Growing Affair-Proof Hedges
About the Guest
If you want to know if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, just ask someone who's been there. Nancy Anderson had an affair just a few years into her marriage. Nancy can attest to the heartache and destruction marital infidelity causes.
Nancy and Ron AndersonNancy C. Anderson and her husband, Ron, recently celebrated their twenty-sixth wedding anniversary. Together they conduct couples’ retreats and marriage seminars to help others to predict, prevent, or pardon infidelity. Nancy is a contributing author to several books and the co-author of a variety of dramatic sketches.
If you want to know if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, just ask someone who’s been there.
Growing Affair-Proof Hedges
Bob: Have you ever faced down the temptation to be unfaithful in your marriage? Are you dealing with it right now? Here's Nancy Anderson.
Nancy: I know how you feel. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But I can tell you from experience, having climbed over it myself, that it's a lie.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 20th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you find yourself tempted by infidelity, heed the warning of those who have been there before and who wish they could somehow undo the past.
Nancy: You're thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. There's weeds and thorns and destruction and it will kill you.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, there are some events in a marriage that tear open a hole so wide that couples pull back and look and think, we don't know if this can heal. And infidelity, adultery, is one of those events that couples pull back from and go I don't know if we can make our marriage work after that. And yet, as we've heard over and over again, Dennis, it's not only possible, but God will honor your efforts and will give you something better than you could have imagined.
Dennis: We have a couple who have been with us this week who have-- well, they've given us the privilege of peering into the pain and that gaping hole you're talking about. But you know what, that hole can be surgery where God does a little repair work on maybe some systemic issues in your marriage and that's what happened to Ron and Nancy Anderson. Ron, Nancy, thank you guys for sharing your story with us this week on FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Thank you, Dennis, for having us.
Nancy: It's our privilege.
Dennis: Ron and Nancy went through a period of suffering in their marriage that came about as a result of Nancy's infidelity, the second year into their marriage. They went about to-- to see their marriage rescued, as we heard earlier this week, by Nancy's parents who stepped into her life and reminded her of the truth, the real truth and nothing but the truth, that she was loved, that Jesus Christ was pursuing her and that as He said in John, chapter 8, “Go and sin no more.”
And, as a result of that experience, Nancy has written a book called, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow an Affair-Proof Hedge Around Your Marriage. Nancy, we shared earlier just about that phone call from your parents and the impact that had on you as they confronted you with the reality that you couldn't divorce Ron. What we didn't hear, Ron, was one additional thing that Nancy's dad said to her.
Ron: Yes. Well, going back a little bit, talking about how the Lord intervenes, she was not supposed to be home that night to get that phone call. Because by then we were fighting over the VCRs, the TVs, the sofas, the 8-track tapes, all of that stuff. And in my disgust of the whole situation as I was leaving town, I called her and I said, “Take whatever you want. The keys are under the floor mat. I don't care. Take whatever you want.”
And she was going to come over that Sunday. Instead, she decided during dinner with her friends to come over that night. She walked in the door. That's when she got the phone call from her mother.
Her father made her commit to staying one more time to talk to Ron one last time. I had left town for the weekend. I was not going to back that night or the night after or the night after. I was with a friend at a theater while we were at a convention and halfway through the show, I just started crying and the Lord said-- [choking up] the Lord said, “Go home now.”
And I asked my friend if he would take me home. Naturally he says, “Hey, we were supposed to be here for three days.”
Bob: You're out of town?
Ron: I'm out of town. I'm about an hour away from where we live and I was going to stay at this convention all weekend.
Bob: So you asked him to take you back?
Ron: I said, “Can you take me home?” And, of course, he said, “We're supposed to be here for three days.” But he said, “Okay, I'll take you home.” So he brought me home. We pulled into the driveway and I saw Nancy's car. And he said, “Would you like me to go in with you?” And I said, “No, it's going to be all right.” And at that moment, the Lord just showed me that it was going to be all right.
And I walked in the door and there's Nancy and that's when she said, “I have something to tell you.” That's when she told me that her parents had called. She confessed to me that she was having an affair with a man at work, which knocked the wind out of my stomach.
Bob: That's the first time?
