Revive Our Hearts Radio

Brokenness in Marriage

Leslie Basham: Movies and TV often glamorize adultery, making it look exciting and fulfilling. That is not what Julie Peterson experienced.   

Julie Petersen: It left me so empty; very, very empty. With each experience there was a bigger emptiness there. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, November 14, 2011. 

If you have young children, you may want to get them busy somewhere else since today’s program deals with mature themes.

From the emails we receive all the time, we know that many women are struggling in marriages that look hopeless. If that describes your relationship, I hope you’ll listen all this week. Any relationship can be transformed by the Lord’s power. Nancy, I know our listeners will be reminded of that as we listen to today’s story.

Nancy
:
Yes Leslie. We’re going to be hearing from Dean and Julie Petersen. Theirs really is a powerful testimony of God’s transforming grace. 

I first came in contact with Julie when she wrote to Revive Our Hearts to ask for some advice. She was married to Dean, yet at the time she was being strongly attracted to another man who worked at the ministry where she served. When I saw Julie’s email, the image that came to my mind was of a woman in a burning building who desperately needed to be warned about the danger she was in. 

I was able to respond along with our team and, long story short, got to know Dean and Julie. We’ll get to that part of the story later in the week, but I want to start many years before that email when Dean and Julie first met. I asked them whether they grew up learning about the things of the Lord.
 

Dean Petersen: It is sad to say, what I have gone through and what I have done. It does not make me proud in how I live my life. But I will say I was Christianized; had a relationship where I thought I was a Christian. I had knowledge of God but I had never had the experience of knowing God in a personal way, of having a personal relationship with God in my life. 

So I went through life thinking I was a good person, but I did not have the Holy Spirit in my life; I did not have God running my life. So I did whatever I did. I was raised in the sixties and so sex was no big thing in those days, at least in my life it wasn’t. I had had sexual relationships with a number of different women in my life before I met Julie. To me, sex back in the sixties was no big thing.
 

Nancy: What was your perspective on that? Were you raised in that same environment?

Julie: Well, actually Nancy, we did go to church when I was young. We were always in church, so it was a Christian home, but my father was very angry. I didn’t really see Christian principles in our home like what I know you grew up with. That was just an integral part of your home life, and it wasn’t like that for me, although we went to church. My mom was very, very manic depressive and was in mental hospitals much of my childhood. I was the oldest and kind of took care of a younger brother and sister a bit, took care of the house, so I thought I was quite mature. People always told me I was quite mature.

Nancy: How did you meet?

Julie: We were at the lake. My mom had taken a few of my friends and me to the lake, and we were playing around in the water and Dean happened to be there with a couple of his Air Force buddies. He was twenty, and I was fourteen. That was way too young for any relationship to start, but Dean knew our family went to church. So he decided that he needed to come to church if he wanted to get to know me. So he would come to church just out of pretense to show my parents that he was a regular guy.

Nancy: So were you interested in having a relationship with her at that point? She was fourteen years old.

Dean: I liked her. I never thought it would go any farther than that because of age, but she was just a nice gal to talk to. I’d go over to see her, and we’d go out to the A&W and hang out.

Nancy: When did it become more than just a casual relationship with a young teenage girl?

Julie: Dean went off to Vietnam, and when he came back I was sixteen at that point. You’ve got to realize my father was angry, and he never was the type of man to give me much affection at all. I never heard him say he loved me. I never remember a hug or sitting on his lap in a way that fathers are supposed to do with their children. Now I understand the way fathers are supposed to be with their children. 

So I really was hungry for that affection from a male, and Dean was very willing to give me that especially when he came home from Vietnam. Although I knew sex was wrong, within six days of him coming back from Vietnam, there was a date rape. I figured, okay, now this has happened and in order to make it right in God’s sight, I’m going to need to marry this man.

Nancy: Was that your first time to be sexually intimate?

Julie: Oh yes.

Nancy: But not the first for you Dean?

Dean: No. She was not the first.

Nancy: So you thought, this has happened, now we need to get married.

Julie: Yes. We were one in God’s sight, so I’ve got to marry him.

