“Her children arise and call her blessed; her
husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs
She was the Vice President of Household Affairs for her entire
adult life. She had a husband, four daughters, and one son whom she managed.
Her calling was not to the workplace; it was to the home. It was a calling that
she fulfilled well. She often went beyond her job description to fulfill menial
tasks like sewing clothes for her twin girls, playing dolls, and even playing
catch with the only boy in the clan.
Things were going along well until midway in life a telephone call
came that changed everything. The caller informed her that the love of her life
had been killed in an airplane crash. She was in her early 40’s, still
beautiful, with five kids to raise on her own in spite of the fact that she
hadn’t worked in the business place for nearly 20 years.
The death of her husband removed their steady upper middle-class
income, and she was now faced with the greatest test of her life. At her lowest
moment, wondering how she was going to make it, she cried out to God. God
answered, “Trust Me, Lillian.” Those audible words became the
strength that she needed to care for her family for the next 40 years.
From that moment on, she came to know her Savior personally and
shared Him with her family. Her children came to know Him as well.
Grandchildren became the recipients of her prayers, and they came to know Him
too. She was building an inheritance in Heaven, one prayer at a time, one soul
at a time. She never remarried; Christ became her Husband.
Whatever wisdom and encouragement has come to you through these
devotionals, it is only as a result of one who answered the call to the
greatest and most important workplace there is: the home.
You can thank my mom, Lillian Hillman, for whatever grace you have
gained from these messages throughout the year, because she remained faithful
to the call to invest in those she was called to love and serve. “Her
children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises
HOW TO RECOVER FROM BETRAYAL (NOT JUST LOVE BETRAYAL, BUT BETRAYAL OF ALL KINDS)
Betrayal is incredibly painful. It’s hard to heal
and move on. If you’re searching for how to recover from betrayal – in a
realistic way – read on.
endured a huge betrayal from an unlikely place – a younger woman whom
I was close friends with and mentored for many years. When we first met, she
was trying to write and sell a book – to no avail.
I gave her an idea for a book – then helped her to write the
proposal – asking for no upfront money – just a small 10% back
end commission – should the book sell. She enthusiastically
agreed – thanking me profusely for not charging her upfront for my time. She
had a lawyer draw up papers – which we each signed.
shock, soon after I got her the highly successful book deal
she’d always dreamed about, she turned into an “All About Eve” kind of character –
displaying low-character behavior – in a variety of fibbing,
royalty-hiding and contract-breaking ways.
point, I’ll stop sharing specific details of the story – because my
purpose for this essay is not to complain! Quite the
opposite! I want to share my path to recovery. I
want to help others who are also suffering from a betrayal – either from a
friend, a relative, a spouse, a love partner, a colleague, a boss, a neighbor.
betrayal can destroy so many varied kinds of relationships – and turn
one’s view of the world topsy turvy.
of my main upside-down effects after this woman’s betrayal:
myself less eager to socialize. In particular, I felt nervous to open
my heart to new friendships – and thereby to new pain. I felt hesitant to help
others with books and projects. I worried they too might take advantage.
Plus I did not want to go any place I might see this betrayer: events, cafes,
gyms, yoga studios, social clubs. All my usual haunts now felt haunted by
a potential sighting of her.
initial solution to recover from betrayal:
myself I needed to take some time alone to heal and gain insight. So
I chose to stay in my home more, socialize less. It was easy to do. I’d
just become pregnant. Then I became a mom. In fact, at the time I thought
I was going into a healthful “cocoon” – a less social, nesting period.
it turned out, I was entering a “cave.”
COCOON is a quiet, comfortable place you go to evolve into a
more beautiful you. It’s a safe haven to experiment with new, uplifting
thought patterns. When you emerge, you feel in your full, majestic
power – flying higher and further than before.
A CAVE is a quiet, uncomfortable place you go
to think and brood – to hibernate. Instead of spending time thinking
grand thoughts, you growl. You view the world as cold and unsafe.
How did I finally realize I was in a cave not a cocoon?
thought about leaving my home to socialize, I found myself feeling heavy in the
fact, if you ever want to know if you’re in a cocoon or a cave – check in to
feel the weight of your heart when you think about leaving your home.
feel light in the heart, you’re telling yourself “Butterfly Stories” about the
world – viewing life as a beautiful, safe haven to spread your wings.
telling myself “Bear Stories.” I was even doing “Bear Math.”
person = 1 untrustworthy person
person = infinite untrustworthy people
Psychologists have a term for this “Bear Lens On The World.” They call
it “Permanent and Pervasive Thinking.” It’s when you tell yourself stories
which make you feel like one negative incident has permanent, pervasive,
lifelong negative effects.
my case, these were some of my permanent and pervasive stories:
can’t trust anyone.”
an idiot for being suckered!”
shouldn’t help people any more – they just take advantage.”
1 bad thing means I need to keep my heart safely stored in a betrayal-proof
I’m not proud of these thoughts. They are grizzly “Bear
Thoughts.” And they were keeping my life limited, dark, dank – and making
me feel batty – all signs I was in a cave – not a cocoon!
a cave is a place you go to shrink your life – a prison for the soul.
cocoon is where you go to grow your life – an ashram for the soul.
me a while to look around and realize I was in a cave. I just knew my heart
felt heavier when I thought about going outside to play with others. So I
decided to journal about my heavy heart. That’s when I realized I was telling
myself painful permanent/pervasive stories – triggered by this friend’s
you can’t change your past, you can control the story you tell about it –
and thereby change the effects your past has upon your future.
decided the time had come to rewrite my story so it was a happier one.
