Chances are your imagination has been running wild. When we don’t know the facts about a bad situation, we have a tendency to fill in the blank with the worst possible details. More painful still, our imaginations have the capacity to create more possibilities than could have really happened, but because we don’t know the truth we emotionally react as if every hypothetical were the reality.
During this time of “acknowledging the specific history and realness of your suffering,” you will likely begin making sense of things that have seemed out of place for a long time. As this happens, remain humble towards your interpretations. Each interpretation will be influenced by the limited information you have and the intense personalizations that come with sexual betrayal.
“The one cheated on often knows something is not quite right but can’t put a finger on it. The one in the affair is often oblivious to the changes taking place: the different behavior patterns, the irritability or indifference towards the mate and the marriage, and distorted thinking along these lines: the partner is becoming less attractive, the tension is somehow the mate’s fault, the partner is no longer understanding, and the marriage was never that good anyway (p. 348).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex
There is a temptation that comes with information you will gain during this step – trying to use the information you gain to control or master your spouse’s behavior. As you learn more about the what, when, and how of your spouse’s sin (why is examined in Step 3 of False Love and rarely delivers as satisfying of an answer as you desire), it is natural to think you can use this information to protect your spouse from his/her sin. Or you may protect yourself by controlling your spouse. Either approach inevitably leads to an unhealthy dynamic of taking responsibility for your spouse’s sin or parenting-style relationship.
“If you are in a relationship with an addict, please know it is the addict’s responsibility to identify and avoid pornographic materials. It is not your responsibility to protect the addict from all things you think are pornographic (p. 31).” Mark Laaser in Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
This is why and how even painful truth sets you free (John 8:32): free from infinite hypotheticals, free from owning your spouse’s sin, and free from ignorance. In this chapter you will go through the process of learning the extent of your spouse’s sexual sin (at least as much as he/she will disclose at this time) and receive some initial guidance on what to do with that information.
This chapter will be built around answering five questions.
- What should I ask my spouse and how should I ask him/her?
- What benefits do I gain from knowing this information?
- What benefits does my spouse gain from sharing this information?
- How and when should we evaluate the health of our marriage before the sin?
- What should I do with what I learn?
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