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My Life Was About to Change Forever—Rich

 

  My separation story starts like so many others - hearing the words from my wife "I don't love you anymore—It's over”. Now what do I do? We have three boys—how can I take care of them alone? How can we afford to keep the house? How can you do this? These questions and thousands of others rushed through my mind when the bomb was dropped on me.

   It was two weeks later when my wife admitted to me that she was having an affair that I knew I needed help—I just didn't know where to turn. I had no real friends, I knew I shouldn't be talking to her family about it (even though I was), and my family was 2000 miles away in Ohio.

   In desperation I was searching for divorce support resources on the internet when I came across a group for separated men at Saddleback Church. A church? How could I? I had turned my back on the Catholic Church as a teenager—why would a church want to help me? I called the group leader and talked a while all the while thinking, "If this just a bunch of whining guys praying that their wives will come back, it's not for me". Nevertheless I figured it couldn't hurt to check it out—little did I know that my life was about to change forever.

   To describe my first group meeting as intense would be a huge understatement-I spilled my guts out and cried more than I can ever remember crying. I saw a room full of guys at various levels in the separation process—one had been separated over 4 years! How can anyone deal with this for that long, I thought.

   Several group members shared their faith with me and told me that God loved me and that if I would turn my life over to Him He would get me through this. One member gave me a book to read—"Love Must be Tough" by James Dobson. I left the group that night very unsure about what to do or where to go, but I also was relieved to find people who understood what I was going through. Driving to work the next day it hit me—I was at a crossroads. Either I believed what these guys told me about God's love or I didn't. I made the decision to follow God's direction in how to deal with the situation.

   That night I started reading "Love Must be Tough". I devoured it in two days. This was abnormal for me because I normally don't read books. Reading the book gave me a perspective on why my wife was doing the things she was doing and how I should react to them. The core concepts of the book—letting my wife go, not allowing her to control my behavior, drawing a "line in the sand," cut right to my heart.

   The next few months were a contrast-I was headed in the direction I thought God was pointing me, while my wife was pursuing her outside relationship. Friday was her night out with her "friends"—as she described them to our oldest son. I had to watch this happen and remain a steady influence for the boys. Only with God's help and the support of my new friends in the men's group was I able to hold it together. I started attending church services every week, rarely missed a Tuesday men's group, and even started reading the Bible.

   Sometimes I even brought the boys to church with me. I actually started to believe that I could take care of the boys alone and that I was going to be okay —God was growing me up.

   Reading the bible was a comfort to me. Some verses seemed to jump off the page at me. Philippians 4:6-8 told me not to worry and be thankful for what I did have. Proverbs 3:5-6 told me to trust God, obey him and he would take care of me. The weekend sermons at Saddleback seemed to be tailor-made for me. I had no idea that being a Christian could be practical and even fun. My prior ways of coping—negativity, yelling, alcohol, preoccupation with sex, were being replaced. Even my wife was noticing the changes in me.

   Over the next several months I continued to grow—I became a member at Saddleback, and was baptized. Not only could I see and feel the changes in myself, but I was amazed at the growth that I was seeing in the other members of the group. My wife was still involved in her affair, but that was her business. I started taking the boys over to friends' houses, going to the beach, anything to avoid sitting at home while she was away. I knew that no matter what happened in my marriage that I was doing the right things for myself, my boys, and everyone I came into contact with. There's unbelievable power in that.

   As I write this, the clock is ticking on my divorce becoming final. I look back at the last 18 months and have very mixed emotions-the pain of Friday nights, the anxiety of the weeks before moving, (after we sold our house) contrast with the comfort of fellowship with group members and the peace of finding God's purpose for my life. It seems ridiculous to say this, but as much as it has hurt, I'm glad that I've gone through it all. I look at life much differently now. I'm thankful for my healthy children who I get to see whenever I want, I'm thankful that my wife and I can be in the same room without fighting. But most of all, I'm thankful for the peace of mind and clear direction that comes from turning my life over to Jesus Christ-I give him all the credit. If you are reading this now and are where I was 18 months ago, I feel for you. I can't take the pain away, but I can share what God has done for me. Trust God, and he will do the same for you—He promises it.

   
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