Nancy: Was that what you had in mind Dean?

Dean: I liked her, and I was thinking about marrying her. Having sex with her was no big thing, unfortunately. It was just a sad thing; not a big thing. Had I known it was going to do what it did, there was no way I would have ever done that. I thought she was just like the other gals I’d hung out with. Unfortunately, that is the way society was then. It is a very sad situation as I look back on it,  but that was really me. I am not very proud of that fact. 

Julie: I did not want the sex to continue. I knew that was wrong. When I told Dean I didn’t want to do this anymore. He said, “Well, I want to, and if you don’t want to, I will find somebody else who will.” Then I thought, “Well, I’m trapped. I’m supposed to marry him, so I’m going to have to give him sex so that he doesn’t go find someone else.”  At that point I did not know he’d had many other women. That came out a few months later when we were talking. I said, “There have been other girls?” I found out there had been plenty of other girls.

And then to me, I guess sex really isn’t a big deal; it must not be a big deal. That is the way we went into our marriage.

Nancy: Julie quickly discovered that this marriage wasn’t what she had hoped it would be. She felt that Dean only needed her for one thing.

Julie: A sex partner at night and that was it. There was no friendship, there was no doing fun things together, nothing like I thought a marriage was supposed to be like, so I was pretty unhappy. 

Nancy: How did you think the marriage was going Dean?

Dean: Well, I really didn’t understand that at that time. I figured that my perspective was if I worked hard, provided my wife with a nice home, nice furniture, a new car, I got food in my tummy when I wanted it, got sex when I wanted it—I had a perfect marriage. But I realized that Julie was never my best friend.

Julie: Well, we moved from where we were originally in California down to southern California, and all of a sudden men were finding me attractive and that had never happened to me before. Dean had really been the only one who had found me interesting, and so all of sudden there were a lot of other men that were paying attention to me and wanting to spend time with me. I was thrilled that somebody wanted to spend time with me and that just got way out of hand. I was unfaithful very, very many times.

Dean: At that time I thought my marriage was going okay because I was doing all the things I thought were the right things to do, and then I did find out. I was very sad and hurt, but the sad part is I didn’t really put a lot of stock in my marriage, so it was okay.

Julie: He was like, if this keeps her happy, if she’s not going to be complaining about the marriage and I can keep on working and doing my own thing, right honey?

Dean: Yeah—I had two jobs, and I liked to work for an income. I was into the world and had to have all the right toys and the nice house. I thought that was important, and I never took care of my wife. 

Nancy: Was this filling some hole in your heart?

Julie: Oh, I had big hopes that it was going to, but it left me so empty—very, very empty. With each experience there was a bigger emptiness until finally I thought, "I’ve got to get out of this life. I cannot do this. I do not want to live like this, but I didn’t know how to stop." I really didn’t know how to get it to end. I tried to say, “Okay, I’m not going to do this anymore,” only to find myself with another man who found me attractive and thought maybe this time I’m going to feel good inside. You don’t feel good inside after something like that. It is very wrong. 

I went to very many counseling sessions as you can imagine during that time. I had terrible headaches. I was trying to get rid of those while living this awful lifestyle. When I was driving home on the freeway from yet another counseling appointment, I just thought, “I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore. There is no hope for me. I’m going to look for an oak tree at the side of the freeway.” There were plenty of oak trees, and I was looking for just the right one that I could drive my car into and just end this life. While I was looking at that, the thought occurred to me, maybe if I live my life the way the Bible lays it out, maybe that would help.

I knew that I wasn’t living the way the Bible told me. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing wrong and what I could do better, but I knew there was something in here that might make a difference, so I decided to do that. I think maybe that was the Holy Spirit getting my attention.

Nancy: I think so!

Julie: Yes! I do, and I prayed with a pastor’s wife at that point a day or two later, and my life changed so much at that point. I had such a hunger for Scripture, loved to read the Bible, loved to pray, loved to go to church at that point. Things were quite different for a while. 

Nancy: And your lifestyle changed?

