If My Husband Betrays Me, How Can I Trust the Memories?

by | Dec 2, 2016 | Pornography, Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 26 comments

Merchandise is Here!

Can your husband be both good and bad at the same time? If he betrays you, does that mean the love wasn’t real?

This week on To Love, Honor and Vacuum we’ve been looking at how to rebuild trust. We started with talking about how in Christian circles women have too often been taught to “respect” totally inappropriately, and that that can actually make marriage problems far worse. And then we’ve talked about porn addictions.

I want to end the week on hopefully a happier note–or at least a healing note. Every Friday I write a short, 400 word piece with one thought to take you through the weekend. I thought some of you may need this thought.

Sheila’s Marriage Moment: Was It All Just a Lie?

If your husband betrays you, by having an affair or watching porn or something awful, can you still trust the good memories? A bit of a pep talk.

When you’ve been blindsided by an affair, or discovering your husband’s porn use, or something that makes you feel as if your husband rejected you, does that mean that everything else was a lie?

I recently received this email from a reader:

I feel like hubby and I are finally building a new standard for our relationship after 7 years of lies about the porn addiction. However, what I do struggle with now is knowing how to look back on our memories. Every time I remember something I used to cherish, I feel that it was all fake, like I was living a lie and I get this sick feeling in my stomach. I don’t know how to look at the “pre-porn-discovery” days without a sense of everything being tainted by lies.

I understand her pain. Can you?

Let me tell you about a family I used to know. Two boys in their late teens. Two very involved parents who were at every game. They took fun vacations as a family. They were a unit.

Then one summer the dad, out of the blue, confessed to an affair with a younger woman and moved in with her, and her three very young children.

Obviously the wife was devastated. But so were the boys. And they basically cut off contact with him (which really I totally understand). What was haunting them, though, was the question, “Did he ever really love us?”

He chose a younger woman over his faithful, fun wife. He chose three toddlers over his two teenagers. Was his love ever real?

One of the things I find most amazing about Scripture is how God talks about deeply flawed people. He calls David, a guy who committed adultery and plotted to have someone killed, was a man “after his own heart.”

How does that compute?

God sees what we want to be. God sees the desires of our hearts. And He knows that sometimes our actions don’t match up with those desires. But He judges us by whether our hearts really love Him.

That doesn’t mean sin doesn’t matter. There were real-life consequences for David. But David also repented and still loved God through it all, even if, for a time, he let his focus fall.

One of the hardest things to do in a relationship is to understand that someone can be both good and bad at the same time. That doesn’t mean that the bad doesn’t matter; it only means that the good matters, too.

If your husband has hurt you, feel that hurt. Don’t deny it. Don’t diminish it. Deal with it appropriately. But also remember that it’s okay to remember the good times. Your husband’s sin has hijacked your present. That doesn’t mean it has to steal your past, too.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘If your husband’s sin has hijacked your present, don’t let it rob you of your past, too.'” quote=”‘If your husband’s sin has hijacked your present, don’t let it rob you of your past, too.'”]

I’ve written at length about this before in my article on the Hamilton musical. But when we were speaking at the Jasper marriage conference recently, I shared that concept, and a few women came up to me afterwards and told me how much it had helped them. So I just thought it needed to be said again. 

Friday Roundup on To Love, Honor and Vacuum

What’s #1 at To Love, Honor and Vacuum?

#1 Post on the Blog: 10 Signs You’re Respecting Your Husband Too Much
#1 on the Blog Overall: 20 Two Player Games To Play With Your Husband

#2 from Facebook: Can We Cause Someone To Sin?
#3 from Pinterest: Creating Christmas Traditions When You Don’t Have Kids

I’m Done Until January!

