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Staying in marriage after betrayal
Staying In Marriage After Discovering Betrayal

When women choose to stay in a marriage after emotional abuse and betrayal, support, self-care, and boundaries are essential for her safety.

At BTR.ORG, our number one goal is to help women establish emotional safety. For many women, this means setting a divorce or separation boundary.

Other women choose to stay in marriage after discovering intimate betrayal.

Esther Hosea, a guest on The BTR.ORG Podcast, chose to stay after her husband’s infidelity. She shares her story in this raw interview. Tune in and read the full transcript below for more.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Wow. I have Esther Hosea on today. She is a blogger at hisdearlyloveddaughter.com. Sorry. We’ve been having technical difficulties. Both Esther and I have been feeling a lot of, what do we call it, opposition to doing this podcast today, and so I’m just touched right now and grateful to have her on the podcast.

This woman is a woman of faith. In 2016, Esther discovered that her husband of nearly 17 years and the love of her life had a serious sexual addiction and had been repeatedly unfaithful throughout her marriage, and I’ll let her talk more about that. But Esther, I want you to start with how would you have described your marriage before you found out about your husband’s infidelity?

“A Storybook Relationship”

Esther (00:49):
Before I found out I would’ve called our marriage an idyllic marriage. I would’ve said that we had pretty much a storybook relationship. We were best friends, we’re each other’s favorite person in the whole world. We’ve always enjoyed spending time together. All of our friends, all of our family, a lot of them look to us as the example for marriage. It seemed really great.

Anne (01:12):
What was it like to realize that everything you believed was a lie?

Devastated, Shattered

Esther (01:16):
It was devastating. It shattered my whole world. I’ve described it to people like a puzzle if our life is a puzzle, and before that day, I felt like my puzzle was altogether to all the pieces fit. It was a really pretty puzzle, and that day when I found that out, it was as if someone took that puzzle and just threw it.

The pieces went everywhere and maybe some of them even broke and went under pieces of furniture or something, and for the next however many months after that, it was this scramble, this panicky scramble to try and find all those pieces and get ’em to fit back together. Except now I realize that they don’t fit all this perfect picture that I thought I had. It isn’t what I thought it was, and it doesn’t fit together like I thought it did.

Navigating the Fog After D-Day

Anne (02:07):
Yeah, I think that’s how all of us feel when that discovery happens. We’ve talked about D-Day on the podcast before, which means discovery day. The day you find out that the reality that you’re living in is not actual reality, right? It is mind bending. How did you navigate the fog after D-Day?

Esther (02:32):
If I’m being honest, I would say that the first, at least three months, maybe longer than that, after the first D-Day, I didn’t navigate it. I went into this deep, deep, deep fog and I didn’t know which way was up, and I didn’t even really try. I call it a zombie phase where you’re dead on your feet, you’re getting up and you’re going through the motions, and you’re getting done the things that have to get done. I have very few memories of that time and it was almost like I was just a robot or something going through that time. I don’t know, my brain was just off.

“I Felt Like God Had Betrayed Me Too”

(03:11):
I really, really struggled with my relationship with God during that time. I didn’t understand how he could let that happen. I had spent my whole life following him, praying for my husband and for our marriage. It felt like God had betrayed me too. I was angry. I was really angry with him. I would pray and say terrible things to him. It was an awful time, but he pursued me through that time and was patient with me through my tantrums. After several months, I did eventually start to believe what he says in his word about me, about him. Eventually I got through that fog by believing truth.

“A Classic Trauma Response”

Anne (04:00):
I want to quote you. You said that during that time he pursued me with reckless abandon and I love that image of God pursuing us. I felt a similar thing during the worst fog that I had, which was a nine month period after my husband’s arrest.

I couldn’t feel God at all in spite of my prayers, in spite of my scripture study, in spite of everything that I was doing to try to obey the commandments and do the right things, and it was such a difficult time, and now out of the fog, I can see him during that time and I’m just so grateful for his patience with us because what we went through that fog is a classic trauma response where we are very wounded and can’t process things. He is there even if we can’t feel him.

“He knows we’re ugly and He just wants us to come to Him as we are.”

