How can I help my wife heal? Step 1
It has been several months since I confessed to my wife about my pornography addiction that led to an affair. We have chosen to work through this and save our family. With the passing of time we have had many good days, however, she still weeps in pain several times a week. I am trying to to prove I can be trusted, but she still hesitates when I leave the home or look at my phone. I know this is a long process, but what more can I do? Please, help me to help her heal.
Desperate for her to be whole
I applaud you for your willingness to help your wife heal. I hate to say it but, I think you are the exception rather than the rule. I’ve talked to and read about many couples in a similar situation where it, more often than not, seems that once the husband has confessed his sins, he simply leaves his wife to heal on her own. This happens, I think, because as an addict, we live our lives in this self centered world of indulgence. Just like the trained circus lion, when the craving came and cracked its whip, we responded, ready to jump through the ring of fire. It tries to control our actions and, conditioned as we are, we dutifully obey.
Furthermore, our obedience to our lustful desires has, over time, decreased our ability to feel empathy or concern for others. It is a singular focus and for those filthy moments of indulgence, we are a slave to the drug, blocking all others out until the fix is complete. After years of selfishly responding to the crack of the whip, is it any wonder we have a difficult time placing anyone else's needs before ours?
When the offender is finally on the road to recovery and his own burden of sin is lifted, he will feel a sudden and immediate release from the cage of guilt and sin. He will proclaim his freedom from the adversary and with joy look forward to a life free from the clutches of Satan, followed by a desire to return to a normal life.
But what of his spouse? Only weeks before she thought her marriage was complete and whole. She believed the man she clung to for strength, protection, and guidance, was being faithful and true. Now, she is left struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. But he, in his habit of selfishness, simply wants to move forward, putting his painful past behind him and in most cases, never wants to speak of it again.
This, I believe, will sound familiar to many who read this post.
Now, lets talk about what we can do to heal. First of all, we need to dispel the idea that you can, of yourself, do anything that will heal your wife. You must accept it up front: you can't fix this, not on your own. The healing that takes place must involve all three members of your marriage: you, your wife, and your Father in Heaven. Leaving any one element out of the process will either destroy your chances of success or make for a longer and much more painful process.
I offer the following suggestions. Please be aware that I have come up with these suggestions through my learning at the school of hard knocks. It has been through much trial and error that I have learned what works for my wife and marriage. These suggestions may or may not be helpful for you and your spouse...they are just things that seem to work for us. Here is the first suggestion: (The remainder will come in subsequent posts)
1 - Recognize the repercussions of your choices.
*Note: These are the repercussions that I have seen in my wife. They may not apply to every spouse.
Have you ever tried to clean a lawn mower with a pressure washer? The bottom of a lawn mower is curved in such a way that as you spray it with the powerful jet of water, rather than watching the clumps of grass and dirt slip away, they often rebound and splatter in every direction. I found once after attempting to clean my mower in this way, that while the machine ended up pristine, I walked away covered in filth and grass and grease. Confession to your spouse might be considered in this light. While you may have felt a cleansing and lifting of the stains of sin, she is now covered in the dirty over spray of your confession.
Confession is messy. There is no perfectly imagined scenario that shields a loved one from the pain that it brings. But it is essential. For years you have secretly participated in your private addiction that led to either the actual or virtual breaking of your covenants. For years she has obliviously thought that nothing is wrong. Finally, you choose to confess and purge your soul of all the filth and guilt that has been stored deep inside, hoping to rescue yourself and your marriage in the process. If your wife chooses to forgive you and work through the issues, then you need to stand back and take a good look at what the aftermath of your confession looks like. As you release yourself from the filth of sin (which we know is a GOOD thing and necessary), your wife is suddenly weighed down with the reality of what has been going on in your life.
She will begin to question what was real. She will question her memories, special moments, spontaneous gestures, and anything prior to the revelation. This is OK… it has to be done. There is no moving forward without reconciling the past. This will take time. Your humble willingness to go through the process with her will soften the pain and reassure her in time of doubt.