In my journal, I began by writing
down all my permanent/pervasive thoughts. Next to each, I wrote how
non-permanent/non-pervasive the situation truly was!
should simply be making me anti-jerks. I realized I
should even look upon this betrayal with a bit of gratitude – because
it was a powerful reminder to honor my intuition
more -and stop being color blind to red flags
– no matter if they show up as smaller red hankees.
be told, looking back, there were times I felt this woman’s energy to be pushy
in an uncomfortable, aggressive way.)
event was not meant to stop me from trusting. It was meant to stop me from
ignoring my gut – and thereby keep me safe from falling for even
bigger business betrayals down the road.
some people do suck. But not ALL people! Plus, I should never allow someone who
sucks to suck all the joy out of my day – and my life!
it’s bad when someone’s a jerk. But things could be worst. I could be the
person who’s doing sucky, low-character things.
am truly proud of NOT being someone who could behave so badly. Indeed I feel
compassion for my betrayer. She is stuck living with herself – while I get
to move on and away.
could I move on and away, when I was still
holding onto resentment? After all, anybody who angers me is actually
controlling me – which means they are still an active (and negative) presence
in my life. If I wanted to be happy, I needed “To Pull An Elsa” –
and “Let it go”!
“I’m an idiot for being suckered!”
re-read this permanent/pervasive thought, I realized I was displaying the
classic case of “blaming the victim.”
that I enjoyed using the word “victim.” In fact, I’ll be writing more
about the word “victim” at the bottom of this essay!)
calling myself “an idiot” is showing anger and shame at myself – rather than
focusing the anger and shame where it more rightfully belongs – on my betrayer!
re-wrote my word choice from “I am an idiot” to “I am a wronged person.”
reason I was wronged did not truly have to do with intelligence.
simply didn’t see the betrayal coming, because I never would have done such a
thing. My heart is awake, good, active. My heart values loyalty, strong
character and sticking to commitments. Not just for legal reasons – but moral
remembered a quote I’d heard: “Fools take a knife and stab people
in the back. The wise take a knife, cut the cord and free themselves from the
decided that since I very much value the trait of being a non-idiot –
that I should do this wise choice – cut the emotional cord – and set
myself free as a butterfly leaving a cocoon! The best way to cut the
cord? Forgiveness. Yes, even if the betrayer was not sorry, forgiveness was
could I forgive? I needed to keep reminding myself: Forgiveness doesn’t excuse my betrayer’s behavior. Forgiveness
simply stops her behavior from destroying my heart!
it helped to keep in mind a great Wayne Dyer quote: “How people treat you
is their karma. How you react is yours.”
1 bad thing means I need to permanently keep my heart safely stored in a
betrayal-proof Tupperwear container.”
first re-read this particular pervasive/permanent story, I chuckled. I
wondered: “Why should I punish myself for the crime this
woman committed? Isn’t that misplaced punishment?” And
this new choice (to avoid letting love into my life) was very much a
all, love is good stuff! I love love!
whenever I push friends and/or potential-new-friends away, it’s as if I’m
punishing these people for the sins of my betrayer!
again I was reminded of the lessons I should be
learning: “Pay attention to the energy I feel around
people. Listen to my gut!”
be told, it wasn’t my trust in other people that was being shaken up by this
betrayal. It was my trust in myself
needed to re-gain my trust in my abilities to see people clearly! So I gave
myself another writing assignment: Jot down all the times I’ve trusted my
life choices – and I was correct. Write about all the awesome, trust-worthy,
loving friends I’ve chosen to be in my life – so I’m reminded that I
have a “good internal picker” and that love is indeed good stuff.
“I shouldn’t help people any more – they just take advantage.”
re-read this permanent/pervasive thought, I also saw it as a form of self-punishment
– because I love helping people! I shouldn’t become less of me because
this woman showed low character values.
should become even more aware of how important strong character values are to
me – and embrace them even more fully.
gave myself another writing assignment: Write down a list of people
I’ve helped with creative projects – and stay reminded how most people
do NOT take advantage, fib and break contracts.
wrote about how good it always feels to help and support people – a win/win –
for both the giver and receiver!
If you’re presently recovering from a betrayal, I encourage
you to watch out for thinking painful, permanent and pervasive thoughts.
refuse to become a member of that club called “People Suck.” Please refuse
to distribute any of that club’s untrue literature.
I invite you to join me in a club called “You Live. You Learn. Life Gets
Better. Yes, You Can And Will Trust Again.”
we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control our response.
choose the role of victim – focusing on blame, anger, regret and resentment.
can choose the role of victor – seeking support, healing our wounds, retrieving
our power, and moving forward stronger and wiser than before.
“I do!” I said, not giving him a chance to respond.
Date One is “Lean on Me: Trust and Commitment.” Conversation topics include: What does trust and commitment look like in our relationship? How can we make each other feel safe? What are our agreements about trust and commitment?
After reading that chapter earlier in the day, I followed the directions in the book and compiled a list of things I cherish about Sean. While there were many things on my list, there were ten that stood out. I envisioned sharing in David Letterman Top 10 List fashion.
Trust, Cherishing, and Commitment
When we cherish our partner, we feel that they’re irreplaceable. We simply cannot imagine our lives without them, even when times are rough. We find ways to tell them that we appreciate them, and do that often. This builds trust in the relationship.
Cherishing and commitment go together, but they’re different. Commitment is really a verb because it is the actions we take daily to let our partner know we are with them, and that we make decisions with them in mind.
When we choose commitment, we resist temptation to betray our partner. We create trust and safety by turning towards them to work out our differences. Gratitude is nurtured by knowing what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. There is no gossiping or trashing of our partner to others.
Commitment in Action
Sean and I have had our share of difficult times, that’s for sure. When our son was a colicky infant we leaned on each other for support despite being sleep deprived and cranky with one another. When my mother and beloved dog both died in the same year, I had a hard time shaking off my depression. We argued more than ever and found ourselves in couples counseling. Despite these and other challenges, we never gave up on one another.
The thing that sealed the deal for me was when I had a major health crisis 12 years ago. My mysterious illness had my doctors stumped and I was terrified. Our lives were turned upside down for months on end with scary symptoms and no treatment. My life and my outlook were forever changed. It wasn’t until I got a diagnosis and learned to manage my chronic symptoms that I could reflect on how it changed us as a couple.
I had been too absorbed in my own fear to recognize how scared my husband was, too. His life was also forever changed. But instead of complaining, he expressed cherishing and commitment by supporting me through my illness in ways that I took for granted at the time.
