Fragility or Fortitude

When our wives share their triggers and the accompanying pain, it can bring a tidal wave of shame. When we get hit by the wave, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to buckle under it. We can go back into that shame shell where we shutdown, get angry, lose empathy, etc. Many wives will say when they see this happen (and they definitely see it happen) they begin to think of their husbands as fragile. They start feeling like they can’t share what they are really thinking or feeling because it will crush him. Underlying this is often a fear, sometimes unspoken, that it will ultimately lead to acting out or relapse. So wives will sometimes hold back because of this.

Two unfortunate things happen when this is the case. First, the wife’s process is halted. When a wife can’t share her pain and receive an empathic, receptive, humble, healing response there is a block to her grieving process. It can even feel like that point is the stuck point that the couple keeps coming back to.

Second, a wife’s respect for her husband is further eroded. Some would say there’s nothing left to erode, but I often see that there is a little reserve respect in the tank, and that gets totally tapped when a wife see’s her husband as fragile. I heard a wife recently say to her husband, “You gave me this pain, now I want to give it back to you but you can’t take it, so I’m stuck with it.” Pretty accurately describes the situation to me.

As husbands who’ve committed betrayal, we have to develop fortitude when facing our wife’s triggers. Take a look at this definition-

\ˈfȯr-tə-ˌtüd : Strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.

Fortitude isn’t the same thing as being stoic. It is not stonewalling and lacking compassion. It also isn’t simply caging our anger and just saying the right thing; although that’s better than popping off and saying hurtful things.

Fortitude means we bear pain with courage. When we encounter our wives’ triggers and pain we must develop the mental and moral strength to persevere through the danger, fear and difficulty.

I don’t know about you but I can’t just will myself into this. It reminds me that I need a Savior. I need the Spirit of God to develop character in me that leads to courage and fortitude. And He is committed to doing so.

All that said, here are a couple of practical steps you can take:

  • Remember that every trigger is an opportunity to develop fortitude and to cultivate respect. It is likely that on the other side of all this your wife will say she is thankful for and admires by your willingness to lean into the process of her sharing her pain.
  • When your first reaction to your wife’s sharing is anger or defensiveness, it is probably about self protection. But in the process of grieving and healing, self protection is always the enemy of empathy. Let your heart break for the pain of the situation, rather than trying to avoid feeling it.
  • Remember that she hates it too. She wants it to go away more than you do. She hates that a good day is interrupted by painful thoughts too. Thus, try to be gracious knowing she isn’t manufacturing this stuff or making it up.

Measuring Up

Are we measuring our recovery by what we’re not doing anymore?

In the beginning of recovery it is important to celebrate the victories of not acting out. While taking it one day at a time, we need the motivation and encouragement of seeing the end of a day lived with integrity. We also need the hope it brings; that maybe these days can be strung together to form weeks, months or even years.

But somewhere along the way that has to change.

There comes a point where we can no longer measure down, we have to start measuring up. We can no longer measure our recovery by what we’re not doing, but instead have to look at what we’re being called to. I hear too often, after an integrity lapse, a man say “well, at least I’m better than how I used to be” or “at least I’m not doing what I used to do”. I think in many ways this excuse/rationalization is a way to hold onto hope. It’s a coping mechanism to avoid slipping into the despair that comes with feelings of failure and disappointment. It is an attempt to escape the shame of sin.

The good news is that our hope is not in our best behavior; it is in our Savior. God promises through the words of Paul the Apostle that He will complete the good work He began in us. He is committed to our sanctification and will empower us to fight another day.

Don’t let yourself be lulled into measuring your journey down, against what you aren’t doing anymore. Instead, be committed to measuring up, setting your sights on becoming the man God is calling you to be. Each day lived a little more like the men He is calling us to be is another day farther from being the old men we were.

WeDared

In a recent WeDared Challenge email there was a powerful section describing lies and how Satan would have us believe there is no hope. Specifically the lie was: learning to bounce and starve your eyes is impossible so why try.

What a ridiculous statement! But it was one I believed in my addiction. In an effort to explain my inability (and on some level, my unwillingness) to change, and to justify my sinful behavior, I started to believe that it is impossible to live with integrity. I began to resign to the fact that I am just lustful and that being able to live without staring, oogling, objectifying, etc. was something God apparently had reserved for better Christians than me.

Another lie.

The truth is, God is still in the business of changing hearts and habits. Just because you’ve lived a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean you are bound to that lifestyle from here on out. You are not the sum total of your bad behaviors. Your mistakes from the past do not have permission to define your future.

Three things have helped me, thank the Lord, change that lustful behavior. Maybe they can help you?

  • Having a mantra. Seriously, every time I’m tempted to look lustfully I say to myself (and sometimes out loud), “there’s nothing I need, guaranteed”. You’d be surprised how awkwardly someone looks at you after you blurt out this phrase – especially someone you might lust after! This little saying reminds me that God is the ultimate meeter of my needs. Not some woman. Not even my wife.
  • Or if you’re single, perhaps AccountabilityCam or GodCam. The idea is that if Shelley could watch a TV screen that showed my every move, she could hear everything I say, and a ticker tape at the bottom showed my every thought, she would be honored by it. I want to live in a way that, even if I am in a struggle, she would be honored by the way I fight it.
  • To remember that anyone I might want to lust after is a walking story. That woman, in that moment, is living with the culmination of the things she’s done and the things done to her. She is a hurting human, with a need for Jesus just like me. To lust after her is to take advantage of her; something Jesus was pretty adamantly against.

These help me, but I’m curious to hear what helps you. Is there something you do to help change lustful looking?

And by the way, if you haven’t seen the WeDared Challenge yet you should check it out – www.wedared.com