My wife, Mary, and I were on a plane traveling to the Northwest and it was the dead of winter. We were conducting our first weekend marriage seminar in this frozen, sub-zero state. We jumped off the plane and onto the small airport tarmac to be greeted by the coldest wind we’ve ever felt. Our eyes began to water and our noses started to run.
As we became acquainted with the pastor of the church who met us at the airport, he informed us that we were going straight to the church building to meet with his two eldership couples that were awaiting our arrival. I thought, “Wow, he’s not wasting any time putting us to work.” He then said, “Am I glad you guys are here. We have a problem that we would like the two of you to address.” “What’s the issue? “I asked. He proceeded to say something we had never, ever heard before and haven’t heard since. “It seems that the husband of our one eldership couple is having an affair with the wife of the other eldership couple,” the pastor cautiously revealed. “We want you to meet with them.” I then asked if the “non-affairing” spouses are aware of what had happened and was about to happen. He told us they were totally unaware of both.
I’m not sure who was more nervous and frightened about the meeting, the two of us or the couples we were about to meet. There we sat with the first couple; a bit stunned as the husband nervously confessed to his wife his ongoing affair. His eyes were constantly shifting to his spouse, then his pastor and then to us, but more often toward the ground. We watched as her face began multiple and visibly painful contortions. Her skin began to flush a bright red color starting from below her neckline and working its way to her forehead. And then the tears began to flow, nonstop. Her body slumped lower and lower in her chair. It was like she was literally shriveling up right there in front of us.
Humans seem to have the capacity to endure a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. We have all experienced traumatic, painful situations in our lives. How we choose to handle those hurts is important. We don’t know why one person can maintain composure while another completely falls apart, but we are convinced it has something to do with how we interpret the event and then what we tell ourselves about the past, present, and most importantly, the future.
It was in this meeting that we watched someone physically experience human pain: shortness of breath, heart palpitations, hands shaking in uncontrollable fear, and deep sighs that seemed to say, “What now?” Mary placed her hand on the wife’s arm, but it was of little solace to her in a world that was literally crumbling around her.
Having seen the pain that an affair has on a spouse that day, I once again pledged myself to maintaining my marriage vows to my wife and to God – a good thing for you to consider as well.
(The above was adapted from our book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)