He rubbed my back when I was scared. He drove me to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night on countless occasions. When I had to change my diet, he joined me. He developed a patience with me that had not been there before. He was less quick to anger over small stuff and he started leaving love notes for me.
While he never came out and said it, almost losing me made him realize how much I meant to him. I felt loved and cared for. We now joke that my near-death experience is the secret to our healthy marriage.
Thinking Out Loud
As I compiled my Top 10 List for our date, I realized I was describing our everyday life. I wrote down things like playing and laughing together, and that we get each other’s sense of humor.
I wrote down raising a child and dogs together, a connection that is precious to us but was often fraught with stress, cleaning up bodily functions and money we could have spent in far more fun ways.
I wrote down being comfortable to be myself with Sean and having my faults and bad habits accepted. And that includes binge eating noodles, knowing full well I will complain about it afterwards.
The song was still playing as I started reading my list to him.
So honey now Take me into your loving arms Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars Place your head on my beating heart I’m thinking out loud Maybe we found love right where we are
Yes, I believe we have found love right where we are. And I could hardly wait to tell him.
JOHN GOTTMAN AND BRENÉ BROWN ON RUNNING HEADLONG INTO HEARTBREAK
To a seasoned couples
therapist, the telltale signs of a relationship in crisis are universal. While
every marriage is unique, with distinct memories and stories that capture its
essence, how it looks at its core, the anatomy so-to-speak, adheres to certain
truths. The bones of love, what builds trust (and breaks it), what fosters
connection (and disconnection) we have widely come to understand through the
work of Dr. John Gottman.
Gottman, renowned for
his research on marital stability and demise,
and recognized as one of the ten most influential psychotherapists of the past
quarter-century, has at this stage of his career amassed over 40 years of
research with 3,000 participants. The quality and breadth of his studies are
recognized as some of the finest and most exemplary data we have to date, and
serve as an underpinning for how we understand what makes love work.
Enter Brené Brown, a
self-described researcher, storyteller, and Texan. She’s gritty and funny, and
like Gottman, a formidable researcher. Over the past two decades, Brown has
studied shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy. She’s published five New
York Times #1 bestsellers, and over 40 million people have viewed
her TED Talk on vulnerability. Her passion
for living a wholehearted life is contagious and convincing. Her research has
confirmed a core human need to belong and connect, and at a time when many of
us are feeling the absence of such, she’s tapping a deep well—inspiring a tribe
of the wholehearted, people committed to practicing shame-resilience, Daring Greatly, and embracing vulnerability.
Gottman coined the term
“Masters of marriage” to describe the couples in his research whose
relationships not only endure, but thrive. These are people who cultivate
trust, commitment, responsiveness, and an ability to cherish their partner’s
feelings throughout a lifetime. Brown speaks of the “wholehearted” individuals
who engage their lives from a place of worthiness. They cultivate courage,
compassion, and connection. Both groups, the masters of marriage and the
wholehearted, display a host of traits that we now know are associated with
health and thriving.
Having had the good
fortune to train in both the Gottman Method and The Daring Way® (an
experiential methodology based on the research of Brené Brown), I cannot help
but wonder, what life would be like if we could take our cues from the masters
of marriage and the wholehearted? How might this shape who we
are as individuals in a partnership? What might the ripple effects be to our
children and society at large if we aspire to love as Gottman and Brown are
The implications of
following in the footsteps of the masters and the wholehearted are huge. The
Harvard Study of Adult Development, the most extensive study of its
kind, has taught us three things. First, that loneliness can kill as surely as
smoking or alcoholism, and that when we are connected, we live longer and
healthier lives. Second, the quality of our relationships matter. It’s not the
number of friends we have, or whether or not we are in a committed relationship
that predicts thriving. Being in a high-conflict marriage is bad for one’s
health. It is worse than divorce. Third, good relationships don’t just protect
our health. They protect our mind. Memory loss and cognitive decline are more
prevalent in lives permeated by conflict and disconnection.
And if that is not
compelling enough, Brown’s research on the implications of shame paints a
similarly grim picture, depicting shame as correlated with loneliness,
depression, suicidality, abuse, trauma, bullying, addiction, and anxiety.
So while love may not
heal all wounds, it is undoubtedly a panacea for preventing them.
Gottman and Brown give us
a map—a macro perspective of the wilderness of our hearts, and the wildness of
love. It’s a rocky path, fraught with challenges and risk. But vulnerability is
inherent in any stance that places courage above comfort. And should we decide
to follow it, the destination it promises to take us to is nothing short of
paradox of trust
Gottman, in his
book The Science of
Trust, astutely asserts that loneliness is (in part) the
inability to trust. And sadly, the failure to trust tends to perpetuate itself.
For when we don’t trust, over time, we become less able to read other people
and deficient in empathy. He states, “Lonely people are caught in a spiral that
keeps them away from others, partly because they withdraw to avoid the
potential hurt that could occur from trusting the wrong person. So they trust
nobody, even the trustworthy.”
According to both
researchers, it’s the small interactions rather than grand gestures that build
trust and break it. “Sliding door moments,” as Gottman calls them, are the
seemingly inconsequential day-to-day interactions we have over breakfast, while
riding in the car, or standing in the kitchen at 9 p.m. Within each act of
communication, there is an opportunity to build a connection. And when we don’t
seize it, an insidious erosion of trust ensues, slowly overtime.
Our relationships do not
die from one swift blow. They die from the thousand tiny cuts that precede it.
But choosing to trust is
all about tolerance for risk, and our histories (both in childhood and with our
partners) can inform how much we are willing to gamble. Brown speaks to the
paradox of trust: we must risk vulnerability in order to build trust, and
simultaneously, it is the building of trust that inspires vulnerability. And
she recommends cultivating a delicate balance, one where we are generous in our
assumptions of others and simultaneously able to set firm boundaries as a means
to afford such generosity—being soft and tough at the same time, no small
our stories write us
According to Gottman, the
final harbinger of a relationship ending is in how couples recall memories and
the stories they tell. Memories, it turns out, are not static. They evolve,
change, and are a living work-in-progress. When a relationship is nearing its
end, at least one person is likely to carry a story inside themselves that no
longer recollects the warm feelings they once had for their partner.