Esther (04:53):
And he’s so patient. The scripture, especially the Psalms and also Lamentations helps me to be at peace. I think with that time and to recognize that, I wouldn’t even say God was just okay with it. I think he appreciated that I was coming to him with my raw honesty. I wasn’t holding back and pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t. I was screaming at him when I wanted to scream at him and being real. I think he wants our authentic selves. He knows we’re broken. He knows we’re ugly and he just wants us to come to him as we are.

Anne (05:31):
So either during this time or after this time, talk to me about some of the aha moments that you experienced.

Esther’s “A-Ha” Moment

Esther (05:38):
For me, one of the first and biggest aha moments was when I got to the place where I had to be okay with the idea of my marriage ending. I was a child of divorce and I had vowed that I would never, ever, ever get divorced, and I clung to that. God brought me to a place where I recognized that I had made my marriage into an idol. I had put this, I won’t get divorced above God.

I had decided almost that if God asked me to leave my marriage, I wouldn’t. I would rather stay married than do what he was asking me to do, and I had to get to a place where I said, okay, God, I’m going to follow you. I’m going to do what you want me to do, even if that means I’m going to be a divorced person, which is this terrible thing in my mind,

Conflicting Values

Anne (06:34):
This is where it gets really tricky, I think for women of faith because there’s these values and conflict. Also this quote idol, and I never thought of this until you said it, but worshiping our marriage over obedience and safety, knowing that what God wants for us, what God’s will is for us is to be in a safe spiritual situation. It’s not to be in this dangerous situation with someone who’s being duplicitous.

Esther (07:08):
A passage that struck me really hard recently is, I’m not going to remember the exact reference, but it’s in Malachi and it’s the passage where God talks about how he hates divorce. He’s talking to the men of Israel. They’re asking why isn’t he accepting their worship? And he says, because I saw the vows you made to your wives, and I see that you are being unfaithful to them. And he says, I hate divorce, but the message behind that is more than I hate divorce. I hate seeing my daughters abused, and he demands their faithfulness. He says, come back and be faithful to your wives.

God’s Commandments Exist to Create Safety

Anne (07:45):
Absolutely. The reason why God made commandments was to keep people safe. If everyone in the world obeyed God’s commandments, the exploitation and the abuse and the harm done to other people, if everyone was honest, would disappear. I mean, that’s the point of the commandments and that is lost. I think when you don’t obey the commandments, it actually harms someone else. Yes. So it’s not just for your own like, oh, good, I’m going to go to heaven.

Esther (08:20):
It’s for our safety.

“I was finding boundaries almost on every single page as I did my scripture study.”

Anne (08:22):
So I was reading my scriptures every day and I’m so grateful for how he showed me about boundaries, this very dark purple pen so that it would really pop out of each page, and I was finding boundaries almost on every single page as I did my scripture study in the morning. It was pretty amazing.

I’m really grateful for his guidance through the scriptures. And I think it’s sad because so many women are so traumatized that picking up their scriptures just seems so overwhelming. It just seems like there’s no way. Why would I do that? I’m not getting any answers. I’m mad at God. God has me. He hasn’t kept his promise because I’ve obeyed the commandments and here I am in this awful situation. That power that can come from the scriptures during this very difficult time is sometimes lost.

Esther (09:07):
Absolutely.

What does it mean to “Cover Yourself in Truth”?

Anne (09:08):
You mentioned that one of your aha moments was that you wanted to cover yourself in truth. What did that look like for you?

Esther (09:18):
Before I talk about covering myself in truth, before that, he had asked me to start the blog, and that was really terrifying to me because I was still kind of trying to live in the secrets I didn’t want the whole world to know. And so it was really scary to just put it all out there. But in starting the blog, because I wanted it to completely point people towards Christ, everything that I wanted to write, I had to find out what the Bible had to say about it.

So if I wanted to write about boundaries, I had to find out what the Bible has to say about that. If I wanted to write about telling the truth, everything that I wanted to write about, I had to go to scripture first and find scripture to back up what I wanted to say. So that became how I covered myself in truth, because I was studying and studying and studying, finding all these verses, and then those would be in my head.

“I suddenly started seeing lies everywhere”

(10:16):
And so every day for months, just scripture going through my head and going through my head and going through my head, and that has massive effects on our life. I suddenly started seeing lies everywhere in myself, not just my husband. He would ask me a question and I would give my normal, oh, I’m fine answer. Trying to minimize my pain or trying to pretend like I was okay. That wasn’t truth. I learned through that time to just let everything that came out of my mouth, I mean as much as possible, because I’m still human, be saturated in truth, and it changed everything.

