By Dan Wobschall
Gateway to Freedom Director
It’s been said, ‘‘You cannot give what you do not have.”
Here’s an example. If someone asks me for ten thousand dollars, I could write that person a check for the ten thousand bucks, but in time (not long) they will find out that it was a promise unable to be kept. The check looked legit, it has my signature on it and is from my bank, a bank with real money in it. However, my account couldn’t back up the offering of the money as promised by my signature. The funds are not in my account to give.
I could not give what I did not have.
And for me to expect that same person to trust me enough to write them another check that day or anytime soon would be just foolish. I wouldn’t deserve that trust or respect. Yet, for many addicts they expect to be trusted within just a few weeks or even months as they begin recovery. That is not a realistic expectation to have.
Ask yourself this honest question: “How quickly would I trust & respect that person if the shoe was on the other foot?”
I’m going to speak to you today from two perspectives: the porn abuser and the wounded spouse. Notice I didn’t say husband and wounded wife. The reality of porn being primarily, or only, a ‘man’s’ problem is no longer true.
More women than ever are finding themselves caught up in the use of pornography. And, it’s just as painful and damaging to her, her relationships, and her marriage.
These women are our wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and church family members. Today, I pray you ladies find the courage to speak up. Ask for help and trust that others will walk alongside you, love you, and not shame you.
Trust and Respect
As pornography damages and destroys trust and respect, the task of rebuilding trust is a must for the marriage to survive. Respect grows in the light of trust. If there is no healthy, daily exchange of trust and respect in your marriage, it will suffocate. All of this has a foundation of honesty. Painfully honest truth.
The rebuilding process is much like a human being put on a respirator when incredibly ill until the person is strong enough to support himself or herself.
For the betrayed spouse of the porn user, it’s very common for he or she to feel as though they cannot trust themselves. These thoughts and beliefs develop over time as they extend trust and respect and then it’s broken (over & over in many cases). They begin to question whether they can even trust themselves and lose self-respect.
This was very true for my wife in our recovery. She couldn’t give me trust and respect until she once again had for herself. I see it often in the marriages I mentor and minister to.
One more time: You cannot give what you do not have.
Truths About Rebuilding Trust & Respect
When you blow it, and we all do during recovery, tell your wife or husband. If lying, hiding and minimizing undermine trust and respect, honesty and truth-telling rebuild. Secrets are the fuse to the dynamite strapped to trust.
Don’t expect instant gratification or praise from doing what’s right.
Expecting instant praise for doing what should be expected in the first place is self-centered thinking. This thinking minimizes the fact that your spouse is grieving.
Defensiveness is a clear sign of expecting instant gratification, and it’s not helpful. When getting encouragement during recovery, receive it as the grace that it is. Be thankful. Thankfulness displaces the anger that is an underlying element of sexual strongholds.
Listen more–talk less
Men, listen to your wife. Listen for the meaning behind her words. If your wife is speaking to you, she is revealing something about herself to you. Read that last line again, bebause it’s profoundly true.
Men, hear me: BE HONEST. Secrets and dishonesty destroy trust.
Ladies, listen for sincerity, while watching for changes in the words being spoken and are actions supporting them. Have their words becoming less and less self-focused and are their actions demonstrating that?
Self-condemning thoughts are destructive.
The depth of the wounds we carry affect at what level this interferes with someone’s recovery. I’ve seen it manifest itself with the addict turning compliments and encouragement into criticism in their mind. Romans 12:2 instructs us how to battle this problem, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It takes intentionality.
Restoring trust and respect doesn’t happen by osmosis or wishful thinking. Many enter recovery expecting it to be pain-free. The deepest wounds our bodies receive have pain as part of the healing process. Intentionally pushing through the pain, doing what must be done in order for long lasting healing to take root, is the prescription. Expect it.
It takes time.
You cannot microwave trust and respect back into your marriage. This is akin to instant gratification. How did you build that trust & respect in the beginning of your relationship? You earned it. Guess what, you have to earn it again. This time, however, you have jumping hurdles that weren’t there the first time–hurdles we placed on the path with our lies and deceptions in the midst of the porn addiction.
As the porn addict who destroyed sacred trusts, we gave up our privilege to be trusted and respected. Do we deserve to be trusted again? Honestly, no. Can we earn back the respect and trust of our spouse and others? Yes, but it’s hard work, takes time, and will be difficult.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! The growth and the closeness my wife and I now have are beyond what I could have imaged.
Will you stumble and fall along the way? Yes. Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep pressing on.
by Dan Wobschall
Director of Gateway to Freedom
How often do you use this word or even think about it? What is desire?
Desire is defined as: “a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.”
Desires are part of being human and woven into our created nature. But what we desire can often trip us up -- and I believe that’s what James was warning us about when he wrote:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
The world we live in fuels those deadly desires. Media, TV, movies, commercials...it’s everywhere. Gotta have the best car, house, clothes...on and on and on. All these things pollute and push out (or at least set aside) the desires of our heart that God our Father would have for us.
Human desires became broken when Eve bought Satan’s lie and Adam failed to fend off his deceit.
As part of the redemptive plan of God in Christ Jesus desire is in play. Human desire was one of the parts of mankind that was broken in the fall in the Garden of Eden. Before the eating of the fruit man and woman were unaware of evil; having an evil desire was not in the mind or heart of humanity.
Then the crafty serpent deceived the man and woman, the lie was bought and evil desire entered the human mind and experience. The very deadly desires that James warned about.
The plan to redeem
Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
James 4:2-3 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
God gave you the capacity to desire; to experience "a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment." In God's plan, desire was intended to lead us to good things; to places of goodness, truth, and beauty that really would produce joy and contentment.
But since the Fall in the Garden, two huge questions remain:
What do I do now with the truth of God's good design?
And how can I change my broken evil desires?
Good questions. The good news is that desires can be changed by the grace and power of God. So, let's talk about a few practical things you can start doing today to effect that change.
I know this: Life change happens when heart change happens. Changing evil desires and shaping new and right-minded desires is an inside job.
Identity and Beliefs
Here are two areas of life that can really trip you up: identity and beliefs. How you see yourself shapes your belief system about yourself. What does that mean?
People tend to see circumstances how they want to see them, not as the circumstances actually are. What that means is we tend to see life through a "me-shaped" lens; we will see the world around us through a reflection of ourselves.
Optimists see circumstances differently than pessimists. Skeptics view circumstances generally...well..skeptically. If you’re in a tough situation then that difficulty usually impacts how you view things around you. See what I mean?
So, if our self-belief systems are polluted by wounds, addictions, bad relationships and a host of other things, what we believe about ourselves, our value and identity will likely also be negatively impacted.
Here’s where a right perspective of identity is profoundly important. In a saving faith relationship with Jesus Christ, we have been given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). We are saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9) and not of any good deed or work we do.
In that moment of salvation through faith Christ Jesus, your identity is forever and eternally changed. You have just become a beloved and adopted son (or daughter) of the Most High God. Did you get that? You are now a prince (or princess) in the Kingdom of God the Father; the Creator who's image you bear.
When you choose to believe that and receive it in your heart, soul and mind it can change everything! Is this change instant? No, but I sure wish it was.
I believe this is part of the sanctification journey we are on as Christians. We need to choose to believe our new identity in Christ. Remind yourself of this truth daily (or however often you need).
In light of this truth of your immense value as a child of God, you are free to open yourself up to the work of God's indwelling Spirit to change your broken desires to Christ-like desires. You don't have to obey the lies of the enemy anymore.
The redemption of your Garden-of-Eden-fractured desires is part of God’s plan to redeem the whole you. Start this process by recognizing your true identity given to you in Christ Jesus, by God the Father.
With your identity framed in the right perspective (knowing your true value and worth to God), you can begin to change your desires with a new heart and the “new creation” God declares you to be.
For additional help on your journey, visit the links below:
No one truly enjoys suffering. When pain enters our lives, we instinctively seek relief. This is a right and good response. But often in our quest for relief we mistakenly assume that emotional, spiritual, and relational healing and growth can (and should) happen quickly. They don't.
But before you get too discouraged, let me try to show you why it is far better to focus on finishing well rather than just starting fast on this journey of healing and growth.
Here are 4 reasons why finishing well is better than starting fast when it comes to true life transformation.
Finishing Well Reminds You that Change is a Journey, Not a Destination
Thousands of men have contacted us over the years to get help for their unwanted sexual habits. They reach out for many different reasons, but almost all have the same fundamental desire: change.
They don't want to keep doing the things they are doing. Mainly because they are finally waking up to the reality that what they're doing is harmful to themselves and others. They want out. But they want out NOW!
It is understandable to want quick fixes when the effects of a sexual addiction are finally admitted and revealed. It's a mess. It hurts. It's heavy and complicated. To want freedom from such bondage, and peace instead of chaos, is right and good.
But change, true life change, never happens instantly. Period.
Real transformation, the kind that God works in us through His Spirit, takes a lifetime to come to full maturity. Therefore, focusing on finishing well rather than starting fast reminds us that change is a journey, not a destination.
There isn't a magical point in time where you can say, "I've arrived! All that must change and be completed in my life is accomplished. There is no more healing or growth needed." This "destination" is called heaven, and we only arrive there after death. (And even in heaven there will be no end to our exploration and wonder of the eternally infinite God...)
So, when it comes to life transformation, finishing well is better than starting fast because it keeps you focused on the lifelong journey of growth rather than constantly trying to achieve an unreachable and unrealistic goal of perfection this side of heaven. There is much freedom and peace that come when we focus on finishing well.
Finishing Well Leads Toward Practical Outcomes, Not Merely Idealized Possibilities
It is easy to "dream big" when considering how to start the journey toward life change. It is something else entirely to actually live out the day-by-day grind of such transformation. Finishing well is about establishing real goals with real results.
When I began my journey of recovery from sex addiction back in 1999 I had lots of hopes and dreams (fantasies, really) about what a "changed life" could look like. But all those dreams existed way out in the unrealized world of "possibilities," not in my actual life.