Instead, a new narrative
evolves, maximizing their partner’s negative traits, and quite likely,
minimizing their own. “Self-righteous indignation” as Gottman aptly refers to
it is a subtle form of contempt and is sulfuric acid for love. This story,
laced with blame and bad memories, is the strongest indicator of an impending
breakup or divorce.
But, as Brown cautions,
“We are meaning-making machines wired for survival. Anytime something bad
happens, we scramble to make up a story, and our brain does not care if the
story is right or wrong, and most likely, it is wrong.” She points out that in
research when a story has limited data points, it is a conspiracy, and a lie
told honestly is a confabulation.
In social psychology,
this pre-wired bias is referred to as the fundamental attribution error (FAE).
The FAE speaks to our tendency to believe that others do bad things because
they are bad people, and to ignore evidence to the contrary while
simultaneously having a blind spot that allows us to minimize or overlook what
our behaviors say about our character. In short, we are partial to giving
ourselves a pass while not extending the same generosity to others.
When our minds trick us
into believing we know what our partner’s intentions, feelings, and motives are
we enter a very dark wood—one where we truly can no longer see the forest for
the trees. The ramifications of this are significant because the stories we
tell ourselves dictate how we treat people.
In portraying ourselves
as a hero or victim, we no longer ally with the relationship, but rather, armor
up and see our partner as the enemy. And if memory is malleable, and we’re
prone to spinning conspiracies and confabulations, there is a strong likelihood
that we run the risk of hurting ourselves and those we love in assuming this
tendencies towards mishaps and misperceptions is not easy. It requires a
certain humility, grace, and intentionality. But as Stan Tatkin points out in
his TED talk, Relationships are Hard, “We are mostly
misunderstanding each other much of the time, and if we assume our
communication, memory, and perception is the real truth, that is hubris.”
The wholehearted and
masters of marriage bypass such hubris and navigate the terrain of
relationships differently than those who get lost in the wood. If we want our
relationships and quality of life to thrive, it’s essential we take our cues
from them and cultivate new habits.
emotions (and the suck)
To do so, we must first
expand our emotional repertoire to include a wide range of feelings, not just
our go-to ones. “Emotion-embracing,” as Gottman calls it, is a central building
block for healthy relationships. We are aiming for what Pixar’s Inside Out so
brilliantly depicts: inviting sadness, joy, anger, disgust, and fear all to the
Put simply, Brown
suggests we “embrace the suck,” stating that the wholehearted demonstrate a
capacity to recognize when they’re emotionally ensnared and get curious about
their feelings and perceptions.
Both Gottman and Brown
draw on the Stone Center’s Strategies of Disconnection, which
propose that people respond in one of three ways when hurt: by moving away,
moving toward, or moving against that which feels painful. And what I find
interesting is that while Gottman advocates for turning toward your partner
when injured, and Brown speaks more to leaning into (and getting curious about)
our own uncomfortable emotions, both are emotion-embracing and courageous
stances that emphasize mutuality over individualism.
Unfortunately, most of us
are not taught as children to embrace painful feelings. It’s counterintuitive
and goes against our neurobiological wiring. If we have a traumatic history,
all the more so. And our society by-and-large is an emotion-dismissing culture.
But as Brown cautions, there’s a price to pay when we selectively numb
emotions: when we numb our painful feelings, we also numb our positive ones.
So, if we want the good things in life (and I think most of us want the good
things), then it’s a package deal.
If the most significant
indicator that a relationship has reached a tipping point is a rewritten story
devoid of fond memories, then it stands to reason that a narrative free from
blame, interwoven with curiosity and even goodwill is indicative of love that
will last. Therefore, one of the central tasks of any healthy relationship is
to co-create stories from a lens of “we” versus “me.”
It involves little (and
big) reckonings as Brown calls them, sliding door moments where we pause long
enough to reflect and ask ourselves (and each other), “What is going on right
now?” Together, we cultivate a broader understanding of a disagreement or hurt
feelings, one not possible when left alone in our heads to spin narratives that
defend our most vulnerable parts and simultaneously ensure that we will go to
our grave more swiftly, lonely, and armored.
When I reflect on the
lessons of Gottman and Brown, one concept stands out: we must run headlong into
heartbreak because there are things far worse than having our hearts broken.
Such as the harm we inflict on our loved ones when we disown pain and transmit
it onto them. And the legacy of trauma that ripples into our children’s hearts
and the generations to come—veiling us in a seemingly impermeable barrier to
vulnerability and all the fruits that go with it.
And let us not forget the
Harvard Study of Adult Development and the toll that a conflict-laden life
combined with emotion-dismissing has on our health.
Yes, running headlong
into heartbreak is running directly into vulnerability. It involves
uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But, as Brown reminds us,
vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and
Should we choose this
path, there will be moments (likely many) where we find ourselves facedown in
the dirt because the road to wholeheartedness guarantees we will get our hearts
broken—again and again. But, in choosing to embrace heartbreak, we empower
ourselves to experience the myriad of ways love manifests itself and the beauty
life affords us. In the end, it’s not a question of if we will experience
heartbreak but of how.
I’ve heard it said that the Bible doesn’t mention premarital sex
as a sin. There are major implications to this on two levels. One, there is the
simple and important question of knowing what is a sin and what isn’t. Two, and
more importantly, if it is a sin (and why) has huge ramifications on God’s
overall design for sex and how men are to view women and vice versa.
If you type “premarital sex” or “sex before marriage” into your
English Bible concordance, nothing is going to come up. If you search for
“adultery,” a married person having sex with someone who is not their spouse,
you’ll get all kinds of occurrences. So I suppose this is where some get the
idea that maybe sex is okay up until you get married, then you’re locked into
that one person from thereafter.
If you’re used to reading the King James Version, you’ll note
that it often uses the word fornication, which means sex-before-marriage. The
NIV and other translations swap this out for the term sexual immorality, which
is quite vague and does not give the surface indication that
sex-before-marriage is a sin.
