If your wife caught you using porn, or discovered an affair, or learned about some secret sexual vice you’ve been indulging, then you’re a man who’s messed things up pretty badly. One of those things is her sense of safety with you. The wife you’ve hurt is recovering from an injury which has left her feeling unsafe, so one of your main goals is to rebuild trust.
You’re probably repentant; that’s good. You want her to know how sorry you are; check. You’re ready to do what’s necessary to repair the damage done to you, her, and the marriage, and you want her confidence again. Sounds good so far.
But this is where a lot of guys mess up even further, and I’ve seen them do it countless times in my office. So let me point out three mistakes men in your position commonly make, in the interest of you avoiding them, and maximizing your consistency and credibility with her. Here, then, are three common errors to watch out for.
Minimizing (If you don’t think it’s a big deal, you’re likely to do it again)
Please repeat after me: “Sexual sin wounds wives.”
Wounds. Not “irritates” or “inconveniences.” Wounds.
It’s a blow to her soul, a betrayal, an insult she never deserved. If you’ve subjected her to all that, the least you can do is recognize it for what it is. When you minimize it, you speak of it as though it’s a minor “my bad”, like leaving the faucet running or forgetting the oven was on.
That’s understandable, because if you’ve had a pattern of secret sexual sin in your life, the sin itself has probably lost its shock value in your eyes. You’ve gotten used to it. You know it’s wrong, but it doesn’t look so bad anymore. But just because you got used to it doesn’t mean she will, nor should she. And if you use phrases like “It’s not that big a deal; lots of guys do it”, or “It didn’t have anything to do with you, so let’s move on”, then you’re telling her you still don’t recognize the severity of
Well, if you don’t recognize how wrong it was, how’s she to believe you’re taking it seriously enough to abstain from it in the future? Paul said to flee unclean behavior, because it had a specific severity to it, damaging and defiling a man’s very body. (I Corinthians 6:18) We could do with a bit of his indignation these days. So flee the thing itself, of course. But while you’re at it, also be sure to flee any phrases that would minimize the seriousness of it, because each minimizing statement you make brings your credibility down a few more notches.
Pushing Her to Get Over It (Cruelty, especially now, doesn’t help)
No man with a shred of decency likes seeing his wife hurt. Most of us, in fact, can’t be at peace as long as we know our lady is angry, moody, or wounded by something we’ve done.
All of which moves some guys to push their wives to get better, which makes as much sense as breaking someone’s leg, then telling them that seeing them in a cast makes you feel so guilty, so would they please take off the cast and start running , so you’ll feel better?
That’s beyond stupid. It is, in fact, cruel. Because when you’re really repentant, you make no demands. You don’t insist she stop being hurt so you can start feeling comfortable; you don’t require her to relate to you as though nothing’s happened, just so you can act as though nothing’s happened. You allow her to grieve, process her hurt and anger, and heal. Because believe me, one of the best ways to ensure things don’t get better, is to prematurely insist that they do.
Using the Chinese Water Torture (There’s no such thing as “partially” coming clean)
The practice of dripping small amounts of water onto the forehead over a sustained period of time was known to drive prisoners insane, especially when the victim had no way of knowing when the next drip would come.
Likewise, some wives are driven mad by husbands who “drip out” their confessions, stringing them out in small doses, leaving the poor woman wondering when and how the next drip will come.
Classic example: A woman discovers her husband using porn, and wants to know how long he’s had the habit. At first he claims it’s not a habit; he just experimented. A week later he admits he’s been doing it for months; days later he cops to a seven-year history of weekly porn use. Drip, drip. Instead of giving her the full picture, he hits her with a partial snapshot, letting her think she knows the whole story. Then the rug gets pulled out from under her, again and again, until she never feels settled, wondering what new revelation is coming.
Every wife I‘ve known in this situation agrees that she’d rather hear the whole ugly truth in one gush, than be tortured with confessional drips. So man up and get the whole miserable disclosure out so it can be dealt with once and for all.
These are pretty common errors, but you can avoid them, and you save yourself, and your marriage, a lot of unnecessary turmoil. While you’re at it, never forget the value of humility, teachableness and gentle patience. They’ll get you far in the process as well.
If you’ve sinned in this way, you’re probably now going through one of the toughest seasons in your life. There’s a real bleakness to endure. But clearly, there’s a real hope to hang onto as well.
After all, God generally doesn’t bring dark places to light unless He has some redemptive, even wonderful plans in mind. So let yourself dwell on His knack for abounding in grace where sin seemed to have one. Let yourself learn from the mistakes other men have made along the way. Let your wife know all about your love and sorrow while she’s recovering, and let the healing begin.