Rebuilding Trust in Marriage

by Bob Damrau

‘Our lives will never be the same,’ voiced my wife as we drove home from our respective 12-Step groups. Then, we looked at each other and smiled with the realization that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Repairing our marriage was not easy, yet the hard work was yielding a sense of connection that neither of us ever thought possible.

When trust is violated by sexual sin, our spouse’s emotions are damaged and those feelings will not heal overnight. Rebuilding trust in a marriage cracked by infidelity (in mind and/or body) requires our full surrender, intentionality, and persistence.

SURRENDER

Our personal relationship with God exemplifies the beginning of building trust. When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus we effectively give up control. This is a one-time decision with ongoing ramifications. So, too, surrendering our sexual wills over to God takes place at a particular time (usually when the realization of not being in control hits home), yet the battles are won and godly character is built on a daily basis ‘ sometimes moment by moment.

The defects that once defined me (liar, control freak, manipulator’) have been replaced with a spirit of openness and transparency. When once my wife doubted my sincerity, now she sees me as a changed man disciplined by our Abba Father. Recognizing this sacredness validates our efforts to love and respect one another. But rebuilding trust doesn’t end with simple sincerity because a spouse will also doubt her compulsive husband’s ability to change his long standing behaviors.

INTENTIONALITY

It is a paradox that by giving up our lives we get them back. The hidden blessing of purposefully working through our stuff is that we’ll never be the same, but better and healthier. The same is true of relationships. Have you ever agreed to something before you felt like doing it? When we seek to rebuild trust, we may not feel trust or that we are trustworthy, but we can stay committed to try. This will send a signal to our spouses that we may have what it takes to make the necessary changes.

The ability to make significant personal changes was demonstrated to my wife by following a structured plan of recovery. If you have attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop you received an outline describing the elements needed for recovery. Put that plan into action then share it with her. Trust and honest communication work hand-in-hand, and as she watches you fulfill your plan she’ll know you have what it takes to get it right.

It is worth noting here that the shame identity at the core of an addict’s belief system can still speak to us. It says, ‘I must hide my true self because no one will accept who I really am.’ This can cause us to withhold information and continue to live the lie. Our wives interpret our isolating behavior to mean we really don’t love them, so keep talking and working the whole plan. Over time you’ll be seen as an able husband.

PERSISTENCE

Willing and able must be calendar tested. Many times when a sexually compulsive person repents of his sin, he expects his partner to trust him immediately. Don’t go there! Consistent behavior over the seasons of life rebuilds trust. In sexual addiction this is called maintaining sobriety.

Some marriages have involved lies for years. Restoring trust, when both partners work at it, can take between 18-30 months. My repentant spirit coupled with my consistent behaviors relegated trust to the back burner in just under two years ‘ a drop in the bucket for a lifelong partner.

One of my favorite bible verses is Joel 2:25, which promises, ‘God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.’ My wife and I are experiencing the import of that promise in terms of intimacy. Prior to my disclosure and work of rebuilding trust we had only a surface intimacy. Since then our level of connectedness is deeper and more fulfilling. So give it your full surrender, intentionality, and persistence. Never being the same can be a good thing.

In addition to the Every Man’s Battle Workshop we have two programs designed to help you and your spouse. See Every Heart Restored–for wives of men struggling with sexual purity and Rescue Your Love Life–for couples.

You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Men Need Good Men

by Stephen L. Cervantes

I would like to share some observations about men. Below are two observations for your consideration. First, have you noticed how some men have a healthy variety of adult males in their life? That is to say, some men have good male buddies.

  • They spend time together.
  • They periodically eat meals together.
  • They may enjoy a boys-night-out occasionally.
  • Those men talk, play and work together.
  • As Christians, they may study their bibles together.
  • Even if they don’t read scriptures together, they still strive to spur each other on to good works.

These relationships have quiet boundaries. Christian men have a sense of right and wrong. Relationships define who you are. When a man is in a relationship with a Godly, Christian brother, they call each other to a higher level.

There is a simple, unspoken truth among Christian men. That is, as Christian men we bridle our will, desires, and biological urges to act more Christ-like. If what you just read makes sense, then you will agree with this statement. Men need good men in their lives. Or, said another way, good men make regular men better.

