Bonus Episode 19 –Powerless
Truly accepting my powerlessness began recovery for me. With that acceptance came my understanding that keeping my sins secret only kept me powerless.
Bonus Episode 19 –Powerless
Truly accepting my powerlessness began recovery for me. With that acceptance came my understanding that keeping my sins secret only kept me powerless.
SOURCE: Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW
I can’t tell you the number of people who tell themselves early in marriage, “If my spouse ever has an affair, I’m outta here.” And then it happens. Their spouse was unfaithful.
That’s when reality sets in. It’s easy to think you will leave if your spouse betrays you, but when confronted with the reality of divorce and dissolving your marriage, the stakes are really high. It’s not that overcoming the devastation of infidelity is easy, it isn’t. But it can be done.
In fact, believe it or not, most people decide to stay in their marriages after infidelity. The important thing is to address the issues that might have led to the infidelity and get the necessary help to recover.
Divorce isn’t the solution, particularly when the unfaithful spouse is remorseful and devoted to changing. Here are some things you need to know if you are dealing with the fallout of infidelity in your marriage.
1) Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder.
Many times people want to know the definition of betrayal. To some, it is about having intercourse and other sexual contact with another person. To others, betrayal is more about one’s spouse feeling emotionally connected to someone else — late conversations of a personal nature with a co-worker, or an on-going, intimate friendship with another person.
To others, it is secrecy. This may involve secret email accounts, cell phones, Internet behavior, or an unwillingness to share information about whereabouts, spending habits, or life plans.
The fact is, there is no universal definition of betrayal. When two people are married, they must care about each others’ feelings. They don’t always have to agree, but they must behave in ways that make the relationship feel safe.
Therefore, if one person feels threatened or betrayed, his or her spouse must do some soul searching and change in ways to accommodate those feelings. In other words, betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. If you or your partner feel betrayed, you need to change what you’re doing to make the marriage work.
2) Infidelity is not a marital deal breaker.
Many people think that affairs signal the end of a marriage. This is simply not true. Although healing from infidelity is a challenging endeavor, most marriages not only survive, but they can actually grow from the experience.
This is not to say that affairs are good for marriages — they aren’t. Affairs are very, very destructive because the bond of trust has been broken. But after years of working with couples who have experienced betrayal and affairs, I can vouch for the fact that it is possible to get marriages back on track and rediscover trust, caring, friendship and passion.
3) Most affairs end.
It’s important to know that, while affairs can be incredibly sexy, compelling, addictive and renewing, most of them end. That’s because after the thrill wears off, most people recognize that everyone, even the affair partner, is a package deal.
This means that we all have good points and bad points. When two people are in the throes of infatuation, they are only focusing on what’s good. This is short-lived, generally speaking. That’s because reality sets in and infatuation fades. If the betrayed spouse doesn’t run to a divorce attorney prematurely, it’s entirely possible that an affair will die a natural death.
4) Temporary insanity is the only sane response.
Because betrayal is so threatening to marriage and so devastating, many people feel they are losing their minds when they learn that their spouses have been cheating. They can’t eat, sleep, work, think, or function in any substantial way. This causes another layer of concern and self-doubt which often leads to depression and anxiety.
It is important to know that finding out that one’s spouse is cheating can be extremely traumatic. In fact, current research suggests that betrayed spouses exhibit symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It is a major loss and as with most losses, betrayal is intensely disorienting and distressing.
5) You are not alone.
When infidelity occurs, the betrayed spouse feels alone and lonely, but it is essential to keep in mind that countless people have experienced the same problem and have felt the same way. This offers little consolation when one first learns about his or her spouse’s affair, but over time, it can take the sting out of feeling so out-of-sorts.
It would be wonderful if everyone upheld their marital vows, but the truth is, that doesn’t happen. It should, but it doesn’t. The good news is that there is a great deal of support available because many people have walked in your shoes and can be empathetic to your feelings.
6) It helps to get help.
But beyond talking with those who have experienced infidelity in their own marriages, it helps to get professional help. Feelings that surface after the discovery of an affair are often so overwhelming that it is difficult to know what to do to begin to get one’s marriage back on track.
A good marriage therapist or a marriage education class can help lead the way. But be certain to seek help that is “marriage-friendly.” Some therapists believe that infidelity destroys the fabric of a relationship which cannot be repaired. These therapists declare marriages dead on arrival. It is essential that you get a good referral if you want your marriage to recover.
7) Healing takes time.
Although people naturally want to be pain-free as quickly as possible, when it comes to healing from infidelity, it just isn’t going to happen. In fact, if things are “business as usual” too quickly, it probably just means that intense feelings have been swept under the carpet.
This will not help in the long run. In order for a marriage to mend, it takes a great deal of hard work to confront all the necessary issues. This takes time — often year — to truly get things back on track.
