Dr. Bob Meisner:You say I love you and how I wish and pray I could believe that with all my heart. What hurts the most is that you chose not to love but give what was ours and made a choice to love another. When will the pain and doubts subside? I don’t know but soon, I hope. When all the pain and doubts subside, I don’t know what’s going to happen.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller:Well, imagine how you’d feel after learning the one person you love the most has betrayed you. On today’s “Focus on the Family,” you’ll hear about a family’s journey through infidelity and the miraculous work that God did to bring them back together. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: And, John, we have talked many times on this program about marriages that are on the brink. It’s the end. In fact, we have a program calledHope Restoredfor those specific couples who have come to the end of their rope. And I want to say that right from the get-go, you are not alone if you’re struggling and having difficulty. We, and, really, the Lord behind the ‘we’, are here to help you.
And today’s program, for many of you, will open up emotions. And I hope that happens because we want healing to occur. We’ve heard from couples who struggle through difficult and heartbreaking situations. From the outside, we may be tempted to judge whether or not they did the right thing or if they applied the right spiritual understanding to their situation.
We never really know the full story. We judge from the outside. And let’s face it, we tend to do that. We look at a circumstance of our neighbor, our friends and we think we have the answers. But we don’t really know what’s all going on underneath it.
We do know that God hates divorce, and that’s not his plan for us in a lifelong commitment to each other and that the devastation of divorce can create crippling consequences for the couple, for their kids, for the family as a whole. That’s why I am so grateful to have Bob and Audrey Meisner with us in the studio today because their story is one of hope, although it is a bumpy road.
John: And Dr. Bob and Audrey Meisner are the founders ofLove Married Life, which is a ministry where they teach and train married couples who are struggling or just want to experience a better, more fulfilling marriage. And they write and speak on marriage issues regularly. They’ve written a book that will form the basis of our conversation today,Marriage Undercover: Thriving In A Culture Of Quiet Desperation.
Jim: And I think it’s doctors. You’re both doctors?
Jim: First of all, welcome to “Focus on the Family.”
Audrey Meisner: Thank you.
Bob: Thank you.
Jim: It is...
Audrey: We could not be more honored. (Laughter).
Bob: We feel very welcomed.
Audrey: We actually feel like part of your family here. You’ve been part of our family for our entire married life. We’ve been married coming on 34 years next year.
Jim: That’s good.
Audrey: ...And “Focus on the Family” has a huge impact on us, so we are honored beyond belief. AndAdventures In Odysseyhas been playing in our home.
Bob: Of course.
Audrey: It still plays in our home.
Jim: When you look at that, that’s so comforting to us, you know, all the staff here that works hard every day.
Jim: That is an encouragement to us that we played some small role in your family’s life. And, you know, as we hear your story, that gives us even more confidence that what we do every day and what the supporters who support us and work hard every day to send those gifts to us, that it’s a treasure in heaven.
Jim: And your story is a treasure in heaven.
Audrey: And our family needs you. Our family needs “Focus on the Family” because what you’re doing is actually working. It’s touching hearts, not just our minds. You know, we can all learn the right stuff. But when our hearts are touched and God is involved, all of a sudden, that impossible situation becomes possible. And that’s what the message that I hear on “Focus on the Family.”
Jim: Well, you guys were uniquely tested in this way.
Jim: I mean, you know, obviously, you made decisions, Audrey, that put you and Bob in a very difficult spot. I want to get to that story. But let’s talk about the first 17 years...
Jim: ...Of your more than 30 years of marriage because you describe those in your book as wonderful times, good times. You were in sync, you were becoming one flesh, as the scripture would say. Describe it for me.
Bob: Well, for us, we met at Bible college. And our backgrounds were extremely similar in our upbringing. So we just loved that about each other. What we…
Jim: So you’re so much alike.
Bob: Yes... (Laughter) So much alike.
Audrey: And here I thought it was because I just thought he was so good looking. I thought it was his cowboy boots. But apparently, it was our upbringing (laughter).
Bob: The first 17 years, we really saw no difference.
Bob: But since then, wow...
Audrey: Oh, my goodness.
Bob: ...We’re so different. But we loved each other. But what we loved most was that we had such a heart of devotion to the Lord. We really wanted to be world changers. How God has transformed our lives and we just knew that we would be able to do and create something better together than if we were apart from each other.
Jim: Yeah, and, Audrey, you mentioned this. This can fill it out a bit more, but you were going to marriage conferences, you were doing the right things, reading books together as you put your head on the pillow, I’m sure.
Audrey: Yeah, pastoring a church together...
Jim: Pastoring a church, I mean, that’s...
Audrey: ...And full-time ministering together. And having kids and making fun memories with our children and laughing a lot.
Bob: Lots of it.
Jim: And then that busy stuff. After 17 years, you’re doing a lot. You’re doing a lot for the Lord, you’re doing a lot for your family.
Bob: Well, if you’re going to change the world, then you’ve got to be busy. (LAUGHTER)
Audrey: Apparently it takes a little bit...
Bob: When you’ve got that mindset...
Bob: ...And you feel as though that every moment, every minute really counts and almost that drive comes in and you need to always do more, be better and, you know, create and always be on top of things.
Jim: And, Bob, for the listeners that vocationally aren’t in ministry, that applies to them too.
Jim: I mean, they may not be trying to change the world, but they’re trying to earn more....
Bob: But they do in their own way.
Jim: ...And to climb the mountain, so to speak.
Audrey: And be the best parents they can. I think that many of us are just motivated, and we get caught up in the culture of busyness. And that doesn’t just necessarily mean an amount of activity. I think that really includes a condition of your heart...
Audrey: ...Where you’re not slowing down and really understanding even the heart of your children and the heart of God and your own heart. You’re not in touch with your own heart.
Bob: And the challenges that we face in our current electronic-driven world is the social media where we’re constantly being judged. Do you like me now? Do you like this?
Jim: If I say it this way, will you like me now?
Bob: Do I say it this way? You know, and so we’re always putting ourselves out there and we become extremely, you know, almost wrung out and very tired.
Jim: Well, and before we pop the lid on the story, so to speak...
Jim: ...Your families of origin, I think, played into some of the activity that occurred. And I identified with it as you were talking about, you know, always being kind of upbeat and that passive orientation where you don’t talk about hard things in the family.
Jim: Did you both come from that kind of family?
Audrey: No. (LAUGHTER)
Jim: I can’t see you being passive.
Audrey: Hence the disconnect. No, no, no, I am so non-confrontational. And I’m a pleaser. And I lived in a family of origin that never fought. My mom and dad never - I never heard yelling going on. And so I was not comfortable with anything negative.
Jim: I know, but now listen.
Audrey: OK, I am listening (laughter).
Jim: People are going to hear that because we’re going to get the feedback, John.
Jim: And they’re going to say, well, if you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t fight or argue. But you are saying it actually was developing unhealthy attitudes for you that weakened your ability to cope as an adult.
Audrey: Jim, it’s a dysfunction because Jesus clearly tells us that communication in love is to speak the truth in love. I was really good at speaking love. I can love and connect with pretty much anyone. I am so good at love naturally. And I thought that’s what our marriage would be.
Bob: And for me, I was very good at speaking truth. (LAUGHTER)
Jim: You’re so much alike. (LAUGHTER)
Bob: Exactly. And I had a limited capacity for love because I was right. So it’s not necessarily...
Audrey: And you were really good at confronting my negative stuff. (LAUGHTER)
Bob: Because it was right.
John: Because he’s right, yeah.
Audrey: And so when he would do that, then I would naturally just cower under that and please him and change my behavior to match him.
Bob: And I wasn’t trying to be overbearing. I wasn’t trying to control...
Jim: You were just a truth seeker.
Audrey: So I realized when I look back at those first 17 years, I was literally conforming to anything he wanted so that the fight would never happen ‘cause fighting is not allowed.
Jim: Constant appeasement. But again, you just described those first 17 years as rather joyful, rather positive.
Audrey: Well, for him.
Bob: She made sure it was that way, which I didn’t know.
Audrey: I made sure there was fun in the house.
Jim: Describe that situation now where you’re feeling that withdraw, you’re beginning to understand it, maybe not fully, but emotionally, you’re dry.
Audrey: You mean, are you talking about 17 years into my marriage?
Jim: Yeah, what started to happen?
