Morning friends,

I hope you had a relaxing and fun Labor Day weekend. The weather was beautiful here in the White Mountains and I probably walked close to 20 miles over the 3-day weekend.  I have loved walking here in the cooler weather, among the pine trees of Arizona. Yes, we have the largest deciduous pine forest in the world here in Arizona. No cactuses where I’m at and the terrain here looks more like Minnesota or the UP of Michigan.  

Today’s Question: I’m married 25 years to my high school sweetheart. Two kids, daughter age 20, and son age 12. I thought we had a fantastic marriage, with just the usual ups and downs and stresses that all families face. Before we got married, I knew my husband had a temper. He's always been quick to judge others. Our daughter, who just turned 20, and I have talked often about how he has a double standard…..”do as I say, not as I do”… and certainly don't call him on what he does wrong. His abuse over the years has been verbal, belittling, demeaning, controlling, and yelling. But that's not something a “good Christian” divorces over……so I thought I'd just live with it.

My husband seemed to go through these cycles of anger. He'd get angry at something, I'd have to pry out of him what was wrong, usually, something I did (the house isn't clean, laundry's not done, I don't cook enough, not enough sex). I'd straighten up and do better, and he'd treat me better. But 3 years ago, I found something that changed everything. He was mad at me, but all those checklist items that he normally accused me of were clearly not the problem at the time. So I got suspicious. It was then that I found out he was cheating on me.  

Over the next 18 months, both of us in counseling, him for sexual addiction…I found out, in little drips and drabs that he had been with more than a dozen women, mostly one-night hookups, ever since about our 3rd year of marriage! He had been able to keep these lies a secret for more than 20 years! And I didn't know. 

I finally asked him to move out of the house and I started divorce proceedings a year ago. But the attorneys became so expensive; he convinced me that we could “work out” a settlement without paying attorneys. I agreed, and we put a settlement in writing….which he refused to sign because “my word is good, I'll take care of you.”  

He truly hopes our marriage will be restored in time, reminding me often that I am his wife and we are only separated. A year later, after watching him closely, he continues to lie…..has continued to cheat, blaming the addiction. His finances are nothing but lies, and he has recently decided to not honor a key part of our verbal settlement agreement. I have a new appointment with my attorney tomorrow, to resume divorce proceedings.

Outward appearances, he is charming, funny, helpful to anyone who asks, giving, hardworking….a great guy! We have been going to the same church since we were in elementary school…..we have the same friends.  

His “story” to those he tells is that he “messed up big time,” and that he's working hard to restore my trust. They believe he is the good guy he portrays, still buying me flowers every week and bringing them to my workplace. 

He is still active in our church, acting like nothing is different. However, I've been very, very reluctant to tell details, not wanting to put our friends in the middle, where they feel it's “he said/she said.” This puts me in a position where I feel as though I have little support from our friends there. It's a large church, and it's not unusual for someone to come to me each Sunday and ask if he and I “will make it.” I love my friends….I love the church we go to….how do I let them understand it is so much worse than they can imagine, that it is full-blown, Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole-bizarre.  

Even though he's the one who cheated, I'm the one who filed for divorce….and it feels like that is what people key in on. He wants to restore the marriage, I don't think he can ever be trusted! How can I relay to friends and other church friends that with what he has done and what he continues to do, that I am doing the right thing? 

Beyond that, if I feared his anger before, he is going to be beyond livid when the new papers from the attorney show up. How do I go about protecting my heart from his vindictive, acidic, 5-year-old temper tantrums? (that's what our daughter calls them). I am afraid of what he might do.

Answer:  I’m perplexed about your initial description that you thought you had a fantastic marriage with the usual ups and downs but then go on to describe years of temper tantrums, belittling, controlling behaviors, and verbal abuse that was standard fare even before you found out about all the lies and sexual acting out. 

You wrote, “It’s not something a good Christian divorces over…” so I thought I’d live with it. Your marriage doesn’t sound so fantastic to me, even before you discovered all the lies and affairs.  

Next, you indicate that your husband is a master liar. He’s been able to keep his sexual addiction a secret for more than 20 years and you had no clue. I want you to ask yourself a question. When he convinced you to drop your attorney and agree to a financial settlement that he refused to sign because “my word is good” why would you believe that? His word has been anything but good.  

Now a year later you continue to catch him in deceit and affairs and yet he’s telling everyone that although he’s messed up big time, he’s working hard to restore your trust.

What exactly is he doing to restore your trust? Buying flowers doesn’t restore trust. Telling the truth, being accountable, and keeping one’s word does. From what you have written, there is none of that. Click To Tweet

You have some really tough choices to make but one’s based on the evidence before you. There is no evidence that your husband is repentant or working on changing his ways. Charm is deceitful and your husband oozes charm, but he’s lacking godly character. 

Does your pastor know what’s going on? I know you are reluctant to tell your “story” to all of your mutual friends and I affirm your desire to not to put them in the middle but at the very least, your pastor needs to know the full story so that he can support you and as the shepherd of the flock, hold your husband accountable if he is actively involved in this church. Your pastor not only needs to know about sexual addiction but also the years of deceit, continued deceit, and abusive behaviors.

