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Overcoming Challenges

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By Patrick Fletchall

Our eldest son used to get frustrated with his Duplo set. His Duplo are comprised of many blocks, each of them distinct yet perfectly designed to fit each other. Most of the time he would patiently play, but on occasion he’d lose patience and angrily mash them together. The more he mashed, the less likely they were to click together. I’ll come back to that later.

My wife, Nicole, and I could not be more different people. After ten years, this is abundantly clear. She’s blunt and I’m circuitously wordy. She reads mommy blogs and I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She’s OCD and I’m slovenly. I could probably give 10 volumes of additional examples.

When we were first married these differences were exciting. During our first six months of marriage we lived in a 200 square foot room, and I discovered her the way that Louis and Clark explored a path to the West: exhilarating, breathtaking, and frequently dangerous.

At each step on the trail, I explored new territory and we learned more about ourselves along the way. Nicole revealed a different way of thinking, communicating, and looking at personal relationships. She viewed the world entirely different then I did.

For my part, I was thrilled to share my passions and interests with the woman I loved and admired. I was like a 6-year-old hosting his first sleepover. “Come look at all my toys!” It seemed like the perfect synergy: she taught me how to establish healthy boundaries within my relationships and I introduced her to the Die Hard movies. Either we fit each other like two puzzle pieces, or I had an extraordinarily munificent and patient wife.

I was like someone sipping a full cup of coffee while driving on a smooth road: I patted myself on the back for our steady marriage. But life, as we all know tends to throw a few bumps. Bump…recession. Bump…child #1. Bump…child #2. Lose job, downsize, sell car to buy groceries, global pandemic…bump-bump-bump-BUMP!

The circus of young children, careers, and school leaves very little luxury for reflective relationship-building. We all spin off each day and collide back together in sporadic bursts of energy. Nicole and I had less time to be able to have the deep conversations; our interactions became transactional. The cracks began to develop.

Over 10 years, our differences seemed less like doing a puzzle together and more like an unbridgeable gulf. The slightest interaction became the seed for bickering, and bickering became our new normal mode of communication. When you’re having five fights a day, saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” ceases to become the first step in the process of reconciliation.

Through unemployment and pandemic, our lives became condensed into a 1000 square foot apartment. There are very few places to storm off to. We had started this thing living in 200 square feet and 10 years later we’ve gained only a little more space and two adorable, inconsiderate roommates.

When you’re quarantined and have nothing else to distract you, you start noticing more things. For example, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they extract toothpaste. There are numerous methods: flattening, squeezing, rolling, etc. Personally I’m a flattener: I press the tube from the bottom upwards using my palm on the counter. Sometimes, I use the edge of the counter to ensure maximum efficiency; but I sometimes worry about the 0.05 ounces of paste that squirt back to the bottom and go wasted. My wife, on the other hand, throttles the life out of the tube like she had an ex-boyfriend named Colgate.

We’ve always shared toothpaste. For a long time, I felt mildly protective of the poor toothpaste. However, recently I’ve been struck by how incredibly effective our conjoined methods of toothpaste extraction are. Each day, we alternatively choke and press the same tube, which results in the most efficient technique to get the last ounce of product. I was impressed by the fact that our efficiency was the result of not simply complimentary methodology, but a common goal.

I mentioned previously that our son would periodically get frustrated and slam his Duplos together. To date, I’ve never seen him swing two bricks together and have them match up perfectly. And if they had, I believe he would have been too upset to notice they had aligned before ripping them apart. My wife and I have been doing the same thing.

We were designed to fit together, but we collided with such velocity and frequency, how could we possibly come together and how would we know when we had? What would it take to shake us from our bad habits?

Like many, the last month has been extraordinarily challenging. But it has also made life uncharacteristically simple. Nicole and I are still learning to put the pieces together, but the monastic minimalism of our days has forced us to intentionally partner with purpose.

No matter how long it may take for the world to get back to any semblance of normality, our marriage (and many marriages out there I suspect) will never be the same. We’ve always unwittingly squeezed and pressed together, but now we realize that we were designed to meet this challenge.

