The road to healing for a sexually addicted man or woman can be long and difficult. When that man or woman is married, they also have to consider the healing their spouse needs. If you’ve been unfaithful either through pornography use or in an extra-marital affair, here are five things you can do to help your spouse heal:
Tell her or him the whole truth.
Too often when infidelity comes to light, the offending spouse is tempted to admit to only that which has been discovered. He thinks, “Why add more pain when she’s already hurting enough?” or she wonders, “If he’s this angry already, then just think how angry he’ll be if he learns about everything else.” Whatever the justification, it amounts to the idea that if there’s any hope of saving the marriage, then those things that are still hidden need to stay hidden.
But this fails to recognize that it is not just the infidelity that has wounded your spouse, the deception has too, perhaps even more deeply. As devastating as it is to learn that a husband or wife has been unfaithful, the deception can be even more crippling because it leaves the betrayed spouse unsure what is real and what is false. How do they know what steps to take if they can’t trust the ground under their feet?
This doesn’t mean sharing every sordid detail, but it does mean sharing the full scope of your infidelity. Find an experienced pastor, therapist, sponsor, or spiritual coach who can help you prepare and fully disclose what you have done.
If you have any hope of restoring your marriage, you will need help getting to the bottom of what led you down the path you traveled, what kept you there, and how to get onto a healthier path moving forward. If you could have figured this out on your own, wouldn’t you have done so a long time ago?
Too many unfaithful spouses try to put all their effort into restoring the marriage without taking seriously their own personal problem. Even if your sexual temptations seemed to dissipate when everything came to the light, eventually they will be back to pull you back again…unless you get help!
Be patient, be patient, be patient.
If your spouse is like most, they are going to need a lot more time to heal from this new revelation than you might like. First, your spouse is going to need time to get used to understanding you and your marriage in this new light. Even though you’ve known about your secret sin, your spouse hasn’t. (Consider how long you’ve lived with the problem that they just discovered. Are you willing to give them as much time as you’ve had to adjust?)
What’s more, discovering a husband or wife’s infidelity can be traumatic, literally. This means your spouse is going to need help and time to process what’s happened, grieve, experience and express pain, find their footing, set new boundaries, and heal from the explosion that has ripped through their home and their heart.
Practice humility and empathy.
This journey has been no cakewalk for you, I know. Especially if you are now working your own recovery, you are going through a lot yourself. Can’t your spouse see all you’re doing?
Your spouse is not justified in seeking to hurt you back, but be careful not to slip into self-pity and a posture of entitlement. It is understandable you would want someone to recognize your hard work and to sympathize with the hardships you’re experiencing. Your spouse just may not be able to be that person for you right now. So as you keep moving forward, seek out healthy others in your recovery community who can encourage you and cheer you on.
The reality is that you did damage to your spouse’s sense of reality, love, and security. The trauma of infidelity is no small thing to recover from. Do what you can to empathize with your spouse as they cycle through pain, anger, numbness, grief, and the many other physical and emotional feelings they did not ask to experience. Respect when they are not ready to be held or to be sexually intimate with you. Ask questions, listen, and acknowledge what they feel, even when you do not understand. They are undertaking an incredibly arduous journey. Support them as much as you can, including supporting them in getting the outside help they need.
Seek an eternal reward.
God doesn’t ask you to get all this right all the time and His grace is abundant for you when you fall. Nonetheless, try. Practice, pray and keep trying. Even when it seems no one is noticing. There is One who sees. Do all you do in front of His eyes, knowing that He cares deeply for you and for your spouse. Remember you will see Him face to face one day and all He sees today will be revealed.
He is the great Bridegroom who has been betrayed by an unfaithful bride. While she was yet committing adultery, He loved her and came looking for her, to win her back. When He found her, she lashed out and denied her wrongdoing even while she clung to her lovers. Worse yet, she listened to her foul lovers as they goaded her to kill her Bridegroom. And you know what He did: He let her. For love of her, He took her—he took our—judgment, shame, and death and bore it for her.
Draw near to Him on this journey. You will find no better friend, none more equipped, more courageous, more understanding, more compassionate, more patient, more encouraging, more powerful, more forgiving, more loving.
Whether you are a spouse who has been betrayed or you are a spouse who has been unfaithful, Jesus cares deeply for you. Regeneration’s team does you. Let us know if we can help.