The Greek word used in the original New Testament text for
fornication or sexual immorality is porneia (Matthew
5:32, 15:19, 19:9; Mark 7:21; John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 15:29, 21:25; 1
Corinthians 5:1, 6:13, 6:18, 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19;
Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 2:21; 9:21;
14:8; 17:2; 17:4; 18:3; 19:2). Porneia is
a separate Greek word from adultery, so we know it doesn’t mean the exact same
thing. Hence, it makes some sense why the KJV translators would use the word
We also know that porneia brings
about children outside of wedlock (John 8:41), so it is sex. Porneia is also
the word used to describe the acts of the great prostitute in Revelation 17,
and is the root for the word prostitute itself (1 Corinthians 6:15). These uses
are a pretty open-and-shut case that porneia means
But porneia can also be done
by a married person (Matthew 5:32; 19:19). A man sleeping with his mother or
step-mother is considered a type of porneia (1 Corinthians 5:1).
So from these two examples, we see that porneia doesn’t
exclusively mean sex-before-marriage. It’s safe to say that adultery is the sin
of when a married person has sex with someone who is not their spouse. And
that porneia (KJV: fornication, NIV: sexual immorality) is the sin
of any type of sex outside of marriage, which would obviously include
sex-before-marriage, as well as prostitution and adultery.
More Than A Rulebook
anything that goes against God’s design for sex. And it’s crucial that we get
back to the point about God’s design. While there is value in analyzing the
text to determine what is a sin and what isn’t, it has the feeling of etching
out a rule book for the sake of a rule book. Like telling a teenager not to
have sex before marriage, “because it’s bad,” without giving any further
explanation. To approach any of God’s commands in this way doesn’t do justice
to why a loving God would give them to us in the first place, nor do they
provide much intrinsic motivation to follow them. We must always go back to the
design, which thankfully Scripture does with crystal clarity on the matter of
God’s design for sex is laid out in the
creation blueprint of Genesis 2:24: That is why a man leaves his father and
mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Some will say that this verse is only
referring to marriage—that when a man and woman become married, they become one
flesh. The apostle Paul disagrees. In 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul says that anyone
who has sex with a prostitute has become one flesh with her. You become one
flesh with someone when you have sex with them.
This is why premarital sex is a sin. It’s also
why so many find their hearts so broken and battered.
What “one flesh” means is that a whole person
accepts all that makes someone else a human. It’s like taking a yellow piece of
Play-Doh and mixing it together with a piece of blue Play-Doh. What happens?
You get green Play-Doh, never able to distinguish or remove the yellow from the
blue again. One flesh is not just about body parts, it’s about one’s entire
being. It’s why we say the vows we say at a wedding…for better or worse…for
richer or poorer…in sickness and in health. No matter what comes our way, I
have accepted you and will protect you and be here for you. All of you. Not
just the good parts. But also the annoying parts. The things I’d like to
change. The weaknesses. The quirks. All of that becoming one with all of that
in me, for a lifetime. That’s the environment God designed sex to create
between two people. It coincidentally is also the perfect environment for
Sex was designed by God to be a part of the
greatest self-sacrificing relationship possible. The byproduct of
one-flesh-marital-sex was to be a strong society where children are loved and
married adults are accepted and protected by their spouses. Sin has turned sex
into an act of selfishness. The consequences on our society couldn’t be any
clearer. This of course doesn’t end with premarital sex. Once sex becomes
selfish, people are simply objects to be consumed. This objectification
provides the booming demand for pornography, a sex-addicted Hollywood, and
If you do the math, you can’t have multiple
one fleshes with people. That’s why premarital sex does such damage to our
souls, and to our society. You are sharing intimacy that can’t hold its own
weight. You are doing a trust fall with no one to catch you. Sin and our
culture have taught us sex is about us and getting our desires met. God’s word
tells us sex is about a lifelong commitment of accepting and supporting all of
someone else. No matter how unpopular it gets, God’s word will remain our guide
for finding true life and true freedom in understanding how we are to view sex,
ourselves, and the men and women we share this world with.
10 PHRASES YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO SOMEONE EXPERIENCING BETRAYAL TRAUMA
Discovering the sexual betrayal of a spouse is
one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can suffer. There are so few
people with whom the wounded spouse can confide. Imagine this devastated
individual mustering the courage to share the story with a close friend or
family member only to receive comments or advice that inflict further damage.
Knowing what to say to someone who has
experienced a loss is difficult for most people. I believe there are many
well-meaning, loving individuals who truly want to be helpful to a wounded
spouse but are simply ill-equipped in that situation. What should be said at
such a time?
The Bible tells the story of a man of God
named Job. His life was filled with prestige and possessions, but God allowed
him to be tested and he lost his ten children, all of his livestock, and even
his health. In the midst of his misery and devastation, he had three friends
who came to comfort him. The Bible says,
“When they saw him from a distance, they could
hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and
sprinkled dust on their heads. They sat on the ground with him for seven days
and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his
suffering was” (Job 2:12-13).
Wow! What great friends. Unfortunately,
whatever comfort Job felt by their presence quickly ended when they opened
their mouths and began to speak.
If you have an acquaintance, friend, or loved
one who has experienced sexual betrayal, one of the greatest things you
can do for him or her is just show up. Most people going through such
trauma feel alone and isolated. Your presence, at that time, can be a gift.
Silence is okay.
If you do speak, here are ten things best left
1. “Things will get better.”
This person’s life has been shattered. How can
you possibly know things will get better? Unfortunately, things may get a lot
worse. Certainly, the wounded spouse can pursue and achieve healing, but that
does not mean the circumstances will get better.
2. “You just need to forgive.”
Such a comment is callous to the pain this
person is feeling. There are many things someone who has been betrayed may
need, such as testing for STDs, counseling, self-care, safety, a support group,
and healthy boundaries.
While forgiveness will eventually be in this
individual’s best interest, to suggest this initially may imply that there
should be no consequences for the offending party, regardless of current
behavior. This, in turn, may pressure the wounded spouse into granting a false
forgiveness before adequately processing the devastating emotions that
naturally accompany betrayal. This can lead to confusion and delayed healing.
