Morning friends,

I love all the Scripture verses you shared with one another this week. As we understand the whole counsel of God, don’t you see how much he cares for each one of us? Even when we make a mistake, God is there, teaching us to walk in his ways and to do the next right thing. Our pastor just spoke in Genesis 31 about Jacob this past Sunday. Jacob is taking some new baby steps of faith, but not perfectly. After trusting God and deciding to leave Laban, he resorts to his old habits of deceit and doubt. God doesn’t turn his back on him but continues to move Jacob forward in his journey of growth.

 

This leads into this week’s question. She asks: Is it possible that in forgiving and moving forward with an adulterous spouse one could have gotten in the way of what the Lord was going to do in their life? After more than a year of all the expected and normal consequences of discovering a betrayal (and seeking Godly council) I resumed our relationship even though my gut kept haunting me about the “repentance” I received.

Now after these 2 years of very wonderful normalcy, subtleties of past behaviors started to show up again. Here I am today, my spouse involved in pornography (even though he was not when he committed adultery the first time), voyeurism, and online sex solicitations. So, I rephrase my question. Did I interfere with the work of the Lord in my spouse’s life by re-entering the relationship too quickly?

Answer: Perhaps you reconciled prematurely but you’ll never know that for sure so please don’t beat yourself up. You did the best you knew to do at the time. Even if you did circumvent your husband’s full repentance two years ago by reconciling with him prematurely, God is always at work. Right now he’s at work in your situation and wants to get you and your husband’s undivided attention. We can never thwart God’s work. However when we refuse to listen to him and stubbornly cling to our sin or our idolatry, we do experience greater pain and I think that may be what’s happening to you both right now.

As I’ve mentioned before, for women one of our idols is to be husband-centered instead of God-centered. We love to be loved, cared for and secure and we seek these things from a man (who will surely fail us in one way or another – at least a little bit – even for those in good marriages).

Maybe your desire to be your husband’s woman again (after the affair), or your fear of being alone, or the pressure you felt from friends, family and/or church, or your own anxiety about confronting the deeper issues in his heart, or your belief that extending grace and compassion towards him meant restoring full marital privileges propelled you to short-circuit some of the work you both needed to do to bring about a deeper healing. It felt better back then to say this was behind you rather than continuing to tend to the deeper issues.

But God is God. He brings the hidden things to light so that we can see them, repent of them and learn how to walk in newness of life. It took two years but now those deeper issues are surfacing again and you both have work to do.

Your work is to step back and allow your husband to experience the ugliness of his sin through the gift of consequences. Your work is to trust God in this process and to keep your heart focused on God and not your marriage or husband. Your work is to not be overcome with evil but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Your work is to figure out how to handle your own hurt and negative emotions that are as a result of his sin. Your work is to learn how to live without him if that’s what it takes to help him see the depth of his depravity.

His work is to accept responsibility for his problem. His work is to figure out what he’s seeking from pornography, voyeurism, and on-line sex solicitations. His work is to enter into a deeper relationship with God instead of trying to solve his problem his own sinful way. His work is that he must feel more than the pain he is in for getting caught or for having negative consequences, he must feel pain for the hurt he has caused you again. He has broken your trust and your heart and he will have to carry that awareness without running away from it in order to understand it. His work is to learn how to be sexually pure and faithful if he wants to be a godly man.

It’s important that you accept that you CANNOT do his work for him, nor can he do your work for you. Each of you must carry your own load (Galatians 6:5).

All of life is a series of choices, good ones and bad ones. As Jacob did in Genesis 31, he made some courageous choices and some foolish ones. He walked in faith and he walked in fear. I believe God shows us the very real flaws in biblical characters so that we don’t lose our way when we mess up or we see others do so.

You fear you messed up by reconciling prematurely. But had you not reconciled when you did and your husband ended up in the same place he is now, you probably would have beat yourself up for not reconciling. Satan is the accuser and he’s always accusing us to keep us from God’s presence (Revelation 12:10).

So dear one, my advice to you is stop fretting about what you did or didn’t do. As a young child runs into her mother’s arms, RUN don’t walk into God’s presence. God is much more concerned with your heart than your mess or mistake. When we present our mess to God with a humble and contrite heart, God can take our biggest messes and transform them into our message, the things that speak the loudest to those who are watching us live out the reality of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.

Friends, how has God helped you when you feared you messed up? What helped you turn back to him instead of turning in on yourself?

32 Comments

  1. Linda on July 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    What a wonderful answer, Leslie. I did a similar thing, and beat myself up over it before too, but God in His faithfulness brought me all the way back to where I was before and my husband and I are separated again. This time I will stay out of the way and let God do whatever He is going to do, and allow my husband to decide if he wants to follow Christ for real or not. I don’t know if we will ever reconcile, and I am not focusing on that anymore. I am trying to do exactly what Leslie says in her response. I still miss my husband and our “normalcy” everyday, and sometimes the pain is intense, but I get though it and I am finding I have a lot more good days than bad. God bless you. Don’t be afraid. You can bet your life on Jesus!

  2. Mini on July 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Oh my… how scary (but in a good way) is this… Although it’s not the same problem exactly, today’s question and your answer are spot on for my problem at this time. Wow and thank you both.

  3. TJ on July 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I really needed this today!! I am currently in reflection of the same issue but of 3 years. The cheating and not coming home have stopped but the verbal, economical and emotional abuse hasn’t stopped. He still sees no wrong is his past or current actions. For instance if I don’t want to have sex station “you wonder why I am cheating on you” I have been very heart broken over thinking I should have left 3 years ago instead of staying for more misery for us both. I can no longer do but am stronger now to do what needs to be done. So with saying that I guess staying has made me stronger for myself and children.

  4. Yamiya Scott on July 9, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Ohh my, that is what I am going through and felt also that it my heart and tears of joy and encouragement my heart started shedding tears because that answer was for me thank you for sending this to me closer to God and working on my self and realize what God is saying to me is imp thanks again lol….everything you said was for me thanks holy spirit…:-)

  5. cristle on July 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    leslie, thank you for your words. they were like water to my soul today.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      That blesses me.

  6. Shellie on July 9, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Oh wow! Leslie, as usual, is on point! I hope the person who submitted the question, as well others, can find comfort in the previous comments as well as in my response below. You are not alone…

    This is exactly where I am. My husband and I have been in 12-step recovery (still are), continued counseling, overnight Christian healing workshops for sexual addiction…you name it. I personally have grown so much through all of the resources and tools mentioned above, including Leslie’s blog and books. Currently though, my spouse and I are in a relational divorce. I’m giving myself 12 months out of relationship with him, and I have my accountability partners in place to support me. Ours may be an unconventional approach to separation, as he is still living in the house (It’s a very big house). We have 3 children. Yet, I believe I am exactly where God wants me to be. This is not how I would have written the story of my life, but I trust God with it. That is where I have grown the most throughout this entire experience: trusting God. It’s not that I never trusted Him, it’s that my trust has grown even deeper. I can never exhaust the need for dependence upon my Savior. There is always room for more.

    After catching my husband in a relapse – after what seemed to have been months of genuine progress and (he claims) over a year of “sobriety” – I knew that I would be ok. I had done the work of my own healing and recovery. And continue to mature in it – “removing the log from my own eye.” And more recently, I have learned not to give “what is sacred” and not to give my “pearls” (spiritual, physical, emotional intimacy) to my emotionally destructive spouse “who may trample them under [his] feet, and turn and tear [me] to pieces.” (Matthew 7:1-6) I’ve experienced that for over 15 years already.

    This separation – or relational divorce – oddly, has brought me greater peace and wisdom. I have a quiet confidence that I know what I am doing. What am I doing, exactly? I’m trusting God. He guides me, teaches me, and equips me along the way. I can see more clearly how to pray for myself, my spouse, and my children. It is a wonderful gift!

