“I Know He’s Sorry. But How Do I Know He’s Changed?”

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.
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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:

1. Action

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.

2. Attitude

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.

3. Accountability

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.

4. Awareness

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.

5. Aspiration

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)


KS | Jan 26, 2016

Do you think this applies to other addictions as well?

Jim | Jan 26, 2016

Thank you, Joe, for reminding us of this important process. I believe my wife and I have pretty much worked through the confessing, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration of trust. I still carry some regret and maybe guilt, and feel badly about what I did, and I feel badly about the pain I caused in my wife. I think that she has forgiven me and moved on a lot better than I have. Maybe it's because the ssa continues to be something I struggle with, even though I've not acted on it for a very long time. The ssa and depression seem to feed off each other. I'm thankful for the knowledge that I've been forgiven by both my wife and by God.

Daniel | Feb 1, 2016

I've been in this process for 2 years and 4 months and still receive the same answer from my wife, "something inside of me simple went off". We are together, we live more like brother and sister in Christ than husband and wife ... its hard man, but until today I'm committed to continue the process to recover my wife ... thanks for sharing Joe !

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