“From the mailbox to the kitchen counter used to be a long, slow walk,” Jeffrey admitted, his humor masking years of pain. “I’ve never cheated on my wife, but I’ve sure thought about it.”
It took me a moment for his humor, and underlying sadness, to sink in. I reflected on the context of his comment. The long, slow walk was when he looked lustfully at her catalogues before reaching the house.
Jeffrey gave me a sexual history, at the request/ insistence of his wife, Darla who had discovered pornography on his computer years back. She was still frightened that he could be slipping without her awareness.
“The fear never totally goes away,” Darla had said during a recent Marriage Intensive. “I know Jeffrey loves me and I don’t really think anything is going on, but I never feel completely confident. I’m thankful he works with me on this.”
“Have you discovered anything that has made you distrustful or suspicious,” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I really haven’t. “He is always where he says he is supposed to be. He answers questions non-defensively. He is humble and transparent. I think it’s my issue.”
We agreed I would take a thorough sexual history, seeking an independent and objective evaluation of Jeffrey. There were no tell tale signs of transgressions and he had been impressively humble and transparent in their marital work at The Marriage Recovery Center. Still, she wanted me to ask some tough questions.
Jeffrey answered my questions thoroughly, never once flinching or balking. While my questions were obviously limited by the fact that his story was self-report—notoriously unreliable—I had the sense he was being candid. He admitted to years of pornography use during the early years of their marriage, but stated frankly that he had given it up after a spiritual experience in which he had felt intense conviction.
“I felt dirty for what I had been looking at,” he said. “During business trips I’ve had sexual offers and they just really make me sick. I really want to live a pure life, dedicated to my wife. I’m willing to take a polygraph if either you or my wife have any doubts about what I’m saying. My phone is open for anyone’s scrutiny, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to gain my wife’s trust on this issue.”
I’ve taken a thousand sexual histories, and I must admit I’ve been fooled more than once. But Jeffrey’s humility was heartening. He recognized and fully admitted to breaking her trust years ago. He understood that trust once broken is very hard to repair. He was willing to follow my leadership in this area of his life. Now it came down to my decision—did anything further need to be done, or was it time to encourage Darla to trust Jeffrey?
I spent the next several days deliberating over whether it might still be prudent to have Jeffrey take a full disclosure polygraph, often typical protocol when there is has been sexual impropriety. Darla, Jeffrey and I agreed upon considerations that are often part of deciding a course of action.
First, it’s all about the attitude. While we can always be fooled, an attitude marked by humility, openness and willingness is disarming and trustworthy. A man (or woman) who is willing to answer any question, do anything, take any necessary steps to regain trust, is certainly someone more trustworthy than someone prideful, closed and resistant.
Second, consider all the facts. Someone who is caught being deceptive cannot be trusted, while someone who is caught repeatedly telling the truth can likely be trusted. Someone who repeatedly lies cannot be trusted—it’s that simple, while someone who is known to tell the truth, time and again, will regain the trust of others.
Third, get a professional opinion. It’s one thing to take your own counsel, while something else getting the advice from a trusted professional. Scripture tells us, “Plans fail for the lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
Finally, be prayerful about the appropriate action to take. While trusted professionals will help, and friends may offer wisdom, our best Counselor is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth (John 16:13). Decisions as critical as the ones faced by Darla and Jeffrey certainly merited time spent in prayer. The Spirit of Truth will help us make critical decisions—it is then up to us to follow.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. Please feel free to request a free, twenty-minute consultation.
Publication date: April 15, 2013
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