Audrey: I would not know that - I wouldn’t be able to say this.
Jim: So you weren’t even aware of it.
Audrey: I was - when I said I was quietly desperate, I was hiding from myself.
Jim: So what were the circumstances that led to the infidelity?
Audrey: So the circumstances is the busyness, I’ve got - and my mindset was I’ve got to - even when I feel desperate, I have to wake up and be determined and be selfless. And any time the hidden me, the girl Audrey that was hiding behind all this desperation that just wanted to be heard, whenever she would rise up and start to feel sad, I would just shut her down and say, no, we are not selfish people. Audrey, you get up and do what you’re supposed to do. So I hid that part of Audrey that was desperately asking for help. And I just shut her down. And I kept working. But then -
Jim: Yeah, I was just going to ask because, like, again, I think it’s important. It sounds like a ‘but’ with the fruit of the spirit. These are the things we need to be and we’re striving to be. And I can relate to that. I want to be full of joy and love and peace and express that to all around me. But you’re saying there’s a part of you that couldn’t always fuel that and you felt guilty...
Jim: ...Not being all that.
Audrey: And you heard my family of origin where negativity is not even - I’m not comfortable with any kind of negativity.
Jim: Right. But what you’re saying, we’ve got a catch because you’re saying there’s a part of me that is just human.
Jim: I have the spirit of God in me...
Audrey: Isn’t that the truth?
Jim: ...But there’s part of me that fights this, too. And I’ve got to realize that, even though I want to subdue it in the spirit. I want to make sure that it’s not all of me.
Audrey: You see, Jesus loves that Audrey that was stuck and hiding and wanted to draw her out and love her and hold her and comfort her in the weakness. I’m calling her ‘her’, but you know what I’m saying.
Audrey: And that’s why that was - I was rising up for that kind of comfort. But that’s when a man - a young guy started coming to our church, and he started to bring me the way I felt comfort.
Jim: So he was speaking to that Audrey.
Audrey: He was speaking to that Audrey. He was the only one - and I was craving that so desperately, so thirsty for that drink of water that when he complimented me and comforted me in the way that that Audrey felt heard, I started to let down my defenses and I started to crave more and more and more of it.
Jim: Yeah, and, you know, I guess the question is, as awkward as it is, what happened? I mean, where did it go?
Audrey: Right. Well, you know, it’s interesting because...
Jim: And I’ll get to you, Bob, to get your input but...
Audrey: ...I thought that I was immune from any kind of - that I would - 17 years, I’m a good girl. I always have been a Jesus girl. And I love Jesus. I really do.
Jim: Grew up in a Christian home...
Jim: ...Knew right from wrong.
Audrey: And I love my husband, love my kids my - I’ve got older kids now - 10, 12 and 15. Like, I mean, this has never done anything that would - like, I was immune.
Audrey: And so I thought, this is so nice that he’s paying attention to that Audrey that we’re talking about. So I thought this is wonderful that we can have a friendship and I don’t need the kind of boundaries that other people do because I’m so strong. So I can go for lunch and I can write emails and I can eat alone with this guy because he’s younger than me. I’m kind of helping him...
Jim: There’s nothing there.
Audrey: ...I’m ministering to him, I’m showing him love. You can justify it over and over again.
Jim: I think everyone is hearing...
Audrey: Where the story is going.
Jim: ...The mistakes.
Jim: I mean, they’re hearing in what you’re describing where you begin to make the mistake.
Audrey: Yes, the friendship that we thought was so innocent is - it did - just took a matter of time because I began to compromise.
Jim: Let me ask you both this question. And it may sound a bit off the course here. But I’m going to get back to the story because this is so good and the way God healed your marriage is so important to all of us to hear. But when you know the right thing to do and you know, OK, this is a little dangerous, but I can manage it, it’s not gonna go anywhere, there’s going to be people listening right now that are right in that spot. They just came from lunch or they’re heading to dinner with a coworker. What would you say to them?
Audrey: I would say 100 percent, there’s no such thing as a small compromise.
Bob: And we need to be lovers of truth. And so if you’re having to keep it secret, if you’re not wanting other people to know, then right away, you’re already, you know, crossing a dangerous line there. And what happens is we tend to try to find pleasure, fulfillment, satisfaction apart from God. And that is then when we then participate with sin because sin is just simply me determining where or how I will, you know, find a pleasure or find a satisfaction that I can do this apart from him.
