About the Guest
They thought their marriage was invulnerable. But they would soon learn differently. Audrey Meisner, accompanied by her husband, Bob, tells how she got involved in an extramarital affair, and the steps she took to come clean and seek forgiveness from both God and her husband.
Audrey Meisner tells how she got involved in an extramarital affair and the steps she took to come clean and seek forgiveness.
Bob: Audrey Meisner says she didn’t see anything wrong with cultivating a relationship with a single man at her local church. After all, her intentions were good.
Audrey: I really thought I was immune. I didn’t think I was capable, and I thought I had control. You know I thought just spending time alone with him nothing could ever happen.
I would call it a small compromise; but there is no such thing as a small compromise because once you start justifying—“Oh, I’ll just do this. Oh, I’ll just go out for lunch”—I can look back to when the chapter changed in my life. It was when I was getting ready to go to church hoping that he would notice that I was beautiful. And in my heart, I believe that’s when the switchover took place.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. Bob and Audrey Meisner join us today to talk about how what seemed innocent at the time almost cost them their marriage.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to have a chance today to hear from a couple that has come back from a tough spot.
Dennis: They have. You know I always love to hear stories that end with redemption. Although it probably won’t sound like that at the beginning, this is tough stuff. Bob and Audrey Meisner join us on FamilyLife Today. Bob, Audrey, welcome to our broadcast.
Audrey: We really are honored to be here—
Bob M: Thank you.
Audrey: —and we really are thankful that we have a place to tell our story.
Dennis: It’s a great story. It really is. They’ve written a book called Marriage Undercover. They’ve been married for almost 30 years.
Bob M: Almost.
Dennis: Almost 30 years—have four children. Together they host a 30-minute, daily TV program in Canada called My New Day. You guys say in the beginning of your book—and I’m going to direct this comment to you, Bob—that you really viewed your marriage as affair proof. Why?
Bob M: Well, we had been married for 17 years; and I always called it the best marriage imaginable. The whole thing was that we never fought, we never had arguments, we always got along. It seemed as though we saw the world the same way. We loved life. We loved doing life together. We loved our children. We loved what we did in life—you know our work, our ministry. I mean it was never a thought. So, it wasn’t an issue that we fought with each other or anything like that. And so, “Why?”
Bob: If somebody had come to you 17 years ago and said, “Do you feel like your marriage is vulnerable at all in any spot,” would you have said, “No way?”
Bob M: Yes. I would probably say, “No way,” or I’d say, “You tell me how.” You know?
Bob M: I didn’t see that, no.
Dennis: Audrey, what about you? Why did you think it was affair proof?
Audrey: I just—because I loved God and I loved my husband, and you know we loved each other. We loved what we did together, and we wanted to change the world together. We shared passion. Plus, we had a great relationship; and as Bob said, we didn’t fight. There weren’t arguments going on. There wasn’t conflict within our marriage. And I will tell you this is because I made sure there wasn’t.
I was very scared of conflict. Without knowing it, my fear of any kind of negative communication just really forced me to be a performer in the marriage. And if I was ever hurt, I would just bottle that deep inside and call myself a Jesus girl and say, “I just forgive when he hurts me. I don’t tell him.”
Dennis: Yes. I almost interrupted Bob when he said, “We never fought.”
Dennis: I mean it’s like—
Audrey: It’s a dysfunction. You’ve got to realize that’s a—we didn’t know it at the time.
Dennis: Wait a second. Two imperfect human beings are going to disagree. Now, maybe it’s the definition.
Bob M: No, there was one perfect individual—me. But she just decided to go along with this story. (Laughter)
Dennis: I get that.
Bob M: Yes.
Dennis: I get that.
Bob M: It was a mess.
Dennis: But I think—
Audrey: Please note the dysfunction here.
Dennis: Yes. Right.
Bob M: Dysfunction with a capital D.
Dennis: The thing I want to point out, though—and you write this in your book—Audrey, you said there wasn’t any lessening of love for your husband. You were madly in love with him.