Anne (10:58):
And the truth shall set you free.

Esther (11:01):
Absolutely.

Confidence in Establishing Safety Boundaries

Anne (11:03):
There’s so much confidence that I gain knowing that this type of sin is wrong and that I am doing God’s will to set a very firm boundary around it.

I don’t know if I would have that really firm confidence if I didn’t know it was coming straight from God, especially because my particular church leaders at the time weren’t really supportive of what I was doing or they couldn’t really understand it and they thought I was not being faithful.

It just gave me the confidence that I needed to stand up to. I would say just either my church culture or society or people who don’t understand this. And it brought me a lot of peace.

What Does it Mean to “Make Marriage an Idol”?

Esther (11:45):
I had talked earlier about making my marriage an idol. I believe that’s another thing I had made an idol of is the teachings of the church. Instead of following just scripture, I had allowed man’s interpretation of that to shape me, and I became more dedicated to that than to the word itself. And like you said, there are so many churches that don’t get it all right. Especially in this area, I don’t think it’s intentional. I think if there’s a lack of understanding and a lack of education in this area, years and years and years, probably centuries of tradition has gotten in the way of what the Bible actually says about it.

Anne (12:29):
Sexual sin is old,

Esther (12:31):
Right?

Anne (12:32):
Right. We’re talking Sodom and Gomorrah. Oh,

Esther (12:35):
Absolutely.

Anne (12:36):
It is the deepest sin that we have as humans and it is the most destructive.

Esther (12:42):
Absolutely.

Dealing with Anger & Negative Feelings

Anne (12:43):
Well, I guess aside from murder, it is so deep in our culture and so ingrained in what it means to be a man and also what it means to be a woman, how we are supposed to interact, and all of those, we would say roles rather than the relationship that God wants us to have and focusing on a peaceful, loving relationship. And I think part of that is coming from centuries of sexual sin.

Esther (13:16):
Yeah.

Anne (13:17):
So you talked about how you started speaking the truth, so that’s one way that you dealt with your anger and negative feelings toward your husband. Talk about other ways that you dealt with it, especially after you decided to stay.

“We weren’t going to hide anymore.”

Esther (13:31):
For me, I had been so isolated for so long, and I mean this does kind of go along with the truth part of it. We decided that we were going to kind of come out, I don’t know if that’s the right word, the right way to say it. We weren’t going to hide anymore.

My husband went in front of our church and confessed everything to them. We told our children about it, their preteens through teenagers so old enough to understand, and our friends, I found others. I found Facebook groups and all kinds to come alongside me. People that I knew in real life and people that I virtually know just got help.

The Bible talks about as iron sharpens iron being with other believers, and I think that was really important for me. Another way that I was able to get through it was just to get support from other believers and then also through my blog to be that support.

Healing Through Sharing

(14:30):
One of my life verses has become second Corinthians one, three through four, which says, all praise to God the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others when they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

So I found that as I walked in obedience with the blog, God just started bringing women into my life who were hurting, and I was able to share what he had done for me with them. And there was something about that that was healing for me. Not them, I mean them too hopefully. But for me to share the comfort that God had given me with someone else somehow miraculously also was healing for me.

“His answer was ‘Start a Podcast'”

Anne (15:21):
My experience was similar. I was praying just so much after my ex’s arrest and he was given a 14 month probation with a no contact order from a judge. And I knew I needed a separation. I needed space. And so as I prayed and said, God, should I file for divorce or should I amend the no contact order? Should I allow him to talk to me?

I just kept getting this answer to be still. One day I told my mom, mom, I got an answer. And she was like, you did. That’s awesome. Which one is it? I was only praying about these two things, divorce or amend the no contact order. Those were the only two options, and his answer was start a podcast. And so I told my mom, I’m supposed to start a podcast. And she was like, okay. So I started podcasting and that’s all I did. And a few months after that, my husband at the time, he actually filed for divorce. And so I never had to make that decision.

Esther (16:22):
But isn’t that just like God, I mean to make it so you didn’t have to do it?

“What sort of man is my husband?”

