Marsha Fisher of Porn to Purity shares her thoughts on slips, setbacks and potential relapses on the recovery journey.   She also offers tips on how to write a Spouse’s Plan.   

In my last blog, I shared one of the most difficult realities of marriage recovery…slips do happen.  I have heard of some men who were in bondange to porn for decades and then in an instant were set free, never to return to their old patterns of sexual sin.   But for the majority of strugglers, the process of “renewing the mind” has happened over a period of time, often felt like an intense spiritual battle and, sadly, involved setbacks along the way.

This is the last thing a wife wants to hear.  It is difficult enough to accept that your husband’s eyes have feasted on the body of another woman.  But to know that if you choose to walk forward in recovery with him, it might happen again seems like way too much to expect of anyone, much less someone who struggles with her own body image and self-worth.

I think it is cruel to tell a wife that if her husband is serious about recovery, he will not experience slips.  Many wives, seeking to put their life back to normal after the initial disclosure, will put all of their hope on that one promise…and if it is broken, she may break as well.

A better way might be to warn a wife that many men in recovery experience setbacks and her husband may as well.  But both the husband and wife can be equipped to navigate those difficult times and their marriage can be strengthened in the process.

Many times, men in recovery are encouraged to put together a Relapse Plan.  This plan includes a series of action points that they will take if they find themselves no longer pursuing sexual integrity.  It may include meeting with a counselor, talking daily with an accountability partner or increasing the number of times they meet with a group each week.

Wives should also put together a plan to address how they will respond when a slip happens or if a relapse occurs.  This plan should be in writing and shared with a husband prior to not after a slip or relapse.  While some husbands may perceive their spouse’s plan to be a threat to keep them in line, it is not meant to be punitive.  Spouses who stick around for the recovery journey have to set boundaries and consequences in place in order to make it to the finish line.  Otherwise, they spend the rest of their married life in a yo-yo state, reacting emotionally to their spouse’s setbacks or relapses with no steering wheel of their own.

Consider this: When a setback or relapse happens, a spouse often feels like the carpet once again has been pulled out from under her. For some spouses, it emotionally takes them back to the moment of first disclosure, when they realized the stability of their marriage was a lie.

Even though a setback is just a small step backwards, it feels like you are going all the way back to square one.  In light of this, it is very helpful to give the spouse some sense of control.  The Spouse’s Plan is designed to give a wife that sense of stability, power and control she needs in the midst of her confusion and chaos.  It doesn’t negate the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the ultimate source of our peace and stability in this recovery journey.  If anything, the Spouse’s Plan will move us closer to Christ as we heal.

WHAT DOES THE PLAN LOOK LIKE?
The Spouse’s Plan should include the following components:

  • Bottom Lines
  • Confession Guidelines
  • Response

BOTTOM LINES
The plan should include an understanding of what the wife’s bottom lines are.  Not only should the plan include the husband’s bottom lines for his own recovery, but what the wife consider off-limits as well. For example, one husband’s bottom line is to not channel surf for explicit shows.  His wife may ask him, in addition, to avoid a specific channel completely.

Once these bottom lines are in place, they are no longer the wife’s bottom lines and the husband’s bottom lines – they become the bottom lines for this marriage.  Just as the spouse is taking on her husband’s recovery, so too will the husband in recovery agree to take on these additional bottom lines in an effort to help his wife along the journey.

CONFESSION GUIDELINES
The plan should include what the husband should do if he crosses a bottom line.  This should include details regarding who should the husband confess to, by when and how?  Is emailing a confession acceptable or is face-to-face important.  Jeff and I have a 24-hour rule in place which means he has 24-hours from the time of a slip to confess.  My preference is that he confesses to me face-to-face unless he is out of town.

RESPONSE
Finally, the plan also includes how the wife will respond to specific slips or if a full-blown relapse occurs.  Again, this is not designed to punish the husband, but rather give the wife a steady platform to come to whenever there is a slip on the recovery journey.  Otherwise, marriage recovery becomes a never ending roller coaster completely based on the husband’s choices.

The wife’s response can take the form of “if/then” statements, but I think it is also helpful for the wife to explain why she included them in her plan.  It may be stated like this:  “if you choose to masturbate then I plan to sleep on the couch for two nights.  This particular slip reminds me of all the times I offered myself to you after our son was born and you rejected me, only to satisfy yourself later when you thought I was sleeping.  We have made so much progress; it hurts me that you would still do that.  I just need to give myself time and space to grieve.”