The best possibilities for transformation never happen if there isn't concrete goals and actions attached to them. And this is actually what it takes to finish well. To keep dreaming and dreaming and dreaming about all that "could" change is to stay stuck forever at a starting line you never leave.
If I was going to experience actual life change I was going to have to do something, not just dream something. I had to call a counselor and set up appointments, find a support group and attend faithfully, dig into God's Word and follow wherever His Spirit led me, and many other tangible actions that required my will, not merely good intentions.
One of the most practical outcomes of a finishing well attitude has been the relationships developed with other men for encouragement, accountability, and support. Had I only just "dreamed" about a changed life without ever doing something about it, I would still be alone, isolated, and probably completely enslaved to my addiction (if not dead).
Finishing well involves taking concrete steps toward different outcomes. Faithfulness and perseverance grow because you are committed to actions over the long haul that produce change, not just ideas floating around in the dreamland of possibilities.
(For help taking concrete steps, we have resources for Men, Women, and Families.)
Finishing Well Produces Righteous Character
So what is the actual "goal" of life transformation? If it's a journey and it requires actions, what is this process actually intended to produce?
The short answer is the life of Jesus.
We are made in God's image; we are made to reflect God in the world (Gen. 1:26-28). Jesus Christ was the exact representation (image) of God (Heb. 1:3). Because of sin we are separated from God and do not reflect Him rightly (Rom. 3:23). However, through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God and made truly alive; in Christ we are able to reflect God properly. (Eph. 2:8-10)
The Bible calls this process of maturing in our ability to accurately reflect God's image in the world "sanctification." And it is simply the process by which we "look" more and more like Jesus.
The metaphor that is often used to describe this process is fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we read, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." God's Spirit in us is about the business of producing the fruit of these characteristics of Jesus.
Fruit doesn't manifest instantly. This is why we say finishing well is a lifelong process. What God is producing in us, the character of Jesus, is not instant. It takes time to grow and mature.
Just think of a few of the characteristics listed above and how time is woven in to their very definitions: patience, faithfulness, self-control. One could even argue that love and joy and gentleness require time to mature because they are experienced in relationship to someone or something else.
Finishing well keeps us on a growth mission over time. As God reveals areas in our lives that do not align with the character of Jesus, He refines us through pruning and discipline (John 15:1-11).
By contrast, starting fast stays focused on self. It's all about making yourself look good without any actual transformation of character. It is shallow and unsustainable. It also comes crashing down when storms come. (Matt. 7:24-27)
Finishing Well Pleases the Lord and Grows God's Kingdom
Finally, probably the greatest reason why finishing well is better than starting fast is because it pleases God.
Jesus told a parable of a master and his three servants in Matthew 25 to help his followers understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. The master gives each servant a different amount of money and then leaves. When the master returns, he goes to see what the servants did with the money he entrusted to them.
Two of the servants had used the master's money to double the amounts. The third servant did nothing. Listen to the commendation the master gave to the servants who increased the amount given:
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Matt. 25:21)
The servants who multiplied the investment of the master in them were commended. They were welcomed "into the joy of [their] master." This is a picture of heaven. Jesus (the Master) is returning and He will be asking what you and I did with the investment He made in us through His Spirit. He is expecting a return on that investment; a return that enhances and expands His kingdom.
How will you answer?
Did you "start fast" with a bunch of possible ideas that never really got off the ground and were mainly intent with cutting corners to just make yourself look good and not really show any desire to actually change?
Or did you set your heart and mind on finishing well, on humbling yourself to God's Word and Spirit and engaging the long journey that unfolds step-by-step, day after day, in the trenches of character development and authentic community?
Is change difficult? Of course it is. Is it worth it for the sake of a new heart and mind, healthier relationships, and the hope of hearing "Well done" upon entering the joy of the Master? Most definitely!
If you would like help on your journey of finishing well, please contact us.
Founder & President
You have an enemy. His name is Satan (also known as Adversary, Accuser, Deceiver) and his goal is simple: destroy your life.
Satan has been around for a long time, way longer than us. He started out well, as an angel of light. He was essentially the "worship leader" of the angels in heaven. But his worship of God became overshadowed by worship of himself, and such pride got him kicked out of heaven (along with the rest of his worship band; about one third of the angels).
Ever since Satan's "fall" he has been intent on one thing: destroying the God he once worshiped. This is where his focus on you and me comes in.
God created mankind in His own image. We read the following in the first chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26a, 27)
We (humans) are the only part of creation that bear this special mark of God; we are created unique, distinct from everything else in the universe. And this is why Satan hates us: we look something like our heavenly Father.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, He placed them in a beautiful garden and said, "“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16b, 17)
They had freedom with only one restriction. (Can you imagine?) God gave humans a choice: trust God and live or trust anything else and die. This is the leverage point Satan seized upon in order to try and destroy humans, and thus try and mar the image of God.
