Marsha Fisher of Porn to Purity shares her thoughts on slips, setbacks and potential relapse during the recovery journey.
Just when you think it is possible that some day your heart MIGHT be able to mend over your husband’s sexual sin, it happens. Despite his promises and best efforts, he shares with you that he has had a slip. While a part of you may be able to appreciate his transparency, that does nothing to minimize the kick-in-the-gut sensation you are experiencing all over again. How can your heart heal if it keeps getting torn over and over again?
One of the most difficult truths to accept about marriage recovery in the wake of sexual sin is the probability of slips and setbacks and the potential for relapse.
First, let’s distinguish between slips and relapse before we discuss how we can prepare ourselves as spouses.
SLIPS / SETBACKS
Slips or setbacks are when spouses act out even though they are truly committed to sexual integrity. They have crossed a bottom line – engaged in some sort of activity that they have said they would no longer do. For example, when a husband who has promised to no longer look at porn clicks on a pop-up ad “just to see what the site looks like” – that is a slip.
A slip can be confessed or a husband might be caught in a slip. For many wives, there seems to be a continuum of severity when it comes to slips. But it is important to know that this sliding scale is personal for each wife and her specific situation. I’ll give two examples:
Example A – A husband confesses that in the course of flipping channels he lingered too long on a channel showing a sensual scene, but after 30 seconds knew this was wrong and turned off the TV. He comes to his wife and share what happened in a spirit of repentance, seeking forgivenes. This is a slip and his wife is hurt that he would stop at that channel at all, given what they have gone through in the last year.
Example B – The same husband confesses that while looking for a football score he got the urge to look at soft porn on cable. Knowing his wife was asleep, he surfed around for a while until he found what he was looking for. He doesn’t even notice when his wife walks into the room. While this is also a slip, this particular wife finds Example B much more painful. In this scenario her husband went looking rather than not quickly turning away from what found him. In addition, she has no way of knowing if her husband would have confessed the slip if she hadn’t walked in on him. But she doubts it.
A relapse is when the spouse is no longer choosing sexual integrity or marriage recovery. He is acting out sexually and crossing bottom lines frequently and once again his life is out of control. Often the offending spouse doesn’t see it this way. In an effort to minimize his sin, he might argue how everyone is making a big deal out of nothing or how his behavior is not as bad as some other guys he knows. He may try to pass his actions off as a series of slips in a short period of time, but not a relapse.
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T TELL?
I’ve talked with some wives who really can’t tell if their husbands are in relapse or just having a lot of trouble with slips during a particular stage of recovery. Truly, none of us can know what is genuinely in the heart of another person. Only God knows if they are truly walking towards recovery or just trying to pacify an anxious wife so she will not leave. There is no easy standard to apply like “three slips a month equals relapse.”
In this situation there is no value in getting bogged down in semantics. What is important is how you plan to respond to your husband’s choices. The next step is writing out a course of action to guide your responses when a slip, setback or relapse occurs.
“I Understand, I Appreciate, I Feel” – additional help for talking to your spouse
“A Recovery Plan For Spouses” PDF – Click HERE to download a free guide to walk you through writing your plan
She offers help to spouses of sexual strugglers through phone coaching and online spouses’ support groups.
Check out our site: www.puritycoaching.com