Interview with Ben Wilson, part 2

This is part two of my interview with Ben Wilson. Also check out part one and part three.


Most Christians believe divorce is a sin, except in certain cases.
Adultery is often cited (and supported with Matthew
5:31–32
) as one of those
cases in
which
divorce is allowed. Do you think an affair is an acceptable reason for the
offended party to ask for a divorce?

It can be but that usually isn’t the best
question to ask. I think with Jesus’ words we often want to make it into a
final list when I just don’t think he
did that much. He was speaking to men who were treating women in horrible ways
through
often divorcing for no significant reason. So the core of his teaching to me
is directed at each man in something like, "Husbands love your wife intentionally
with tenderness and respect." Often times the passage is used the exact
opposite of what he intended. By that I mean pastors sometimes guilt women
to staying in a marriage with a man who is being a total buffoon or even evil
in
beating her. To me he was seeking to protect women and that is often missed.

The
better question to ask is, "What are the possibilities for our relationship
in this marriage?" At times, some Christians pray for their spouse to
have an affair so they’ll have a ‘legal’ way out. That is a coward’s prayer.
Humility,
suffering, perseverance, character are all words that are neglected in that
prayer.

To sum up, I would say that it is generally worth putting all you have
into rebuilding your marriage and seeking to move through the pain and trauma
of
an affair to
restore it even after an affair. A divorce should still be sought in light
of the question, "What does it mean to love my spouse well?" A divorce
could be sought at some level as a last ditch effort to help the spouse have
an encounter with God. The Greek word for adultery doesn’t usually mean just
one affair but sexual betrayal over and over. So I don’t think one affair is
a good reason to divorce. But to be fair, every situation is different and
I am sure there are some situations where it is the best way to love the other.

If
a married couple who had been through an affair told you they wanted to divorce,
would you encourage them to stay together?

I encourage a couple to make a decision
to work through the process of the betrayal and to worry about making a final
decision about the marriage down
the road.
There is so much pain, trauma and upheaval just after the revelation that neither
will be thinking and feeling clearly enough to make that decision. I do believe
that if two people commit to being honest, place a high value on their relationship
and a high value on God that going through the process will lead them to a
better marriage than they had before the affair.

Why did you and your wife decide
to stay together after the infidelities were brought to light?

For me there
were two main reasons. The first was that I couldn’t stand the thought of another
man tucking my kids into bed at night. If we divorced Ann
would remarry
and I didn’t know who that man would be in relationship with my kids. I hated
that thought. My kids and I rubbed noses like Eskimos and it was great. They
are teens now and don’t do that. :)

The second was out of gratitude to God for entering my life and literally saving
me from suicidal thoughts. I called out one day and said, "God this can’t
be what you intended for my life. Either take me back or show me the way." The
Spirit came in me that day and I began to listen and make different choices
in my life.

I read that it took about as long to get over the affair as it went
on. It went on sporadically for three years. So I gave God three years to
save my
marriage.
In the meantime I committed to face all of the pain I could each day. I didn’t
commit to the marriage but I did commit to the process of rebuilding. Our
biggest leap of forgiveness came after fourteen months.
Ann says part of it was she didn’t want to fail at marriage. All of our siblings
but one has been divorced and she didn’t want to join them. Also Ann is a
very loyal person (yeah we see the paradox). She knew at her core that she
really
loved me. Kids were also a reason for her too. That’s it in a nutshell.

We
both also have a certain degree of pertinacity. I was a state champion at
golf and she was an all-district basketball player in high school. We
both
knew what it was to work hard with a goal in mind. Short term suffering
for long term
gain so to speak.

It has been ten years since the infidelity in your marriage,
and you appear to have come a long way since then. Do you feel that your
marriage is fully
restored?
Are the wounds all healed and trust regained?

Yes I feel our marriage
is fully restored and waaaaaaayyyyyy beyond what it was before the affair.
We talked the other day and we have both grown
so much
the
last ten years. We were 30 year old adolescents (I was 33. I can’t
tell you how many people I see whose lives are turned upside down at 33) then
and
really are
adults now.

We read, reflect, seek to discern, challenge each other
and ourselves and offer grace to one another. We want to be ‘on the grow’
(Charlie Tremendous
Jones
phrase) the rest of our lives.

Yes, the wounds are healed. We touch
our scars a little more often than the average couple because of this strange
calling we have.
We want to
be present
with the
emotions we felt ten years ago when we share our story so it doesn’t
feel like we are talking in a third person manner.

I trust Ann and
vice versa. We are also both much more aware of our fallen nature and don’t
pretend it doesn’t exist. She is capable
of heinous
sin and me too.
Oswald Chambers said an unguarded strength is a double weakness.
Being aware of our capacity for sin helps to keep us ‘on the
grow’ and moving
closer
to one another. That is the best guarantee against another affair
occurring.

