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.

Persistence & 'Programs'

Jonathan Daugherty

How many times in the last week (or day’or hour) have you felt like giving up? Have you been tired, frustrated, or beaten down by life or addiction? What are the answers to your sexual acting out, and how can they possibly be implemented?

For those of us who struggle with sexual sin, ours is a daily battle with temptation. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with sexual images and innuendos. Pornography is a booming business and growing exponentially through the ever expanding Internet universe. Marriages keep breaking up due to “irreconcilable differences” or sexual infidelities. How can we curb such rampant impurity and lead a life that is pleasing to God?

Many in today’s culture (and even churches) would be quick to shove a “program of healing” in your face and spout, “Just do this and you will be fine.” This is the modern day equivalent of the old doctor’s quip, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” We have become a society engrossed with programs to “heal” every ailment. We even have 12-step programs for compulsive fingernail biters! (Ok, maybe we haven’t digressed that far, but we’re well on our way.)

Does this mean all ‘programs’ are bad? Of course not. Are most programs useless? Not hardly. But if programs, in and of themselves, were effective, don’t you think we would see higher rates of ‘success’ from those who implement them? The answer should logically be yes. Then why are we not seeing a larger number of people in “recovery programs” finding long-term freedom from their compulsive behaviors?

I believe the answer is found in one word: persistence.

The Bible speaks of perseverance (or persistence) as endurance. The Greek translation for endure is hupomeno and has the connotation of “staying under” or “remaining.” Jesus used this word when He spoke in Mark 13:13 and said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Does that type of long-term vision describe the attitude of our culture today? Hardly! We become impatient and frustrated when a candy bar doesn’t fall from the vending machine in less than 2 seconds. We have severely lost our willingness to endure and persist. Thus, the increased reliance on “programs” alone to remedy our every addiction.

Programs can be useful (such as our EMB workshops), but ONLY when coupled with persistence and relationship. When we persist, or endure, we are engaging in the hard work of “staying under” the leadership and accountability of another person (as it pertains to recovery). Persistence is most interested in the process, recognizing that enduring is not always clean, neat, glamorous, or “perfect.”

We persist because we understand the greater good of “remaining” until the work is complete. Persistence means I will not bail out no matter how intense the pressure is to quit.

Programs are oftentimes primarily interested in outward conduct. Are you “doing” the right things? Are you following each step correctly? And programs can often turn a person away to work on their issue alone, isolated from others. This is why so many people will start a solid program only to find themselves shortly afterward abandoning it as they spiral further into their shame and addiction. We need other people to help us maintain focus when it comes to fighting compulsive behaviors; not a list of rules.

One last note on persisting – it is NOT easy! In fact, one of the sub-definitions for the Greek word for endurance is “suffer.” Sticking to something and not giving up are character qualities that test our resolve at the core of our being. It requires increasing our threshold for emotional discomfort and developing habits of righteousness that lead us to the One who can “bear our burdens.” Jesus is our ultimate example of persistence. He is the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.” Jesus “remained” where God wanted Him and provided us with freedom from our afflictions.

I challenge you today to adopt a new outlook on your personal journey of purity. Instead of seeing the mountain of potential failure spots in front of you, focus on the wonderful Savior who fully bore all your sin, shame, and guilt on the cross and said, “It is finished.” Let Him be your primary motivation for persisting and connecting.

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries