The Healing Choice: How to Move Beyond Betrayal
THE HEALING CHOICE is such an unusual book that it's hard to know what to make of it. It's actually two books in one: Brenda Stoeker's account (with commentary from her husband, Fred) of the grief she experienced when her mother died of mesothelioma, a deadly form of lung cancer, and Susan Allen's account of the betrayal she experienced when she discovered her husband's serial unfaithfulness. The connection between these two seemingly different experiences is Stoeker's contention that her grief paralleled the reaction she had to her own husband's sexual addiction years earlier.
Stoeker maintains that those parallel reactions were rooted in a faulty view of God and misplaced expectations about God's promises --- and, in a sense, obligations --- to His followers. In both cases, Stoeker found herself filled with rage at God and unable to trust Him, which led to a physical and emotional breakdown as her mother suffered in the late stages of her illness. It was only when fear overwhelmed her that she was able to make a conscious decision to trust God once again.
Like Stoeker, Allen's healing came when she made the decision to listen to God and do whatever she felt He was telling her to do. That's a simplification, of course; this was no easy step for her to take in light of the years of lies, deception and betrayal her husband put her through. During a period of "in-house separation" when Allen and her husband shared a roof and little more, she realized that she needed to forgive her husband whether they reconciled or not. And that was also no easy step to take.
For both women, healing was truly a choice they made, and both found that their healing was greatly enriched by the company of other women --- women who had similar experiences and understood the depth of their despair. Without that support system, they believe their healing would have taken much longer to accomplish.
While Stoeker offers many significant insights and much Scripture-based wisdom, I had difficulty on a personal level making the connection between grief over a mother's death and rage over a husband's betrayal. Stoeker had an unusually close relationship with her mother, and that may be a more important factor than it seems. I've known many women who recovered from a mother's death much more quickly and completely than they did a husband's unfaithfulness. Making the parallel between death and unfaithfulness seemed to be a stretch, and one that diminished the very different impact each experience might have on a woman who has suffered through both. I also wonder how many women searching for a way to cope with a husband's infidelity will have the patience to read the first part of the book. My guess is that many will jump straight to Allen's story and perhaps miss out on the specific steps toward healing offered in Stoeker's section.
One solution to that potential problem may be Allen's THE HEALING CHOICE GUIDEBOOK, a practical workbook that helps betrayed women move beyond the betrayal and into a deeper relationship with God and other women who have taken the same "unintended journey," a phrase both Stoeker and Allen use to describe a path no one would choose for themselves.
If you are a woman whose husband has betrayed you sexually, THE HEALING CHOICE contains a great deal of information to help you handle the situation you're in. Maybe the answer to the unusual format is to read Susan Allen's section first, but make sure you don't ignore Brenda Stoeker's. The two together form a complete approach to help you make that healing choice for yourself.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on June 17, 2008