(How To Create a Lifelong Friendship With Your Spouse)
Very shortly after our readers learned that we walked through the fiery hell of adultery in our history, we began to get asked the same basic question on a regular basis. Sure, sometimes the words and phrases are different, but the question is always the same at its’ core.
“How do you rebuild trust in a marriage that’s been so badly damaged?”
When that question comes to me from someone who just revealed that they are going through it themselves, I can completely understand their desperation. They are feeling that the state they are currently in will NEVER end. They are totally wrapped in pain that never lets up – even for the briefest moment. At this moment in time, their life seems unbearable and there is no light visible at the end of the pitch black tunnel. Their own husband or wife… the one person on earth whom they thought they could trust with their very life, has utterly crushed their heart.
I get it. I really do.
In this post, I’m going to attempt to answer the question to the very best of my ability.
What I will NOT tell you…
1) …there’s a magic formula
2) …it’s going to be quick & easy
3) …that I guarantee it’s going to work
What I WILL tell you…
1) …it will take a lifelong effort
2) …it’s going to be hard work
3) …that if your spouse responds positively, your chances of marriage success will go up exponentially
Your marriage is unique in all the world. Think about this… YOU are an individual, unique in your body structure, your thinking and emotions. Your spouse is also an individual, uniquely THEM. Put the two of you together, and of all the people on planet Earth, there is NO OTHER MARRIAGE like yours. What I’m going to write today is what has worked for US – Jason & Tiffani.
1. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13 NLT)
Many blog posts usually save the biggest item for last, in order to give it more “punch”. But in this case, I believe this absolutely needs to be POINT NUMBER ONE. The Lord is the creator of everything. How can we possibly hope to have a good marriage if we don’t involve the one who created marriage? Tiffani and I called ourselves Christians back then, but our walk with the Lord was anything but deep. At best, it was face value only – more talk than walk. If our personal relationships with Jesus had been deeper, it’s far more likely that neither one of us would have allowed ourselves to be in the situations where we fell to temptation. If we had STUDIED His Word instead of just flipping through it, we’d have been better equipped for the battles to come. If you want REAL hope for reconciliation in your marriage, then I would strongly urge you to meditate on Psalm 37:4-5 day and night; “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart, Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” Give Him your heart, your time, your SELF, and let His Word teach you what it means to be a servant of Christ. It has been demonstrated time and time again that when a husband and wife seek to serve and get closer to God, they automatically begin to draw closer together. There is a great illustration of this which you can find by doing an internet search on “Christian Marriage Triangle.” As the husband and wife individually draw closer to God (the top of the triangle), by default they will draw closer together.
2. Trust Has Been Broken – Transparency Is Now REQUIRED
In this day and age of everything being interconnected (phones, computers, tablets, Google glasses, and so on…) we are insta-connected to social media in one way or another. Tiffani and I chose to share passwords to everything. Any and all “secret” email accounts were trashed, and although we each have personal email accounts, we also share one that we invite people to write to – especially when we are talking with couples having struggles. We have the ability to go into each other’s Facebook, Twitter and email accounts. Initially this was hard to do, and pride was a foul beast that needed to be dealt with regularly. “How dare they feel the need to check up on me!” But we both knew that this was a necessary step to rebuilding our trust. We even have a central place where we stash all our passwords to various accounts. It’s been good for accountability in the past, but now we look at it as a great tool for when the Lord calls one of us home. The other is left with the passwords to deal with all the necessary things. We also had to be willing to tell each other where we were going, how long we’d be gone, who we’d be with, and when we’d be back. This SHOULD be a common courtesy between spouses, but again pride often keeps people from doing the right things. We’ve been doing this now for so long, that it feels really weird when one of us doesn’t share that info right up front.
3. Opposite Sex Friends – Are They REALLY Necessary?
If you are one who believes that “I MUST be allowed to have opposite-sex friends”, I would humbly ask you to examine your heart for the reasons why. I am NOT saying we should not be friendly with opposite sex people that we know… we SHOULD be friendly – within the proper context. What I AM saying is that while it’s ok for me (a guy) to hang out with my male friends, share my struggles and perhaps gain their insight and wisdom in particular areas… if I were to do the same with female friends, it would open up emotions and doors that lead into some very dangerous territory. If my wife were to see me being “buddy-buddy” with another woman, what thoughts could I potentially be causing to swirl in her brain? I know how I’d feel if I were aware of her doing it with some other guy because I’ve been there in the past. This is EXACTLY the scenario that was taking place when each of us got involved in adultery! It’s a place I don’t ever want to go again. And if you are busy thinking right now, “I am not at risk, nor would I be tempted in this way…” then I must warn you very strongly – NOBODY is immune to temptation. Proverbs 16:17-18 says, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who watches his way preserves his life. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Pride has been the downfall of many a marriage. If you want to rebuild trust that’s been broken, then you must show yourself to be trustworthy in everything – and insisting on hanging out with people of the opposite sex will not generally invoke great feelings of trust in your spouse. More than likely it will have exactly the opposite effect. One other thing we do, specifically in regards to Facebook… when one of us receives a friend request from someone of the opposite sex (with the specific exception of a family member), we politely inform them that if they are not first friended to our spouse, then we cannot accept their request. We have each done this at least once or twice since instituting this policy several years ago, and it’s worked wonderfully for us.
4. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Adultery is not always necessarily ABOUT sex, but physical sex is often a by-product of the illicit relationship. Conversely, not every adulterous relationship involves physical sex. This is where the distinctive terms “physical affair” and “emotional affair” came from. Two different terms, but the sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Matthew 5:27-28 (Jesus speaking) says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus very clearly tells us that a physical sexual act is not required in order for the sin of adultery to occur. God knows how terribly adultery can tear apart a marriage – which is why He made a big deal of it in His Word. God intended that sex within a marriage would be shared by the husband and wife exclusively for a lifetime. We destroy that exclusiveness when we share with a third party what was intended for our spouse alone. As you begin to rebuild trust within your marriage, you CANNOT allow your mind to wander into what your spouse did when they were with the adultery partner. This is where you really must work to create new memories that will, in time, overtake the bad memories. It does indeed take time, but as you move forward this gets easier. Spend time getting to know what God has to say about sex within your marriage. You might be surprised to learn that He is all about you enjoying each other! We have reached a point in life where we can really enjoy each other behind closed doors without a single thought from that ugly past invading our space. It IS attainable, but it takes time. How much? That is completely up to the two of you within your unique marriage.
5. Become Best Friends With Your Spouse!
I had to realize that for the first half of our marriage (1987-2000), I didn’t look upon Tiffani as my friend – but as my wife. In my small mind, they couldn’t possibly be one and the same. My friends were the guys I went fishing with, the musicians I played in bands with. I believe Tiffani felt much the same way about people she associated with. It was in 2001, when she was pregnant with our 2nd son that I began to feel that wrong perception changing in my heart. I had set aside many of those so-called friends, and begun to enjoy spending more time with Tiffani. This would be sort of the “norm” for the next 10 years. In 2011, when our “expose the lies” day came, (see post here for more detail), I seriously began to examine our relationship very deeply. I wanted our marriage to work more than anything else in my life. Even through the pain, I wanted to do whatever it took to fix the brokenness and make ours a marriage that others could look to for hope. And making Tiffani my VERY best friend quickly came to the top of my list (right behind letting the Lord back in to our marriage vows!) We have spent the past two years becoming each other’s best friend in every way. We walk hand in hand almost everywhere, I open her car door, write her love notes, we play cards, go out for coffee dates, snuggle while watching a movie. We turn on each other’s electric blanket on cold nights. We TALK and COMMUNICATE many, many times a day. And we go the extra mile in trying to understand the other when we’re having a discussion, instead of just getting mad and starting an argument when we don’t have full understanding of their intent. Those were definitely our old ways, and we continue to work on changing them into something far better. Being best friends has worked for us in HUGE ways in overcoming the pain of our past.
6. Ministering Together
In addition to ministering through SongSix3 – “My Beloved Is Mine!”, I am also the senior worship leader at our church. We have worshipped at the same church since November 1, 1998. I joined the worship team as an electric guitar player in 1999, and then at some point in mid-2005 I was asked to take over leadership of the team. Tiffani joined the team as a backing vocalist, and I really look forward to the times I get to rotate her in as a singer. It means I get to stand on the platform and make music to the Lord WITH my beloved. We have also had multiple opportunities to worship as a duo (acoustic guitar and vocals) in other churches, and also at her mom’s memorial service last December. Finding ways to be a servant in your local church along with your spouse (and kids if you have them) is a GREAT way to build the family bond. Can you be church cleaners? Snack servers? Greeters? Do you have media skills that are needed for creating bulletins or the weekly announcements that are projected on the screen? Do you have the space in your home to host a weekly get-together of couples for a marriage ministry? The question is… “How can you serve TOGETHER?”
What I have shared today are things that have worked for my beautiful bride and I. If you and your spouse have not walked the adultery road, but you have broken trust in other ways, these steps can still go a very long way in helping you build a new friendship in your marriage. These are not in any way exclusive to an adulterous past.
Today as I write this, I can say without any hesitation that she IS my very best friend. And though I won’t claim to speak directly for her, she has said the same to my face very recently. I want you to know that if you and your spouse are both willing, you can do this. There is literally NOTHING that can stop it, if it’s something that you both want. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” But you must realize that this old myth doesn’t take into account the power of a Holy God to lovingly change the hearts of wicked men & women. If an adulterer wants to change for the better, and they renounce their ways & run after the Lord with their whole heart, then they absolutely can AND WILL change. It happened for me, it happened for my wife, and it’s happened for countless others who have repented and sought to make their marriages something beautiful in Christ.
Remember point number one above… “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13 NLT)
You can do this.
~May the peace of Christ fill your heart and envelop your marriage~
We are linked up to “Wedded Wednesday” at Messy Marriage!
Image used with permission from imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net