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Extending Forgiveness for a Restored Marriage

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“We argued on our honeymoon in the hotel room about anything and everything.” From day one, Emily and Josh Bengen’s marriage was in trouble. Emily recalls, “And I can remember thinking while we were there, ‘My gosh, who is this person I married? I just want to go home and get this annulled if this is how marriage is gonna be.’"

Married in May 2014, the couple were best friends for years before deciding to date then get engaged. Now, as they settled into married life, their personal issues quickly surfaced. Josh says, “I turned into a very negative person myself and towards her. It seemed like almost everything irritated me about what she did.”

Emily says, “I can be very vocal about how I want things to be done and it is kind of a ‘my way’ on certain things. We would have these volatile fights, and it would be total anger and chaos, and maybe the silent treatment for a day or two, and then it would be like the kiss and make up. And it just felt like this constant repetition of fight, make up, fight, make up.”

Barely four months after their wedding, they were in pastoral counseling trying to fix their marriage. However, they never uncovered their deeper, personal issues, and Josh only grew more verbally and emotionally abusive. Emily recalls, “I wanted, when I got married, to be married to my best friend. I wanted to be able to enjoy all of the things that we've always enjoyed together. And yet I had somebody who told me that I was ugly and didn't want to be with me, that they hated everything about me.”

Emily felt like God wasn’t listening. So, she found a sympathetic ear at work, her boss. Soon they were texting secretly outside of office hours. It went on for months. By early 2016, Emily was caught-up in an emotional affair. She recalls, “There was an excitement there. I had a friend who was listening. I had a friend who liked everything about me. And so, I did have confliction with, you know, what we were doing. It was secretive. I knew it was wrong.” Josh, however, recalls, “I was so removed from our marriage and any kind of relationship with her, that I was disengaged. So, if there were signs, I completely had been checked out of that.”

In late August of 2016, Emily’s emotional affair turned physical. Emily says, “I was mad at first and then when the anger dissipated, I was back to, hey, my husband's still a jerk and you're still not and we're getting along and this is what happened, and now at this point – at this point this happened, so why stop now? It felt good to have somebody who fit the category who actually loved me, or what I thought was love.” 

By Thanksgiving Emily and Josh’s marriage was all but over. After another bad fight, Emily left to stay with her mother. Emily recalls, “I did not tell my mom that I had had an affair. I just told her that my marriage was done. And I finally was like, okay, at least one thing in my life is now straightened out.” Josh remembers, “I didn’t know what to feel, I was in complete shock. And I was just in such a state of disbelief.”

Eventually, Josh moved into their pastor’s spare room so Emily could stay at their house. It was then that he started to realize his role in their problems and began asking God for answers, and forgiveness. Josh says, “I didn’t know what to pray for. I was obviously praying for her and whatever is going on. But I was also praying for myself, because I was a very selfish, very controlling, probably even manipulative, and an angry person. I felt so broken and so lost, just at a complete loss of how did I get here? How did we get here?”

Meanwhile, as Emily also sought God’s guidance, she had to face the role she played in their failed marriage, including the affair. Emily says, “I never meant for this to happen. In my mind, there was no way. My marriage was like crumbled. Dead, gone, done. And I said, ‘God, if you can do a miracle, I’ll believe it’s you.’”

With divorce papers ready to be signed, the couple decided to meet on December 30th to discuss whether their marriage could be saved. The first thing Emily did was confess the affair. Josh recalls, “The first few minutes were just complete and utter shock, like couldn’t even quite process. My mind couldn’t even think of how to react, how to emotionally respond to that.”

Emily says, “I really did pour my heart out in asking for forgiveness and I said I was sorry. And I had truly ended the affair that day. It was done. There was no more.” Josh says, “I felt the Lord come over me with peace and I didn’t have to say anything, I didn’t have to do anything, and I just had to love on her. And I just felt that love in me to love on her.”

As an act of love and forgiveness, Josh washed Emily’s feet. Emily remembers, “Here's my husband, where I had done so much wrong to him, and he says, 'I love you no matter what. We'll get through this’. And I just felt so forgiven. I felt so free. And in that moment, I just wept. I just lost it.”

In time, through forgiveness, counseling, and recommitting their lives to Jesus Christ, Emily and Josh found healing in their marriage, and their personal struggles as well. Today they are happily married with three beautiful kids. They know that surrendering to God was the only way to save their marriage. Josh says, “A heart and a head surrendered to the Lord is the most important thing. To learn who He is intimately, to know Him intimately. It’s the biggest thing that you can do in your walk and affect others around you.”

Emily believes, “God is bigger than your circumstance, and it's never too late. That God can always do a miracle. He's always with you even in the ugly moments. He's there – right there with you. And that He can still change all of your ugly, if you just have a little bit of faith.”


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About The Author

Ed Heath

Ed Heath loves telling stories. He has loved stories so since he was a little kid when he would spend weekends at the movies and evenings reading books. So, it’s no wonder Ed ended up in this industry as a storyteller. As a Senior Producer with The 700 Club, Ed says he is blessed to share people’s stories about the incredible things God is doing in their lives and he prays those stories touch other lives along the way. Growing up in a Navy family, Ed developed a passion for traveling so this job fits into that desire quite well. Getting to travel the country, meeting incredible people, and