Bob Mersereau shares his story of restoration. It took 20 years to learn how to trust God and give up on anger and resentment, but when he did he found a bottomless well of peace and love.
My wife committed adultery.
Four words no husband ever wants to be true. Yet they were.
I knew. Yet I didn't know.
At first, it was the little things in our relationship that were different. Not quite right.
Even in good relationships, there are times when things seem a bit off.
What troubled me is that I saw and felt it, but she kept saying, "No, everything is fine".
But I knew it wasn't.
Then came uncertainty. Am I seeing and feeling what I think I am? Would she actually be untrue and unfaithful to me?
Sadly, the answer was yes. She would and was.
You'd think that might be the ultimate devastation. But it wasn't.
For me, when she acknowledged what I thought to be true, I was relieved. We had been together for over twenty years at that point and had two young kids. We climbed many mountains, overcame lots of obstacles, accomplished much together. We were a great team. Now that the truth was known we were in a good place. Together we would figure out what went wrong. Set a new course. Get back to who we were and have been to one another. Onward we'd go.
Yet, we didn't.
"No.” The ultimate devastation was not in learning the truth. It was when she said, "No.”
"No, I don't want to fix this. I want to begin a new life with a new life partner."
All these years later I still get teary-eyed remembering those words and that moment.
How could she not want to go on? Who would I be without her?
We'd been together since our teens. "Bob-and-Marisa" had become one word. Why would she now exchange "Bob" for the name of another man?
I thought my faith was strong. It wasn't. Anger seemed to come more naturally and contradicted the person my faith called me to be. I knew the person I wanted to be, but was failing terribly. Not always, but often.
I struggled with this for a very long time. An embarrassingly long amount of time.
Some, probably most, of my anger was driven by the reality we had two young kids. Brian (13) and Lindsey (7) lived with me. Marisa would coordinate her visits with me. We had many years ahead of co-parenting to navigate and would be connected for life through our children and grandchildren. I often thought the only way the kids and I would find ourselves in this situation would be because Marisa tragically perished in an accident. The fact that she intentionally brought this lifetime of pain to our lives fueled my anger, and I found it emotionally exhausting having to regularly communicate and coordinate with her.
Studying scripture and talking about faith throughout my life equipped me to know who I wanted to be, who I needed to be. But living out that faith proved harder than I'd ever imagined.
From the beginning, my knowledge of scripture told me that I should (must) seek reconciliation and forgiveness. I knew doing so would be better for Brian and Lindsey. Yet, not unlike St. Paul who spoke of frustration with himself when he did what he knew he should not do and didn’t do what he should, I wrestled with and justified my anger while also being embarrassed and frustrated at how hard I found it to live the scriptural commands in this situation.
For years forgiveness and reconciliation were elusive but did finally come. Some might say coincidentally. I believe divinely. Slow at first. Then incrementally better.
It started small. Over the years there were times I spoke and acted with kindness and concern. The first time I chose that left me feeling better about her and us and so I was determined to work at choosing that again. I still found it often wasn't easy, but each time I did I knew it was the right choice. And each time I built upon the next and I found myself more and more living what I knew to be true; you can't wait to feel like doing the right thing. Do what you know to be right, and the feelings will follow.
The most significant breakthrough came in the winter of 2019. Years earlier, Lindsey found her passion and work in Telluride, Colorado as a supervisor at the ski school. She loved having family and friends visit. That winter Brian, Marisa, and I coincidentally (perhaps providentially) selected the same dates. Lindsey reached out to me to share that and wondered what I thought about all of us being together there for a few days of family winter fun.
I loved the idea. Even more, I was grateful to have arrived at a place that I actually looked forward to being together as a family with Marisa present. The divorce was in December 1997. Other than a few hours at a family wedding several years ago, the four of us had not been together as a family in over 20 years.
When Lindsey then checked with Marisa, she loved the idea too. We did get together, and that time was the beginning of a much more cordial and natural connection between me and Marisa that has continued to this day.
I arranged for us to begin those four days together with a dinner I hosted at the hotel where I stayed. Other than briefly at the family wedding, I had no conversation or contact with Marisa in years. As Lindsey entered the restaurant a few steps ahead of Marisa she hugged me and whispered in my ear, "Hug mom." I followed her instructions. She was right. That brief hug was the beginning of a pleasant dinner, and helped set the stage for the several days that brought our family to a new and better place.
I'm embarrassed it took me so long to reach the point of peaceful connection, but grateful to have finally arrived.
It's 25 years later. She's still with him. I'm glad for all she and I were with and for one another. Sad for what now never was and will never be. But still OK. We’re still not where we'd each like to be, but so much better than we were. We’re much more like we used to be.
Life has been different than I thought it would be, yet still so good. So rich. So blessed. And made all the more so by that providential moment of connection in Colorado that gave me, gave us, a chance to take a chance on choosing reconciliation to see if it might be possible.
Not the Hallmark movie "lived happily ever after" reconciliation. No. It feels like a more realistic reconciliation. One that has wounds of the past and within that, we're discovering we can find more possibilities for healing by gently accepting that the time in the past wasn't what we wanted for us, but it is what we had. And we can each find more hope and peace by choosing not to let it define us as we move toward the future.
I know this is not the story for everyone who lives through the ending of a marriage. But I have met others for who it is. They inspire me to want this, too. The ability to say a hard time challenged me. Nearly defeated me, but it didn’t. I now know it won't.
For a while, for too long, I felt and acted out of mostly anger. Over time deciding to trust in the truth and wisdom of scripture led me to see and act with new and better possibilities. To take a chance when a moment to begin reconciliation presented itself and I chose to take it. More important, to intentionally take that moment with a spirit of humility. To let it gently evolve over time into the possibility of reconciliation.
I'm sure the kids wish I had reconciled with Marisa sooner. So do I. But they have been kind and patient with me and more than anything are grateful that I kept us together and kept our lives as normal as possible. So far the reconciliation seems to be working for Marisa and me, and I think it will last. One thing I know for sure, I'm now more at peace than I've been in a long time, and I am grateful.
This whole experience leaves me grateful beyond words for God's enduring love and patience with me. I knew the counsel of scripture yet for many years couldn't or wouldn't trust and live it, yet when I incrementally then eventually did, I discovered the peace and restoration I had longed for.