Interview with Ben Wilson, part 1

Ben Wilson is the blogger behind Marriages
Restored
. He and his wife Ann have
a ministry for couples who want to rebuild their marriages after infidelity.
This ministry grew out of their own experiences recovering from infidelity in
their own marriage. You can read the stories of Ann’s
affair
and of Ben’s
emotional
affair
on the Marriages Restored site. I recently interviewed Ben via e-mail.


You’ve said on your blog that sex outside of a marriage is not the only kind
of infidelity. What other kinds are there?

In reality one can have an affair
with anything or anybody. Think of things you are passionate about and give
your heart to. If one begins to give aspects
of
his/her soul that is reserved for marriage over to this person, thing or activity
an affair is taking place.

A classic example is a man whose passion goes into
his work. His wife feels that she isn’t getting the most alive parts of his
heart but doesn’t know how
to address
it or attempts to and is greeted with, "I’m working as hard as I can and
making money so we can have a better life and all you can do is complain." Something
in her says, "Fine. I’ll just pour my energy into the kids." He is
successful at work so that looks good. She is at all the school functions and
involved as a volunteer there and at church too. That looks good, but both
are giving a big piece of their soul elsewhere that was intended for their
marriage.

On your blog, you mention your emotional affair at least as much as
you mention your wife’s physical affair, if not more. Do you think the two
kinds of affairs
are equal in their destructiveness?

I mention my emotional affair sometimes
just to give my failures and being a mess equal airtime. :) Affairs generally
don’t happen in a vacuum.

Emotional and physical affairs are both destructive.
I would use different instead of equal or less than etc.

When a couple gets
married they usually vow to forsake all others as long as they both shall live.
I believe that includes both emotionally and physically.

Emotional affairs can
be more difficult to end because the couple rationalizes that since they resisted
having sex they really haven’t done anything wrong.
This is wrong.

In my case, and many people use this language, the other person
and the emotional entanglement works like a drug. There were times following
the revelation of
Ann’s affair that I would talk to my emotional affair partner over the phone.
With the first syllable out of her mouth I would physically feel a chemical
release throughout my body better than any anti-depressant. I instantly felt
pain evaporate.
I felt her acceptance and not Ann’s rejection. That’s powerful stuff.

Soon,
a counselor helped me to see the damage I was doing to all three of us in
the relationship. He also helped me to admit that if my partner pursued
me
aggressively in a physical way I could easily have been right where Ann was.
The damage of emotional affairs seems to be minimized and rationalized away
easier than physical affairs but they are causing incredible damage.

Christians
often make the mistake of praying with the other person and denying the physical
attraction. Prayer is more intimate than sex in some ways and
that really deepens the bond.

When ending it, just end it. People tend to try
to want to end it ‘nice.’ When the line is crossed, the line is crossed and
the lingering feelings will stay
in the way of the marriage.


Come back tomorrow to read about Ben’s views on divorce.

Giving thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. I’m going to take a short
break from blogging to just relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
Blogging will resume on Monday.

It’s always kind of cheesy when people write about things they’re thankful
for. It seems like it’s always the same stuff: family, friends, country, health,
etc. Plus, no one’s life is perfect, so a lot of I’m thankfuls tend
to take on the attitude of "life could be so much worse" (e.g., "I’m thankful
I only
lost
four of my
fingers
in that accident last month."). So I know people tend to roll their eyes when
they see a post listing what someone’s thankful for, even if the list is absolutely
sincere (as most of them are). Everyone has some cynic in their personality.

I say all this because I want to list a couple of things I’m thankful for.
I’m a little self-conscious about it for the very reasons I just mentioned.
I don’t want people to think I’m trying to write a heart-wrenching, life-changing
piece of short literature here. I have my eyes wide open. I know this is going
to be cheesy. But I’m a blogger, darnit. Every real bit of online self-consciousness
I might have once possessed flew out of my ear somewhere around post No. 250.
I don’t reveal every bit of myself on this site, but sometimes I just need
to express what I’m feeling, even if I’m feeling full of schmaltz. So here
are some things I’m thankful for:

  • Everyone who reads this blog—especially those who leave comments and send
    e-mails. Every time I get discouraged and think I’m wasting my time with
    this, someone tells me how glad they are that I’m celebrating marriage. That’s
    more encouraging than I can express.
  • The Internet. I’ve made a lot of friends over the Internet that
    I may never see this side of Heaven, but I’m so glad to know them.
  • My wife. We uprooted ourselves from Texas into the strange and
    foreign land of New York. The experience cemented the notion for me that
    my home is wherever she is.
  • My family. They’ve all moved around since I left home, and none
    of them live in any of the cities where I spent my childhood. But wherever
    they are, that’s where I’m from.
  • My church. I have a biological family with whom I share a lot
    of love, but I also have a spiritual family that loves me, probably more
    than I know.

