John Fuller: Mona Shriver describes how she was completely caught off-guard with a shocking revelation from her husband.
Mona Shriver: I had not a clue. You know, a lot of people say that wives know. And we’ve not found that a lot in the couples we work with. I had not a clue. He walked in. He’d been at a meeting, and I knew something was horribly wrong. And I thought someone had died. And I didn’t know it was our marriage. And so, when he sat down and made his confession, I was absolutely shell-shocked.
End of Excerpt
John: Sadly, surveys show that over one-third of marriages have one or both partners admitting involvement in extramarital affairs. And we’re going to talk about that today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And today, a couple who overcame infidelity and found healing, and they’re gonna offer ways that you can thrive in your marriage.
Jim Daly: John, you mentioned that one-third statistic, and that doesn’t even include those who admit to an emotional affair, which would increase that number substantially. It is a real problem, especially with attachments that may develop at work. You spend so much time in that environment that it’s much easier to connect emotionally, and then, that moves along to something physical. Gary and Mona Shriver are here with us from California. And years ago, as you alluded to, John, they went through emotional devastation as a result of infidelity in their marriage.
They’ve chronicled their journey in a book called, Unfaithful: Rebuilding Trust after Infidelity. And they now have an outreach to couples called Hope and Healing Ministries, which they began in 1998. It’s the cry of their heart, and ours as well at Focus on the Family, that couples wanting to recover from infidelity – you’re not alone and can find hope and healing, through resources, through counseling. And we’re gonna discuss a lot of that today with Gary and Mona. Let me say, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Gary Shriver: Well, thank you for having us.
Mona: Thank you.
Jim: This is a story that – and a situation – that is always prevalent in the culture, and certainly in the church, too. Now, how long into your marriage before you became a Christian? And who became a Christian first?
Gary: Well, I did. I was – yeah, so we were living life. And we were in our 20s and just kind of traveling down that path. And like we said, the intimacy in our relationship was always best friends. It was – and that was kind of almost uncommon in that era. It was more physical back then, you know, I think is what started it. We were best friends, and then getting married out of that. So, going through life, and I was, like I said, a musician, and – at that point, I ended up – it was probably about 25, 26, right around there…
Mona: Yeah, about 5 years in.
Jim: Okay, so five years into your marriage.
Gary: …Five or six years into that, I had followed my career. I was in a radio career. And I was working in Stockton, and that’s where I had had, you know, I was in a band in Stockton, and so we ended up moving to Turlock. Hey, go Turlock!
Jim: You moved up from Stockton to Turlock.
Gary: We had – I got to give a shout-out to Crossroads and Turlock.
Jim: There you go.
Gary: I’ll get lunches for a month on that one.
Jim: I’ve driven through Turlock many times.
Gary: So – so here I was, you know, I’d started a small studio. And then I got a call one day from a guy that I was in a band with back in Stockton, said he’d been writing some songs and, “Hey, how about I come up and we catch up and play you some tunes that I – that I had written and you know – you know, maybe we can do a demo or two.” I was like, “Yeah, absolutely.” So, he showed up one day. And so we get out, and he pulls out his guitar. And he starts to play these songs about his new love for his Lord Jesus Christ. And that wasn’t a part. Now, I had always known there was a God. I was kind of raised in a home that we went to church every now and then, but it wasn’t, you know, a relationship…
Jim: Wasn’t a commitment.
Gary: …It wasn’t a commitment or a relationship that you had with Christ. So this was something that I was kind of searching for. I always knew something was missing in my life. And so I knew there was a God, but I just didn’t have a relationship. Anyway, he started singing about Jesus and I’m – wow, you know. So, the sessions kind of became more of talk sessions. And then, after about the second day, he led me to Christ.
Gary: Yeah. And that was a – that was a real pivotal point in my life. Now, Mona wasn’t a Christian at that point, and I’m going to let her pick up…
Jim: Well, I was gonna say, so you come home and you say, “Mona, guess what happened to me today?” And Mona said…?
