Making Amends with Extended Family Hurt by Our Betrayal

The atomic bomb has been dropped. A blinding flash of light, the explosion, the mushroom cloud billowing, devastation everywhere you can see, horror on faces of survivors, lives destroyed. You pushed the button!

You dropped the bomb! You did not mean to, it was an accident. How could this have happened?

It was a normal day at work. Routine is so routine. You predict on your way home the events of the evening. Your wife will be preparing the evening meal. You try to slip in without making a fuss. Keep peace at all cost is your life motto. But peace is not on tonight’s menu. It has been weeks since she confronted you about your secret life with pornography.

You thought it was well hidden and there would be no way you would be caught. She did! And you were! She should be over this by now, you are thinking. The drive home in the falling snow did not prepare you for the ice storm you encountered when you slipped in your own back door.

Her rage had been seething all day, like the steam emitting from the release valve on a pressure cooker. Tears were salting the mashed potatoes she was preparing. You attempted to hug her. She stiffened and pulled away.

As you began to reason with her that you had things under control and together you could work this out. “Mom and Dad want me to move home for a while, she numbly inserts.”

What? Mom and Dad? Want you? You told them? Were there others, you wondered, but wouldn’t allow yourself to ask. Words became racing thoughts, fragments of splintered sentences. They know about? About the porn’? About my acting out? About me? I’m exposed, they know about me. A sick nauseating wave of fear surges through your stomach. Anger emerges.

The thoughts “They have no business” How could you have, when you hear your angry words burst through the silence. “What did you tell them?” “It is none of their business!” “Why did you tell them?”
Supper was left on the stove. You blew it once again. When will this ever end?

As days of winter crept by you knew sooner or later you would have to face those who know and have been hurt. Can there be hope for a future after such a catastrophic explosion? Where do you begin to restore relationships of those who have been hurt by your betrayal?

Restoration is possible:

Consider not yourself, but those who have been hurt by your betrayal. Make a list of those who you know have been affected or in some way have knowledge of your acting out. Remember what the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15 did when he decided to go back home to face his dad?

First, he faced his pride. It was a giant. He probably had been plotting and fantasizing just how great life could be if he did not have to be strapped down. If he didn’t have someone looking over his shoulder,  watching him. Why, he could live anyway he pleased. “Hey Dad, I want my inheritance now. I want to make it on my own. I can handle it.”

He didn’t handle it any better than we did, did he? He lost everything. Squandered it on “loose living,” v 13. That is a nice way to put it, isn’t it? “Loose living,” sounds nice enough. His older brother wasn’t sugar coating it in v. 30, “this son of yours (no brother of mine, implied) who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes

Pride wants to minimize and to cover up and hide the magnitude of what we have done. While he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods he was feeding the hogs, v. 16, he was actually swallowing his pride. I will go to my father and tell him what I have done.”

Second, he rehearsed what he would say. He probably ‘hearsed* and rehearsed until he was confident that he had down exactly what he would say. “Dad I sinned (v. 18-19). I am not worthy to be called your son. Would you let me go to work for you as one of your workers?” He identified what sin he had committed against God and his father and confessed it. Because of his betrayal he saw his unworthiness, the true picture of himself. This was no longer about him and what he wanted to get out of life. He was ready now to see the reality of his condition. “I am not worthy”

Third, though it is important to rehearse and rehearse what you will say, be prepared for their response. The younger son, I don’t think was prepared for what his father said and did. Right in the middle of his well rehearsed presentation, his father interrupted him v. 22.

Read for yourself this amazing fatherly response. One of the reasons for the favorable response from his dad was due to the sincerity of his son’s confession. It came from his brokenness not from his pride. If your confession to your family members or friends is in any way marked by insincerity, minimizing, hiding, weaseling, it will become evident. That kind of brokenness can only come from feeding the hogs and becoming aware that we have been living like them. Rooting and snorting for anything that will feed our appetite for pleasure.

Regardless of the relationship with your parents or in-laws, can you see their heart? Can you begin to touch their disappointment and anger? This is not intended to shame you any more than you feel shame now. Again, this is not about you, but those your betrayal has hurt. By realizing what their hurt is and the depth of their hurt, you will then be able to formulate what you will need to say to them.

Fourth, I would suggest you write a letter to each person on your list for the very reason that they may interrupt you and you will not be able to complete what needs to be said. By presenting a well thought out letter of confession, it will be up to them what they will do with it. It may be thrown in your face. You may get yelled or screamed at, or told never to return. You cannot control their response or reaction. Keep in mind you are responsible for your actions. In the event of their rage against you, remember your purpose for being there… it is about them not you. The prodigal son recognized he had squandered his right of sonship as we have also squandered our rights of acceptance.

