“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love open, honest, and authentic people—and how difficult it is to even like defensive, dishonest people who are living in denial?
A good definition of denial has been called Truth Decay. In the long run denial can be extremely destructive to one’s physical, mental and spiritual health—and also destructive to relationships, and to the emotional and spiritual health of families and societies.
True, as children many of us were forced to build defenses around our feelings in order to survive. However, as adults we need to rid ourselves of unhealthy defenses in order to fully live and fully love—that is, to live productive lives and develop healthy, lasting and loving relationships. As long as I live behind a mask—no matter how attractive that mask may appear—I can never feel loved because my mask is not me. Only real people can get close to others and experience intimacy and real love.
Furthermore, the more dishonest I am with my inner self (my true feelings and motives), the more I will distort all other truth—including God’s truth—to make it match my perception of reality, and use it to justify my behavior. Ultimately I end up unhappily believing my own lies.
So where do we begin to overcome the problem of denial, which may very well be the most destructive personal and societal problem we have?
First, let’s call denial what it is. It’s SIN—and a destructive sin at that. Remember, it’s just as big a sin to lie to myself as it is to lie to anyone else. We can call poison by any name we like, but poison is still poison. Same goes for sin. We can call it freedom of choice, misspeak, or by any other fancy name to give it a sugar coating and make it sound attractive, but that makes it all the more deceptive and dangerous.
Second, confession. Remember that we change the world one person at a time. The first person to start with is myself. I need to realize that I can be as guilty of the sin of denial as anyone else and come to God with a genuine and humble heart asking him to “search my heart” and reveal to me, no matter how painful it may be, any areas in my life where I may be in denial and to confront me with the truth about myself.
Third, realize that without access to the truth there is no healing or recovery of individuals or societies, and there is no freedom but self-deceptive bondage. As Jesus said, only the truth sets people free (see John 8:32). It is not without good reason that God “desires truth in our innermost being.”
Fourth, accept the fact that pain was the way into denial and pain is the way out of it. As they say in AA, “It’s not the truth that hurts us but letting go of the lies.” Indeed, facing one’s truth can be painful but incredibly freeing and ultimately fulfilling. I say painful because it usually takes painful experiences to break through our self-defeating defenses.
Finally, the pursuit of truth needs to be a life-long journey. It is a journey that leads to fully living and fully loving—and ultimately to life everlasting. Lies are of the devil and ultimately lead to hell here on earth and in the life to come.
“Dear God, in the
words of the psalmist, ‘Search me . . . and know my heart. Try me, and know my
anxieties. And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting.’ No matter what the cost, please deliver me from the sin of
denial. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’
The first step toward improving or enhancing your marriage is to understand what happens when relationships fail. This has been well documented by extensive research into couples that were not able to save their marriages. Learning about their failures can prevent your relationship from making the same mistakes — or rescue it if it already has.
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, I list the six things that predict divorce. This ability to predict divorce is based in part on my analysis of the 130 newlywed couples who were observed at the “Love Lab” apartment at the University of Washington.
During our research study, my team and I asked these couples to spend fifteen minutes in the lab trying to resolve an ongoing disagreement they were having while we videotaped them. As they spoke, sensors attached to their bodies gauged their stress levels based on various measurements of their circulatory system. Here is what I discovered.
1. Harsh Startup
The most obvious indicator that a conflict discussion (and marriage) is not going to go well is the way it begins. When a discussion leads off with criticism and/or sarcasm (a form of contempt), it has begun with a “harsh startup.” My research shows that if your discussion begins with a harsh startup, it will inevitably end on a negative note. Statistics tell the story: 96% of the time, you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the interaction.
2. The Four Horsemen
Certain kinds of negativity, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that we call them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Usually these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Read more about The Four Horsemen and their antidotes here.
Flooding means that your partner’s negativity – whether in the guise of criticism or contempt or even defensiveness – is so overwhelming, and so sudden, that it leaves you shell-shocked. A marriage’s meltdown can be predicted, then, by habitual harsh startup and frequent flooding brought on by the relentless presence of the four horsemen during disagreements. Although each of these factors alone can predict a divorce, they usually coexist in an unhappy marriage. Read more about flooding here.