I flew back from British Columbia last night and I’m done until January! No more speaking until we head back to Arizona and California after Christmas. I’m really excited to have a month to myself to get some work done and to start knitting some Christmas presents! I’ll do more of an update next week, but for now, I’m a little jetlagged. So I hope you have a great weekend, everyone!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Angie

    Betrayal is so hard to get through, and work through. And we women are secretly afraid he’ll leave us, I.e. “trade up”, get the new version, the 2.0 or 4.0 like any phone or car. I think many of us feel this subconsciously, especially after being cheated on. That we are just another commodity, we don’t REALLY mean anything to him. I was always so busy trying to BE for him, and LIVE for him that I forgot about me. And that I MATTER.

  2. sunny-dee

    Ooof. This is a hard one. I agree entirely that people are more than one thing — we can be good and bad, brave and cowardly, sometimes at the same time. Yet, on the other hand … sometimes the “good times” really were a lie. We thought they meant one thing, and they really didn’t. It is a really hard circle to square.

  3. AC

    This is really tough. I don’t have a hard time with the memories. My difficulty is with our vows. He stood up there and said vows to me knowing he had a huge problem with porn that he had neglected to tell me about. And of course that porn use carried over into our marriage. So I feel like our marriage was built on lies, even though there is truth now. We have made progress, and there is hope for our marriage. But I think I’ll always look back on the early part of our marriage as being really dark times.

    • Dean

      My wife feels the same way. The thing is, when I said my vows, I believed them, and I remember thinking “All the bad stuff was until now, from now on I will prove I can be a better person.” But that’s one of the things about addiction: denial. I couldn’t believe it had such a big grasp on me, and that it would take so much more than a “from now on no more” to stop completely. That being said, I understand how you feel, and I think it is completely justified.

      • AC

        Thanks for your reply, Dean. Chances are that’s how it was for my husband too. He’s never opened up to me about that. So of course there are a lot of questions about his motives at that time.

        I hope you and your wife are on your way toward healing. I know it’s there!

    • John

      I feel the same way. Wife vowed to love and cherish (never mind obey), yet withheld sex for 16 months from the very start, and less than 10 times in 3 years.

      • Lisa


        I am truly sorry for what you’re going through. What your wife is doing is wrong and she needs to pull out all the stops to get the professional help she needs.

        However, the word obey has no place in marriage vows. Unless you’re both promising to obey God.

  4. Saginaw

    Great series this week. I’ve been right where this post hits. Every memory, every picture around the house felt like a giant lie after discovering the porn use. I wanted to rush through healing and not feel so hurt. I tried every help that books and blogs suggested, but it was time that did the healing. That and seeing my husband follow the same steps that were laid out in one of your posts earlier this week. Thanks for this week’s posts. They are priceless.

    • Paulina

      How long did it take for you to heal? It’s been almost a year since the discovery of what was a 6 year secret porn addiction, and although my husband seems more trustworthy, it still hurts and it’s so hard to trust!

      • KellyK

        I highly recommend going to see a counselor! A good Christian counselor will help you sort through your emotions. I’ll be praying for you!

        • Paulina

          We just started seeing a counselor, so I hope he will help us process these emotions. Thank you for praying and sharing your story below!

  5. Laura

    This week’s posts have been so me! The trust, the porn, the too much respect and wondering why it doesn’t work. And today was so encouraging! Thanks so much!!!

  6. Jenny

    I feel so hurt and betrayed by my husband. Not only have I had to deal with his sexual addiction in loving porn use, but I also found out he sexually abused my daughter, his step daughter when she was 9. I feel our whole marriage was a lie (12years). I’m so confused and hurt. He went into inpatient treatment for 9 weeks, but can I really ever trust him again. And I have a 7 year old daughter with him. I’m terrified something will happen to her too.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Jenny, to find out that he sexually abused your daughter? That’s so awful! That’s more than just a momentary lapse (like David’s lapse), which is really what I was talking about here. That’s an extreme character issue. That’s so, so sad. I hope that you are getting the help that you need, and that your daughter is, too. God CAN and WILL help you get through this. He really will.