John: Our guests on “Focus on the Family” today are Bob and Audrey Meisner. And they’ve written this book Marriage Undercover: Thriving In A Culture of Quiet Desperation. It captures their story and has some great advice. Find a copy at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800-32-6459.Bob, if Audrey had come to you during this process and said, you’re not feeding me like this guy’s feeding me, what would you have said?
Bob: Oh, you know, I wished I would have had that opportunity... Again, I don’t know how I would have responded. But I would imagine I would have done it with love because we cared so deeply about each other. I can remember us being together, having lunch and I would challenge her on the relationship.
Jim: ‘Cause you were noticing something.
Bob: Yeah, and I was having some uncomfortable feelings. And so I’d ask her. And she’s like, no, no, everything’s fine, everything’s safe. And so I wanted to trust her in this.And so had she, I believe, that had she been willing - because, you know, pride is the place where we hide. And a lot of times in our pride, it’s like, we don’t need God. I’ve got this managed, I can do this. But when we’re willing to humble ourselves, that’s when we embrace truth. And when we find truth, we really begin to be set free. And so in our relationship, in our journey to wholeness is that we’ve been real lovers of truth and no more secrets, no more hiding. And we are not dependent, you know, on each other, but we’re totally dependent on Him.
Jim: Well, and that can be the outcome, which is the most God-centric, positive outcome...we kind of jumped ahead to, you know, the healing process.
Jim: But, how long did the affair last?
Audrey: Um, we were friends - just friends for a couple of years, and that friendship developed. And - um - I -
Jim: So that’s where Bob was noticing a little concern.
Audrey: Yeah, just especially during the end because we started spending more and more...
Audrey: Our friendship was escalating, and it turned into flirting. And then...
Audrey: ...It was - that felt so good because then he’s speaking to my beauty, you know.
Audrey: And every woman wants to feel beautiful and desired. I was like, wow, you know, this guy is paying so much attention to me.
And the reason I lied when he asked me is that I didn’t want it to stop. I was getting to the point where I was addicted to this friendship, where it was feeding me, and it became almost, like, my drug of choice.
Audrey: Like, he feeds that part of me - that...
Audrey: ...Selfish ego. I don’t know what you want to call it.
Jim: Yeah, no, but, Audrey, that’s where I really want to camp for a second here...
Jim: ...Because I think it’s important for everyone, whether you’re a man or a woman, what Audrey is describing here is so critical. It’s the appetite of our heart. I mean, and scripture will describe it as even a lust that we have.
Audrey: Yes, yes.
Jim: And I want people to really, as best as they can, identify that in their own lives...
Jim: ...Where that is at. So let’s dig into that.
Audrey: And it’s - and the root of it is the pain. You see, I hope that people hear that it’s - yes, it’s selfish, but see, there’s that part of me, again, that girl that’s hiding that is in so much pain, that I’m trying to find that place. And I wish, oh, I wish, that I would have gone to Jesus and he could have found me there.
Jim: Well, that’s my next question.
Jim: Where was your relationship with the Lord? Um, you’re in a Christian home. You grew up in a Christian home. You’re married to a Christian man. You’re in church. What are you praying like as this is going on?
Audrey: I am journaling. I am praying, and I am being very honest in my journal saying, I am confused, God. What do I do? I...
Jim: Are you hearing from Him?
Jim: Is he saying...
Audrey: You know what? That’s a tough question.
Jim: ...Yes, you are confused, Audrey. What are you doing?
Jim: Run, run, run.
Audrey: But, you see, it was a wrestling. You could hear the wrestling. The Holy Spirit Audrey wanted to make that choice and do the right thing and be strong and be that lover of truth. But the selfish Audrey was like, no, I finally feel heard. I have to have this relationship, or I’m gonna die.
Jim: And that was more powerful than your ear for God.
Audrey: It won out. It won out because that friendship eventually turned into a sexual affair, something I never dreamed...
Audrey: ...Would ever happen to me. But what kept me was, I believe, those - just everything about who God says I am. This was not me. Finally, the voice inside my heart said, there’s nothing about this that is you, Audrey. This is not you. This is not you. You love your husband. You love your children. You love your family. You love God. This is not you. It’s screaming stop, stop, stop.
