Imagine this situation. You're happily married, your family is thriving, you have a dream job, a full-time ministry at your church, and then you find an unexpected text or note from your spouse indicating that they're having an affair with someone else. What do you do?
How do you manage that process? How do you deal with the betrayal? Is there any hope for your marriage? Today on Focus on the Family, we'll hear a story about just that. A couple 's traumatic journey through infidelity and how they found forgiveness, hope, and God's grace in the process. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Thanks for joining us today on Focus on the Family. We'll hear a story about just that. When we hear about a leader who falls or has a moral failure along those lines, Jim, we see couples all around us whose marriages are exploding because of adultery. That's right, and yet God offers a certain tenderness and forgiveness to those caught in all sin but also the sin of adultery. Think about the woman dragged before Jesus in John 8. You know, the Pharisees wanted to stone her to death for adultery and then Jesus says, you know, let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone. And they dropped those stones and walked away because they knew, okay, I'm not sinless.
And then he turned to the woman and said, go and send no more. And I believe we should be very careful about judging the sins of other people. It is right that we are all sinners saved by grace and we need to approach this topic of infidelity with sensitivity and grace. Hopefully, moving couples who've experienced this in a direction of healing instead of devastation. God can fix the mess of what we're describing as the gravest of marital infidelities.
If you lean into God, he can fix it and we're going to prove it today. Yeah, we've got Rick and Tiffany Bullman in the studio today. They're the founders of Mended Ministries and they help strengthen and rebuild marriages. They serve as well as the senior pastors of Summit Church in Longmont, Colorado, just up the road from us. They've got four grown children, one grandchild, and together they've written a book called Mended, One Couple's Journey from Betrayal to Imperfect Beauty. We've got copies of that here at the ministry. Click the link in the show notes or give us a call.
Eight hundred, the letter A in the word family. Rick and Tiffany, great to have you here at Focus on the Family. Thank you. I'm thinking of that and I'm not going to tip the hand here, but it's got to be tough to even hear that. I mean, and I so appreciate your vulnerability. I mean, it's like every time you have to go out and I know you do it willingly and talk about this in the hope that another couple could be saved. But you've got to kind of live in this place where you're reliving probably the most horrible moment in your life. And so I just want to say thank you because it takes a lot of courage to do that. And, you know, it tears me up just thinking about it. And I think we all need to realize that and compliment you out of the drive to help others. You talk about this pain. So thank you for that.
I really do appreciate it. Let's start with a little happier spot when you met your love story. Let's go there first. And because it starts there, right?
It does. And what did that look like for you guys? We were living in Southern California. I was attending Life Bible College and Rick was getting ready to attend Life Bible College.
And we met there and we fell in love. Talking scripture every day together. Oh, yes.
How important God is. Yes. I mean, I can imagine. We dated for four months. Was it four months? And he proposed. Wow. And I said yes. And we got married a week before our first anniversary of dating. Of dating. Yes. Jean and I were 13 months. So we weren't far behind. There you go.
It must be a California thing. Let me ask you, though. And it's so funny because I'm relating to this. In the book, you talked about how you discovered some conflicts in your relationship right away, like unspoken rules and unmet expectations, the things that get all of us.
Tiffany, you struggled with anger, but then there was a huge problem that developed. I think, Rick, from your family of origin, I know a lot of guys can relate to the issue of workaholism. So what was going on for you? My dad always prided himself on working hard. And whenever you do, you do it 110 percent, which is a good thing. But for me, when it came to my job and my work, I got so into it that my work was kind of my mistress. It was I would put my work before Tiffany.
I would take calls at the dinner table. Oh, wow. Oh, I remember.
That's a big no no, Rick. Yeah. Oh, I learned that now. I can tell you that.
Yeah. But we it was her birthday and we were with some friends and I had somebody call at 10 o'clock at night and I took the call. And I'm like, I just wish I can go back in time and just get myself up side the head. I'm like, what are you doing? But it was just it was work, work, work. And I didn't realize it was fracturing, fracturing not only my relationship with my wife, but with my kids, too.
They were picking up on dad cares more about his job than he does me. Yeah, that is tough. You got to guard against that. And you know what? You're in big company. Yeah.
So I think males particularly, but women can do that to fall into that workaholism category. And we do derive a strange sense of something good from it. All right. Let's move to the 17 year mark in your marriage, which is where things kind of begin to unravel. Describe, you know, where you guys were at in your relationship 17 years and what was happening and what created the environment. Was it just a compounding of the things you've just talked about?
