For several months, I suspected something was wrong with my husband but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. He had been working second shift since our son was born eighteen months earlier. I worked first shift, and we rarely saw each other for more than a few minutes.
He seemed increasingly distant. Maybe it was just exhaustion from being home with our toddler all day? Maybe my hormones were playing tricks on me, now five months pregnant with our second child? I wasn’t sure, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong
One early morning the week of Christmas, I decided to check his email. I cracked open our laptop from the kitchen table and found them. Email after email between my husband and women he had met online.
Every wife’s nightmare had become my reality. My initial reaction was shock. After waking my husband up to confront him, I grabbed our son and locked myself in the bathroom. My toddler was oblivious to what was happening, but I repeated, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay,” again and again as I rocked him back and forth, trying to convince myself of it. While I knew my son and I would be okay, in that moment, I had very little hope for my marriage and thought it was over.
My husband quickly apologized and sought my forgiveness, but I was not ready to give it. I had no idea how I would ever trust him again. My husband claimed he was glad his cheating had been uncovered because it meant he no longer was living with all the secrets and lies, but his exposure was a much different experience for me.
The initial stages of grief encircled my mind and heart. I could not believe this was happening. I was outraged and wanted him out of my sight. I was deeply saddened by the betrayal I felt. I had no idea how to move forward. Learning to forgive and trust him felt impossible.
For months I didn’t. We both knew only he could prevent unfaithfulness. I knew no app, counselor, pastor, or accountability partner could keep my husband faithful to our marriage.
His willingness to talk with several of our friends about what he’d done and seek out their help was a glimmer of hope for me during those first few months. While I was initially skeptical of everything he said and did, getting his horrible mistakes out into the light reassured me that returning to the darkness was not what he wanted. He was willing to face shame and humiliation if it meant it would help win back our marriage.
His changed behavior showed me I could trust him again, and because of that, I was eventually able to forgive. The alternative would provide fertile ground for bitterness and resentment to grow. That was not the kind of marriage we were fighting for.
When I look back on the day I found the emails, I could have never imagined my marriage would have been rocked that deeply. But I also could have never imagined how much deeper my understanding of trust would become. I now understand that trust is something I can offer, but in the end other people alone must decide what to do with it. They can receive and honor it, or they can elude and disgrace it. I was able to forgive my husband for his infidelity because of the ways he showed me he was going to honor my trust. And that forgiveness not only saved my marriage, it also set me free.
Fighting for my marriage after cheating was not something I ever wanted to be part of my story. And I don’t share this in the cliche “I’m so glad that awful thing happened to me” way. But I am grateful my marriage survived.