“My life was a pattern of constantly seeking validation from people and especially from women,” said David Petty. “A playground introduction to pornography in the fifth grade planted the seeds of what would be decades of addiction. I sought approval in my relationships with girls, and that led to multiple inappropriate relationships.
“When I graduated high school and started college, my life felt uprooted. There were so many changes at once, and I found myself severely depressed. In attempts to snap myself out of it, I threw myself into whatever life offered me – girls, drugs, partying, and involvement in every college organization and club. I was searching for anything to give me validation and fulfillment. At the same time, I started dating Cait.
“My first job out of college was in the building right across the parking lot from Watermark. I threw myself into my work. I was promoted and praised for my performance, and it felt really good. I started also gaining attention from coworkers. Crossing boundaries with coworkers eventually spiraled to me cheating on my girlfriend. When I confessed to her, she helped me look for a new job and remove myself from that work environment.
“Cait and I dated for four years and then got married in 2015. In our first year of marriage, I decided to start my own business. That meant I was home alone all the time. On top of isolation, things in my business were not coming to fruition. I started to feel a creeping sensation that I wasn’t enough or living up to expectations I had of myself. I started turning to old habits, like pornography and drinking.
“My resurfaced addictions and habits began to severely impact our marriage. I was confessing my sins to Cait, but I wasn’t seeing any changes. We were fighting all the time, and it felt like everything finally came to a head. Every birthday and new year, I’d vow to myself to never look at pornography again, but I would just fall back into my patterns. I didn’t have the strength to do it on my own.
“In efforts to really make a change, we started going to Watermark. I got involved in re:generation and experienced real accountability for the first time. With re:gen, I really did treat it like a fix for my pornography problem. The reality is that you can do everything in the book, but if there isn’t heart change, behavior won’t change. I went through a short season where things were good, but our marriage still hit moments of ugliness and selfishness.
“In this season, I started to look for validation from other women. Through dating apps, I started two inappropriate online relationships. My confession to Cait absolutely broke her. I was confronted with seeing the pain in her. It felt like our lives were erupting, so we together, we decided to attend re|engage, Watermark’s marriage ministry.
“Halfway through our time in re|engage, the world shut down due to COVID-19. I was furloughed from my job, and that left us stuck a home, facing each other’s pain. It was like an incubator, but now I praise God for that. Daily, we had to reconcile with each other and work together through our problems in real time. That season is one of the biggest blessings in our marriage.
“I finally realized I wasn’t going to be able to change myself. My struggles will always require a daily surrendering to the Lord. In re|engage, God used our group and His Word to transform our marriage and our relationships with Christ.
“In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, I was slowly starting to look for new jobs. An old coworker reached out about a job at Watermark. It turned out to be a perfect mix of everything I’d ever done on my resume but for the church’s marriage ministry – the same ministry that the Lord used to change my own marriage.
“I still get so overwhelmed when I walk into work on the Dallas campus every day. I look across the parking lot and see a building that housed such a dark and sinful time in my life. It’s a visible illustration of the contrasting transformation the Lord gave to me. There was so much sin I was hiding. I was so scared to confess to men in my group, people of the church, and my wife. But I have found rest knowing that while we’re all messy, broken sinners, the Lord has us.
“The insecurity of the pandemic and the limited social interactions really showed me the importance of a daily dependence on Jesus. Coming to my wits end after years and years made me finally realize that nothing was going to work if I didn’t surrender to Christ. I tried to find validation and security in the world, and Jesus is the only place I can find that. I am so thankful I get to wake up and serve other couples for the Kingdom. With Christ, there is hope for any marriage.”