Anne (16:27):
Because I was committed to my marriage vows and my marriage covenants, and I knew I couldn’t break them, and I had no desire to do that. And so I just was waiting on God to let me know what sort of man is he not God? What sort of man is my husband? Is he really a godly man who can make the changes and repent or is he not? And I found out that he wasn’t, and I was heartbroken about –

Esther (16:58):
Of course, isn’t it so like us to limit ourselves to A and B? I did that so much too. We are going through and we say, okay, I can do this or I can do this. And I’ve seen this, I mean all over the place as I speak with other women too. Well, it’s this or this, well, it’s this or this, and I’m always saying, or it’s C, there’s a C, there’s a C, D and E. Actually, I feel like that’s a huge part of betrayal trauma is that we get stuck in A and B. These are my two choices and there’s almost always more choices.

“There’s so much power in truth”

Anne (17:37):
And I think God was just waiting for me to be at the right place where he could show that other choice. And now it’s opened up this amazing world for me. And you’ve experienced same thing where there are so many women out there who are going through this, and had we not been able to tell the truth, had we not told the truth, we would never have found each other. There’s so much power in truth.

Esther (18:03):
Absolutely.

Anne (18:05):
After all the opposition that we’ve had in recording this podcast, I’m feeling right now that that’s what God wants for this particular podcast is to encourage women to open their scriptures.

Esther (18:17):
The beat of my heart is to see women turn to God through his word.

Is it possible to stop the pornography epidemic?

Anne (18:22):
I think that if we each open our scriptures every day, we can stop this pornography epidemic. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. It seems like a crazy goal. I have to believe that it’s possible, right?

Esther (18:35):
Absolutely. And with the God that we serve, shouldn’t we be setting crazy goals? I mean, he is the creator of heaven and earth. He holds everything together with his power. Why would we limit him to something that wasn’t crazy?

Anne (18:54):
That’s a good point. It’s pretty crazy the things he’s done when you think about him. And I think about the parting of the Red Sea, right? I mean, it gets a little intense.

Esther (19:04):
This is small compared to that.

“Stopping pornography seems harder than parting the Red Sea”

Anne (19:07):
Yeah. Actually it seems bigger to me. For some reason, stopping pornography seems harder than parting the Red Sea.

Esther (19:15):
Well, and also don’t you think we know that God, he created the world, so therefore he’s in control of nature. So parting the Red Sea, we’re comfortable with that falling within his realm of influence or whatever. But this is people, this is the hearts of people. I mean, our God is able, he’s sovereign, he’s in control of everything. And while he does allow sin, he is able to conquer this

Anne (19:43):
Because so many women are praying and praying and praying and praying and praying for their husband’s hearts to change. And it’s not happening for

“For a long, long, long time, it seemed like that prayer wasn’t being answered.”

Esther (19:50):
A lot of them. Yes, we don’t know the end yet. So earlier I said that we had this idyllic marriage, which was true, but I also did know about the pornography. I didn’t know about the infidelity, but I knew about the pornography long before all of this D-Day and all of that. So I knew there was a struggle there.

And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. And even though I would’ve said our marriage was idyllic, there were signs that I ignored. I spent many, many, many, many years crying out to God for my husband that he would turn from that. And for a long, long, long, long time, it seemed like that prayer wasn’t being answered and it had to get really bad before it finally did change.

It had to get to the point where he was repeatedly unfaithful in really, really horrible, horrible ways. But he did eventually change. And if someone would’ve told me 10 years ago, I would’ve said what? You said, my husband hasn’t changed.

Choose boundaries regardless of whether or not it appears your husband is changing

Anne (20:52):
You just think, how bad would I have to get for my ex? It’s really bad. And if it hasn’t changed yet, and that is my hope for those of us whose husbands are not showing any signs of change, then those boundaries are our only option. In my case, I really would love for him to change and actually I would be open to him coming back and having our family be whole again if he were capable of doing that.

But I lost hope in him. While I have also increased my faith and hope in God, which has been an interesting journey, letting go of that idol of the marriage or letting go of the idol of my husband and putting it in God and God put me on this path. I want to talk for just a second about the emotional abuse that pornography users frequently exhibit.

So before you found out about your husband’s addiction, you perceived it as the ideal marriage with a few red flags that you discounted now living with your husband in recovery. When you look back on his behaviors, do they look different now? Do they seem a lot worse than they did at the time?

“How to Know if Recovery is Real”

Esther (22:07):
Oh my goodness, yes. I actually have a whole post on this. It’s called How to Know If Recovery Is Real. For all those years, he would tell me, I did struggle with pornography, but I’ve quit. Every time that he got caught, it was Okay, this is it, this is it, this is it.