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By Stacey Chenevert
*Note to Reader: This article is Part 2 of 2- Click, The Truth: How Do Affairs Begin to read Part 1

After working with many women and men who’ve had affairs, I have found a common thread that runs throughout their stories…they all had a need that was not being met by their spouse, typically over a long period of time, and it felt good to finally feel fulfilled. 

In my experience, maintaining intimacy, both physical or emotional, has been one of the primary needs lacking with couples, and ultimately leaves one or both partners vulnerable to an affair.

Most experts agree, intimacy is not only important, it is essential. Intimacy plays a major role in a person’s emotional connection with their partner.

So, identifying both your partner’s primary needs and your needs will help you both develop a habit of meeting each other’s needs, and that is where my 5 steps come in. They are designed to give you the opportunity to discover each other’s needs and communicate how to fulfill them.

I also recommend reading the book His needs Her needs by Dr. Willard J. Harley and The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. When either spouse’s needs go unmet, over time, it can leave that spouse venerable to the deception of infidelity.

Here is a list of suggestions you can implement to protect your marriage. They will act as a barrier between your marriage and infidelity.

5 Ways to affair-proof your marriage

  1. Communication– Open and honest communication with your partner is an important step in establishing an intimate connection. I recommend setting a goal of spending at least 30 minutes every day, in uninterrupted conversation, with your spouse. Share your struggles and your victories. This will set the atmosphere for intimacy and create a sense of “I’m valued” and you matter to each other.

2. Keep the intimate details of your marriage personal- Don’t confide in the opposite sex about personal struggles in the marriage or even your life in general. This part of your heart should be shared with only your spouse. This will foster friendship, intimacy, and trust. 

3. Recognize when you’re starting to have negative thoughts- Don’t let negative self talk about your spouse ruin how you feel about them. Realize he or she isn’t perfect, and mistakes will be made. Allow room for error, and offer mercy and grace when your feelings get hurt. Don’t hold unforgiveness against them—have tools and resources in place to move forward quickly.

4. Date night– It’s important to have time for just the two of you. Try to plan a date night at least twice a month and use this time to reconnect with each other.

5. Keep watch– Keep watch over your heart. If at any time you feel like you are drawn to someone, then ask yourself what you are missing at home? If you’re feeling you have needs that are no longer being met by your spouse, please talk to your spouse about what’s missing in your relationship. Sometimes couples need a marriage therapist to facilitate this. Do not hesitate to find a licensed marriage therapist in your area.

Infidelity is an enemy of marriage, and its only goal is to destroy. It not only harms the marriage but the individuals as well. The good news is that it does not have to wreak havoc in a couple’s life forever—my husband and I are living proof that couples can heal from infidelity.

There is a process of healing, and for committed couples, it works and brings them freedom from the consequences of infidelity.

To find more about healing from infidelity, go to https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com and connect with Stacey Chenevert

*Note to Facebook Users: PLEASE return to FB and click “Like,” which lets the author know how much you appreciated their story. **If you’re NOT connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section.

*Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional. Please note, I Do Part Two and Women with Scars Affair Recover do not have an affiliate marketing relationship.

No one wakes up one day and thinks, “I’m going to have an affair today.”- Stacey Chenevert

An affair doesn’t just happen…

Have you ever wondered how an affair starts? In my opinion, there’s such a misconception as to how affairs begin. Most people I’ve talked to believe its when two people meet, flirt, and then bam they’re having sex. However, by the time an affair is usually discovered, the couple has been involved for quite a while. 

In reality, an affair starts long before the affair partners ever meet—the affair actually starts taking hold in the husband or wife’s thoughts as soon as emptiness and hopelessness set in, and the vulnerable spouse begins to believe their marriage will not change. In case you are wondering how I know how an affair starts, well the truth is…I’ve had an affair. 

I was young when I married my first husband, my high school sweetheart. Our relationship was definitely not the fairy-tale I had imagined. We were married seven years, and during those years my husband had multiple one-night stands and became emotionally abusive. Ultimately, I became very angry and vindictive towards him.

Even so, I never thought I could be the one to have an affair…

My first husband and I had a particular couple we often socialized with, and the husband happened to be my husband’s best friend. One day, my husband’s friend expressed an interest in me and we began “discreetly and innocently” flirting back and forth over a number of years. 

