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.
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.
Kyle and Tammy’s Marriage Testimony: We sat down and talked with Michelle Bentham and Mindy Dawn, hosts of Bring IT Radio. They asked us questions about our marriage testimony, family, and our ministry. We shared our story – how we got together, how we fell apart, and how God’s love and grace redeemed our mess of a marriage.
Discussion topics included the following:
- The stress of blending a family
- How sin clouds your judgement
- Lies that people believe about their marriage
- Unconditional love, repentance, and forgiveness
- How to rebuild trust
- How to save your marriage
- Plus, our up-coming book – The Phoenix Marriage
We hope that your marriage is blessed by our story and the truth of God’s redeeming and healing love. Your marriage testimony could be next.
Edited and shared with permission of Bring IT Radio.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence lied to you.
Happiness isn’t something you pursue. It’s something you create.
I’ve tried to pursue happiness most of my life
In my twenties, I changed jobs every six months. I moved apartments constantly. I was always looking for the next hobby / project / activity to throw myself into. I have spent the majority of my adulthood chasing happiness in one form or another.
It took years before I stopped chasing happiness, but not before I made the biggest mistake of my life…
Trust. Its the cornerstone of any relationship. It holds soldiers together in foxholes and knits hearts together in marriage. The bond of trust is sacred and precious – until it’s broken.
What do you do when you cross the line that you swore you would never cross? How do you continue in a relationship when your spouse breaks your heart, trampling on the vows he or she promised to keep? Whether the result of infidelity, abuse, addiction, or neglect, the loss of trust in a relationship is devastating. And while the prospect of a bright future together looks dim, there is hope.
Rebuilding trust in your marriage is hard, because wounds heal crooked. My wife and I are 18 months into our own journey of renewal. Along the way, we have been blessed to walk alongside other couples. Some are further down the road than we are and others have just recently begun their renewal process. Through our renewal process and that of others, we have gleaned eight rules for rebuilding trust in your marriage.
Eight Rules for Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage
Many of these rules apply equally to both parties, while others are specific to the spouse that is working to rebuild the trust (the trust healer) or the spouse that is learning to trust again (the hurting spouse).
- Be patient (both of you) – There is no timetable for rebuilding trust. Forgiveness and trust are very personal matters and require a sufficient and unknown amount of time to accomplish. Don’t rush this process.
- Be open (both of you) – Communicate early (before a problem can escalate) and often (as frequently as an issue occurs). Share your hearts with one another and be vulnerable in expressing your doubts and fears.
- Be reliable (trust healer) – Under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t make hasty, unrealistic commitments. Instead, let your word be your bond and overwhelm your spouse with your consistency and predictability.
- Be humble (trust healer) – Pride is the enemy of trust. You must empty yourself of ego and be willing to take any measures necessary to heal the brokenness (formal apologies, schedule changes, job changes, routine changes, etc.).
- Be receptive (hurting spouse) – You must be receptive to the work that God wants to do in your heart. You also need to be open to receiving love from your spouse and accept his or her efforts to demonstrate trustworthiness.
- Be understanding (trust healer) – Recognize that your spouse is hurt and those wounds will take time to heal. Throughout the healing process, be prepared to provide constant reassurance. Furthermore, the healing process may go in cycles. There will be good days and bad days, but be compassionate and understanding throughout.
- Be courageous (both of you) – It is tempting to give into fear and doubt, to assume that one or both of your will break the trust again. It is tempting to believe that the outlook is hopeless. Resist all of this negativity. Be optimistic and courageous.
- Be expectant (both of you) – Expect God to reveal Himself powerfully. Put your faith in Him and expect that He will meet both of you more than half-way. You aren’t in this alone. The God of Heaven is in your corner and will bless your marriage with the peace and understanding you need to re-establish confidence.
Once trust has been broken, it is difficult – but not impossible – to restore. As Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage is Tricky
Once trust has been broken by one or both of you, you’ll find yourselves caught in a colossal “catch-22” scenario. On the one hand, trust has been broken and is in desperate need of restoration. On the other hand, the primary means of rebuilding trust is to use words. When your words no longer carry weight, how can you possibly use them to repair the damaged trust?
