Interview with Elin Nordegren, now ex-wife of Tiger Woods.
“The divorce came nine months after Tiger Woods' early morning car crash late last November led to revelations that he had been cheating on his wife of six years with multiple partners. Before Wednesday, Elin Nordegren had remained silent about the massive sex scandal that embroiled their lives and led to Woods dropping off the golf circuit for several months. But at Elin's request, she agreed to an interview with People magazine for no payment. In excerpts from a cover article to be published Friday, the 30-year-old Nordegren told the magazine she has "been through hell." She said she felt "absolute shock and disbelief" when she learned about her husband's multiple extramarital affairs. She said she felt stupid as more details came out, asking herself, "How could I not have known anything?" Nordegren went on to say that the word "betrayal' was not strong enough to describe what she felt, and that the stress of the scandal caused her to have insomnia, lose weight, and even start to lose her hair before the divorce was finalized. The magazine said its interview took place over four days, and took 19 hours. Nordegren added that she had loved Tiger and that they had "so much fun" together.”[i]
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The primary feeling here is a sense of shock and bewilderment that she did not know what her husband was doing. She said, “she felt stupid,” as all of us do when the news comes out. Being made a fool is hard on anyone’s pride, and staying with a man or woman that has made you look and feel the fool is indeed one of the most difficult things. It creates the necessity to get beyond this worldview. Here is a journal entry in the early stages where I grappled with this concept.
July 29, 2008 (9 months post disclosure)
In a thousand ways the shards of remembrance cut into my broken heart. It happened today at work.(At the time this was penned I was working as a Personal Trainer) A client started to share the pain of a friend that committed suicide because his wife cheated on him. She adamantly proclaimed that if her spouse did that to her she would kill him and the other woman, but not herself. She couldn’t comprehend how someone would harm them self rather than the cheaters. (Her colorful vocabulary expressed her disgust.)
Before thinking, I replied that no one knows what they’ll do until faced with the circumstance. She continued to rant about how selfish the act of suicide was, and how no one is worth the sacrifice of taking your life.
I agreed that no one was worth the act of suicide, but again reiterated that unless a person had experienced that kind of pain, they would never understand the depth of sorrow, nor the kind of despair and hopelessness that ensues. It was then she clued into the fact that maybe I was speaking from experience.
“This hasn’t happened to you, has it?” she asked in shocked horror.
“Yes,” I stated, instantly regretting my big mouth. She was the type of woman who would have a gun to sell me.
“You’re not still with him?” she asked condescendingly.
“Yes,” I admitted.
She spoke before her brain connected with her words.” I thought you were a much stronger woman.”
The second the words slipped from her lips she tried to backtrack, but her message was clear. She thought me the fool! Worse yet, I let myself feel the fool.
I plastered a smile on my face and graciously smoothed over her faux pas by reminding her she had training to do and wasn’t paying me good money to stand around and chat.
As we continued with the workout I had the last laugh. I must admit I enjoyed a little pay back. Stopping just short of a heart attack, I smiled as the makeup and sweat dripped from her face.
All kidding aside, what she said, hurt my pride. If only she understood how much strength it took to forgive and to stay.
I know the world looking in considers me weak, unable to break the tie from a cheating spouse. But actually the opposite is true. It’s very difficult to stay and work through the anger, disappointment and sorrow. The world doesn’t know that I continue because I see a changed man; all they know is I live with a cheater and surmise I’m a fool to stick around for more of the same.
I know God desires restoration in marriage where possible. “I hate divorce,” says the Lord. Malachi 2:16 and so I choose to do it God’s way no matter what the world thinks.
The words I wrote (based on Matthew 19:6) and sang in a song to David on our wedding day, have come back to haunt me. “What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”
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To work through the tangle of emotions you feel requires hard work and a thick skin. I felt the fool for not knowing and trusting all those years, and even more so for staying. There was no way to logically express this decision to those with the worldview of punting the transgressor to the street. Forgiveness, love and mercy are not words in many people’s vocabulary. You have to get beyond what people think and care only about what God thinks.
Nancy’s story haunted me the most. She had discovered infidelity in her marriage and accepted his apology. Her only problem, she loved her lifestyle too much to demand counseling when her husband refused to go. All she wanted was her old life back and so she turned a blind eye to the fact she needed to heal, and he had to change. A few years later the same scenario repeated itself and this time he left with the other woman. Devastated, she struggled the next four years with deep depression and a battered self-esteem.
“Don’t do what I did.” She phoned to caution. “ Don’t believe him. The first time my husband fooled me, I could say shame on him; but the second time he fooled me, the shame was all mine. They’re all the same,” she said. “Once they start down that path, they’ll never change.”
Her words went through my mind over and over. How would I know? How could I trust? It is the same question every person in this situation asks.
Only by the wisdom of God can discernment for each situation be obtained. No other person is in the position to make this call for you. With the help of quality Christian counseling, God will help you gain wisdom for your unique situation.
God’s heart embraces restoration. We know this by the nature of His sacrifice on the cross. His heart and character exudes grace and mercy. But we as people have a choice, a responsibility to repent and ask God to forgive our sin and then live differently. The same principle applies in this situation. Your spouse must repent and desire change, and you must choose to heal. Both of these decisions are equally important to the restoration of a marriage and have nothing to do with what anyone else thinks. In other words, shred the “I’m a fool” motto, and toss it in the trashcan, where it belongs.
NEXT WEEK I WILL FURTHER THIS DISCUSSION