Regrettably, as my marriage began to deteriorate, I started confiding in my husband’s friend about what was going wrong in my marriage. One day, when we were alone, things crossed the line. Two years later, we divorced our spouses and married each other.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but at the time I was angry and hurt by my first husband’s unfaithfulness. I thought he deserved what he got for how he treated me all of those years. I didn’t realize at the time—no one deserves to be cheated on—even if they’re unfaithful themselves and not treating their spouse with respect. It was my response to my husband’s behavior that caused me to have an affair. I know now, I had a choice!

In the beginning, my new marriage was fun and exciting. We spent lots of time together, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. But as the years went by, and we added a couple of kids to the mix, and the stresses of everyday life intervened—our marriage began to take a back seat.

Then, about eight years ago, when my second husband and I had been married for nearly 10 years, we hit a rough patch in our relationship. I was busy raising kids and my husband worked hard to provide for us, but in the process, he became a workaholic and filled his free-time with hobbies on his own. 

Over time, I felt lonely and became angry with my husband for distancing himself from me. The closeness and friendship we once shared appeared over as we began living like roommates. By the time my affair partner entered my life, I was a shell of the person I was when we married, and desperate for attention.

Infidelity is not something you go looking for…its something you allow your thoughts to lead, and your actions to follow.

My affair partner was in the medical profession and had been caring for my children for several years before the affair started. It wasn’t until I began seeing him for my own dental needs that things between us became flirtatious. Never once did I think we would end up having an affair. I was just having fun, and it felt good to be noticed. He was also going through a similar situation, so as our discussions became more intimate, we bonded over our failed marriages.

The Lie: “We‘re just friends…”

Our friendship flourished, and it didn’t take long for us to seek a relationship beyond the phone. The more time we spent together, the closer we became. The affair became like a drug. I needed to feel wanted, and he needed to feel appreciated.

Both our needs were being met for the first time in a long time. 

My affair partner spent a lot of time talking to me and listening to my heart—he was very interested in ‘who I was.’ He made me feel very honored and accepted. I needed this quality time and validation from my husband, and he wasn’t aware I even needed this to feel fulfilled.

In contrast, I grew farther away from my husband and gave up on ever being able to have with my husband again, what I had with my affair partner. I convinced myself that I never really loved my husband, and we shouldn’t have married. 

I would tell myself it was “fine”; our marriage was dead, and we didn’t have anything in common anymore. I reduced our love to a feeling, and since I no longer ‘felt in love’ with my husband, it validated my belief that “it was time to move on.” 

Affairs start in your head—long before you end up in bed…

I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt my affair started in my thoughts long before my affair partner showed up. I felt neglected by my husband, and I began withdrawing from him about a year before the affair started. Looking back now, I see how hard my heart had become toward him.

Did I mention my husband and I are Christians? Well, we are, and when the affair started, we had just finished hosting a bible study in our home. To say the guilt and shame were beyond measure would be an understatement. I was so in love with my affair partner—I didn’t care anymore about right from wrong, I just never wanted to feel empty again.

I learned first-hand having the title of ‘Christian’ will not give you the power to not have an affair. I looked like I was doing all the ‘right things’ on the outside, but my heart was still leading me down a dark path. 

Eventually, change for me would only come from my relationship with the Lord. I know, I digress, but I wanted to bring up this point in case there are some Christians who find themselves where I was—feeling overwhelmed with guilt and shame. You are not alone, and there is hope for healing and recovery.

It’s important to note—an affair can happen at any time or anywhere—it is never the physical location you are in that causes the affair to start. What makes you vulnerable is where your heart is, how empty you are feeling, or how unhappy you are in your marriage. Affairs begin within ourselves.

We believe the lies we tell ourselves…

So over time, I began to have a negative narrative about my husband. Especially when he would hurt my feelings, make me angry, or wouldn’t listen to how I was feeling. 

The narrative running through my mind would go something like this:

  • You don’t understand me.
  • You don’t spend time with me.
  • Why don’t you like me?
  • I don’t like you right now.
  • I’m tired of arguing with you about this.
  • You never listen to me.
  • We don’t have anything in common anymore.
  • I really hate you right now.
  • You are such a mean person.