As I discussed in a previous post, when you realize that talk is cheap, you must resort to demonstrating your love and commitment through action.
Actions elegantly and clearly express your heart. By their very nature, they cannot lie. Sacrificial love can be demonstrated daily. Honor can be given through your actions. Day by day and week by week trust can be rebuild through acts of love, honor, and sacrifice. In time, words can once again regain power. But that must be earned.
Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage is Worth It
It breaks my heart that you marriage is in need of renewal. Loss of trust is devastating and rebuilding that trust is a very hard road. But take heart, because it’s worth it. Your marriage can be made new again. Like scar tissue forming over a wound, the end result might be messy but it will be stronger than it was before. Marriage renewal isn’t just about surviving, but about thriving. Tammy and I have never been so close or felt so hopeful about the road ahead. The bond of trust can be rebuilt in your marriage, too. Your best days are together are yet to come.
The Phoenix Marriage– Your most important earthly relationship can be restored, renewed, and reborn.
God makes beauty out of ashes.
To be among the first to know when the book is released, join our Marriage Booster newsletter.
When Gary Chapman released his book, The Five Love Languages, it revolutionized how we think and talk about relationships. The concept of a “love language” quickly resonated with couples, pastors, and counselors around the globe. Over nearly two decades since the release of that seminal book, discussing your own love language and your spouse’s language has become common place. Unfortunately, the discussion surrounding love languages has tended to veer toward selfish indulgence, rather than unconditional acceptance.
The Language of Love
What we learn through the lens of love languages is that we experience love differently. While working hard for the family might be an expression of love for one person (act of service), it may not resonate with a spouse that primarily experiences love verbally (words of affirmation). Thus, it is important I learn to speak love in a way that my wife understands. This is superb insight, but it has a tendency to put the emphasis upon adapting ourselves to meet each others needs. This misses the mark. As important as it is to express love in a way that your husband or wife can understand, it is more important that you practice the universal love language.
The Universal Love Language
We each speak love a bit differently. Love is experienced as a combination of the five languages, with a strong preference for one or two. But there is a universal language of love that transcends all five. Grace.
Throughout God’s love story with the nation of Israel, there is a consistent thread of love – His grace.
From the parables of Jesus to the conversion of Paul, a common chorus of love rings out – His grace.
Gracious love delivered Israel repeatedly from their enemies.
Gracious love forgave Peter when he denied Christ three times.
Gracious love led Jesus to the cross to buy your freedom.
You might lean toward the love language of affection or quality time. Your mate might fluently speak words of affirmation or effortlessly perform acts of service. But the universal love language that we all understand…is grace.
The concept of a love language isn’t just about learning to love each other better. It’s also about graciously accepting your mate when you don’t feel loved.
Affection is my primary love language. I am well-known for my bear hugs and I have raised my children to be very comfortable with giving and receiving affection. Tammy, on the other hand, is not nearly as fluent in the language of affection. During Marriage 1.0 (our relationship prior to The Fall), this language gap was a significant source of friction for us. While she was constantly demonstrating love through acts of service and quality time, none of that felt like love to me. As God has redeemed our relationship in Marriage 2.0, what has emerged from the ashes is a bond rooted in grace.
My wife diligently works to speak my language of affection, but she doesn’t always hit the mark. Likewise, I fall short in speaking her language of quality time and words of affirmation. What we have learned through the process of healing and marriage renewal is that the gap between my expression of love and her expression of love is filled by the universal language of grace.
- Your mate fails to affectionately love you – give grace.
- You are longing to hear words of affirmation from your spouse – give grace.
- Time pressures rob you two of quality time together – give grace.
- It’s been a while since you’ve received loving gifts – give grace.
- Your mate has fallen short in demonstrating love through acts of service – give grace.
Grace is a balm for the heart, purely expressing love when words and actions fail to suffice.
I’m not suggesting that you settle for a loveless relationship. Communicate openly with your spouse. Freely share with each other how you most clearly experience love and then work hard to meet each other’s needs. But realize that you each will short of demonstrating that love consistently. When that happens, avoid the temptation to feel bitterness or keep some sort of ridiculous ledger of loving deposits in your mind. Instead, fill the void you experience with the grace and love that you have so freely received from your Heavenly Father. Your mate deserves no less.