Mona: Well, my background was that our – my family went to church when things were good. And when things were not good, church was left on the back burner.
Jim: Huh, that’s usually opposite.
Mona: I know.
Jim: Why do you think that was?
Mona: I don’t know. I never heard anything about grace. It was all works based. And if you weren’t good enough, then you lost your salvation, and you were going to hell. And so, it didn’t take very long for me to figure out as a junior higher that I wasn’t good enough and I was going to hell. And so, I figured – they had convinced me how bad that was. So, I figured I might as well have fun here, because I knew what was coming. So, I had really pretty much rejected anything to do with faith.
Jim: Mona, let me – let me make sure, because some people, again, they may not be there yet, did you feel like it was unattainable?
Jim: The bar was just simply too high.
Mona: The bar was too high. And I couldn’t be good enough.
Jim: And guess what, for everybody? That’s true. The bar is too high – perfection.
Mona: That’s right.
Jim: That’s exactly why we need Jesus Christ.
Jim: He’s the one that lifts us up to the bar. He’s like that adult that puts you as a child up to the pull-up bar, right? He’s the one that gets you there.
Gary: I just remember in those early stages, when I came home as a Christian going well – and she’s going, “Well, how can you continue, you know” – because, you know – you don’t – “you can’t do that. You’re going to” – and I said, “Now, I understand this is a relationship that I have with my Savior. This isn’t about what everybody else thinks.” So in my infancy, I had a vague understanding of what grace was. This is something she had no idea…
Mona: And I did not. And so, I decided – so this was probably three or four years later – I decided “Okay, fine, I’m tired of everybody telling me how wrong I am from both sides. Yeah, I’m just going to read the Bible.” And if it doesn’t come through, then I’m done. And so I did read the Bible. When I got to Romans 7, where Paul says, “What I – I do what I don’t want to do,” and I went oh, that’s me. And so, I said, “Okay. Okay, I will choose to believe this, but you’ll have to prove it to me.” And He did, you know…
Gary: Comes the girl from the ‘70s.
Mona: …Yeah. And He did, very faithfully, and that’s how our spiritual journey began.
Gary: Yeah, that’s when we synced up.
Jim: Yeah, and let me emphasize that because that happened to me when I was 21. I had made a commitment to Christ at 15. But, I wobbled along. You know, I was living without boundaries. But then, at 21, it dawned on me, no one challenged me – I wish somebody would have – but I’m in college, I’m reading business books, I’m, you know, all these things to prepare for my career, and I remember thinking to myself, I should really read the Bible, because if it’s…
Gary: It’s a good read.
Jim: …If it’s a book of truth – I mean I go through all the way in college and read all these other books. Plato – I had the philosophy class – Plato and Aristotle, but it really grabbed me that I can’t be a believer, without reading the word. So I better read it. And I appreciate the truth of what you just shared, for the skeptics out there listening. Read it first, before you attack. Read that New Testament.
Jim: Understand the heart of God for you, and what Mona was sharing there, that, you know what, Paul, who was the Apostle of the Apostles, the brilliant one, he himself said he can’t live to the standard.
Mona: That’s right.
Jim: And that’s the truth of it. I think we’ve laid that groundwork sufficiently for people to hear your love for each other, even today, even though you went through a dark, dark valley.
Mona: We did.
Jim: Speak to the lead-up to those failures that, Gary, you had. When you think back on it, how many years after you both accepted Christ. You’re in church. What was that time gap, and what were the shortcomings, what began to happen that caused a derailment of your commitment?
Gary: I – man, chronologic – I don’t know. It was…
Mona: About 10 years.
Gary: But it was 20 years married, right?
Mona: 20 years married, so about 10 years after I became a believer.
Gary: Okay. So that’s where we are.
Jim: Okay. That’s helpful to know.
Gary: So we’re both in church. We’re both going…
Jim: For 10 years.
Gary: …Yeah. And both very active in our own ministries. And – and that’s when it began. And I’ll tell you, it was 1993 that I came home, and then that’s when I confessed to Mona that I had had an affair. And I need to kind of back up because that started – that was a bomb that was just dropped…
Jim: Well, absolutely.