When couples enter my office and they’ve been dealing with the aftermath of infidelity for a year or so and they are still struggling, they think something is wrong with them. When I hear that, I tell them that nothing is wrong with them because the pain is still fresh and the news of infidelity is hot off the press. Yes, even a year after learning about betrayal isn’t a very long time.
Healing from infidelity is a slow process for most people.
8 ) Count on ups and downs.
One of the most frustrating and confusing aspects to the healing process is the fact that just when people think things have improved and are resolved, there is another major setback. This is not surprising at all.
That’s because the path to recovery is not a straight line. It is jagged and beset with many, many ups and downs. I tell people that it is two steps forward and one step back. Unfortunately, when people have a setback, they believe that they have slid back to square one. This is not the case. Every setback is a bit different.
And as long as there is a general upward trend, progress is being made. Maintaining patience is difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. Don’t give up when there has been a relapse. Just get back on track.
9) Don’t be quick to tell friends and family.
It is important not to be too quick to tell friends and family about the problem of infidelity. If everyone in one’s family is apprised of the infidelity, even if the marriage improves, family members may not support the idea of staying in the marriage. They may pressure the betrayed spouse to leave.
So while emotional support during this rough time is absolutely necessary, it’s important to get professional help or talk to friends or family who will support the marriage and be less judgmental. Those people should have the perspective that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and as long as the unfaithful spouse takes responsibility to change, marriages can mend.
10) You won’t forget, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
When there has been infidelity, people just don’t forget about it. In fact, they don’t ever forget it. What does happen is that memories of the discovery and the pain tend to fade. The thoughts about betrayal become less frequent and less intense over time. In fact, people should NOT forget because we all learn from our experiences, both good and bad.
And although people don’t forget betrayal or affairs, forgiveness is still mandatory — not to let the unfaithful person off the hook, but because holding a grudge shackles people to the past. It is bad for one’s health, both emotionally and physically. There is no intimacy when there are grudges. Life is painful because there is a wall separating people. When betrayed spouses allow themselves to have feelings of forgiveness, life lightens up. It is freeing. Love begins to flow again. Letting go of the past begins to make room for happiness in the present. Forgiveness isn’t meant for the unfaithful, it is a gift betrayed spouses give themselves.
|Who do you report to?|
What do you do when you wake up? My wife grabs her phone and starts reading the news. I usually check my phone calendar to see what my day looks like. Then I check the weather so I can plan on what to wear. After I do that, I thumb through my overnight emails, wondering if I will actually get to follow what is on my calendar or if some other issue is going to take over my day. That’s how we start in my house. I think a lot of people start the same way.
Sunday, my pastor talked about God. Shocking, right? A pastor talking about God! I digress. He reminded me, along with everyone else there, of Genesis 1:1.
“In the beginning, God…”
Yeah, the beginning. The same God who spoke the world into existence. The one who owns everything. He also reminded me of God’s purpose from John 3:16. You know, that whole part about sending His only Son for me, to bring peace and life.
I expected the normal pastor speak, an invitation, an altar call. The usual urging bordering on guilt to just say yes to Jesus…NOW…before it’s too late! Sorry, I can be a bit cynical. Thankfully, this guy continually surprises me. He took it another direction. He asked us the same question I asked at the beginning. What do you do when you wake up? Weird, huh? He continued by pointing out that how you start your day usually decides who controls your day.
Who controls your day? Who controls your life? Who do you report to? As I thought about my day, my priorities, my life…I had a whole host of answers. The answers weren’t always God. Sometimes my schedule controls my day. I am a freak about time. I hate being late. Schedule and time become God to me. Sometimes my job is my God, sometimes it’s my self. Many times it’s myself. When myself is my God, my God isn’t.
Step one reminds me that when my self is in charge, my life is a mess. Unmanageable. Powerless to addiction. I have a great history of reporting to my self and falling flat on my face. Hurting my spouse, family, loved ones…and yes, myself.
God doesn’t fall flat. He doesn’t damage us. He keeps His word. He can’t lie, steal, manipulate, disappoint. He’s God. Since the beginning. Since always. So who do you report to…and who can you trust? Certainly not me. God. He’s God, after all.
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There is an old story about the time Emperor Frederick the Great visited Potsdam Prison. He spoke with the prisoners, and each man claimed to be innocent, a victim of the system. One man, however, sat silently in the corner.
The ruler asked him, “And you, sir, who do you blame for your sentence?”
His response was, “Your majesty, I am guilty and richly deserve my punishment.” Surprised, the emperor shouted for the prison warden: “Come and get this man out of here before he corrupts all these innocent people.”
The ruler can set us free once we admit we are wrong.