Describe it. We had just moved to Ferndale, Washington, so that Rick could begin his first pastorate, his senior pastor job, kind of a lifelong, you know, goal. And he was really excited about it. And I was excited, too. I was also worried that it would consume him. So we moved.
We were a few hours from family, even further from friends. And he dove in. And so those worries were realized.
Yes. You know, he was all in. He was all in.
He was working. So along comes a couple from the church and this starts the story. So who were they? What was going on? They went to the church where we came from. So they were a few hours away. The female was my best friend. And her husband saw it. The way that I see it is Rick was leaving these gaps. Right.
And the gentleman saw that and he just kind of came in and started filling the gaps. Oh, Rick doesn't mow the lawn. I can do that. He would mow the lawn.
Oh, Rick didn't fix that towel bar in the bathroom that's been broken for six months. I can do that. I can wash your car. I can fix this.
I can replace the light bulbs. What did that do for you? I felt like somebody cared about me because they were taking care of me. Yeah. And that was something you needed.
I did. And I mean, you know, he took the kids to ice cream. He he spent time with them as well. I guess the right next question cautiously is how did it start then? The physical relationship with the person you called Chad in the book.
I'm sure that's not the person's name, but. Before the physical started, there was emotional. Right.
So we would message each other on Facebook and that was happening a lot. And, you know, then he filled in all those gaps that Rick had left. And then the physical started. Right. And that lasted for a long time.
Three years. Yeah. I mean, we get it. And I think the broader application here and what we all need to hear is what those needs that we are meeting or not meeting in our marriage and the gaps, as you describe them, we need to be mindful of that. It is like the enemy of our soul is that wolf, you know, John 10 10. He's there to steal, kill and destroy. And we've got to be aware of that, especially as Christians.
And sometimes we get so busy. You know, and this person sounds like he had some real damage to where he became predatory and the whole bit. So he's got his own bag of rocks, right.
Stuff that he's carrying. And that's a whole nother issue. But that is the warning that, you know, you need to be healthy enough to be communicating and talking and letting each other know where those vulnerabilities are.
Yeah. We've got a lot of great resources to help you have those conversations. And if you're not sure how to even begin, give us a call. We have caring Christian counselors here that we can connect you with.
Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family or check the program notes for all the details. And when you have us on the phone or you're online, be sure to look for the book by our guests, Rick and Tiffany Bullman. It's called Mended, One Couple's Journey from Betrayal to Imperfect Beauty.
Rick let's aim this one at you. Tell us about the night you discovered Tiffany's affair, the emotion of that and what did it feel like? Yeah. So it was December 26, 2.02 p.m. We got a text from Chad's wife that apparently she had seen some texts on an iPad. And she called Tiffany and confronted her. I'm standing there with my then 17 year old son, Joshua. And he and I are looking at each other and looking at Tiff. And Tiffany has the phone up and she looks confused.
We can hear yelling, but we couldn't make out the words. And so Tiffany hung up the phone and we're like, well, what's going on? And she said, Lauren is saying that me and Chad are having an affair.
And Josh and I looked like, what? And we knew that they knew another Tiffany. So in my mind, I'm thinking, oh, please, Jesus, be that other Tiffany.
But there's just something in my spirit. And then my phone rang and it was Lauren. And you're all standing right there.
We're all standing right there. This is not the best way to get a revelation like this. And so we're all standing right there and Tiffany says this, I don't need to listen to this. And as I walked away, I was like, oh, Jesus, I think this is true. And so she told me, she said she had pictures, like screenshots of the texts. I said, send them to me. And I hung up with her and I walked over to Tiffany.
She had walked out of the room. So I found her. I told Josh, please, can you just go up to your room for a moment, let mom and dad talk.
And like, he's, you know, just bewildered beyond belief. And I asked her. I'm about to get some text messages.
Do you want to tell me now or do we want to review these together? And she just stared at me and it was a look I had never seen before. And we went back and forth a little bit.
And she admitted before I got the text that it was a full on affair. And I'd never felt such betrayal ever. I was so blindsided. I started thinking about my kids. I couldn't even think it was it was just very numbing. And I wanted to throw up.
And we had some very harsh, unchristian things back and forth. I mean, we just, you know, in my mind, I'm like, I'll repent to Jesus later, I'm gonna just flush out what I'm feeling. And I just felt, it's just a deep, like, like, I got kicked in the stomach by a horse. And I'm confused, very surreal, and felt just very despondent, like, yeah, I don't even know what to do.