In this story of mankind's fall into sin, Satan employs three tactics that he still uses today to seek to destroy God's image bearers. Learn to recognize these tactics and you will do well in fighting against Satan's destructive force in your life.
Tactic 1: Distraction/Doubt
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
Satan's first tactic to destroy God's image bearers was distraction, or doubt. He asked Eve a question to plant a seed, not to gain information. He wanted to distract Eve just enough from God's Word so that she would begin to spin additional questions about God's trustworthiness.
This tactic is still used all the time today. God's Word says one thing, yet Satan brings a question to plant the tiniest seed of doubt as to whether God's Word is trustworthy or even good.
Some examples might be:
Tactic 2: Distortion
Notice how Satan completely flips the script of what God actually said.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?" (3:1, emphasis mine)
The simple answer is: No, God did not actually say that!
God said: "You may surely eat of every tree... except one."
Satan distorted God to say: "You shall not eat of any tree."
It's stark, but subtle. God actually invites Adam and Eve to focus on all the freedom He has given them, and also pay attention to the one danger. Satan, conversely, entices Eve to focus on the one restriction and ignore completely the vast freedom God has granted.
Let's continue the story to see even more of Satan's tactic of distortion.
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:2-3)
Eve gives a decent answer, but it's incomplete. Satan's first tactic seems to be working. She has already forgotten bits of God's Word. The seed of distraction and doubt is steering her ever so slightly away from the truth.
God said they could "surely" (or "freely") eat from the trees in the garden. She omitted this small, but significant qualifier. She also added something God never explicitly said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "neither shall you touch it."
Anytime we add to or subtract from God's Word, the meaning will eventually become distorted. And Satan smiles.
His distortion continued.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Satan flat out contradicts God's Word when he says "you will not surely die," for God said plainly, "for in the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die."
This is the moment of truth for Eve (and us). Trust God and His Word or trust Satan and his word. This is how every decision of life ultimately boils down.
For many of us, much of the time, the tactics of Satan have the same effect on us as they did on Eve (and Adam) below.
Tactic 3: Division
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:6-7)
Satan's seeds of distraction and doubt drew Eve's attention away from God's Word just enough for him to plant a few more seeds of doubt through distorting and flat out contradicting God's Word. With each question and contradiction Eve's focus was diverting from God (and freedom) to sin (and death).
And as soon as Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit a separation of cosmic proportions was established. Immediately there was division between husband and wife; they became self-conscious of their nakedness and sought to hide their bodies from each other.
But more than just a marital division occurred. Heaven and earth were separated. God's image bearers chose the way of the Deceiver instead of their Creator. Life would never be the same again. And life would also have an expiration. Every human being born from Adam will surely die. God's Word was true after all.
Satan, the great Deceiver, is intent on destroying your life and mine. He literally hates us! He uses the same tactics today that he used in the beginning: distraction/doubt, distortion, and division.
Where in your own life do you see the enemy's tactics? Has he planted seeds of doubt about God's goodness and trustworthiness? Has he distorted God's Word, causing you to omit or add things that fundamentally alter its meaning and effectiveness? Where has Satan created division between you and God, or you and others, or even you and yourself?
Do battle today to reclaim ground the enemy has stolen. Because of God's grace and the power of the resurrected Christ your life does not have to be destroyed.
Trust fully in God's Word.
Repent of sin.
Pursue unity with God and others.
It's true you have an enemy. But it's also true you have Savior in Jesus Christ, the One who conquered sin and death -- and Satan! In Christ, you have hope and joy -- and the freedom your soul was made for from the beginning.
Is it possible to have fun again in your marriage after an affair? This is a heavy question, but I believe it is absolutely possible.
The marriage covenant is serious because it is the promise between a man and a woman to "love, honor, and cherish" each other "til death do us part." And when there is a sexual betrayal of that covenant, a type of death is felt.
God's Word tells us that sexual betrayal in marriage is so serious that if it is committed, the offended spouse is allowed to divorce. (Although it is best to first seek reconciliation, especially if the betraying spouse is repentant and submits to appropriate help.)
With sexual betrayal being so serious a violation of the marriage covenant, how is it possible for a couple who has faced this to reconcile, let alone have fun again?
I'm not going to cover in this article all that is involved in reconciling a broken marriage. You can learn a little more about what that journey looks like here.
So this article is for the couple who has decided to reconcile and work on their marriage, and wants to know what does "having fun" again look like.
Here are 4 key guidelines to help you have fun again after an affair:
1. Let the betrayed partner set the pace for pursuing fun
When sexual betrayal is committed, the spouse who was betrayed carries the heaviest burden. They are the one that feels used, deceived, and "less than." It will likely take them longer to feel "safe" enough to be vulnerable with their spouse.
If you are the spouse who committed the sexual betrayal, you need to be extremely patient and gentle with your wounded partner. They will need a great amount of gentleness and compassion from you as they navigate a whole new universe of emotions.
Therefore, the "pace" of pursuing fun again needs to be primarily directed by the betrayed spouse. They need this "power" because it is directly connected to how safe they feel.
When they feel safe, they become more open to fun activities.