Gary: …In the middle of our relationship. And this was an affair with a co-worker. But it was also, you know, one of Mona’s best friends. So, it was just, you know, just a bomb. It was crazy how – you know, what – what happened in our relationship.
Jim: Well, and I think the question I really want to drive at, Gary, is what pushed you there? What was the hole in your heart?
Gary: Okay. Let me back up just a little bit. What had ended up happening was this was a person that – that I had met in church. So, we had – I served in, like I said, we both were going a million miles an hour, Mona and I, and very busy with both of our ministries, but not in ministries together. We were separate that way. And I served in a – in a worship team. And, this was a person that I met on the worship team. And there was nothing – there was no intention to this at all. We were both solid Christians. This was not anything that we were ever, you know, that wasn’t there. But, what I didn’t know was I truly believed at that point that I was not vulnerable to anything like this. This was never going to happen to me…
Jim: So, that was the first false premise that you couldn’t fall this way.
Gary: That is absolutely a lie from – yeah, that’s exactly right…
Gary: And then with Mona and I doing life just a million miles an hour and her busy in her ministry, as well as the kids and the family and the management of all that, and then me building the business and everything else, we didn’t take time to prioritize ourselves. You know, that us factor that was us. We always just kind of took each other for granted, you know. And so – but not in a bad way. It was just – it was just, we were doing life.
Jim: But again, let me keep it on the rails here, because I think for people to follow this, it’s really critical, because many people listening right now, it’s possible – literally thousands might be in this same place that you were.
Gary: Same exact place.
Jim: So, I want to speak with that tenderness and with that insight coming from you experiencing it, a tool for them to help. So, this affair went on for three years.
Gary: Let me – okay. So I want to back up to that point, where we were going down the path. And what happened was, when someone came along, and that was – that was a friend and started, you know, would be hanging on my every word and – and then what ended up happening was, she was really well-suited for a position that opened up at my company. And Mona and I talked about it, and she applied for the job, and so, then she became – she came to work with us. And so…
Jim: And that was before the affair?
Gary: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Long before the affair – long before anything. So, what happened at that point was, you know, now that – that we, you know, spent maybe an hour together in preparation for the worship team a week, now it was eight hours a day, you know. And so, that friendship just continued to grow and continued to grow and continued to grow. And that was one of those things that you just don’t see out there, because we became closer and closer friends. And then, when that person comes along that listens to you and likes you for who you are and hangs on your every word and the whole thing, it starts feeding you, emotionally. And I got to be honest, I liked that.
Jim: That was attractive to you.
Gary: It was very attractive to me. Now, I’m playing this justification game in my head about, oh well, you know, there’s nothing going on. And there wasn’t. There was nothing going on inappropriate, outside of maybe in my heart, because I liked being in the presence of this other person. She was feeding me that way. And so – and that was a dangerous place to be. But I didn’t believe it was, because there was nothing ever going to happen.
John: Well, you’re listening to Gary and Mona Shriver on Focus on the Family, and we want to invite you to call us if you’re finding some red flags being raised as they’re sharing. Maybe things are going along fine or so you think. If you need help, our number is 800, the letter A and the word family. And, you can find resources, help and a counselor. Also, the book by Gary and Mona called, Unfaithful: Hope and Healing after Infidelity, it’s all at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Mona, we’re gonna come back to you in a moment and get that emotional response, when Gary told you what was happening. But let’s – let’s go back. So, she’s feeding this appetite in your heart. She’s affirming you, which every man wakens up to…
Mona: Every person does.
Jim: …I mean, “Wow, she really likes me.”
Gary: That’s right.
Jim: “She really affirms me. She thinks I’m something.”
Gary: Yeah, exactly. And so – and so, when you’re sitting there, and you think that this is never going to happen, and you start to convince yourself, you are so vulnerable at that point. And if I can speak to the people out there that are at this point, you are in a very dangerous position, because what ends up happening is you start to justify putting yourself in this person’s path. And, “Oh, I’ll get my coffee this morning, but I’m going to go down that path, because…”
Jim: Think of that.
