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 Restore–for wives of men struggling with sexual purity and Intimacy in Marriage–for couples.

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.

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.