Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs describe their marriage journey of infidelity, divorce and restoration, and encourage other couples not to give up on redeeming their relationship. (Part 1 of 2)
John Fuller: Well, we all know someone whose marriage has fallen apart. And maybe you’ve experienced that pain and loneliness and the anger. Well, today on “Focus on the Family,” we’re joined by a couple, whose relationship was broken, but then they discovered God at work and you won’t believe what happened. Our host is author and Focus president, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, there is hope and we’re offering some today.
Jim Daly: The great thing about God’s economy, there’s always hope for everybody no matter what your circumstance is. And today we’re gonna talk about that. You’re gonna be encouraged, especially if you’re strugglin’ in your marriage right now. And this program is gonna do a lot to give you that sense of hope.
What we want to do today and I want to tell you right from the beginning, we want to encourage couples that their marriage relationship can be reconciled, even in the most difficult of circumstances. And we have two guests today that traveled a very difficult journey and they’re gonna share their story with us today. Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs are intimately familiar with a marriage gone wrong and I know you’ll be encouraged by their story and what God did to rebuild their relationship. They’re the founders of Hope Matters Marriage Ministries in Plano, Texas. They counsel hundreds if not thousands of couples over these many years. They’re also the authors of the book we’re gonna talk about today, I Do Again. And Jeff and Cheryl, let me welcome you to “Focus on the Family.”
Cheryl Scruggs: Thank you Jim, it’s good to be here.
Jeff Scruggs: Thank you Jim.
Jim: It’s great to have you guys and I, I just love what we’re gonna talk about today I can anticipate, what’s gonna be shared and I know people are gonna be truly blessed. You’ve been married twice to each other and so everybody says, “wait a minute.” Talk about that for a minute. You were married for how many years and then separated and divorced and then remarried.
Jim: Just mention how long were you married the first time?
Jeff: We were married 10 years the first time and then we were divorced for seven and we’ve been remarried for 13 plus, almost 14.
Jim: Let’s go back to marriage one, marriage No. 1.
Jim: Talk about that if I remember correctly. God wasn’t necessarily, in your life,He wasn’t the center of your life. Talk about where you were at spiritually at that time.
Jeff: Cheryl and I met and it was interesting, neither one of us were walking the walk. She grew up Catholic and I grew up in what I would consider a legalistic Baptist church, but more of it was just the way I perceived it. And then when I got to college I kind of made a left-hand turn and walked away from my faith. And so, when we met each other neither one of us were, you know, walking with the Lord.
Jim: Now did you meet in your mid-20’s?
Cheryl: Yeah I was senior in college. Igrew up going to church all my life, but I didn’t understand about a walk with Jesus until later on. Jeff and I met; he swept me off my feet. I was actually just about engaged to someone else.
Cheryl: And we started dating and it was kind of a love at first sight type thing. We were married about a year, after we started dating and moved to California; we moved to LA. And we were just kind of living the California lifestyle.
Cheryl: We were successful in our jobs. We were in our mid-20’s and making a lot of money. We had an ocean-view home. We had all the right stuff.
Jim: Cheryl there [are] so many people that may profess Christian faith but they don’t live it, they’re not close to the Lord in that way.
Jim: And it sounds like you were kind of in that category.
Jim: When you looked at the way your jobs were going, you were doing well, you lived on an ocean front house, it sounds like the dream. You guys were livin’ the dream, but what was going wrong? What was not happening in your relationship?
Jeff: Well there wasn’t really any intimacy or depth of intimacy in conversation and just really gettin’ to know each other’s heart. In fact, Cheryl, you probably should speak to this ‘cause I thought everything was fine. (Laughter) I thought everything was perfect.
Cheryl: Yeah, Jeff thought the relationship of our marriage was perfect. For me, you know goin’ to marriage, you know, I would have considered myself a Christian. I believed that Jesus died on the cross. I wasn’t really sure why he did that. And so, going into it I mean I prayed. I prayed a lot and two years into the marriage I started to feel empty and I wasn’t really sure why I felt empty, and I really actually thought there was something wrong with me.