4. Body Language
When my team monitored couples for bodily changes during a conflict discussion, we could see just how physically distressing flooding was. One of the most apparent of these physical reactions is that the heart speeds up – pounding away at more than 100 beats per minute – even as high as 165. Hormonal changes occur, too, including the secretion of adrenaline. Blood pressure also mounts. The physical sensations of feeling flooded make it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving discussion.
5. Failed Repair Attempts
It takes time for the four horsemen and flooding that comes in their wake to overrun a marriage. And yet, divorce can so often be predicted by listening to a single conversation. How can this be?
The answer is that by analyzing any disagreement a couple has, you get a good sense of the pattern they tend to follow. A crucial part of that pattern is whether their repair attempts succeed or fail.
Repair attempts are efforts the couple makes to deescalate the tension during a discussion. The failure of these attempts is an accurate marker for an unhappy future. Read more about repair attempts here.
6. Bad Memories
When I interview couples, I always ask them about the history of their relationship. In a happy marriage, couples tend to look back on their early days fondly. They remember how positive they felt early on, how excited they were when they met, and how much admiration they had for each other. When they talk about the tough times they’ve had, they glorify the struggles they’ve been through, drawing strength from the adversity they weathered together. Conduct your own Oral History Interview here.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as
I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that
you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
─ John 13:34-35
God is love. His grace,
an overflow of His love for us, is what makes God desirable to those that don’t
Sadly, we’ve all met
people who claimed to be Christians, but the outflow of their life didn’t
represent the attributes and character of God. Perhaps you’ve even sat in a
church that criticized and judged you because you didn’t conform to their
specific list of rules, definitions of what a Christian should be, or even what
a Christian should act like.
Our own negative words
and actions can push others away rather than compel them to experience the
love, grace and mercy of God. Jesus said everyone can recognize someone who
follows Him simply by the fact that they have love. True Christ followers obey
the Lord’s commandment to follow His example and love first, above all
When we demonstrate His love to others, they gain insight with a glimpse of the
grace and mercy He’s made available to them. That’s why love should go first in
all we do. That’s why our responses to everything in our relationships should
flow out of God’s love for us and for others.
Today’s One Thing
Here are four ways to
demonstrate God’s love. Set a goal to do all of these at least once today.
an act of service for someone with no strings attached.
smile to everyone you see today.
conversations away from negativity – encouraging positive topics.
I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’ It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.
Maturity. I love this word and it’s meaning. I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.
Complete in growth. Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.
When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily. I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.
While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama. Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.
A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us. The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.
Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded. It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.
Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.
Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.
The Ungraceful Woman
To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner. She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!
Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect. A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away. Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself. She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target. She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.
The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)
Why do people attack others? Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move? Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?
Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common:
The desire to shame or punish others
When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country. He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them. His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society. This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…
because they “deserve it.”
To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.” The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.
Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way. In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,
While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor. And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified. They feel sensible.
If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.
Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:
1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right. Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong
2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.
3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness. Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.
Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others. She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change. She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).
In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity. Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,
Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:
An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.
Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman – a woman who is mature.
Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings
If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom. Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.
Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….” Philippians 1:3-7
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life.” Philippians 2:13-14
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16
“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:12-17
A monk was being interviewed by a
journalist from New York.
Journalist: “Sir, in your
last lecture, you told us about ‘Contact’ and ‘Connection’. It’s really
confusing. Can you explain?”
The monk smiled and, apparently
deviating from the question, asked the journalist: “Are you from New
Monk: “Who are there at
The journalist felt that the monk
was trying to avoid answering his question since this was a very personal and
unwarranted question. Yet he said: “Mother has expired. Father is there.
Three brothers and one sister. All married…”
The monk, with a smile on his
face, asked again: “Do you talk to your father?”
The journalist looked visibly
The Monk: “When did you talk
to him last?”
The journalist, suppressing his
annoyance, said: “Maybe a month ago.”
The monk: “Do you and your
brothers and sisters meet often? When did you meet last as a family?”
At this point, sweat appeared on
the forehead of the journalist. It seemed that the monk was interviewing him.
With a sigh, the journalist said:
“We met last at Christmas two years ago.”
The monk: “How many days did
you all stay together?”