    My focus is off of the relationship – because I am not in one. God has it in His hands right now. And He will let me know if that status changes. What I am able to do better now than ever is pray for my spouse’s true repentance through Christ, which begins with his utter and complete honesty. In my opinion, that is the only way for him to reach “long-term sobriety” or permanent change.

    When you separate “well,” good CAN come from it. And I can confidently say, “I am well, and I am getting healthier day by day.” Praise God!

  7. Andrea on July 9, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    In the process of deciding: ‘To reconcile, or not to reconcile; if so, when?’ This is such a hard place!! I am learning about waiting on God and His timing and trying to be patient and trust that He will let me know if/when the time is right . . . . . I do not want to end up years down the road facing the same things all over again–I have 2 children (5 and 2) and I don’t want them living with that mess!!! Prayers please, for wisdom and patience and discernment!

    • tawnya on July 10, 2014 at 1:27 am

      Hi Andrea, it is discernment and a good look at our motives and feelings! I really did well for yrs and then had a moment that I did not check in with my support group and went for it and had I gone over my thoughts and feelings and what I wanted and needed, I would have been put into my safety want by watching for the actions and not the words! I pray you get a person that will not tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear , so you will prosper were you are planted. God bless beautiful, great job on already wanting to know what to see, keep watching her you tube video;s on repentance and make a check list to gage the actions!!!

      • Andrea on July 10, 2014 at 10:18 am

        Thanks Tawnya. He fooled me too many times already with words for that to happen again. Just don’t know when I can trust the ACTIONS either . . . . . I think I see change in his actions, but I just don’t know what to do with it . . . . is it just another ploy to try to convince me since the words aren’t working anymore? or is it for real? I don’t want to be naive and gullible, but neither do I want to be bullheaded/suspicious/skeptical if the change is real . . . .

        • Linda on July 10, 2014 at 3:01 pm

          How long has he been demonstrating, by his actions, that he is truly a changed man? Do you see true agape love for others (not just you) being produced in his life? Does he have true brothers in Christ who he is being transparent with? Does he give you full access to his accounts? Does he freely give you the space you need to think and pray, or is he pressuring you in any way? Is there any underlying resentment that you can pick up on when he is inconvenienced by the circumstances he himself has created? Does he blame shift or completely own his sins and the consequences of his sin? Those are just a few things to think about. Don’t accuse yourself or let anyone else accuse you of taking too long, you have to be comfortable and trust that still, small voice that gives you pause.

          • tawnya on July 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm

            That is a great checklist!!!



    • Grace on July 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      I prayed that for you, Andrea.

    • debi on July 10, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      It is a hard place. I too, am waiting and wondering; sometimes feeling like a displaced person in the marriage. I try to practice Christ like Love towards him as a human, though the desire to romantically love him as his spouse is gone and has been for over 2 + years. I am trusting the Lord moment by moment with such a questionable future.

  8. Elizabeth on July 9, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Oh Leslie!!!

    I love this post so SO much!!!!

    What helped me when I fear making a mistake. Trust and faith that God is so much bigger than my problems and can get me to the destination He has chosen for me even if I chose a detour 🙂

    “Your work is to step back and allow your husband to experience the ugliness of his sin through the gift of consequences. Your work is to trust God in this process and to keep your heart focused on God and not your marriage or husband. Your work is to not be overcome with evil but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Your work is to figure out how to handle your own hurt and negative emotions that are as a result of his sin. Your work is to learn how to live without him if that’s what it takes to help him see the depth of his depravity.”

    You Rock Leslie 😉 <3

    • Grace on July 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      I really agree with that. Leslie so rocks, and I love this post.