Another if/then statement might be: If you use your smart phone to view porn, then I will need you to give up your smart phone indefinitely.  I am working very hard to trust you and not question what you are doing when I am not watching.  If you slip in this way, I don’t want to be distracted by thinking about your phone.

It would be great if all “if/then” statements could be this cut and dry. They are complicated and point to how destructive sexual sin is to marriage. Your plan may have pages of “if/then” statements based on your marriages history.  Some statements may involve a period of in-home or traditional separation.

Finally, there are the non-negotiables.  These are if/then statements that say if you cross this line then I’m stepping away from participating in the recovery process with you as your wife.  Obviously, this is very serious territory.  If everything is a non-negotiable, marriage recovery will be a tense journey at best.

It is important to remember that “if/then” statements should be healthy, biblical and geared towards marriage recovery.  Consider this statement:  ”If you do “x” then I am going on a $1,000 shopping spree.”  While that may be a deterrent, it does nothing to repair the marriage.  Or if you do “y” then I’m going to have an affair.  Clearly, this is not only destructive to the marriage but it is counter to the Bible’s teachings.

In my next blog, I’ll offer some thoughts on how to share your plan with your husband.


Part 1Slips, Setbacks and Full Blown Relapse: Help for Spouses from the Frontlines

Part 2Wives Should Have a Plan
Part 3Dynamics of the Plan

“I Understand, I Appreciate, I Feel”additional help for talking to your spouse

“A Recovery Plan For Spouses” PDFClick HERE to download a free guide to walk you through writing your plan

fisherEmail:  marsha@puritycoaching.com 

She offers help to spouses of sexual strugglers through phone coaching and online spouses’ support groups.

Check out our site:  www.puritycoaching.com

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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.

RELAPSE
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.


Part 1Slips, Setbacks and Full Blown Relapse: Help for Spouses from the Frontlines

Part 2Wives Should Have a Plan
Part 3Dynamics of the Plan

“I Understand, I Appreciate, I Feel”additional help for talking to your spouse

“A Recovery Plan For Spouses” PDFClick HERE to download a free guide to walk you through writing your plan

 


fisherEmail:  marsha@puritycoaching.com 

She offers help to spouses of sexual strugglers through phone coaching and online spouses’ support groups.

Check out our site:  www.puritycoaching.com

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Sermon Feature: Are You a Slave to Sex?

by Marsha Fisher on April 9, 2014

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Jeff and I are thankful for the ministry of The Summit Church.  The Summit is based in Durham, N.C. but has been multiplying believers and churches around the globe for many years.   The times we have been able to worship there, we have been overwhelmed by the church’s commitment to gospel-centered living, community engagement and in-your-face authenticity.

It is that commitment to authentic living that pushes pastor J.D. to preach hard on topics that may be considered “too edgy” in other congregations.  A recent sermon “Are You a Slave to Sex?” is a great example.  He argues that sex is not just a physical need but connected to our soul’s deepest thirst – an intimate connection with God.  And when we attempt to satisfy heavenly needs with earthly substitutes, not only is the thirst not quenched, but we are left feeling emptier than before.

I encourage you to listen to the sermon and then check out the resources that Brad Hamrick, Summit’s head counselor, has put together for the sexual struggler and betrayed spouse.

 


fisherEmail:  marsha@puritycoaching.com 

She offers help to spouses of sexual strugglers through phone coaching and online spouses’ support groups.

Check out our site:  www.puritycoaching.com

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Why WE Can’t Stop Sexual Sin

by Jeff Fisher on April 4, 2014

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stop_it

I thought this would complement yesterday’s blog on Why We Can’t Stop? Be sure to check out the You Tube link – Bob Newhart’s classic “Stop It!” routine.

 

Don’t you wish we could just STOP doing our sexual sin?  If you’re like me, you’ve tried 1000 times to stop.  But we just keep coming back to that same behavior.  A string of attempts, and a bigger string of failures.  I try to control myself, but instead find my sin is controlling me.

This is how an addiction works.  This is also what bondage looks like.

I continue to realize that I cannot stop my sexual sin.  But it doesn’t mean that all is hopeless and that I’m trapped.

WE HAVE TOO MANY PROBLEMS
1.  Heart problem - It’s not the behavior, it’s our hearts.  Our hearts are selfish, conditioned, and driven by our lusts.  Our hearts want what is easy and makes us feel good.

2.  Sin Problem – Our core, apart from Christ, is sinful.  Our natural desire is to go the wrong way.  Our sin nature controls us.

3.  Chemical Problem – Addiction feeds off the chemical highs.  We have caused the chemicals in our brains to go crazy when we look at porn, fantasize, masturbate and have sex.  Our brains crave more and more.