We do ourselves no favors in justifying our deeds or glossing over our sins. When my daughter Andrea was five or six, she got a splinter in her finger. I took her to the restroom and set out some tweezers, ointment, and a Band-Aid.
She didn’t like what she saw. “I just want the Band-Aid, Daddy”
Sometimes we are just like Andrea. We come to Christ with our sin, but all we want is a covering. We want to skip the treatment. We want to hide our sin. And one wonders if God, even in his great mercy, will heal what we conceal. “If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right” (1 John 1:8–9).
Going to God is not going to Santa Claus. A child sits on the chubby lap of Ol’ Saint Nick, and Santa pinches the youngster’s cheek and asks, “Have you been a good little girl?”
“Yes,” she giggles. Then she tells him what she wants and down she bounds. It’s a game. It’s childish. No one takes Santa’s question seriously. That may work in a department store, but it won’t work with God.
How can God heal what we deny? How can God touch what we cover up? How can we have communion while we keep secrets? How can God grant us pardon when we won’t admit our guilt?
Ahh, there’s that word: guilt. Isn’t that what we avoid? Guilt. Isn’t that what we detest? But is guilt so bad? What does guilt imply if not that we know right from wrong, that we aspire to be better than we are, that we know there is a high country and we are in the low country. That’s what guilt is: a healthy regret for telling God one thing and doing another.
Guilt is the nerve ending of the heart. It yanks us back when we are too near the fire. Godly sorrow “makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that” (2 Cor. 7:10).
To feel guilt is no tragedy; to feel no guilt is.
Today’s devotional is drawn from Max Lucado’s Next Door Savior.
His name means: “To Rest”
His work: We don’t know what Noah did for a living before he heard from God, but following that encounter, he became an accomplished carpenter. His character: Noah was a righteous man, obedient and faithful. His sorrow: In spite of his admonitions and warnings, Noah was unable to convince his neighbors, friends, and extended family to repent. As a result, they were all drowned in the flood. His triumph: Noah’s obedience saved not only his life but the lives of his wife and children. Key Scriptures: Genesis 6-7
Once in a while a man comes along who’s not afraid to obey.
We cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Noah. He lived in a culture that was corrupted by immorality and violence. According to the story, the earth was literally “full” of it.
So reprehensible were people’s lives that God regretted having created these divine image-bearers. So much so that he decided to remove every living thing from the face of the earth, like a man clearing a table with the back of his hand. Can you imagine?
But on his way to starting all over again, the Lord looked at Noah. His life was so exemplary that in the middle of all this debauchery, he found favor in God’s eyes. This man, Noah, was righteous and blameless among the people of his time. Because of his faithfulness, he was the one man whom the Lord chose not to destroy.
We don’t have to look very far to find a lesson in this man’s life. Like Noah’s culture, the one that surrounds us is drowning in immorality, corruption, and violence. And like Noah, we can choose to quietly capitulate or to stand against it. Once we decide to stand firm—to live in obedience to God—the tricky part comes with trying to understand how. What does submission to him look like? And what should we expect as the result of this obedience?
Tucked away in this story is the secret to Noah’s success. Noah walked with God. For Noah, surrender was not a single decision or noteworthy event; it was a process. A routine. A journey. A walk. Obedience was the natural result of this methodical approach. Walking with God meant knowing him. Knowing God meant loving him. Loving meant hearing. Hearing, obeying.
And obeying God meant salvation.
We can imagine that decades of subtle and overt ridicule may have led Noah to question God. There had to have been moments of loneliness and genuine doubt. But taking one step at a time along the path God had laid out for him kept Noah on track.
Noah’s obedience led to the preservation of not only his own life, but of the lives of his wife and children. Once the project was complete and everyone around him had rejected the notion that God would actually destroy the earth with a catastrophic flood, Noah and his whole family entered the safety of the ark. Then the Lord shut him in. Noah’s obedience not only led to the preservation of his own life but the lives of his wife and children.
In fact, Noah’s faithfulness—in the form of a great ark—became one of the early church’s symbols for refuge. The interiors of many great cathedrals were built to resemble the inside of a boat—a shelter in the time of storm, a reminder of an obedient man who went before us and was saved.
Reflect On: Genesis 8 Praise God: For using his followers to accomplish his purposes. Offer Thanks: For God’s mercy toward the human race. Confess: Any tendency to care more about what the world thinks of you than about what God thinks. Ask God: To show you what it means, not just to obey a set of laws, but to stay close to him throughout your life—to walk with him.
Today’s reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book’s title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.
This site is intended for individuals who struggle with maintaining sexual purity. This information is posted for individuals at various stages in their recovery, year 1 to year 30+; what applies to some, may not apply others. Spouses are encouraged to read this blog with the caveat that they may not agree with, understand, or know the reason for some items posted. As always, take what you like and leave the rest.