When a Spouse is Addicted to Drugs…

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

This was supposed to be a nice visit to a couple’s house for lunch.  However it turned into a rather uncomfortable setting as we witnessed the troubling transformation of a generally delightful woman.  She had already appeared a little agitated, but her grumbling about how worthless her husband was escalated into her yelling, “shut your face, you worthless piece of  ****.”   I searched for a sign that my husband was ready to leave as much as I was.  The husband, clearly embarrassed, explained that his wife was behaving that way because “that’s how she gets when she’s out of her drugs.”   Ultimately, we stayed a bit longer, attempting to offer some comfort and understanding.

As a respected member of her church, this typically charming woman was the perfect hostess in most situations.  However she had developed a dependency on her prescription pain medication that resulted in her behaving like many others who are

addicted to illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine.  Her craving for relief from the pain and suffering of drug withdrawals dominated her ability to conduct herself rationally.

  • WHY HELP IS NOT SOUGHT

Similar situations are being echoed in many households where a spouse has become addicted to prescription medication.  Unfortunately many of these families are too embarrassed to seek help.  There are also growing numbers of addicts who remain in denial about their struggle with over usage and dependency on their prescribed medication.  I believe that this state of denial is fueled by the fact that their drugs have been initially prescribed by doctors.  However the burden that this type of avoidance places on a relationship can appear to be unbearable.  Unfortunately many couples view divorce as the only real solution.

Although there is awareness in the medical field at large of this growing problem, there is much to be done in order to address it.  A report by Dr. Barbara Ray expresses great concern – especially for the so-called baby boomer generation.  In many cases, these are the older married couples who are battling with prescription drug abuse that has often been initiated through misdiagnoses.

  • UNDERSTANDING THE REAL ISSUES

Dr.  Ray’s report includes the following serious concern:  Clinical reports of substance-related health problems among older adults speak to the dangers of overdose, dangerous combinations of therapeutic drugs, and misdiagnosis of drug-induced mental confusion as early dementia. Misdiagnosis of drug-induced health problems may trigger prescribing of still more drugs. To date, there are no population-based estimates of the size of this problem, but there are increasing indications that drug-related health problems will be at unprecedented levels in the baby boom generation (born from 1946 to 1964) as it begins to reach Medicare eligibility in the year 2012http://www.samhsa.gov/data/aging/chap2.htm

When facing a situation where a spouse is clearly addicted to prescription medication, it may be very difficult to accept this addiction is just as serious as someone who is battling with street drugs.  Quite often the spouses view their partners as people who are simply not taking responsibility for their actions.  Concerned spouses will do much better to realize that these drugs are debilitating and can greatly hinder the ability to have a controlled response.  In other words, their loved ones may be under the influence of the drug in ways that are difficult to assess without professional intervention.

One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is facing the shame that is realized with those who finally admit their addiction.  In his eye opening book about recovery from addiction, Dr. Aaron Jamal gives readers a candid look at the journey of recovery that addicts often face.  As an addictions counselor, Dr. Jamal offers insight into the mindset of many addicts struggling to regain sobriety.  In regards to the often accompanying sense of shame, Dr. Jamal’s book, Preserved for Greatness includes the following: The shame-bound disease/sin that is associated with addiction has as much to do with what the addict is willing to do for the drug of choice as the dangers surrounding the consumption of the drug. Over and over again we heard of the shameful acts that each person participated in for the sake of “getting another hit” and with each of these stories was a clear and obvious attitude of shame.”

  • IN CONCLUSION

During this time, the concerned spouse needs to seek support and strength to help the addicted partner find effective treatment and recovery.  The love and concern for a spouse is needed and may be tested in ways unimaginable.  However, it is important to realize that people generally do not choose to become addicted.  Likewise drug addicts need love, understanding, forgiveness, much prayer and help to make the choice to overcome the addiction.

*If someone you know may be abusing or addicted to prescription drugs, speak up right away. Resources such as SAMHSA’s Treatment Referral Line, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD), or http://www.SAMHSA.gov/treatment are available to help anyone, at any time.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES….

  • Can Marriage survive the effects of substance abuse?