Audrey: I know. I think that has got to be the most mysterious part of this whole thing; but what happened is this was not against Bob.
There was something going on in my own heart where I was not being honest and true with the needs that I had. I wasn’t expressing to Bob what I needed out of this relationship. I just wanted him to be happy, and I wanted, in essence, selfishly, me to be happy. So, I wanted this marriage to look really great and feel good. So, what I wasn’t in touch with is what I needed; and I wasn’t able to express that.
Bob: Well, obviously with Dennis starting off by asking the question you felt like your marriage was affair proof, we kind of get a look at what’s ahead in this story. And 17 years in, there was an affair, right?
Audrey: It happened, and I really didn’t think I was capable. I didn’t. I can say that this young guy started coming to the church, and he started pursuing me, paying a lot of attention to me. I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh! Let’s just get this guy a girlfriend.”
But then, he started saying things that my heart was really aching to hear—things like, “Wow! Does anyone notice how much work you are doing? Has anyone seen what you do to make this church happen? Does anyone see how much you are always loving people even when they don’t love you back? Has anyone told you how beautiful you are?” And as a 36-year-old woman, I’ve got kids 10, 12, and 15; and those words felt really good. He’s noticing. Someone is appreciating this.
And I think back now, and I’m going, “If I would have had the courage or the capacity to tell Bob, ‘This is what I need,’ Bob would have dropped everything to give those things to me.” I wasn’t communicating that properly, but somebody was giving me what my heart was literally craving.
So, when he started giving me those things, I thought to myself, “I can have a friendship with this guy. I would never do anything inappropriate. Ever. I’ve never even touched a guy’s hand. I mean I love Jesus. I would never ever do anything. So, I’m so glad that I have the capacity to control this relationship and have a friendship.”
That’s where I like to really take note of the spiritual pride because it really is true “Pride comes before the fall.” And I put myself in a place where I didn’t need God, and that has got to be the most dangerous place to be.
Bob: You know as you say that I’m thinking back to an interview I heard 25 years ago. Dr. Dobson was interviewing Gordon MacDonald who was a popular author, pastor, who also had an extramarital affair. Dr. Dobson asked him about his circumstance. I’ll never forget. He said somebody had come into his office about five years before the affair and had said to him, “Gordon, if Satan was going to attack your ministry, how would he do it?”
And Gordon MacDonald stopped, and he thought, “That’s a great question.” He said, “I’m not sure.” He said, “It wouldn’t be my marriage because that’s solid.”
Audrey: Exactly where I was.
Bob: And it’s almost—I remember hearing it. I can show you the spot on the road where I heard that interview because it was like this little note because I thought, “Same deal.” But all of us have to be on guard. It’s foolishness to think that something is outside of the attack zone of the enemy and that we’re not vulnerable.
Dennis: And one other thing I would point out here in Audrey’s story, and that’s a friendship with the opposite sex.
Audrey: I’m so glad you brought that up because as you can imagine, I have a lot of passion to help people, protect them from this never happening to them. I really thought I was immune. I didn’t think I was capable, and I thought I had control. You know I thought, “Just spending time alone with him, nothing could ever happen.”
And I would call it a small compromise, but there is no such thing as a small compromise because you see once you start justifying—“Oh, I’ll just do this. Oh, I’ll just go out for lunch”—
Another thing that I like to take note of, as women, we really have a desire to feel desirable and beautiful. I can look back to when the chapter changed in my life. It was when I was getting ready to go to church hoping that he would notice that I was beautiful. And in my heart, I believe that’s when the switchover took place. I want him to notice me.
I think there are so many women out there that are going to work, they are going to church, and they are thinking about a certain person, hoping that they will look good for them because they want that attention.
Dennis: Yes. And I’d just caution any of our listeners who are developing any kind of friendship that has depth to it with the opposite sex: you just can’t share things about what’s going on in your marriage. You can’t—you just can’t go there. You can’t talk about your spouse’s weakness.
Audrey: It’s a short trip.