Julie: For a while, yes. But I was still in this marriage that I didn’t like. I didn’t like the man I was married to. I found all sorts of things wrong with him—alcoholism and language and anything sexual was forced. It was never given on my part. I was just miserable in that marriage, but I was trying to be the best wife I could.

Nancy: Had you seen a change in Julie after she came to know the Lord?

Dean: I saw a change in her. I saw her getting into her Bible, and it got me interested. I started going to church, but the thing is Nancy, when I was going to church it was no big thing. I mean I watched the ceiling fans going around, and I could count the blocks in the back wall. I could say, “Gee, we’ve got twenty more minutes . . .” It didn’t have any real feeling to me.

I would go to church just to look the part of being a good daddy, which I thought I was, but I was a phony. It didn’t have any meaning to me whatsoever. We had three children after all; we had three wonderful children that God had given us in the midst of all this when there was a point in her life when she was actually back with me and I thought everything was great. Now that we had wonderful kids (I love my kids very much, spend time with them), I wanted to be a good father. We thought when we moved to northern California for my job transfer, I thought everything was going just fine.

Julie: I started to see a pastor in the area. We were going to his church off and on, and I went to him for counseling with, “I’m really unhappy in this marriage, can you help me? How do I make this marriage work when my husband is not a Christian and doesn’t care?”

Dean: I had started to see the same guy for counseling for my marriage.

Nancy: Were you seeing him together?

Julie and Dean: No, not together.

Dean: I would see him on off-hour times. I would stop in and chat with him for maybe an hour.

Julie: In my mind this was a godly man when I first started going to him; a godly man who wanted to help me and who cared. When I started to feel like something was wrong as in, “I’m not comfortable with the way he is looking at me, or he shouldn’t really hug me like that, should he?” I would just kick myself and think “Julie, how dare you have those thoughts about this man? This is a godly pastor. You’re just thinking that because of your wicked past.” So I would not allow myself to believe that he had any different intentions until it was too late.

He was taking that information that I gave him about my past and used it to seduce me. We began seeing each other and having a relationship for about a year and a half. In my mind, he was the first person I ever loved, even though at that point I’d been married to Dean for seventeen years.

Dean: I just kind of felt our marriage sliding downhill, and I just couldn’t put my finger on what was going on. I said, “You know Julie, there’s got to be somebody else in your life.” And she said, “Oh, no! There is nobody in my life.” So I went to an electronics store with the advice of one of my friends who said you can buy one of these little monitoring devices for your telephone. It has a little cassette tape and every time the phone goes on it turns on. You can just record your messages, and you might see if Julie is getting phone calls from somebody. Well, I did that, and I was blown out of the water when I found out that it was the pastor that was making these phone calls to my wife. Very intimate messages were on that phone.

I tell you, at that point I was very, very angry because I was not only violated because of the things I had told him about my past, but he is now messing around with my wife. I was not liking that very much. So this goes on for about a month, and I’m planning how I’m going to take this guy out; I’m going to take his life—that is how angry I was with this gentleman. I worked out of town a lot, so it was a day I was packing up and telling Julie I was going to be gone for a couple of days. I planned on going back to the house, and that is what I did. I went back to the house and laid in wait for those two. When he arrived I waited for a short period of time, and I went into the room with my Polaroid camera.

Julie: When Dean came into that room and I saw him, his face was just gray. No color to it at all. But you know what I was thinking, Nancy? I was thinking, “Yes! Finally! This marriage is going to be over. He is seeing this now and this marriage can be over, and I can marry this pastor that I really loved." I thought this is going to be it now—my life was going to start.

Dean: I went in the room, I opened the door and there they were, and I was just going to do that. With the camera I had the shot three pictures, and then I was going to do my job and I could not do that. The moment I was going to take this guy’s life was the moment that I could not do it. Now as I look back on that, I know there is a God, and I know that He has angels doing a lot of His work because I could not do this. It was like somebody was holding me back, so I left. I was gone for at least twenty minutes. I was driving down the road.

Nancy: On your way to the lawyer? On your way to show the pictures to the elders of the church?

