There’s an interesting, confusing dynamic that happens for some men and their wives in the recovery process. It’s about disappointment. Specifically, when the past comes back up; when a wife is triggered, or when something on tv or radio or at church reminds us of how badly we’ve hurt the person we love the most on the planet. We feel disappointed with ourselves for causing our wives’ to feel disappointed in us.

It’s actually an empathic response, but it has a threshold where we can’t handle it anymore.  Many guys, when they hit that wall, will shut down. They’ll sulk and mope, and sometimes even move into a space that looks victim-like. It’ll become a pity-party of one. Others, once at critical mass with the disappointment, will get angry and defensive. This can feel like punishment to an already hurting wife. And for those men, it’s like they are so in the “bad box” (thanks to Bob for that word picture) to be present with anymore of it feels like torture. Their shame has piled up and they can’t see straight, much less actually feel meaningful empathy.

What we want to shoot for is expressing the empathy in a tender and gentle way. To let our wives know that we hurt for them feeling disappointed, not just for ourselves feeling like a disappointment. It can’t be a patronizing, “aww I’m sorry you stubbed your toe” kind of communication either. It has to be connected to the heart. Say what surrounds it. Try to put to words what you wish your wife could know. A client recently said to his wife in one of these moments:

I hurt that you hurt. I hate that you hurt. I hate that I’m the cause of your hurt, because you don’t deserve it. It’s cruel and unfair. You shouldn’t have to endure this.

And he meant it. You could see it in his eyes, hear it in his words, feel it in your bones. Even as the words came out of his mouth you could tell he desperately wanted her to believe it.

She didn’t. But he still needed to feel it and communicate it. For his sake. And because one day she will.


7 thoughts on “Disappointment

  1. I m very confused and questioning what I feel God wants me to do.. I’ve only been married 3 months and my marriage has been completely destroyed. My wife has been unfaithful. I pretty much have destroyed her with my anger. All the while I began using drugs again. Which led up to domestic violence and me going to jail, I lost my job of 13 yrs.this entire family incuding the 2 kids we all all completely broken. Surprisingly my wife is standing by my side right now, but we are very diconnected. If she stays with me, she will probably lose custody of her daughter. I feel God is telling me to let my wife go, I ve lost all credibility as the spititual leader of this home. My wife and I are desperately hanging on . Would God break the marriage? Is he telling me to let go? Or am I confused , and marriage is to be honored, allways. Thank you

    • Brian,
      I can’t begin to imagine the heartache, turmoil, mistrust, hurt, and anger you are feeling right now.
      In my case I am the recovering addict and was the one that hurt my wife.
      I don’t believe God would lead you to divorce. His word says he hates divorce, although He does grant divorce in the case of infidelity.
      I do know it will take a lot of counseling and hard work to heal from this.
      In my case my wife and I did divorce and then remarried 3yrs later.
      There have been some hard times but I wouldn’t give anything for the close, emotionally close relationship we have today.
      God Bless you.

  2. Thanks Jason.
    A very tiimely word of experience for the exact place we seem to be at now.
    We both will gain some wisdom to apply from this.