Ron: That was the first time, that night. The Lord brought me back to hear that message. I was empty. I was angry. I felt as a failure. My ego was shattered and all of those things were just spinning through my head as I'm listening to this.
And kind of like Nancy explained earlier, you kind of feel like you're out over here watching all of this happening. That was kind of the emotion. But we gathered our thoughts and we stayed up all night to talk. And it was the first time in two years we actually talked at a reasonable volume.
The next morning-- well, actually, we didn't go to sleep that night. We literally talked 'til 10 o'clock the next morning. At that point, Nancy called the president of the company that she worked for and explained that she had been involved in an affair and that she's not coming back to work. Take everything on her desk, throw it in the trash. She's never coming back.
Nancy: And he said, “You're doing the right thing. No job is as important as your marriage.”
Nancy: And it was the best job I'd ever had. I was very successful at it. But he encouraged me and then he connected me to Jake and Ron and I both spoke to him and said that I would not be seeing him again, ever. And another important point is that I said, “You know, Jake, my feelings for you have not changed, but my decision about our relationship has and so I will not be seeing you anymore. It doesn't mean that I don't love you. I still feel like I love you, but I will never see you again. I have made a decision to love my husband.”
Bob: Now I've got to unpack that a little bit here, because, obviously, that's huge. I was thinking about the previous 12 hours, 15 hours, from the phone call with your parents 'til this moment when you're talking with Jake. You're making a decision to turn off the attention and affection of a guy who packs picnic baskets and takes you to the park for lunch to remain married to a guy who's been cussing you out and who's been angry and who's been demeaning.
Nancy: That’s correct.
Ron: And who throws frozen pork chops at you.
Nancy: Yeah. We had a terrible marriage, but I had hope that if I was obedient to my part, that Ron would then become obedient to his part and I can't change him, but I can change me. And I knew that I had to be the best wife that I could be and then pray and hope that he would become the best husband he could be.
Dennis: Proverb 28:26, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” I'm going to read that again, because we've got a listener right now who's exactly where you were, Nancy. Maybe female, maybe male, totally mesmerized by the opposite sex and it's not their spouse. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”
Dennis: You were delivered.
Nancy: I absolutely was.
Dennis: You took a step toward God and toward His plan, which warns us about adultery. It says the man who is committing adultery is taking fire into his chest.
Nancy: And he'll be burned.
Dennis: It's like a bird getting into a snare. He's going to be caught. He's going to be roasted. You took a step away from the snare, the fire, and took a step toward God in faith, even though your marriage, at that point, for all practical purposes, was dead.
Bob: And your emotions for Jake hadn't changed.
Ron: Not at all.
Nancy: And it took a long time for them to change and it slowly began to change for my husband, as well, because I didn't-- we were not in love and I didn't even particularly like him, my own husband. But I made a decision to begin to look at myself and to look at my selfishness and to look at who I had become and I had become unlovable to him. I was critical and complaining and controlling him.
And as I self-examined, I realized that, how could I have expected him to be a good husband when I was such a horrible wife?
Dennis: Could I ask you, Nancy, to speak to Jake right now, not the guy you had the affair with, but to a man who's having an affair with another woman, to a woman who is the Jake in that relationship. What would you say to that woman, to that man?
Nancy: I would say that I know how you feel. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But I can tell you from experience, having climbed over it myself, that it's a lie, that there's weeds and thorns and destruction and that it will kill you.
So I would say to go home, to water your own lawn, to take that energy that you were pouring into someone else and pour it into your wife, pour it into your own husband. Because then that will grow. Then that will be green. And the satisfaction you will feel in having no guilt in your life, having no shame in your life, living a life that's true and examinable by anybody is an amazingly freeing thing, to be open, to be honest, to be vulnerable, and to have no secrets.
Dennis: And as you plant that new lawn and water that new lawn, put some hedges--
Dennis: --some hedges around that lawn. You all build your book around Mark 12:1, which says, “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it.” A hedge was a fence to keep the critters out. In this case, it's to keep temptations out.
And you take the word “hedges” and you break it down. H is for hearing, E is for encouraging, D is for dating, G is for guarding, E is educating, S, satisfying. That's some good direction for a marriage.