The journalist, wiping the sweat
on his brow, said: “Three days…”
Monk: “How much time did you spend with your father, sitting right beside him?”
The journalist, looking perplexed
and embarrassed, started scribbling something on a paper…
Monk: “Did you have
breakfast, lunch or dinner together? Did you ask how he was? Did you ask how
his days are passing after your mother’s death?”
Drops of tears started to flow
from the eyes of the journalist.
The monk held the hand of the
journalist and said: “Don’t be embarrassed, upset or sad. I am sorry if I
have hurt you unknowingly… But this is basically the answer to your question
about “Contact and Connection.” You have ‘Contact’ with your father
but you don’t have ‘Connection’ with him. You are not connected to him.
Connection is between heart and heart – sitting together, sharing meals and
caring for each other, touching, shaking hands, having eye contact, spending
some time together… All your brothers and sisters have ‘Contact’ but no
‘Connection’ with one another.”
The journalist wiped his eyes and
said: “Thanks for teaching me a fine and unforgettable lesson.”
This is the reality today. Whether at home or in the society everybody has lots of contacts but there is no connection. Everybody is busy in his or her own world. … Let us not just maintain ‘Contact’ but let us remain ‘Connected’ – CARING (FOR), SHARING (WITH) AND SPENDING TIME WITH ALL OUR DEAR ONES, especially our parents, spouses and children, even including siblings.
How does broken trust in a marriage regrow? Growth in trust will require your spouse personally investing in change and your willingness to take relational risks. Your spouse’s growth alone will not create trust without your willingness to take a relational risk. Your willingness to take a relational risk without your spouse’s growth will not produce lasting trust.
How to Use the Ten-Stage Progression
ten stage progression below of how broken trust regrows assumes a relationship
is at its most trust-broken point. Not all marriages that experience the
betrayal of sexual sin will start at stage one.
you read through this progression, two key questions to ask are,
“Where was I at the darkest
point after learning of my spouse’s sin?” and
“Where am I now?”
ways in which trust has already begun to regrow can be a source of
encouragement for the journey ahead.
asking these two questions, make an observation, “What’s next in the
restoration of trust?” Chances are the next stage in trust restoration will not
be as close to “complete emotional and logistical reliance” as you fear.
goal for this post is to help you see that if you are currently thinking, “I
could never be at a ‘10’ of trust again,” that trust is not as
all-or-nothing as we are prone to think when we are hurt.
you will notice the stages are more descriptions than action steps. These are
not necessarily things for you to do, but ways to identify where your marriage
is in the trust restoration process and shrink the change you’re asking God to
do next. As we become less overwhelmed with what God is likely to do
next, we tend to become more cooperative with His work
are the ten stages of how broken trust regrows:
1. Require Third Party Mediation
this level of trust-brokenness, you do not feel safe (at least emotionally) to
be with your spouse without someone else present. The high end of this level
might sound like, “You can go to counseling, but I’m not going with you. I’ll
go separately and tell the counselor my side of the story.”
this stage, trust is built as you hear your spouse be honest with another
person and receive correction or instruction from that person. You still doubt
your spouse is being totally honest or would listen to you, but you begin to
see your spouse is not a total liar who is so committed to his/her lies. As
your spouse cooperates, you begin to trust your spouse vicariously through the
trust you build for the third party (often a counselor).
2. Listen and Require Validation
you are willing to talk with your spouse in a one-on-one conversation, but you
are skeptical of most everything he/she says. You don’t believe your spouse.
You believe facts. If your spouse has facts to back up what he/she says,
you will trust that much and little more.
is a tedious way to communicate, but feels necessary in order to avoid pain
greater than the inconvenience. Any statement that is not factual (i.e., future
promise, interpretation of event, expression of feeling, etc.) is viewed as
deceptive, unsafe, manipulative, or insulting. As a pattern of validated facts
emerges, you begin to trust that there is some commitment to live in reality
that exceeds your spouse’s desire for personal expediency.
3. Listen and Require Less Validation
to your spouse now feels like less work. The rate at which you are searching
for questions and processing information as you listen decreases. Giving the
“benefit of the doubt” for things you are uncertain about is still unnatural
and feels dangerous.
statement that is incomplete or slanted too positively is assumed to be
intentional deceit and creates a trust regression. As the majority of your
spouse’s statements prove to be accurate, the practical necessities of life create
an increasing reliance upon your spouse. Each time you notice this happening,
you may still feel highly cautious.
4. Rely on Spouse Functionally
separated or in the same house, you begin to “do life together again.” A
process of basic life tasks (i.e., formal or informal budgeting, scheduling,
transporting children, etc…) begins to be created or reinstituted.
level of trust within a marriage feels very much like “living as roommates.”
The dissatisfying nature of this arrangement can often discourage continued
growth (i.e., “I don’t want to stay married out of a sense of duty”), but this
discouragement should be decreased by understanding where it falls in the
process of trust restoration.
5. Share Facts
you functionally “do life” with your spouse, there is the opportunity for you
to begin to share more of you again. To this point you have been receiving
information much more than giving information.
the stage you begin the process of “giving yourself” to your spouse again. You
allow yourself to be known at a factual level. Questions from your spouse that
start with “Why” or “How come” are still met with defensiveness. During this
stage, questions that start with “Would you” become more comfortable as you
allow your spouse to influence the “facts” (i.e., schedule) of your life again.
6. Share Beliefs
you become more comfortable sharing facts with your spouse again, that
naturally leads to sharing what you think about those facts. Conversations
become more meaningful as you share more of what you like, dislike, agree with,
disagree with, and want from the events of life.
can now talk about the way you believe things “should” be without a tone of
judgment, sadness, or guilt overpowering the conversation. As you share your
beliefs, you feel more understood and appreciated. At this stage, you and your
spouse may have to relearn (or learn for the first time) how to have different
opinions or perspectives while protecting the unity of the marriage.
7. Share Feelings
until this stage, emotions have likely been “thrust at” or “shown to” more than
“shared with” your spouse. At this level of trust, you are willing to receive
support, encouragement or shared participation in your emotions.
aspect of the “one flesh” relationship is returning (Gen. 2:24). You are
beginning to experience your burden being reduced and your joys multiplied as
you share them with your spouse. The marriage is beginning to feel like a
8. Rely on Spouse Emotionally
you find yourself able to relax when he/she is away. You are able to believe
your spouse is transparent and sincere when he/she tells you about their day or
shares with you how he/she is feeling. It is now the exception to the rule when
suspicions arise within you about your spouse’s motive for saying or doing
9. Allow Spouse to Care for You
your spouse to express affection has lost the sense of “invasion” or being
“unclean.” When your spouse wants to serve you, you no longer think he/she is
doing an act of penance or cynically question what he/she will want in return
later. Your spouse’s efforts to bless you can be received as blessings rather
than being treated as riddles to be solved or dangerous weights on the “scales
of justice” that will be used to pressure you later. You can savor the
sweetness of love without bracing for a bitter aftertaste.
10. Relax and Feel Safer With Spouse than Apart
is trust restored. Your spouse’s presence has become an anchor of security
rather than a pull towards insecurity. Your spouse’s presence reduces stress in
troubling circumstances. You find yourself instinctively drawn to your spouse
when something is difficult, upsetting, or confusing. Even when he/she doesn’t
have the answer, their presence is its own form of relief and comfort.
Ultimatums and Time Tables
is intentionally no pacing guide for this trust progression. In this regard,
growing in trust requires trust. It is an act of faith not to say, “I’ll give
it three months and if we’re not at level seven, then I don’t think there’s any
hope for us.” That kind of time-pressured environment stifles the growth of
are even more ineffective. When you try to make a deal (i.e., “Unless you stop
or tell me [blank], then I am not moving to the next level of trust”)
you undermine actual trust being built (i.e., “You only did that because I made
Your goal in reading this progression is merely to gain an
understanding of where you are in the development of trust and what is next. Efforts at artificially accelerating the
process will ultimately do more harm than good.
8 RELATIONSHIP-SAVING PRINCIPLES YOU CAN START USING TONIGHT
Jay and Lori Pyatt
I’ll be honest with you. I
betrayed my wife.
I lied to her almost every night
for four straight years. I did a quick estimate and figured that I lied at
least 1,000 times to her face in those four years. I know how to destroy trust
in a relationship.