Gary: …”I’m going to be going by her office just to say, “Hey, how’s it going?” or whatever. And so – and then what happens is, it’s just one baby bad step after another. It just becomes a – just a bad decision. I did not wake up one day and say, “Gee, I think I’ll go out and have an affair.” Absolutely not. It was just one baby step after another.
Jim: Leading into that then, what was the big rock that fell? I mean, you’re doing all these baby steps. What was the moment, when it all came apart?
Gary: To say that there was a moment is all just, I think, shrouded in this justification and stuff that’s going on in your head. You’re just being so deceived by the enemy at this point. And it’s very, very subtle. And I think this song says it best, you know, “it’s a slow fade,” because, you know, that glance turns into an extended glance, turns into maybe just a touch and then…
Jim: Well, and acknowledgement that you both desire each other. And then, it’s over.
Gary: That’s right. And let me tell you that, that’s a huge red flag, if you have a relationship with somebody and say and you know – and this happened with this relationship – “I have to be careful around you, because if this were different circumstances,” and you’re saying this, and I feel like I should confess this sin that I’m having about maybe being attracted to this person.
Jim: If you had your senses at that moment, what would you have done differently?
Gary: Flee, flee, flee, flee, flee.
Jim: Which is exactly what the text says. The Scripture says that.
Gary: There’s no question about it. It was – and that was even after the first – when we fell into the affair, we both knew – we were both Christian people – we both knew that God is very specific about this.
Jim: So, this continued now for three years.
Gary: Well what happened was we fell, and then we would – we both knew that this would just absolutely torpedo both of our lives, completely. You know, I would lose my wife. I would lose my family. I would lose my business and ministry, everything. There wasn’t anything that wouldn’t be touched by this, as with her. And so, in our infinite wisdom – you know, because God is very specific about sexual immorality. He says, you know, you flee. You are to flee this. Well, we didn’t flee. We just decided that we would resolve to not do this anymore. And so, we would just “will” it out. We wouldn’t do this. And then, we wouldn’t for a long time. And then the season would come when we’d get weak. And then, we would fall again. And then it would be, “Oh, we have to stop this. We have to stop this.” But, this started this cycle that went on for…
Jim: That had to be gut-wrenching.
Gary: …It was terrible, because what happens is you just end up so distanced from God. You’re holding God, you know at arm’s length…
Jim: Well, that’s where all the excuses start to pile up. Well, I don’t get that kind of attention from Mona. She doesn’t…
Gary: You know, I never blamed her that way. Now, I’ve heard that with other people. But it was – that was never the case. This was just a selfish decision on my part. But I was battling with this. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I think a lot of people – Christian guys are…
Mona: I do remember you being a little angry, which is very common, when someone’s in an affair. They’ll either be extremely loving, or mean, you hear.
Jim: Now, Mona, I want to pull you into the story, because the women listening are going, “Mona, come on. Why weren’t you observing something?” What happened for you? It was, like, you did not know.
Mona: I did not know. They were very good at keeping the relationship separate. I – I thought it was cool that they were good friends. We were all good friends. We were doing life together. And here’s where I made some mistakes, because I thought Gary was better than that, too. And the reality is no one is. Adultery is an equal opportunity sin. It transcends even spiritual maturity. And so, the point was, I used to say I’d have to catch him, literally, to ever believe he’d do anything. And I forgot what God said in Jeremiah about our hearts being desperately wicked. See, I believed that about everybody else, but not my husband, and certainly not me, and certainly not somebody famous, or really spiritual. And so, we did not protect ourselves.
Jim: I want to be careful though, because what I’m hearing you say is that you can be bitten if you trust too much. And I don’t – I don’t think that’s what you want to say, or how do you trust but verify, I guess? I mean, how do you have that trust in your spouse, but you still keep your eyes open to the possibility so your communication is open?