In a small room, a young lady sits with her face in her hands crying. She does not even look up to acknowledge me as I enter the room. She appears afraid and shame ridden. I offered some tissue and waited for some of the emotion to subside before beginning our session.
I asked if she would like a cup of water and she declined but said, “I can’t believe I did …” her voice trails off as she tries to compose herself.  “I really blew it this time… and I deserve whatever happens to me.” she said as she put on her sunglasses. I told her that I would prefer that she not hide her eyes and insisted that she remove her sunglasses. She complied and then looked up at me… “You just don’t know how bad this is…” she said shaking her head in disgust.

“Why don’t you take your time and tell me what you mean.” I said positioning a pad in front of me to take notes. “You can’t tell this to anyone!” She said while appearing to be gripped by fear.  “I would never tell anyone about this or anything else we are about to share. However, I want you to know that this is probably not the first time I have heard something like what you are going to share.  I just don’t want to interrupt you and so I will make notes for me while you speak.” I said.

“Well it’s the first time for me… I can’t do this… this has to stop! I need some help!” she said crying hysterically. “That’s why we are here. Now let’s begin this journey.” I said as we initiated this healing process on her journey of recovery.

This woman was one of more than 1,200 participants we would serve over the next 18 months. However, much of the damage had already been done to their families, marriages, jobs, and all had experienced an encounter with law enforcement for drug related offenses.

What is substance abuse?

Medline’s Medical Encyclopedia defines Substance abuse as the use of illicit drugs or the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are indicated or in a manner or in quantities other than directed.” However, substance abuse is evolving as inhalants and solvents are used for their mood altering effects.

For this article my focus will briefly target the more severe models of abuse that hijack marital relationships and threaten to destroy their way of life and marriage.

Many of the couples that I have tried to help have come as a last attempt to salvage what little is left of their marriage.  There is always multiple perspectives of the extent of the abuse, the depths of its damage, the cost to the family, and consequences that have been shared. Let me clarify that addiction is inherently selfish. People don’t indulge in substance use to help others. It may have many different provocations or reasons to begin. However, once the dependency is active, the addict is solely interested in self-gratification.

  • An Insatiable Appetite for Self Gratification

Self centeredness is among the most destructive elements of the effect of substance abuse on marriage. Couples vow to stay together through sickness and health but addicts don’t require the spouse to engage in their abuse. Many of them grow isolated from their spouse and become committed to a totally different social network of co-addicts. Some suffer from co-occurring dependencies.  Most have crossed moral and ethical lines in order to acquire drugs and to continue feeding their habit or to reach new levels of intensity.  Their pursuits rarely give into reason because much of their reasoning skills have been hijacked by the drug and environment.

In a room filled with self-proclaimed users I asked the question: “How many of you have done things that were unthinkable before you started using?” Everyone in the room raised their hand. I asked a second question: “How many of you did those things with people that were strangers?” Again the room was filled with raised hands. Finally, I asked:“How many of you considered what this might do to your loved ones while you were in the midst of those unthinkable acts?” This time the room had only a few hands that went up. I asked those few that raised their hands; “Did you still choose to get high even though you knew it would hurt your loved ones?” Sadly, they each answered “Yes.”

  •  “I can’t believe I did that”

Regardless of the “drug of choice” each person usually has a story that includes deception, shame, reckless behavior, and escapism. In addition to those dynamics and long before the addict has reached a point of exhausting bank accounts, savings, and family valuables there are often a litany of challenges that occur in the relationship. Often the addict has encountered severe depression as a result of a traumatic experiences such as the loss of a loved one, rape, loss of a job, career ending injury, etc.

Coping with the after effects of those traumatic occurrences without professional guidance and support is far too often a perfect setting for gateway drugs to be introduced. Sometimes even the pharmaceutical solutions are an introduction to this altered existence when they are not taken as prescribed. In other situations, there maybe someone sharing their plight with some peer or friend and the peer says “Have you ever tried…” and before you know it, you are on your way toward opening the door to something that will isolate you from your spouse, your faith, your children, your moral code and anything else of value.

Often the spouse of the substance abuser feels betrayed and deceived once they discover their spouse has a real problem with substance abuse. Some even blame themselves for what happened. Others have considered participating with the spouse rather than lose them to the new social network they have engaged in. Some are in denial because their spouse doesn’t look as bad as the horrible pictures they’ve seen on TV. However, many of the people that I have counseled admit they are even worse than their spouses think they are. They have done things they can’t even mention.

  • Get the help you need!