Here is my second and very different observation. If you went into a Men’s Club, you would see a room full of tables. Most tables would have just one man sitting by himself. He is there alone. He wants to be there alone. This is his private, alone, secret life. In most cases, male companionship is the farthest thing from his mine. Think about this image. It is a wonderfully descriptive metaphor for an unbalanced male life. It is the picture of a man sitting alone looking for the perfect female. He believes that a fantasy female will ultimately make him happy, satisfied and content. If you asked, you would quickly find out that that the men sitting alone at those tables have no solid male friendships.

Those men have decided their greatest needs can be fulfilled with the ultimate sexual fantasy experience. The dilemma of the fantasy female solution is that she does not exist. Those men return week after week to pursue their fantasy. He sits alone. He has a thrill provided by a stranger. His body responds with excitement. The response is short lived. However, with each fantasy thrill, his spirit shrivels up. At the end of the evening he is still alone. He has grown, but his growth just means more sexual fantasy thoughts. He does not end the evening being built up. He is not strengthened in his manhood. He is, if anything, a weaker man. Fantasy is ultimately followed by restless discontent.

Here are some conclusions I have reached.

The first group of men are practicing true growth and intimacy.

  • They seek to build relationships with other men.
  • They know they need good men in their lives to help bridle and shape their manhood.

The second group of men are misusing their sexuality.

  • They are pursing a fantasy female experience when they should be growing healthy male relationships.
  • Real men practice real intimacy, not false intimacy. Pursuing inappropriate sexual fantasy thoughts is pursing false intimacy.

What is the difference between these two pictures? The first man is growing healthy relationships with other men. He probably goes home to his wife and enjoys friendship, conversation, and healthy sexuality. The second man is shriveling up in his manhood. He is often the man who is emotionally under-developed and under-involved with other men. He is stuck in adolescent thinking. He believes a sexual rush will make him complete as a man. I believe there are a bunch of Christian men who are living dangerously close to this second example. They may not go to Men’s clubs. However, they run plenty of sexual fantasies in their head all day long. They are under-involved with other good men. They push their sexuality beyond the intended purpose. They misuse their sexuality in ways God never intended.

I believe many men were shaped in their youth with unhealthy sexual perceptions. They picked up the belief in their mind’s eye that they must always be looking for the perfect female for the perfect fantasy. Further, they believe having the perfect sexual experience will make them a whole, complete man.

You many be asking, ‘Why is this discussion important?’ I would like to challenge men to review their thoughts. If you are wasting time with female fantasies it is time to stop. Please consider this thought. You do not need to practice any more fantasy thoughts. Rather, you need to invest in stronger Christian male relationships. Most men have a significant need for deep male friendships.

The solution to being a better man is not found in private, sexual, fantasy thoughts. Rather, you need stronger male relationships – not more inappropriate sexual thoughts.

My goal for this article was to challenge your thinking. I hope that was accomplished. If so, to God be the glory.

For more help on this topic see our Resources for Men and join us for an Every Man’s Battle weekend.

Irreconcilable Differences

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me an article written by a clergyman, in which he discusses the idea of irreconcilable differences. It was a revelation to me, and got me thinking about the way marriage is going in our country these days: Downhill.

Before we begin, let me just say that there certainly are circumstances in which a divorce is permitted in the minds of even the staunchest Christian. No one believes that you must stay together when your spouse has committed adultery, and if you have been abandoned without word for years, this also qualifies as a reason to be divorced. I personally also adhere to the belief that when one spouse becomes abusive physically, this is a deal breaker. However, in the first case, that of adultery, I have worked with many couples who can repair their marriages through counseling and spiritual work, and this is a good thing, since divorce really is a horrible thing, most notably on the spiritual level.

The premise that was set forth in the article was this: Men and women by nature, are created to have irreconcilable differences. They are made to complement one another, to join together in a mystical union. If we look at the book of Ephesians, this mystery of union is compared to the joining of the human and Divine natures of Christ. Those two natures simply cannot be joined together, since they are qualitatively different. And yet, it happens: A mystery.  This is the highest view of marriage possible, and one which obviously has pretty much disappeared in our self-absorbed society.  So, while this view has obtained for thousands of years, it is suddenly non-functional. Let’s look at why this might be.

What is the Purpose of the Family?