  9. tawnya on July 9, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I have been apart for 5 yrs and recently was invited to a sport’s thing with our children by there father.This was big since silence or huge court battles was the norm in the break up. I have prayed for yrs for a come back and repentance and a new thing! All the while I was working on why I chose to be in the relationship of a man who treats and is comfortable with great sin of destruction. I had a lot be released to me from the class’s and found my time line and family of origin and how they contributed to my choices. I was determined to change the legacy for my 4 kids and work very hard to come out the other side. I found my coping mechanisms and the neg thinking I say to myself when I see the distributional behavior. Which would allow me to stay in denial, not react or react and flip out and not respect myself enough to hold to my needs and wants of honesty and safety in the relationship. I said earlier about going back in and it started small and my 2 younger children exploded and were so excited to see us in the same room and having lil moments of dinner and swimming, that conduct was out of my loneliness and need for control because my children get a lot of emotional talk towards them and I really figured If i could get him to be my friend maybe he would chill out on our kids. I fell back into fantasy world and would play out how I was going to make it better with a great attitude and good response to his destructive ways. I was not as strong as I had been thinking upon these things with worry and fear and got enmeshed and lead myself to believe and ended up in bed for three weeks with him and started seeing myself have addictive behaviors as I now needed him to call me or text me and be about me! The Lord is so good, I went to my class and confessed to my group what I was doing and said I need a reality check,My instructor said people dont respect your boundaries because you dont respect your boundaries! I needed to journal back and see what I was saying to myself after I stated after the first visit what I wanted and needed to be friends and not have sexual contact, as he said he respected that and moved into pushing it more and more I caved and did not hold onto what I felt like was my biggest boundrie. My thinking in the moment was Im not worth it, Im not enough to be respected, I will settle because I have not found anyone I want around my kids, so I will settle for him because my kids LOVE there dad and maybe he just needs time to see the new me after all these yrs and he will fall convicted and do it the right way!! I was awakened every night with major discomfort and said to myself ”God is not in this and I have went the opposite of my convictions and feel dirty, and used was told by my childrens father that im the same old women..I immediately repented before God and asked for shame to be replaced with wisdom and grace and How If I am being honest Lord and being a good steward of what tools and teachings you have brought in my life, that I will hold stead fast to my value and not compromise even if My feelings are there for reconciliation even as a healthy co parent, then I must obey and not do it in anyway that is out of desperateness to save my kids or make me feel better because I did dysfunctional responses in the relationship. Coming out of destructive relationships is hard work and replacing the neg self talk with truth is a work of consistent exchange with great discipline, staying away from what was very normal for yrs is no easy transition. I am now 4 weeks with out compromising and able to go twice a week to sport activities and remain in God and talk to God about my thinking and breaking old patterns and setting myself up for success and not default. In that small space of going back I was in a lot of pain and did not want to sit in it and receive the truth of reality that it is not going to be anything more then a cordial exchange. I have a standard that has been ingrained since leaving and trying to go back to old ways God does not let me do comfortably and Praise to our King !! He wants his children to be in peace not pieces, and I have to choose as a co labor with him If I really want out or do I want to play!! I have enough experience of pain that my sin is a ripple effect to my children and friends as they see me be heart broken because I handed my heart back to the heart breaker without.. Doing the steps and holding tight to my worth in true belief that I dont need to guess or play games when someone truly is valuing me and my convictions! standing back and watching the actions that speak louder then words, if I am willing not to excuse red flags.. I am giving myself grace and thankful it was a very quick in and out, Knowing now were I need to hone my skills back in on and remembering my emotions and thoughts as I venture looking ahead and how my actions will cultivate my value!! Praise God that when you are his you will hear his voice and you will receive his grace as you repent and turn from your wicked ways.. He is faithful to motivate you in what is healthy when you were never taught that way! I have a mighty LEGACY to leave in breaking the curse of Domestic violence and feel privileged as I get to be released from egypt into the milk and honey with his help from, Leslie and my class lifeskills international! This is no easy road but very worth it, and if it helps to shed light to another women to encourage her to stay true to her value and true to her boundaries as she has been released and set free to become all that God has designed her to be!Thank you Leslie for creating a site were we can get insight and navigate the healing process, that God delights in!! May we continue to press in and get the knowledge not to perish and be set up for success with our children and community. I see clear how when the word is sown how the enemy will come to steal it right away, and as women and single we need to constantly ask God to hedge us from our weakness and vulnerability to stay away from the fox holes and be on our guard. IN JESUS NAME AMEN!