  3. Jason you are so right about turning inward (anorexic) when in the “disappointed with myself” emotional state of mind. For me I experience this kind of disappointment more often when my wife would bring something up from the past (again), something I thought was behind “us”, or I should say more appropriately behind “me”.
    As a result I would become angry (driven by the disappointment) and then shut down, stonewall, and withhold, i.e. anorexic.
    So why was I disappointed?
    1. I thought this topic was already dealt with and I wouldn’t have to experience the hurt and pain again and truthfully have to listen to my wife’s hurt, pain, and anger about it again!!!!!!
    2. Because the whole experience caused “me” to put myself in the “Bad Box” ……………again and I didn’t want to go there. I want to be seen as the good guy and be seen that way by my most intimate partner in life.
    3. I thought we were further down the road than this………we’d made a lot of progress………., but now we (really me) were back at the beginning again.
    The common theme in the above three points is……………………………….ME.
    They have nothing to do with my wife.
    I always assumed that when my wife brought up something from the past she was wanting to hurt and punish me by reminding me of the lying, cheating scumbag I “was”. Were there times where she would get angry and as a result say things that certainly sounded accusing and hurtful to me, yes. Was that what her real intent was. NO.
    Fact is she was hurt and in trauma. How could I, her husband, the guy she loved dearly, had kids with, and shared her body with betray her like this. How could this man blow up her entire world, a world she thought provided peace, safety, and security.
    My wife told me that if/when she is triggered and brings up an event from my past, it’s usually because she has not healed from it. That means I haven’t helped her heal from the event. I haven’t properly empathized with her.
    She’s not trying to rub my nose in it. It’s a cry for help!!
    If she was just wanting to be mean, hurtful, and push me away, why is she still with me!
    Am I a bad person (shame) for what I’ve done? NO. Have I done some bad things (guilt)? YES.
    So, why do I put myself in the “Bad Box”? I know what I did. My wife knows what I did. So what’s the secret. I just needed to own my past. No need for the box.
    When I’m focused on the three items above what and who was I thinking about? ME.
    And accordingly, who was I not thinking of? Who was I not able to comfort and empathize with? The woman God gave me as my wife (in my case- twice).
    I wish I could say I’m an expert in this and that I do it right every time, but I’m not. There are still times where I fail her, times where I struggle to understand my feelings and emotions in the moment. But that doesn’t take away the fact that this is how we need to treat our wives. I’m not an expert on the female gender, but my wife is and this is what she has expressed to me that she needs for me.
    Hope this helps someone who may be in a similar situation.

  4. Hello,

    How do you ever unwind 10 years of infidelity? Is it even possible for my wife to even truly forgive me? She has a lot of resentment. She has asked me to move out to give her space and all I can do at this point is honor her wishes – it’s the least I can do after what I’ve put her through.


    • Sorry Josh, no unwinding sin of any kind. Unwinding would be no consequences and that’s not reality. But there is repentance, and sin can be forgiven by Gods grace.

      Over time trust can also be restored if the trust is earned back diligently.

      My husband was a sex addict for 30 years (20 years as my husband) and he has been doing the hard work of recovery and earning back trust bit by bit.

      Romans 12:1-2

  5. I truly love my wife. I have put her through so much in our marriage of 39 years. She is still with me only by the Grace of God. Over the years I had been unfaithful based on issues from family of origin issues that had not been dealt with until about 2 1/2 years ago when I attended an Every Man’s Battle weekend. I had no idea what to expect when I went but I experienced a freedom that I had never known. Then I had to disclose all of my past infidelities to her and I knew it would crush her spirit and her heart. That was a little over two years ago. We have made some progress but she doesn’t believe that I have disclosed 100% of the past. I have truly given all of my recollection of the things that I did over that time period. But I am not trying to write this about what I did to help the healing process . I am writing to tell you where I have failed her. Addicts are usually selfish people. I am one of them. Like most guys, I don’t like to face the past and to hear about the pain that I have caused her. I haven’t acted out in the 2 1/2 years since EMB so I find myself “defending” who I am now when the discussion goes back to who j was and what I did. I know that my wife is just trying to share with me how much I hurt her and how my actions tore her heart to pieces. Satan uses shame and guilt to push us back and try to draw us back into our chosen medication for our pain. I have a hard time “giving up my right to be right “. That means that I am trying to defend who I am now in hopes of showing that I am indeed recovering from the need for the medication. But that isn’t what she needs from me. God help me to learn to sit and listen to her pain and that our marriage can experience healing that can only come from God. i am powerless over my life. I can not manage it on my own. God can, and I think that I will surrender it to Him. God help me to have a heart of emphathy and repentance. Help me to cast off my pride and arrogance when I should have a heart of compassion and surrender. I love my wife. Please help me to have the capacity to provide her the things that I need to do to help her heart to heal. Please give me a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. Grant me the wisdom to give up my right to be right . Amen

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