Jim: OK, you’re describing a fork in the road...
Jim: ...That you came to. And you, through God’s leading, your humility crumbling, I mean, you had to say, I...
Jim: - this is David and Nathan.
Jim: Nathan saying you’re the one.
Audrey: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened...
Jim: But it’s coming from within your...
Audrey: ...From within me.
Jim: ...Heart in this case.
Audrey: Good point.
Jim: I want to help people have that moment...
Jim: ...That fork in the road, because I guess the question in my mind is, why do they choose the other fork? Why do they choose the other road?
Audrey: I understand the ones that are choosing the other one.
Audrey: You can hear that in my voice.
Jim: ...What is happening? What is happening...
Jim: ...In their heart and in their head when they choose the other path?
Audrey: When they’re choosing that path, they think they’re gonna get the escape. It wasn’t about the sex for me. It was the escape from that extremely busy, driven, external life that was driving me. I - this felt like an escape for me.
And so we think that this is going to give us the escape or the pleasure that we want. But I feel like shouting it from the housetops to that person, it’s not going to get you what you want because you’re going to go down a road of pain that is going to lead you to everything that is destruction, depression, devastation. You want to talk about desperation. You choose this road. Sin is pleasurable for a season. The Bible even teaches us that. But the road that you go on - you’re choosing, if you choose that path, is - is pain beyond belief.
Jim: The word that is coming to my heart and mind is grace. I mean, this...
Jim: ...Is evidence of God’s grace, that you weren’t counseling with another human being at this point.
Jim: You’re having to struggle at your own heart.
Audrey: Nobody in the world knew what was going on.
Jim: This is one of the best expressions of God’s grace that I can imagine - that He is speaking to you in every way, Audrey, wake up.
Audrey: And He loved me on my worst day, Jim.
Audrey: You want to talk about grace - Jesus was loving me while I was in that sexual sin and still speaking to my heart.
Jim: But the issue is you’ve got to hear it.
Audrey: You do.
Jim: And so many people crush the still...
Audrey: I understand the wrestling...
Audrey: ...But I’m just like, if they could hear the pain that it leads to...
Jim: Yeah, yeah. Um, this is a good spot to mentionHope Restored, John. I mean, again, if you’re that couple that is living in this desperation, you are listening to Audrey, and you’re going, it’s me. Audrey is me, or I’m almost there. Or I just went through that. I don’t know what to do. Call us.
Jim: Let us amplify...
Jim: ...The voice of God in your heart. Let us give it - um - whatever more weight it might need. Let us counsel with you.
Audrey: And let Focus on the - the people here love that person that’s hiding. You know...
Audrey: ...Just be - not - with the love of the Lord that is so supernatural, you know...
Audrey: ...To just love you, I’m just saying to the listener, let God love you more...
Audrey: ...And help out.
Jim: And the key here is it’s not about the judgment of the misdoing. And I want to come back next time and talk about that because we can do so much damage in that regard. Sure, there was truth. And, Bob, I want your perspective. I want to hear you, the truth guy, talk about your wrestling with your wife over this and how she came to you and said what was happening, which, Audrey, great credit to you that you didn’t keep it hidden. That’s courage.
Audrey: Well, it’s hard to even take that because, I mean, I think back of that - even involving myself in that sexual sin. Like, that’s something I will always grieve over that fact. God has forgiven me. I have forgiven myself.
Jim: And I think if King David...
Audrey: I wish I didn’t have to...
Jim: ...Were here, he would say, you...
Jim: ...Should grieve that...
Jim: ...Because he...
Jim: ...Grieved it, too.
Audrey: And it - it - and I think of that verse - she who’s been forgiven much loves much. And if anything, that - turning that into the redemption of how Jesus can heal our hearts.
Jim: Yeah.Bob, I’m sure people are going, OK, we got Audrey’s story, but, man, if I were her husband, I’d be out of there. I’ve got to at least capture - we only got a little - a minute.
Jim: I need to capture at least that perspective. Why hang in there?
