We sat down with Randy Robison of Life Outreach International to share our testimony and talk about our new book – The Phoenix Marriage: God creates beauty out of ashes. Randy asks some tough questions about infidelity, healing from betrayal, and being transparent with our kids about transgression.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – II Corinthians 5:17
Phase Two – Healing and Rebuilding
Your first forty days were likely a roller-coaster of emotion, intimacy, and vulnerability. Many couples get caught up in the energy and the excitement of breathing new life into their marriage. However, the critical season following those first forty days will determine whether these changes will last or if the couple will slip back into old patterns and behaviors.
Goals for this Phase
- Talk is Cheap — Actions speak louder than words
- 8 Rules for Rebuilding Trust — Trust can be rebuilt through persistent love
- Wounds Heal Crooked — Healing is a messy process
- Find your new normal – In the first forty days (phase one) couples tend to prioritize their marriage, letting non-essential activities fall away (hobbies, outings with friends, family outings, etc.). This is necessary, because you need focused attention to build healthy patterns. But now the two of you must find a way to fold some of those activities back in while also identifying what changes need to happen. You’ll also be trying to find your new normal in terms of routines, frequency of contact, and how you communicate with one another. It’s normal for their to be anxiety over anything that feels like previous routines. You’ll need to work together to build confidence that this “new normal” won’t result in falling back into old patterns.
- Lovingly, patiently rebuild trust – The loss of trust, in whatever measure, the two of you have experienced can be devastating for a couple. As I write in chapter 7:
Prior to beginning this renewal process, your spiritual and emotional connection had faded and your bond had weakened. While this will look different for each couple, the simple fact is this: trust has been broken at some level. In most cases, the trust has been broken by both the husband and wife. You trusted your mate to love you fully and selflessly, and he or she fell short of that mark. In more extreme situations, you find yourself coping with betrayal of trust from addiction, abuse, or infidelity. Wherever you are on the spectrum, trust has been violated, and rebuilding it will require time and patience. It won’t be easy, but take heart, trust can be restored.
- Battle your demons – We all have something we must battle as a part of the renewal and healing process. Insecurity, guilt, doubt, fear, and resentment are common obstacles. One of the couples we are walking with recently shared a fear with us: “I’m 46 years old, I just don’t know if it’s even possible for me to change at this point. Things will inevitably slip back into their old patterns.” You have to resist this sort of negative self talk and embrace the reality that each day you can decide who you want to be and how you will behave as an individual and as a member of your marriage team.
- Grieve and process emotion in healthy ways – There is pain in the collective past of your relationship. During the intense focus of the first 40 days, you may find that you swept much of these issues under the proverbial rug. But you can’t ignore them forever. They will either come out unexpectedly and explosively or you can choose to let them out a piece at a time as part of a healthy and constructive healing process. One couple that we mentored last year experienced significant challenges when alcohol was used as a coping mechanism. Another suffered from wild emotional swings when safe, healthy outlets for emotion were not provided. Processing all of the past hurt is crucial and it is an on-going process, because “wounds heal crooked” (see article referenced above).
- Extend grace to one another – Be gracious and understanding with each other as you transition from the intensity and excitement of the first phase of renewal, into a focus upon healing an rebuilding in this second phase. You will both need to extend a lot of grace toward each other as you collectively heal and rebuild. Tammy and I have come to learn that grace, is the universal love language.
Ingredients for Success
Throughout time, humans have elevated reason – our ability to rationalize and make judgement calls regarding good and bad decisions. In Aristotle’s Ethics he describes human beings as rational animals and identifies reason as a uniquely human characteristic. Our ability to justify and rationalize our decision-making is God-given. But dependence upon reason can also get in the way of God’s call for us to love unconditionally.
Human reason is great, but God’s wisdom shames the wise (I Corinthians 1:27). Where we see only failure, He sees a future. Where we see destruction, He sees destiny. In the middle of our mess, He begins a miracle. And so, He calls us to love like He does — unreasonably…[read more]
Two thieves broke into a jewelry store one night, but instead of stealing the jewels they simply switched the price tags. They put high-priced tags on cheap jewelry and low-priced tags on valuable gems. For several weeks no one noticed. People bought cheap jewelry for exorbitant prices and rare jewels for next to nothing.
Sin is expensive
Every decision has a cost
The full cost of my affair
- Integrity – I have always been a fiercely loyal person. Loyal to family, friends, employers, hobbies, churches, etc. But in a moment of weakness, I sold my integrity as quickly as Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. After I sold it once, I bought into the enemies lies that I had ruined everything and I might as well throw in the towel.
- Self-esteem – Worthless. I felt completely worthless. Unworthy of Tammy’s love. Unworthy of God’s calling on my life. My best bet was to cut Tammy and the kids loose and move on so they could heal.
- Stress – I lived a double life for two months. While I was trying to delicately unwind my marriage and let the kids down easy, I was under a terrible amount of stress. I’d never lived a life full of deceit and I don’t recommend it. I was constantly on edge and even developed a habit of grinding my teeth at night.
- Heartache – As our relationship unraveled and I began pushing for divorce, Tammy and the kids were crushed. All six kiddos had been through divorce before. Those old wounds opened right back up, but this time they would be losing their step-siblings that they had grown to love. Tammy was confused, hurt, and frightened about her future and the kids future.
- Distance – My relationship with Tammy and the kids was frayed and distant. I pushed friends away, mentors away, and God away. I was too busy rationalizing my behavior to listen to wise counsel.
- Wounds – I wounded my children and my wife deeply. It took over two months before one of the girls began to trust me again and three more months for another (the third doesn’t really talk, so we aren’t sure). But Tammy has paid the highest price for my infidelity. Nearly two years later and she still has days that she must battle with ghosts from the past. Every day is a little easier, but sometimes we take a step back. Wounds heal, but they heal crooked.
- Trust – Rebuilding trust has proved to be extremely difficult, as you might imagine. A big part of this is that talk is cheap. So we had to move past just talking about rebuilding trust and actually doing it. We have made great strides, but it hasn’t been easy. Throughout the rebuilding process, we have identified eight rules for re-building trust.
- Peace – I robbed us of peace. I wrestle with forgiving myself. Tammy wrestles with trusting me. On occasion Tammy will have an angry outburst. In other cases, a song, movie, or date on the calendar will bring back a flood of painful memories for one or both of us to unpack.
What have you sold too cheaply?
- Those little white lies you tell your spouse make things easier on you at the cost of your integrity.
- Pornography costs you pure, genuine intimacy with your mate.
- Discontentment with what you have or where you live robs you both of peace.
- Manipulation might pay out at first, but it poisons your relationship, sowing seeds of bitterness.
- Dismissing your spouse’s need for sexual intimacy could be more convenient, but it damages his or her self-esteem in the process.
- Harsh words may win an argument, but your emotional bond suffers.