Thankfully, I learned how to
rebuild that trust.
It wasn’t easy.
It was the single hardest, worst,
and most challenging thing I’ve ever done–and I have run a marathon.
But, I did it. And here is the
really important thing: rebuilding trust is worth it.
While your relationship will
never be the same as it was, it could actually be even better.
You will heal the person you betrayed.
You can look yourself in the mirror again, knowing you are an upstanding person.
Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying for both of you.
The years of pornography did a
lot of damage, but what I found to be even more damaging was the lies I told
and the behavior that surrounded my actions.
For quite some time, I didn’t
fully understand the damage I had done to my relationship with my spouse.
Foolishly, I thought
that just telling the truth would fix things. My thought was, “If I quit
lying, everything will be OK. I just have to be honest when she asks me
questions. She should trust me again in two or three weeks.”
This didn’t work. There is little
ground for telling the truth when you have already been lying for so long.
There isn’t a way to verify what the heck is going on. Even after I
stopped lying, my wife still didn’t feel safe, and she certainly didn’t trust
me. Stepping forward with the truth wasn’t enough to turn our relationship
I had to become radical in my
honesty. I had to put more energy into the relationship than I had previously.
I had to grow. I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Like I said, rebuilding trust
challenged me more than anything I have ever done.
Can You Rebuild Trust?
My very firm answer on this is,
Not everyone chooses a
relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in
front of the person they betrayed. Sometimes the cost to the betrayed
person exceeds the time needed to rebuild.
However, I rebuilt trust, so it
can be done. I actually help other guys and they have rebuilt trust in their
marriages as well.
There is hope for you, if you are
willing to do the work.
Are you willing to do it? Because
if you aren’t, tell the other person right now. Rip off the bandage and tell
them you don’t want the relationship any longer. Walk out the front door.
How to Rebuild Trust
Okay, if you are still with me,
then there is a chance for you to rebuild trust in a relationship wrecked with
lies, deception, or sneakiness.
To rebuild trust, I needed to
take a different approach than I had in the past. My normal behaviors and
attitudes led me to me where I was, but they would not guide me to where I
ultimately wanted to be.
In simple terms, I had to “grow
up”; I lived in an immature and uneducated state of mind. Growth is painful –
ask anyone trying to get into shape. Using new muscles and developing new
habits takes effort, focus, and a degree of suffering.
Just telling you to “grow up”
isn’t terribly helpful and probably feels a little insulting. I am okay with
the insulting part: if you need to rebuild trust, then you didn’t get here through
Here are seven
relationship-saving principles to integrate into every interaction with the
person you betrayed. You will need to work on and use each of these principles
constantly in the rebuilding process.
This principle is the building
block for all of the others that will follow. Repairing your relationship
should be a humbling experience.
In my personal definition,
humility is knowing the truth of who you are and accepting it. For me, I
frequently chose self-loathing over of humility. Self-loathing causes problems
because we want to see ourselves in a better light and might resist accepting
the truth of our actions.
Humility also means letting your
hurting spouse share their own pain without fear of judgment or being fixed.
They need you to feel their pain, because only you can heal it effectively.
To rebuild trust, I had to be
consistent. Anything I committed to do, I had to see it through. My wife lived
in fear of the uncertain ground I created by lying. When I would start
something good, only to fall quickly back into past behavior, this just
reminded her of how little she could count on me.
So, if you start something, stick
There are some pitfalls to
consistency, but you need to stay consistent or the person you betrayed will
see this as playing with their trust (and heart).
Stay consistent, or your efforts
are a waste.
To be honest, this word annoyed
me for a long time. Both my therapist and my wife kept telling me to “be proactive.”
I didn’t get it. “I think I know
what the word means, but not what it means mechanically. What am I supposed to
The answer is: take action on
your own initiative. Don’t wait for the person you betrayed to tell you what
they need. Go ask them.
Once they tell you what they
need, go do it.
4. Meeting Needs
The person you broke trust with
has specific needs. Find out what they are.
Now, go back to step three and
start meeting these needs proactively.
This is the growth process I
mentioned earlier. You will have to set your own needs aside to meet the needs
of the other person. Considering the possible alternatives, this is a small
price to pay.
Openness and honesty are two
sides of the same coin. Honesty means that if I ask you a question, you tell me
the truth. Openness means that you tell me the truth without me having to ask
the “right” question, especially in areas where trust is broken.
Rebuilding trust requires a new
level of communication with the person you betrayed.
You must talk to them about what
you are doing, plain and simple.
I am not saying, “Hey, this is a
good idea!” I am telling you that openness is a requirement. If you
aren’t willing to give the other person this much access to your life, you may
never rebuild trust.
Giving full access to the person
you betrayed will help them see your commitment to do whatever it takes to make
So, if you betrayed them through
money, give them access to the bank accounts. If you cheated in the
relationship, give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media,
and anything else you can think of so they can determine and verify what you
are up to.
When it comes to the scariest
words in the English language, vulnerability is probably near the top; at least
it was for me.
Vulnerability is the very reason
I lied to my wife. The truth makes me vulnerable to her judgment, rejection, or
anger, all of which were justified from my behavior.
I regularly tell the guys I work
with, “The relationship you want with your wife will be purchased through your
I really think of vulnerability
as taking off the armor that I previously used to protect myself.
For me, anger was my armor. When
my wife would ask uncomfortable questions, I instantly put up a shield of
anger. This is an effective way of telling another person to shut up, but it’s
far from helpful or healthy. Anger is one way to stop the conversation, or you
might run away and shut down.
The other person really needs you
to listen to them, even though it feels purely miserable to discuss the topic
they brought up.
They also need you to connect
with the emotions of what they are going through, specifically how bad it feels
for them. This is difficult because it requires us to double-down on how rotten
it feels to hear how our unhealthy behavior impacts someone close to us.
Take responsibility for your
actions and the impact those actions had on the other person.
Then, keep taking responsibility
for those actions, especially when it feels uncomfortable.
I say that because I like to
minimize responsibility for my actions. I nearly ended my marriage trying to
salvage my image with the very person I lied to.
So, when my wife would say,
“Remember those times you lied about using porn at work?”, I responded with
something like, “I didn’t say that. I said I only looked at YouTube videos at
work.” And then she would say, “That is not what you said…”, and the breakdown
would continue until I finally confessed or re-owned my actions.
This kind of behavior makes
8. Blind Spots
Believe it or not, I am not clear
on all of my behaviors and how they impact the person I betrayed. This means
that I have blind spots – areas of my personality that I am completely unaware
of and need help to see.
Ask the person you betrayed for
help with this. This requires humility, a teachable spirit, and a willingness
Once you discover these blind
spots, start working on them, or at least own their existence. Because these
could be the very things holding you back in the relationship.
Give Them Time
These are the basics, and you
need to practice them. While you are doing this, the other person will need
time to heal and ultimately decide if it is worth staying.
I lied for four years in the last
go-round; I shouldn’t be shocked that it took almost four years to fix things,
especially since I dragged my feet on these topics and made them much more
difficult than they needed to be.
My work with men to rebuild trust
in their own relationships has shortened the recovery time to somewhere between
four and eighteen months, depending on the breakdown and situation.
Saving your relationship is far
from easy, and you will need a network of support.
It also helps to work with
someone who went through a similar experience, so use my bio below to
contact me for more information.
Because I have done this, I know
you probably can as well. Don’t lose hope; just keep practicing these
principles every day.
Make friends by trying new activities with your child; volunteering at school; joining local mom groups; and signing up for baby yoga, music lessons and story time.
Find like-minded parents in the places you already frequent: parent-child classes at your gym, mom night at a local wine bar or a baby-friendly movie screening.
Be proactive about introducing yourself to other parents in your neighborhood.
Initiate conversations without expectations — just because someone doesn’t want to hang out, doesn’t mean they hate your face.
Find your people by searching interest-specific Facebook groups and Reddit forums for parents in your neighborhood.
The isolation of the early weeks and months of parenthood is a finite phase, like teething. As your kids age, making friends will become easier, with more opportunities to connect.
The birth of my second child threw my world into chaos. I went from being a working parent of one manageable child to a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and an infant. I felt alone, and my nipples ached while I cleaned poop off the floor. What I needed was a friend.