I want to share a story from one of my clients. I will not give details of her betrayal, but suffice it to say over a number of years her actions destroyed not only her reputation, but relationships with her family, extended family and several other marriages. Upon a realization, not much unlike the prodigal son’s, she became aware of the wake of destruction she had left behind. She decided to change her life, come back to Christ and surrender her life to His lordship. She made a list of all she had harmed over the years. She then decided to physically face each one and confess what she had done and ask for their forgiveness.

This was a monumental task, one filled with fear and dread. As she recounted story after story of meeting the ones she had hurt, you could envision her walking up to the door and knocking. Taking a deep breath, she would say words like, “I am (__________). I am the one who destroyed your marriage. I may never know the extent of hurt I have caused you. I am so sorry for what I have done to you and your children and your family. I have given my life to Christ. He is my Savior and Lord. I want to ask you to forgive me for the pain I have caused you.”

The last time I saw this precious woman, she had personally faced everyone she knew that she had hurt. She told me not one person threw her off the porch or slammed the door in her face. Time and time again she was received with such grace she was shocked. She did it right!

Fifth, realize it takes time to heal. In the story above the hurts this woman had caused had happened several years prior for many of these people, some more recent. In the case of the prodigal son, we don’t know how long he was gone, but apparently it had taken him quite a while to go through his inheritance. Emotional healing takes time. While forgiveness can be granted, trust has to be earned over time. Restoration of relationships is a process not an act. Talk to those who you have hurt and let them know what you are doing to prevent future betrayals.
We have all pushed the button that has devastated the lives of family members and friends. What is left for you to say? How will you say it? When will you say it? May the Lord Jesus bless you as you seek to rebuild relationships!

* Yeah, I know, “hearsed” is not in spell check, it just seemed to fit at the time.

Craig Boden

For help, see Every Man’s Battle.
If you have already attended Every Man’s Battle, please honor your wife by joining us in our couples program at our next New Life Weekend.

Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 10

New Life Ministries

Honesty is perhaps one of the most basic needs in marriage. Without honesty, problems that may destroy the relationship can lie hidden for years, building momentum, creating blocks to intimacy, and then suddenly surfacing larger than life to wreak destruction in your marriage.

Honesty is the foundation upon which all other aspects of marriage are built. With honesty you know exactly how your actions will affect your mate, and you can make the necessary adjustments to accommodate his or her feelings.

With honesty, you and your spouse are aware of each other’s weaknesses, and can work with that knowledge.

Knowing and understanding the thoughtless things you might be inclined to do, allows you to take precautions to prevent that from happening. ‘But we are honest!’ you say?

How honest are you? Is there a line you can draw which marks where a little bit of secrecy turns into dishonesty? Is there such a thing as mostly honest?

Being honest is like being pregnant, or alive. You either are, or you’re not. There is no half way, no mostly, about any of those things. In marriage, partners must learn to become completely honest with each other if they are to achieve true intimacy.

Here’s a little quiz. Do you, or have you, shared the following information with your spouse? Do you know the same sorts of things about him or her in return?

Your past. Does your mate know all there is to know about: former lovers, friends, occupations, dreams, mistakes, achievements, failures?

Your feelings. How do you feel about the events of your life? Especially your reactions to the things that your mate does? How do you feel about the life you have created together?

Today. What are your plans for the day? Who will you see, what will you talk about, where will you go, when will you be home, how can you be reached?

Tomorrow. What are your hopes and dreams and plans? What are your goals?

Anything left unasked above. Does your spouse know as much as you do about yourself?

Well now, I can just see you shaking your heads in disbelief. She must be crazy to think that I would share my past failures, or the fact that my spouse’s job really annoys me. Talking about those things would just cause a fight to end all fights.

But is it the honesty that causes the argument, or is it the things you have been hiding? Is it speaking the truth, or is it the manner in which you deliver the message? Which brings us to a couple of points that need to be touched upon.

First, how well do you handle your spouse’s honesty? Do you become upset, yell, threaten, or criticize when your partner shares difficult information? If so, then you are fostering dishonesty in your marriage.

You would be well advised to make a practice of thanking your spouse for whatever information he or she shares. If it is too difficult at the time for you to handle the things your spouse is sharing with you, then express your thanks and ask for some time to process what you’ve heard.

When you share information with your partner, do you do it in a way that is calm, respectful and pleasant? Saying something like, ‘You lazy thing, all you ever do is sit around and look at trash on tv, you never do anything to keep the house up,’ is not being honest. It’s being rude and disrespectful. Saying instead, ‘I’m overwhelmed with things I’d like to get done, and I’m wondering if there’s a way you would be willing to help me out?’ is honest and respectful.

Honesty needs to be framed in a way that is respectful of how the other person feels. This is not to say that you should not convey information that might be upsetting. It simply means that you must do so in a way that is as considerate as possible.

One of the things that I emphasize strongly with couples that come to me for help, is the practice of sharing with their spouses, their own reactions to his or her behavior.

