God continues to refine our methods, but here is what we believe He has shown us is the ideal way to begin the process. The couple typically comes to us because they are in crisis over the husband’s struggle with different forms of sexual acting out and of course deception. They have often met with other pastors, counselors and others who have attempted to guide them. Sometimes that guidance is helpful, unfortunately, many times it has been counterproductive. By the time they get to us, the couple and especially the wife is usually at her wits end without have any idea what to do with her pain, what to ask of him, or what she can believe.
In the first session, We allow both husband and wife to describe where they are. The husband usually tells a little about his history with sexual sin. The wife typically describes how hurt she felt the first time she became aware of the problem, but how she was able to forgive and move on when he promised he wouldn’t do it again. She then describes the many times and ways she found out the problem was still ongoing as well as her pain from his many deceptions and even outright lies. She will often speak of his inability to connect to her and/or their children and describe her own struggle of believing Satan’s lie that it is somehow her fault.
We then explain our ministry. We show the husband the New Hope For Sexual Integrity manual and describe to him, in his wife’s presence, the process we have found powerful for recovery. We emphasize the absolute importance of attending groups and making relational connections with others in recovery.
We talk frankly with him about the absolute necessity of coming clean with his wife. He has hurt her in many ways and we believe he owes her the truth regardless of what happens with the marriage. We explain our position that we believe a man needs to confess the breadth and depth of his sexual sins against her, but that he should not burden her with the specifics. The reason for full disclosure is, if there is going to be true intimacy, there must first be forgiveness and that forgiveness must be complete. After all, if you owed someone $10,000 but they were misinformed and only thought it was $1,000, then even if they said, “I forgive your debt against me,” you would know there was still $9,000 outstanding. If down the road, they learned of the additional debt, they would most certainly feel betrayed. This is how most wives feel when they forgive their husbands only to discover later that what they had only forgiven was only a small part of the actual debt against her.
We then explain that while “full disclosure” is essential, it shouldn’t happen today. The reason is because the husband needs time to work through his own history to clearly see the depth of his sin. To help him do that, I point him to two resources. The first is a pair of online assessments called the “Sexual Dependency Inventory” (SDI) and the “Post Traumatic Stress Index.” (PTSI-R) These assessments are from the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) and can only be given and interpreted by individuals in their certification program. Darrell has recently completed module 1 which includes training in these assessments. The assessments cost $150 and while we do not require them, we highly encourage individuals struggling to take them as they provide a huge head start on the recovery process.
The second resource, which is required for full disclosure, is the “Full Sexual History Inventory” from chapter three of New Hope For Sexual Integrity. We instruct the husband to work through it as well as the chapter on “Telling Your Wife About Your Struggle.”
We share a few other things, including pointing the wife to a wives’ recovery group and giving her some basic things to look for to know if she has reason to hope things can be different this time. We then encourage the husband to set up a follow up appointment to talk through his SDI, PTSI and his “Full Sexual History Inventory.” Finally, we pray with and for the couple for God’s redeeming work in their lives individually and as a couple.
Ideally, the husband will make follow up appointments as soon as possible. He will have done his homework which allows us to help him determine exactly what he still needs to confess to his wife. When the husband has done the needed preparation work, we set a second couples session where the husband fully discloses and confesses his sins against her.
We then instruct the wife to take his disclosure to the Father. We encourage her to ask God to show her if it is indeed the whole truth or if there are still hidden things. We believe our Heavenly Father places a huge value on truth so we trust He will give the wife a sense of peace (something the enemy of our souls never provides) if truth is on the table. If the wife is not able to find peace, then further sessions are needed to try to learn if the lack of peace is the result of how deeply she has been wounded or because the husband still has deceptions that need to be cleared.
Yes, the wife is hurt by further disclosures. However, once she believes she knows the truth and knows what she needs to forgive, the relief is often evident and the couple has a new foundation of truth on which they can begin rebuilding their marriage. There is still much work to be done and only time will tell if they will make it. However, it is a great blessing when a wife believes she knows truth as it allows her deep seeded fear of “is there more?” to finally begin to slip away, and it helps her make more sense out the reality in which she has been living.