Building Trust Again
Picking up the Pieces When Your Sexual Sin Has Been Discovered
You’ve messed up and you’ve messed up big time. You have desecrated God’s arena for sexual activity and crushed your wife in the process by what you have done. Sexual betrayal runs deep, and our sensitive, image-bearing wives feel it most because they live the closest to ground zero. Yet, all too often, we as husbands expect a simple “I’m sorry and I won’t do it again” to solve the problem, to heal the pain. We ask ourselves: “Why doesn’t my wife just accept my apologies and move on? Why doesn’t she see the steps I have begun to take to help me not do it again, and stop feeling so hurt about it all?” In other words, when is she going to stop making this such a big issue so that we both can move on with our lives?
We may not actually say or think those thoughts, but I’ve seen them in so many hearts of the men who come to Harvest USA. I’ve seen them in my own heart, too. But I believe the real issue is that we don’t want to honestly look at the damage we have done to our wives. We’ve bought into the world’s take on things. Whoever started the idea concerning a victimless crime forgot about our wives. Pornography is not a victimless activity, on many levels, but especially when it comes to our spouses.
How do we build trust again with our wives when they hear the words coming out of our mouths but they don’t see the reality of it in our lives? At this point, at the beginning of the journey when you’ve been caught or you finally confessed, all I can say is that it’s hard. You have to understand that both you and your wife are in a tough spot. You have to own up to the fact that your behavior has crossed lines that bring death to a relationship. We can speculate about what Adam and Eve were thinking about before they ate the fruit. But it was when they ate the fruit that death occurred. They crossed the line.
By engaging in porn, we crossed the line; we’ve eaten the forbidden fruit. The fallout is deeper than we think. Maybe Adam and Eve wouldn’t have eaten the fruit if they could have seen the possibility that their one action would eventually lead, countless years away, to nuclear war as a result. But that doesn’t really matter right now. We are living in a world with that possibility because of their behavior. So we must face our own self- made catastrophe even if we didn’t consider the consequences.
No matter how your wife found out about your involvement with sexual sin (whether you got caught or you “self confessed”) she is trying to process the discovery that a part of your life—a part of who you are—she didn’t know about at all. Now she feels like she has been living with a stranger all these years. Can you imagine what the wife of Dennis Rader felt after finding out that she was married to a serial killer for 30 years? I know that sounds like an over-the-top example, but do you get the point? How can she suddenly, or easily trust you again, when for (how long?; how many years?) you presented a part of yourself to her that was a lie?
You shouldn’t be surprised that she is now asking herself questions like, “Does this mean that every time he walked out the door and said he was just going to the store he was really going somewhere else?” She feels like she has to turn into some sort of private investigator or detective or something. This wasn’t her calling when God asked her to be your wife. She is wondering what these women on the internet have that she doesn’t have. Is she supposed to get surgery or have a pole installed in the bedroom?
How do we as husbands help to heal all those wounds? What are our expectations?
I know I’ve been very negative up to this point. But one thing I’ve learned is that God works in the real. It does us no good to paint the picture different than it really is. The corner we’ve painted ourselves into looks bleak. But there is hope! And it can only start when we get real with what our behavior has done—how it has deeply hurt—our spouse, and honestly face up to the damage we have inflicted. It can’t start any other place.
I want to start a small series of blog postings to delve into the question of how God works in this particular dilemma of rebuilding trust when we’ve damaged it in such a serious way. I’ll be interested in any responses from those who have had to walk this road and found hope.