We didn’t use the traditional wedding vows when we got married. At the ages of 19 and 20, you don’t have the self-awareness to write your own, you’re just SO ready to belong physically to that other person and start a new adventure together, romantically imagining wherever that might lead. We said wonderful words written by our church, such as, “I accept your strengths, your protection, your guidance and your love for me. I also accept your weaknesses, your struggles, your pain, your disappointments, and your failures.” Little did we know how the “failures” application would become part of our story.

We have both had affairs at 10 years into marriage. The beginning of our life spent together was awesome but we were so young, and alcohol played a major part of starting the rough edges and cracks. A one-night stand on his part turned into a 5-year-long held grudge on my part, and a “I deserve better” attitude on my part led to a 2 week long affair that was trumped by a later-found-out fling of his, and it all ended with a final straw: a local affair between my husband and some girl. The track record of hurts and betrayals is substantial, and most people wonder how and why we would ever even try to reconcile this, or if it was even a good idea.

I fell in love with this guy in high school. He was cool and popular and every girl wanted to date him. I was the uncool, previously homeschooled girl and I {unwisely} told everyone that I would marry him. Then, I did. {He “came to his senses” in our junior/senior year}. He joined the military and we spent 8 years at the call of our country. Most of the hurts happened while far from family and friends, during the often long separations due to deployments and temporary duty at other locations. The distance + alcohol were major factors in leading up to our many indiscretions and failures. I sought forgiveness for my own infidelity, but it wasn’t for years more that I was able to confess it to others and to really see that my husband had forgiven me, as well.

Failure doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt about our marriage in 2012. By then, we had one beautiful baby girl, a house, and were well on our way to living the American Dream. However, after trying to “forgive and forget” too many times, and having to live under the weight of never being forgiven by my husband for my own affair, we reached a crux in our relationship. I had discovered his latest selfish conquest, and now with a child on the line, I had had enough. I outed his actions, called all my great support {friends, family, pastor, everyone who knew our story so far} and asked for prayer.

A week later, he came back to Pennsylvania where I was staying with our families. He was brought into a counseling session with our childhood pastors—the ones who wrote those vows we had spoken to each other that morning in June, 2003. By God’s great grace, in that counseling session we were reconciled to each other, and most importantly, to Jesus. We realized the value in each other, we saw the pattern of destruction and the danger of substance misuse, and he finally recognized the crazy deep love I have for my husband—that goes beyond all sense and reason! {I can’t help it; he’s meant for me.}

A year later, we have a second baby. We have a wonderful, deep, respectful love for each other. We know we are fallible human beings, with much to amend, but we are day-by-day learning to die to self. We completely do accept each other’s failures, and have chosen to look past them into a bright and glorious future, filled with love and hope. I see it in his eyes, and reflected in the eyes of the gorgeous children we have together. Loving each other is a choice, and it starts with Forgiveness. It’s the only way.

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