Following "how do I forgive my spouse", the question we are asked the most is "how will I ever trust my spouse again?"
Trust (one of the Five T's) is built through consistent behavior over time. How do you know the sun will rise? Because it does it every day. When I realized the things I had done to damage our marriage, to hurt Scott and what ultimately pushed him away, I sought to change my thinking and my words, which in turn changed my actions, habits and character. Every day, through reading God's Word and praying, I chose to let God change my perspective and soften my words. Over the weeks and months that followed, people around me noticed that my sharp tongue had been replaced with encouragement. My character was changing and becoming more Christlike.
Scott, even steeped in his adultery, noticed. But we had fallen into a pattern before of fighting, then both of us being on our best behavior after making up, so initially he didn't trust the changes he saw. Intentionally, or maybe just part of his brokenness, he pushed every button he could think of to see if I would respond coarsely as I once would have. In fact, I delighted in the realization that my returning kind, encouraging words for his anger was like heaping hot coals on his forehead! (Proverbs 25:22) It was my goal to love Scott to Christ through my new character of kindness and encouragement.
Read or listen to our story, so you'll know that Scott did come to choose Christ over his selfishness, and on good days, he trusted the new character he saw in me. But the enemy's goal is to kill, steal and destroy, sometimes leaving to come back at a more opportune time. Part of the difficult, painful, and valuable work of seeking and granting generous forgiveness and reconciling is rebuilding trust. It is not just the responsibility of the spouse who committed adultery, it is also the responsibility of the other spouse to walk out a new character of receiving your spouse. I had (and continue to have) the responsibility of striving to be who God created me to be regardless of what Scott does; to choose to speak kind, encouraging, life giving words instead of hurtful words.
How do you build consistent behavior over time? You destroy old habits as you replace them with new ones.
DESTROY: To build trust, you've got to do whatever it takes to stop doing the things that led to adultery. Blow up any bridges to that past relationship- change your phone number, your email address, your job, the route you take to work, your favorite coffee shop, your church, give up facebook (or better yet, have a joint account with your spouse!), move if you have to. Do whatever it takes to remove ANY connection between you and the person with whom you committed adultery. God's Word said to FLEE from any hint of sexual immorality...so FLEE!
BUILD: Trust is built one right decision at a time. Part of building trust is creating a new intimacy where there is nothing hidden from your spouse. Openly share with each other email accounts, cell phone records, facebook accounts, and yes, your daily itinerary. To be trusted, you must become trustworthy. Be where you say you will be, call/text your spouse often, sharing with him/her where you are and where you are headed. The more you share, the less remains in the darkness, causing your spouse to wonder.
GRACE: Recognize that you are both a work in progress. You will both make mistakes, and when you do, the enemy will be the first one to tell you what a mistake you've made, you are a fool to think your spouse can change, etc. The enemy is a liar. God's response to our mistakes? Generous grace. It takes time to build new habits and for God to change character. Sometimes it feels like three steps forward and two backwards. These failures and mistakes are opportunities for humility, seeking and granting forgiveness, and building greater intimacy. Avoid feeling defeated, focus on the victory of the ground gained in the one step forward! Generously reward good behavior in each other...rewarded behavior will likely be repeated! Affirm each other, and press on toward the goal of oneness in marriage, built one decision at a time.
It took us twelve years to totally destroy our marriage beyond repair in the eyes of the world. When each of us took steps of faith, trusting God with each other and our marriage, it took us a fraction of that time to build a new marriage on His Word. It's been almost eight years since our divorce and subsequent reconciliation, and we wouldn't trade a day of it. Out of the ashes of our brokenness, God has given us an amazingly beautiful (not perfect!!) marriage.
What do you need to destroy and build into your life today as you change your character?
A BIG part of our reconciliation process was attending FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember. It gave us the opportunity and tools to seek and grant generous forgiveness, then to build new character and a new marriage on the Word of God. Register TODAY with our group JOSHUA2415 and save! Change the direction of your marriage, register for a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Getaway! REGISTER TODAY!!
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