I also think that you might need to sit down with your pastor either together or separately and work out a plan of what you are going to tell your mutual friends. Although he’s admitted messing up big time, he’s still being deceitful when he says “he’s working hard to restore your trust.” I think it would be more honest to say “I’ve messed up big time” and for you to say, “I don’t think that trust can be restored.”

You’ve decided to re-file the divorce papers. As you take this step you will need to accept that you will never receive everyone’s support. Some people will understand, others will not. It’s important as you take this step that you have a clear conscious and are sure of God’s leading. Also, ask your church leaders (and their wives) to stand with you and affirm that you indeed have Biblical grounds for divorce (as you do). Without having to give all the details to all of your friends, the leadership support would be a big help with your Christian community.    

Last you asked how you could protect your heart from his vindictive tantrums? Probably the best way is to limit your contact with him. I would encourage you to have some firm boundaries right now. For example, no phone calls. No personal contact. E-mails only (so you have everything in writing) or communicating through your attorneys or an app called Our Family Wizard

Keep in mind, he will not like your newfound strength because he’s used to manipulating and controlling what you do and how you think. If you don’t feel strong enough to be firm, surround yourself with some strong female friends who will help you stick to your resolve. He’s a sweet talker and seems good at convincing you that his lies are true.  

Finally, remember that his tantrums and what he says and does are not about you and what you have done or haven’t done. Bottom line is that his actions and attitudes show you where his heart is. Jesus reminds us that it is “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:46).  When someone is about to vomit all over us, we don’t ask ourselves why they are doing that, we just get out of their way as fast as possible.

I’d also strongly encourage you to attend my free webinar on Thursday, 9/10 on How Long Should I Keep Trying and How Will I Know His Changes are Real. Click here to register.

You seem to trust very easily despite your spouse repeatedly breaking your trust. From what you wrote, he is not rebuilding broken trust, he expects you to give it without any changes on his part. That isn’t smart nor does it work.  

I’d also suggest that you join CONQUER, which is an educational and support group for Christian women in destructive marriages. You need other females who know what you’re going through, who believe your story and can help you with prayer, support, encouragement, and resources. To find out more about CONQUER, click here.

Conquer is only open twice a year and it opens its doors September 10th and closes September 18th…….  This is an opportunity for you to get safe, sane, and strong.  

Friends, what steps do you think someone should make to start rebuilding broken trust?

11 Comments

  1. Janet Lee on September 9, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I see how we as women get caught up in believing the lies because we are married to ” Christian men”; even if they are not; another lie; We are so blind to our H. His lies & behavior?? I was married for 34years before I separated, I thought everyone had the same problems , I could not even see till I read your book , how bad things were?? I still get blinded & believe his lies?? I’ve been separated for 5 years ?? Why do we fall for their lies & trust them??

    • Free on September 11, 2020 at 10:34 am

      I trusted too. That was normal and appropriate for a partner to do. What is abnormal was the destructive behavior my partner exhibited. It was certainly nothing we could have expected or anticipated! What? Wait, he said and did what? No, that can’t be true. Certainly that is not who he REALLY is.

      Yet, yes, that is who he really is. We trust because trust is the bedrock of love and marriage. The reality is that our partner was never interested in love and marriage, oh, but they wanted our trust. They wanted to charm, seduce, dominate, exploit and pontificate, in order to look good or feel good about themselves, and/ or their reputation in society.

      A good woman is great to hide behind. No one would ever guess your partner’s crazy, evil motives with you by their side. He needed you to create his fake persona.

  2. JoAnn on September 9, 2020 at 11:33 am

    I am so very sorry for what you are going through. Learning about his infidelity after 20 years is shocking, and I know you feel betrayed, among other things. You say you don’t know how to tell others about the divorce, so I would like to offer a few lines that might help. First of all, “Yes, he is a very charming fellow, but he has broken our marriage covenant repeatedly. I have been in fellowship with our pastor, and for me, this is the only way to go.” Then that’s all. If anyone argues with you, tries to get you to “give him another chance,” you can remind them that they don’t know the whole story, which you are not willing to discuss, and that while this is a difficult decision, it’s what you must do. You will find out who your true friends are, so as Leslie says, surround yourself with supportive friends, join her CONQUER group, and learn how to give yourself the new life you deserve. If your church is managed by truly godly men and women, they will ask him to leave, as he can be a danger to others in the congregation. If the leaders are not willing to support your decision and hold your husband accountable, then I would find another place to meet, if I were in your shoes.

  3. Connie on September 9, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    For crying out loud, he doesn’t want to restore the marriage ( what marriage?), he wants to restore his comfort, his cover, and keep his reputation! “Do not be partakers with evi l, but rather expose it.” Keeping his sins completely secret from even your pastor is covering for unconfessed sin. Matt. 14
    If he really wants a godly marriage with trust, he can pursue that after a divorce, there is plenty of help available, but it would take a long long time and very hard work, and whatever you do, don’t get sucked in to ‘helping ‘ him. As long as you wonder whether he’s sincere, he’s not. If he is, you will know that you know.
    Peace to you!!!!!