Dennis: If you had just one of those letters to pick out, Ron, Nancy, pick one of those letters out.
Ron: For me, it's hearing. And I find that if I'm listening, like in 1st Peter, I'm starting to dwell with my wife in understanding. And that single-- doing that single task of learning to understand your wife and listen to her, will make your marriage 110 percent better. The intimacy will grow. The love will grow. The commitment toward each other will grow.
And every comedian we've ever heard since the Ed Sullivan shows joked about how impossible it was to understand the woman or understand your wife and I'm saying that if the Word of God tells you that you can dwell with your wife in understanding, then you must be able to do that. So that became my mission was to learn what makes her tick and stop stepping on her toes.
Dennis: Nancy, now wait, I'm not asking you for your letter yet. He changed from being a jerk?
Dennis: To being a man of understanding?
Nancy: He absolutely did. It was--
Dennis: How did he do that?
Nancy: It was a process. But he did listen to me and when I would say something that was confusing to him, he would say, “Now what did you mean by that?” or “explain that further.” And when I would hint at something, which was part of our problem in our relationship, I would hint at something, he'd miss the hint and then I'd be mad at him.
Dennis: Expecting him to read your mind, right?
Ron: And then we'd argue 'til three in the morning.
Nancy: Right. So now when he would miss the hint and I'd be disappointed, he'd say, but I didn't understand that that's what you meant. And so then we would go back and kind of re-live it and he would explain to me why he missed my hint. And he'd say, you know, “You need to tell me, can you do this by two o'clock?” And then he would say, “Yes, I can,” or “No, I can't.” And then we took the vagueness out of our conversation. We learned to get very specific.
Dennis: You built a relationship is what you did.
Ron: Well, going back a little bit further, there's things that had to take place before we ever got that far ahead, but--
Bob: You had to go to grade school.
Bob: Grade school, junior high, high school.
Ron: Back, back all the way to the beginning. After we talked to Jake and her boss, we called her parents and let them know we were going to try to work this out. In their wisdom, they set up an appointment with us for Monday night to meet with a couple that had been married 30 years, who had a successful marriage. And that evening meeting with them gave us hope—hope that we can do this. This can be what we had dreamt it would be or could be in a relationship.
And then that following week we went back to Minnesota and counseled with Nancy's parents. I mean, I have the most incredible in-laws. Unfortunately, some of you folks may not be as blessed as I am, but we flew back to Minnesota and talked to them, first a couple of days with just Nancy and them and then I flew back.
The first night at dinner that we're there, he said, “There's something that has to take place before you go any further.” And boy, I'm telling you, God is good to give me a father-in-law and a mother-in-law like this. He says, “The first thing, Nancy, I know she's probably told you that she was sorry, but did she ask for your forgiveness?” And at that point she had not asked for my forgiveness.
And he said, “Nancy, you need to think about this overnight and you need to ask your husband for forgiveness and, Ron, you need to decide if you're going to forgive her or not or if this is going to be your ace in the hole for every argument for the next 40 years that you pull out as your trump card.” He says, “But I don't want an answer tonight. I want you to think about it overnight.”
The next morning we got up and we went to breakfast with her father and mother and her father said, “Have you given any thought to this?”
Nancy: And I did. I asked Ron to please forgive me. I didn't have any excuses. I didn't have any defense for my action. I laid myself bare before him and said, will you—can you please forgive me?
Ron: [choking up] And when she reached across the table and grabbed my hand and asked for forgiveness--
Nancy: He made a decision.
Ron: I made a decision to forgive her. And the Lord at that moment in time gave me the ability to do that.
Bob: And I have to ask you, because you told us this week that there was a point where you connected, you touched knees with Jake, and that was the beginning of what became an affair. Was this moment at the breakfast table, was this the point where your heart started to soften and warm and you started to think, my obedience is going to bear fruit and I have hope for myself, for my future, for my marriage, for my husband?
Nancy: Yes. That's exactly what happened and when he forgave me, though I did not deserve forgiveness, I knew then that he really, really loved me.