I guess that’s as much self-revelation as I want to do right now.


I can’t believe I did this, but I counted from my first post to find No.
250
.
That was pretty self-revelatory, but I think my self consciousness actually
flew out of my ear at No.
223
. Just for your reference, this post is No.
354.

Fun -n- games

A while back I experimented a little with an online gizmo called The Hero
Machine. It was fun, but ultimately unproductive. Bryan
at Spare Change alerted me
to
the new and improved Hero
Machine 2.0
. This one is much better—more fun and way more productive.
My wife and I both used it to create images of what we would look like as superheroes.

Just so you know, they’re both spot-on accurate, except that
I don’t usually wear
a cowboy hat (though I would if I were a superhero) and I don’t have a
dog
(but
I
would
if
I
were
a
superhero).

New freedoms

Before I got married, I lived a pretty carefree life. I stayed up as late
as I wanted and went to bed only when I was good and ready. I fell asleep on
the
couch watching TV at least once every couple of weeks. I ate whatever I could
find at whatever hour suited me. If I wanted to hang out with friends until
2:00 a.m., then that’s what I did. I earned my own money and I spent it on
whatever
I could afford that caught my eye. I freely commented on the merits of various
women I knew, knew of, or happened to see walking by. I watched every science
fiction
movie
and
television show I could find. It was a time of real freedom.

Then I married Mrs. Happy. I now coordinate my bedtime with hers. I haven’t
once fallen asleep watching TV in the past six years. I eat whatever we both
agree on, usually at a time convenient for both of us. If my friends want me
to hang out with them until 2:00 a.m., I graciously excuse myself and go home
to my wife. I earn money to support us both, and we have to think out our purchases
before spending any of it. My comments on other women now generally come in
response to a question from my wife. She asks: "Don’t you think she’s pretty?"
I respond: "Maybe. We should introduce her to Jeff. I bet he’d like her." My
time spent watching and talking about sci-fi movies is pretty much restricted
to what I can see with my geek friends. This is a time of freedom much greater
than what I experienced in bachelorhood.

I’m reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his books. I can’t remember
which one, so I have to quote it from memory:

"Are you truly free now, then?" his friend asked.
"Free in the way that a man who is drinking water is free to keep drinking. He is not
free still to be dry," he answered.

I no longer have the same sort of freedom I had as a bachelor. It’s not that
I can’t do the same things I used to, but a married man living like a bachelor
now would be like a bird that walks everywhere. My wife empowers me, supports
me, loves me, and makes me a better person. Besides, it’s not like we live
in a prison.

We sometimes watch TV into the wee hours. If we want to go out to eat, or
take a road trip, we can do that without having to plan it out in advance.
We
can treat the whole house like a bedroom. We can procrastinate with household
chores if we feel like taking a nap. We can leave kitchen knives in easily
accessible places. We can balance books precariously on shelves when we run
out of room in other places. We’re living in a time of real freedom. Some day,
though (if God wills it), we’ll have a child or two sharing the house. I wonder
if that will turn out to be a ball-and-chain type of responsibility, or if
it will turn out to be a time of even greater freedom.

Marriage links for the week

Kevin McCullough commends Gary Sheffield for his
devotion to his wife
even as
the New York press takes an extortionist’s bait and publishes malicious stories
about
her.

Joe Missionary confesses to physically
injuring his wife
, though completely
by accident. I can’t recall a time when I hurt my wife, but I vividly remember
a time she threw a hard-soled house shoe to/at me. Let me just say it landed
in the worst possible place. I’ll leave it at that.

Jane Missionary admits to a
bit of selfishness
. I think all the missionaries I’ve known has received
as
much
knowledge as they have given in their mission field.

Everyone seems to have their own ideas about what makes a happy marriage.
Here’s some advice
from a marriage counselor
.

His and Hers: Hobbies

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

What is your current favorite hobby?

Mrs. Happy’s response

Calligraphy.

Curt’s response

I actually tried calligraphy, but it didn’t look very good when I did it.
I took up origami instead, and I find it immensely satisfying.

Keep the faith

Miss O’Hara published several thought provoking posts over the past week that
I
have
wanted
to
comment on, but Xanga’s commenting system makes me crazy.
I have my own blog, though, so I’ll leave my comments here.

In the post Not
Sure I’m Surprised
, Miss O’Hara weighs in against a new reality show
currently being proposed by Emmy-nominated producers. It will focus on people
who use an online matchmaking service that caters to married people seeking
affair partners. She says, among other things (read it all), "No one seems
to have any concept of true faithfulness to their spouse, and I find this
profoundly distressing and hope-stealing. This proposed show
is just one more knock against that which God Himself set up to be an earthly
example of His love for us, and also a haven and a comfort to us."