If this describes you in any way at all you can be encouraged that there is hope for you and your marriage. It will probably not happen without the inclusion of a support system and that will differ based on the type of issues you face and the degree of your dependency.

Personally, I have not witnessed significant levels of sustained sobriety following lengthy seasons of abuse without a combination of Spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical therapeutic assistance.  Holistic models appear to be the most effective. Additionally, many of the models have implemented strategies that are flexible enough to facilitate your healing process without lengthy periods of being isolated from your spouse.  However, the process of resetting the necessary disciplines and boundaries is not an overnight process. It is not just a mental or a physical remedy.

Healing Fractured Lives

Psychospirituality is an alternative method assisting the recovering addict on his/her journey of recovery.   Dr. Margaret Jamal explains the term psychospirituality in her book, Beware of Wolves in the Church, as follows: “The term psycho-spiritual is one that combines the two words- psychological and spiritual.  The psychological stresses of life tend to precede the decision to seek spiritual resolve that is believed to be beyond our personal control.    Psycho –spiritual studies (while still in infancy) indicate that an intersection of psychological treatment with spiritual intervention can produce significantly favorable outcomes.”  Most methods have stopped short of proclaiming promises of healing. If you only define healing as abstaining from the abusive substance and behavior then you are probably not representing the “whole problem.”

What is most important is for you to get help today! Do not procrastinate or put off tapping into resources that are intended to help you. If you are the spouse of someone struggling with this, there are programs that are designed to help you and address the questions and voids that you have been struggling with.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (www.samhsa.gov) is a great resource for people that are seeking solutions for this prevalent issue.  National Institute on Chemical Dependency is also a great source of information and resources. Whatever, your choice, it is best to choose to engage with a support system as quickly as possible. Stop the advancement of this degenerative cancer on your marriage.

You may have to use the leveraged threat of divorce to urge your spouse to seek help. However, be very careful of what and to what extent you include people that are not bound to confidentiality standards. Unfortunately, the stigmatization of those struggling with addiction is very real. It can affect your ability to gain employment, leave your home vulnerable for liabilities and/ or become a weight for your children to bear throughout their school aged years.

Intimacy Beyond Sexual Abuse

Join our online discussion about this topic.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

For years, my family would refer to me as the one “who smells everything.”  From smelling my food before eating it to being able to find the source of foul odors, I have been the one to call.  I finally realized that my keen sense of smell was directly linked to my memories of sexual abuse as a child.  This sensitivity to odors facilitated some of the triggers that occurred while sharing intimacy with my husband.  Without the ability to separate the good from the bad, there were times when our lovemaking crumbled into frustration and tears.  I would experience flashbacks so vivid that I would need to put on my glasses or be in a lighted area so that I could clearly see that it was my husband in front of me.

Other areas of triggers included certain types of touching, certain foods and the one that was most challenging- the timing.  Because I was often awakened from sleep by the man who began molesting me, my husband had to deal with my harsh response to his attempt to wake me up to engage in intimacy.  No matter how gentle his approach, I would often respond startled and sometimes even angry.   My particular issue has been compounded by the fact that my experience with sexual abuse included re-victimizationRe-victimization from child sexual abuse is when someone experiences multiple instances of sexual assaults from various perpetrators at different times.

I express my own encounters with re-victimization from child sexual abuse through adulthood in somewhat graphic detail in my book, “When Girls Don’t Tell.”  I include specific details in my book because my counseling revealed that many women and girls have experienced this without realizing it.  Consequently, their marriages suffer largely due to their not recognizing or acknowledging their own extent of victimization.

The Scriptures teach that we should meditate on whatever is good.  I was not able to do that at first because I did not have enough “good” that was suitable for reflection.  After completing my book, “When Girls Don’t Tell”, I began to experience the relief that comes with being able to confront those issues of abuse that can be haunting and hold your thoughts hostage.

Ultimately, my husband’s patience coupled with my faith in God, helped me to replace the bad memories with new good experiences to fill my thoughts.  Yet I remain aware that recovery from sexual abuse is a journey rather than a destiny.  I believe that couples who recognize this will have a great chance (with the help of the Holy Spirit) with overcoming the painful challenges and enjoying a happy and fruitful marriage.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

During a season of trust and peace, I found myself reaching out to touch my wife in a non-sexual way. WeImage needed to rebuild a level of intimacy that was real and uninfected by the abuse she encountered as a child and later on even as an adult. We had long talks and we laughed out loud at stories of our past. We prayed and we cried. We wrote to each other when talking seemed to fail our attempts at explaining what we felt.