Dennis: Some disappointments that you’ve had. It’s just a set up for, I think, the hook to be set. I want to ask you, Bob, in this situation, did you realize any of this was going on? I mean you obviously weren’t aware of your wife’s needs because she hadn’t shared them with you; but were you watching any of this chemistry occur kind of offline, off to the side?
Bob M: The thing that I noticed was that he became more of an irritant to me and to my family and to my work. So, I remember you know having lunch with Audrey, taking her out, and just asking her to create greater distance. I was even very direct; and I said, “Is there anything going on? I just want you to be careful.” She, you know, just reassured and reaffirmed me: “No, everything is fine. Everything is okay.” I thought, “Okay.” But I did express that I wasn’t liking all of the time and attention that was going on.
Audrey: And I would say that was my first lie because—
Dennis: I was going to ask you.
Audrey: Yes. When he had me out for lunch, I started getting scared. I thought—because nothing physically was happening, but emotionally I was attached to this guy. I knew that if I said something to Bob, that’d be the end of our relationship. So, I protected this other relationship instead of protecting our marriage. Even thinking back and saying these words is hard for me because that was a sad moment of time where it really was the first betrayal to Bob.
Bob: Bob, you describe this other man as an irritant to the family. Explain to me what was going on that was irritating to you.
Bob M: Well, he was single; and so our family was really family for him.
Bob M: He was new to the city. He didn’t have family nearby, so he was involved in our lives. So, it was like if ever the doorbell rang, he was there. If we were having dinner and the phone rang, he was there. So it just became too much involvement in our everyday lives.
Audrey: I do want to mention to you this as well. You mentioned about how when we find ourselves sharing about our marriage problems with another single person of the opposite sex, that’s when there are some red flags that can go up.
And for me, it wasn’t as much sharing problems or issues. I really—and as a very responsible pastor’s wife in ministry, I seriously needed an event for fun. So, more than sharing deep stuff with this guy, I just wanted to get silly and have fun and just be carefree; and I felt that he was my outlet for that.
Bob: Well, I would think to myself if some guy is ringing the doorbell coming over to hang out with our family, unless he and I are becoming really good buds, I mean there’d be a quick time out in that situation. “Why does this guy want to come hang out with the family if it’s not me he’s wanting to hang out with?
Bob M: Right.
Bob: Were you thinking that?
Bob M: Not necessarily because there was such an age difference. So, he was well connected with our children—
Audrey: Helping with our kids.
Bob M: —and those kinds of things. So, there was a large enough age gap there that it wasn’t like a colleague or somebody that would be my friend.
Dennis: So, the affair did end up happening.
Audrey: Yes. It was that short trip between a friendship and a sexual affair, something I never dreamed I was even capable of.
Dennis: And how long before you finally confessed to Bob?
Audrey: That affair sexually lasted about three weeks. During that time, the confusion that came into my life was so intense and the conviction and the wrestling that was going on in my own heart. And after three weeks, not only did I break it off with him, I said he had to move out of the city.
Two days later, I would say I had no intention of ever telling Bob. I just thought—I prayed a lot. I said, “Jesus, I am so sorry for what I did. I can’t believe I did this, God. Please forgive me.” And instantly, in my heart, I heard that still, small voice say, “Tell Bob.” I’m like, “No. Can’t we just keep this a secret, Jesus? I promise I’ll never do this again.” I think, “How many times has that happened?” You know, “I promise it’ll never happen again; just I can’t hurt him with this.”
But you know the enemy not only loves secrets and loves to work in that place of darkness; but secrets drive a wedge eventually into any intimate relationship. And I’m so thankful that God spoke to my heart that day because it was just a day later that I was scared out of my mind as I sat at Bob’s feet and told him about the adultery.
Dennis: Were you blindsided, Bob—totally blindsided?
Bob M: I really was. I was—you know we had just had a short meeting and after the meeting, she said, “I need to tell you something.” And as I sat in the chair, like I am now, she just knelt to my feet and held my feet and cried. She began to speak about this affair that she had had. In my mind, initially, I thought, “Well, maybe she had done something inappropriate.” You know touching, that type of a thing.