When they feel unsafe, they are less inclined to want to pursue fun.
My wife and I were separated for 9 months when all my lies of betrayal came out into the open. I got in recovery and my wife got some great counseling. When we reconciled and moved back in together it was difficult navigating our "new" marriage.
I wanted my wife to feel safe so that she could be herself around me. Probably the biggest way I helped this to happen was to take my recovery and sobriety seriously -- to truly be a man of integrity.
As I proved myself to her in my recovery, she felt much safer and therefore more open to doing fun things together.
And during this "rebirth" it wasn't as if I had no voice or opinion to offer about things to do, but it was important that my voice be softer and gentler, and that my pace be in step with my wife's healing journey.
Relearning how to have fun together will likely be a roller coaster for awhile, but that's okay. Healing and restoring a marriage wounded by sexual betrayal is not a quick, seamless process. It takes time, but it's worth the time taken.
2. Explore both old and new interests
If you have been married for more than 5 minutes you have history together. You have shared activities and memories. You certainly had things at the beginning of your relationship that you mutually enjoyed -- it's why you fell in love.
Sometimes when couples are recovering from the devastation of sexual betrayal it can seem like everything in the past was a lie, or at the very least is now completely and utterly tainted or irreparably damaged. This is not true, even if it feels true.
Because it can feel like the past is totally destroyed, the rebuilding process can seem like everything moving forward has to be NEW. New routines. New job, new phone, new house, new gym, new Internet filter, etc. New clothes, new communication skills, new church, new car. New movies, new TV shows, new social media (nah, none of that!), new restaurants, and even new shoes.
Whew! Are you exhausted yet?
When rebuilding after an affair there are certainly going to be some new ways of living established, but not everything you enjoy doing together has to be new. In fact, some of the best stuff for rekindling your intimacy will be found in reforming some old activities from your history together.
My wife and I have always loved to travel together. We love to drive around old towns looking at the old buildings and learning the history. We love to ask the locals where to eat and what they do for fun. These activities didn't have to be eliminated from our lives after our reconciliation. They were simply reformed and enjoyed in new ways because of the healing we experienced.
But it is also good to explore new ways of having fun together. After all, in a very real sense you are building a "new" marriage. It is only fitting that you explore new things together that bring joy and delight into your relationship.
Work together on exploring both old and new interests that are fun and interesting. Never stop learning and growing together.
3. Make sure fun obeys the Golden Rule
Jesus said, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 7:12) This is commonly referred to as the "Golden Rule." And it's important to remember when learning to have fun again after an affair.
In many ways the restoration process for a marriage that is healing from an affair is a journey of "learning" each other in new ways. You are learning how to talk openly and honestly, how to make decisions together, and exploring what intimacy really looks like.
As you pursue fun activities together make the Golden Rule the "litmus test" for your decision. Is the activity something your spouse will enjoy, or simply endure? Are you being considerate and thoughtful toward them? Have you been listening to what they have been saying about what they find fun or enjoyable?
Now, I know what some of your are thinking. If you are the betrayed spouse, you are probably shouting at me: "I've done this before and got burned by my spouse's deception before. Why would I want to do this again and risk getting hurt in the same way?"
I get it. It is definitely a risk to explore having fun again and to place your spouse's interests ahead of your own. And I'm not suggesting that you take a blind risk if your spouse is not showing signs of repentance and true pursuit of a changed life. But even if all those things are present, it's still a risk; there is no guarantee that you will never be hurt again.
But when you are both seeking to apply the Golden Rule to your decision-making about fun activities together, I think you will find that you will land on some mutually agreeable activities that really will be fun together. Yes, it's a risk, but it's a risk worth taking.
(Also, if you were the betraying spouse, be extra sensitive and caring when making decisions about fun activities. You still have a voice, but be extremely empathetic to your spouse's emotional sensitivity in this season of rebuilding.)
4. Keep fun in its proper place
Finally, remember that fun is simply fun. And fun is good, but it isn't the ultimate goal for restoring your marriage. Other issues like glorifying God and rebuilding oneness should take precedence over simply having fun together.
But at the same time you must acknowledge that having fun together is not unimportant. If you focus all your energy only on super spiritual matters and intensive counseling, but never spend any time together just having fun, I will argue that you are not fully rebuilding your marriage.
I believe God absolutely wants us to be out-of-this-world happy! Happy in Him and happy in each other. I also believe that such happiness comes by way of being whole and holy. So, happiness is not disconnected from righteous living, but it also isn't devoid of real fun, true enjoyment in the creation God has made.
Explore fun in the context of pursuing God together. I believe God will show you how to have fun in ways that you never thought of before. And I also believe that God will be delighted in seeing you smile together again, not merely for the sake of smiling, but instead because something worth smiling about is truly happening in your restored marriage.
Is it possible to have fun again after an affair? I believe it is. Do you?
(This is not a comprehensive or exhaustive list of ideas or insights for having fun again after an affair. It is simply meant to be a starting point. We'd love to hear your ideas and insights in the comments section below.)
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
Life is stressful. Can I get an 'Amen'?