To quiet the noise adding to the stress and challenges of working on our marriage, I would often retreat to my music, sports or writing. Confronting my own fears of being incompetent to help the woman I love became an issue as well. However, with the help of music and our interactive writing I began to refocus and use my God-given talents.

Blessed to be able to write and express our thoughts, we both began to blog and write books. I expressed how proud I was of the incredible courage and strength she showed in sharing her story with the whole world in her book “When Girls Don’t Tell”. Our children and I also assured her that her past had not defined her and that her story was still being written with the best still to come.

We still struggle at times in our communications. There are still times when there appears to be over Imagereactions and outbursts that I cannot explain. At times it appears as though there is an entity translating what is being said into something other than what is intended. Sometimes I fail to be sensitive or attentive enough to address her needs and have to slap myself out of dwelling on my own disappointment. I try to be both empathic and strong while remembering that the constant reassurances that she needs are not evidence of my faults but evidence of the hard work required for this marriage.

I can tell you now without any regrets that the hard work was and is worth it. I am blessed to be in the incredible marriage I have with my wife. I enjoy her verbal guidance that helps me to understand what is going on with my wife. I am improving in my listening skills and constantly pray for wisdom.  However, I am keenly aware that my marriage is not the norm. Due to the vast number of spouses that go through life shrouded in secrecy and shame about the hideous sexual crimes that robbed their innocence and tainted their view of sex, our marriage represents a small minority.

With sexual assaults at alarming rates within our homes, prisons, military and school settings, it is crucial to develop effective strategies about handling the societal impact of this crime with such long term effects. Give considerations to some of the facts surrounding this issue:

About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 100 men responded with “yes” when asked whether they experienced sexual Imagetrauma during their military service. This number only represents veterans that sought services from the V.H.A. Considering the previous statement, it is not difficult to imagine that these numbers probably under represent the extent of this problem.

In our American culture, we place a great premium on men behaving with aggression in sports, military, business, politics and in the protection of his family. However, when that aggression goes awry and turns into violent sexual assaults against family members or peers, it is that same American culture that often crucifies the man. Allow me to clarify that it is not my position to excuse any sexual violence perpetrated against the family or anyone. However, the broad strokes of legal remedies rarely provide strategies that effectively prevent these episodes of assault nor do they treat the offender and victims for the mental disorders they are struggling with afterwards.

ImageWhat is also heartrending is that same aggression has been fostered in many of our daughters that have also become violent and sexual predators as well. One of the fastest growing populations in our prisons today are our young women. These women also make up a large portion of those sexually assaulting and re-victimizing prisoners in state prisons.

Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer reported in a study that “sexual assault crimes committed within our correctional facilities can have devastating consequences for individual victims and for communities far beyond our jails and prisons,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement.

Unfortunately those devastating consequences have contributed to a multitude of married couples that struggle with intimacy issues as a result of sexual abuse.  The scope of that abuse is varied and seriously under-reported.  Additionally, it would be impossible to provide a” one size fits all” solution for this problem. My hope in this article is to provide insight and hope on a very small scale in comparison to the size of this problem.

Having counseled a large number of men and women, I found sexual abuse occurrences almost common Imageplace in the childhood of many of those I served as well as in adulthood of those that served prison terms. Those giving voice to this problem must be amplified in order to provide the appropriate level of resources and strategies aimed at preventing sexual abuse and the long term effects of this trauma.

For the sustainability of our legacy and generations to come, we must strive to provide comprehensive strategies for healing and effective interventions to help these survivors to avert their becoming offenders or self destructive.

Meredith Maran shares in her well written article “When a Sexually Abused Child Weds”
“Untreated sexual abuse,” says Padma Moyer, MFCC, a San Francisco therapist who works with adults survivors of incest, “is a time bomb. Sometimes it ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it. But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion.”

When you add these survivors to the populations of military and/or prison populations it often increases their probability of becoming re-victimized. My wife, Dr. Margaret Jamal, frames this phenomenon in her book “When Girls Don’t Tell” as Revictimization.

