The Challenge and Importance of Disclosure – Part 2

When inappropriate sexual behavior is discovered, it’s natural for men to attempt “damage control,” by minimizing, rationalizing, excusing, or denying their behavior. We fear our wife will leave if the full extent of our behavior is known. Or we may just want to spare our wife more pain. We want an easy way out, but there is no such way.

Both the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous, and SAA’s similar book, Hope and Recovery caution against disclosing too quickly or too much, and to talk to their group members first. But the writers were predominantly males who were deciding what was best for their wives without consulting them.

When wives are asked what they want they overwhelmingly say they want to be in charge of how much is disclosed, and to have their feelings of violation and betrayal validated by their husband. So, our disclosure is best guided by our wife’s desire to know, rather than by our desire to get out of it.

Wives often describe their reactions to the disclosure in terms of despair, devastation, and hopelessness. Although they may initially consider ending the relationship, most choose to stay and work it through. But, for trust to be restored in our marriage we have to be honest and vulnerable.

There are several things we need to be aware of. First, it’s important that we be reasonable in accepting our wife’s emotions. Allow and accept her rage, confusion and depression. Begin by accepting her anger and demands. These are common signs that she is hurting because of your behavior.

Second, keep in mind that this is not the time to preach and demand forgiveness. What is called for is genuine humility and ‘godly sorrow’ (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Third, it is important that we seek to educate our wife about our recovery process. Let her know what you’re dealing with ‘ masturbation, pornography, illicit contact. Explain your recovery plan so she knows what you’re actually doing to establish and maintain sobriety. Reassure her that she is still the primary focus of your love.

Once you’ve disclosed, your wife will likely make demands and set boundaries. It’s similar to losing your credit rating with the bank ‘ they have to set up new terms, including higher monthly payments. See her demands as requests she needs to rebuild trust. Being truly authentic about the healing and restoration process means forbearing her pain ‘ taking the emotional blow and hanging in there even when it’s uncomfortable.

Some wives want a policy of on-going disclosure, usually to protect themselves from any further pain.

Though total disclosure is not healthy because she’ll become your accountability partner instead of your wife, it may be necessary in the beginning. Honor this desire and show your willingness to do whatever it takes. Meanwhile, be sure to find an accountability partner to actively take this responsibility off your wife.

Instead of total disclosure it is better that we commit to ‘some disclosure.’ This pertains to any significant difficulty or struggle with lust. If you set up a policy of ‘no disclosure’ (except if you act out), be sure you accompany it with accountability elsewhere. Some of us have to face the fall out of our wife’s broadcast to our kids, family, and friends. This can become very poisonous to the family. If this happens go to each person and talk to them individually, offering appropriate repentance. Share your plans for dealing with the problem. Bringing it ‘to the light’ allows for the possibility of restored relationship and forgiveness (1 John 1:7).

Finally, there are a few possible exceptions to full disclosure. First, you may want to remain silent about affairs from a long time ago in order to protect your wife from additional hurt for something that no longer poses any threat to your marriage. But be honest with yourself and with any desire you may have to continue it in the future. Revealing this may disarm it from having any importance to you.

Second, there are some rare cases where disclosure may be different. For example, if your wife is terminally ill, mentally ill, or emotionally unstable to extent that her life is at risk–in this case loving your wife means disclosing and working wholeheartedly with an accountability partner, a band of brothers, and your pastor.

You desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. (Psalm 51:6)

If your marriage has been affected by a lack of sexual integrity, we recommend two healing options.
Every Man’s Battle for men and for couples The New Life Weekend.

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.

Will She Ever Trust Me Again?

Building Trust

While conducting the Every Man’s Battle seminar, a question I often hear from married men is: ‘I’ve admitted my sin, apologized to my wife and tried to make it right. She says she forgives me but can’t trust me. Will she ever trust me again?’

Rebuilding trust is like rebuilding credit. It can be done, but only through a combination of time and consistency.

So if broken trust is a challenge to your marriage, let me offer you three ideas on how to rebuild it.

First, get a solid structure put in place. A solid structure is a combination of accountability, daily prayer, Bible reading, and regular consultation with a pastor, mentor or Christian counselor. Find yourself a good men’s accountability group, or a good Christian therapist(call 1-800-NEW LIFE if you need help with that) An accountability group is a great option since connection is a necessity to having transformation in your life! I encourage you to also begin a daily habit of devotion, personal prayer and some time spent reading scripture. Let your wife know, in writing preferably, what your structure is. List the name of your group leader, your counselor, and the schedule you’re adopting. Give her a copy, so she knows what program you’re following, and tell her she can watch you to see if you’re sticking to it. You’ll probably be surprised how much trust this alone can build.

Second, set aside a weekly time – maybe an hour or so to do nothing but listen to her. Tell her it’s her time to tell you how she feels about your marriage, about your progress, about herself, or anything else that’s on her mind. During her ‘listening’ time, try not to interrupt her or argue. You simply listen carefully to her concerns, and make sure she knows you share them. This habit will show her that, in contrast to the selfishness you displayed through your sexual sin, you’re now putting her, and her needs, first.

Finally, don’t rush her. She’s been wounded, and wounds are healed, not erased. So give her time. Give her the time and space she needs to be angry and sad, as she grieves over the blow your marriage has endured. By patiently waiting for her confidence in you to rebuild, you’ll show her that you take responsibility for your behavior by not expecting her to ‘just get over it.’ She needs that from you. So if both of you will patiently invest in time and consistency, you’ll reap an enormous level of strength and intimacy in your relationship. In the end, the trust she’s lost can be restored, added to, and treasured.

Join us for one of our Weekend Workshops or the couples group for rebuilding marriages affected by lust, pornography, or infidelity. By God’s grace, your marriage will be renewed and transformed.