Stress (or anxiety) can come from lots of places: medical issues, broken relationships, work problems, trauma, mental health disorders, addictions, drugs, alcohol, heredity, and many others. Just about anything can be a trigger for stress.
Stress, for the purposes of this article, can simply be defined as worry -- to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.
So, how are you handling your stress?
Let me suggest that the following exercises might help you manage your stress in healthier ways:
1. Read and Pray Every Day
While there certainly can be physical reasons for anxiety, one thing seems to always be present when we are stressed: obsessive thoughts about our fears.
What you think about matters to how you feel. And what you think about is affected by what you focus on. So, what are you focused on?
A simple way to refocus your mind away from your fears and anxieties is to read and pray every day. Read a passage of Scripture that reminds you of your inherent value or of your identity in Christ.
Pray throughout the day. Share your struggles and fears with God. Be honest and open about the difficulty you are having; even expressing any doubts you are having about God and goodness and life.
Also, it is important to read other good material on understanding your emotions and how to respond to them in healthy ways.
Read and pray every day. It makes a difference for handling stress well.
Stress creates a sense of panic. And when we panic everything speeds up -- thoughts, heart rate, and even breathing.
So, a very practical exercise to help deal with stress in a healthy way is to focus on your breathing. And keep it simple: breathe in and breathe out.
According to Medical News Today, something called the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help reduce tension and stress. (I'm not advocating for yoga; this is only a simple way to breathe that has positive effects on your body.)
Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds. Start easy by doing this for 3-7 minutes, then work your way up to 15-20 minutes a day. I suggest lying down or sitting down when you start, just in case you get light-headed.
To enhance this breathing exercise, meditate on Scripture or pray the Lord's Prayer. Breathe in God's grace and truth, and breathe out any lies of shame and all the things you can't control. Focus your mind on God's truth and grace.
Breathing is essential to life. Learn to breathe deeply and focus on what is true. This will help you handle your stress far better.
3. Name Your Fears
Stress seems most powerful when it attaches our fear to the unknown. And the unknown is whatever is unnamed.
Have you ever noticed that the stuff that scares us most is usually the stuff we know very little about. Take something extremely difficult, like cancer, for instance.
When someone has cancer but doesn't know it, their fears about feeling sick can go in a million different directions. But once the cancer is named, those particular fears are not as strong -- even though the thought of fighting cancer is very daunting.
Once the diagnosis is made, new fears emerge, right? But why? Because now there are yet more unnamed realities that must be faced.
Naming your fears is healthy self-talk. The Psalmist says, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (42:5) And follows this up later with a specific question, "Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
Finally, after naming the specific fear (oppression of the enemy), the Psalmist fights it with pointing his will toward truth: "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
The more you can name your fears and combat them with truth, the more you can limit their power over you -- and the more your stress will decrease.
4. Connect with Healthy People
It is not easy to deal with stress, or name your fears, alone. You need to connect with healthy people who love you and can listen thoughtfully to your full story of stress and anxiety.
Healthy people are those who understand the difficulties of life, and have likely traveled through some valleys themselves, but know how to direct you to wisdom with love and compassion.
The more you try to handle your stress alone, the more you are likely to drown in it. Healthy people lift your head above water so you can see from a different vantage point, and breathe the air of hope and truth.
I'm sure you're asking, "Where do I find these healthy people?"
Start right where you live. Plug into a local church where you can connect with Christians who can love and support you.
Seek out professional counseling to deal with any underlying roots to your stress, whether they be psychological or physical.
Connect with others in a confidential support group.
5. Embrace Your Limitations
There is no "cure" for the difficulties of life. Sure, there are things you can do that help with responding to such difficulties in healthy ways, but be careful of "magical" thinking that says you just need to get the formula right and all your troubles will disappear.
You and I have limitations. And each of us is different. I'm amazed at how "easily" some people seem to handle stress. It's like nothing bothers them. But I'm not them. And neither are you.
Admitting you are weak is not weak. It's actually quite powerful. The Apostle Paul said as much:
"But he [Jesus] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (1 Cor. 12:9-10)
Stress isn't fun. It seems to "torment" with relentless persistence. But you can respond with confidence; not in yourself, but in the grace of God.
Preach this message of truth and hope to yourself every day: though I am weak, my God is strong. I will trust in His power, not my own. I rest in Him.
May you grow in grace as you learn to handle stress in healthier ways.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
There is a mistake I see virtually every man make in recovery. It is the mistake of defending "rightness." Let me explain.
Every man who enters recovery has a history of deception; of others as well as himself. He has told so many lies it would be pointless to try and tally them up. When the truth of his secrets comes to light, the people closest to him recoil in shock and hurt. They feel the sting of betrayal that his lies brought. They wonder if they can ever again believe anything this man tells them.
As the man pursues recovery and begins to experience some healing and freedom, he realizes that the ones he hurt are not so quick to "get on board" with his new life. They remain skeptical, even defensive; even accusatory. And for the man in recovery this causes him to feel the ironic sting of hurt and befuddlement. Few, however, recognize the irony. Instead, they rail against the accusations with a fervor of "righteousness."