    • debi on July 10, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      thank you for your transparency in this response. so much is relatable and encouraging and motivational.

    • April on July 17, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      This comment blessed me soooo much in the Lord. Thank you for sharing!!!! The part about holding fast to our value in Him really ministered to me and I’m in this exact situation right now.

      I can relate to “falling back into fantasy world” and the strong desire to reconcile.

      • Elizabeth on July 25, 2014 at 6:12 pm

        “I gave my heart to the heart breaker” is exactly what I did 16 years ago when I reconciled too soon. I did not have this kind of truth and support then and thought after 5 years of separation I had no choice to reconcile. I knew better because there were signs of performance repentance and not heart deep honesty and responsibility. He still has not come to that place in his life and may never had even if I had stayed separated and allowed more consequences. However God has grown me in Him and He is my portion and strength as I daily chose to trust Him to work in me and leave the rest to Him. Thank you for all your sharing as it encourages me and I am thankful for each one of you and especially Leslie. God has raised her up to such a time as this…
        Love and prayers to you all as I read your posts.

  10. Stacy on July 10, 2014 at 1:36 am

    I left due to pornography and emotional abuse and other things and he convinced me to come back in about four days. Within one month he was ten times as worse it has been about eleven years since then. I have been thinking how I made one of the worst mistakes of my life. If only I had stayed away. If only. Ugh. If only. I can hardly.believe that I read this today. Like everyone else, I truly believe that I was meant to read this. I never knew that God would care about me more than my mistake and tha he would still help me grow and still work his plan. I never never knew. I thought I had ruined everything. My husband is deep into pornography and I don’t know if I should explain to my adult kids 23, 21 and 18 what their dad is doing. I have not yet. But when I go what should I tell them?

    • Andrea on July 10, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Oh Stacy! I have no advice–only care for what you are going through! 4 years ago, I left my husband because of violence and we were separated for 2 weeks before he convinced me that he had ‘changed’ and to take him back. As in your experience, he was not truly ‘changed’ and things were not better. I came to the point where I decided to leave again and we have been separated now for 6 months. What to tell the children is SOOOO hard!!! (mine are 5 and 2) I have NO idea what I would say to adult children! Dealing with his family who saw what he was all his life is hard enough–let alone children who *should* respect their father . . . . . Like I said, I have no advice–only prayers that God will carry you through by His Grace and fill you with His Wisdom through the Holy Spirit! Hugs and blessings to you!

    • Becky on July 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Stacy, your children are adults. They need to know the truth about their dad. If he is into pornography it can easily slip into other sinful behaviors. I’m sure they have suspected it or even found evidence of it. Let this be a teaching moment for them.

  11. Teri on July 10, 2014 at 2:46 am

    I don’t even know what to say after reading this…just Thank You…from the bottom of my heart….Thank You Leslie for your honesty and wisdom.

  12. Emily on July 10, 2014 at 6:12 am

    This answer from Leslie just oozes a wealth of wisdom and insight. It brings comfort and understanding like no other resource I’ve come across in this long painful journey being married to a sex addict. I’m so glad that I set a boundary with my husband by cutting off relationship with him when he chose his sinful lifestyle over reconciliation. The very idea of trying to work thru our problems without full disclosure, honesty and transparency seemed impossible. I can see now that the boundary has served as protection from further pain and heartache. Thank you Leslie.

  13. Allie on July 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Leslie, one line of your response really jumped out at me: “Your work is to figure out how to handle your own hurt and negative emotions that are a result of his sin”. Can you add to that? What practical things can I do to deal with my negative emotions?