I struck up a conversation with a mother at my daughter’s preschool. I thought it went well, so I asked, “Want to go out for coffee sometime?” She shrugged, “You should go out with my sister. You both seem to need friends.”
I never went out with her sister. But by continuing to make my neediness known and asking moms online and offline out for dates, I did find my friends (and I stopped bragging to my toddler about my degrees). Study after study show that people with strong friendships are happier, healthier and more satisfied with their lives. Additionally, friendships are a relief valve for the pressure of other roles in our lives, like parenthood.
Finding parent friends can be just as fraught and unnerving as dating, so I spoke to two authors who wrote books about parenting and friendship, and to parents from all over the country, about how to find new friends as a parent.
WHAT TO DO
close to home.
Melanie Dale, author of “Women Are Scary: The Totally
Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends,” offers a practical,
step-by-step approach to meeting new parent friends. She advises that parents
stick close to home — try meeting local parents at a park or pool, or even a
mall playground close to you. Some movie theater chains have mommy-and-me
screenings on weekday mornings and afternoons (Google your city and
“baby-friendly screenings” to find some).
It can seem a little awkward to go to your local children’s museum just to “pick up” another mom. But rest assured, you aren’t the only one on the lookout for friends. Michael Auteri, a New Jersey-based father of a toddler, met his best dad friend on the bus commuting into New York City. They saw each other every day, so Auteri struck up a conversation about a book the other dad was reading. One thing led to another: Now, they meet at least once a month at a park with their kids in tow.
the first conversational move.
Dale advises starting a
conversation with a fellow mom by giving her a compliment, something about her
child or clothes or ability to calmly handle a tantrum. But you may be able to
bond over negativity, too: I met a mom friend when my son was an infant and I
was breastfeeding at a park. She overheard me grumble to myself about boob
sweat, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Dale also encourages
parents to initiate contact without expectations. “If another mom tells you she
can’t hang out, she may just be busy or maybe she was burned from her last
friendship and she’s nervous,” Dale said. “And for those of us who are not
initiators, maybe we need to say ‘yes’ next time someone gets up the courage to
ask us out on a mom date.”
Rachel Bertsche, author of “MWF Seeks BFF,” encourages new parents stuck at home with a baby to sign up for a music class or baby yoga. These classes are really for the parents, she explained: “No 1-month-old is going to turn into a concert pianist. It’s just a fun way to get out of the house and meet other parents.”
an online parenting group that’s right for you.
Online parenting groups can be miserable, with in-fighting and passive aggressive comments, but they can also be an amazing way to find your tribe. Bertsche recommends trying Facebook Groups, Meetup or apps like Peanut and Bumble’s friend feature to find your perfect parent match. You can search Facebook Groups for parent groups in your neighborhood. Even in my small Iowa town, there are hundreds of groups organized by interests ranging from yoga to a favorite TV show to cloth diapering. Meetup also has meetings organized for parents filtered out by interests. My local baby store has a Facebook group for parents in the area and regularly hosts meetups at the store. Most online groups will come with scheduled events and playdates that make it easier for you to take initiative.
It’s hard to know what groups suit you until you spend some time in them, learn their rules and see how they handle controversy. Try to find groups that reflect your personality. If you are low-key and jokey, filter through groups for that tone. Bertsche met a mom friend by swiping through Bumble’s friend feature and swiping right on a woman who said she wanted to do things without her kids. “That’s how I knew we’d get along,” she explained.
your kids do the talking.
As the wife of a pastor,
Lisa Cooper, based in Michigan, has moved quite a bit, so she relies on her
children’s friendliness to make friends. “It helps when you have kids who will
talk to other kids. My youngest toddled over to another toddler, and they
started playing. So I talked to the mom of the other kid. Now we’re best
a playdate outside your house.
When kids are little,
before the blessed drop-off playdates begin, Bertsche recommends meeting at a
neutral third-party location, where kids can play and parents can talk. Go to a
playground and then to coffee. Or the zoo and then lunch. Or pack a picnic and
go to a concert in the park.
Bertsche suggests finding
a place where you won’t always be chasing your kids and hosting more than one
parent at a time. “It takes the pressure off, and there are fewer awkward
silences when there are more parents around,” she said. It also makes it easier
to leave if the interaction is going south.
that not every relationship is built to last.