When my wife and I first met, I was attracted to her personality. I loved her outlook on life and I loved the way that she made me feel when I was with her. I was drawn to her tender heart, enchanted by her great sense of humor, and of course magnetized by our chemistry. I grew to love her based upon these amazing qualities and the guidance of my wise Heavenly Father.
At some point in those first several months, a change occurred. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but my feelings for Tammy matured into an unconditional love. I ceased to care for her based upon how I felt when I was around her. Instead, I chose to love her for who she is and for the special place in my heart that she had taken up residence.
Unconditional love, held hostage by conditional hearts
Within a couple years, the pressures of blending a family and fueling a career began to take their toll on our lives. Stress robbed us of quality time, intimacy, and peace. We still loved each other, but the warm cloak of closeness and tenderness we once enjoyed had become threadbare. An overall selfishness and busyness overshadowed our home.
Did we love each other? Absolutely! We never stopped loving each other. Was love experienced? Was it FELT? Intermittently. Our love for one another was still unconditional, but our demonstration of that love had become very conditional. We handed out loving deposits as if they were a scarce resource that needed to be hoarded. Acts of love and kindness were exchanged based upon mood, stress, and the relative degree of tension or peace in our home. Our unconditional love was held hostage and sparingly demonstrated by self-absorbed, conditional hearts.
Love without boundaries
For those familiar with our story, things got worse before they got better. We came to the brink of divorce before recommitting to God, each other, and our family. A critical part of that renewal involved learning to demonstrate love without boundaries, rules, or conditions.
Early in our renewal process, we attended a weekend marriage conference from Intimate Life Ministries. We learned so much that weekend and truly grew as a couple. One of the exercises walks you through a visualization of seeing your mate as a child of God rather than as your spouse. This was a profound and life-altering experience for us both. In doing so, I learned to love my wife — on one condition.
Unconditional love — on one condition
Loving unconditionally is hard. Some days you just don’t feel loving toward your spouse at all. The epiphany comes when you stop attaching your love to how you feel. Feelings are capricious and unpredictable. My wife’s identity in Christ, on the other hand, is constant. I love my wife because He loved her first.
The one and only condition for my love is that she is a unique creation of my loving Heavenly Father. That identity makes her lovable. That relationship makes her worthy. God knew her before she was born (Psalm 139:13). Before she had a belly button, God had a purpose for her life (Jeremiah 1:5; 29:11). She was God’s child before she was my wife. The single and sufficient condition for my love, is that she is His daughter.
She deserved love and honor long before I ever proposed. It just took me a few years to wake up and realize it.
Words are tricky
- You try to express how you are feeling, but it comes out wrong, perhaps hurting your spouse.
- In a moment of frustration you carelessly launch a volley of painful words at your mate.
- You construct a web of lies with words in order to manipulate the relationship or hide your sin.
Actions are clear
You will know them by their fruits
- Am I behaving in a loving manner?
- Do you see me putting your needs and our family’s needs first?
- When I engage you, do you experience love and respect?
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Last week was difficult for my wife. She was struggling more or less the entire week with doubts, fears, and unwelcome reminders of pain from our past. Worst of all? I missed it.
How did I miss it?
Tammy needed me to come alongside her and provide spiritual and emotional support to wage a battle in her mind, and I missed it. How, might you imagine, could I miss such a thing?
That’s what happens when you don’t talk to each other!
Talk to each other? We talk daily. We pray daily. We are each other’s best friend and have cultivated a very close relationship. We text each other constantly, chat online throughout the day, and talk to each other on the phone. Lack of communication was hardly the reason I missed my wife’s battle.
OK, so you talked, but you weren’t really listening.
That’s certainly a possibility. I have been known to “nod knowingly” while being otherwise engaged in my brain. Last week, however, this wasn’t the case at all. We talked daily and I DID listen. I was very much aware on a day-to-day basis that my bride was encountering challenges. Each time she shared, I offered support and encouragement as a good husband and friend should do.