I believe you get the picture. But all of this negative narrative did was cause me to look at my husband negatively—I didn’t even want to be around him. Every time he hurt me or neglected me, I would put another brick on the wall-of-anger around my heart. 

It’s hard to love someone with all your heart, only to have your needs go unmet day-after-day. I was protecting myself from further pain, but I wasn’t actively seeking healthy strategies to repair my marriage.

How to recognize when your marriage is vulnerable to an affair… 

  1. When intimacy decreases significantly or is eliminated in your marriage. We crave a deep connection with our spouse and intimacy fosters closeness. Intimacy enables us to bond with our partners on many levels. If intimacy takes a back seat and we begin to neglect the quality time our relationship needs to survive, we can become vulnerable to someone else’s attention. 
  • We begin a negative narrative about our spouse– this changes our perspective of who they are and causes us to magnify their negative qualities more than their positive attributes. So much so, we can no longer see what we loved about them.
  • Resentment sets in– even if they apologize, we can’t receive anything positive from them because we’ve allowed our hearts to be hardened. This leaves our hearts open to someone else.
  • We meet the ‘perfect-other-person’ who flirts with us and makes us feel wanted and special.
  • Communication breaks down in our marriage, and we start thinking about how good this ‘perfect-person’ made us feel. We even begin to avoid small talk with our spouse.
  • Fantasizing begins- as the flirting continues, the fantasies about what it would be like with the other person intensify. We start imagining, “what if this happened or I wonder how this would feel and what it would be like to spend time with this person?”  So by fantasizing about these different scenarios, we tell our hearts (which is where our emotions sit) that we are enjoying this attention. “It’s okay” to prepare for an encounter.
  • An agreement is made—once the line has been crossed, what’s done, can’t be undone. We begin to search for fulfillment from this person who is meeting our needs, and a chemical called Dopamine starts to kick in. 

Dopamine is the reward chemical in our brains. It releases feel-good chemicals when we are excited about someone or something. A study was done on a brain in love, and someone addicted to a drug affects found that the chemical reaction effects the same area of our brains. You literally become addicted to your affair partner. This makes ending the affair incredibly difficult but not impossible.

Once you choose hope, anything is possible…

I believe that most people go into marriage with the core value of believing they’ll have a monogamous marriage and that they won’t cheat on each other. I had the same intention with both my marriages, so I had to question myself, “what made me cross the line of my core values?” 

Was it my response to life difficulties, or neglect in my marriage? I believe it was my response to the hard times my marriage was facing, and this is the area I needed to focus on healing.

If you’re feeling discouraged by betrayal or your own thoughts, there is hope for healing your marriage. It is hard work, but when two people want to fight for their marriage and are willing to do the work required to rebuild something beautiful, then the outcome is a stronger and healthier marriage. 

My husband and I worked really hard to get through the recovery process, and I can tell you it was worth every struggle and setback to be where we are today. 

To Read Part 2: 5 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage by Stacey Chenevert Go to — https://idoparttwo.com/5-ways-to-affair-proof-your-marriage/

To find more about healing from infidelity, go to https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com and connect with Stacey Chenevert

*Note to Facebook Users: PLEASE return to FB and click “Like,” which lets the author know how much you appreciated their story. **If you’re NOT connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section.

*Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional. Please note, I Do Part Two and Women with Scars Affair Recover do not have an affiliate marketing relationship.

4 Minute Read

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t.-Rikki Rogers

It burned as it went down…I’d been here, in this place, before. It smelled and felt familiar. Like a knowing friend greeting me: but, there was no friend here. Never kind and never hopeful; only unrelenting in its demand for my full attention.

It whispered with certainty, “You will not win, not today. You don’t have the courage, the strength. All you have is me. I own you.”

_______________________________________________________________

Slam. The door closes jarringly in the hallway. My husband’s home. I’m pulled from my thoughts as he passes through the kitchen.

“Hi! How are you? How was your day?” I ask with too much fervor and excitement. I can tell he knows, but pretends anyway.

“Oh good. You know, just another day. What’s for dinner?”

“Oh right….dinner! Yes! I was just getting it started. The boys are upstairs playing. So I’ll just go check on them and then…yeah I’ll get it going!” 

“Whoa, 5:30 already? ” I rush by him, looking down, avoiding eye contact and any physical touch he may try to initiate.