Maran also shares that “many women who were abused perpetuate the cycle, not necessarily by molesting their children, but by putting them at risk. “If a female survivor’s feelings and memories remain unconscious,” says Ms. Moyer ,”and she doesn’t examine the family dynamic in which she grew up, she may choose a husband like her perpetrator, and create a family like her own family. In that way, she may inadvertently lay the groundwork for her children to be abused.”

Additionally, Maran profiles this tragic truth: “Many incest survivors have “flashbacks” while making love, says Julie Robbins, LCSW, a therapist specializing in child and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Women who had orgasms while being abused as children may punish their bodies for “enjoying” the abuse, becoming non-orgasmic, obese, or anorexic as adults, she says.”

For some, the whole basis for trusting someone has been shattered and their anger, still unresolved, seems to erupt unprovoked at their spouse. For others, their identities have been shattered to the point that they lack the ability to integrate into social settings without violent outbursts of profanity and behavior that erupts like a nuclear bomb.

Marital Intimacy is facilitated through selflessness. Often the woman or man that was abused has developed patterns of distrust for every partner including themselves. Healing is possible and trust can and must be restored. However,  both require unconditional love and patience. Many require professional help and/or peer group settings to help them address nightmares, flashbacks and identity issues as well.

As a Christian that is extremely grateful for the innumerable amount of answered prayers that my Heavenly Father continues to facilitate,  I recommend prayer as a constant for any strategy to deal with restoring intimacy beyond sexual abuse. Personally, I believe that it is easier to place your hope into your Creator than in people that we often place unrealistic expectations on. God will not disappoint and is the healing balm you need to address this very deeply rooted issue.

http://maketheconnection.net/conditions/military-sexual-trauma

http://www.amazon.com/When-Girls-Dont-Tell-Revictimization/dp/1456599097/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1338128142&sr=8-6

http://www.meredithmaran.com/mag_bride_abused.htm

I Do Me 2 Couples Challenge #4. Guess how your spouse would answer the Trust Quiz.

This challenge is inviting couples  to see how well they know how their spouses feel about trust issues in a marriage.

Each couple will take the How Much Can You Trust Your Spouse? Quiz answering the questions the way they think their spouses would answer.   In other words, wives answer the questions the way they think their husband’s would respond and vice versa.   Try to have some fun with this.  We will invite couples to share their experience on our next I Do Me2 Blog Talk Radio broadcast on Tuesday Night at 8:30 PM CST.

CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED

Broken Trust-How much time is needed to fix it?

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

During a recent live broadcast of our I Do Me 2 Blog Talk Radio (BTR) show, a person in our BTR chat room typed about how trust impacts forgiveness and even sexual relations.  After more discussion, my husband and I realized that this topic really struck a chord with a number of couples.  We received some significant feedback and decided to address the issue of trust in our next blog.

HOW CAN TRUST BE EARNED?

Approaching the topic of trust, I recognized that there was still the need for me to first define what trust means.  I tend to need a little more clarity about a subject that appears to ignite uneasiness when discussed.  This issue of trust certainly appears to be a sore spot in many relationships.  Having stated this, I find it necessary to first declare that I do not agree that trust is earned.  Please read on to learn why.

Morpheus in the Matrix played by Laurence Fishburne.

Every time I hear or read the statement that “trust is earned”, something nags at me as Morpheous (in the Matrix) put it “like a splinter in your brain.”  My experience and observations have led me to believe that people tend to not really understand what trust means to others.  This is exemplified by how often a person responds to a partner with “I thought you trusted me” or “I thought I could trust you.”  It appears that trust is as unique and personal as the one who has it.  With such universal misunderstanding, I doubt that either party in a relationship can truly determine at what point trust is actually earned.  Even in observing someone’s actions, you still lack the knowledge of the purpose, motivation and intent of the heart.

SO MANY  “TRUST” QUESTIONS

How many times have we heard, someone declare (usually after getting busted),  “if you trusted me then…”  while thinking “I don’t agree with that”?  How can someone work to earn something that they do not understand?  How do you know that you have truly earned someone’s trust?  What is the evidence that trust has been earned?  Likewise, how do you know that trust has been broken?  I mean, what if trust was never whole or solid from the beginning of the relationship?  The splinter is getting deeper.

Frankly, I was not too sure about how to define trust, so I went straight to the
cyberspace reservoir of information, known as the Internet.     I ran an online search for the word trust, that returned 1,170,000,000 instances.  After reading each one  (just kidding),  the information overload about trust made the splinter began to grow painful.  From the legal to the emotional, to the logical, the different spins on trust led me back to my first conclusion, which is described in the above paragraph.   So I settled upon first sharing what trust in marriage means, before addressing what to do about breaking and fixing it.

THE TRUST EXPERIMENT

I am reminded of that Trust Experiment where you are told to stand in front of someone, with your back to the person.  You are then instructed to simply fall back, trusting that the person will catch you.  I must admit that I did not always follow logic.  Even if the person was smaller than me and appeared to be weaker, I would close my eyes and try it anyway.  Fortunately, I was never dropped.  But in my mind, it was more about curiosity than trust.  I just wanted to see what the other person was capable of doing.  At the same time, I am certain that I would never try it again if I was dropped and got hurt.

TRUSTING NOT TO BE HURT

I think that it is too much to expect that my spouse will never hurt me.  In our 30 plus years of marriage we have experienced quite a few situations that resulted in our saying and doing things that hurt the other one.  However, I believe that my husband has demonstrated that (in his right mind) he would not intentionally hurt me.  I make the distinction of being in his right mind and intentionally because it is my belief that his love for me produces a desire to protect me from being hurt.    However his wrong, messed up mind might just want to do or say something to defend himself or show me how much I have hurt him.

Likewise, I will admit that there have been times that I felt like I wanted my husband to hurt  and feel some pain in response to my feeling wronged or mistreated in some way.  With this wrong and messed up mind, I intentionally said something or did something that I knew would upset him.    However, he still helps me to feel that he trusts me.   I realize that having confidence in his trust for me greatly influences my trust in him.  (Check out the How Much Can You Trust Your Spouse? Quiz)

EARNING DISTRUST

I am much more confident in people being able to earn distrust than trust.  I see distrust in marriage as when one believes that the spouse is not dependable and not committed to refraining from intentionally inflicting pain and discomfort.  This would certainly qualify for broken trust  in that it is void of being a solid trust.  However, I do not think that there is anything that can be done to truly prove that it is time to trust a person who is viewed us untrustworthy.

I believe that trust is a state of mind held by someone who is voluntarily becoming vulnerable to someone or something.  Trust includes expectation of outcomes and responses that a person believes will occur.  I think people direct their trust to whomever they chose regardless of how much others may lack the evidence that they are trustworthy.   I further believe that people learn to trust rather than accepting that another has earned their trust.  With this in mind, I believe that it is much too difficult to assess whether or not people are actually  projecting their own untrustworthiness onto their spouses.  Perhaps they see something of themselves that makes it impossible for them to imagine that anyone could be trustworthy.  Or maybe they have experienced deep wounds from care givers or former relationships that prevent the ability to give trust to others.  Whatever the hindrance, this could indicate that the trust in their marriage never even had a chance to be broken, because one or both of them never had trust from the beginning.

IN CONCLUSION

There are several areas  in our marriage where I choose to apply my trust.   For me, trust in marriage is believing that my spouse will not intentionally hurt me.  Trust is also believing that I can depend on my spouse when I think that I need support.  Most of all, I trust that he loves me and wants to stay married to me beyond any and every challenge.  He cannot prove this to me because we have not experienced any and every challenge.  However I have learned  that the better I am with reassuring my husband that I trust him, the more he will try to live up to my expectations.  I think that like the Trust Experiment described earlier, sometimes it is best to ignore logic, close your eyes and try it anyway.   And if (or when) the trust is somehow broken to the degree that my husband has earned my distrust, I still believe that I have the (God-given) choice and the control to give my trust to him again at any time.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

STAYING IN MARRIAGE THROUGH BROKEN TRUSTS

Sitting in a small room with the door closed and the blinds drawn closed is a young man staring at his wedding band, asking questions that only God can truly answer. One more sleepless night and the tears continue to flow. His self-contentedness has surrendered to humility. He picks up a pen to  write, but can only write the words; “How long…?”.

Realizing he has no right to dictate the terms or time it takes for his wife to work through the pain he caused, he cries out “Lord! What do I have to do?” He has
prayed fervently and is now confident that God’s mercy has covered him and that God forgives him.  He even believes that his wife has forgiven him for what he did. However, there is this nagging cloud over their home where even in the midst of their intimate moments, there appears to be something that was once familiar but now is being held back.