This is a bad idea.
To defend being right when your history has been mostly wrong is a fool's endeavor. Even if the man in recovery is totally "correct" in his defense of his new life and behaviors, such defense does nothing to aid in the restoration of the relationship. Sometimes it is much wiser to endure suffering for the sake of reconciliation than to demand rights that will only ensure further relational fissures.
When a man learns to lay down his rights at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ (the One who understands unjust suffering better than anyone!), there are no accusations that can upset him. Whether the barbs and accusations of loved ones are justified or not, the man learns to find his identity in the grace of Jesus, not in how "correct" he might be in his recovery. This is the humility that leads to repentance and a completely transformed life.
Are you a man struggling with false accusations in your recovery? Do you feel the need to defend yourself? Slow down and follow the example of Jesus. Even when He was perfectly justified to defend himself from his accusers, He chose instead to entrust himself to the will of the Father. While He suffered immensely for remaining silent, His reward was great -- and so was ours: Jesus reconciled us to God!
If you want restoration in your fractured relationships, humble yourself before the Father like Jesus did. You may still have to suffer immensely, but your reward will be great. You will gain wisdom and the blessing of God, which is far greater than simply carrying "rights" -- all by yourself.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
by Jonathan Daugherty
Some years ago I built a wooden bench from reclaimed lumber out of a 100-year-old house. It was my first attempt at building a bench.
I wouldn’t identify myself as “handy.” I’m more monkey than mechanic; perfectly able to mimic someone more skilled when attempting to engage “handy-type” projects, but not likely to initiate a launch on my own into the realm of handyman-land. So, I can assure you I wasn’t overly confident when considering the idea of building a bench out of priceless old lumber.
Before I ever picked up a piece of that old wood I had a glorious image in my mind of what I hoped would be the bench I could eventually sit on. It was strong, solidly built, able to withstand rain and storm (and my expanding waistline). The picture in my mind was perfect, and I was content for quite some time to simply close my eyes and grin as I imagined the joy I might feel if I were to create such a seating masterpiece. But I discovered a problem with this: I could never actually sit on the bench in my head!
It was fine and good for me to dream about the classic wooden bench I wanted to build, but until I actually picked up the wood and started putting it together, there would be no bench.
The bench project would never be finished so long as it only remained a dream in my head.
And so too are the dreams of a life of wholeness, integrity, and purpose if we choose to only imagine such things. We must act.
The world of fantasy, however elaborate, does not carry the substance of reality.
The imagination is a powerful gift we possess as those made in the image of God, our Creator. It allows us to reason and think and wonder and amuse. God intends that we use it to glorify Him, but so often we use it to worship ourselves and the creation around us. Porn is a great example of this. It lures the viewer into an imaginary world where he is the center of attention and his desires are all that matters. He focuses his God-given imagination on his own ultimate pleasure. But when he reaches out to grasp what such illusions promise, the essence of the fantasy vanishes like a mist.
This is the problem with lustful fantasy: it creates an imaginary world that disconnects us from reality.
I'm careful how I worded this. Imagination is not the problem. God gave us the ability to imagine, and He expects we use it. The problem is that when we engage fantasy (like pornography) we use our imagination to draw us away from the real world, not to better connect with it.
Everything about our being, including imagination, is meant to glorify God. Every thought. Every action. Every motive of the heart.
When our lives are anchored in Christ, we become more connected to the world in which God placed us, not less connected. When our mind (imagination) is filled with good thoughts (Phil. 4:8), we are drawn into fellowship with God and others because God designed the immaterial realm of imagination to inspire us, motivate us, process reason, dream, and challenge us to greater impact for good in the material world around us.
This is why lustful fantasy is so dangerous. It lures us into a false world where we are the god. But we aren't God. We are a weak, pitiful, shadowy substitute. Therefore, no matter how "thrilling" the fantasy in our self-worshiping world, our imagination will eventually be stunted. Why? Because in such a world we can never imagine beyond its creator: us. And since we are finite, limited, weak, and broken, our fantasies will match that capacity. They, too, will be finite, limited, weak, and broken.
But when we turn our imagination to the true Creator, we find a limitless expanse of wonderful possibilities. And not mere possibilities that remain disconnected from our material world, but very real possibilities for richer relationships, more meaningful work, and beauty that builds others up.
A God-centered imagination has no restriction on the amount of good that can come from it. Why? Because God is infinitely good, and with Him as our center of attention, the illusions of fantasy are vaporized.
Turn your imagination's gaze to the Creator, and see what a difference is made. A difference not only in your mind, but also in your actions. For wherever your mind is focused, your feet will follow. And wherever God leads you in your imagination will produce good in your actions -- if you trust and obey.
Don't remain content to simply dream about the "bench" God wants you to build in your life. Pick up the hammer and bring the dream to life...
by Gerard Terry
Our reality is composed of what we do in a day, what we think about and who we interact with (including who we care for and who cares for us). For a week, our reality is what we did, what we thought about and who we interacted with for seven days. The same goes for a month and a year. Cumulatively, these form our life.