Mona: Okay, so what Gary and I do different now is we do not put ourselves in situations where we spend a great deal of time alone with someone of the opposite sex. And so, we don’t put ourselves in a position to spend time, not because we think we’ll fall in the next 30 minutes, but because that begins an intimate relation – or it can begin an emotionally intimate relationship, which can then follow through into a full-blown affair.
Jim: Some call that building hedges around your relationship. That’s what you’re referring to.
Mona: That’s right. That’s right.
Jim: It’s not that you necessarily don’t trust your spouse. It’s let’s honor each other by putting these hedges in place to make sure we don’t fall in a moment of weakness.
Mona: That’s right.
Gary: And that falls back to what I was seeing originally about being so vulnerable. You know, it’s like – it’s like don’t be thinking that you can’t fall. And I think that’s one of the best hedges that there can ever be is don’t believe that lie. Everybody is capable of this, I think.
Jim: So Gary, to be forthright now, there was a cohort, a colleague, who kind of came to you and had observed the behavior.
Gary: Yeah. I’ll go back to the story chronologically. It had been going on for like three years. And – but still, you know, here’s Gary just in his terror, not confessing, knowing that it needed to get in the light.
Jim: In the cycle, so to speak.
Gary: In the cycle, so to speak. And after three years, there’s so – the callouses are so deep on your heart. And you just become just hardhearted in the whole thing. And then, I mean, I hate this part, but I have to I have to say it, another woman came along. It was a one night stand. But, it was the two-by-four to Gary’s forehead that God used to just how…
Jim: Some sense into you?
Gary: …How could I go so low? You know, I was kind of stuck in a loop in that thing. And this just was one of those oh, my goodness, how can – I was just disgusted.
Jim: Would it be fair to say, it was revealing who you were?
Gary: Yeah. Exactly.
Jim: And that was scary.
Jim: Like your human appetite.
Gary: Well, you start – yeah – you start to just convince yourself that “I must be okay” back in this terrible behavior. And it was just God cleaning me out – just bam. I mean, it was a – and so, at that point – and even though at that point, I knew something had to be done. And I knew I needed to confess and get this into the light, so the enemy would lose its power in all of this. And so what ended up happening was this – you were telling me about this gentleman, young man, worked for us as well, very spiritually wise beyond his years. And he caught me coming into work one morning and said, “Hey, I need to talk to you.” And pulled me into the studio, pulled the door closed, and said, “Gary, I – I know that there’s something going on here. And, you really need to do something about this.”
Gary: And then, one step further, “And if you don’t, I will.” And I – and I need to say that, because so many people hear my testimony and the offended spouse will go home and say, “Well, at least Gary came home and, you know, he repented it.”
Jim: But you were forced into it.
Gary: I was busted.
Mona: That’s right. He got caught.
Jim: You would have still been in the spin cycle for some period of time.
Gary: Yeah. In terror, you know, of this ever coming out. So, yeah.
Jim: Mona, I mean, we have loaded the situation for you to speak to the pain in your heart, the day that Gary comes home, or wherever it was. Describe that. We heard it in the opening, that something you knew – you had that intuition that something was wrong.
Mona: I saw it on his face. I saw it in how he stood in the doorway. And I knew he’d met with the pastor. And I thought, oh, my goodness, our pastor’s dropped dead. But then, he confessed. And I remember other names going through my head and – because when I asked who – but when he said her name, I knew it. I also knew that this was the end of a part of my life as I’d known it, that this was something huge. I didn’t have words for it. I do now. I didn’t realize what a trauma the revelation of infidelity is. And so, I was certainly in that traumatized state.
The pain was overwhelming. And you know, maybe we can talk about that a little bit more, later. But at that point, I was pretty numb, didn’t know what I wanted to do. When he told me about the one night stand, at that moment – and this was a Holy Spirit thing, in my opinion – at the moment he told me, I knew that God had allowed that, so he could see how deeply into sin he’d fallen.
Jim: Now, that – that’s incredible. I mean, what you’re saying there takes incredible maturity that you saw that as a tool that God used in a horrible situation.
Mona: Yeah. That wasn’t me. I mean, I just knew that.
