4. Humbly Listen to and answer questions.
4. Humbly Listen to and answer questions.
Let me tell you that for me, this is the hardest point of all. Why? For a couple reasons I think.
First off, it requires us to be humble. We have become so guarded and protected by our pride and lies. It is the shield that allows us to still function even though we are riddled with guilt. Pride offers us the illusion of being normal.. even when deep down we know we are anything but. It helps us mask our behaviors and desires and allows us to be convinced that perhaps our sins are not all that bad… at least not in comparison with the other sins we see people committing. Dropping that protective shield for even a minute is difficult for those of us who have spent a lifetime behind its facade.
The other reason is fear. We are in constant fear of both the questions and the honest answers they require. We fear the questions because the very fact that our spouses need to ask them means we have done something that brings them to the surface. I still panic whenever my wife says to me…. “I was thinking of something the other day and I was hoping you would clarify it for me.” I hear those words and want to crawl into a hole. Its not because I fear the questions… or even the honest answer… but I fear how that honest answer will affect her. Will she think about this for the next few days? Will it hurt her self esteem and self worth even more to know that I still fight and battle each day to keep my thoughts clean? Will it damage the trust we have built if she thinks I am not progressing at the same speed she wants me to?
No matter how difficult the questions and how brutally honest the answers, every one of them has to be discussed. And not just once. It may takes answering the same questions 50 times before she is ready to move past it for good. I can tell you that in the last 15 months I have answered the same questions dozens of times. I will openly admit that I still battle pride when those questions come up. But here is the truth I have discovered: honest questions and painfully honest answers will do more to heal your marriage then any other thing you can do.
- She already knows you are broken… so why keep up the act? There is nothing to be gained here by faking that you're living in perfection.
- She has lived the last several years believing lie after lie and now feels like a fool. When you honestly share true feelings, even painful feelings, she can at least know that it is truth and truth goes a lot farther than deceit. Truth heals.
Wive (or husbands if the roles are reversed): The question and answer process can be detrimental if it is done for the wrong reasons. Remember this is not a game of "gotcha." Here are a few things to consider as the 2 of you go through the discovery process.
- Remember, you already know he is an addict but some of his revelations may still be sharp and painful to hear. He will be far more open to share if you receive it with kindness. Do your best not to act offended or surprised when he begins to reveal to you the details of his addiction.
- Help him feel safe enough to share. He has hidden these things for years because he is ashamed. He wants to get better. He needs help and you help. But if his confessions are met with disgust and anger, he may retract instead of opening up.
- Don't ask about the gory details. I know you want to know everything but remember.. every detail is added weight that moves off of him and presses down on you. With it comes thoughts, imaginations, and a new wave of pain. Decide what you need to know and what you can live without knowing. The goal is to heal, not to write a gossip column. To alleviate the weight, only ask for those things that give you the clarification you need. Remember, if he is willing to talk about this with you at all, it means he is trying to change and repent. Don't force him to drudge up thoughts and memories that require him to relive his sin over and over. Don't let the details pull you down like the anchor they are. Once you have learned them you can never unlearn them. They become new memories that haunt your marriage.
This is tough because there is no amount of explaining that you can do that will ever completely make things clear for her. The pieces will never fit exactly into place in her mind. And truthfully, they shouldn't. Nothing about this makes sense. Both the addiction and the recovery are madness. Here is the thing to remember most of all: If you are intent on saving your marriage, it's time to give up the selfish routine. Every moment of the last umpteen years, my addiction has been about me. The recovery, even though it has multiple parts and affects both you and her and your family and others, must be focused on her needs. Before it was 90% about you and 10% about her. Now it needs to be at least 60% about her, and pride has no place in those kind of ratios.