But then, all of the sudden my questioning turned into interrogation; and after interrogating, I found out that it had become physical. And I knew who it was and what went on. Immediately in my mind, I began to create images of how I will resort to my own resources to solve this situation.
And that was [to] leave because I thought, “I’m just going to get up, and I’m going to walk out,” because this wasn’t just a little mistake—this wasn’t just a little blip on the map. It wasn’t just a moment where “Oh, I forgive you. It’s okay;” but I thought that if I were to leave, then, it would only be a matter of days where—then, she would be exposed and discovered for what she did.
That was really something that I wanted because this was a big issue; and I thought, “We need to gather people around to figure out a solution. How are we going to fix, not just the problem, but how are we going to fix Audrey?”
Dennis: In essence, you wanted to punish her at that point.
Bob M: Very much. I don’t know if punishment was initially the thought. The first thought was exposing, to really bring this thing into the open. We’ve got to get everybody involved, and we’ve got to figure out how we were going to handle and manage this.
Bob: Was that so that—I mean did you want it brought into the open so that she would be exposed and ashamed? I mean was that a part of the punishment, or were you thinking, “We need community to help here?”
Bob M: The communication style that we’ve had in the past was “I’m so sorry. Forgive me. I’ll never do that again.” “Okay, everything’s fine. Okay, let’s move on.” And it was like, “We’re not just going to move on over this one.”
Bob M: “This one is going to take a little bit, and I don’t know that I have the resources.” So, initially, my thought was “Let’s involve everybody. Let’s fix this thing. You hurt me. I’m innocent, and you’re the guilty party.” So, my whole thought was “How are we going to manage this in the best way possible?”
Dennis: So, what did you end up doing, then, at that point? Did you leave?
Bob M: I didn’t leave. I went to my office, and I immediately asked—I was staring at a blank wall. “What do you do?” In those moments, you’ve got to ask God. I said, “Holy Spirit, what do I do?” Immediately, He reminded me of a guest who had been on our television program just months prior, Dr. Leo Godzich; and I gave him a call. He began to ask me some very direct and pertinent questions.
Number one, “Who knows?” I said, “Nobody.” He said, “Good, let’s keep it that way.” He said, “Let’s keep this covered.” Then, he said, “We’ll talk later this evening, and I’ll give you further instruction.” I went back, and I spoke with Audrey that I had contacted Leo and that he wants to talk to us tonight.
All of the sudden, I felt a sense of relief. Somebody knows; and I’ve got help because I didn’t know what to do.
Later that evening, Audrey and I are sitting, and we have a speaker phone there between us. We could hardly be in the same room together. Nobody knew. Our kids were out at their grandparents. And during that evening, he began to speak to me truth. You know, not sympathy, but truth. And he began to speak to me of the principle of covering.
Proverbs 25:2 says, “It’s God’s glory to conceal a matter and for a king to discover its understanding.” And he’s asking me to cover my wife; not to hide, but rather cover. Cover has two primary principles. The first is to protect. When you’ve been hurt or wounded, you go immediately to cover that wound from any further injury or harm. Then, you’ll clean that wound. You’ll suture it. You’ll bandage it. You’ll cover it again.
And the second principle is healing. So, he’s asking me to cover my wife, to defend, and to fight for her; rather than to shame and expose. Then, will you be that key agent to bring healing into her life? These were whole new thought concepts that I hadn’t had before because all I wanted to do was expose.
So, the thought is, when was the last time you’ve made a mistake and God has come to you and said, “You know what? I’ve had enough. You said you’d never do this again, and here you are.” He said, “You know what? I’m going to parade you and expose you for everything that you’ve done.”
You know our Heavenly Father has never done that. He covers us. He defends us. He fights for us. And He always promotes healing in our lives. Dr. Godzich began to challenge me to embrace my Father’s heart and to cover her.
