Editor’s note: In the following story, one Latter-day Saint woman (name withheld) shares how she relied on her faith and sought guidance from the Spirit in the wake of her husband having an affair. This account, as told by Brooke Romney, is written in first person to more accurately portray the interviewee’s personal experience, however, the content reflects the emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of an affair and may not be appropriate for all audiences. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this column are solely those of one woman's experience. Readers should consider each unique situation. This content is not meant to be a substitute for individual, professional advice.
Introduction (by Brooke Romney)
Have you ever known someone who has completely transformed? I have. My friend, Jane, is hardly the same woman I knew 10 years ago. She has always been good and kind, but now she is also full of confidence and purpose. She understands what she means to her Savior and to her Heavenly Father, and she is tough and humble all at the same time.
What amazes me most is that she became this new person during the most difficult three years of her life as she waded through her husband’s affair and desperately held on to her family. When I spoke with her, she had a conviction and a faith that only comes from intimately relying on Christ. As she shared her story with me, I thought of Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s words, “Moreover, we find that sorrow can actually enlarge the mind and heart in order to ‘give place,’ expanded space for later joy.”
I heard that hard-won joy in her voice as she spoke with gratitude and amazement at what God had done for her, and she wanted to share that testimony with others so they might also know the miracles that come when you wait with the Lord.
“But you love me”
My husband’s affair didn’t come out all at once. Instead, I discovered heartbreaking truths and deceptive lies about the situation over the course of about a year. His continuing affair and the dishonesty, stress, and depression that accompanied it were the hardest things I have ever had to go through. And yet, as I turned to the Lord and waited on Him, it became a sanctifying experience that brought me closer to my Savior than I had ever been before.
No one knows how they will handle this type of news until they are faced with it. Previously, I remember thinking that if I was ever in this situation, I would head straight to a divorce attorney, having no tolerance for that kind of treatment. But when it is real life, there is just so much at stake. I was surprised when faced with this heart-wrenching reality that instead of giving up, I found a newfound fierceness to fight for my family and even for my husband, who I could see was tangled and trapped in Satan’s snares.
For three years, I fought with everything I had. It was longer than I ever thought I could or would fight. But as I look back, I am amazed at how the Lord led me through it all and sustained me day by day as I waited on Him. He literally moved mountains of sin, pain, and trauma to bring me to where I am today.
I remember one moment of intense pain at the beginning of this journey when I felt completely unlovable. I cried out in a silent, pleading prayer to Heavenly Father: “But you love me, right?” Then I curled up on my bed and opened the scriptures that were sitting next to me. The page I saw was in John, and my eyes went straight to 15:9 which says, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
I felt the Savior right there, as though He were saying those words directly to me, and my tears of pain turned into tears of gratitude. I held on to that scripture and that experience over the next few years as I desperately tried to continue in His love.
“He’s not seeing you right”
From the very beginning, I wanted to know exactly what I was facing, what the truth was in the midst of lies, and what I needed to do: divorce, separate for a time, or stay. I wanted it under control, clearly laid out, and quickly resolved. However, the Lord in His wisdom led me along, line upon line, day by day. I could never see how it would all work out—or even see very many steps ahead—but I felt an assurance that eventually, somehow, it would.
The Savior guided me in miraculous ways to find out things that I needed to know at exactly the right time. I don’t think I could have discovered everything all at once—it would have been too much to handle and He knew that. So instead, I had to have patience and courage as I was given hard and demoralizing truths over and over again. During those intense three years, God blessed me with people and circumstances that came into my life at just the right time, and with important realizations and understanding step-by-step.
I had heard that when a spouse cheats, they often try to demonize the wife or husband who has been faithful, making them the reason for the infidelity, and that was absolutely true for me. I remember my husband pointing out my every flaw. He thought I was too “goody-goody,” not worldly enough, didn’t dress right, was too quiet, didn’t have a career, was boring, was too into the kids. He took the qualities I loved about myself and framed them in ways that were negative and demeaning. As he did this to me, my worth was obliterated. I embarrassingly tried, for a while, to turn into the kind of woman he wanted: I bought dressier clothes, changed my appearance, and tried to be more flirty and more worldly until I finally realized that I was not the problem. One day, as my husband was telling me all the ways in which he thought I fell short, the words “He’s not seeing you right” came clearly to my mind, straight from my Heavenly Father. I immediately knew they were true, and I held tightly to them for the duration of our struggle. I said them out loud to my husband in the middle of our arguments and often silently to myself: “He’s not seeing you right.” Slowly, I started to believe it.
That little glimpse of who I really am motivated me to do the difficult mental and emotional work to analyze the lies and insecurities I had about myself, and I worked hard to combat them. I set reminders on my phone with affirmations that would negate what my husband was telling me. Messages like, “Capable and Confident” or “Clear and Assertive” or “Self-defined and Independent” would pop up on my phone to remind me of who I knew I really was. I made a list of all the qualities I love about myself and hung them in my closet so I would be reminded of them daily. As I looked in the mirror, I would pray to see myself as God did instead of how my husband or the world did. I tried to look at myself with compassion and had the desire to understand my own true beauty. Sometimes I would get a glimpse of that, and I knew that fresh perspective was from God.
During this time, I did other small things that helped remind me of who I was and what I was capable of. I had never been a runner, but I got into running. It was a time to clear my head, push my body, and commune with God or with a trusted friend. I amazed myself at what I was physically capable of. I started to use my talents more often and even looked into graduate school. I took steps to improve myself because I had an affirming feeling that I was smart and capable even while so many things were falling apart. I was changing, but he wasn’t. Still, I was inspired to wait.