    • Leslie Vernick on July 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Allie, I’m going to be offering a two session teleseminar on handling negative emotions in August or September with lots of tips and tools on what to do when you are stuck, so stay tuned to the newsletter for further details.

      • Andrea on July 10, 2014 at 6:49 pm

        Oh good! I can’t wait to hear this one! This is where I am currently finding myself stuck as well . . . .

  14. Brenda on July 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Leslie, God works through you and I hear Him. I don’t think we can get in God’s way. He can handle it all no matter what we think of as stumbling blocks we put in the way. God has no boundaries. He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. He knows what we are going to do and when. Make the best decisions that you can for yourselves with God’s direction. He will be there to pick us up if we fall.

  15. Bonnie on July 11, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Leslie, this post today brought tears to my eyes. I have been separated(but living in the same house) from my husband for nearly 2 years now due to his spirally downward into alcoholism. He had an incident last month that must have brought him to his knees and brought him into recovery at AA. Although I see changes in him, I still don’t trust him and I’m not sure if there is too much water under the bridge for us to ever reconcile or heal our marriage. If I’m honest, I’ve been feeling very done because I don’t see him as a safe person. I have been sitting on the fence for these past few years and I wonder how much time I’m wasting and then I have to remember to put my focus back on God.

    Most times I struggle with discerning what is God’s will and what my own will(ego) is pressing upon me. For me, I deal with my own guilt of cutting off our relationship because the pain of his addiction and attitudes and behaviors had become too much for me. We’ve been through it all: emotional abuse, verbal abuse, manipulation, passive aggressive behaviors, porn, strip clubs, DUI, jail time, etc. From the outside, we look like a normal middle class family: nice house, nice cars, and a small cushion in the bank.

    Thank you so much for those words of wisdom today. I was tearing up because I know that God was talking to me and telling me that I was, once again, putting my focus on making my marriage and/or my husband my idol. By reading this post and the messages below, I am learning that it’s OK to continue to wait on God and that it’s OK to not have all the answers.

  16. Jilly on July 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I agree with you all – Leslie offers such excellent wisdom! I especially needed to hear the reprimand not to make my life husband-centered but God-centered instead. It is very difficult to change 30 years of focusing in the wrong direction (and at the counsel of well-intended sermons and workshops on marriage).

    I was intrigued with Shellie’s remarks about living in the same house in a relational divorce. I feel that is where I am now as well. And waiting, waiting, for my husband to own his behaviors instead of blame-shifting. In the meantime, I am working on being God-centered every day. It’s a lot of work!

    I also want to share with you all that after reading Leslie’s books and also other books on Boundaries, that I have written out a list of things I want to see in my husband before I emotionally open myself up to him again. I think this will help me not open up too soon, as well as be able to specify to him what I think his behaviors should change to be (if he ever wants to know).

  17. Shelly Blank on July 12, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I wonder about forgiveness and reconciliation as a process. Did the woman forgive and understand that in forgiveness, there are layers that are revealed and part of the journey God reveals in His timing. It can’t be done perfectly in our feeble ways. That is part of the journey in learning to trust God in greater capacities. Both parties reveal and understand forgiveness in different ways, which is also a way for God to draw them closer to each other and continue the refining process in marriage.
    This post brings out some very good points. I just want to reiterate my thoughts about forgiveness as an important journey. I think the important key here is that she acted in faith, trusting God with the words of forgiveness, knowing that He would ultimately equip her to forgive, heal and trust Him with process.
    Some important questions to pose when a person is ready to forgive:
    Is the (offender)she/he fully ready to turn away from that pattern of behavior, be held accountable, and begin the forgiveness journey?
    Did she know that God would continue the work of forgiveness as a refining, sharpening tool?
    Did he understand that he would have continuing work to do in the same way-to refine him as a man and a husband?
    She acted in faith and it is up to the husband at that point to do his part. As the journey goes, does he/she respond perfectly, and how do they both learn in greater steps to trust, forgive and heal?
    If a person in the healing process stops being held accountable? What do we do then?

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