No one can doubt that the family is the basic unit, the fundamental organism of society. Without stable families, a situation unknown until our present times, society will begin to come apart. Without stable families, people become mere individuals, living for themselves, unable to invest in others, unable to sacrifice for others. We see this process happening all over our society, and few have understood that this situation is an entirely new societal formation. Families are no longer required in order to have children. Families are no longer stable multi-generational groups who live in love and care. All is fragmented, broken, disjointed. Of course, there are millions who still adhere to the old ways, but over time, the preponderance of those prizing the individual over the family will tip the balance, and families will go the way of the horse and buggy. Replacing them will be various assortments of people living together with little or no commitment to the family’s health. Of course, all will suffer, but especially the children. We can already see this happening right now.

Myths about Marriage

In order for this breakdown of the family to occur, it is necessary for alternate theories to dominate the national psyche. While families were relatively stable until the Twentieth century, when divorce laws began liberalizing across the western world, there is at present very little non-spiritual incentive to stay together. Even though researchers have demonstrated that children of divorce have trouble in their own marital (or non-marital) relationships, this fact has done little to stem the tide of divorces. Why?

There are many myths which swirl about in the ether, and they are both powerful and seductive. Some of them are:

  1. I have a right to be happy in my marriage. If I’m not happy, I can pull the plug and move on to someone who makes me happy.
  2. I need to find my soulmate. My current spouse is not on the same wavelength as I.
  3. My spouse and I are as different as oil and water. We are just different people, and we need to find new spouses have similar interests.
  4. I don’t love my spouse any more. There is someone else whom I feel attracted to, and I want to love that new person.

You’ve all heard these arguments for divorce, and over them all, like a banner are the words:  Irreconcilable differences.  Yes, you and your spouse do have irreconcilable differences, because that is the essence of marriage. That is the basis for the sacrifice you are called to make in forming a family made up of those who have different wills than our own. Bridezillas aside, we don’t always get our own way when we marry. It may be necessary to submit our will to that of another: a spiritual exercise of the highest order.

The ideas that there is someone else “better” for us out there is a temptation to be resisted at all costs. We have chosen our spouse, and failing the major impediments to marriage mentioned above, our job is to find a way to live joyfully within those boundaries.  It is certain that no children desire their parents divorce, unless there is criminal behavior, such as assault, being demonstrated in the home. Is there drunkenness or other substance abuse? This is another spiritual matter that needs fixing, and it may promote the need to separate until it is dealt with.

But, since men and women are different qualitatively, it is ludicrous to bemoan that fact, and cite it as grounds for divorce. It is actually grounds for marriage! The desire to join together in union with another soul different from our own is the basis for marriage, and the programme is this:  I will spend my life serving this person, and will be faithful to the other until death. It is a serious vow one makes, and finding it difficult is no cause for release from it. Temptation to do so is all around us, but if it is recognized as such, we can fight against it.

The only other thoughts which this idea of the “rightness” of irreconcilable differences brought to my mind was this: If these differences are the essence of marriage, according to God, what does this say about those who try to bypass these difficulties by marrying another person who is very similar? I am referring, of course, to gay marriages.

The idea of marrying someone alike short circuits most of the inherent struggles faced by those following the mystical plan of marriage instituted by God.  These couples can never know the fullness of the mystery of union between a man and a woman, and the homosexuals’ decision to call what they do “marriage” does not present a comparable struggle.  Can I unite myself to another whose very being is mysterious to me? Can I take a chance and see if love can flow from this union, if children will be sent us through this mystical union? This is the dignity and grace of marriage as instituted by God, and no other arrangement contrived by man can compare.

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 Challenge and Importance of Disclosure – Part 1

One of the most difficult issues a man has to face is disclosing his sexual sin to his wife. The issue is loaded with both honest and resistant questions:

Why bring up something that is only going to hurt my wife? What good is there in bringing up the past? Where does the Bible say I have to disclose this to my wife?

While there is no clear biblical mandate, and no two situations are alike, there are some principles that apply.

1) Your sexual sin has broken your marital covenant. Hiding it from your wife continues to break the covenant, while bringing it to the light gives opportunity for true repentance, healing, and restoration.

2) Your wife is entitled to know that the covenant has been broken. In almost every case a wife would want to know, so you should not be making this decision for her.

3) What you don’t disclose you give yourself permission to do again. Be honest with yourself here. Not telling your wife makes it easier to continue in your behavior.