Jim: What did it the emptiness feel like to you? ‘Cause I’m, I know there [are] many women that say, that’s how I feel.
Jim: Describe what that means.
Cheryl: Yeah, I really, I was craving a connection with my husband. I didn’t realize the hole in my heart, at that point being a spiritual hole, I didn’t get that, but I needed to be closer to my husband. I felt like we were doing great in so many areas of life, but we didn’t really connect. And I didn’t know how to go about that. I didn’t really learn how to do that as a kid and I’m the oldest of five. I was very responsible and all of that, but I wasn’t really close to my dad, as far as emotionally close and so, I didn’t really know how to pursue Jeff and actually I had Jeff on a pedestal. I idolized him. I thought that if I told him that I was, you know, not happy or that things didn’t feel right to me, that he would leave me, ironically. And so, I just kept it all to myselfand I just really lived with this burden of emotional connection with him.
Jim: What was the snapping point? What was the event that broke your relationship?
Cheryl: Uh-hm, Jim, you know, I really thought--just back up for one second--I thought having kids was the answer. So we had, you know, gone through some, you know, infertility issues and ended up getting pregnant with twins which was awesome and I really thought that was gonna change everything.
Jim: You thought that would fill that hole, that emptiness.
Cheryl: I did. I thought itwas, you know, it was kind of the natural next step kind of thing. So once the girls came along for about a year, I was ... I waspretty good, I was pretty even and not really feeling, you know, void in a lot of areas with Jeff and the girls were 16-months-old. I had a big sales job and I went to our national sales meeting, which I went to every year, and I started talking to a guy that I’d known for a long time. We had the same position in the company and he was in Northern California and I was in Southern California and we started talking about our jobs to begin with.
And then he started to share with me that he was having problems in his marriage. And I had kept all of my concerns about my marriage and my hunger for more of my husband to myself. I hadn’t shared it with another person. Not a girlfriend, my family or anything. And so, for the first time I started to open my heart up to a man, that I was having, you know, questions about my marriage, that I didn’t know if I was married to the right guy, I didn’t know if I was in love with my husband anymore. And that was luckily the last evening of the sales conference that we were at.
Nothing happened physically, but what I felt there was a bond and a connection that, rankly at that point in time, and I felt like had never experienced in my life. And so, the next morning he said something to me about having breakfast in the morning and I said, “No I can’t do that.” I knew I, like I said, I’m the oldest of five kids. I grew up very responsible and never, you know, gave my parents any trouble.
John: So the bells were going off for you Cheryl.
Cheryl: Oh, for sure.
John: You knew this was dangerous.
Cheryl: I knew it was dangerous, yeah. And you know, I alwayswantedto do things right and so, it just wasn’t who I was and the next morning the temptation was too, too strong for me. I had breakfast with this man and you know I think back about that now and I think, gosh, what were the others sales people thinking?. I mean there were a 150 other people there, as well. We both got on our respective flights to go back to our cities.I got off the plane in Los Angeles and I looked at Jeff and he hugged me and I had my head on his shoulder and I realized I hadn’t missed him at all. And then I, all I could think about at that point was this connection with this man.
Cheryl: And that was on a Friday and what’s interesting about that time frame, back then, it was in 1990, we didn’t have texting, we didn’t have Facebook, we didn’t have e-mail or anything like that. So, this was a Friday and I wasn’t going to the officetill Monday. So basically for me, it was waiting over the weekend to be able to talk to this guy from the office.
Jim: So you’re anticipating that.
Jim: Cheryl, when you look at that fork in the road, you mentioned it, but there are probably women and men in the work environment listening to us now that they’re at that fork in the road. When you look back on that, trying to over-ride those emotions that you were feeling, connecting with this person emotionally, which was the void you were feeling at the time, what could you have done differently? You know, and would it [have] even been possible at that moment when you think about it?
