Rebooting Your Marriage

Steve Arterburn

I host a weekday call-in radio show with five other counselors called New Life Live! Since we handle many calls each day, it’s easy to spot common themes that arise.

One common theme is the one about blaming and judging a wife who ‘just isn’t enough’ for a man. It’s amazing the mental gyrations some men will go through not to take responsibility. One day we commented that the worst-selling T-shirt we could market would say, ‘It was my fault.’ No guys would buy it!

Here’s an idea for another T-shirt message: ‘You’re not to blame for my problems.’ But let’s not wait for that T-shirt to land in stores to own that truth. Because when we own this, we’re humbled and ready to do what needs doing: asking for forgiveness.

Every computer has a reboot key that allows for fresh starts. Everything cranks up as if it were doing it for the first time. For individuals, the reboot key is called confession. Confession realigns the person with God and removes the stain of denial. The reboot key for a relationship is asking for forgiveness. It places the relationship back at ground zero. It doesn’t ensure that forgiveness will be granted, but at least from the point of forgiveness the relationship has an opportunity to flourish. Men, if you and your marriage are stuck, consider the most humbling thing you can do: Ask your wife to forgive you.

The Cost of Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

The wrong done by sexual sin and betrayal is a serious matter, but the forgiveness involved is more serious still. That’s because forgiveness can set in motion the healing of a relationship where truth replaces deception, and a future hope is birthed out of ashes. But there are certain costs involved.

To ask for forgiveness costs you having to bear the sting of humility and humiliation. You have to give up the defenses that protect your self-image from being morally wrong by openly admitting your failure and being exposed. It also costs you what status or power you may have had with your wife because you have to give up that position to the one you have wronged. And it costs you the uncertainty of knowing whether your wife will be willing and able to overcome the many impediments to forgiving you. This kind of betrayal can cause irreparable damage to a marriage.

As difficult as it seems for you, think what it costs your wife to forgive you.

First, she has to give up her claim to justice. She has to let go of her desire to see you get what you deserve for your sexual sin. While she experiences the painful agony of being betrayed, it seems to her that you are getting by without this pain. Instead, she has to trust and obey God’s instruction to not take vengeance or carry a grudge, but rather to love you in the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). This is not easy.

Second, the forgiving process costs your wife her sense of safety with you. The discovery of sexual unfaithfulness in one’s marriage is described by many women as being worse than having your body torn apart, or having open heart surgery without anesthesia. This kind of trauma often causes a wife to organize the entire relationship around the injury. The hurt can reemerge in an alive and intensely emotional manner, like a flashback that feels overwhelming. Though you sorrowfully admit and repent of your transgression, she finds it difficult to let it go because she never wants to be hurt like this again. So she naturally protects herself from being vulnerable.

Third, the occasion for forgiveness has cost her the loss of trust in you. You betrayed a trust that you promised to protect. Your wife now has to protect what little trust she has left. Even though she forgives you for what you did in the past, trusting you is about the future. It’s going to take some time for her to be able to trust and invest in you again. This is something you will have to earn through more than verbal reassurances. She needs to see your bold, concrete, and consistent actions over time. Feeling remorse is good, and verbal promises help, but it’s your overall attitude and actions that will win your wife’s trust back. She has to trust that you will not harm her again.

So, in most cases of sexual betrayal a wife has the heavier emotional load to carry. She has to control intrusive and obsessive thoughts about your behaviors. She has to calm the rage that screams from her pain of rejection. She has to grieve the loss of not having the marriage she thought she had. And she has to find a way to restore her lost sense of self. Meanwhile, she also has to find the strength to act in ways that are attractive to you, while risking being vulnerable and intimate again. And she has to do all this while dealing with the difficult issue of forgiving you. It’s necessary, but costly.

In contrast, you want it to be over. You’ve confessed or admitted your behavior (though perhaps only after having been caught). You’ve pledged your fidelity and commitment to be sexually pure. You feel relieved, cleansed, and ready to move on. You think it’s in your and her best interest to forgive, trust, and get over it. But it is not in your wife’s best interest to forgive and trust you too quickly because cheap grace does not produce the lasting change you both need.

It cost God His only Son to be able to say, I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:22, NIV).

So know and accept that the forgiveness process you and your wife are involved in will cost you both something.

For help in experiencing forgiveness and healing, we strongly encourage you to attend the New Life Weekend with your spouse.

Looking Good on the Inside

Chuck Underwood

What is it that keeps men imprisoned in a downward spiral of sexual sin? It can be summed up in one word’denial. The fact is we cannot change what we will not acknowledge.

Many men have a behavioral life that is in conflict with the professed values, and beliefs that define their Christian walk. They look good on the outside, but are pretty shabby on the inside–like the duck that seems to glide effortlessly across the smooth calm water. It looks good on the surface, but under the water that duck’s feet are anything but still: they are wildly kicking just to stay in forward motion.

Some men create a lot of ways to look good on the surface without looking at what goes on under the waterline’a lot of violent kicking.

Many times a man will try to solve his sexual addictions by making the problem someone else”a wife, or girlfriend. If only she would change, then I wouldn’t have to act this way. She just isn’t meeting my needs. Someone else must be responsible for my choices.

The most difficult thing for a man struggling with sexual sin is to be honest. The wisest man ever’King Solomon said, ‘He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13, NIV).

Admitting that there is a need to change is the first step out of sexual bondage. Minimizing the need to confess to God, others, and ourselves only obstructs positive growth.

What is the positive growth we are after? To restore the relationships that were destroyed as a result of sexual sin is of utmost importance. Sexual sin separates and isolates a man from his network of support. In a counseling practice one of the predictors of successful therapy is the degree of connection of a person to his family and friends. A sexual addict perpetuates fantasy in his daily life that plays a huge part in isolating him from other people. It becomes a double life that seeks to avoid exposure at all costs’bringing a loss of emotional connectedness. Disconnection and isolation are the very things that are realized in a world that becomes extremely self-centered.

The goal for every Christian should be restoration. This begins with confession. Confession implies transparency’a straightforward agreement with God that those choices were sinful. Confession is reality-based: a complete honest, humble emptying of self. The reality is being willing to deal with the sexual sin up close and personal. When a man comes before God in this manner He declares him forgiven’even righteous (I John 1:9). It is a three-part journey’forgiveness from God, forgiveness of self, and forgiveness of others.

God’s forgiveness is always available for the asking. But, have you ever asked God to forgive you and then not felt forgiven? First, forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a fact, a fact backed up by God’s own Word.
For some forgiveness isn’t accepted because there is a belief that forgiveness is not deserved’the idea of not being good enough to be forgiven. The reality is that men often stand in the way of the effects of forgiveness because they are trying to hide the complete truth from God and themselves.

Forgiveness and reconciliation must take place in order to restore relationships with Christ, wives, family, and friends. Reconciliation is a process of emotional reconnection to those vital relationships.

Can the downward spiral of sexual sin be stopped? Absolutely! What does it take? It takes honesty confession, growth, forgiveness and restoration. Acknowledging the problem and desiring to change is the pathway to establishing a behavioral life that is no longer in conflict with the values and beliefs of a growing Christian walk.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.
Also, take the loving step of helping your spouse. See the programs for wives and couples offered at the New Life Weekend.