did I marry the wrong person?

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  • An Affair Doesn’t Always Start With Sex: How to Safeguard Your Marriage

From the outside looking in we seemed to be a typical fun, happy family. We had four kids, and we were all comfortable being goofy with one another. All of our social media platforms displayed a jovial tribe who displayed affection. However, there was a deep dark secret of betrayal laid hidden beneath the surface. The fun, happy-go-lucky family—from the outside looking in—seemed great. But behind closed doors, we were very dysfunctional.

Years of unresolved issues created an environment where Tiffany’s heart was vulnerable to attack, although we didn’t see it coming.

Here’s her story:

After 17 years of marriage, Rick did help a bit more, but he still neglected his husbandly duties of caring for the family home. I was always baffled that it was like pulling teeth to get him to fix something, change a light bulb, or clean a dirty vent. He’d work in the yard, but for some reason, he felt it was beneath him—or so it seemed.

And, the biggie for me was that he still never locked our family in at night. I had grown accustomed to checking every window and locking every door, frequently asking myself, “Does he really not care about us? Wouldn’t a husband want to personally make sure everything was secured and his family was safely locked inside?” These unresolved hurtful issues ran deep in my heart, even deeper than I realized.

At this point in our marriage, I was depleted. The years of verbal abuse I endured when we fought—coupled with the neglect and constant feeling of not being important—had put me in a funk. My walk with the Lord was mechanical at best; I felt distant from Him and all alone in a marriage that seemed to do nothing but drain me.

Not only had I found myself disconnected from a real intimate relationship with Jesus, but the same was also true about my husband. I started medicating by drinking wine. At first, wine was something I occasionally enjoyed with a meal, but the occasional glass turned to two glasses and then three glasses and so on.

I found that wine took the edge off, and this started me down the path of using this beverage to cope with the gaping hole in my heart because of the state of my marriage and feeling lost in general.

Just before our move up north, Rick was making plans to start his new ministry position, and the enemy (Satan and his troops) was doing all he could to thwart God’s new direction for our family by trying to destroy our marriage. It was as if the enemy himself said, “Now! Unleash hell on them.”

It was summertime and about one month before Rick started his new role as senior pastor that we needed to find a temporary place to live. We had to be out of our rental but were not quite ready to make the move up north. A friend of ours generously offered us a temporary residence for our family.

As exciting as this new venture was, it was difficult because we would be moving away from many of our friends, like Chad and Lauren. We had known them for a few years and we got along well.

During this time of transition for us, Lauren and Chad were away volunteering at a youth resource retreat center. They had a one-year-old child who needed someone to help take care of while they were working. Lauren asked me if I could help with her young one, but it would require me to stay overnight at the retreat center. I, along with our daughter Faith, accepted Lauren’s invitation.

One evening during the retreat, Chad approached me and asked if we could talk about parenting styles since they had one child and we had four. They were newly married and Rick and I had been married for 17 years up to that point, and were ahead of them regarding family and raising children. I didn’t think anything of his invite and gladly accepted.

The two of us sat around a fire chatting. At the end of the conversation, he said, “Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate your advice.”

And, as he walked away, he said with a chuckle, “You know, I’ve always had a crush on you.”

It was awkward and took me by surprise. I didn’t say anything, but simply smiled and naïvely thought he was just trying to be cute in an endearing, funny kind of way.

We both left in opposite directions. However, the comment was flattering. I was completely surprised someone ten years younger than me would say or even think such a thing.

While we were living in our transitional housing over the next few weeks, Chad would come over when Rick happened to be gone. He would make up an excuse, like being nearby and just wanted to check-in and see if we needed anything, as he knew the majority of our stuff was in boxes and we were in transition.

One evening while Rick was gone to meet some of his church staff, Chad texted me, “Hey, I’m close by and I need to kill some time; what are you all doing?”

“Just watching a movie.”

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He asked if he could come over. Without thinking, I said he could, which was a mistake on my part.

Another evening, he stopped by when Rick happened to be gone, claiming he noticed something in our house that needed work and he wanted to check on it. As Chad had gotten to know us, he realized that Rick hated fixing things. He knew it was not a strength of his—and more importantly, he somehow picked up on it being a sore spot for me.

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One evening, I had just poured a glass of wine and there was a knock on the door, and there he was, again. He stopped by to drop something off. He noticed my glass of wine and asked if he could have some.

“Sure, Rick hates wine. He won’t drink it.”

“Seriously, I like it. I’ll drink with you,” he said with a laugh.

At one point, we were alone sitting on the couch (not next to each other), and he asked, “Does Rick ever massage your feet?”

I laughed. “No, he hates feet.”

Before I knew it, he grabbed my foot and starting massaging it while saying, “Really? I’ll massage your feet.”

I was in shock while at the same time flattered by the attention. I can’t explain the emotions I had. I was caught off guard and immediately confused. I knew it was wrong, but the feelings that churned inside me filled a gaping emotional hole I didn’t realize was present.

Just moments after he grabbed my foot, one of the kids suddenly came back into the living room. Chad chuckled as he let go of my foot. The seed of an emotional affair was planted firmly in my heart. I felt stuck but sadly allowed the unfamiliar feelings of being looked after linger instead of rebuking them as another man—not my husband—was generating them.

What started with a simple flirtatious comment, “You know, I’ve always had a crush on you,” turned into an affair with zero boundaries. A quick comment, a friend request invite on social media, liking a post with a sweet emoji message, flattering talk, etc. is all the enemy needs to wedge his foot into a marriage to drive division and destruction.

 It Doesn’t Always Start With Sex

One of the biggest misunderstandings about affairs is that they begin with sex. More times than not, an affair happens when one of the couples lets their guard down and allows a seemingly innocent gesture or flattering comment linger in their thought-life. Often such happenings are reciprocated, even naively so, and an attraction type of emotion is generated and felt by someone other than their mate. What is very unfortunate is that this behavior is far too common for many couples.

1 Peter 5: 8 charges us to stay alert as our enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (paraphrased). This is especially true for married couples.

Marriage is hard work and it comes with a myriad of stresses, and if the couple is not meeting each other’s needs and not living out their perspective roles that are laid out in scripture, the enemy will come in and begin to slowly and subtlety divide a couple, with the goal of wreaking havoc on their relationship and family.

How to Make It Difficult for the Enemy

What can we do as couples to make it difficult for the enemy of our soul to come in and destroy our marriage and family?

  • Stay close to Jesus. When the husband and wife make their relationship with the Lord priority number 1, it makes it more difficult for the enemy to have victory in their lives.
  • Wake up every morning looking to out serve each other. Putting each other’s physical and emotional needs before your own communicates value and love, which does wonders for the relationship.
  • Convert CLOSE friendships with the opposite sex into CASUAL friendships. Someone once said, “Affairs don’t start in bedrooms, they start with conversations.” Be very careful with having close friends of the opposite sex. Your time together with those types of friends should be INFREQUENT and always OUT IN THE OPEN.
  • Don’t stop dating each other. Romance one another all the time. This keeps the emotional love tank full, thus reducing the temptation to find affection elsewhere.
  • Be intentional about connecting frequently. Do not allow busy schedules and everyday life stresses get in the way of becoming one.

Starting here will help safeguard your marriage and put you on the road to a long-lasting love affair WITH YOUR SPOUSE!

Adapted from Mended: One Couple’s Journey from Betrayal to Imperfect Beauty (p. 57-58, 61-63), by R. Bulman and T. Bulman, 2018, Gresham, OR: Pure Desire Ministries International. Copyright 2018 by Pure Desire Ministries International. Reproduced with permission.

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