Monday, June 16, 2014

For the One Who Betrayed

When someone comes to me for help with adultery, I am both sad and honored. It is a rampant problem, but I am thankful people are trusting me to try to help them. It can be overwhelming at times, but it is a hugely important process.

I've had several men get a bit aggravated with me when I give them some steps to take in order to walk the path of adultery recovery. I try to tell them that I am for them, but it still can be a hard pill to swallow for many of them. I remember getting very upset with Bob, our therapist in Branson, MO, who basically told Amy to guard her heart because he wasn't sure I was repentant and sorrowful. He even told the story of a pastor who had been unfaithful but turned things around, until two years later repeated the offense. I didn't want to hear that on day one of our four day intensive! I was not happy with Bob, however, the rest of the week was life changing.

As I posted last week, it's great for men to want to do the right thing as a husband and father. However, they can't simply feel bad, apologize, ask God for forgiveness, and then move on with their life. The devastation has been caused, and they need to walk back through it, slowly and painfully.

It's like this. If I was a burglar and went into some one's home, destroyed and stole everything valuable to them, and then came up to them the next week and told them how sorry I was and how wrong I was, how would they react? They would probably call the cops and feel violated and upset. They may eventually forgive me, but just because I suddenly feel bad doesn't mean they are ready to just get over it. It would take time, lots of work, and there would be no guarantee that I would be off the hook anytime soon.

Well, when we commit adultery, we are worse than that burglar or bomber. We are destroying trust, integrity, vows, and much more. How can we expect our spouse to get over it quickly, just because we feel bad? It will take years to work through the muck and mud and "debris." It is unfair to the betrayed spouse to be told "can't we just move forward?" A truly loving and repentant spouse will give their betrayed spouse as much time as they need. They will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes to win back their heart and get the help needed to walk through this and out of this path of destruction.

Here are a few key steps I tell the unfaithful spouse to take that usually doesn't settle well with them but are important for the healing process:

1.  Come clean. Get it all out. Don't lie anymore or water down the truth.

2. Don't expect your betrayed spouse to be nurturing, comforting or feel bad for you when this all comes out. Don't look to her for your nurturing. Find a male mentor to walk with you through this.

3. Get an STD test if there was any physical or sexual contact.

4. If there were financial issues and lying, then pull a credit report and let your spouse have it. Print out all bank statements, too, if she is still unsure of your financial spending history. Come clean with all spending issues, including gambling, etc.

5. Stop promising the moon and telling her how great of a husband and father you are going to be. She needs to see your hurt, sorrow, and repentance. Feel the weight of your sin and walk through the devastation you have caused. When with her, tend to her needs, her hurts, and her anger. Let her get it all out and don't be defensive or give in to entitlement. When alone, ask God to show you the weight of your sin and the hurts, shame, and other reasons you chose to commit adultery. Ask Him to prune and "sift" your heart, removing and healing everything that is not submitted to Him.

6. You may need to change jobs or careers if the other woman works there, or your job/career or type of business is a set up for disaster. If you are constantly tempted or in situations that could lead to future betrayal, then it may be time to make some changes, or at least start the process. Your unwillingness to make changes is a huge red flag to your betrayed spouse. If you don't alter your life in order to protect your integrity and increase her ability to work toward trusting you again, then you will limit your recovery.

7. Change your phone number if the other woman(en) still has access to you. This may not be "convenient" but it is not about what's convenient. It's about taking drastic measures to protect your integrity and marriage, and win back your spouse's heart and trust.

8. Read all you can and get serious about finding out the message of your affair(s). Saying, "You know I don't like to read" is a cop out. Get audio books if you can't force yourself to read. Again, an unwillingness to change is a huge red flag and barrier. Self-discovery and spiritual insights are going to be important. Get mentored. Journal. Pray. Ask for feedback from other men. Get accountable. Books to consider are: Taking Every Thought Captive, by Mark Laaser. The Seven Habits of Highly Accountable Men, by Mark Laaser. Close Calls, by Dave Carder. The True Measure of a Man, by Richard E. Simmons, III.

9. Call two to three wise, mature, godly men every week to check in and be honest with them about your hurts, temptations, fears, and struggles. Don't wait until you are in a situation that is over your head. Get used to coming clean and being open and honest, even when you aren't overwhelmed and tempted.
I am sure there are others that I haven't listed. These will get you started. If you are unwilling to be uncomfortable for the next couple of years and do the hard work of letting God have His way with your heart and life, then it may hinder your ability to win back your wife's heart AND get the full healing you need long term. Even if your marriage doesn't work out, it is still important for you to do all you can to get full healing.

There is no guarantee these steps will save your marriage. It may be too late. However, doing the hard work of recovery regardless is best for you, your children, and so many more. Don't do these steps just for your wife, because if your marriage doesn't work out, then you will think it was all a waste. As the saying goes, "God never wastes a hurt." Let Him turn this evil into something good, regardless of the outcome.

I pray that my wife Amy has felt cared for in our adultery recovery and healing. I don't know why God has allowed me to still be married and have a marriage closer than ever. I am grateful, yet I know there is still a lot of work to do. I still have areas of my life to experience healing. With God's help and others, Amy and I are going to break free and let God continue to move us toward "thriving" and not just surviving.

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