Adultery. It is estimated that roughly 30-60% of all married individuals in the United States will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage (see, Buss and Shackelford for review of this research). And these numbers are probably on the conservative side, when you consider that close to half of all marriages end in divorce.
After there has been an exposed affair, most marriages come to an end. But not this one. Why is that? Well, continue reading to find out why this couple was able to come through stronger than ever.
Through the Eyes of an Adulteress
Interview with Kara Birkey by The Snap Mom
Give us a brief background and overview surrounding your affair:
I married my husband, Jesse, when I was only 19 years old and he was 21. Our new life together began in a whirlwind. Within our very first year of marriage I got pregnant with our first child, bought and moved into our first home, my husband got a job as a firefighter, I moved away from my family for the first time and then delivered our first child. We didn’t have the typical “honeymoon” phase, as we dove head-first into “real life.”
As time passed, I began to realize that the Christian faith we had both been raised in seemed almost non-existent in our daily lives. Sure we went to church, prayed at dinner and occasionally did a Bible study, but it felt like something was missing. It was at this time that I began praying that God would raise Jesse up as the “head of the house.” By this, I meant that he would begin reading his Bible (maybe a few minutes a day or so) and take the lead on praying. I wasn’t prepared for what actually took place. Suffice it to say that Jesse changed dramatically overnight. He began living, acting and talking about things that I was unfamiliar with from my Christian upbringing and quite frankly terrified me. I saw an incredible passion for the Lord that seemed a bit extreme to me. At the time, I felt as if there was nothing left for me. Subconsciously during this time, I came to a spiritual fork in the road. Either take a step of faith and go after what my husband had or revert back and go in a completely different direction. It was at that very time that the option of an affair came knocking at my door. The only way I can describe it is as a “slow fade,” like in the song by Casting Crowns. It wasn’t a sudden decision that I made, but a progression of little decisions that eventually led me down a path of destruction, captivity and deception.
The affair began emotional and eventually became physical. It lasted, on and off, for a couple of months. The other individual involved was also married and a friend of the family with other various connections. Jesse and I had never set specific boundaries in our marriage and therefore time alone with the opposite sex did not seem like a problem. Looking back, boundaries could have aided in preventing such a fall.
What caused you to have an affair?
There were a number of things that played a part in me having an affair. The primary reason was a lack of identity. I sought my identity and validation in what others thought of me, compliments (or put downs) I received, my appearance, the things I owned, etc. My opinion of myself fluctuated based upon how others viewed me. In short, I hated myself. I did not have my identity founded in the fact that I was a child of God and any other identity is a foundation made of sand. When I married Jesse, he became my primary source of validation. He complimented me on a regular basis, but the affirmation stopped sticking. So when the opportunity presented itself, I turned to another man’s validation to try and fill the void that I felt in my heart.
Many people ask if there was anything Jesse did to cause me to have an affair. The answer is a resounding NO. Is Jesse perfect? Absolutely not. Jesse readily admits to having struggled with pornography, gambling, anger, and to having been emotionally blocked off. The bottom line is that regardless of what another person does to us or around us, we can only ever be responsible for our actions.
How did you come to confess?
During the time of the affair, I was in such a pit of deception that I felt completely numb to what I had done. I knew it was wrong, but felt powerless to change. One day, I decided to attempt spending time with God and it was as if a spotlight illuminated what I had done. I fell flat on my face in repentance. Sobbing, I begged God for direction. He led me to the next step, which was to contact a local ministry called Operation Light Force (OLF). OLF is a discipleship/prayer ministry that Jesse had been volunteering with for the last few months. He had encouraged me a number of times to set up an appointment. Because of this, he wasn’t suspicious when I went ahead and made an appointment. During this appointment, I dealt with many unresolved issues from my past and also shared that I struggled with feelings for someone other than my husband. They led me in breaking the “soul tie” with this man. A soul tie is basically a strong emotional/spiritual connection between two people who can be established through a close relationship, sexual encounter, or various other ways. Doing this was the freedom I was searching for.
