Good evening friends,
Whew, it’s been a whirlwind week of travel, counseling, coaching and writing. I attended Logos Bible Software boot camp last week to learn their software. We were treated so kindly by the entire Logos staff. I had the opportunity to visit with amazing women ministry leaders who wanted to study God’s word using this software.
In the photo above are just some of the women I had the privilege of studying with. They are (bottom left to right) Sharon Jaynes, Karol Ladd, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, (top left to right), Linda Evans Shepherd, Pam Farrel, Me, Carol Kent and Jennie Dimkoff. For more pictures, visit my facebook fan page.
I wish I could tell you I got home and became a bible study wiz, but alas my menopausal brain only could retain a fraction of what I learned but thankfully they gave us printed manuals that I can refer to again and again. But I have at my fingertips tons of commentaries, Greek language studies, dictionaries, various translations of the bible, maps, sermon notes and everything else my heart could imagine.
Pray for me. I can easily become overwhelmed with the responsibilities God has given me.
Today’s Question: I have been facilitating support groups for sexually sinful men for the past 14 years. We added a wives support group 12 years ago. We have had men referred to us by their counselor, pastor, or by their own wife. The deep stabbing pain a wounded wife feels over her husband’s betrayal is overwhelming. I am not able to understand my wife’s pain or entirely why she chose to stay with me in spite of the pain. We are both glad she made that decision from the first day back in 1994.
Many of the men I deal with struggle with a level of narcissism that is often comical. Their childish behavior, the petty lies and the denial that he wasn’t as bad as other men does not impress a wife. On occasion we are blessed with a man who gets it. He knows his actions will be the true indicator of how well he is recovering.
My question is this: If a husband is really working hard to win trust and he appears to be doing the right thing AND his wife refuses to trust him after months (maybe years) of anger, etc. What should the husband do next?
Answer: I am always thrilled to hear how God takes our worst sins and failures and uses them for his glory and to help other people. I am glad you and your wife have done the hard work of healing and are bringing the good news of restoration to other couples through your support groups.
Sexual infidelity strikes at the very heart of marital trust. I believe that is why it is one of the few biblical grounds for divorce. Trust is very difficult to rebuild once it is broken and it sometimes takes a betrayed woman a very long time to fully trust her husband again.
One way of looking at the situation you describe is that she may never fully trust him and that may be one of the consequences of his sin that he (and she) will have to live with if they stay married.
Let me make an analogy. If while driving recklessly, the husband caused an accident that paralyzed his wife, no amount of repentance would change the reality that she is now paralyzed. But together they could learn to live in this new place if she knew he was repentant for his reckless driving habits and he knew she forgave him even though she still remained paralyzed.
You don’t mention the particulars but you do give a few clues that I want flesh out.
First you say that her husband is working hard and appears to be doing the right thing, but he is not getting the results he wants – his wife’s trust. My concern with your question regarding what he should do next makes me wonder why the husband is doing what he’s doing?
In other words, his actions, even though they look right, still seem much about him. Getting his wife to trust him, love him and forgive him so that he has a better marriage. If he doesn’t get those things, will that mean that he stops trying to love his wife and to earn her trust?
The second clue that you mention is that his wife still has a lot of anger toward her husband. Her anger is appropriate for the sin, but to hold on to it for years hinders her ability to forgive and reconcile with her husband.
To heal a broken relationship it takes repentance and forgiveness. Healing cannot fully take place without both. If you have forgiveness, but no real repentance, the relationship continues to be damaged and real trust can never be re-established. On the other hand, if you have repentance but no forgiveness, the relationship still remains broken and genuine intimacy and trust is forsaken.
It seems to me that the wife may be having more problems with forgiveness because she can’t (won’t) let go of her anger. If she could forgive, perhaps they both could lovingly live with the continued lack of trust and together work to rebuild their relationship.
Again, using the analogy of a wife being paralyzed by her husband’s reckless driving. If she forgave him, they could live with the paralysis but she still might be fearful for a long, long, time whenever she is driving with him. As long as he continued to be patient and compassionate with her lack of trust, knowing that his past foolishness caused her great pain and consequence, they would be able to have a loving relationship.
But if he grew impatient and angry because “she wasn’t over it yet” or drove the slightest bit recklessly, it would erase all the good work he had done previously in helping her to feel safe.
So the answer to your question isn’t simple. The husband can continue to work toward rebuilding his wife’s trust by being patient and loving with her lack of it. The wife must learn to let go of her anger and forgive her husband if she wants to have a good marriage. It will take both of their work to make that happen.
If the wife is in the support group, ask her what she gets out of holding on to her anger for all this time? Perhaps it’s her way to punish him. But at what cost both to her and her marriage?
Friends, you who have lived this journey first hand – what are your recommendations?