At Genesis Biblical Solutions we often hear from wives whose husbands have had an affair, or used porn, or acted out sexually in some other way. Obviously these women are wounded deeply, but in most cases, they want to forgive, rebuild, and move ahead in their marriage.
The nagging question they wrestle with, though, is “How do I know this won’t happen again? How do I know he’ll make the right decision next time he’s tempted? How do I know he’s changed?”
While there’s no acid test, there are some things I believe a woman can and should expect when her man says, “I was wrong; I’ve repented of it.” If that’s the case, here are the top five things I think she should see:
You’ll see him take concrete steps to distance himself from the behavior. If internet porn was the problem, he’ll get a block, a filter, an online accountability device or he’ll get off the computer altogether. If he had an affair, you’ll see him distance himself once and for all from the other party. He won’t ask you to simply trust him not to sin again without seeing him take action. Instead, he’ll know that concrete action is mandatory if trust is to be rebuilt.
You’ll see a combination of humility and zeal. That means you WON’T see resentment on his part for having to take the steps mentioned above, nor will you see a flippant, “What’s the big deal?” attitude about the wrong he’s done. There will instead be the reasonable humility of the Prodigal Son who said, in essence, “I know things can’t be the same right now, not after what I’ve done. But let me be in relationship with you anyway, and I’ll do what’s necessary to restore our bond.” (Luke 15:18-21)That, combined with zeal to win you back, is a reasonable thing to expect.
You’ll see him set up specific times each week during which he gives an account to a third party as to how he’s handling temptations, and whether or not he’s had a slip. He won’t balk at this (even though he probably won’t love it either) because he’ll realize that, left his own devices, he’s too susceptible. Accountability is a must.
You’ll see a growing awareness on his part of the pain his behavior has caused you, along with a growing appreciation of your forgiveness and love. He’ll realize that his ongoing recovery and sanctification are not all about him, and that his union with you makes you vulnerable to his ups and downs in ways he can barely imagine. He’ll see, and he’ll care, what you’re going through.
You’ll see your man aspire to be more intimate with God through his devotional life, and you’ll see him aspire to learn, grow, and become stronger. A man’s failure can be a terrific textbook, teaching him about his weakness and potential, and you should expect to see him learning from, then growing beyond, this season of grief.
There’s more, of course. As a couple you should experience mutual growth, so it’s likely God will call you to look at yourself as well, and re-examine areas of your own life that need correcting. But for now, as your husband’s partner in life, you can and should expect him to take seriously whatever compromises have damaged you and your union, and you can watch – hopefully and prayerfully – as God does the redemptive work of, as always, causing grace to “that much more abound” where there was sin (Romans 5:20) and turn what was meant for evil into good. (Genesis 50:20)