When Motivation Wanes

It happens to every guy in the recovery process. There comes a point where motivation wanes. It happens when it seems like things are not going to change. Questions start to arise:

  • Is it worth it?
  • Is she worth it?
  • Can I actually do this?
  • Will our relationship ever be good/happy/fulfilling again? Or perhaps even for the first time?
  • Will she ever change?
  • Would she be better off without me?

It happened to me about 8 months after disclosure. Our relationship was rocky and it was touch-and-go. There were still nights with Shelley screaming, name calling, and shame overtaking me. I remember zoning out during one episode of her expressing her pain and asking myself all those questions. It just felt like there was no hope. And I wondered how, if we were still having this much difficulty after 8 months (which seemed like a lifetime), could we ever arrive at years of fulfilling marriage. It seemed impossible. I told my accountability partners that I was thinking about hitting the eject button at that point. They said some things that made a difference. Maybe it can make a difference for someone else too. Here’s what they said:

You owe it to yourself to see this through. You need to persevere and see what the final result is, and 8 months is too early to tell. A couple years is too early to tell. The character you develop in this process, if you’re willing, will give you influence in peoples’ lives later and allow you to be used by God to His glory. You owe it to her to restore her heart and self-dignity. You stole it with your unfaithfulness. Now, criticizing her and bailing on the healing process will only serve to inflict more pain and damage. You owe it to God. He is doing the healing work, you’re just being asked to be faithful to the process. To be forgivable. To allow Him to change you. To take on more than is yours, as Christ did. It’s unfair. Deal with it. Finally, you owe it to your legacy. Generations to come are pivoting on the axis of your life change. Kids, grand-kids and great-grand-kids will be passed the baton of your choices. You owe it to them to leave a legacy of change, perseverance and faithfulness.

Press on.

80/20 Rule

There are several consistent themes among men struggling with sexual integrity issues. One of those is the 80/20 rule. It’s probably not the 80/20 rule you’re familiar with though.

In order to save face, self preserve and hold on to some semblance of integrity or merit we’ll acknowledge 80% of our wrong and die on the hill of the other 20%. As if 80% depravity isn’t enough.

Let me explain how this shows up. A husband will acknowledge his sexual sin and how this issue has devastated his life. He’ll confirm that it’s killed intimacy in his marriage and concede that it has hurt his relationships. Then when we start to talk about how this issue permeates every area of life, he’ll begin to push back. “Well, my sin has affected a lot of my life, but I’ve NEVER let it impact my work/business/kids/finances/ministry/etc.” In other words, it has impacted 80% of my life, but not this little 20% over here.

Here’s another one: A wife, after her husband’s disclosure, will talk about how hurt she is and how it feels like the entire marriage is a sham. In her pain, it feels as if there has never been a good day, never anything worth recounting, and that everything is a lie. A husband, trying to reserve some sense of righteousness or morality will agree with his wife, and follow his agreement with a “but”. It usually sounds like this: “I agree with what she’s saying, but,we just don’t see things from the same perspective. It wasn’t all bad. I didn’t do everything she’s saying I did. Most of it, but not all of it”.

Seriously?  It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! You hit an iceberg by acting out sexually and violating your marriage vows, the marital ship is sinking, but you can sure be proud of that deck!

I want to say 3 things about this and wrap up.

1 – Most men do this out of shame. They already feel like an unlovable monster on the inside, so surrendering to the notion that it’s all bad, that everything is tainted, that there truly is no good left in them is scary. It feels like a loss of identity (even though the identity is dysfunctional) and losing ourselves is incredibly painful. It’s also required for change. We cannot continue to be who we’ve been, but instead must become who God is calling us to be. That requires that we surrender who we think we are.

2 – This 80/20 rule is very, very hurtful to wives. It minimizes their pain, belittles their emotions and negates their sharing. If you hold on to the 20%, it feels to a wife as if you’ve rejected the other 80. Wives begin to feel like anything they say will be met with your stubborn resistance and they start to wall off. This is the worst thing that can happen for healing. A wife needs to be able to express her pain without fear of rejection and without feeling like her husband is going to find some loophole in what she’s saying where he can interject his pride. Which leads to number three.

3 – It’s just plain selfish, arrogant, pride. It reeks of entitlement.

If you aren’t willing to surrender yourself and own 100% rather than 80,  it’s going to be a long, cold swim while you watch the stern go under. But, hey, at least you’ll always have the image of that pretty deck to hold on to.

 

 

Are we there yet?

If you have or had small kids and you took a road trip, you can probably hear those little voices in your head asking, “are we there yet? Are we there yet?” On the one hand so cute, on the other so annoying. Sometimes they don’t let up until you actually arrive at your destination.

Many men in recovery act the same way. They come into my office and and spend several months doing counseling only to ask the question, “are we there yet?” This is especially true where marital restoration is concerned. I had a husband this week say he’s exhausted, wondering when the hard work of marital restoration will be over; and it’s only be 4 months since the mocha hit the fan! We long for some future destination where the pain isn’t so present and the difficult work is behind us. I even have people ask me that about my own recovery. They’ll say, “so when did you finally arrive and not have to worry about temptation anymore?”  My response is usually to look at my watch and comment about the ongoing journey. We never arrive. And maybe that’s the point!

Sure, there are stages in recovery where temptation subsides a bit. There are times in relational restoration when it seems like more good days than bad. The general trajectory can be forward and upwards, towards a better day. But the destination isn’t so important. It’s what God wants to do, in us, during the journey that is important. He wants to change our character and our hearts along the way. Too many people miss our on becoming different because they just want to arrive at the destination. And, as a side note, most wives who hear their husband ask “are we there yet” feel rushed, pushed and blamed for the difficult journey of recovery.

If you’re struggling with the the road trip of recovery I urge you to remember; it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. God wants to do some amazing things inside you during this stage of the trip. Enjoy the scenery as best you can. Play some travel bingo or the ABC game. Do something to remain present on this trip, rather than miss what God has for you while you’re just waiting to arrive.