Cheryl: Well, now I know what I could have done differently and I chose not to, but I was very weak at that point. I was deceived and I had no boundaries. I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to be talking to a man alone. I wasn’t to share my deepest darkest heart with a man. So I know all that now.
Cheryl: But that would be one of the things, and then I knew throughout that evening that I needed to be walking away from it and I didn’t.
Jim: How long then, did this go? I mean you went now another few months or another year or? Or how long did that affair in essence, how long did it occur?
Cheryl: Yeah, so Jeff and I went back to our normal life when I got back. I started talking to this man on the phone that Monday, and we started talking two or three hours a day on the telephone from the office. And what was developing there was a connectionand a relationship and I literally thought that I was falling in love with someone. And if you think about that, how can you fall in love with someone over the telephone? But anyway, that’s where I was at that point.
This was in March of 1990. In April of 1990 he intentionally got a flight to LA. We met at a hotel and that’s when it became a full-blown adulterous affair. And that was a month after we had, had that conversation. That same week a lot of things happened. I went to Jeff and I told him that I didn’t know if I loved him and I didn’t know if I wanted to stay married. I didn’t know if I’d ever loved him andyou were quite shocked by that.
Jim: And Jeff, that comment that Cheryl made, that would have been the first inclination that there was a problem.
Jim: During that month you did not have any idea.
Jeff: I was totally clueless.
Jim: Was there something you missed? I mean as a man, helping other men, what did you miss?
Jeff: I mean I shouldn’t say I was totally clueless. I did notice around that time that there was a little distance between us and I asked Cheryl if we could go to counseling and we actually did go to counseling twice, but the counselor in Los Angeles told me I was wasting my time, that her heart wasn’t into it.
And then it wasn’t long after that, I mean Cheryl can probably tell you exactly when, but it was maybe a month, and I got transferred to Dallas with my job. So, we were picking up and moving to Dallas, so I thought maybe this is what we need. Maybe we need a fresh start, a new city, you know, get away from that lifestyle and may, maybe that will be what will make things better
Jim: I can only imagine Cheryl at that point you’re questioning whether or not you wanna go.
Cheryl: Right,I definitely questioned it and I didn’t see any other choice. Actually the way I felt was, I’m leaving this new love, but at the same time, you know, I was very family oriented, loved being married, you know loved having the girls and the family and all of that and so, I literally thought eventually, oh my gosh, this is a relief. We can get to Dallas. We can start over. Jeff won’t have to know about any of this.
John: ‘Cause you hadn’t told him anything at all about this other man. I
Jeff: No, I didn’t know anything about it, you know.
Cheryl: I was petrified to talk to him about it, and that again, is where our relationship wasn’t strong because I should have been able to go to him and say, “Hey, I’ve been tempted” and really right at the beginning, because maybe the hotel situation wouldn’t have happened if I was able to go to him and share.
Cheryl: But I was scared to death. I was just scared I guess that he would leave me or you know, I don’t know, take my kids, I don’t know what I was thinking.
Jim: Cheryl you’re saying something so important. I wanna kinda stop us all and think about it. What you’re saying is that, if you felt greater security in the relationship and Jeff, I’m sure this isn’t just a reflection on your rela[tionship].I mean all of us have moments I think in our marriages where, you know, there’s a lack of security that I’m not sure ifI share that with my spouse, if he or she will respond.
Jim: But you’re saying if you had [done] that at that moment, you think most, if not all of this may have been avoided if you could’ve talked about it.
Cheryl: Um-hm, yeah.
Jim: Why do you think people fail to recognize the wisdom of that? Why did you fail in that way?
Cheryl: Well, honestly, it’s probably a couple of things. One is fear. That would have been the first thing. I was fearful of talking to him. I was fearful of my dad growing up.I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about things. And then the other part, honestly if I’m, you know, being very frank here, is that I enjoyed what was goin’ on and I felt a connection and I really wanted to explore that.