Dean: Yes, and as I was driving down the road, I know this certain spot, I pulled to the side of the road and I started to cry like a baby. I said, “You know what, Lord? If there is a Lord, if You are real, I screwed up my life. My life is messed up. I have no wife that I thought that I loved, that loved me, is now with another guy—a pastor of all people—and I don’t know what to do.” So I just cried out, "If there really is a God, if You really are real, show me what You want me to do!"

At that point I was just kind of laying over the steering wheel. I had my eyes closed in prayer, and I felt like I was falling down a shaft and this shaft was getting colder, damper, and darker. I was down to the bottom. I realized that when you get to the bottom of your life, you can’t go anymore but to look up. That is when I realized, “God if You really are real, show me, help me. I need You! I am a broken man now. I have nothing.”

Nancy: Dean Petersen has been telling us about a turning point in his life. He and his wife Julie are our guests this week on Revive Our Hearts. As we come to the end of today’s broadcast, we’re leaving Dean and Julie at a point of great brokenness. 

I hope you’ll keep listening as this couple continues telling us about their challenges and the hope that they have found through Christ. But perhaps you relate in some way to the story we’ve been hearing. You’re engaged in behavior that you know to be sinful or maybe you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ and that is having a huge effect on your relationships. 

Would you pray the kind of prayer that Dean was just describing? Perhaps you want to say something like this, “Lord, I’ve tried doing things my own way long enough, and it’s not working. I’m at the bottom, and I need true change. I know that there is no hope apart from You. Please Lord—help me!”

Now on a radio program like this, we can get your attention through a dramatic story. And we can present biblical truth that applies to your situation. But God’s ideal is that we do the Christian life in the context of community in a local church led by godly, spiritual leadership. Today’s story reminds us that, sadly, abuses exist among some church leadership. I would recommend that you never talk about issues in your marriage alone with another man, even a pastor or another spiritual leader. Even though we need some of these precautions, I would also remind us that the local church is still God’s ideal for where true change and growth take place as we walk day by day in godly community.

So would you ask the Lord to help you find an older, godly woman in your church that you can talk with? Or talk with an elder or pastor in your church, but ask that his wife or another godly woman would be present while you have that conversation.

Now having said all that, I want to say, don’t let another day go by without bringing secret sins out into the light where they can be dealt with in a biblical, thorough, and healthy way. There is hardly anyone today who doesn’t deal with sexual temptation in some way. That is why all of us need to set up hedges to protect against inappropriate situations. The personal hedges that I’ve put in place in my own life affect things like my meetings, my travel, my email habits, and many other areas. I’ve found it so helpful to set up those hedges ahead of time before situations presented themselves where I would be tempted to compromise. 

I’ve described how I process these things in my own life in a little pamphlet called"Personal Hedges." We’d like to send you a copy along with a book and study guide by my friend Judy Starr called Enticement of the Forbidden. This really practical book shows women how to set up boundaries and make wise decisions. Judy tells her personal story of the pain that was caused when she failed to set up hedges in her life. She’ll show you how to avoid some of the mistakes that she and others like Julie Petersen have made.

We’ll send you my booklet on "Personal Hedges" as well as Enticement of the Forbidden with its study guide when you support Revive Our Hearts with gift of any size. Now, we only have a limited quantity of these resources available, so don’t put this off. I hope you’ll get a copy and make some personal commitments to protect your mind, your heart, your marriage, and the marriages of others by God’s grace.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. Ask for Enticement of the Forbidden when you call 1-800-569-5959. You can also donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, could you forgive an unfaithful spouse? We’ll consider that tomorrow when Dean and Julie Petersen return.

Dean: I turned my car around . . .

Julie: Came back to the house all calm . . .

Nancy: Not the way he had left.

Dean: I had that warm feeling in me. I know the day I was born, October 1989.

Nancy: It really is the Lord that you had encountered, or who had encountered you. 

Dean: Absolutely. I can’t explain it. I would not have done it on my own in that way, but I came back to the house totally forgiving. Totally forgiving. Just knowing that I knew that God must be real because I came back.

Julie: You just said, “What are you two going to do now? What are your plans?”

Leslie: Hope for a hopeless marriage on the next Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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