She will assume that she has done something wrong. And who wouldn't? Life is smoothly moving forward with little to no sign of rocky ground when suddenly, the revelation of deceit, depravity, or infidelity is shared. She is thrown off kilter and her first response will be to assign blame. Logically, she knows the blame lies with you, but emotionally, she wants to affix it to herself. No amount of explaining will ever wipe the idea out of her mind that she is not to blame. You will have to reassure her frequently that she did not cause this.
She will lose every sense of self worth and question her own identity. This is such a hard thing to watch a loved one go through, especially when YOU are the reason they have to go through it. But she has been stripped of the rudder that steered her ship. Her Identity had become tied to you and your unconditional love for her. Now she searches for that sense of safety that was found in the knowledge of fidelity.
She will question her weight, clothing, and appearance. I know that many women struggle with the way they look (especially after they have had a few children.) Suddenly struck with the knowledge that, "My husband would rather look at porn or other women than me," consider the blow that that realization does to her already fragile psyche. She will think she is old, ugly and fat. Daily loving reminders of her beauty will go a long way to reassuring her that she is truly gorgeous in your eyes.
She will see a threat in women on TV, in magazines, and in public. Suddenly every women in a tight skirt or low cut blouse is the enemy. She will begin to see them as attacking her family. They are a threat to her marriage, her husband's soul, and her eternity. She will begin to despise their open airing of their body parts, even though they are completely unaware of any offense to her. She will begin to hate them as they flaunt their sexuality in a way that feels like a personal and pointed attack. (Women in yoga pants severely trigger my wife as she knows that they severely trigger me.)
She will carry the hurt and heaviness of worthlessness, betrayal, and humiliation. She is going to feel like a fool. She will think, “How could this have been going on under my nose and I didn't notice?” Of course she will feel betrayed. Her husband, confidant, and secret keeper has been living a double life. She will be overwhelmed with this new knowledge. She will eventually be able to sort most of it out and come to an understanding, but it will take time. which means you will need patience.
She will begin to question her Heavenly father's presence in her life. For me, this has been the most painful thing to watch. She has spent her life feeling comforted, protected and watched over by Her Father in heaven whom she has learned to trust, and yet for some reason, He chose not to warn her of her husband's addiction that would escalate into a battle to save her eternal marriage. Though she understands that God cannot step in and change or alter our decisions and the way they will affect others, She now struggles to trust her impressions. She questions whether they are divinely given, manufactured out of a worried mind, or the devices of the adversary.
She will hurt and ache and even at times, want to die. Even as time passes and you are able to prove to her your willingness to do whatever is needed to preserve your family, she will still at times be pulled back into those dark memories of first learning about the betrayal done to her. She will re-live that pain and in so doing revert back to those painful feelings of being lost and alone. The ache runs so much deeper than we could possibly understand and may bubble to the surface and overflow unexpectedly. Again, a loving patient husband who puts her needs first will go a long way to reminding her of the changes that have taken place and the safe place she is in now.
She will allow her imaginations to conjure up scenes of infidelity and betrayal that will plague her dreams. She will have a difficult time not imagining the most hurtful parts of your betrayal. She will on her own, conjure up the illicit images you have viewed, videos you have watched, or encounters you have had. These images and scenes will haunt her. It will become her personal battle to fight them off and keep them from creeping into her thoughts, even in the most spiritual of places and occasions.
Don't assume that since your sins are in the process of being forgiven, that she is clear of the over spray. She is now in Satan’s direct line of fire. He will see her weakness and he will exploit her insecurities.
I want to be clear. DO NOT delay confession for fear of hurting your spouse. You are doing far worse damage by staying silent and not ridding yourself (and ultimately her) of this addiction.
Consider how much easier it will be on your spouse to confess a pornography addiction then to put off confession until your addiction escalates to adultery with all of the repercussions that come with it. Oh how I wish I would have confessed earlier. It would have saved my wife so much pain.
Stay tuned for step two.