      • Jenny

        Thank you Sheila. This has been the hardest 5 months of my life. The decisions I have to make affect 4 other people (my children). It’s a terrible situation and I find myself feeling very very hopeless. I want to trust that God will get me thru this, but I am so numb and don’t feel like I can trust anyone or anything except myself. This has devastated me emotionally, financially and most of all spiritually.

        • Lisa

          Jenny, I am so very sorry.

          I believe God can heal anyone. I also know people can slap God’s healing hand away and choose to stay stuck in a hell of their own making.

          In the case of sexually abusing a child, I do not think you can ever trust him to be around your children ever again. I’m assuming the proper authorities are informed and he has been charged. (If that hasn’t happened, do it immediately.) If you allow him to be around your children ever again, you could be charged for knowingly putting them in harm’s way.

          I can only imagine your pain right now. But I do think you to prioritize the healing of yourself and your children and close the door on your marriage to him. Your daughters will never forgive you if you expect them to welcome him back into your lives. I have friends who’s mothers stayed with their abusers. It’s a knife in their wounds.

          • Lydia purple

            I think that if the abuse is not reported yet, you could give him the chance to report it himself. It could be an important step for him if he is seriously seeking change. If he is truly convicted he will take responsibility for his action in front of the legal authorities.

            But I agree that you first of all need to make sure your children are safe.

            I have a friend who as a teenager abused his 2 younger cousins that he was living with then. When he later became a believer, he went and reported himself to the police went to prison for it, in the process his wife left him. He also spoke with the girls, taking full responsibility for his actions, offered them some contacts of counsellors who could help them and asked for their forgiveness with the note that if they would not ever want to hear or see him again he was out of their lives. He told them the truth about the abuse even though they didn’t remember with the motivation to offer them to seek help and find healing. it cost him everything.

            I think if you give him the chance to take responsibility it will offer you a chance to make peace with your past and move on. You may never be able to let him back into your life as a husband for the sake of your children, but if he has a truly repentant heart and seeking change this is a chance to prove it. And if he takes responsibility and also explains it in front of the children (if they are an age to understand) that could make the situation less traumatizing to the children. And they could see why their father would be gone, still have a chance to respect him because he is taking responsibility and choose if they want to have a relationship with their father (within save boundaries).

  7. Anne

    4 years ago I found out my husband was addicted to porn and I also discovered he had several affairs throughout our 18 years together. He completely committed to turning his life around after he confessed it all to me. It wasn’t exactly a smooth process but after 4 years later I finally feel like I am mostly healed. However, I came across a scrap book I had made from when we were dating. It was too painful- I had to throw it out. It all seemed like lies. For me it was cathartic.

    • E

      Thanks for your testimony Anne, it gives me hope that my husband can be healed from the hurt I have caused him! Was there anything that you found particularly helpful? Maybe something your husband did, something you did, or something you did together? Did you find any books particularly helpful?

      • Anne

        Complete transparency. He answered all my questions honestly (be cautious about how much you really want to know!). He gave me passwords to all his emails, facebook, etc. He installed something on his phone that allowed me to track him and see what he was doing on it (I don’t know if this is still available). No more cell phone in the bathroom where he usually hid his addiction. He had an accountability partner (another male) who he went to when he was struggling with want to slide back into watching porn. He went to counseling by himself and we also went together. The counselor advised that some days were going to feel like we took 2 or 3 steps back, but that they were just growing pains.

        It was really really rough for 2 years, but by the third year I had lots more good days than bad days. And this year I have found the painful anniversary of when I found out came and went and I didn’t even realize it. I think we are better now than we have ever been.

        • E

          Thank you so much for sharing, this is very helpful to me. It is so great to hear your testimony. Blessings!

  8. Libl

    This thought came to me as I pondered this post. In the Bible it talks about those who go around posing as one thing, but being another. God says, “depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.” KNEW. That is a serious word. To KNOW is an intimate knowledge. To have the truth come out after years of lies and secrets means the victim spouse never really knew them. It truly does knock the relationship back to square one.