3. “It could be worse. At least he didn’t
Any comment that minimizes the behavior or the
pain is hurtful. Betrayal is betrayal, regardless of the method. Period. To say
such a thing is as insensitive as saying to someone who lost a child, “At least
you didn’t lose both of your children,” or saying to an amputee, “At least you
still have your hands.” The fact that someone else may have it worse does not
lessen this person’s pain.
4. “If I were you, I would leave and get a divorce.”
You’re not. Job’s friend made the same
mistake. Eliphaz said, “But if it were I, I would…” (Job 5:8). The
reality is that you cannot know what you would do if you were that person. You
only have a perspective based on your own experiences.
5. “Have you been meeting his physical needs?”
Any comment or question that implies fault on
the part of the wounded spouse is not helpful. Most are already feeling some
sense of guilt and shame. Job’s friends also made that mistake. They assumed
that he must somehow be responsible for the suffering he was experiencing.
There are no perfect spouses because there are no perfect people. Nothing
justifies a partner sexually acting outside of the marriage covenant. There is
always a choice.
6. “You deserve better than this.”
This kind of statement usually comes as a
result of strong feelings for the individual, which may cloud the judgment of
what is actually best. In the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul was told by a
prophet that he would suffer and be imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem. “When
we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to
Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12). Paul went anyway because he knew God had a greater
plan that would result in furthering the gospel.
It is unsettling to see someone you love suffering.
But, it is important to remember that you may not be able to see the big
picture and all that God can accomplish through the difficulties.
7. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Is this really true? Does God have a grand
design that only allows for what he wills? If my husband repeatedly cheats on
me, is that God’s will? No. It is not God’s will for us to sin. He knows how
destructive that is for us. But he has created us with free will. We are not
created as robots with no power to choose. When a person is overwhelmed with
grief due to the sexual betrayal of a spouse, God grieves, too. We live in an
imperfect, fallen world.
The good news is that what God allows, he
“And we know that God causes all things to
work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according
to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
8. “I know how you feel.”
Though you might have lived through a similar
experience, you can never know exactly how someone else feels. No two
situations are exactly alike. We all have our own unique experiences and
9. “Just let it go.”
This is akin to “get over it,” or “just move
on.” This is easily said by someone who is neither married to the individual
nor emotionally attached to the situation. The reality is that the choice to
stay or leave is incredibly difficult and not one that can be made quickly or
lightly. There will be pain and complications either way. Seldom does anyone
“get over” such trauma, though he or she will eventually get through it. Such
flippant statements fail to acknowledge the depth of grief the wounded party is
10. “God wants you to
Be very, very careful about speaking for God.
Job’s friends spent considerable time representing to him what they were
convinced were God’s ways. In the end, the Lord spoke to Eliphaz and said, “I
am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what
is right” (Job 42:7). Even if what you plan to say is biblically accurate, are
you sure this is the right time to say it? Saying the right thing at the wrong
time is still wrong.
What should we say?
With so many things we shouldn’t say, how can
we know what we should say? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak
and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). When someone you care about is
suffering due to betrayal trauma, show up and focus more on listening than
speaking. Will Rogers went straight to the point: “Never miss a good
chance to shut up.”
Before you do speak, ask God for wisdom. “If
any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without
finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Offer practical assistance. When Jesus was
dying, he asked his closest friend, John, to take care of his mother. The Bible
says, “From that time on, the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27).
You can help by bringing a meal, taking the kids for the afternoon, giving a
gift card for a massage, or anything else that might relieve some of the
pressure your friend may be experiencing.
Jesus’ example of love was in deed, not word. We can’t go wrong when we
follow his example.
Kris is an accountant and Sam is an architect. They’re trying to create a budget together.
Kris: We just need a realistic budget to stick to.
Sam: I do stick to it, but unexpected things keep happening.
Kris: You have to plan for the unexpected. Let’s go back and look at the checks and the credit cards statements, and see where our money is going.
Sam: You never show me the respect that you show your accounting clients.
Kris: I respect you, but I’m upset that you can’t control your spending. How can we save that way?
Sam: I do control my spending, but I have to get things our family needs.
Kris: We don’t need a 60” TV or 16 knives. We don’t NEED all of this crap.
Sam: You never understand or care about my needs.
Kris: I work really hard for our stuff. I do understand.
Sam: I work too. What do you think I do 40-hours a week? Pick my nose?
Kris: I know you work, and I do care, I just want us to be smart about our money.
Sam: It’s not about being smart, it’s about love. You’ve never understood that.
Kris: Not it’s not. Love is about love. Money is about money. That doesn’t even make sense.
Sam: We’re building a life together, one you clearly don’t value as much as the money in the bank.
Kris: You build a life with how you use the money in the bank.
Sam: Thanks for the lecture, Professor Money. Do you see what I’m talking about when I say you don’t respect me?
If you and your partner have similar arguments about finances, you are in good company. There is no easy way for a couple to go through life without butting heads over money. As you can see with Sam and Kris, nothing has been resolved. It feels like the real issue is not being addressed.
If you asked 100 people what is “enough” money to be rich, you’d soon realize that what is “enough” for one person is completely inadequate for another. That’s because money is not about how much one has, but about how much one has relative to what one believes is enough.
What blocks Kris and Sam, and maybe even your marriage, is not money. It’s the meaning we give money.
Meaning, Money, and Marriage
If I asked you how much you paid for your home, you could probably tell me without hesitation. If I asked you how much you spent at the grocery store four days ago, you would probably need to think about it.
That’s because your memory is designed to focus on the significance and meaning of events in your life rather than the details.
This makes sense. Memory is biologically pricey. Rewiring our neurons and synapses costs a lot of energy. It is nearly impossible to remember every detail about every event in our lives, so our brain “cheats” when it organizes information.
If you’re 43 years old, that means you have 43 years of complicated life experiences with a lot of unimportant micro-experiences, such as buying a sandwich. If you were to analyze the details of every single experience before you decided something, you’d be paralyzed by analysis.
