By Eddie Capparucci, MA, LPC
When a married man gets caught abusing sex, he is immediately faced with two serious challenges. The first is learning to overcome his sexual addiction and work to become a man of sexual integrity. The second challenge is starting to re-building trust with his wife. And for many men, that process can be more difficult than dealing with their own sexual indiscretion.
“I’m trying to get answers because I am feeling alone and unwanted,” said Mary, whose husband Jeff had been engaging in online video chat exchanging sexually explicit pictures and photos with several women. “But instead of giving me answers he gets angry and storms off.”
Jeff’s reaction to his wife’s demands for information is not uncommon. However, he is stalling the healing process by not allowing her to grieve properly. No woman will be able to heal from her husband’s sexual infidelity if she is not given the opportunity to process her emotional pain. Grief experts estimate the time required to grieve a spouse’s unfaithfulness is approximately 12 to 24 months. There can be no true forgiveness if the grieving process is interrupted or stopped.
I recall a couple I saw for one counseling session in which the husband had mandated his wife ask all of her questions over a 3-day period, and after that time, he would forbid her from ever speaking about his affairs. When I told him that grieving doesn’t work that way and she would need more time and he would need to be patient and understanding, he stood up and said he heard enough and left the room leaving his wife behind in tears.
While very few men are that hard-headed in dealing with their hurting spouse, many do lack the patience to allow the wife to do the work she needs to accomplish to heal.
It is critical for husbands to develop empathy for their wives and put themselves in her place so they can feel her pain. In order to do that men must first get out of their own heads and stop focusing on the shame and guilt they feel, which is the reason for wanting to shut down her grieving. Instead they must adopt the Fruit of the Spirit when dealing with a hurting spouse.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
As men who have abused sex, we have caused a great deal of sorrow and upheaval in the lives of our wives. As we move forward in working to gain sexual integrity, we must understand we will lose the war if we do not accept the second challenge of helping our wives heal by allowing them to grieve properly.