Then, it was the next day that we were then flying to Phoenix, Arizona where he was to get some help. Before we hung up the phone, I had one more question. I said, “What do I do tonight? Do I get a hotel? Do I sleep on the couch? Do I go to our parent’s house? What do I do tonight?”
He said, “Bob, you are going to get right back into that marriage bed tonight.” He said, “You will not spend one night apart from each other because we will not participate with the spirit of divorce.”
That was probably one of the darkest nights of my life, not just because of the emotions and the tension between us, but I stared out the window that night into pure darkness. And I was so surprised because not only was every happy or hopeful memory or dream or vision of our future erased, but every happy memory of 17 years was gone.
And the enemy began to speak to my heart: “She’s never loved you. She’ll never be faithful to you. It’s all been a farce.” You know all of these kinds of concepts of hopelessness and despair began to enter my heart. Then, it was the next day that we found ourselves flying to Phoenix, Arizona where he was; and we were part of a pastor school there and we got a week of help.
Dennis: I’m just listening to this story, and you’re describing what took place in less than 24 hours. That’s quite a day, to come from no knowledge or suspicion of any kind to a confession. The key thing I want our listeners to hear is that Psalm 1 talks about “Blessed is he who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.” You know it’s not saying it here, but it’s really exhorting us to walk in the counsel of the godly and to listen to the wisdom of a man who embraces the Scripture.
I’m just thinking of the danger of any married couple in a similar situation who could get isolated at that point and just have the lies that get whispered into your ear being listened to. You might not be sitting here today—I mean that counsel, that advice, that direction, ultimately, not only covered a wound, but as you said, did bring healing.
Bob: Well, this is one of the reasons why we are so big on encouraging couples to do regular, preventative maintenance on your marriage. I mean spend some time regularly—whether it’s a weekly date night or things that you do each month or something special you may do once a year or every couple of years. You need to have a maintenance schedule for your marriage like the maintenance schedule you have for your car.
Most couples I know just kind of chug along and hope that nothing bad happens. You’ve got to be investing in your relationship with one another, building what Jerry Jenkins refers to as hedges around your marriage that protect you from even the lure of some of these kinds of things.
It’s one of the reasons why we encourage couples to attend a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. Again, this week is the final week that we’re making the special offer available to FamilyLife Today listeners where you can attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this fall.
If you pay the regular price for one registration, we’ll give you the second registration at no cost. So, you pay for yourself and your spouse comes free. It’s a half-off deal for you to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this fall; but we have to hear from you by Sunday and we’ve got to know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener for you to be able to take advantage of this special offer.
So go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online. Type my name, “BOB,” in the promotion code box; and you will qualify for the half-off registration fee offer that we are making. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and sign up over the phone. Again, mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today so that you’ll qualify for the special offer we’re making for FamilyLife Today listeners this week.
So, that’s one of the ways you can do some preventative maintenance on your marriage is by going to the Weekend to Remember. But if there is not a Weekend to Remember coming near where you live or you’d like to do something a little different, get some couples together for a potluck dinner over at your house one night and invite them over, eat dinner together; and then watch Session One from The Art of Marriage® small group study.
I’m convinced that if you get a group that goes through that session and then you say, “How about if we meet again next week or in a couple of weeks and do this again?” everybody will want to do it.
In fact, what our team has done this week—something special we’re doing to encourage you to put a small group together to go through The Art of Marriage small group material—we have a starter kit that has manuals for five couples and the DVDs. The way we are working things out is if you will cover the cost of the manuals, we will throw the DVDs in for free basically.
So, you agree that you will host couples and you’ll all go through the material together this fall; we’ll give you the DVDs for free. That’s essentially how it works out when order the starter kit from us this week. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com—again, for all the details, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Finally, let me mention that Bob and Audrey Meisner tell their story in a book called Marriage Undercover; and we have copies of that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well. So, go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you’d like to read the complete story of what the Meisners went through in their marriage. Order the book, Marriage Undercover, from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear the rest of Bob and Audrey Meisner’s story and hear how God went to work in their marriage to restore what had been damaged through adultery. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with special help from Justin Adams, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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