Scripture tells us to “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). It’s not a matter of if sin will come to light. It’s a matter of when sin will come to light. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of light. Therefore, darkness cannot abide there. In His mercy, God will often allow the darkness of sin to be brought to the light. Unfortunately in most relationships, sin is often brought to the light through the discovery by an innocent partner rather than the disclosure of an offending partner.
If you are presently in the midst of sexual sin (i.e. pornography, adultery, etc.), we encourage you to be proactive rather than reactive. Before your sin is discovered (and it’s only a matter of time before it will be) by your partner or someone else, begin the process of disclosure.
Below are 10 practices we use with couples when either an addiction to pornography or an extramarital affair has come to light. We find for most wives, the discovery or the disclosure of pornography or adultery in the marital relationship has similiar devasting affects on her. The vast majority of wives view the revelation of a pornographic addiction to be the same as if they discovered their husband having an adulterous affair. So, the steps will be interchangeable with pornography or adultery.
10 necessary practices for restoration after sexual sin has been exposed
1. Seek the guidance of a trusted and biblically wise marriage mentor. Try as they might, most couples cannot navigate restoration on their own. You are most likely no different. You need help. Doing what you’ve been doing is what got you into this mess. So, don’t think you’ll all of the sudden be able to break out of it on your own.
Once you find someone you trust, here’s some guidance for the relationship. Do not lie to them. Be completely truthful. If you still feel the need to lie and deceive, you’re not ready for restoration and reconciliation. Absolute truth is imperative to the restoration process. Don’t waste your time, your partner’s time nor your mentor’s time by lying.
2. Cut off any and all contact with the other person. This applies specifically in the case of adultery. No calls. No texts. No social media messaging. No secret meetings. Cut the person off completely. If, as the offending partner, you’re unwilling to do this, then you’re not ready and serious about restoration.
3. Speak the truth and nothing but the truth. Do not lie about or sugar coat anything to your spouse. Do not let the truth trickle out about the addiction or the affair. Confess all of your sin (James 5:16). It is best to confess your sins before you’re pressed to answer your spouse’s inquiries. Do not hide anything. Be completely up front and honest. Hiding anything on the front end will only set you back further down the road and will greatly hamper the restoration process. Read Proverbs 28:13. Pray you will find compassion as sin is confessed.
4. Give your spouse complete and unhindered access to any and all of your accounts - finances, social media, email, etc. An unwillingness to do so will communicate you still have something to hide. There should no longer be anything hidden. Hiding didn’t work for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) and it won’t work for you. Covenant marriage leaves no room for secrets.
5. Be willing to go the “extra mile.” Be where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing with those to whom you’re supposed to be doing it. If your spouse requests you to download Life 360 on your phone, do so. You will most likely get frustrated over time having to go the extra mile. You’ll feel as though your partner will not relinquish the right to punish you. If they are doing that, leave it between them and God. You do your part and trust your partner to God. In the power of the Holy Spirit, do your part to regain your partner’s trust.
6. If travel is required for your job, develop a plan of accountability with your partner that you both agree to. Then, work the plan. Failure to do so will communicate to your spouse that you’re not really repentant and serious about restoration. Nothing creates greater insecurity for your partner than these two questions: 1) Does my partner have a plan to deal with their sexual sin? 2) Is my partner working their plan to deal with their sexual sin? If there is doubt or ambiguity in your partner’s mind about either of these two questions, restoration will be tenuous at best.
7. The job of the betraying spouse is to rebuild trust. You will do this with consistency over time. There are no shortcuts to restoration. You cannot fast track the process. Consistency in your faithfulness to the process of restoration is key. Failure to be consistent will set your spouse back. In the case of adultery, any contact made with the other person will set the restoration process back to square one (if not further). Be patient with your spouse as seemingly random thoughts or incidents pop into their head. See 1 Corinthians 13:4.
8. The job of the betrayed spouse is to forgive. Understand that forgiveness is an ongoing process. It will not be a one and done scenario. It will be continual. Don’t let this frustrate either of you. Grant the same forgiveness to your spouse that God through Christ has granted to you (Ephesians 4:32). The betrayed spouse has the right to know everything that happened. However, they have to be willing to forgive everything they are told. So, be cautious of pressing for extremely intimate details.
9. Establish a specific time and place (weekly) that questions can be discussed (beyond the counseling sessions). This will ensure the betrayed spouse that they will be able to address their concerns. It will also ensure the betraying spouse that they will not always have to be on pins and needles awaiting a question to be posed indiscriminately.
10. Understand you don’t want things to “go back to normal.” “Normal” is what got you where you are. Your marriage has been perfectly designed to get you where you are. So, if you’re not where you want to be as a couple, something’s got to change. Biblical restoration takes time. It will not, nor should it, happen too quickly. Restoration is a process of growth spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. None of that happens over night. To think otherwise is foolish.
Should there be a setback, and there most likely will be one, it’s important to regroup and keep moving forward. Don’t let setbacks set you back. Understanding this is part of the process will hopefully give you the grace and patience you both will need to continue moving forward.
Remember, God is with you (Isaiah 41:10). He will not leave you. He will not forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He is an ever present help in your time of need (Psalm 46:1). Trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5,6). Rehearse these truths daily. Remind yourself and your spouse of these realities often.
We’ve found that that sexual sin breeds immaturity in men and insecurity in women. Neither of these traits are beneficial for a healthy marriage. If you have sexual sin in your life, past or present, we implore you to deal with it now. Suppressing your sin, denying your sin or ignoring your sin will not make things better. Read Psalm 32:3 to see what happened with King David as he kept silent about his sexual sin. Remember, without revealing there is no healing.