4) Disclosure is an essential step towards restoring a trustworthy relationship with God and, therefore, your wife. See 1 John 1:5-7.

5) There are real advantages in disclosing. First, it is usually better than having your wife find out another way. Second, it increases your chances of becoming sexually pure because it puts her on guard to any further cheating. Third, it re-establishes the primacy of your marriage by ending the conspiracy of silence that created distance between you and her. In doing this you realign yourself more closely with your wife and your right to control critical information that matters greatly to her. And fourth, your disclosure may awaken your wife to issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve true intimacy with her.

6) There is also a disadvantage or dangerous reality in disclosing your sexual sin to your wife. In some cases the wife will leave the marriage. This is true in a great minority of the cases.

Once you are ready and willing to disclose to your wife, how do you do it? Here are some things to consider.

1) Prepare yourself by doing an inventory of your past sexual behaviors. You can’t be totally honest with your wife if you’re not being honest with yourself.

2) Check your motive. First of all, it is important that you be fully convinced in your own mind about the importance of disclosing (Romans 14:5). Second, what is your real motive – to respect your wife and her right to know how you have broken your covenant with her, or for you to be absolved from guilt so you can move on?

3) Make provision for your wife before disclosing. Take her into the structured safety of being with a counselor or pastor. Be ready to pay for her to see a counselor on her own afterwards. Set time aside to stay with her if she wants you to. Have a place to go if she wants you to leave the house for awhile. And allow and encourage her to discuss this with a close friend.
4) Decide what you will disclose. Begin by sharing your rationale for disclosure ‘ e.g., I want our marriage to be based on honesty and truth. Then share the nature of the transgression (pornography, affair, strip club, cybersex). If was adultery, tell her who other person is and for how long. Do not give her the graphic details because this usually causes more harm than good. If she demands details, try to connect with her and find out what she needs to feel safe. Tell her if she needs to be tested for STDs. Also, give all the details about your m.o. ‘ your excuses and lies, the times and places you are most vulnerable, and what you did to orchestrate your behaviors.

5) Make it a full disclosure. Women want to know the truth, so don’t qualify it. Believe in the truth as the only path to healing.

There are several other important issues to consider in disclosure that we will consider in Part 2 of this article, such as, possible exceptions to full disclosure, dealing with your wife’s emotional roller coaster, responding to her anger, demands and boundaries, on-going disclosure with her, and minimizing the damage of your wife’s broadcast to kids, family, and friends.

For help in the battle for sexual integrity see Every Man’s Battle.

Every Man’s Battle Weekend Reviews

Every Man’s Battle Weekend Review
By Justin

At the beginning of the weekend I felt nervous and apprehensive. I was excited to learn the tools that would solve my problem.

What I learned was that the perfect tool was inside me all along – Jesus Christ. I just needed to use it to reach into the root cause of my sexual sin. When I left on Sunday, I can happily say that I felt closer to God than I have in a very long time. I have made true friends and feel more in love with my wife. I am ready to make this work and would recommend this weekend to anyone.

Every Man’s Battle Weekend Review
By David

My sexual sin had grown and progressed so such a degree that it destroyed my career and threatened to destroy my marriage. My thoughts and even my prayers were muddled and clouded by the enemy so much so that I couldn’t even recognize the lies that were guiding my life.

God used men who knew Christ and who had been through similar struggles to show me the hope of God’s redemptive plan for me.

After five years of “clean and sober” time from drugs and alcohol I am now coming to terms with how my lack of sexual integrity had hijacked my relationship with God and others. Struggling alone I could not stand and find victory in my walk.

I am no longer alone! This weekend Intensive restored my awareness of God’s amazing grace. It has given me a restored faith that God has much much more planned for my life than I could ever find on my own.

With the community of others helping me, I am ready now to let go of my old pursuits which were cheap substitutes for God.

I have made a new goal – to be the man God created me to be…a lover of God and other people with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. An intimate walk with God along side the allies I have found at Every Man’s Battle is now my focus.

Thank you to Jason -the main speaker- you gave me courage because I identified with so much of your personal story – thank you for genuinely caring and seeking to be used by God.

Every Man’s Battle Weekend Review
By Warren

The Every Man’s Battle Weekend Workshop is an awesome and life changing experience.

The ability to be made so comfortable with the establishment of the “No Shame Zone” makes for a very helpful and safe environment in which I was more than willing to share. To be instructed by people who had overcome the same issues that I am currently dealing with is an added plus.

