Marriage Reconciled Despite Infidelity

Jennifer Abegg

Is it really possible? Lee Shiao-Wen agonized on her flight to New Zealand. When she got home, she reached for the phone. Her fingers shook like an elderly woman's as she dialed her husband's number in Taiwan.

"Are you having an affair?" she asked her husband of 19 years.

"Yes," Wang Huai-Ning retorted, "and I want a divorce."

Regret and shame washed over her -- she shouldn't have agreed to immigrate to New Zealand with her teenage sons for the sake of their education while Huai-Ning stayed back to run their photo-finishing business in Taiwan.

"No," she uttered. "It's not right."

"I've found true love now. Let me go."

But instead, Shiao-Wen, who had been a Christian only 10 months, sold her house, pulled their younger son out of school and moved back to the bustling industrial city of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, on the northern tip of the island. Their older son remained in New Zealand for college.

When Huai-Ning learned his wife had returned to Asia, he blasted her: "How dare you disregard our son's education! Why are you doing this? I don't love you. I want a divorce."

She called her friend in New York, a pastor's wife, and asked for some advice.

"I'm not sure if you should get divorced or not," she said, "but I am sure that if the wife does everything in her marriage according to the Bible, she will be blessed."

Shiao-Wen decided to rely on God to make her marriage work. Most of her friends urged her to move on. However, one offered her some cassette tapes on marriage-related topics recorded by Feng Chi-Mei, wife of Taiwan's national director of Cru, Lee Chang-An (Asian women do not take their husbands' surnames).

"It's our conviction," says Chi-Mei, "to encourage every person to hold onto their marriage covenant and not give up, no matter what."

Shiao-Wen listened to her explain the importance of wives respecting their husbands, or as the Chinese say, "giving them face." Shiao-Wen realized that she had rarely affirmed her husband and had never truly forgiven him for his first affair years ago. In every argument since then, she had trumped his complaints with reminders of his infidelity.

Chi-Mei's teachings brought that to her attention. The more she listened to her, the more determined she became not to give up on her marriage. Knowing that Taiwanese law requires both partners' signatures to officially end a marriage, Shiao-Wen set out to win her husband back.

She knew somewhere Huai-Ning visited regularly. Since her husband suffers from lupus, she'd meet him at the hospital. So Shiao-Wen ventured into the metropolis about the size of New York City with nearly 8 million people.

She easily spotted her 6-foot-4-inch husband. Then she gently lobbied, "Please come home. The kids need a father."

Two weeks later Huai-Ning arrived at their apartment for the weekend. "I'm here for the kids," he declared, "not for you."

Nevertheless, she fixed him his favorite: Shantung-smoked fish.

"This is horrible," he said as he set down his chopsticks.

Still, Monday morning, Shiao-Wen walked him to the elevator as she previously had.

She continued to read the Bible and listen to FamilyLife tapes.

"It takes one person to save a marriage," Chi-Mei explained. "If both partners give up, there's no hope. If there's one partner willing to work on it, it can be rebuilt. It takes one person and God."

Shiao-Wen needed more of these tapes.

She went to Cru's headquarters, just past the subway stop, to buy them. She rode the elevator to the sixth floor. There she met Chi-Mei's husband, Chang-An. When Shiao-Wen explained why she wanted the tapes, he invited her to attend their FamilyLife meetings with about 30 other attendees. FamilyLife is a division of Cru dedicated to building godly marriages and families.

Shiao-Wen signed up for the 10-week classes. She also got involved in one of Chi-Mei's Bible studies.

Meanwhile, Huai-Ning continued to arrive at the apartment Fridays and leave on Mondays. His wife continued to cook special dishes like Ching Tu sweet ribs; he continued to degrade the food and Shiao-Wen.

"You don't deserve to be loved," he would tell her. "Your effort is worthless."

That didn't stop her from cueing up FamilyLife cassettes and placing them in his car's tape player each week.

One day someone spotted him with his new lover, and reported to Shiao-Wen, "They are so in love. It's not your fault. Love has no reason."

She got tired of trusting God to bring her husband back. She quit studying the Bible and attending church. She began reading books like How to Seduce Your Man and The Psychology of an Affair. She applied the principles in them, even slipping into a sexy nightie, but Huai-Ning recoiled at the sight and seemed more repulsed. After a month, she determined to do things God's way again.

Shiao-Wen purposely looked for ways to "give him face." She began to compliment Huai-Ning and apologized for her lack of forgiveness in the past. She also read Scriptures out loud. He pretended not to pay attention.

But he did. And he listened -- repeatedly -- to all of the FamilyLife tapes Shiao-Wen had slid into his car. He especially liked Chang-An's teaching on being a good husband and father.

At the end of another weekend, Shiao-Wen walked Huai-Ning to the elevator. When the gray doors shut, she collapsed: "God, this is too hard."

On the opposite side of the elevator doors, Huai-Ning also prayed: "God, if you're real and You let me go back to my wife, I'll spend the rest of my life loving her."

Later, he told his lover, "I'm sorry. I'm going to go home and not be with you anymore."

The following weekend he carried a bag to the apartment. Monday arrived. Huai-Ning stayed. The following Sunday, when he hadn't left, Shiao-Wen invited him to church with her. He attended.

He also started attending Chang-An's group, where he learned more about how to love his wife and communicate with her.

Huai-Ning explained to his wife that he felt so much guilt from his first affair that he thought by finding a new woman, he could start afresh.

When Shiao-Wen apologized for her lack of forgiveness of his past, she also showed him that only Jesus could give him a new start.

He committed his life to Christ and recommitted his love to Shiao-Wen. He also apologized to their sons.

Together the couple joined FamilyLife's HomeBuilders Bible study at Chang-An and Chi-Mei's home.

Even though her husband is now gentle and soft-spoken, "Shiao-Wen's still going through recovery," says Chi-Mei. "The hurt was so deep. You don't mend a marriage in one day, but you take the first step. It takes a lifetime to rebuild."

Huai-Ning asked his wife if they could tell their story to others, and possibly catapult more marriage-mending. She agreed. They have spoken on television, at church, on the radio and at FamilyLife gatherings.

Chi-Mei also invited the couple to be special guests on her FamilyLife radio program. About 30,000 listeners scattered across the predominately Buddhist country listened to their story. Then Chi-Mei opened the lines for phone calls.

"This question is for Huai-Ning," explained a caller. "My husband is working in mainland China and having an affair. My family wants me to divorce him. I want to obey God. I call him; he doesn't return my calls. What should I do?"

"Keep calling him," Huai-Ning encouraged her. "You won't see an immediate result. Seek help from the church, from God. You need others to pray for you. Do your best, and what you can't do, God will."

He's not used to counseling women -- he usually leaves that to Shiao-Wen. And Chi-Mei refers women to her too. Shiao-Wen urged one woman to pray and not to lose hope when she discovered her spouse's unfaithfulness. Recently, this woman and her formerly estranged husband attended the FamilyLife classes together.

Huai-Ning also plays a role in relationships. He has talked more than 20 men out of affairs and into returning to their wives.

One man said, "I found it easier to talk to Huai-Ning than the pastor or Christian counselors," he says, "because he was in these shoes before."

At Huai-Ning's recommendation, that man and his wife enrolled in a FamilyLife seminar to rebuild their marriage.

It all started with one person and God.

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