I was lost. I can only imagine what that would be like. I mean, that sense, Tiffany, I mean, you're, I mean, you're so brave.
To just go through this over and over again, for the benefit of others. But what were you feeling in that moment? I mean, wow.
Have you seen in the movies where someone is going through something and it's black and it's swirling and like, you can't even see straight. That's what it was like. Unbelievable. I mean, you're feeling like this is unbelievable.
That's happening to me. Yes. Yeah. And in that moment, what was your thought or your plan of what tomorrow would be? Oh, I had no plan. I couldn't, I couldn't even think.
I was in shock. I think that's what it was. Where in that, Rick, you so eloquently described that as we'll deal, you know, I'll talk to the Lord later about what I'm saying and feeling right now.
I understand that. When did that happen? When did you guys say to each other maybe, or at least to yourself, yeah, there is hope here, maybe. I mean, that it sounded like that night. It didn't feel like it.
No, no. So I went to stay the night at a good friend of mine, his house, which was about two hours away. And on that journey, I called one of my best friends, Dan, and I was talking to him. And I just said something that I know is not theologically true. I said, this is so big.
I don't even think God can fix this. But it was in that moment that I felt the Lord kind of, it wasn't audible, it was a whisper in my spirit of, I can when I have willing hearts. And it took me back. Because you weren't thinking that. I wasn't thinking that.
That was totally an outside... Completely. Yeah, I understand that. And it was like, it cut through every emotion I was feeling. Kabang.
Yeah. Which I just thought back, I don't know if I'm willing, and it just left it at that. Well, the next day, I was with my friend that I stayed the night at his house, we were just driving around, I was doing lots of crying. And at one point, I just uttered, but she's still my wife. Like that feeling of love and commitment was still there. And I just thought about what the Lord said about willing hearts, to which I then just in my mind, I said, Lord, maybe I'm more willing than I thought. To which that same voice came back and said, you provide the heart, I'll provide the miracle.
Wow, those are good Holy Spirit moments. Oh, yeah. And it was in that moment that Tiffany would text me.
Yeah. It was the polar opposite of last night's defensiveness the night before. She had time to think about it. She had time, and she was repentive, remorseful, you didn't deserve this, this is all on me, I own this, our family didn't deserve this, I wanna work on our marriage. And that's when it was like, thank you, Jesus.
Tiffany, and we've got to cover this, and we're running out of time, and there's so much to talk about. Yeah, describe that. What took place in your heart? I think that I, well, I just spent that night in disbelief, but I knew that it was wrong, and I knew that it was my fault.
And yes, he did leave gaps, but that didn't justify me. You know? Right. Well, that's a repentant heart, I mean, really, because it's easy, that's what I was hoping you'd say, actually, because I just feel like we can justify our behavior into whatever result we want.
Yeah, no. And that's the deal with the heart, God wants you to be honest, and you were honest. Well, and I don't think that when you sin, that there's true healing, unless you own your sin, you know, so. You describe in the book, this thought of stop kissing shame. Yes.
Okay, describe that. Well, I struggled with shame, boy, for a while in the beginning, it was hard to go to the grocery store, to my kids' baseball games, or I mean, anything, I couldn't look people in the eye, I felt like everyone knew about this horrible thing that I did. The Scarlet Letter. Yes, yes. And finally, my counselor said, you need to stop kissing shame.
It's like kissing a rattlesnake, and you're going to get bit every time. Wow, that's a potent statement, really. Let me ask you, again, because you write about it, and you mentioned it, Rick, with your kids, managing that, helping them. I mean, now they got to step back and say, wow, God's powerful. He saved my mom and dad's marriage. And is that how they're looking at it now?
And how's your relationship, Tiffany? That's very personal, but it is so insightful. What a great example for your kids, actually.
It is how they look at it now. And that chapter in the book that they wrote, they all wrote a portion of what it was like for them to be told, and how they've gone through healing, and how our relationship has been built. And that was the hardest chapter for me to read, because when you are living in sin like that, you just don't take into account all of the people that you're hurting, all of the ripples.
And I really hurt my kids, and that was something that they had to get healing from. And you too. And me too.
Yeah. But we reread the book. We each reread it before we came here. And I read that. You're supposed to tell them that.
Oh, I'm sorry. I reread that chapter, and then I text all of them. And I just, I thanked them for forgiving me. And I told them that I was proud of them, that they wrote it.
