Travis Graham hid his secret for years. His wife, Adelle, didn’t know he’d had an affair until a Facebook post exposed the truth.
To mark their 12th wedding anniversary, Adelle posted a note about Travis, thanking him for his love and loyalty. Friends and family sent cheers and congratulations. But one reply stood out from the rest. Instead of warm wishes, the response implied that maybe Travis wasn’t always so loyal.
When Adelle asked Travis about the comment, he confessed to the affair. Adelle was devastated. The man she loved had betrayed her years earlier and then tried to cover it up.
“I was in pain,” Adelle says. This isn’t fair, she thought. Why does it have to be me? I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve done nothing to deserve this.
Travis felt guilty and ashamed, but also relieved. “I was just so thankful that the infidelity came out,” he says. “I needed it to be cleared up. And I didn’t know how that was going to happen.”
Her husband’s infidelity wasn’t the couple’s first crisis, but it was the one that almost ended their marriage. With God’s help — and a marriage conference — Adelle and Travis ended up founding a marriage ministry instead of filing for divorce. Christian marriage conferences not only save marriages, but the couple says they can also help good relationships grow stronger. Here’s how attending one marriage conference made all the difference for the Grahams.
Travis’ career in the military and law enforcement put him at high risk for physical and emotional pain because of what workers in these fields see and experience. Travis’ job was rocky from the start.
“My first day as a police officer, a kid killed himself,” he recalls. “I remember [thinking] how do I process this? I was 22 years old. I remember going to the people I worked with, and they made fun of me.” After that experience, Travis decided he couldn’t share his emotions. From that point on, he started drinking.
Narcotics entered the picture after Travis was injured on the police force. “I ended up going to a doctor and getting a few narcotics to help me with the pain,” he explains. “Then I had more pain …” Eventually, Travis became addicted to opiates and alcohol, and then he lost his law enforcement job.
But that’s not the only thing he lost. The couple’s marriage was suffering. Adelle had already shared her struggles with a marriage counselor. “I remember sitting in her office and saying, ‘I don’t love him. There’s nothing that I can love there. He doesn’t even remind me of the person I married.’ ”
The counselor recommended Adelle give her out-of-control husband an ultimatum: Choose the drugs or the marriage. Travis wasted no time making the decision. “When she gave me the ultimatum, I felt like that was Jesus’ grace for me,” he says. “And I immediately went to rehab.”
Two months later, Travis was drug-free. But the physical and emotional pain remained, so he spent the next year trying to recover. He also decided to fix his mind by getting involved at a local church.
“I went on a men’s hike,” he recalls. “I was searching for something. I was 40, and I looked like and acted like an 80- or 90-year-old-man. I was beat up, I wore a back brace and I was just really, really frail. I was going to prove that I could walk.”
During the church’s hiking trip, Travis made a life-changing discovery. “I discovered that God’s Son would have died for me [even] if I was the only person on the entire earth. That’s how much He loves me.”
Travis came home a changed man. “When he came home from the hike, he was different,” Adelle says. “I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I liked it. And it sparked this new relationship in us. I was falling in love with him. God allowed six months of a new love for each other.”
Then Travis’ infidelity was leaked on Facebook. The six months of bliss came to a sudden end. “I didn’t know what to believe,” Adelle says. She was heartbroken, but those six months gave her a hint of hope. “I was hanging onto the idea that he came back from the mountain changed. And what would life look like with him if I could get through this pain?”
Marriage conference rescue
The Winshape Center in Rome, Georgia, hosts getaways and marriage conferences to help couples work through crises. Travis and Adelle attended one of the seminars in hopes of saving their marriage. Between conference sessions, the Grahams discussed their struggles with the speaker, Dr. Gary Chapman.
Their pain was evident. “I remember arriving,” Adelle says. “I hadn’t worn makeup in days, and I was puffy. My eyes were swollen. I hadn’t fixed my hair. I was a wreck.”
One of the questions Adelle asked Chapman was “How am I ever going to forgive him?” Chapman’s response? “It’s a choice. You’re not going to feel like forgiving for probably a long while. But once you make a choice, your feelings will follow.”
It was the last thing Adelle wanted to hear. “I had a long list of consequences and a long list of things I was going to put you through,” Adelle told Travis. “But I remember taking that list and destroying it.” She knew God was going to handle Travis’ sin. “I was so grateful to know that God was in control,” she says.
A month later, the Grahams returned to Winshape Center for a Hope Restored “intensive” — a weeklong counseling session for couples on the brink of divorce.
During this marriage conference, the couple learned that two incomplete people can’t expect to “fix” each other. “I had so much healing,” Adelle adds.
By the end of the week, the Grahams felt hopeful. And they wanted more time together to heal. “So much restoration had happened … we weren’t ready to go home,” Adelle recounts. “We wanted to continue that connection.”
Winshape Center invited them to stay an extra weekend and attend the Journey to Us marriage conference with Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley from Focus on the Family. The Smalleys’ seminar focused on communication.
Adelle and Travis were ready to put their newfound skills to the test. “We soaked it up like sponges, because all the stuff we just learned was brand-new to us,” Adelle recalls. The conferences taught them how to heal their marriage, she says.
The path to healing is often an uphill climb. The Grahams remain committed to the journey, however, and their dedication has strengthened the relationship. Now they regularly invest in their marriage to keep it strong. The Grahams attend two marriage conferences yearly to find fresh ideas and focus on what Travis calls “routine maintenance.”
The “routine maintenance” idea came to him one day when Adelle’s car stopped working. When Travis took the car in for repairs, the mechanic asked, “When did you last change the oil?” He then told Travis that routine maintenance was important if they wanted the car to last a long time.
That’s when Travis realized the same principle was true in marriage. “Marriages are meant to last a lifetime,” he says. “Why would we not do routine maintenance with marriage and keep it lasting?”
The Grahams now take that message to other couples through their ministry, The Noble Marriage. They share their struggles and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
“Can you imagine the healing if somebody let go of the shame?” Travis says. “That’s what Jesus called us to do: Take things from the darkness and into the light. There’s healing there. When Adelle and I are vulnerable about our stuff, many people reach out to us and say, ‘Wow, I’m so surprised you’re vulnerable … and you’ve given me healing.’ ”
Find marriage conference help
If your marriage is struggling, Focus on the Family offers a free consultation with a marriage and family counselor. The phone number is 1-855-771-HELP. All calls are confidential.
Focus on the Family also provides the weeklong Hope Restored counseling intensive and a Weekend Getaway for couples. In addition, you can bring a Focus marriage conference to your church. For information about marriage conferences and getaways, visit FocusMarriageEvents.com.