In the previous two posts, we discussed how difficult it is for a man to confess (in general) and how extremely difficult and terrifying it is to confess sexual failure to our wives. We talked about all the excuses of not confessing, as well as the effects we experience from the exhausting work of trying to manage secrets. So now, if you’re a man who realizes your need to confess and is ready, how in the world do you actually do it?
Some men take the approach of “If I don’t do it all right now, I’ll never do it,” and just lay everything on their wife like backing up a dump truck and emptying the load. This makes the man feel a lot better… “Wow, feels great to get that off my chest!” …but leaves his wife in a crater.
Other men try the drip approach. “I’ll just tell her a tiny bit and see how she reacts. Based on that we’ll see how it goes.” This is dangerous because it bases honesty upon the wife’s reaction and leaves the door wide open for continual secret keeping.
I recommend taking at least a two-step approach. First, find a trusted male friend and tell him EVERYTHING. Leave absolutely nothing out. Confess the struggles, the failures, the details. Get it all out on the table. This will help immensely, just taking the step of letting someone know. This also creates a commitment, because as part of this you’ll ask the friend to keep you committed to confess to your wife.
If the person to whom you confess is qualified (like a therapist or a pastor with experience counseling men in this situation) he will be able to advise you on the best method to talk to your wife. If not, he may suggest you talk to someone more qualified to help you develop a plan for confession/disclosure. At this point, care for your wife is as high a priority as complete honesty. A qualified advisor will also help you know what information to include or exclude for your wife’s benefit. While she needs to know the full scope of what you’ve done, she does NOT need to know every detail. This will only serve to torture her as her traumatized mind draws pictures over and over again.
Covenant Eyes has posted a good article from John Doyel, a former senior pastor who resigned his position over sexual sin, but who has walked a recovery journey since 2005. John leads a recovery ministry called 180 (www.180men.org) and offers some good insight on how to best take the difficult step of confession.
Perhaps more than anything, try to remember after you confess that a great deal of your focus needs to be on your wife and on how she feels. If she lashes out, resist the urge to minimize or defend yourself. Realize that more than 70% of women who hear about their husbands’ sexual betrayal experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She needs to feel what she feels and express that, even through anger.
Early on in our journey, one of the things that Stacey told me gave her confidence that my repentance was genuine was this. No matter how many times she expressed her pain and anger about what I’d done, I never got defensive, or said “You’ve brought this up 20 times…when are you going to start getting over it?” (By the way, it was only the Spirit of God who kept me from saying that or any variety of other stupid things.) But she saw a brokenness, a humility that showed her that I understood how much I had hurt her and genuinely wanted to repent and make amends. In those early days God did a work in her heart that – along with much other work He did in both of us as we surrendered to Him – allowed our marriage to be restored.
I wish I could promise you that you’ll have the same result. I can’t. Every woman who finds out about her husband’s betrayal is going to respond or react in her own way, and what happens is out of your control. But there is a truth I can encourage you with. Regardless of what happens in your marriage, confession is a huge step toward your own healing. And you need to be healthy if your marriage ends. You need to be healthy for all types of relationships in your life. You need to be healthy if you are given the chance to become the type of husband she needs – one who is surrendering every part of himself to the Father.
I pray for everyone who will read this post, and for whom God will use it to challenge you to take the bold step of coming clean.
Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions!