Restoring a Marriage
About the Guest
How do you restore a marriage damaged by sexual addiction? Harry Schaumburg, a Christian counselor who has spent the last 30 years pointing people away from sexual sin to restored intimacy with God and others, tells husbands and wives how to develop trust again after sexual sin has invaded a marriage.
How do you restore a marriage damaged by sexual addiction?
Restoring a Marriage
Harry: That is the “line in the sand” when men, godly men in leadership within the church, come to that man and say, “When are you going to be a man? When are you going to step up? When are you going to really love your wife as Christ loved the church?” That is something that really needs to be lived in our masculinity as men. I think other men need to call men to accountability at that level. Now, I think that if a woman says to a man, “When are you going to be a man?” It can sound like a mother.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We will talk today about what spouses and friends can do and ought not try to do in helping someone be set free from bondage to sexual sin.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we have been trying to spend some time here this week (and I should just mention again that this is a subject that parents may want to determine if they would like their younger children to be in the room while we are having this conversation because we are) talking about what happens when sexual sin is present, in a marriage relationship particularly. I use the term of an earthquake or an explosion going off in a marriage when something like this is uncovered. I think for a lot of people, you look at this and you wonder, “Can what has been damaged be repaired when there has been significant sexual sin taking place?”
Dennis: Yes. Just you describing that, Bob, reminds me of a private post on my wall on Facebook. I am not able to respond to every post, every question that people ask me—there are simply too many of them—but let me introduce our guest here real quickly and then I want to read this post and have him respond to it. I want to share with our listeners what I said in response to this.
Dr. Harry Schaumburg joins us again on FamilyLife Today. He is the author of Undefiled, which is subtitled Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships. He is a counselor, an author, a speaker, lives in the Colorado Springs area, and he and his wife have been married for 41 years. Harry, welcome back.
Harry: It is good to be here again because we are dealing with something that is very important to all of us.
Dennis: It really is. Let me read you this post on my Facebook wall. “Dennis, you don’t know me but I want to reach out to you because you are an expert on relationships. I have hurt my wife’s heart tremendously and now fear losing her. She found porn for the second time on our computer where I have been. She is very upset and is not speaking to me. She sent me a text today and she hates her life and wants me to sell the house. I am truly remorseful and am not ready to give up on my marriage.” He goes on to tell about a ministry he has to other married couples in their local church. He said, “Help. Do you have any?”
I wrote him back. Here is what I wrote him back. Again, Facebook is by no means a thorough realm to address needs like this; but this is what I said to him, “Without knowing all the details, I can only give you general advice:
Number 1: Go to the elder board of your church and confess your history and present sin. Then repent and come clean. Secondly, place yourself under the authority of two or three elders who will be appointed by that elder board to help you begin to deal with your sin, pray with you and for you, and establish an accountability process for the next couple of years for you.
Third, ask those men to meet with your wife and see if they are able to come up with a 6- or 12-month emergency game plan that might save your marriage. And lastly: Fully repent with your wife and keep repenting, asking God to give you courage and faith to show your wife real love. Then I want you to write me in six months and tell me how it is going.”
Now in this electronic age, I have to say there is a side of me that doesn’t even want to attempt something on Facebook that is so tragic and has so many ramifications; but tell me where I have gone wrong here in what I have written or where I am spot on, and what would you say to this young man in order to deal with this sin he is facing in his life?
Harry: Dennis, I think you are right on target. I think that is exactly what needs to be said to a man in that situation. I think if I was to emphasize something in addition, and I think you implied it very strongly, but I think we need to say, “There really is hope.”
As Bob pointed out, this is like an earthquake. I call it a nuclear meltdown because the radiation fallout for years to come is enough to kill you—in a marriage. In that kind of devastation, we really, really have to believe and know that there is a God. That is why we wrote this book Undefiled. It has taken 18 years of working with hundreds and hundreds of people, couples just like the one you are communicating with, and saying, “God can really change the heart. God can change the behavior—it can heal the marriage.”
I really believe because we have seen it for 18 years. I believe that you can even have a more godly marriage and a stronger marriage in this kind of devastation, even though that person feels absolutely hopeless right now.
Bob: Harry, there are a lot of areas in a marriage where trust can be violated. You can violate trust around financial areas, around raising the kids, around just your word—where you said you were going to be and you weren’t there. When trust is violated in the area of our sexual relationship, whether it is through pornography or adultery, there is something that is more central, more core, deeper about that, than any other trust violation; isn’t there?
Harry: Yes, I refer to it as trust being shattered. If you take a glass and slam it down on the concrete, you shatter it. How in the world do you put that glass back together again? That is what we are talking about. How do you develop trust again? I think if you work directly at trusting, you are not on target.
Let me explain what I mean by that. You do all the things you are supposed to do, you keep yourself accountable, and you put Covenant Eyes on your computer. You know, you get people asking you hard questions and you keep reporting that you are doing well. That can be a performance; that can be a behavioral level. How do you trust that?
Here’s the catch: If for 20 years a woman has not known about the secret sexual sin, the first question of mistrust is, “How do I know if he goes back to doing it again?” Here is the issue of trust, then. Can we trust what God has done in a person? What we teach in our counseling program is, “Don’t trust in: a blind kind of way, hopeful in putting your best face forward, let’s believe that something can be better—a positive kind of attitude.”
Dennis: Or maybe in an enabling way where you actually believe too much in the other person, right?
Harry: Well, yes. Why shouldn’t we say, “Hey, you know, since you lied to me for 20 years, how can I trust you again?” There is validity to that statement, but not with resentment and bitterness. So if we are going to go forward in a relationship, I think there has to be real concern about the mistrust leading to suspicion, resentment, and bitterness.
On the part of building the relationship again, it is a simple concept that we can miss the truth and the power of God in sexual redemption. That is, we need to trust what God has done in this person. It goes back to what we said before about a person being completely different.
If a man looks at his wife and says, “I am not looking at pornography;” “I have discontinued the affair.” A man can look right into his wife’s eyes and lie. They have been doing it for 20 years. They can continue to do it. This wife goes, “Well, how can I trust?”
Is he becoming a different man?—meaning that the whole self-centeredness of his nature, his approach to relationship with her, even his approach to his children, to material things, to his spiritual life. Can we see something completely different about this person? Meaning it is the work of God, and I can trust that—not just a behavioral management.
Bob: Let’s say a wife became aware six months ago that her husband was involved in some kind of sexual sin; he was looking at pornography on the internet or he had been involved in an affair. The wife hears her husband. He says, “I am sorry. I want to rebuild trust. I am going to change. I’ll get some accountability. I’ll follow Dennis’ advice.”
What I hear you saying is, “What the wife really needs to be looking for is, ‘Is this man becoming a different person?’—not just, ‘Am I not seeing the behavior, but am I seeing a manifestation of growth in godliness in every aspect of his life?’”
Dennis: I think what Bob wants to ask on behalf of that wife who has been betrayed here, not once but twice now, at least in this Facebook posting--he wants to help a wife know, “What does a repenting husband look like?” Unpack that.
Harry: I think a repenting husband is a husband who in all the different areas she is so very, very familiar with, this man is not moving in a direction to take care of himself, but he is learning to take care of her. He is learning to cherish her.
This is not a technique that Dennis Rainey or Bob Lepine or Harry Schaumburg is teaching this man. This is a transformation on the inside, in his own heart, where he is expressing, if you will, the fruit of the Spirit. He is expressing the fruit of repentance so that she goes, “You know there is something different about this guy.” On the outside—people looking in who are not in this marriage—they wouldn’t even see the differences because the wife is intimately aware of where this man lives for himself. She is seeing these subtle shifts and changes in his attitude.
Dennis: And to the wife who is seeing the opposite? I mean, he has mouthed repentance; he said the words…
Harry: It is a false repentance.
Dennis: How is she to respond to that?
Harry: I think we are back to the wife who has really got to say, “What does God call me to do in terms of being a godly wife who can present and offer something in my own being and in my own femininity and who I am as a godly woman that is more appealing to the inherent nature of a man created in the image of God?” She can say, “I can be that gentle, quiet woman—that 1 Peter 3 woman where he can see something in me that he is drawn to.”
I think when a woman is dealing with a man who has a hard heart and is resisting the truth, I think that we draw one another, not just to ourselves, but we draw one another to Christ. What can she be that is appealing to him, to invite him, and to pull him toward the truth?
Bob: Would you ever counsel a woman to maybe separate for a while until he can get his act together and show some demonstration that he is serious about dealing with this issue?
Dennis: I’ll add a little different flavor to what Bob said. Let’s go back to my advice to this gentleman on Facebook. Maybe, “Go to the elder board of your church because he is going to church and acts like he is living as a Christian and has false piety.” Would you advise a woman at that point to call a couple of the elders and engage them in her marriage?
Harry: I think if you have a man who is resisting help—call it a man who wants to live in his sexual sin and is blatantly telling his wife, “Look, you know, the people at church might not think this is a good thing; but, you know, this is not what you are making it out to be. I don’t really have a problem.”
I think she can go to her elders, godly men who would be willing to confront him as a man and literally sit him down and say, “Hey, here is the information; here is the evidence.” Help him see the problem by challenging him and confronting him.
Dennis: So back to Bob’s question. There really is a time for a woman to “draw a line in the sand” and call the man to step up? I am not talking about divorce, now.
Harry: Right. The line in the sand is saying, “When are you going to be a man?” Now, I think if a woman says to a man, “When are you going to be a man?”, it can sound like a mother; but when men, godly men in leadership within the church, come to that man and say, “When are you going to be a man?”
I have often said that to people in counseling, “When are you going to be a man? When are you going to step up? When are you going to really love your wife as Christ loved the church? That is not a little phrase in the Bible that we can ignored. That is something that really needs to be lived in our masculinity as men.”
I think other men need to call men to accountability at that level. Wives need to have a place where they can go in terms of leadership—elders in the church and say, “Hey, I need help here. My husband is doing this, and he won’t stop.” That is the line in the sand.
On the question of separation, I take a very, very narrow view. I would say, “You separate when there is physical abuse.” Until then, “Have him sleep in the guest room; have him sleep in the basement; maybe the garage if it is a warm climate.” To kick him out of the house, I think, there are a lot of problems with that that we just have failed to really identify. One is that the guy becomes so full of his self-pity that he goes out and does something worse.
Dennis: It justifies worse behavior.
Bob: You talked about somebody who had been unfaithful with more than 100 women. Can there be restoration for that kind of shattered glass?
Harry: That man and his wife have been since then married over 15 years, continuing on and growing in the relationship, growing spiritually. So, yes, there can be a real healing of that marriage and, I think, even a stronger marriage.
Here’s what I hear in terms of stronger marriage, Bob. You hear the wife saying, “My husband is a different man,” when you ask, “How are you doing?” I think that reflects a deeper change. Then I have heard wives also say, “I would never change the past if it meant I would lose what I now have.”
So you take that nightmare of discovering a sexual sin, which at the time is absolutely devastating. In two or three years down the road, that same woman who wept in my counseling office over the horror of what her husband has done, is saying to me and looking me in the eye, “Harry, I would never change what happened three years ago if it meant I would now lose what I have with the Lord and what I have with my husband.” That is what we are talking about in terms of real hope and real change.
Dennis: The gains that were realized through the loss and the betrayal were worth it.
Dennis: That is pretty powerful.
Harry: That is powerful. The gospel is powerful. Isn’t that a novel idea?
Dennis: I keep looking at the shattered glass on the floor. Anybody who has ever seen a glass drop on a concrete floor knows it doesn’t break into pieces but into slivers. That is about as hopeless a picture as I can imagine. Yet, what you are saying is, “Because Christ died on the cross for our selfishness, our sins, was buried on the third day, rose again, and because He defeated death, because He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father, He can raise a dead marriage.”
Bob: He can put the shattered pieces back together.
Dennis: He can get all those fragments and put something together, what you are saying, is far more magnificent than what was dropped on the floor in the first place.
Harry: And maybe would never have happened if it hadn’t been dropped on the floor in the first place because they would have gone on living happily ever after, believing that everything was okay, and living more like roommates—than in a deeper real intimacy in their marriage—spiritually shallow—you know attending church regularly but not having the real power of God demonstrated in their own lives.
Dennis: I don’t do this often but I feel like we need to have a brief prayer right here. What I’d like to ask you to do, Harry, is pray for that couple. It may be the man’s behavior that resulted in the glass; it may be his wife. Would you pray for them?
Harry: Sure. I’d be glad to do that. “Father, this couple that Dennis has referred to is unfortunately just another part of the reality that exists around all of us if we would just open up our eyes. We have knowledge and information about this one couple. We know that you have a greater knowledge, and a greater understanding, and a greater compassion than our own hearts feel. We know that You can work. We pray that their hearts and their minds will be turned toward You, toward the truth of the gospel, the power and the finished work of the cross, and that you will build a relationship that truly glorifies You—glorifies Your name above all else. I pray for all the people who are listening that can say, ‘Well, I can identify with that same woman, that same man.’ We just ask that they will hear the truth and the power that You really offer in a way that can transform their hearts and lives. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Dennis: Thank you, Harry, for doing that. I want to thank you for being on the broadcast and for your ministry. I hope you will not wait another 12 years before you come back and join us again.
Harry: All you have to do is invite me, and I’d love to come to Arkansas.
Dennis: We will take you up on that. Just before Bob tells folks how they can get a copy of your book, I want to pull my “soapbox” out here and just say one quick thing:
If you are a follower of Christ and you know of a couple who are in a hopeless, shattered-glass situation, you need to be the one to get in there and risk it and give them the hope that there is redemption. I fear today within the Christian community that we have a lot of people who have disguised their faith—they are not stepping up—they are stepping away. The easiest thing to do is not get involved. It takes energy; it takes time. But a couple who are looking at the fragments need somebody from the outside to take their hands and his or hers and say, “You know what, there is hope. Could I pray for you, and could I help you?” I just want to charge them to do that.
Bob: You may want to call and get a copy of Harry’s book and take it to them. You may want to invite them to come to a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference.
Dennis: Don’t just let that marriage dissolve. Don’t just let the fragments lay there on the floor.
Bob: We can get you a copy of Harry’s book. You go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information about the book is available there. Other resources that we have that are designed to help couples who have been through struggles with sexual sin in their marriage—you’ll find that information available there as well. Meg Wilson’s helpful book, Hope after Betrayal, is there along with other resources we can recommend to you.
Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order a copy of Harry’s book Undefiled from us online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That is 1-800-358-6329. There is also information about the Weekend to Remember marriage conference available on our website.
We have already talked this week about the Covenant Eyes program that is an accountability program—software program—for those who are looking for a way to get accountability help on the issue of sexual purity. You will find a link for Covenant Eyes on our website—FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, we try to say this regularly; but I am not sure we can say it often enough. We are really grateful for listeners who tune in—those of you who write to us or who go to the website and get more help, more information—and are connecting with FamilyLife that way. We are also very grateful for those of you who help support the ministry with your financial contributions. We are listener-supported. We would not be on in this community if it were not for folks like you who in the past have either gone online at FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation or called 1-800-FLTODAY and made a donation. We appreciate your financial partnership with us.
This month, if you are able to help with a donation of any amount, we would like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you two copies of the brand-new HomeBuilders study guide called Building Your Marriage to Last. This is newly revised and updated. It has been freshened up. It is a great tool for a married couple to use for just the two of you, or it is something that you can use with a small group of couples. These two study guides are our way of saying, “Thank you,” if you are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.
Go online FamilyLifeToday.com. Make your donation online. When you come to the key code box on the donation form, type the word, “BUILD,” in the box; and we will know to send you the two study guides; or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make your donation by phone. Just ask for the HomeBuilders guides to be sent to you. We are happy to get those out to you because we so much appreciate your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today. It is very meaningful.
Now tomorrow, we want to encourage you to come back, especially if you have been dating. Maybe you are thinking about getting engaged--you are just not sure; or maybe you are engaged, and you are wondering, “How can I know if this is the one?” We are going to hear some thoughts from Dennis Rainey on that subject tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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