Marriage 7 minutes to read

For many men who are beginning their healing process, the road to recovery can be difficult to navigate. There are so many things to work on, it can be challenging to prioritize what to work on and when.

As I have walked this road for many years, I have been tripped up; not recognizing that we can’t fix everything at once. This process takes time. We must learn that as we gain health and sobriety, it will have a positive impact on our marriage. This is especially true when it comes to regaining trust in the relationship. Here are a few insights from my experience and what I learned along the way.

1. Don’t Worry In The Beginning

Early on in my recovery, regaining trust was something I focused on and where I put a lot of energy. I found this to be true with many of the guys in group when they begin their journey toward recovery.

From the moment we start down this new path—joining a men’s recovery group, developing disciplines where there were none, and establishing structure—we set our sights on trying to earn back trust from our wives; the trust that was lost through betrayal and our addictive behaviors. It seems like the right thing to do. We think that if we work toward regaining trust right off the bat, then our wives will see that we’re serious about making change.

As we begin to go through the shame and guilt of our struggle, regaining trust becomes the force that fuels a full throttle mindset. But experience says, “Not so fast guys.” I’ve been in recovery since the year 2000, and I’ve learned that placing such a challenge at the start of our recovery can be disastrous. It can lead to a relapse of our addictive behaviors. Regaining trust at this stage of recovery puts too much pressure on us and does more damage than good.

At the beginning of recovery, our focus should be about acknowledgement, confession, repentance, acceptance, and renewal: allowing the Holy Spirit to begin the process of renewing and transforming our mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Our wives aren’t looking to begin trusting us any time soon. Most likely, they are still in shock and hurting; unable to believe that we actually did this to them.

When beginning recovery, concentrate on maintaining a consistent structure—daily devotions, scripture reading, and prayer time—and finding a support group that’s focused on giving us the help we need, like a Pure Desire Group! We need to center our beginning recovery efforts on us first and allow that process to begin without fail. This will give our wives hope and show them that we are working on ourselves.

2. Make Accountability Your Friend

As we continue in our recovery and seek out a good support group, we should be looking for a group that promotes accountability with other men. This can be downright scary. Many of us have never had to be accountable to others, let alone to other men. This can feel intimidating, especially until we discover what accountability is all about. I know this was true for me.

It’s not just about telling other men what and how we’re doing. It also includes allowing like-minded men to be a part of sharing in our decisions, choices, and actions; men who want the same thing out of the recovery process as we do. It’s about challenging and supporting others as they become who God called them to be. My favorite accountability scripture says:

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.Proverbs 27:17

As we include other men in our daily lives and activities, it frees us from isolation and having to do everything on our own without counsel or guidance. For many of us, isolation is what drives our behaviors and the poor choices we have made, resulting in negative consequences.

Having godly men in our lives develops assurance and confidence as we are open and honest about what we’re doing. It allows us to live with no hidden agendas or secrets. Knowing that we are accountable to other men who will challenge us in our areas of weakness will help our wives see that we are making progress.

Having true accountability gives our wives something to see without us trying to convince her that we’re doing the right thing. It’s not about convincing our wives—it’s about being genuine, being real with our thoughts and intentions, and receiving guidance and instruction from others who will help us become better men of God.

3. Consistency & Commitment Bring Trust

As we continue to focus on our recovery, we need to be consistent and staying committed to the process. For most men, the recovery process will take anywhere from three to five years. Being involved in a Pure Desire Seven Pillars of Freedom group, will help us get to a place where we can maintain a consistent style of living in purity, wholeness, and holiness.

In the past, some guys have attended our Pure Desire group with the expectation of completing the workbook in six months, they have little accountability, and leave the group thinking they’re healed from their addictive behaviors. They are sadly mistaken. That is nothing but a lie from the enemy of our soul.

In our group, we have to be intentional: commit to the process, stay focused and on task when completing the components necessary for healing—the FASTER ScaleCommitment to Change, and the homework.  

When our spouse sees the consistency and commitment in our recovery efforts, it gives her hope that she will see trust down the road; the light at the end of the tunnel. It won’t automatically return, but forward motion and progress are good indicators that recovery is taking hold. Stay the course. Never give up, no matter how strong the struggle. As long as we continue to remain focused, consistent, and committed to the process, trust will gradually find its way back into the relationship.

4. Focus On Yourself

Guys, if we want trust to return, we need to stop focusing on our wives during the process. When we are too focused on appeasing our wives, it detracts from our efforts to stay consistent with what we have agreed to do. And our wives see this!

Over the years, I’ve learned that my recovery is my recovery. If I want to regain my wife’s trust, then I need to keep my eyes on God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. This teaches me to not lean on my own understanding, but trust Him to do what only He can do.

In the early stages of recovery, trust is so far down the road that we shouldn’t expect it. We have too much work to do before we get there, which is exactly what our wives are praying for. We must first learn to trust ourselves, all over again, with a new, transformed thought process of dependability and desire, which can only come from God Almighty Himself!

Our wives want to see us trust the process, do what we have agreed to do in recovery, and with a genuine heart to match. So, when the Lord God allows us to wake up in the morning, remember: when we look in the mirror, we only see one person—not ourselves and our wife. “Lord God, help me fix me, and the rest will take care of itself.”

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.Matthew 6:33

5. Counseling Wouldn’t Hurt

In the year 2000, after attending the week long Men’s Conference Every Man’s Battle, I felt the need to add some personal counseling to my recovery efforts. It may seem like a lot to add to an already time-consuming recovery schedule—morning devotions, prayer time, daily bible study, and accountability check-ins—but I learned that with good time management, I could make individual counseling work. And it did!

I secured the counseling efforts of Joe Dallas: a man of God, who I’ve grown to love and appreciate as a dear friend and brother in Christ. Through God and Joe’s counseling efforts, we revisited areas of my life that I hadn’t visited in years. I discovered where my addictive behaviors originated and how self-destructive seeds were planted deep in my soul. I also discovered several areas of denial that were contributing to my behaviors.

Early on in my recovery, individual counseling was crucial for me. It helped me to seek out my past so that I could begin the process of rediscovering buried hurts and wounds. This allowed to find healing in these areas. This was so powerful for me! But this only happened because I made the conscience decision to include personal counseling in my recovery plan.

Now, counseling may not be for everyone, but I would encourage you to consider individual counseling at some point early on in your recovery.

As you establish consistency in your recovery and begin to see progress, consider a monthly session with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) or Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP); through Pure Desire or a personal recommendation. This addition to your recovery plan will do wonders for your peace of mind! It will help close the doors of your past, so they cannot be opened again to torment you.

Finding lifelong healing is a process. As we develop new healthy behaviors and focus on becoming the man God intended, regaining trust in our marriage will follow suit and produce a future of healing and freedom in your marriage.

Ernie Chambers

Ernie is a Regional Group Leader (RGL) for the South Region (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi). He is also a group leader at his church in Texas, Trinity Church. Ernie and his wife Jackie are Marriage Mentors at Trinity Church. He also has a weekly blog called Men of Redemption.

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