Jim: Mona, I need to press you, though, for that emotion. I mean, you’re giving a great police account of what was going on. But my goodness, how did you feel?
Mona: I – overwhelmed, pain, shock. I was incapacitated with pain for several months. Actually, Gary asked me if I wanted a divorce. I didn’t know what I wanted. He asked me if I wanted to go to counseling. I said, “Whatever for? The only answer to this is that it never happened. And no counselor can do that.” I was absolutely hopeless. There was not one part of me that thought we could save our marriage. It was over. It was done. I was gonna lose my best friend. But, while Gary was in the affair, I had spent those three years growing in my relationship with the Lord. And so, I knew I would face the Lord. And He would say, “What’d you do with this, Mona?” And I didn’t – like I said – I didn’t think we’d heal, but I knew I would have to say, “Lord, I tried.”
Gary: Check the box.
Mona: I would have to check the box. And so, I hung around to try, because I knew that’s what God wanted me to do.
Jim: Mona, we have a program called Hope Restored for couples that were right in your situation. And it has an incredible post 2-year, 81 percent success rate. I’m really pleased with Dr. Bob Pauls, who runs the program there. He just does a fantastic job. And what I want to say about this right now, though, is here’s the question for the intake, and it’s critical, and I want your response to it. They’ll ask couples that are struggling like you were, “Do you believe God can work a miracle in your marriage?” And it’s the critical question, because if the spouse is – if they can say, “Yes, but you don’t, you know, the Lord, He’s the only one, if you knew my husband.” But just that little crack of hope is what’s needed. Is that where you were at? You had that little bit of hope that maybe?
Mona: Perhaps. I really don’t have an honest answer to that, because you have to realize in that traumatized state, nothing’s working right, even in your brain. You can’t think straight. It’s like the widow in the ER who was just told her husband dropped dead. That’s the depth of this wound. I must have had some little glimmer of hope. I believed God could do a miracle. No problem. Did I believe He would do it in me and Gary? I’m not sure.
Jim: Bigger question.
Mona: Bigger question.
Jim: Man, we are at the end of the program today. But we have – we’ve got to stick with it. And you know, I think people like me – we’re appreciating the openness. This is how the church heals, by hearing stories like this. Some of you might be mad at Gary. I get that. Some of you are pulling for Mona.
Gary: Come back tomorrow, please.
Jim: But we need to hear the rest of that story, because it’s not about either one of you, in the big picture. It’s about God’s work in your life.
Jim: And I think that’s the reason that we need to come back and give God the glory for repairing a brokenness that only He could repair. And, I am grateful for the way you’ve approached this.
Let me again mention Hope Restored. That is a program – if you are hearing this, and you’re in tears right now, and you’re feeling the pain, because you’re living the pain, maybe not all the exact details, would you invest in your marriage? Would you honor the Lord by doing what needs to be done to save it? Call us here at Focus on the Family. Literally, this is happening hundreds of times this year. Couples are gonna come to Hope Restored and be restored in the name of Christ. And we are grateful to you when you say, “Yes, I will try.” And for those who are supporting the ministry, this is it. If you want to stand up and be counted and be a part of helping couples, especially Christians, to say, “I believe in God, I think God can do that miracle,” be a part of the team. I mean, let’s get this done. Let’s reduce the divorce rate within the church by 15, 20, 25 percent, maybe more. That’s a worthy goal. And I would encourage you to consider helping us financially and praying for us and the work of Focus on the Family.
John: Yeah. You can donate and find out more about Hope Restored, and talk to a Christian counselor and get a copy of the book by Gary and Mona which chronicles their story. That’s called Unfaithful. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or give us call: 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459.
And when you make a generous donation to our work here to help marriages around the world, whether that’s in the form of a monthly pledge or a one-time gift, we’re gonna say thank you by sending a copy of the book by Gary and Mona to you for you to read and to pass on to others. It is a terrific resource that can walk you through the process that our guests followed to restoration.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time to Focus on the Family as we continue the conversation and once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.