Because they didn't have to, but they did. And they all text me back that they loved me, and that they were excited for us, that we had this opportunity, and that they were proud of me. You got me crying now, thank you. When you look at that, I mean this is a broad, kind of broad observation, but when you look at sin, and then how, you know, we try to rectify how God uses all things for good, really. And you're sitting in it that night going, uh-uh, can't happen.
Nothing good could happen from this. And now you're on the backside of it, with all the lessons learned, and your kids doing well, and forgiveness coming towards you, and what they truly have learned out of this, what both of you have learned out of this, it is quite awesome. Yeah. When it's dealt with in a godly way.
It is. Like when you can pick up the pieces, and say, okay, we're going to follow the Lord in this. Mm-hmm. Man, that's true of every area of our life, doesn't have to be infidelity, it's any kind of thing that works against the Spirit of the Lord. You know, I look at it like this, if we have an injury, and we go to the doctor, the doctor has to treat that wound, scratch at it, and it's painful, and we don't want them to, but that's where they put the medicine in, and get healed. For us, and I think part of the success of our family being made whole, and our children are loving Jesus, and seeing God's miracle, is that we were willing to discuss, and look at the open wound together as a family.
Yeah, that's good. It wasn't something that we swept under the rug. We had honest conversations. They can grab Tiffany's phone at any time, and go, Mom, can I look at, here you go, very transparent, owning this sin, and I think you provide the heart, I'll provide the miracle, that was God's faithfulness and healing.
And was it painful, like a doctor picking at a sore? Absolutely. Lots of tears, lots of anger, lots of hurt, but over time they became less and less and less because we dealt with it. And our kids were able to express their frustration, their hurt, their anger, and that's part of the healing process too for them, so we're grateful for that. Well, I mean, this has been, whew, heavy, but at the end here, just kind of jubilant as well, that we can celebrate with you the miracle that God has done in your relationship, in your entire family. And I think for the folks listening and watching on YouTube, there's no better prescription here than even though you may have the right for the exit door, let's see what God can do. And it'll do wonders for both of you. That's the thing. Yeah.
The victim as well as the villain, right? And the Lord heals the heart. And then let me ask you this, because I think this is so typical of couples that have gone through this, the emotional intimacy that you share now, the vulnerability of all of it, typically when it's healthy, like it seems like where you guys are at, it's wide open now. You know each other better than you ever knew each other before.
Rick, I'm sure, is in tune with the gaps. I mean, and that's what I mean, like you're so much better, even though it was a tremendous valley. Does that make sense? I love my wife more today than I ever have. And I had to change. I had to do some looking in through counseling, individual counseling on my life and my way I think. And I just had to learn how to serve my wife. And we both have come to a place where we try, we're not successful all the time, but we try to make our marriage a serving contest and see who can out love, out serve the other. And yeah, I just, I love her more than anything.
And here's the thing, I wouldn't change anything for the world because of where we are right now. Yeah, that's a huge statement. It's true. Wow, that's amazing. So look, it's doable.
It's repairable. You can remain and deepen your love is what you're saying and be a better couple than ever before. It's not what you want.
It's not what you aim toward. But God does pick up the pieces, man, Rick and Tiffany, this has been so good. And I again, hope that the listeners and the viewers don't hold back. If you've been in this spot, get the healing you need. And for those of us that haven't been there yet, make sure you're doing the right things and preparing for a better outcome. That's the key, right?
Get to know each other at that level of intimacy without the error would be the right way to go. And boy, like we always do, if you can make a gift of any amount, monthly or one time, to help the ministry, to allow us to do what we're doing to reach couples, to help parents be better parents, save a baby's life, all of it, send a gift of any amount and we'll send you a copy of the book, Mended, as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. Yeah, we're a phone call away. We'd be happy to help in any way we can from hearing your story to praying with you, connecting you with one of our counselors, and of course, sending this book to you. Our number is 800-AFAMILY, 800-232-6459.
Or stop by the show notes, you'll find all the details right there. And let me just remind you that we have focused on the family's hope restored marriage intensives available as kind of a deep dive on the relationship. It's a wonderful time, difficult, but really wonderful time of getting together and seeing what God might do if your hearts are willing, as our guest said. Call us for more details about Hope Restored. It's a phenomenal program.
It might be right for you. Our number again, 1-800, the letter A in the word family. Coming up tomorrow, a homicide detective sets out to prove the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I've got no access to the eyewitnesses, no access to the report writers. How would I know if any of those gospels are telling me anything true about Jesus? That's the same skillset I've been using for years, so I just applied it to the gospels. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to this episode of Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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