So your brain cheats by deriving an overall meaning of an experience and then fills in the facts to create a narrative that aligns with that meaning.
This is why Sam feels so disrespected when Kris brings up the issue of budgeting. To him, it’s not just her trying to control his spending. It’s her taking away the feelings of love money gives him. Feelings he has felt for most of his life.
Sam’s mind does this because his memory, like yours, is designed to create little cause and effect stories to support the meaning we get from our experiences.
By doing this, we simplify our conflicts around money and we start reacting instead of responding. Sam starts accusing Kris of disrespecting him and reacting to her complaints. Instead he should listen to her complaints so he can understand why she feels that way.
If we were to simplify the meanings of money throughout our entire lives into cause and effect stories, then what we are left with is a simple if X happens, then I feel Y. This is what we call a “money law.”
The Money Laws of Marriage
Money laws are the things that must happen for you to feel financially secure and happy in your marriage. They tend to follow a simple if-then framework.
Money Law Examples:
If James saves $1,000 this month, then he truly cares about the financial future of our marriage.
If Steve takes me out to an expensive dinner on Friday, then he loves me.
If Kim books our two-week vacation, then she cares about my well being.
Broken Money Law Examples:
If Sam doesn’t stick to the budget, then he doesn’t care about my needs.
If Tom buys another “toy” instead of taking me on a vacation, then I’m not valuable to him.
If Susan spends another $300 shopping instead of saving for our kid’s college, then she doesn’t care about our children’s education.
As you can see, money conflicts are far more meaningful than the dollar value we give them. For some of us, it’s about love and connection. Maybe for you it’s about power and significance. Maybe for someone else it’s about personal growth, or contribution to society. We fight about money because we don’t feel understood by our partners.
Understanding Your Money Laws
If you can identify your money laws, you can instantly help your partner understand you better and improve the quality of your relationship.
If you take time to understand your partner’s money laws, you will be able to turn the destructive fights about money in your marriage into a constructive way to grow closer to one another.
What Are Your Money Laws?
Want to learn which money laws are bankrupting your marriage? Below are three steps that will help you use money conflicts to deepen your emotional connection.
Step 1: Understand Your Personal Meaning of Money
Throughout life, we pick up subtle and large meanings of how money should be used.
By understanding your hidden meanings to money, you can really help your partner understand why certain things bother you. You can do this by downloading the Meaning of Money In Marriage by subscribing below. Go through the list of items and check the meanings that resonate most with you.
Step 2: Understand Your Partner’s Meaning of Money
Have your partner fill out the checklist. Sit down and share stories about why you have those meanings around money.
Step 3: Create Three Money Laws Each
What do you need to feel financially secure in your marriage? Come up with three money laws and share them with your partner. Examples include:
If you take me on a date every two weeks, then I will feel loved.
If I contribute to the Red Cross, then I feel helpful to those less fortunate.
If I invest in a personal trainer, then I feel sexy and will want to make love to you.
Use money conflicts in your marriage to invest in each other.
My heart was pounding. My hands were sweaty. I knew I needed to be honest about my struggle but it was the last thing in the world I wanted to talk about. Especially to my parents. As scared as I was of being honest, I couldn’t bear the weight of my secret any longer.
As a teen, I had been really struggling with my thought life for a while, and lust seemed to be my constant companion. These sinful thoughts and imaginations also lead me down the path of masturbation. I tried to stop many times, but couldn’t seem to break the pattern in my life. I knew my thoughts and actions weren’t holy, pure, or honoring to God, but nothing I did seemed to work.
That’s when I heard something that turned my world upside down.
My Turning Point
I was at a conference and heard the speaker talking about the powerful act of bringing secret sins into the light. Exposing them had a way of breaking the bondage they had over us. I wanted that! I knew what I needed to do.
Choosing to bring my secret sexual struggle into the light was the turning point for me. God gave me the courage to be open and honest with my parents and ask for their help.
From that point on, everything changed. My struggle was no longer mine alone to bear. I had support, prayer, encouragement, and accountability. The next few months and years looked very different. I didn’t walk perfectly, but I walked in victory much more consistently.
If you’re currently wrestling with a secret sexual struggle, I understand the weight and burden it can be. Whether it’s pornography, masturbation, erotica, sexting, lustful thoughts, or something else, you don’t have to fight this battle alone.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” God’s good plan for His church is that we would bear one another’s burdens by walking with each other through the hard stuff.
Jesus wants victory and freedom for you! And through Him, this is possible.
Romans 6:13-14 says, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
I want to share with you four specific ways you can deal with your secret sexual struggles right now. These four things are pulled directly from chapter 11 of my new book which is titled, “Real Talk: Porn, Erotica and Masturbation.” To get the full version, I hope you will grab a copy of Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl’s Heart and dig into this entire chapter on your own. I truly believe it could be life-changing for you.
1. Pursue Genuine Repentance
For each of us, the first step toward victory from lustful sin is to recognize that we have sinned against God and are in need of His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Our God is full of grace and forgiveness, willing to receive and forgive any who seek Him.
2. Bring Secret Sins into the Light
Sin thrives in darkness. There is something powerfully freeing about bringing secret sins into the light. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” God promises to give us mercy if we expose our sin. Whether it’s porn, masturbation, erotica, or something else—if you truly desire freedom, you must expose it.
3. Seek Ongoing Discipleship from a Godly Woman
After bringing your struggle into the light, don’t revert back into your own private world again. Breaking sinful habits is hard. Don’t fight your battles alone.
Find a godly woman in your life and ask her to disciple you in God’s truth. Depending on what your specific struggle is (i.e. porn, masturbation, erotica, etc.), consider reading a biblically grounded book together on the topic. You could also pray together regularly. She could provide an “open door” of accountability where you text or call her any time you’re tempted toward your struggle.
4. Make Radical Changes
Depending on the frequency and severity of your struggle, you may need to employ some radical changes in your life to avoid sexual compromise. For example, if you struggle with pornography, consider only using your computer or phone in public places, installing a strong accountability filter on your devices, and/or taking a break from technology for a while.
