Teacher Arthur Octubre doubts his 17-year marriage would last this long without what he believes to be his wife Maria Elena’s infinite capacity to forgive and understand.
“Women of weaker faith would have dumped men like me for good. I can’t thank my wife enough for being the kind of woman that she is. I count myself blessed because of her,” he exclaimed.
While unfaithfulness is bad enough in itself, the father of three sons from Caloocan pleads guilty to something even worse.
It was an open secret anyway. From a young age, Art already knew he has what some people might prefer calling the “tendency.”
This aside, he is firmly convinced he wants nothing to do with it beyond acknowledging its existence. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For him, this condition is a battlefield to be conquered and was never a lifestyle to be embraced. He didn’t choose it anyway.
“Everyone has a struggle. This is mine. God respects what we are, but He also expects us to become greater than ourselves. Hence, my choice to marry and raise a family,” he said.
Unfortunately, Art himself wasn’t always successful in this regard: Twice he soiled their marital bed, the last one as recently as three years ago, when he lowered his guard and found himself giving in to temptations.
To say that Elena was devastated when she read by accident a series of text exchanges revealing her husband’s “complicated friendship” with another man is, to say the least, an understatement.
Her pain, his fault
She felt as if the ground beneath her was crumbling because of Art’s double life.
She was beyond hurt. And understandably so.
Her Prince Charming, the man everyone in their community looked up to, turning dishonest and unfaithful was one thing she never saw coming.
“I could only imagine the pain my wife had to go through on my account. Initially, she demanded separation. I was hurt. But I knew my suffering was nothing compared to hers,” Art recounted in Filipino.
In what could have been the longest two weeks of their married life, he remembered getting the silent treatment from Elena.
“She refused to talk to me at all,” he said.
Forgive and receive
Like salt on one’s wounds was the fact that it was around Christmas season when it all happened and just a few days before his birthday.
At first, Elena admitted wanting to revenge, to settle the score with him. Fortunately for her and their children, the love of a wife prevailed.
Her wounds notwithstanding, Elena chose to forgive and to receive back the man who caused her such unimaginable heartache.
“It was unusually depressing living under one roof and not talking. Then one morning of January, I was awakened by a voice wishing me a happy birthday … It was my wife’s,” Art recalled.
“My human tendency was to flee from the pain and to retaliate, to get even. But thank God I learned to love like Christ and to give until it hurts. I’m just happy to love the way He loves,” Elena said.
It was “forgive and forget” from then on. Or so they thought.
Not long after, Art ended up repeating the same mistake.
Helping him help himself
This time, Elena was surprisingly more understanding and more forgiving, but made it clear to him it really had to be the last.
She told him: “I know it’s not easy being in your situation. Be strong. Ask God for the grace you’ll need to overcome this difficulty. Remember I’m here to help you so I expect you also to help yourself.”
They were inside a church when this confrontation took place.
For the sake of family
Touched, Art vowed he would never again hurt his wife, especially seeing his growing kids – all boys.
“For the sake of our family, we have to work hard to preserve unity,” he said.
According to him, being a married family man prevented him from committing graver errors, compared to if he were single and without responsibilities.
“Who knows what I would have done if I were unattached?,” he asked.
His advice to fellow men with a similar predicament is to accept early on what they are up against.
Imperfect but trying
“First, accept yourselves. It’s only through acceptance that you will be able to gain healing.
Art also stressed the importance of honesty and openness to one’s spouse.
“Let your wives know,” he stressed.
Over and above all is these is faith.
“A family cannot be without faith. I don’t know where would our marriage be now without a strong prayer life,” Art noted.
Despite the many trials in their nearly two decades together, he is proud he and Elena have managed to surmount all these.
“We’re not a perfect couple. But what I believe makes our marriage work is the fact that we consider each other as partners who do everything with the help of the Lord,” Art added.