Jim: It was meeting a need.
Cheryl: It was, yeah.
John: Well, this is “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and our guests today are Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs. They’ve authored the book, I Do Again, and what I’ve heard both of you say is expectations--Cheryl, your expectations of Jeff once you got in the relationship and Jeff, your expectations about the move to Dallas. Did that exasperate things when you finally did move, or did that calm things down? What affect did it have on both of you?
Jeff: You know, after we moved to Dallas, we actually moved into an apartment and we were building a house. So, I’m thinking, we’re building this house on a golf course, Cheryl grew up on a golf course; that was her family business. This would make her happy.
Jeff: This is what I’m thinking. But I would come home every day from the office to the apartment and many times she sitting on the couch crying.
Jeff: So I’m thinking there’s something psychologically wrong, I’m thinking she needs counseling;, maybe she’s depressed. You know, she left her job. She went from this big career to come in to Dallas and being a stay-at-home mom, you know, there with the two babies. I’m thinking all those things and I’m also thinking is she crazy? Is something wrong? Should I feel safe leaving my daughters home with her when I come home and see that she’s just sitting there crying? Those are [the] kind of things that are going through my mind.
Jim: And you, at this point you don’t know the full story.
Jeff: I still don’t know the full story.
Jim: Let’s move there.
Jim: How that happen? How did that come out into the light and how did you respond?
Jeff: Ya know really didn’t know the full story until after our divorce.
Jim: Okay, so you kept that and moved ahead with the divorce.
Cheryl: Two years
Jeff: Yeah, yeah.
Cheryl: Yeah and I think, you know, talking about expectations, I watched soap operas growing up and that is really probably where I got my idea of what I thought marriage was supposed to be like. So I’m expecting all these things and I think, you know, now as I counsel women, I see women that expect so much that are really expectations you can’t even meet in a relationship. And so, that was one thing, and then coming to Dallas for me was a refreshment. I literally thought I could run away from that. It wasn’t who I was. I felt like I was two people living two different lives. I was excited about being a stay-at-home mom. And so, what he was seeing, I didn’t even know he was thinking I was crazyor thinking that I was depressed. You know, I was excited about what was going on but I didn’t know what to do with this dilemma.
Cheryl: As so I started to miss that relationship so I, we started to talk on the phone again. And so, I was afraid again to say anything to Jeff. I wanted to. I almost did a dozen times, because I wanted him to just know the truth so that we could move on and get our marriage back on track.
Jim: Well and that guilt had to be so heavy for you.
Cheryl: Oh, it was just terrible! It was terrible.
Jim: What happened? I mean again, you’re moving toward divorce.
Jim: You made that decision. Was it in part so you could cover that up and not have to deal with it? Did you get to that point where you said divorce would be easier than facing Jeff with the truth?
Cheryl: No, divorce was the answer because I thought I was in love with somebody else.
Cheryl: And so, I went to an attorney behind Jeff’s back. I filed papers and then you can tell that story.
Jeff: Well, yeah, at this point we had moved into our, what we affectionately call the shrine to our marriage now, our big mansion. Now we know that’s not the important things of life, but anyhow I was upstairs in our new house reading the girls a bedtime story and the front door bell is ringing and I’m all, well, I knew Cheryl was downstairs and well, why isn’t she answering the door? And so, I grabbed one of the girls--I can’t remember which one it was--and just headed downstairs and it was the sheriff serving me the papers and that’s the first I knew.
Jim: That was the first you knew.
Jeff: Yeah and I don’t even know how I kept it together long enough to go back up the stairs, put whoever I had in my arms back down, put ‘em to bed and then I went downstairs and just kinda freaked out, like what in the world is going on here?
Cheryl: But what’s important about that is that, that was the two-year time frame.
Cheryl: Well, that was actually about a year-and-a-half time frame.
