We can’t change each other; we can only change ourselves.
That’s just one of the hard and fast truths about relationships, and yet we tend to spend tremendous amounts of time and energy ignoring it.
Hey, I get it: sometimes that person really needs to change. But guess what: we all need to change. We always need to grow to places where we experience more peace, love, joy, freedom, and wisdom, whether we’re the porn addict or the partner.
In that light, here are a few steps to take toward rebuilding the broken trust that often accompanies addiction. And please note: these steps are for both the people in the relationship, not just the porn addict.
1) Forgive everyone, including yourself.
First off: forgiveness is NOT a thing you do—it’s a destination you arrive at within yourself. Between where you stand right now and that beautiful place where your eyes are opened and you see your partner in the light of grace, brokenness and all, you may find anger (rage, perhaps), repressed pain/trauma, and conflicting beliefs that may need to be shattered on your way to forgiveness. Don’t know how to get there? Find a professional counselor who can sit with you and guide you through the process. It’s time for action.
2) Find silence.
The ancient Christian mystics and desert fathers made lifestyles of living in silence—they lived tangibly from their spirits, understanding that the mind is not the spirit. The apostle Paul referred to a “peace that passes understanding.” What does this mean for our busy world now? Oftentimes when we make a practice of the teaching, “be still and know that I am God,” we can find in that space the patience, wisdom, insight, and kindness we need to see our partners as God sees them.
3) Get a mentor.
By this, I don’t mean find someone who will teach you more of the same thing that hasn’t been working for you. Find someone who lives on the other side of the mountain you are climbing. Find someone who has lived a story of pain and struggle and now trusts their partner. Do anything and everything you have to do to sit at their feet and learn. This is the ancient art of discipleship, and it is the most tangible form of true human community.
4) Commit to a lifetime of honesty.
You don’t need to know every thought in your partner’s head at all times, but being granted access to the innermost parts of ourselves is the core of trust. It’s also the core of our pain, which makes it is so much harder to say than to do. Allowing my wife to see me in all of my pain means I have to allow her to have her pain. Even if I cause it. And the same goes for her. When I am this honest, I commit not to life that she can trust, but to a life where I become the person I want to be. I am making a commitment to myself.
My wife and I once stood on the sidewalk just after a joint counseling and committed to each other that we would go after our own individual healing with everything we had, desperate to try out the theory that this would lead to the marriage we wanted. And this is turning out to be true. We stopped trying to trust each other and learned to heal, and now we’re discovering that a healed person is very trustworthy.
Try out these four practices and you may find healing; and in healing, you’ll slowly but surely rebuild trust.
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