Bob: Because I’ve been loved, and He loves me. And I remember one day receiving a phone call from my dad…saying to me (quivering voice), “Bob, I thought you should hear it from me. I’m leaving your Mom.” I never ever wanted to make that phone call to my children. So if what God says about Himself is really true and real - because I could not live with just a theological understanding. I needed his truth to become my reality. And then that drove me into His throne room of grace. Because no longer was it an issue of right or wrong. His realities had to become mine.
Jim: And, Bob, the thing about that is that you have every right to be the older brother, the one full of bitterness, full of jealousy, full of contempt because of what you have done to me.
Bob: I’m not saying I didn’t have those.
Jim: Yeah, but you worked through them, obviously.
Bob: Yeah, you have to.
Jim: And I’m speaking to that person who’s in the middle of that that is justified in their mind and in their heart.
Jim: They are righteous...
Jim: ...Saying you wronged me in a way that even the Bible, even the Lord Himself gives me an exit card for. I can get out of this relationship because of what you did to me. It’s not His choice. It’s not His desire for us, but He does say, yes, I can end this marriage because of what you’ve done. That’s power.
Bob: Yeah, but, again, then all I’m looking out for is me, all I’m concerned about is me at the expense of my wife, at the expense of my children, but more than that, at the expense of generations. And that’s something that I hear and see with “Focus on the Family” - is that you love...
Bob: ...Deeply, the generations. You’re speaking to generations. It’s not about me, but it is about the legacy I will leave to my generations.
Jim: Well, and here is the profoundness of what you’re saying, if I could crystallize it...
Jim: ...Marriage, in so many ways, is all about us becoming more like Christ.Even in the failures that you have experienced as a couple, what I love here is you made good decisions after making a bad decision. And what you, I think, have learned - and what I just heard you say - is that you have done it. You’ve become more like Christ in that you laid your selfishness aside, became more selfless for your bride.
Jim: That is huge!
Bob: That’s something I get to experience. But what the world sees - because marriage is that prophetic voice in the Earth of how Christ loves the Church. Therefore, the world should be able to look at us and say, so that’s what the love of God looks like. This isn’t about me or our story. This is about the extravagance of a father’s love...
Bob: ...Towards me.
Jim: I mean, now, unfortunately, we gotta stop here. But there is more to this story. We’re gonna come back next time and pick this up. And I have missed several questions that are rattling around in my mind that I want to ask you. And I think it’d be really - uh - good for us to come back. The cliffhanger is, Audrey...
Jim: ...You were pregnant...
Audrey: The cliffhanger...
Jim: ...From this.
Audrey: ...Was two weeks later, we found out I was pregnant as a result of this affair. This baby was not Bob’s and would not look like our other children.
Jim: And at this point, we got to say come back and hear the rest of the story. Thanks for being with us...
Bob: Thank you.
Jim: ...And we’ll pick it up next time.
John: And if you’re identifying with the pain and heartbreak that the Meisner’s experienced, we hope you’ll contact us here atFocus on the Family. Now,Jim mentionedHope Restoredand that’s an intensive counseling experience -- it takes about four days for couples to work through the issues and they’re wondering if their marriage can be saved and the good news is YES. After that time atHope Restored, almost 85-percent of the couples are still together two years later and they’re doing okay. And so there is good news there. And we’re going to encourage you to find out more aboutHope Restoredor to connectwith one of our Christian counselors when you call 800-232-6459. 800, the letter “A” and the word FAMILY. And we’ll also link over to the resources and help atfocusonthefamily.com/radio.
When you get in touch, be sure to ask about the Meisner’s book,and how you can get a CD or download of this conversation and it’ll include what we have for you next time as well.
And, by the way, if you can make a generous financial gift toFocus on the Familytoday, we’ll send a complimentary copy ofMarriage Under Cover,the book by our guests, which is a terrific, encouraging story of God’s redemptive hand even in the midst of struggles. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for your help in rescuing hurting marriages. Donate at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or when you call 800-A-FAMILY.
Coming up next time: How God transformed the heart of Bob Meisner after Audrey confessed her affair.
Dr. Bob Meisner: Everything inside of me wanted to expose her. Everything inside of me wanted to shame her. But all that would do is puff up my self-righteousness. I’m the innocent one here. She did this to me. And he says, that’s not the heart of God.
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