And I remember thinking, how will I ever know if it really is real? Because it’s just a matter of time before I find it again. But now I know how I’ll know if it’s real because everything changes. Everything changes. He is a totally different person. And yes, now I look back and see, like you said, abuse.

It was an abusive relationship before, and even though I didn’t feel like it was now in hindsight, I can see that the manipulative ways that they communicate and the lies and then all the, I don’t know what the right word is, but the tactics maybe to deflect from those lies and to keep us where they want us.

“It was downright abusive.”

(23:11):
It was downright abusive. But now I see the fruits of the spirit. He’s loving his love. It doesn’t just flow to me, it flows to everyone. He has started seeing people in a way he never did before.

Just this past weekend, we had people over from his work for dinner because he felt this call from God to have these people over for dinner. And so he did. And we sat there all evening talking with this couple, and he wasn’t just looking for an opportunity to tell his next great story. He listening to them, he was interested in them. It was love flowed out of him. He’s at peace. I mean, that’s huge. Before everything was so not peaceful,

Anne (23:59):
Right?

Chaos, Conspiracies, Craziness

Esther (24:00):
And now chaos, there’s peace. Yeah, chaos. Exactly. Chaotic. He I think looked for conspiracies everywhere. Always felt like everyone was out to get him. And there was this just, yeah, kind of crazyness about him sometimes, where now there’s peace. It’s he’s trusting God.

And when things happen at work that feel like, oh, do these people not like me or are they out to get me? He’s like, you know what? God’s in control. So whatever happens, it’s going to be okay. And he’s not obsessing about it. He’s just leaving it in God’s hands. That’s peace. And it wasn’t there before. Patient kind. Good. That’s a big one. Faithful. Don’t get me started on that one.

Anne (24:54):
Faithful’s

Esther (24:55):
Obviously a big one, but yeah, he’s faithful in ways he never was before. Not just sexually faithful, but faithful in ways. He’s gentle with me in ways he never was before. He’s interested in what I’m doing. I’m not here just to serve him. He rushed home from work today to set all this up so that I could sound professional on this podcast with all the right equipment and everything. He’s interested in me. He’s taking care of me instead of me just being here to take care of him.

Accountability, Honesty, Humility, and a Willingness to Surrender to God’s Will

Anne (25:25):
Yeah, we’re looking for four things, accountability, honesty, humility, and a willingness to surrender to God’s will.

(25:35):
And without those things, they cannot recover or they are not in recovery without those things. Us too recovering from betrayal. Trauma, even though it’s not our fault, we didn’t cause anything is recovering from a terrible accident. The way out is the same thing.

Honesty and a willingness to surrender to God’s will and God’s will is awesome. He wants us to be safe, he wants us to be loved. He wants us to have a wonderful, loving relationship. That is the purpose of marriage. It is not to be abused. And I’m so interested in bringing this to light of so many people who think their marriages are ideal. And then later when they look back when they’re in recovery, realize, wow. No, it was an abusive situation.

“It’s so hard to wrap your head around abuse.”

I was the same way. I was being abused for seven years. My husband was arrested for domestic violence and at the time he was arrested, it took me a few weeks to realize, wait a minute, he really is abusive. For about three weeks after I thought, no, this is my wonderful loving husband. It’s so hard to wrap your head around abuse. That’s one of the things that I’m really trying to help people understand are the correlations between pornography use and abuse.

Because the world just thinks, oh, pornography, it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything. And if women know when someone’s using pornography, there’s always going to be some element of abuse. It might not seem extreme, it might be very subtle, but there’s always some element of abuse happening. I think it helps us have the confidence to set those boundaries that we need to set to be seen.

Esther (27:18):
Right, definitely.

Anne (27:19):
So Esther, thank you so much for coming on today. Again, for those of you interested in hearing more about her story or the aha moments that Esther has as she studies the scriptures, her blog is his dearly loved daughter.com, and you can find links to it from our site btr.org.

Esther (27:39):
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me, and it was awesome. And thank you also for what you do.

3 Comments

  1. Virginia

    I love hearing about couples that both choose recovery and are then able to heal their marriage!

    Reply
  2. Anon

    Great podcast!

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing various outcomes after D-day.

    Reply

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