Walking on Water
I remember praying at one point that I just wanted things to get better. But I also wanted to recognize the constancy of divine guidance and conceded that if there was still more to learn, I would, because I knew the Lord would sustain me. Heavenly Father was so generous with me during this time as I tried to be submissive to His will. I always felt like He was there, though more often than not, the answers to my prayers seemed to be, “Just wait. Just trust me. Stay focused on Christ and He will lead you along.”
During this time, I held on to the miracles of the Savior because I knew our family needed one. I loved the story of Peter walking on water. I felt the Spirit teach me that just as Peter could walk on water, in my own way, so could I. This seemingly impossible situation was not impossible to overcome, but like Peter, I would have to keep my eyes steadfastly on Jesus Christ. When I would feel the fear of darkness and storminess surrounding me, I would imagine myself ignoring the threatening waves and focusing on Jesus Christ, His hand outstretched and ready to grasp me. I watched the Bible video of this story almost daily for a while, and it encouraged me to keep my faith and focus on Christ so that I could do the impossible. Of course, there were plenty of times when fear and pain got the best of me, and I started to sink and drown, but just as Peter once did, I would cry for help and the Savior was always there to pull me out of the depths of it all.
Waiting in Your Circumstance
Eventually things progressed, and my husband moved to a different state while I stayed with my kids, giving us some necessary time apart. I kept wondering what I should do and was anxious to have some closure and move forward, one way or another, but nothing felt right. It was an especially difficult and discouraging time.
While praying and thinking about what to do, I was reading in the war chapters in the Book of Mormon about Captain Moroni and his army. When they felt like they were being hung out to dry by the government, who was not sending aid, it says, “And it came to pass that we did wait in these difficult circumstances for the space of many months” (Alma 58:7). I knew that was an answer. Similar to Moroni, I didn’t have all the information at that point, and I just needed to wait in those harrowing circumstances until it was both safe to move forward and clear how to do so.
I felt disappointed in the answer because I just wanted out of my situation, but I kept reading and was encouraged when a few verses down I read, “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. And we did take courage . . . and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives and our children” (Alma 58:11–12).
I felt that the Lord was blessing me with courage, the ability to fight for my family, and hope in my deliverance through Him. That verse meant so much to me and helped me through my waiting. The allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 also gave me peace as I understood that the Lord of the Vineyard was working on my husband and that more time was needed.
During these long months, Elder Dale G. Renlund’s talk from the April 2015 general conference had a quote that consistently ran through my mind: “Just as God rejoices when we persevere, He is disappointed if we do not recognize that others are trying too.” Later in the talk, he continues, “As God encourages us to keep on trying, He expects us to also allow others the space to do the same, at their own pace.”
I tried to remember that if I wanted my husband to change, I had to be willing to give him some time and grace to do so. I am forever grateful that the Savior sustained me so that I could wait, and he had the opportunity to change. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t a mess or didn’t cry myself to sleep or scream in my car or wonder if waiting was really what was best for me and my children, who were also enduring so much more than I ever thought they would have to go through. But the promptings were strong, so I continued with patience.
Joy Comes in the Morning
At one especially difficult point, I really wanted to find answers and relief. Easter was coming up, so I decided to fast and get up early on Easter morning to seek some peace through prayer and scripture study. It’s not that I have always been good about doing these types of things or that I wasn’t often a complete wreck, but in those moments I literally had nowhere else to turn, so I found myself desperately seeking the Lord more often and more fervently than ever before. I needed His strength to make it through the day and have enough sanity to care for my four children through it all.
As the sun was rising that Easter morning, I felt new hope as I read John 16: 21–22:
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you (emphasis added).
This felt like a personal assurance that while it was difficult now, one day the sorrow would be replaced with joy. Just like that heavenly happiness and incomparable peace that comes after the intense pain of childbirth, I knew I would have peace again. For years, I clung to the assurance I had found in the early hours of that holy day.
Being on the other side of things now, I appreciate even more this analogy to childbirth in John 16. The whole experience I had to go through was so painful, and all I wanted was for it to be over. But from it was born so much personal growth, a stronger and very real relationship with my Savior, a sure understanding of who I am, and eventually a much better marriage than I had thought possible with a man I wasn’t sure would ever truly change. These things would not exist in the way they do now without travail. In the midst of all the conflict, it was hard to imagine ever feeling okay again or repairing a marriage that was so broken. Today, our family is a testament that miracles still happen, not always in the way we want them to or ask quickly as we would hope, but they happen.
Now, I look back on those horribly trying years similar to the way I look back on my own experiences in childbirth: it definitely hurt, but I am not fully able to remember the details of the pain. I loved the birthing process. Yes, it was painful and scary, but the closeness to heaven I felt was unmatched and washed the entire experience with holiness. Looking back on the experiences with my husband, many of the feelings are the same. It was excruciating and scary, but it was a holy time because I felt God was near as I passed through it all.
Years later, I can see and testify that God will be with us in our trials and deliver us according to His will and timetable, which are always in our best interest.
I know that deliverance looks different for every circumstance—it doesn’t always mean that a marriage is saved, or a child returns, or what was lost is found—but I do know that the Lord will heal our hearts and lead us along to what is best for us if we rely on Him. Incredible change and growth can come if we invite our Savior into our hardest times. There will be some scars and things might never again be the same, but the miracle of what has been born out of the pain, and who we become in the process, will be worth every heartache it took to get there.