You probably offered solutions instead of support.
Good thinking. Men commonly fall into the trap of attempting to solve a problem for their wife rather than lending an ear and being supportive. Chalk it up to having a marriage counselor for a father and being a student of communication and relationships for much of my life, but I didn’t succumb to this common pitfall! I did not try to ‘fix’ the situation for her.
I missed the forest!
Very simply, I was aware of and dealt with the trees in my wife’s heart last week. But I completely missed the forest! Each day I was aware of challenges that she experienced and I dutifully supported her to the best of my ability. The problem is that I didn’t recognize the pattern. It wasn’t until the end of the week that I put all of the pieces together and realized that she was feeling attacked mentally and spiritually almost every day!
On Friday, I sat down with a couple of Christian brothers to share our respective weeks and how we could pray for one another. I began to describe my week and it all clicked into place! I realized that Tammy hadn’t just had a rough day or two, but that nearly every day that week she had been waging a mental battle against doubt, fear, and pain. As I posted a couple weeks ago, wounds heal crooked. I have come to accept that it isn’t a smooth or predictable process. Consequently, I eagerly lent a sympathetic ear to my lovely wife, but I missed the bigger picture.
Last week, Tammy needed more from me than just a sympathetic ear or a comforting shoulder. She needed more than a husband who was available to be supportive and encouraging. She needed a champion. She needed for me to roll up my sleeves and tackle these painful memories and looming fears directly and completely. She was experiencing a chronic episode of doubt and fear that I was treating as acute, isolated obstacles.
Deal with the forest AND the trees
The Trees: Communication in your relationship is critical to building intimacy. You need to talk every day and be aware of the highs and lows that each of you is experiencing.
The Forest: Your relationship also needs perspective. You and your spouse need to take time (weekly, monthly, etc.) to look at your relationship and your family dynamics from a broader perspective. Identify trends, recognize patterns, and put your heads together to deal with opportunities and threats that you uncover.
Once I recognized the broader forest of challenges that my bride was wrestling with, I sprung into action. I made a concerted and comprehensive effort to come alongside her heart and wage a war against the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that was plaguing her mind with lies.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, – II Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)
Our conversations dragged. Tension filled the room. Affection had become hit or miss. After three years together, our marriage had degraded into a cold and distant shell of what it once had been. The stress and pressure of blending a family, building a house, and traveling for work had robbed us of joy and crippled our intimacy.
Then, at the start of 2013 we tried something new in the bedroom and it radically changed our relationship, saving our marriage.
Our Recipe for Marital Intimacy
My wife and I put together a simple, four-step recipe for heating up our relationship:
- Tuck the kids into bed
- Close the door to our bedroom
- Spend quality time together cuddling, watching TV, etc.
- Then the magic starts….we pray together
At first our prayers were out of desperation, as we worked to repair the rubble of our marriage. In time, our prayers transformed to become more focused on our family, our future, and eventually on our mission as a couple.
The Power of Prayer
- Prayer for healing of past hurts
- Gratitude for God’s redemption of our mess
- We have sought wisdom and a clear vision for our future as a couple and a family
- Prayer for peace during hard times
- Strength to overcome the weight of guilt from past mistakes
- Prayer has revealed new levels of intimacy
- Fear is crushed and worry is obliterated through the power of prayer
- Prayer draws us closer to each other by drawing us closer to God
Prayer has dramatically changed the fabric of our marriage. It has created a daily opportunity for us to stop, take stock of our lives, and connect in the most authentic and genuine way possible. It connects us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, knitting our hearts and minds together in a shared vision of our home.
The Power of Prayer
Sixteen months later, we still pray daily and the difference is dramatic. We cherish our conversations. We are relaxed and at peace around each other. Our affection is warm and natural. It’s taken a lot of work to rebuild our relationship; but nothing has been a bigger contribution to that healing process than our commitment to pray together every night.
The Phoenix Marriage– Your most important earthly relationship can be restored, renewed, and reborn.
God creates beauty out of ashes.
To be among the first to know when the book is released, join our Marriage Booster newsletter.