    I have told men before that after betraying their wife’s trust they need to start the relationship over again. Especially in the case of sexual betrayal…affair or porn use…it behooves them to spend time working in themselves towards freedom from the sin while the wife takes time to herself to heal. Then, he ought to start “dating” her again so she can get to know the renewed and repentant man. Over time they can get back into their married life. Some have even chosen to renew their vows and go on a honeymoon.

  9. KellyK

    I’m gonna chime in here and say that my husband cheated on me, with an old high school classmate of his, who was also my friend. I forgave him. Due to a post of Sheila’s about children and divorce.

    At the time I discovered the affair (he left his email acct open on our shared laptop) our son was only 7 years old and adores his father. We went to counseling and were still going to counseling when in April of 2012, I discovered that I had kidney cancer!! So within 4 months I dealt with infidelity and cancer!!!! If not for my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, I would’ve ended up in a straight jacket admitted to the psych ward of our local hospital!!! I am not ashamed to share my story because it’s a wonderful testament to the faith and forgiveness that Jesus gives us as his believers!

  10. The Intense American

    What I am trying to understand reading these comments is this….what did the woman do to betray the trust that caused the man to act out. And yes the roles could be reversed. I know in my life I have been subtly put down, minimized, mocked for my hobbies and friends. This isn’t because I had drunk friends, or my hobbies involved dangerous behavior. It was because I had actual opinions or interests that she did not understand. She loved I was in shape but hated that I worked out to stay in shape. After we married she gained 40lbs. She told me I had vowed to love her thru better or worse. I bought that at first. But after 11 years it became too much. I couldn’t stand being minimized and told my opinions don’t matter. What’s up with that?

  11. Concerned Husband

    Honestly, I am struggling with these posts. When I got married 17 years ago, I was completely committed to my wife. I was not looking at porn. In our marriage, my wife has always seemed like sex is something she realizes we should have, but that she doesn’t really desire. We have sex, but she never initiates and creates so many walls in the bedroom.
    It seems OK that she can spend hours each week reading Christian romance novels that model relationships without sex, which I believe impacts her view that sex (even in marriage) is some sort of usury. Women seem to be able to feed their imagination for men other than their spouse in books, but men are viewed as being selfish if they imagine other women. Men struggle with lust through many of the most common images of women. Porn addiction is a problem to be sure, but Christian women tend to jump to that anytime there are sexual problems in a marriage. Since virtually every man has struggled with the battle in some sense, it is very easy to make men out to be the only people with sexual sin in marriages.
    2 years ago, my wife gave me a picture with Song of Solomon 3:4 saying that I am the one her soul loves. That love has never connected to anything like the desire that the Shulamite had for Solomon. She says she loves me, she just doesn’t desire me. It isn’t OK for me to rewrite our whole life together and say, ‘you only married me for financial stability and to be a father, and never really love me because you don’t desire to meet my deep need for physical intimacy and affirmation.’ Yet, it quite often seems that Christian women seem to support other women in their retelling of their husband’s story. Sometimes, the man has been living a lie their whole life, but at their core virtually ALL men lust after women throughout their lives (even without porn). We should still battle it, but that battle is a combination of prayer and turning to God and (if married) a commitment of their spouse to work with him and try to address his need for physical intimacy.
    After an affair in our 16th year of marriage, my wife has completely retold my story where she is just a victim. She now imagines things in our marriage where she believes everything I have done was for the purpose of getting sex. I waited 6 months before we even kissed for the first time. We were virgins when we got married. Yet, I waited those 18 months before marriage just to get sex.
    We are now going through a divorce and her retelling of our story is tainting the way she tells our kids about me, and for all the claims that honesty and trust have been broken (which they have by me), she is now embracing dishonesty in the telling of my story and damaging the relationship as well.

    • Bill

      Concerned its time to move on. Find someone who does not judge you so harshly and who will be your friend. Sex is instinctual and I would bet she will not find someone else and I am sure that is your other worry, and it should not be. If she does it too will not last. Many women find escape in romance novels and in some ways it is healthy however it does not last for life is real.


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