He murmurs to himself that he was stupid to have broken the promise he broke and must have been insane to do it again. However, the most difficult thing for him to deal with is really not the “what” but “how long”. How long will it take to regain the priceless trust that was once his?

FOR BETTER OR WORSE

In most relationship settings outside of marriage, broken trusts are often a death sentence. However, in marriage, due to the incredible volume and depths of investment and vows there is an inherent motivation to try and recover. Most wedding vows include the statement “for better or for worse” without the couple truly calculating what “worse” might feel like for them. It is a blanket statement that is often used to cover the unimaginable offense. But even if the spouse agrees not to divorce, regaining trust may prove to be a painful journey with volatile progress. Often the lashing out that accompanies a wounded heart provokes a pattern of bitter, verbal exchanges that reminds the offender of what he or she has done repeatedly. Some have expressed the need for retribution in order to convince the offender not to take what happened lightly.

There is no way to actually make up for the events that frame the weight and magnitude of this offense. Additionally, the healing and restoring process is usually undefined and unique to the couple and the situation surrounding the broken trust. However, time is a necessary element of the restoring process. For the injured spouse, letting it go rather than obsessing over what happened is healthier and promotes a better atmosphere for you to heal. The injured spouse must be allowed to express her/his pain and the offending spouse must acknowledge the fact that s/he caused the pain.

For the offender, patience is a required posture. Apologize but remember your injured spouse is likely navigating through a mountain of emotions that conflict with their previous picture of who they believed you were. Those emotions often act like noise that blurs the vision and filters the hearing of your injured spouse. However, emotions like volcanoes erupt and eventually cool off. A remorseful spouse is often willing to listen past the exaggerated words that are framed by anger and disappointment.  Avoid switching into a defensive posture to reduce your sentence. Once the eruption has subsided, set mutual goals that have short-term results.

It is better to not count in minutes, hours or days, but in months and years for this process. It is a slow recovery process toward regaining the sure footed assumptions that often accompany trust-filled relationships. But rejoice and note each step of progress. Remember the blissful mountain from which you fell. However, refrain from requesting a re-assessment of your relationship too soon. You may find that your spouse has not come to the same conclusion as you for the accumulated “brownie points” you believe you have earned. It is better to be patient and earn more than you thought you had than to rush into a review that leaves you woefully off in your self assessment of your progress in earning trust.

When couples calculate the various things that they may have to go through with their spouse, it is difficult to accurately grasp the pain and devastation of broken promises during courting stages. It is only after you have truly placed your trusts and fragile heart in the hands of your spouse that you become vulnerable enough to be totally blindsided by a blow to the gut that leaves you gasping for air and wondering if you can ever recover.

FACING DEVASTATING BREACHES

Infidelity is among the most devastating breaches of trust. However, there are other breaches that also present formidable challenges to move beyond. When a spouse has misused finances through reckless gambling, or investment without the consent of the spouse that results in loss of home, life style, and/or savings preserved for the children’s education that can also be a breech that feels insurmountable.

Among the most difficult breaches of trust I have ever heard of is the one regarding child sexual molestation. This offense is one that crosses so many lines on so many dimensions that even with the help of professionals it is sometimes too difficult to regain even a reasonable level of trust.

REGAINING TRUST

Regaining trust is possible but the injured spouse must be allowed to share their pain. The offender spouse must acknowledge that they caused the pain. Affirm that you know this will be difficult and will take time but that you are committed toward being there through the journey in order to earn the trust back.

If by chance you say something that seems to re-injure your spouse, sincerely apologize for it without defending your motives. Especially through the early times, the injured spouse needs to have their pain validated by you.  If that doesn’t happen, you may find them seeking validation from friends, counselors, pastors, or just about anyone.

For men, it is especially difficult to have their private matters aired in public. There is a much higher probability for recovery when the communication has sustained a respectful level of discretion. Avoid public outbursts that can draw in uninformed bystanders.

IN CONCLUSION

Seek out good counseling while choosing a counselor you mutually decide upon to avoid agitating or giving room for more distrust. A good counselor will use a scalpel like a skilled surgeon to address only what must be resolved for this matter before muddying the waters with other unrelated past issues.

Above all…. Pray, and pray more. There is a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance.