, her blank stare suddenly focused, and the flurry of questions began. “Do you love her?”
“No, I love you.”
“Do you want a divorce?”
“No, I want to stay with you. Do you want a divorce?”
“I don’t know what I want. Why did you do this?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question. I didn’t know how I’d gotten where I was. I explained there had been no pursuit. I said that it was a friendship that had gotten out of control, and that I had felt trapped. I had never stopped loving Mona.
The blank stare was back. I kept trying to explain. She didn’t want to hear—or couldn’t hear—anything more. After a while she started asking me about the second woman.
“It was a one-night thing. Honestly, she threw herself at me. She made up her mind to have me. She set her sights, and she was going to have her way.”
What was I saying? It was all the truth, but what was I trying to do here? Justify my adultery? My second incidence of adultery at that!
I shut my mouth and started to cry again. I didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She didn’t want anything from me. I was dying inside. I needed to know what she was thinking. She was in shock. Was she thinking of leaving? Was she going to ask me to leave? What was going on in her head?
It seemed there was nothing more to say. I offered to sleep on the couch, but she declined my offer. She explained that if we were going to try to work this through, she saw no sense in my sleeping on the couch.
If. Such a small word to hold one’s whole future.
It was quiet and still, but I knew the explosion was yet to come. She stared blankly into the corner of the ceiling. I lay there, knowing her mind was whirling. I was sure her thoughts were bouncing from one horrific scenario to another, and all I could do was lie next to her and watch as her entire foundation cracked, crumbled, and fell away. Every now and then I could hear a sob escape her throat.
My God, what have I done? In a matter of seconds I have ripped the heart from the woman I love. The bride of my youth. Will she ever forgive me? Can she ever forgive me? I had no idea how much pain this would cause. If we make it through this, one thing is certain: We will never be the same again.
God, please forgive me.
Mona, if you can find it in your heart, please try to forgive me.
I don’t remember what book I was reading, but I do remember I never finished it. I threw it away. It would always remind me of that night.
I heard the back door open and thought, Gary’s home a little early—must have been a short meeting.
I heard him walk down the hallway. He opened the bedroom door and just stood there, staring at me.
I said something like, “How’d your meeting go?” I watched as my husband of more than nineteen years began to crumble. His body sagged as if under a heavy weight.
His eyes filled with tears and he said, “We have to talk.”
I knew something was terribly wrong and remember thinking someone had died. I wonder if it’s our pastor. He must have found out something horrible at the church meeting. Compassion overwhelmed
my heart, and I reached out my arms, inviting him in. “Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”
He came to the bed, sat down by me, and allowed me to hold him while sobs racked his body. I had never seen him like this. Through his muffled tears I heard, “I have betrayed you.”
I felt my body stiffen. A tragedy had happened, not to someone else, but to me. My mind refused to process his words. “What?”
“I have been having an affair.”
These words penetrated, and I felt my own tears rise. I heard the word come from my mouth before I realized I had even thought it:
Why was there no surprise when he said her name? I remember even then knowing there was really only one true possibility. I also remember other names going through my head, almost hoping he’d say one of
those instead. I had never suspected. I trusted them both implicitly. He was my husband, whom I loved and who I thought loved me. She was his coworker, a fellow church member, and the woman I had considered my best Christian friend for the past three or four years.
“How long?” I asked.
“Awhile,” he mumbled.
I began to feel the first stirring of rage. “How long?”
“A couple of years maybe.”
Not just once or even twice. Not a few weeks or even a few months! Was I a complete idiot? How could something like this go on for so long and I not even have a clue? They must have thought I was so stupid! How many times had they laughed at my naïveté?
I pulled away from him, unable to touch him, unable to do much more than breathe.
Then I heard these words: “There’s more.”
More? More than the destruction of my life, my family, my church, my home? More?
“I also had a one-night stand with another woman.” Then he named her, a twenty-year-old single mother and non-Christian with whom we’d had business dealings.
“She came over one night uninvited when you were gone.”
Here? In my house? Nothing was sacred. Every aspect of my life was involved. My home. The church where I always sat with my best friend. Gary’s production business where I worked part-time. Even the hospital where I worked as a nurse was filled with people who crossed over into these aspects of my life.
I was nauseous. Repulsed. This was something horrible men did. Not my Gary! Not the man I had always jokingly said I’d have to catch in bed naked before I’d ever believe he’d be unfaithful. The man couldn’t lie for beans.
Gary was not the man I had thought he was, but I was no longer sure who I was either. For that matter, who were we as a couple? Were we a couple?
I looked at him and froze. This was the man I’d been married to for almost twenty years. He’d been my lover, my best friend, and my confidant. My family loved him because he was so wonderful. All my friends thought he was wonderful—he did dishes, laundry, and changed diapers. I had lost count of how many times I’d been told how lucky I was.
My body was numb, wooden, overwhelmed. The weight Gary had walked into our bedroom wearing was now being shared.
“Do you love her?”
“Do you want a divorce?”
“Does her husband know?”
“I think she’s waiting to see if I really tell you first.”
“You have to let her go.”
The particulars of our conversation blur in retrospect. He told me he had gone to the church to confess to our pastor. The pastor had called in another pastor, they had all prayed, and then they sent Gary home to tell me.
He told me that the recording studio engineer had confronted him that day. He had suspected what was going on and had gone to his pastor, who advised him to confront Gary. What strength that must have taken for such a young man!
Gary said God had been preparing him for this revelation for a long time. Promise Keepers, meetings, sermons, his conscience. He had felt trapped in the relationship with his coworker for quite a while. If he broke it off, he knew the ramifications and the possibility of losing his family, his business, and his church. They had broken it off many times in the past and yet would find themselves back together. He couldn’t remember when it started, but the last time they’d been together was just three days earlier. I remembered trying to reach him that day. They had gone out of town to see a client and I’d wondered why they were so late getting back.
As I tried to pin down the time period of the affair, it became clear that it had been going on for about three years. It began shortly after she started working with us. Her marriage was in trouble and had been for a very long time. She and I had talked about it often together. I felt like such a fool. Gary and I had even discussed her vulnerability and her attractiveness before they started working together. I knew she envied our relationship, but I hadn’t realized that she had actually been wishing for Gary himself. She, as it turned out, knew better than I what my marriage was really like.
That night my life took on a new timetable: before the affair, during the affair, and after the affair. Everything during was now marred and distorted: our family trip to Disneyland, Gary and I going to
Hawaii. I recalled snippets of conversation with both Gary and my friend and suddenly heard and saw completely different things. He asked me that night if I would come to work for him fulltime at our production company and we’d rebuild our lives and the business. I was furious. How dare he! I told him I wasn’t going to give up any more of me than he’d already ripped away. I was a nurse. I was
a good nurse. I couldn’t lose that, too.
He asked me if I wanted a divorce, and I said no. What would that do to our boys? Where would I go? What would I do? We talked about counseling. To what end? I was so overwhelmed that even counseling seemed senseless. I wanted it never to have happened and a counselor couldn’t do that.
Gary told me about the night the young woman had come over and seduced him. He said it was very intentional on her part. I said that did not exonerate him. He knew that. The story of that one night stand sounded like a despicable movie.
Soon it seemed there was nothing left to talk about. Or maybe it was just that we were incapable of talking anymore. Gary reassured me that he loved me and wished he could take it all away. He asked for my forgiveness and told me he’d do anything I asked. I knew that adultery was biblical grounds for divorce, but I didn’t know if that still applied when the offender repents and asks for forgiveness.
My mind, soul, and body were exhausted by the events of the night. I knew I wanted to follow God in this, no matter where that led. I knew I needed a godly friend and felt again the pain of loss. Who would I call now that my two best friends had betrayed me?
When we went to bed, Gary asked if I wanted him to sleep somewhere else. I said no. I figured he’d been in my bed during the last three years, so what difference would it make now?
And so I clung to my edge of the bed and listened to my husband fall into a deep and restful sleep. Sleep would evade me. I would spend most of what was left of that night in the family room crying.
Gary’s weight had begun to lift. Mine had only just begun to press heavily upon me.
The Story on Revelation
That night happened in 1993. We can now say with absolute sincerity that we have fully healed from the adultery. Our marriage is strong and mutually satisfying. We have love and trust.
We refuse, however, to say that our marriage is better. We had heard “now they have a better marriage” in reference to couples who had gone through serious problems, and it only caused us more pain. We’d thought our marriage was good before the adultery. We loved each other; we were best friends. Certainly we had issues; all couples do. But our marriage prior to the adultery had value and was good. What happened to us happened to a good marriage. Most people have a hard time believing that because if they do, it makes every marriage vulnerable—including their own. Certainly there are those instances when the whys and wherefores are clear, but often all the answers we seek cannot be found. So instead we say we are wiser than we were then. We make better choices now. And we no longer believe we are invulnerable to attack. Our marriage is better only because the two people in it are now better people.
If you have picked up this book, you are probably going through, or love someone going through, the aftermath of finding out about a spouse’s adultery. Our hearts break for you, and we want you to know there is hope. Marriages can heal. We know because ours did. We know because we’ve been able to support other couples facing this anguish. We also know it will be one of the hardest things you will ever go through. We believe it would have been far easier at the time for us to split up. And we would not have been condemned for doing so. That same thing is true for many others.
We know these words seem hard to believe. When you go through this crisis, you feel as if the weight of the world is pressing down on you. Then the fiery darts from hell come faster and faster, and your shield of faith seems to offer little protection. You are fighting for your marriage with every ounce of strength you can muster until you begin to fear you’re going to lose the battle. This is where Satan wants you, and he will be faithful to keep the burners on high. Why? He wants nothing more than to see your marriage fail. He wants you to become another statistic. So let us repeat ourselves: You don’t have to give up! You can make it!
How? We want to share with you what made the difference. We were Christians when the adultery happened. We are still Christians. What we will share with you is definitely from a Christian perspective, but it is also from a practical, real-life perspective.
Is our marriage now perfect? No. We still have issues, and we’ve learned that some will remain until we get to heaven. Perhaps we’ve learned to pick our battles with more grace and wisdom. We have also learned that some battles were due to our own selfish desires and were far removed from the marriage
We are not, nor do we claim to be, experts in anything. We have no educational or professional background to validate us. Those people are out there, and their resources are available to you. You’ll need them, too. But if you seek two ordinary believers to share their extraordinary experience, then here we are. We do not undertake this task lightly. This is not our idea of fun. In the early stages of writing, our emotions often overwhelmed us, and there were times we would leave our desks sobbing. We found ourselves crying over things we hadn’t cried over in years. Our God, however, is a great God and gracious to His people. In time we felt that we were merely observing a sad story, rather than reliving the awful past.
Getting the Most from the Rest of This Book
Before we start sharing with you our own story and healing process, we need to establish a common language. Many have different ways of identifying people and moments in time when talking about adultery. Some are terms we wouldn’t be allowed to print here. So, to get us on the same page, we’ll define some terms and provide you with information that can help you walk through your recovery. Nothing about infidelity recovery is simple or easily explained, but there are definitely areas where, if both of you have the same understanding, you can avoid some common pitfalls.
First, the terminology for the cast of characters will be borrowed from the very practical book Torn Asunder: Recovering from an Extramarital Affair by Dave Carder:
Infidel: the one who strays and gets involved in an illicit relationship—it simply means unfaithful.
Spouse: the one married to the infidel.
Partner: the person with whom the infidel was involved.
A term we use often is revelation. This refers to the event where the infidel admits to the spouse that an illicit relationship has occurred. Sometimes the word is plural, revelations, because the full story takes more than one admission, as parts are revealed over time. Revelation is used throughout the book as a reference point.
Finally, the adulterous relationship will be referred to as an affair with the disclaimer that the word sounds much too playful for the seriousness of this offense.
We also need to agree on what adultery is. That might sound pretty silly to a lot of you, but differing on what comprises adultery can cause some serious problems. In fact, former President Clinton provided us with a classic example of what constituted “sex” when he denied having sex with another woman, yet later admitted to sexual intimacies with that woman. We can only imagine the private conversations he had with his wife when the truth was revealed.
We’ve heard some infidels deny adultery because they didn’t have sexual intercourse even while admitting there was sexual contact. They admit what they did was wrong but do not call it adultery.
As a matter of fact, the dictionary definition of adultery states it just that way: “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.” Infidelity is defined as a
lack of loyalty to one’s spouse. By the adultery definition, President Clinton was correct. By the infidelity definition, any number of things could fall into that category—anything a spouse would consider disloyal.
Looking exclusively at either dictionary definition allows one to go to opposing ends of the spectrum of possibilities.
While the dictionary may disagree, for our purposes adultery and infidelity will be equivalent terms. The truth is that there is no one clear and concise definition of infidelity or adultery that everyone agrees on.
We’ll define adultery as unfaithfulness to the covenant (i.e., marriage) vows you made to your spouse. Vows are the promises we make to one another when we stand before God and whomever else to become legally wed. We promise (vow) to love, honor, and cherish the person we are marrying. We promise this person that they are now the number one person in our life, even if our health and wealth and other circumstances change.
We also vow to forsake all others. That means we have reserved the intimacy space of the marriage relationship exclusively for the person we married. Anytime we put another person in that relational space promised to our partner—be it sexual or emotional or both—we have committed adultery. We have violated the intimacy of marriage, we have broken our promise, and we have had an illicit relationship.
We love the description Dr. Shirley Glass gives in Not “Just Friends”:
In a committed relationship [marriage], a couple constructs a wall that shields them from any outside forces that have the power to split them. They look at the world outside their relationship through a
shared window of openness and honesty. The couple is a unit, and they have a united front to deal with children, in-laws, and friends. An affair erodes their carefully constructed security system. It erects an
interior wall of secrecy between the marriage partners, at the same time it opens a window of intimacy between the affair partners. The couple is no longer a unit. The affair partner is on the inside, and the
marital partner is on the outside.
And here is the true acid test. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s three words: Ask your spouse. Explain everything about your other relationship. Be 100 percent honest about every detail, thought, and touch. Then ask your spouse. They’ll be able to tell you if it fits the definition of adultery in a heartbeat.
Time Frame of Chapters
What we are sharing with you is not chronological. Quite frankly, healing isn’t that neat. And often many of us wander in and out of these areas throughout the recovery process. So rather, we have chosen to share with you by topics: those areas we needed to explore and deal with as we healed. We hope all of you will deal with each principle area, but the truth is that none of you will do it at the same time. When you encounter each principle area will be determined by who you are, what type of affair you’re dealing with, and the journey our Lord has you on.
We do, however, believe the first two principle areas, commitment and faith, are foundational. So if you need to camp out there for a while, that is okay. These two areas will provide the sure footing you’ll need to walk through the rest.
We can relate only our experience and a glimpse at others we have known. Yours will be entirely different, but we are certain that you, like the couples in our groups, will find some value in the sharing.
Seek other godly counsel and ask God Himself to help you filter through and apply what is right for your situation.
When we were in the deepest pit of our crisis, we wanted to sit across from a couple whose marriage had survived this horror and who now had a marriage they both cherished. Someone who could look us straight in the eye and tell us we could make it because they had. Someone who could help us understand we weren’t crazy but rather experiencing a horrendous crisis—validating what was normal for the abnormal situation in which we found ourselves. This is what we’ll offer you.
Now, come with us and we’ll take you along through snapshots of our journey of healing. We’ll give you some ideas and concrete suggestions as to how some of these things we’ve talked about can look. We pray you’ll see truth, reality, and hope, and that God will use what we share to help you on your journey.
We have seen the Lord do marvelous things, and we will pray those same marvelous things for you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so
also through Christ our comfort overflows. —2 Corinthians 1:3–5
©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.