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This is Day 2 of an 10 day blog series. You can find the entire series here.
After our trip to Florida, I began talking regularly with an old girlfriend on Facebook. She had gone through a divorce and we had briefly interacted earlier in the spring on that. The more we talked on Facebook, the more emotionally connected we became.
I discovered the relationship before it became physical. I saw a text that Mark received from this person and it seemed to be way too friendly. I asked Mark about it and he indicated that he was just helping an old friend out after a divorce. After 20 years of serving as a pastor and helping people through crisis, this wasn’t unusual, but his method of using Facebook and texting greatly concerned me.
We talked about the dangerous position this put him in emotionally and both decided that he would move the communication to email and copy me on it for integrity and accountability purposes.
I knew I needed to do the right thing but I didn’t want to. I was dissatisfied in nearly every area of my life. With an enticing new relationship on the horizon, I became further convinced there was nothing good about my marriage. I moved our conversation to email copying Jill on the communication for a time or two and then the deception began as I moved the conversation underground. Even though we lived several hours apart, the relationship moved from emotional to physical within a couple months.
I discovered the physical relationship after finding Mark asleep in bed with the phone in his hand. I picked up the phone to put it away and saw the conversation on the screen. I wanted to throw up. I panicked, not knowing what to do.
I had three friends who knew some of the struggles we’d been facing. They had been praying for Mark specifically as he walked through so much disillusionment with life, ministry, and marriage. One of those friends said to me, “you can call me any time….even in the middle of the night if you need to.” I thanked her, but couldn’t imagine needing to call her in the middle of the night. However, after I saw the conversation on Mark’s phone, I now knew why she’d made that offer.
At 1am I made a phone call to the woman whose name was on my husband’s phone and told her that I expected her to never speak to my husband again. Then I called my call-me-in-the-middle-of-the-night friend and dissolved into a puddle of tears that would become a near daily occurrence for me for many months.
In 2007, Casting Crowns released the song, “It’s a Slow Fade.” The lyrics in the chorus are descriptive of the slow drift that any marriage or any spouse can experience:
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away.
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade.
Jill and I were doing many of the right things in our marriage. We knew each other’s love languages and spoke them often. We had date nights. We did getaways on a regular basis. We were intentional about communication. In the midst of that much intentionality, infidelity became a part of our story. How in the world did that happen?
Looking back, it wasn’t the big things that made a difference. It was the little things. Things that simmered under the surface. Things unnoticed. Unattended. Undetected. Untouched. These unknowns caused an unraveling that gained momentum over time. Add in the midlife emotions and struggles, and we were headed in a direction towards pain and heartache.
No marriage crumbles in a day. It’s a slow drift. A fade of one centimeter to another. One feeling or one decision that leads to another feeling or decision that’s a little off center. Unnoticed or unattended, those feelings will unknowingly draw us away from one another instead of towards one another.
But what if you could see those early symptoms? What if you could identify the slow fade and do something about it before your marriage is in a crisis? What if your marriage is already in a crisis, but you can identify the fade you’re in and, with God’s help, are able to stop the insanity and turn it around? What if your marriage is already over and you hope to someday be married again and long to learn from your experience?
Understanding the slow fade and knowing what to do about it can make all the difference in the world. We’ve identified seven fades that we experienced. In talking with other couples—some who just face the daily challenges of marriage and some who have weathered crisis in their relationship like we have– we know that these are common patterns of drifting that every married couple needs to understand, watch for, and correct when identified.
Each fade begins somewhere. Ours started with:
- unrealistic expectations
- defensive responses
- minimized feelings
- naïve thoughts
- unaccepting attitudes
- differing opinions
- guarded emotions
Ephesians 4:27 tells us not to “give the devil a foothold.” John 10:10 tells us that the enemy comes to “steal and kill and destroy.” When we allow a fade to begin, it is fertile soil for the enemy to begin to divide what God has brought together. If the fade continues unnoticed and unattended, the divided relationship unknowingly heads in a direction towards slow destruction.
Tomorrow we’ll begin to unpack these fades one at a time so we can identify any slippery slope you might be precariously near or already sliding down. We’ll also share the keys to turning each fade around.
Our imperfect marriages are a part of God’s plan for growing us up. When you can identify you’re standing too close to a dangerous cliff or you’ve already began to slide into a damaging fade, that’s the first step in getting your head and your heart back on track.
What about you? Do any of the above fade starting points resonate with you? Would you add any to the list?
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