The closeness of the bond that I felt within the breakout sections aided in helping me to share. Just knowing that everyone was dealing with some variation of the same issue helped me to not feel abnormal or like some sort of cast off.

God used this conference and these leaders to help me see my individual problem and to plot out the necessary course of action – though hard it will be. He also used this conference to break me and do something I have not done since 1979 and that was cry. The overwhelming hurt I felt when I was made to realize what I have put my wife through – and the awesome symbolism displayed as we placed the blood of Jesus (paint) over our placecards to cover our sins, hurts and pains – took me over the top. I praise God for these men and the work they put into this, to help us all.

My hope and prayers are not just for me but for each and every one of my brothers in Christ and for those who have not accepted Him as their savior. May we have the victory – though the power of Jesus – and may we continue to follow it through the years to come.

For more information call 1-800-639-5433 or visit http://everymansbattle.com

Lost in the Wake of Lust

I remember, as a boy, constructing a model boat and setting it sail in a bay lagoon. I was thrilled that it remained afloat and was so hopeful that it would reach the other shore. But its journey was cut short when a ski boat, more concerned about staying on plane then obeying the posted no wake zone, sped through and capsized the model. My anger turned to sadness as hope was dashed on the rocks of selfishness that summer afternoon.

Few things can turn a marriage and family upside down more quickly than adultery. The Lord Jesus, in the fifth chapter of Matthew, makes it very clear that adultery is more than jumping into bed with another person. It begins with the imaginations and intentions of the heart. The apostle James affords us a word picture of a fisherman luring his prey from its place of safety when he writes, ‘But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.’ (James 1:14) He continues to record the results of this self-centered pursuit: ‘Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.’ (James 1:15)

Sexual sin causes significant hurt in the lives of wives and children. Laurie Hall honestly expressed her pain in a letter to her husband, who was addicted to pornography. In An Affair of the Mind she writes, ‘Later you called ‘ and you wanted to talk with the kids. Why? You never had time for them before. Sandy collapsed. Talking with you brought all her angers and fears to the fore. She was crying so hard, she couldn’t catch her breath, and I had to catch her as she fell. Ian spent three hours on the phone (with someone else) ‘ he couldn’t tell me how he was feeling ‘ Dear God, it’s already started. My babies are dying, and I can’t do anything to save them. I don’t even have the strength to save myself.’ (p. 46)

Exhaustion, confusion, embarrassment, disgust, anxiety, depression, shame, shock, anger, loneliness–all these and more represent the thoughts and emotions of those lost in the wake of lust. Coming to grips with the separations that one’s sexual acting out has perpetrated is a necessary and healthy aspect of the healing journey.
Let me suggest an action item if you are tracking with these thoughts. If you’re ready, this exercise will shift your sobriety into a higher gear of recovery.

  1. List the names of the people you hurt with your behaviors and words.
  2. Think of how you hurt each one.
  3. Reflect on how each person must have felt.
  4. Write each one a letter (you may want to write only one or two a week) expressing their feelings and hurts, along with anything else you may want to say. Do not, at this point, mail the letters or share their content with those you have offended.
  5. Read the letters out loud, one at a time, imagining you are talking with each individual.
  6. Share the import of this exercise with your therapist, sponsor and/or accountability partners.
  7. Make appropriate amends, when ready.

This process could take some time depending on the number of people affected, but it will give you an open and honest platform for building relational health. However, let me share a word of caution: DO NOT CONTACT THE PEOPLE ON YOUR LIST UNTIL YOU HAVE EITHER WORKED THROUGH STEPS 8 & 9 OF AN APPROPRIATE 12-STEP PROGRAM WITH A SPONSOR, OR YOUR THERAPIST GIVES YOU THE OK.

That summer day long ago I determined to rescue my sinking boat. So, fully dressed, I jumped into the lagoon and swam hard before it was too late. I retrieved the model and rebuilt it, but I always looked in all directions before letting it set sail again. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to restore your marriage and family? I encourage you to take unusual measures to protect them, care for them, nurture them, and reorient your heart toward them. Chart your new course today.

To get some help, please join us at Every Man’s Battle or New Life Weekend.

What to do when your spouse is not open to your faith

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How to get your marriage back on track after a seperation

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