I’m sure her language is more a reflection of her mood than her knowledge.
I know she reads this site periodically, so she knows it’s not true that "no
one has a concept of true faithfulness," but I understand her reaction.
I started this blog almost out of desperation because marriage seems to have
lost all meaning in modern America. I see marriages fall apart all around me
and miserable marriages persist without improvement. Modern attitudes seem
to suggest that you can be either married or happy, but not both. Even though
such sentiments are demonstrably untrue, you’d never know it from watching
our popular media.

The lack of love on display in this world discouraged me for a long time.
A couple of years before I got married, I finally reached a point where I was
able to sweep it all away and say, "That’s the world. That’s everybody else.
That’s
not me,
and
that’s
not
God.
Even if
every marriage in the world falls apart, even if no other couple remains loving
until death, that doesn’t dictate my life. My marriage will depend only on
me, my wife, and God. Statistics don’t apply." Fortunately, not every marriage
falls apart, and many couples do love each other until death. We’re not alone.
That’s another reason I started this blog—to show everyone who visits here
that marriage is possible…and wonderful.

When Miss O’Hara wrote the post On
literature. Sort of.
, she must have been
having a very bad day. She zeroed in on the new Bridget Jones book/movie
and on the words of a New York Times reviewer: "I suppose what some
women like about Bridget Jones is that the character feeds the cherished
fantasy
that
some
one (some man) will love them for who they are inside, never mind the squishy
bits." Her response: "I hate to break it to ya’ll, but men don’t love women
for ‘who they are inside.’ …Men are visual. It is a fantasy
to think otherwise. Take it from someone who knows, peeps. I’ve learned the
hard way what counts.
Sheeee. To believe otherwise is…well, stupid."

Her bad day was made somewhat worse by commenters jumping all over her for
that. I certainly don’t want to make things any worse by leveling harsh criticism.
I would, however, like to offer some encouragement.

It’s true that a lot of men care more about a woman’s physical aspects than
her personality, spirituality, emotions, needs, and dreams. On the other hand,
it’s also true that a lot of women can’t abide the thought of having a loving,
caring, considerate boyfriend/husband, preferring instead men who behave badly
and mistreat them or—as the women sometimes say—"present a challenge." I feel
a great deal of pity for those men and women. As long as they hold those attitudes,
they will never know any contentment or joy in a relationship. Until they lose
the attitudes, though, they deserve each other. Good riddance to them. They
may outnumber the decent (one might say "real") men and women, but there are
still plenty of us out here. We’re just a little harder to find.

I’d also like to point out that no man truly loves a woman for how she looks
on the outside. It is a fundamental impossibility. If a man loves a woman,
it can only be for "who she is on the inside." And looks are not as important
as the fashion industry would like us to believe. True, men are visual, and
women who are visually appealing tend to draw our attention more than those
who are visually appalling. But I have known many women throughout my
life who I found to be plain or even ugly upon first meeting them, only to
have my perception of them change as I got to know them more. Some of my mousiest,
most awkward and unfortunate-looking acquaintances have grown into stark raving
beauties without changing anything about their appearance. I know that the
hackneyed phrase "It’s what’s inside that counts" might be the
most condescending thing a person can say to a woman whose appearance would
offend all of Hollywood, but in many ways it’s true.

I said this once before in this space, but it bears repeating. Pretty is
what men like to look at. Attractive is what men want to be with.
Beauty is what men want to look at, be with, and serve for a lifetime.
My wife is the only beautiful woman I know, and she grows more beautiful every
day. I think every husband should be able to say the same thing.

Anyway, that’s my longwinded way of saying, "Take heart, Miss O’Hara. Don’t
buy into what you see on TV. We
do live in a
hostile world
, but true love and romance are alive and well."

&%#$@!

Have you ever had to reinstall your computer’s operating system, then download
100 megabytes of upgrade files only to have them not work (twice), then download
another 86 megabytes of upgrade files just to make your OS
upgradeable, and have you done it all on a dial-up connection? If you haven’t,
don’t. Trust me on this.

I use Apple hardware and software,
but I’m sure Microsoft is somehow causing my troubles. Regular blogging, God
willing, will resume tomorrow.

More Reasons I Love My Wife

Last week I started a list of 100
Reasons I Love My Wife
. Here are ten more reasons (in no particular
order):

  • She’s my best friend.
  • She’s fun to tickle.
  • She recognizes when traditions are irrelevant and obsolete.
  • She recognizes when traditions are meaningful and important.
  • She can laugh at herself.
  • She can laugh at me.
  • I can laugh at her.
  • She’s so warm and soft.
  • She loves the outcast and the downcast.
  • She loves me.