I was dealt such a hand within the first few months of my marriage. When I expected to draw a pair of aces, I realized the cards in my hand didn’t amount to anything but disaster. Several months after our fairly tale wedding, while I was still bathing in the joy and excitement of a new life together, I discovered that my wife was involved in an affair.
Life had taken a turn that I had never imagined, and I was facing what most would consider insurmountable odds. It would have been so easy to fold my hand, step away from the table and seek out a different game. I could have cashed in my chips and gone home, saving them for another day. But, against the advice of some, I stayed in the game. I believed that my destiny was yet to be determined, that I could play my hand out and hope for the best.
It wasn’t that my wife had decided she no longer loved me. She wasn’t tired of me and we didn’t have irreconcilable differences. Not to give her any excuses, because she was responsible for her actions and decisions, but she had placed herself in a compromising position with the friends she had hung out with and found herself in a situation she wasn’t prepared for. She was influenced by the environment she placed herself in, and I was too preoccupied with pursuing a career to recognize the danger signs.
When I discovered the truth of the affair, I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine what had happened to the fairy tale we had begun, but I was determined to write a different ending to the story.
We turned to the pastor of our church for advice, and were appalled at the advice we were given. Break it off. We were told, “You won’t make it through, and you don’t have too much invested, so break it off. You have every right to leave her, after what she has done. There’s no way you can survive this, the odds are against you.”
What we heard from this man of God was about as far from what we expected as anything could have been. Isn’t the church all about forgiveness and restoration?
My first instinct was to hold on tight and not let her go. The emotional pain was excruciating, but I was not going to let this treasonous act change my destiny. I was going to fight back. I did what any drowning man does, I grasped for any lifeline I could and held on tight.
It wasn’t long before I realized that tactic just wouldn’t work. The tighter I held on, the further she tried to go. She was young and confused, and didn’t really know what she wanted. It was the advice from my mother that made the difference. It was as if I drew a card that changed my hand forever. Mom told me to let her go.
Letting go was one of the hardest decisions I have made in my entire life, but one that I will cherish for as long as I live. For in letting go and giving her what she thought she wanted, she learned something about herself. Once she had what she thought she wanted, her freedom to choose, she realized she didn’t want that at all.
I asked her to leave, but told her she needed to leave her ring. I told her I loved her deeply, but she needed to pack up her things and go. We’ve all heard the cliché that if you let something go and it comes back, it was always yours, but if it doesn’t, it never was.
I wasn’t sure about that at the time, but I did know that she needed to be forced into facing the reality of her choices and the consequences of her decisions. I wanted to stay in the marriage and make things work, but I needed to know that she wanted that as well. A one-sided relationship will never last.
I don’t know exactly what thoughts flooded her mind when she left, but she has since told me that when I told her to leave the ring behind, that was the wake-up call that she needed. She was gone for less than twelve hours when she realized that she was losing everything. She was up all night turning over in her mind how she had allowed herself to come to the point that her actions had put us in, and she was terrified of losing everything we had built together.
When she called me the next morning in tears, we had no idea how we would survive the next few days, but that she was committed to demonstrating to me her remorse and ultimately her love.
That was twenty-one years ago. Today, as I write this, we are celebrating our twenty-first anniversary. Remarkably, we not only survived and avoided defeat, but because we played out our hand, we beat the odds. We ran the table and beat the dealer, hand after hand.
Today we have four beautiful children and a story of forgiveness and triumph. We would never say it was easy or a smooth ride. The trail has been rocky and steep, but we are moving forward and reaching new heights in our relationship on a daily basis. What once seemed like insurmountable odds are now a memory and a life lesson we can share with others. We have discovered what true unconditional love is, and we can truly say that our marriage is amazing.