I make my way up the stairs. I say something to the boys, loud enough for my husband to hear. To know, I’m still there.

“Hon? Do you want to change and shower before dinner?” I ask hopefully. Say yes, please, pleassse, say yes…

“Umm. Sure, I guess so.”

He stops in to see the boys on his way up while I rush by, “I need to start dinner!” I say a bit too loudly. Trying to explain what I imagine he must be thinking, “why is she avoiding me?”

_______________________________________________________________

It’s chasing me, or maybe I’m chasing it. I can’t tell anymore.

We circle one another. Like sharks smelling for first blood. Who will break first? Me. I always do, I remember.

I find myself alone with my thoughts again. I know I don’t have long before they boys will be down, asking about dinner.

Will you ever figure this out? Doubtful. 

You’re too weak and incapable. Just throw the towel in now. Accept this. Accept me, you need me.

Like a master and his slave, I can’t tell if my thoughts are my own anymore. We’d become one, and I was burdened into a slavery that I could not escape.

_______________________________________________________________

We’d met many years before, in my early 20’s, I was at once enamored. I’d never experienced such shiny and glamorous things in life. I was funnier, more confident and self assured. The relationship brought me contentment and offered new opportunities.

At first, it was just a fling; just being reckless and young. Soon, it turned into something more serious and then, controlling and abusive. 

Before I knew it, I was wrapped up: nothing else mattered. Once a relatively prudent and thoughtful young woman, I found myself throwing caution to the wind; all for this new relationship.

Through a series of events, it became clear this, I, wasn’t healthy. And so, we parted ways. I was met with a sneering, “you’ll be back.”

But, I didn’t return. I met my husband, we married within the year, had two beautiful boys and built a remarkable life together.

Something happened though. A life change. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I found myself at home, alone, with two small children. 

Day after day, the same routine. It pained me to admit, I was bored, dying, and uninspired. And so, I found myself going back to my old fling.

Let’s be real: I wasn’t the victim. I knew how unhealthy the relationship had been. 

What would make it different now? Not to mention how unfair it was to my husband, my marriage…my boys.

Familiarity breeds contempt. Indeed, contempt is what I felt. I hated this path I’d found myself wandering on again. I couldn’t break the chain; I’d become a slave again.

_______________________________________________________________

Some like it sweetened for disguise, others like it on a hot summer day, still some prefer it in the cold of a winter night.

I preferred mine straight from the bottle. In the middle of the day. Brad Pitt once said, “I can drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka.” 

Me too.

For months I tried to disguise it. But eventually, like all things, it started to show. I had to have a little more each time to numb the pain I was running from, the person I couldn’t stand to see in the mirror. 

Before I knew it, I was going through vodka like water. “You need me…” it would whisper. Cunningly and deceivingly, “you might beat me someday…but not today.”

_______________________________________________________________

This second time, the consequences were much deeper; more significant.

The trust I’d lost with my husband, slowly had to be rebuilt. The partnership and deep union we’d once felt, had started to crack at the foundation. 

The ramifications of my choices, I’m afraid, may never fully heal.

Like most “affairs”, my decisions were made emotionally and recklessly. And as a result, the most important relationship to the health of my family suffered at great consequence.

After seeking individual and marital counseling (something we should have done earlier), my husband and I have almost fully healed from my choices.

We work daily to guard of my past affair, just as we do with other situations in our life that may lead to unhealthy behaviors on either of our parts. 

Today, I dance a careful dance with the “tiger” that is alcohol. It lives in a cage in my life, and we are learning to co-exist with one another.

By the grace of My Savior, I can say with full conviction and confidence, I no longer am a slave to sin. I was given a renewed spirit and a second chance.

As painful as it is to remember those moments in my life, I force myself to come to terms with them each day. 

As a result, now when I look in the mirror I am proud of the wife and mother I have become, and the marriage I am continuing to build with the man I love so deeply.

_______________________________________________________________

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If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or mental or emotional health, I Do Part Two encourages you to reach out and call a trusted loved one, friend, co-worker or member of your church or visit:

SAMHSA’s Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services  1-800-662-HELP (4357) or www.aa.org: Alcoholics Anonymous


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