  4. Patty on September 10, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Luke 6:45, not Luke 6:46, in the 5th paragraph from the end. Thank you for Bible references in your ministry. So important, especially for those of us who experience repeated misuse of scripture. I like to look the scripture up and get context. Your ministry is a huge blessing to so many women.

  5. Lori on September 11, 2020 at 9:19 pm

    Janet Lee

    Recently, I’ve learned one of the reasons I accepted my abuse so easily was because I saw it in my parent’s relationship as I grew up. My father is a perfectionist and his pride and expectations of how others should live influences his attitude and actions. My mother lives a life of passivity or appeasement to “keep” him happy and will challenge only those who might dare to speak the truth about him. Only now do I truly understand how it’s affected my own judgment, behavior and the choices I’ve made in my life.

    I’ve posted the following response before but thought I should post it here in case someone needed to see it.

    I believe we have been raised to listen to man’s knowledge, interpretation and expectations not God’s and to believe it without question. We have been raised and instructed that to forgive and endure is love and what God commands. However, I believe the way we have been raised and instructed by man is faulty at best and false in the worst cases. We all have proof of it by what we see happening in our own lives and homes. Somewhere deep down, we know something is very wrong.
    We have not been raised or instructed to pursue a relationship with God or to love as He does. He loves and supports us but gives us the freedom to find His path and purpose, make our own choices and learn from those choices. He shows love in the greatest way possible through discipline and consequences. We have been raised as people pleasers not instructed to live our lives as Jesus lived. Jesus made God’s plan and purpose for his life priority even if it wasn’t what his disciples, the authorities of his day or the people who came to him wanted or expected of him.
    We have not been raised or instructed to create healthy boundaries for ourselves which God and Jesus practice repeatedly in the Bible. We have not been raised to love God, seek Him first in everything we do or show that same love not only to others but to ourselves.

  6. Susan on September 11, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    I really do not think this lady needs to be judged for what she has learned over a long period of time, hoping for something better. This is an account that goes back many years and indicates an evolution of understanding that results in what she now knows. If you haven’t EXPERIENCED an abusive, destructive marriage You can’t understand where she has been, Or what she is trying to convey. Abuse and trauma are complex, serious issues. A bit of compassion is needed here. God loves you. He understands why you thought the way you did. He will meet you where you are. And He will guide you, heal you.

    • Lori on September 13, 2020 at 8:38 am

      Susan,

      I don’t know for sure if there was someone specific you were responding to or to everyone who has responded so far? However, I will answer to the best of my ability but I will not claim to be speaking for anyone else here.

      I don’t believe anyone is here to judge. We are here to support, encourage and share our own experiences with others. I don’t believe I can claim to understand how anyone here is feeling or what they are thinking because we’re not one and the same. We all have our own unique circumstances and ways of dealing with situations in our lives. God’s plan is different for all of us.

      I do believe we can see the same cycle in this woman’s relationship and life as we had, or still have, in our own. Leslie is pointing out the inconsistencies in her husband’s behavior and her responses to them to bring to light her husband’s failure to restore her trust and her continued wish to restore that trust despite the current truth and reality of her husband’s actions.

      I applaud this woman who is showing great courage and strength in coming here and sharing her story and holding on to hope. Unfortunately, her husband is using her hope against her and for his own selfish gain. From what she’s told us so far and from my perspective, I can see her husband is still focused on making her question herself and doubt her decisions for what’s best for her based on what he tells her then decides to do.

      We are trying to validate what I’m guessing she already knows but is so painful to accept. She is not alone even though this is a journey we all have to make for ourselves. We can seek other’s advice to see if there is some wisdom which God might show us to give us clarity as to what our options could be. When we are ready, we all have to decide what our next step is within God’s time and according to His will.

      • JoAnn on September 13, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        Well said, Lori. Thank you.

      • Connie on September 13, 2020 at 5:47 pm

        Maybe she was referring to my post. It may sound like that. My frustration was totally on the husband. They are so cruel and so sneaky and it gets me angry. I do really empathize with and understand the wife. Hey, I’ve been there twice, so no judgement from here! I’m sorry that I wasn’t more clear about that.

        • Lori on September 13, 2020 at 6:25 pm

          Connie,

          I’m sad to hear you’ve experienced this not once but twice and I’m encouraged to see you are still here to support others. The drawbacks of posts and texts is the inability to hear the tone or read the expressions or body language being sent along with the words.

          I want you to know I understood exactly where you were coming from. I was right there with you. I’m guessing Susan was too.
          This woman’s husband sounds full of pride and entitlement, believing he can still tell her what she should do with her life while dismissing all the years of betrayal that he’s known about but she’s only recently discovered.

          As Susan said, trauma and abuse are complex and serious. They also last a long time and show up when we least expect them. I believe we all are still dealing with them in one way or another and maybe always will. I try to remember to rely on God’s grace, then I’m able to pause and ask to see the true message of Him and others.

          Thank you for your courageous response. God bless and keep you.

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