When I confessed my sin of pornography to Star about 15 years ago it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. It was also one of the most painful times for my wife.
She was shocked. She felt like she had just been hit by a truck. She thought I was a sicko. She thought I needed to be admitted for sexual addiction counseling. We had just rebuilt our marriage from a pile of ashes, and now this?
My confession broke trust, exposed insecurities, and shattered any intimacy we had built over the three years before. But I don’t regret it for a second…
Although the truth behind my confession hurt my wife, it eventually resulted in a level of intimacy I don’t believe was possible without my disclosure.
Tim and Stephanie Broersma experienced something similar. I introduced them to you in Part 1 of this post, “Why You Need To Confess Your Sexual Sin Now.” If you haven’t already, please watch their story and read Part 1 before going further.
Tim and I had a chance to sit down a couple of weeks ago to talk about both of our confession experiences with our wives. This 2 part blog is the result.
If you’re struggling with a sexual sin in your life I pray this motivates you to confess now and equips you to confess right.
Confess First To The Foremost – Your sexual sin will offend and hurt many as the truth comes out. But your sin has offended and hurt no one more than the One who has known the truth the entire time. As David confessed his sexual sin with Bathsheba he made this same realization, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” – Psalm 51:4. As you realize your sin is against God alone, and that because of Christ alone, you are completely forgiven, you will be laying the best possible foundation for your personal and relational restoration. Confess your sin to your all-faithful God, who forgives freely and will purify you from the sin that has plagued you.
Don’t Do It Alone – Find someone you can confide in before you confess to your spouse. Although there are principles to follow for your confession, there isn’t an exact formula. Each situation is a little different and requires unique wisdom and consideration. Try to find a friend, pastor, or counselor (typically not a family member) of the same sex who has walked through this before that you sense is equipped to instruct and pray for you on the front end, pray for you during your confession, and be there to care and pray for you AND your spouse after you confess. From start to finish, the confession and healing process should be done in the context of community.
Don’t tell the world – As a general guideline, be willing to share with people who have been directly affected by your sin but not necessarily with everyone who has been affected by your sin. Within this circle, share with people who you trust, who can help you, who can speak hard truth to you, who won’t spread gossip about you, and who will lovingly point you in the right direction regardless of how hard it gets. Use discretion and wisdom with whom you tell (especially with family). Not everyone is equipped to appropriately handle this type of information. Ask God to help you identify who He has already identified and prepared to help you walk through this season.
Run Away From Your Sin – Ephesians 5:3 was a foundational verse for me during my time of recovery, “Let there not even be a hint of sexual immorality.” It left no wiggle room for my seemingly harmless flirtations with my sin in my weak moments. Whatever you’re confessing, ask God to help you stop and RUN in the other direction before you confess. Sever the relationship, get rid of any access to your sin, and let there not even be a hint of what you were previously involved in. (Community, confessing, and turning from your sin won’t in and of itself “cure” you of your struggle. This will likely take time and much help.)
Confess The Extent But Not The Specifics Of Your Sin – This is where so many couples get into trouble. Although there are principles to follow, there is not an exact formula for what this looks like for all situations. The goal of your confession should be to share 100% of the extent of your sin without sharing specifics that will leave any harmful images in your spouse’s mind. For example, “I had an affair” is too little, but “I had an affair and we did…” is too much. “I struggled with pornography” is too little, but “I visited xyz.com” is probably too much. There’s no way for me to give enough examples to cover each and every situation, but the goal should be to share enough of the details that will help your spouse understand the degree of your sin without sharing details that will leave an image in their mind.
Don’t answer every question – Your spouse will have questions, but you shouldn’t answer ones that will do more harm than good. Your spouse will want to know more information than is good for them. Although their curiosity is understandable, I have seen these details make restoration much more difficult. Express understanding and compassion for their inappropriate questions. Express sorrow for being responsible for them having to ask these painful questions. But simultaneously request permission to respectfully not answer those same questions. When disagreements occur, seek help to determine what questions are appropriate.
Take 100% Responsibility – This struggle with sexual sin is your fault. You are responsible. You are to blame. It didn’t happen because of your past. It didn’t happen because you were taken advantage of. It didn’t happen because of something your spouse did. It didn’t happen because you were drunk. It happened because you made a decision to pursue this sinful action. Now, all or some of the previously mentioned factors may have influenced your behavior, but they are not to blame. Your confession should be void of any of the influences of your sin and contain only a humble admission of the cause of your sin…you. There may be a time to discuss some of these secondary factors, but the time is not now.
Pray For Your Spouse’s Heart – What you are getting ready to share with your spouse will hurt them deeply, so pray that the God of all comfort would proactively prepare their heart to receive this difficult truth and respond with Grace.
Prepare For Their Ungodly Response – I wish following these principles would guarantee perfect results. The reality is your spouse might fly off the handle even if you follow this guide to a tee. Prepare for this response. Accept it. Don’t try and correct it. Pray that God would give you the ability to see and respond to your spouse’s hurt underneath any anger they display.
Confession Is Your Only Goal – Although you have been dealing with this sin and preparing for this confession for days or weeks, your spouse is being hit with it all at once. Because of this reality, your only goal is to get the facts on the table and appropriately answer any questions she has (see step #6). Allow your spouse to initiate any steps of reconciliation past this. Your goal is to confess, give them the space they need to process, and possibly comfort them to the degree they allow.
Accept And Prepare For Any Consequences – Your spouse might ask you to leave temporarily, or they might want to leave for a time. Give them permission to make these requests, and even prepare beforehand for this to happen as simply and quickly as possible.
Pick The Right Time, Place, and Environment – Although this is important, don’t let this stand in the way of a “God-appointed” time to confess. When God revealed to me it was time to confess, I obeyed. I believe if I had tried to over-engineer the time, place, and environment my confession might not have happened at all. Having said that, try and make sure you are alone and in a private place. Try and confess at a time when others are conveniently available for help if you or your spouse need it. Finally, get a babysitter for the kids. They don’t need to hear any of your confession or your spouse’s response at this point.
Be Patient With The Process Of Reconciliation – Remember, you are starting the process of healing with your confession. Depending on the degree of your sin and your spouse’s response, this could be a long journey. At some point, you will likely get frustrated with the speed of the process. If you force your spouse to heal fast, they won’t heal right. Don’t let a good day deceive you into thinking everything is fixed. Your spouse will have good days and bad days. ALWAYS be ready for the bad days, and don’t see them as setbacks. See them as opportunities to move further down the road of the healing process.
Reconciliation Is Not Guaranteed – This process will set you up for the best possible chances of reconciliation, but it doesn’t guarantee it. If it did, we wouldn’t need God to step in and work. You have a part to play. Don’t minimize it. But also don’t over-emphasize it. God is the ultimate author and initiator of the reconciliation that you want to see happen. Do your part like everything depends on you, and pray for God to work like everything depends on him.
There is Hope – Regardless of what you’ve done, how you end up confessing to your spouse, how well you follow this guide, or even if you’ve already been caught, there is hope for your personal and relational restoration. This is true based on my personal experience, Tim’s experience, and others, but more importantly it is based on the truth of God’s word:
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
If you’re reading this and you need to confess to your spouse, I’m praying for you as I’m writing this sentence. You’re not alone, and there is hope. Press forward in faith.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.