Jim: At that point.
Cheryl: At that point and then we were divorced in August of ‘92.
Jim: Well let’s talk now; you do go through with the divorce. Where does God enter the picture? How does God become more vital in your life? You recognize the need for Him. Is it through the divorce that you turn to God?
Cheryl: Well, when we first moved to Dallas, like many, many people do and couples do, is we were in trouble and so we were invited by a couple that we knew in Dallas, the only couple we knew, to go to church, and so, we started to go to church. And what was going on with me, is my heart was being stirred. The Holy Spirit, you know, God was coming after me. I didn’t understand what it was. All I knew is, that every time I went to church I cried through the sermons. I’d cry through the singing and I was so curious and hungry for whatever this was, I couldn’t put my finger on what was going on. So for me, God was really pursuing me and Jeff kept trying.
Jeff: Right, well, I mean for me it was, you know, just getting back to my roots and understanding that I had walked away from my Lord I loved the Lord and, you know, it wasn’t long after we started going to this church that they asked me to help with the high school youth group, which was kind of a joke because I was in no position to be leading, but actually I was just there for crowd control for the first year or so. And that was even ministering to me just, you know, the 25-minute talk that the youth pastor would give on Sunday nights after I’d heard the sermon in the morning so, you know, the Lord was working on my heart at the same time and just drawing me back to Him.
Jim: Now when did you actually find out about the affair? The papers arrived that night. Did you have a talk that night or did it take even more time?
Jeff: She didn’t tell me about the affair. I really didn’t know what to think, you know.
Jim: So you were at a loss really.
Cheryl: Well he tried and tried and tried and I finally moved upstairs and he just kept beggin’ me, like “Cheryl, what, I mean, what could be so bad?” And so, I’m keeping this huge secret. There’s an elephant in the room that he didn’t know about. So, we divorced in August of ‘92 and obviously, we didn’t keep going to the same church, so I’m the one that left and went to a new church and again,this church was just, oh, the gospel was being preached every single week and I kept hearing it and kept hearing it and kept hearing it.
And these women at the church, my age, were normal, fun and they kept loving on me and I kept thinking, why do they love me so much? I’m a mess;, my life’s a mess, I just went through a divorce. I felt like I had the scarlet, you know, letter on me and all of that. And what I realize is, what they had was Jesus and I didn’t. And so, within a couple of months, literallythree months after we divorced, I came to know the Lord as my Savior.
Cheryl: And so, as great as that day was that’s how devastated I was, too, because what I saw is what I left in my wake and that was, you know, a broken marriage and broken family.
Jim: Cheryl, I mean it’s interesting to me to hear how God was working on your heart, even in this depth of despair, really.
Jim: How did you feel, pressing ahead with the divorce, when that day came and the divorce was final?
Jim: How did you feel?
Cheryl: August 21st, 1992 was the worst day of my life. That was the day our divorce was final. I’ll never forget it. It’s 20 years later now, and I stood in front of the a judge and he said, “So you’re here to divorce” and Jeff wasn’t there, of course. He wasn’t gonna go. And I said, “Yes.” And I stood there. My heart was just breaking as I stood there. And I thought “What am I doing?” And then the attorney–I left the judge–and I walked outside the door and he grabs my hand and says, “Congratulations.”
Cheryl: And I said to myself, “Congratulations?” And so, I literally got in my car and thought, “What in the world have I done?” But it’s what I wanted. I called the guy that, you know, was having the affair with, said, “It’s over,” you know and then we could actually start a relationship and I’m doing all these things. My heart, I am broken. It was the worst day of my life. It really was.
Jim: That contradiction when you look back on it. What was happening in your heart?
Cheryl: Well, I believe what was happening is that God was just comin’ after me ferociously. Don’t do this; don’t do this; don’t do this. And I, in my flesh, now I understand the difference between the spirit and the flesh, my flesh was winning out, and then I was following that and I was diving into the temptation and I was buying the deception.