If you struggle with erotica, be intentional to throw away any tempting books/movies, delete erotic content from your media devices, and avoid getting on technology when you’re alone. If you struggle with masturbation, evaluate where your temptation strikes the hardest. Maybe it’s in your bedroom, shower, or when you’re tired. Come up with a plan of action on how you’re going to handle this temptation.
Being honest about your secret sexual struggle may be the hardest to do, but it is the first step toward breaking its grip on you. I pray you will take these four steps seriously and begin your journey toward freedom today.
Is accountability powerful enough to help change a heart? Sixteen years ago, Covenant Eyes was founded by two individuals on the simple premise that it is, and today the company has a team of over 150 people who base their work and livelihood on this very idea. We believe in the importance of accountability and the power of honest conversation.
Some people still haven’t been convinced their “private” porn problem merits the “not-so-private” solution of accountability. Inaccurate ideas of what accountability really is, bad past experiences, or just plain old fear stop those struggling with porn from bringing their battle to the attention of a friend. They may think accountability has some value, but they don’t understand the deep importance of accountability in bringing about lasting life change.
“I have talked to hundreds of addicts, spouses of addicts and parents, and the majority of them would have told you accountability is a good idea, but they saw accountability in their life as a last resort, not a lifestyle,” said author and speaker Luke Gilkerson at the Set Free Summit. “We cannot tell people to do accountability until we have a firm idea of what it is and how to do it.”
The Importance of Accountability
In this short video from the Set Free Summit, Luke conveys a compelling description of what accountability is and why it’s important. Take a look.
As Luke said, “We are created for community. We were redeemed in community. We will be glorified in community. Therefore, we are going to be sanctified in community.” Accountability matters.
Let’s build out the importance of accountability a little further.
God Knows Us Fully, Isn’t This Accountability Enough?
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (Emphasis mine)
Ready for a wake-up call? Fully known is the only perspective God has. In their book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say, “God’s knowledge of us is immediate–full and direct, face to face…”
God sees us through and through. Every thought. Every inclination. Every bent of our heart.
Can I venture to say most Christians often forget this truth? Instead, many believe the fallacy of secrecy, even though various Scriptures clearly point to an all seeing, all knowing Father (Proverbs 5:21, Psalm 33:13-14, Hebrews 4:13, among others).
Authentic Christians don’t need an accountability partner because we already have the best dwelling inside us. If you listen to Jesus, through your Holy Spirit, you will never choose the wrong path….If Jesus could do nothing on His own, how can we think we know how to do things better than Him? This is why we turn control of our lives over to Him and that eliminates the ‘need’ for an accountability partner.
Jesus is definitely what we need. But, being “in Christ” does not eliminate the importance of earthly accountability.
The Importance of Accountability with Another Person
For most Christians, understanding that God is fully knowing just isn’t tangible enough to hold them accountable for what they say and do. On the other hand, that “thing” that you might struggle with is tangible. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes, the empty promises offered by addiction seem far more real and frankly, more satisfying, than a promise from Scripture.
Dr. Kenneth Boa writes, “Our ability to embed ourselves within the impenetrable shell of rationalization, projection and denial is nothing short of amazing….An entire field of social psychology–the study of ‘cognitive dissonance’–is based on our limitless ability to rationalize what we do and say. That being the case, we all need people who will help us protect ourselves from ourselves and the desires of our own hearts.”
It’s impossible to be fully known on this side of heaven, but an accountable relationship can point us towards the light. Consistently. Lovingly. Directly (if necessary).
According to pastor and author Timothy Keller:
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Accountability is important because “one another” trumps “one.”
This could also be said as “we” trumps “just me.” In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament. Scripture begs us to “do” things towards and with other people.
To be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
To wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)
To love one another (over and over and over)
To live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
To have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
To bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:12)
Pastor and author Andy Stanley also says, “The primary activity of the [early] church was one-anothering one another.”
Jesus Christ modeled “one-anothering” in his earthly ministry. Not because He needed accountability, but because by doing life with 12 brothers, He showed us how to live openly and in community. He showed us the importance of accountability. The Trinity is founded on the “one another” principle. We are inherently stronger when we are locked together.
In our free e-book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability, author Luke Gilkerson says, “[Accountability] means really getting to know one another. It means not just confessing surface-level stuff, but helping one another to see underlying motivations. It means hearing one another’s stories and spending time together. It means helping one another tap into godly motives for Christian living.”
Accountability is important because speaking trumps silence.
There is power in spoken words. When our thoughts become words, or we are listening to words from someone else, our brain kicks into high gear. University College London did extensive analysis of how the brain processes spoken words. The scientists discovered that our brains can magically isolate language from other sounds and usher it to the “primary auditory cortex” where it is assigned meaning.
In Romans 10:9, we read, “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
I’ve never been a big fan of the “bow your heads and raise your hand to accept Jesus into your hearts” approach to salvation. I just don’t see it modeled anywhere in Scripture. Words matter! All form and matter came into existence because God spoke.
Having genuine and straightforward conversation with an accountability partner is sweet therapy for a dry, empty soul. This type of conversation doesn’t just land in our brain. It lifts heavy burdens from our hearts.
Accountability is important because light trumps darkness.
Speaking openly with an accountability partner keeps our secrets out in the open. It crushes the fallacy of secrecy. In darkness, sin rules us. But, in the light, sin shrivels. Nothing beats the light.
Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” (Emphasis mine)
Darkness isn’t a wave or a particle. It isn’t a “thing.” It’s simply the absence of light. Human vision is diminished as light is decreased. We are unable to distinguish color. What a befitting metaphor for what happens to our spiritual discernment while under the cover of sin.
An accountable relationship with another Jesus-loving brother or sister is a warm LED flashlight to the soul. It calls us up to the light and out of the darkness.
Can Accountability Really Change a Heart?
We believe it can, and we’ve seen it happen in so many Covenant Eyes users. This is why we believe so strongly in the importance of accountability. But you’re never going to know for yourself until you give it a try.
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.