4.  Learned Behavior Problem – We have conditioned ourselves to act out in unhealthy ways.  And we’ve probably been doing it for decades.  The paths of sexual behavior are “well worn” paths.  It makes charting new paths extremely difficult.

5.  Emotional Problem – We have emotional needs and hurts that we are trying to medicate with lust, masturbation, and porn.  They are an undercurrent that feeds our addiction.

A FOUR-PART SOLUTION
If we are to be freed from sexual sin, we must open give up our efforts to try and fix ourselves.  We must surrender to God’s help and the help of others.

question-mark1.  God - God is the only one who can get down into our hearts and work on the deep stuff is Christ.

2.  Support Group - A healthy support group is not just an addiction group.  It could be a combination of your family, your friends, your wife, or your pastor.  These are your cheerleaders, your encouragers.

3.  Wise People - Different from our support group, these are the people that can give us the insight we need about ourselves to work on the deeper stuff.  They can help identify blindspots and weaknesses.

4.  My Part - We do have a part, it’s just different.  It involves surrender to God, submission to others, and a commitment to the process.  These must all be done on a daily basis.

 


BobNewhartBOB NEWHART’S “STOP IT” ROUTINE
Here’s a great comedy bit that Bob Newhart did called “Stop It!”  Enjoy a good laugh today:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYLMTvxOaeE&feature=PlayList&p=6B68C3EC0F5CF992&index=0

 

 

 

 

 

GET HELP FOR YOUR PURITY JOURNEY

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**  We were going back over some old posts and thought this was good.  We are closing in on 6 years of recovery now, but this post still has many good reflections.
It is the four year anniversary of our world falling apart. I don’t remember the exact date like many of the wives that I talk with do, but I do remember the Seasons were changing from summer to fall. So whenever the stores start to set up their Halloween aisles and there is a chill in the air in the early morning, I know it is that time of year again.
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Four years ago Jeff stood in our kitchen and told me he had been caught binging on pornography on a computer at work. His ministry partners asked to immediately resign as pastor. As he tearfully confessed, I went numb realizing my world as I knew it had changed forever and my carefully manicured perfect life had been shattered. You can read more about those painful first few months here.
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The anniversary of all of this is bitter sweet. I grieve the pain we went though, especially during those first few months when we felt so abandoned in our recovery journey. But I’m also full of thanksgiving, amazed at how much has changed in both of us and in our marriage in such a short amount of time. Our God is truly able to transform hearts, make paths straight, heal broken hearts and mend wounds.
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In the midst of the deepest pain I’ve ever known, I also experienced the greatest peace I’ve ever felt, witnessed the incredible provision of God, and discovered that in the end that if everything is stripped away and all I have left is Jesus – I have all I need. It was a life-changing revelation that I am grateful to have learned this early in life. I’m sure I’ll fall back on that truth many times in the years to come.
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While I still feel that our marriage recovery is still very much a work in progress, I do believe enough time has passed that I can step back and see things a little differently now that my perspective has been stretched. I thought these reflections might encourage some of you who may be just starting your recovery
journey:
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Recovery Insights at the 4-year mile post:
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The perfect marriage was a mirage.
Our first year into recovery, I was so eager to “get back to normal.” But now I know, there is no “normal.” Jeff and I are both sinners, loaded with
selfishness, bad habits and deep hurts that we tend to medicate in unhealthy ways. After a while, I realized that we didn’t need to get back to where we
were before. We needed to strive for something we had never enjoyed as a married couple – healthy intimacy, godly intimacy. Our goal is a marriage
relationship in the spirit of what God intended for us all along.
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Recovery was not all about Jeff.
Perhaps the biggest shock about our recovery journey was that it wasn’t all about Jeff and pornography. Yes, Jeff getting caught with pornography brought us here. But the pornography was really just a symptom of a bigger problem in Jeff’s life. And now that Jeff and I were unified in marriage recovery, his
problems and my problems were blended together. So we tackled the pornographry and the deeper issues together. And in doing so, I found that I had a lot of junk in my own life that also needed unpacking.
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For me, I found that self-righteousness, pride, unrelenting perfectionism and a critical spirit had been undermining my marriage just as much as Jeff’s pornography. I don’t believe that my sin fueled his sin or vice versa, but our sin natures certainly found a sick way to play off one another in a sort of twisted dance.
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We’ve gained more than we lost.
For the first few years, I focused on the losses related to Jeff’s choice to view pornography. Mostly, I focused on the loss of our ministry and the loss of our home. (Our denomination leaders felt it best that we move out of the area after Jeff was caught.) There were a lot of losses related to the move – I missed the city we lived in, the loss of friendships, financial loss, the loss of stability for me and our boys and most of all the loss of our church family. Then there was the loss of trust in my marriage. My husband had made choices that turned my life upside down. How could I ever trust him again? He seemed serious about recovery, but we had been here before. Why would this time be any different?
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Dealing with the losses, in such rapid succession, was borderline traumatic for me. But with each loss, God demonstrated his ability to provide in all circumstances. He provided new jobs, took care of our financial needs, and settled us in a new city with a loving church family and tremendous recovery resources. During this time I gained a new awareness of God’s desire to meet my family’s needs. I knew he had the power, but under these circumstances I saw Him reach out to us in His tender mercy and provide for us step by step.
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The Lord also showed me during this season that He had the power to restore broken trust in a marriage, because He is tremendously pro-marriage. While I doubted I could ever trust my husband again, I was willing to go on this recovery journey with him to see where it would lead. What I found was that as my husband demonstrated his commitment to recovery, I was able to let go some of my distrust of him. Over time, more of that distrust subsided as trust grew. It continues to grow.
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That being said, I know there is always a potential for a setback, as my husband has a serious struggle with sexual purity. Another thing we have gained is an overall healthier, more authentic marriage. We are much more in tune when we are in dangerous territory and we know when to call in reinforcement.
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Speaking of authenticity, we’ve gained a desire for authentic community. After becoming part of the “broken world club”, we really appreciate  Christians that are authentic. Struggling with this problem in your marriage can be so isolating for a Christian couple. I applaud churches that are willing to openly discuss this issue from the pulpit and in the Sunday School classroom, in the small groups and one-on-one. If our churches are so perfect that we can’t create a safe place for people to confess and repent, then we are distorting a key component of the New Testament.
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The most unexpected gift we have gained is this new ministry, www.porntopurity.com, which began as an idea to put together a list of resources for couples like us who need to know where they can go for Christ-centered help. It has grown into something we could never have imagined. I am still in awe that God is taking the mess our marriage had become and is turning it into a message of redemption and healing. I do believe He desires to do that for every broken marriage, including yours.