So often we are afraid to tell our mate that he or she has offended us in some way. Frequently it was something done in innocence, and we want to overlook it. Unfortunately, when we do that, our feelings for our partner are adversely affected. And we deprive them of the ability to make necessary adjustments in their behavior to take our feelings into account.

If you have very difficult information that you have been withholding from your spouse, then you might want to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Things such as past or current infidelity are incredibly hard to confess, and even harder to hear. Sharing with the help of a caring third party can ease the process.

Honesty is the bedrock of marriage. It is essential for trust, for building compatibility, for creating a way of life that you both enjoy, and for maintaining the feelings of love in marriage. If you are serious about saving your marriage, or about keeping alive the love you have now, you must begin with real and complete honesty.

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.


Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 11

New Life Ministries

How a Woman Thinks

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)

It’s Not About You

Another translation says to ‘live with your wives in an understanding way.’ One of ways to be ‘understanding’ is to remember that when your wife is upset, it’s not about you. It’s so easy for us as men to react to our wife’s emotions as if they are an indictment on us.

Somewhere deep inside we feel like it is our job to make our wife happy, and when they aren’t we feel powerless. We feel like a failure. It makes us uncomfortable ‘ we hate not knowing what to do.

So what do we do? Instead of focusing on the hurt our wife is experiencing, we often try to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings by stopping our wife’s emotions. One way we try to bring emotions to an end is by ‘fixing the problem.’ Of course, your wife does not want to be treated like a problem that needs to be fixed.

A second way we try to make these tense situations end is to shame our wife into feeling bad about feeling bad. ‘If you wouldn’t get so emotional maybe we could work on our marriage.’

Using the analogy of a tennis match, when we try to cut off our wife’s emotions by ‘fixing it’ or shaming her, we have just ended a point with an overhead smash. An overhead smash is a great way to end a rally in tennis, but not a very good way to honor your wife.

Empathize with Her

When your wife is upset, she doesn’t want you to fix it’she wants to be heard. She wants you to empathize.

One of a woman’s greatest needs is for intimacy and emotional connection. At a time of great stress, if you turn her away, she gets the message that you are not really there for her. She begins to feel like she is not safe with you.

Consider this diagnostic question: the last time your wife went through an emotional time, who did she turn to? Who did she call on the phone? Who did she go see? Often a woman will share her hurt with a female friend who will listen and empathize with her.

With her friends, she is not afraid to cry and show real emotions. She knows she will still be heard. While it makes sense that a woman would turn to friends in a time of need, it does raise the question, ‘Why is it so hard for many men to provide this emotional connection for their wives?’

Besides feeling uncomfortable and wanting the emotions to end, many men often desire to ‘win’ in the discussion. We often want our wife to know we were right.

Men typically believe that empathizing with their wife is the same thing as saying she is justified in what she believes or the way she feels. So if I don’t agree with my wife’s conclusions, I find it difficult to validate her emotions. I feel two-faced, like I am saying I agree with her when I don’t.

Let’s say she is upset about a joke someone made about her clothes. You believe it was an innocent comment made in jest; she believes it was an intentional insult. Most men would be hesitant to validate her feelings for fear that she would believe they agreed with her conclusion about the comment.

As men, we need to separate these two ideas. We can disagree with our wife’s conclusion or feelings but still understand that those feelings are real and hurtful. In the moment, it’s enough to say, ‘I know it hurts when you feel like you have been attacked.’ There’ll be time later to talk about the reality behind the pain.

If we really want to bring about transformation, the best way to do that is to support our wives emotionally until they come to a place where we can prayerfully work together and see things the way God would want us to.

She needs us to empathize with her and let her know that we understand ‘ and also to tell her what we are thinking and feeling, even if it includes that we are uncomfortable with her feelings.

Selflessly Loving Her Will Make You Happy

The paradox of marriage is the paradox of the gospel’when we lose our life for others we find it again. If you put your wife first in every situation, including honoring her emotions, then God promises you will find a deeper joy than you could otherwise ever know.


Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28, NIV)

He who loves his wife loves himself. Why? Because you were made to love God and others, and when you do this you are doing exactly what God made you to do. The most ‘selfish’ thing you can do as a husband is to sacrificially lay down your life for your wife. This will bring you the greatest joy.

The beauty of God’s plan is that your sacrificial love will also help to make her holy.

Your wife is not always right and you are not always wrong’it will usually be a combination of both. Emotions can be a righteous reaction to circumstances or a manipulative attempt at control’and everything in between.

What God wants is for us as men to be less worried about who is right or wrong and how we can win, and more worried about how we can help our wife become everything He wants her to be.

The Big Idea is this: Your wife’s heart is a treasure, and God has entrusted it to you. When a woman is not OK, she wants her husband to recognize it, then pursue her and listen to her heart. She wants us to honor her emotions.

Treat your wife with dignity and respect. Listen to her heart. Serve her and lead her to a greater love for Christ and for you. This is what marriage is all about.

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.