Ron: You know, stepping back a second, when I get emotional talking about forgiveness, for our listeners, it's not that I'm still feeling pain about the experience. I just get overwhelmed how the Lord honored that process and how he stepped in and gave us the ability to rebuild our relationship and that he gave me the ability to forgive her.
Because there's a big pride issue there and there's a big ego issue there and when I talk to my friends at basketball on the court about this, they kind of shake their heads and say, I don't know. You know, I don't know if I could forgive my wife if she did that. But in the Lord, you can. And it overwhelms me to think that my marriage was so far into death and here it is 25 years later and we rejoice every morning that we wake up and look at each other.
Nancy: We're crazy in love.
Ron: It just--it's just overwhelming.
Bob: And if there's a theme to this, Dennis, it's the theme that obedience, no matter what you feel like, bears fruit.
Nancy: And so much, the world is telling you to follow your heart, but there's a verse about the heart is exceedingly wicked. Who can know it?
Nancy: Our hearts get us in trouble all the time.
Bob: Which is why we've got to guard our hearts and got to counsel our hearts with the wisdom from Scripture. It's why we need to be aware of the strategies of the Enemy who would see us divided and see our marriage falter. So, let me encourage you, go online FamilyLifeToday.com get a copy of the book Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome, by Nancy Anderson, “How to grow affair-proof hedges around your marriage.”
Again the website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can order by calling 1-800-FL TODAY. 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us, we’ll make the arrangements to have a copy of Nancy’s book sent to you.
Let me also say a quick word of thanks to those of you who in past weeks and months have made a contribution to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We so much appreciate those of you who not only listen regularly, but who from time-to-time will go online or give us a call and make a donation. Your financial support is what makes this program possible. It’s what made today’s program possible. We do appreciate your support.
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If you’ve never made a donation to FamilyLife Today, we’re hoping this month that we can rally from each of the 50 states where FamilyLife Today is heard here in the United States. I’d like to rally 50 new donors. So, a total of 2500 donors during the month of August. If you could be one of those, a regular listener who’s never made a donation, and you’re willing to step up this month and make a donation of any amount, we’d love to have you join the team.
If that donation can be $100 or more, and again you’re a first-time donor, we want you to feel free to request a certificate so you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway this fall. Or you can pass the certificate along to someone else you know who could attend. Again, this is for those of you who are making a first-time donation to FamilyLife Today, and we do hope to hear from you, and we want to say thanks in advance for whatever you’re able to do in support of the ministry. We appreciate you listening and being a part of the FamilyLife Today family. Dennis?
Dennis: You know, we've talked about all this week how infidelity can bring a marriage to the edge of a cliff.
Dennis: And that there's life closer to the mountain, away from that cliff. I have a question for you though, Ron.
Ron: Yes, sir?
Dennis: You said you forgave Nancy.
Dennis: Have you ever used the ace card?
Ron: Never once. Never once. You know, the Lord has healed that in my heart so much that that's why I feel so free to talk about it. I've come to grips with the fact that I was not a good husband that I bear part of the responsibility for this entire thing. And I've never used the ace card and I've never needed to use the ace card.
Dennis: Now wait a second. You're holding the cards in your hand and in a heated moment where she's claiming you just don't understand again--
Ron: Well, and there are--
Dennis: --and your hand reaches on the card--
Dennis: --of her infidelity and you grab hold of the card in your mind. You're going, “Take that.”
Ron: You know, it never has. The first two years of our marriage were peaks and valleys and 99 percent of the time we were down in the valleys. Every once in a while, we'd come up on the peak for about 15 seconds and like each other. Our marriage is like peaks and valleys now, but now we're always up there on the peak with the Lord. Once in a while, we go into the valley and we get mad at each other, we have a disagreement, but we're only in there for seconds and then the Lord helps us get right back up there. And no, I've used the trump card and never had a need to.
Dennis: Nancy, you're an eye-witness.
Nancy: No, he's a great guy. I mean, when I think what I almost lost and what I almost walked away from and what I walled myself from, the best guy in the world, and that I almost lost him, it breaks my heart to think what I almost walked away from. But I'm so grateful and so undeserving of his love and I'm just grateful every day.
Ron: And I love you, Nancy.
Nancy: Thank you.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today, hope for tomorrow.
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