Rebuilding Trust in Marriage

by Bob Damrau

‘Our lives will never be the same,’ voiced my wife as we drove home from our respective 12-Step groups. Then, we looked at each other and smiled with the realization that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Repairing our marriage was not easy, yet the hard work was yielding a sense of connection that neither of us ever thought possible.

When trust is violated by sexual sin, our spouse’s emotions are damaged and those feelings will not heal overnight. Rebuilding trust in a marriage cracked by infidelity (in mind and/or body) requires our full surrender, intentionality, and persistence.

SURRENDER

Our personal relationship with God exemplifies the beginning of building trust. When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus we effectively give up control. This is a one-time decision with ongoing ramifications. So, too, surrendering our sexual wills over to God takes place at a particular time (usually when the realization of not being in control hits home), yet the battles are won and godly character is built on a daily basis ‘ sometimes moment by moment.

The defects that once defined me (liar, control freak, manipulator’) have been replaced with a spirit of openness and transparency. When once my wife doubted my sincerity, now she sees me as a changed man disciplined by our Abba Father. Recognizing this sacredness validates our efforts to love and respect one another. But rebuilding trust doesn’t end with simple sincerity because a spouse will also doubt her compulsive husband’s ability to change his long standing behaviors.

INTENTIONALITY

It is a paradox that by giving up our lives we get them back. The hidden blessing of purposefully working through our stuff is that we’ll never be the same, but better and healthier. The same is true of relationships. Have you ever agreed to something before you felt like doing it? When we seek to rebuild trust, we may not feel trust or that we are trustworthy, but we can stay committed to try. This will send a signal to our spouses that we may have what it takes to make the necessary changes.

The ability to make significant personal changes was demonstrated to my wife by following a structured plan of recovery. If you have attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop you received an outline describing the elements needed for recovery. Put that plan into action then share it with her. Trust and honest communication work hand-in-hand, and as she watches you fulfill your plan she’ll know you have what it takes to get it right.

It is worth noting here that the shame identity at the core of an addict’s belief system can still speak to us. It says, ‘I must hide my true self because no one will accept who I really am.’ This can cause us to withhold information and continue to live the lie. Our wives interpret our isolating behavior to mean we really don’t love them, so keep talking and working the whole plan. Over time you’ll be seen as an able husband.

PERSISTENCE

Willing and able must be calendar tested. Many times when a sexually compulsive person repents of his sin, he expects his partner to trust him immediately. Don’t go there! Consistent behavior over the seasons of life rebuilds trust. In sexual addiction this is called maintaining sobriety.

Some marriages have involved lies for years. Restoring trust, when both partners work at it, can take between 18-30 months. My repentant spirit coupled with my consistent behaviors relegated trust to the back burner in just under two years ‘ a drop in the bucket for a lifelong partner.

One of my favorite bible verses is Joel 2:25, which promises, ‘God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.’ My wife and I are experiencing the import of that promise in terms of intimacy. Prior to my disclosure and work of rebuilding trust we had only a surface intimacy. Since then our level of connectedness is deeper and more fulfilling. So give it your full surrender, intentionality, and persistence. Never being the same can be a good thing.

In addition to the Every Man’s Battle Workshop we have two programs designed to help you and your spouse. See Every Heart Restored–for wives of men struggling with sexual purity and Rescue Your Love Life–for couples.

You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book¬†Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Men Need Good Men

by Stephen L. Cervantes

I would like to share some observations about men. Below are two observations for your consideration. First, have you noticed how some men have a healthy variety of adult males in their life? That is to say, some men have good male buddies.

  • They spend time together.
  • They periodically eat meals together.
  • They may enjoy a boys-night-out occasionally.
  • Those men talk, play and work together.
  • As Christians, they may study their bibles together.
  • Even if they don’t read scriptures together, they still strive to spur each other on to good works.

These relationships have quiet boundaries. Christian men have a sense of right and wrong. Relationships define who you are. When a man is in a relationship with a Godly, Christian brother, they call each other to a higher level.

There is a simple, unspoken truth among Christian men. That is, as Christian men we bridle our will, desires, and biological urges to act more Christ-like. If what you just read makes sense, then you will agree with this statement. Men need good men in their lives. Or, said another way, good men make regular men better.

Here is my second and very different observation. If you went into a Men’s Club, you would see a room full of tables. Most tables would have just one man sitting by himself. He is there alone. He wants to be there alone. This is his private, alone, secret life. In most cases, male companionship is the farthest thing from his mine. Think about this image. It is a wonderfully descriptive metaphor for an unbalanced male life. It is the picture of a man sitting alone looking for the perfect female. He believes that a fantasy female will ultimately make him happy, satisfied and content. If you asked, you would quickly find out that that the men sitting alone at those tables have no solid male friendships.

Those men have decided their greatest needs can be fulfilled with the ultimate sexual fantasy experience. The dilemma of the fantasy female solution is that she does not exist. Those men return week after week to pursue their fantasy. He sits alone. He has a thrill provided by a stranger. His body responds with excitement. The response is short lived. However, with each fantasy thrill, his spirit shrivels up. At the end of the evening he is still alone. He has grown, but his growth just means more sexual fantasy thoughts. He does not end the evening being built up. He is not strengthened in his manhood. He is, if anything, a weaker man. Fantasy is ultimately followed by restless discontent.

Here are some conclusions I have reached.

The first group of men are practicing true growth and intimacy.

  • They seek to build relationships with other men.
  • They know they need good men in their lives to help bridle and shape their manhood.

The second group of men are misusing their sexuality.

  • They are pursing a fantasy female experience when they should be growing healthy male relationships.
  • Real men practice real intimacy, not false intimacy. Pursuing inappropriate sexual fantasy thoughts is pursing false intimacy.

What is the difference between these two pictures? The first man is growing healthy relationships with other men. He probably goes home to his wife and enjoys friendship, conversation, and healthy sexuality. The second man is shriveling up in his manhood. He is often the man who is emotionally under-developed and under-involved with other men. He is stuck in adolescent thinking. He believes a sexual rush will make him complete as a man. I believe there are a bunch of Christian men who are living dangerously close to this second example. They may not go to Men’s clubs. However, they run plenty of sexual fantasies in their head all day long. They are under-involved with other good men. They push their sexuality beyond the intended purpose. They misuse their sexuality in ways God never intended.

I believe many men were shaped in their youth with unhealthy sexual perceptions. They picked up the belief in their mind’s eye that they must always be looking for the perfect female for the perfect fantasy. Further, they believe having the perfect sexual experience will make them a whole, complete man.

You many be asking, ‘Why is this discussion important?’ I would like to challenge men to review their thoughts. If you are wasting time with female fantasies it is time to stop. Please consider this thought. You do not need to practice any more fantasy thoughts. Rather, you need to invest in stronger Christian male relationships. Most men have a significant need for deep male friendships.

The solution to being a better man is not found in private, sexual, fantasy thoughts. Rather, you need stronger male relationships – not more inappropriate sexual thoughts.

My goal for this article was to challenge your thinking. I hope that was accomplished. If so, to God be the glory.

For more help on this topic see our Resources for Men and join us for an Every Man’s Battle weekend.