 


fisherEmail:  marsha@puritycoaching.com 

She offers help to spouses of sexual strugglers through phone coaching and online spouses’ support groups.

Check out our site:  www.puritycoaching.com

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Key Questions: Now That I’ve Started My Purity Journey, What’s Next?

March 28, 2014

I (Jeff) am a regular blogger on www.XXXchurch.com.  Sometimes they use content from our Porn to Purity site for their blogs.  Other times I have opportunities to write fresh articles directly for the site.  For the last several weeks, I and several other bloggers have been writing on group of key questions: 1.  Why am [...]

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For Wives: Looking Past the Ugly (Marsha’s Blog)

March 26, 2014

When I think over the last five years of my life, I’m no longer overwhelmed by “the ugly.”  Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of “ugly” going on.  When Jeff came home from work in 2007 and shared that he had been caught binging on pornography on a ministry computer at our denomination’s [...]

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7 Questions Wives of Porn Addicts Often Ask

March 21, 2014

We were impressed with a 3-part series on the Covenant Eyes blog called “7 Questions Wives of Porn Addicts Often Ask”.  The articles are by Ella Hutchinson of Comfort Christian Counseling. These are, by far, the most popular questions that we see from wives who email us at Porn to Purity.com. Click the links to [...]

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Wives Want to Know: Why Am I Not Enough?

March 19, 2014

A question I am frequently asked by wives who have just discovered their husband has been viewing pornography is, “Why am I not enough?”  In fact, some wives will whisper that they were shocked because they were the higher desire partner, as if that is something to be ashamed about.  For these wives, the discovery [...]

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Snail Blog #3 – Struggling with the Humbling Stuff

March 18, 2014

I’m in a period of unemployment right now.  Not my first, but this one has been my longest (9 months+).  I’m writing these blogs for me.  I find my heart hardening, my emotions numbing, and my creativity getting squished out.  I will treat these a bit like check-ins.  I’m sure my introspections will be helpful [...]

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Snail Blog #2 – Puzzled by the Hard Patches

March 14, 2014

I’m in a period of unemployment right now.  Not my first, but this one has been my longest (9 months+).  I’m writing these blogs for me.  I find my heart hardening, my emotions numbing, and my creativity getting squished out.  I will treat these a bit like check-ins.  I’m sure my introspections will be helpful [...]

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