After repenting and breaking the soul tie, I came to the terrifying question of whether or not I needed to confess to Jesse. I sensed that the answer was yes, but spent months wrestling with God on this issue. I finally asked God to give me “writing on the wall” confirmation that this was indeed what He was asking me to do. Not too long after, Jesse was upstairs spending time with God while I was on the couch downstairs watching TV. He walked downstairs and stood right in front of me, asking me to stand. He looked into my eyes and told me that God had asked him to come downstairs and simply tell me “It’s time.” I almost lost it, but held my composure, waiting for him to continue. “God gave me a picture of you standing on one side of a chasm with a bridge connecting the two sides, and He is standing on the other with his arms open.” I nodded and responded with something like “That’s interesting.” Well, that was it for me. I knew that God was definitely calling me to confess. I made another appointment with OLF and this time shared the extent of what had happened. I asked the founder of this ministry, Richard, who had become a close friend and mentor of Jesse’s, to be there when I confessed. I spent the next few days fasting and preparing my heart.
What was your husband’s reaction?
The night came and Jesse was out fishing with his friend and our son. I called him and asked him to come home, letting him know Richard was coming over and that I needed to talk to him. He proceeded to ask me a number of questions and I told him that we would talk when he came home. When he arrived, he knew something was wrong and began firing off questions. Richard had not arrived yet, so I begged him to wait, but he refused. It wasn’t long before he figured out what had happened and with whom. His initial reaction was anger and the questions intensified. All the while, I sat shaking, with my hands around my knees, crying and answering to the best of my ability. This went on for a little while and then he got up and walked out. When he came back in, Richard was with him and he followed Jesse into our bedroom where they talked for a little while. Richard came out and shared a few things with me as well and said that he felt the Holy Spirit was going to take it from there. After Richard was gone, I went into our bedroom to find Jesse slumped against our wall, with his head between his knees. I collapsed in front of him, begging him to stay, telling him I would do anything. When he finally looked up, the angry and bitter look had been replaced with an expression of deep sadness and compassion. With tears rolling down his face, he told me that if I would do anything, he wanted me to forgive myself. I couldn’t believe it, but fell into his arms as he told me that he chose to forgive me, and we both sobbed.
It would be nice if the story ended here, but it doesn’t. The months that followed were a bittersweet mix of extreme highs and lows. I went to the pit of despair, with thoughts of suicide a number of times. The battle with self-hatred, shame and condemnation were intense. For Jesse, the battle with bitterness and unforgiveness seemed equally unbearable, but we fought with everything that we had. No emotion was swept under the rug. Our Heavenly Father guided us through each step during the times that we clung to Him.
How are you both doing today?
Today, 5 years since my confession, Jesse is my absolute best friend. I feel as if I can talk to him about anything. I am able to be transparent with him in a way that I never knew was possible in any relationship. Our relationship is not perfect, as no relationship is, but I could not imagine my life with anyone else. God has completely, miraculously restored our relationship. Maybe re-created is a better word because it is better than it ever had been. Jesse reflects the heart of God to me in such beautiful ways and I am madly in love with him. People have asked me “Are you happy you guys went through this because of where you are at now?”. My response is “Are you crazy?!” I believe it was God’s intention for us to have the relationship we currently enjoy without the heartache and tragedy that we endured. So, if you are in a lukewarm relationship with your spouse, or more importantly God, get on your face and plead for change and then dive head first in to what awaits you.
What advice do you have for someone who is having an affair right now?
If you are currently considering having an affair or are having one…STOP! If you do not feel repentant, ask God for a heart of repentance and repent. This is a dark and lonely road that is intended to steal, kill and destroy. There is no positive outcome on this road. There is only the hope of restoration through Jesus. Spend some time truly seeking the Lord and asking for direction. I do not believe there is a 1-2-3 step to healing. Be led by the voice of the Holy Spirit, seek guidance from a trusted and Godly source. It is scary, but there is hope!