Jim: You still haven’t told Jeff where things were at this point.
Jim: How long from the point where the divorce was final did you actually come clean and basically tell Jeff what was going on?
Jeff: She didn’t actually come clean. I mean the way I found out was, you know, was through, goin’ over to her house to pick up the girls. And I went over to the house to pick up the girls and I saw him at her house. Well, then I was able to put two and two together ‘cause I knew him.
Cheryl: He had come in for the weekend and so he was, it was like 6 o’clock in the evening, and Jeff was pickin’ the girls up for the weekend. And this guy was right there at the front door, ‘cause he’d just gotten there.
Jeff: And my first feeling was actually relief,because I’m like, now I know what’s been goin’ on.
Jim: You got the answer.
Jeff: It’s like, you know, I couldn’t figure out what was goin’ on up to that point, but now it at least sense to me. And then it went pretty quickly to anger. Yeah, and I stayed in that anger stage for a couple a years.
Jim: Jeff, this is a tough place to cut off, but we gotta hear that side of the story. Again, I think so many couples will benefit. Cheryl, I wanna say thank you for being so vulnerable as we wrap up today.
Cheryl: Thanks Jim.
Jim: And you know, it takes a lot of courage, but I am a big believer that when we as Christians allow our faults and our sins to be shared in a respectful way, people connect to that, because you know what? We’re all sinners saved by grace and I just wanna say thank you for being so bold.
Cheryl: Aw, thanks Jim.
Jim: And let’s come back next time and keep the story going, because I just, I can feel in my bones we’re helping a lot of marriages today, so thank you.
Cheryl: Thanks Jim.
John: Well, the time today on “Focus on the Family” with our guests, Jeff and Cheryl, went by so quickly as they opened up with us about their troubled marriage and their divorce.
Jim: Though it doesn’t end there, John. Next time we’ll hear how God put it all back together for the Scruggs. It’s amazing what happened and I don’t want you to miss it. Maybe you’ve been listening to Jeff and Cheryl and you’ve related to the brokenness in their marriage and you’re thinking, my marriage is kinda similar. I want to strongly encourage you to look into our program Hope Restored. That’s our intensive counseling program for couples struggling to keep their marriage alive. Many of those couples who go have already signed divorce papers, but this is their last hope that something can be done. The success rate for the couples that go through that in a post two-year follow-up is nearly85 percent.
John: Which is astounding.
Jim: It is.
John: It’s really remarkable.
Jim: And it’s great, so if you need that kind of help, please call us at least to find out more about Hope Restored.
John: Yeah, we’d be happy to tell you about that opportunity and also about other resources and our counseling team. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY.
And Jeff and Cheryl’s book in which they share their story is called I Do Again. You’ll be encouraged by their perspectives and the thoughts of their daughters, as well. And request your copy when you get in touch and get a CD or a download of this two-part broadcast. We’re gonna have additional insights for hurting couples on the CD and download. These and other helps at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And I hope you’ll prayerfully consider helping us to strengthen marriages that are in trouble. That’s our mission together. We’re in the trenches every day, helping couples to thrive in their marriage with biblical advice and encouragement. When you give to Focus on the Family today, I want to send you the book, I Do Again as our way of saying thank you.
John: Yeah, it takes so many different people joining together to make this kind of a ministry possible. Your partnership is vital and so, please donate generous today when you get in touch. Again, our phone number, 800- A -FAMILY.
And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to “Focus on the Family.” I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we continue with the Scruggs and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Jeff and Cheryl ScruggsView Bio
Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs are speakers, counselors and co-authors of the book I Do Again, which chronicles their three decade journey of a broken marriage restored by God. They are also the founders of Hope Matters Marriage Ministries, an outreach dedicated to sharing God's heart for marriage and relationships. The Scruggs have two daughters, Lauren and Brittany, and have co-authored a book with them titled Still LoLo.