Dale breaks down the
stages of parent friendships into “bases.” No, you don’t have to kiss anyone.
For Dale, first base is the awkward small talk at the park. Second base is the
initial playdate at a neutral location. Third base is a playdate at home. And a
home run is when you hit it off and start meeting without children around.
“Some friends come into our lives just for a season, sometimes literally a
baseball season or a soccer season, and then you change teams, your kid quits
the sport, and you never see each other again and that’s O.K. But once in a
while, you find a lifelong friend,” Dale said.
Raquel Reyes lives in Miami and said that every parent she meets seems to cycle in and out of the city, which makes keeping and maintaining friendships hard. She met a group of good parent friends by volunteering at her local Unitarian Universalist church. They keep in touch by scheduling monthly lunches and checking in weekly on a WhatsApp group chat.
The initial desperation to create new parent friendships is just a phase like teething. Give yourself some kindness. Eventually you will find your people. And then, when kids start school, you’ll find a whole new set of parent friends.
in the effort to maintain new friendships.
Parents are busy; it’s hard for them to prioritize friendships. And making good friendships takes time. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of time together to go from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend and 200 hours to move from friend to good friend. Bertsche suggests penciling in a regular time to meet up, whether it’s a monthly playdate or a happy hour. “Having that standing date keeps the guess work and effort out of maintaining the relationship,” she advised.
‘ARROGANT.’ ‘RUTHLESS.’ AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY THEMSELVES
“I feel this team is in the midst of changing the world around us as we live.”— Megan Rapinoe, the United States’ star attacker and the World Cup’s top scorer
When the athletes of the United States women’s
soccer team celebrated their 13 unanswered goals against Thailand in the first
round, they were called “arrogant.”
When they tore past France in the
quarterfinals, they were called “ruthless.”
And when President Trump, responding to a months-old clip of
Megan Rapinoe using an expletive to say she wouldn’t visit the White House if
the team won the World Cup, told her to win
“before she talks,” she and her teammates continued talking.
As the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
famously said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” On Sunday, the
American women’s team did just that — securing a record fourth World Cup
championship to maintain its reputation as the world’s greatest women’s soccer
team (and one of the world’s greatest sports teams, period).
In the process, the Americans did more than
shine as symbols of athleticism and teamwork; they affirmed themselves as
fighters for equality on multiple fronts.
Here are three ways the team has elevated issues of fairness.
The fight for pay equity
After the American women sealed their victory
in Lyon, France, chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” began to grow inside the
The American team will be awarded $4 million for
its win, while the winners of the men’s World Cup last year received $38 million.
Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, said the
organization would double the total women’s prize for the 2023 tournament — but
it’s also expected to raise the men’s award in 2022.
In 2015, the
United States Soccer Federation awarded the women’s team $2 million for winning
the World Cup. In 2014, the men’s team earned $9 million even though it did not
advance past the first rounds.
Not surprisingly, the women’s national team is
not taking that disparity lying down.
In March, all the players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against
U.S. Soccer, accusing it of years of “institutionalized gender discrimination.”
They also noted that the argument that the men’s team generates more money simply
According to the suit, the federation had
expected a combined net loss for the national teams of $429,929 from the 2016
fiscal year, but largely because of the successes of the women’s team’s, it revised its projections to
a $17.7 million profit.
Defying the sportsmanship
As the United States team rampaged against
Thailand in its first World Cup match last month, the players
leapt and celebrated nearly every goal. Clare Rustad, a former player for the
Canadian national team, called the celebrations “disgraceful.”
Last week, striker Alex Morgan pretended to
sip from a teacup after scoring against England in the semifinal. Lianne
Sanderson, her former National Women’s Soccer League teammate, said the
celebration was “distasteful.”
“I feel that there is some sort of double
standard for females in sports,” Morgan said. “We have to be humble in our
successes and have to celebrate, but not too much or in a limited fashion.”
“You see men celebrating all over the world in
big tournaments,” grabbing their crotches and that sort of thing, she said.
And Rapinoe, when asked about the team’s
celebrations said: “What do you want us to do? We work hard. We like to play