Today, I went to a couple’s house after church, where I found several other people I knew. I brought ingredients for nachos, while others brought meat, potatoes, beans, drink and desert. We spent nearly five hours watching football in one room and talking in the kitchen. I left there thinking I experienced love and fellowship. I was so glad I went and so glad I did not stay home and isolate with my computer and TV. At my decision point on whether to go, it was uncomfortable to step out of my comfort zone.
Tonight, I am thinking of what I would have done if I had stayed home. TV and a computer are not healthy companions. Through them, my fantasy life takes root and I search for media which will further it along. I predictably give in to lustful thoughts and a craving for pornography. Then follows the guilt. Then follows the shame. I am embarrassed to say this occurs way too often, and forms a substantial part of my reality.
Defining Our Own Reality
Did you know that our experiences shape who we are? Fortunately, in most cases, if we exercise discipline and spend our time thoughtfully, we get to decide what we will be thinking about later as we reflect on our day. Through fellowship, we can have memories of laughter, love, and encouragement as we interacted with others. The opposite of fellowship is isolation. Through isolation, we can have feelings of loneliness, emptiness and regret which accompany isolation, guilt and shame.
One of the most common characteristics of sex addicts is that we have few friends. If we are not intentional about how we spend our time, our drift is toward decisions of isolation. Isolation is easier and appears more restful. Unfortunately, isolation is where sin thrives. When was the last time you openly sinned in the presence of a group of friends?
Your Reality Costs Something Either Way
Just like the consequences of time spent looking at porn (broken relationships, guilt, and shame), building relationships has a price. The cost always includes energy to step outside our comfort zone to interact with others. It is work to ask good questions, give genuine compliments and meet the needs of others. I also risk embarrassment that I won’t measure up, or that I may encounter conflict. Yet interacting with others has an upside: we become fully alive as we live the way God intended. People are good for us.
God Values Fellowship
Time spent with others is usually God honoring. We are made to have fellowship with others. In that time, we can encourage and be encouraged. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) In the end, fellowship is designed to result in greater connection to God for all involved.
Interacting With Others in Relationship is Guilt Free
The most wonderful emotions I feel tonight are the joy of connecting with others and the lack of guilt from what I did today. My day was spent in valuable experiences building great memories. I laughed. I listened to others and what they had to say. They valued me too. Someone even told me they loved me. That is the reality I want to purposefully build for myself.
Be Intentional, Don’t Drift
With something as valuable as building your reality, don’t just let it happen. Don’t lay around the house waiting to see who will call or watching TV. Call someone to come over. Get out of the house. Attend God honoring events where like-minded people will be found. With intentional planning, you can have purpose in your day and control what memories of your day, week, month and year will look like. You can build a positive reality as you live the way God planned for you, in fellowship with other believers.
by Dorothy Maryon CMHC
In most cases, there is nothing that can prepare you for when you find out your spouse has a pornography and sexual addiction. To be on the receiving end of addiction leaves many women dealing with a deep sense of betrayal, uncertainty, and hurt. Addiction hits at the core of a woman’s relationship, often at the center of her soul, and damages the marriage. After learning of their husband’s addiction, many women have reported their relationship feels false and empty and many find themselves asking, “who can I trust?” and “who will be there for me now?”
As the betrayed spouse, women often don't know where to turn and often struggle with the deception alone. This type of trauma shatters the internal world of the spouse of an addict and affects all aspects of her life. The betrayal disrupts her ability to function with the day to day aspects of her life, alters her sense of self, and can have a huge impact on her spirituality.
What many fail to realize is the experience of pornography and sexual addiction falls into the category of trauma for the spouse. Responses to trauma can vary widely, and may include any of the following symptoms:
Partners are sometimes surprised that reactions to the trauma last longer than they expected. It may take months or even years to fully regain a sense of balance and equilibrium. You may feel you need to just “get over it” when in reality you need a strong support system to get through the hard and challenging times. Research has shown that one of the key components of successfully navigating through trauma is the level of support an individual has.
Most women feel isolated when confronted with their spouse’s addiction. The statement, “when an addict comes out of the closet his partner goes in,” rings true for many dealing with addiction and because of that, it is important for the spouse to find a safe place to talk about her feelings.
Self-care is another tool to use while navigating through the trauma. Self-care involves finding helpful, coping strategies that assist in nurturing oneself at a very difficult time of life. Some examples might include:
Just like anyone who has been through a traumatic event, it is important that you treat yourself with gentleness and patience. If possible, try not to make major life changes at this time, as thinking and judgment may not be as clear as usual. And again, seek support and information about sexual addiction as this is a very difficult experience to navigate by oneself.
About the Author: Dorothy Maryon CMHC, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor who specializes in partners' issues associated with sexual addiction in marriage. She has worked as a counselor in the LifeStar program for 15 years, focusing on addiction and relationship issues. She is in private practice and has presented at several conferences on addiction, codependency, creating safety for partners, and grief and trauma issues.