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Q & A

Cybertrust, Long-ago Betrayal and a Homebody Husband

My wife insists on having the passwords to my online and e-mail services. This bothers me. Shouldn't she trust me?

Well, shouldn't you trust her? Marriage is all about mutuality. While you're trusting her with your e-mail passwords, she's trusting you to be the kind of man who would use those tools in pure ways.

You should be glad to offer this access to your wife, for your own protection if for no better reason. For my entire career, I've had my secretary or assistant open every piece of mail that comes across my desk—even if it's marked "personal and confidential." If there's something inappropriate being offered to me, I'm protected by this kind of transparency.

Areas that are 'his only' or 'hers only' are counterproductive to open trust.

At home I don't believe in locked drawers or areas that are only his or only hers. These points of holding back are counterproductive to open trust that works both ways in marriage.

If you feel resistant to sharing these passwords, ask yourself why. Are you tempted to become involved in secret relationships or some type of secret life? If so, the quicker you open that door and let the fresh air blow through, the better.

After seven years of marriage, my wife confessed that she'd had affairs before we married, even while we were engaged. I think she feels it happened so long ago that it shouldn't matter to me, but it really does. I feel angry and torn up inside, and I don't know how to forgive her. What should I do?

I hope your wife will give you time to work through your initial reactions, because these painful feelings of betrayal are somewhat beyond your control. But soon you'll be better able to approach this situation in light of Christ's teachings.

As horrible as it seems right now, this kind of damage becomes a proving ground. This is where you find out: are you or are you not a Christian? If you are, then at some point you accepted God's forgiveness for your own failings. Your wife has sinned against you, and unfaithfulness is a serious wrong. But any sin, whether we consider it insignificant or devastating, disqualifies us from God and puts us in need of his grace. The essence of Christianity is our ability to accept God's forgiveness and then offer it to others.

The Lord's Prayer teaches us to pray for forgiveness for ourselves as we forgive others. Jesus went on to say if we don't forgive those who sin against us, God won't forgive our sins (Matt. 6:14-15). So your wife expects you to forgive her. I'd encourage her, having confessed that she broke trust with you, also to confess that what she did was sin against you and against God. It seems that she has already repented, by turning away from the sin. Once she has confessed and repented, you are obligated to forgive her.

I know this is extremely difficult. But the only cure for the terrible feelings of betrayal and anger is to keep looking to Jesus in his purity on the cross. Ask yourself, "What in my life put him there? Should Jesus feel betrayed and angry at my sins?" Soon you'll be amazed at how you picture your marriage: two believers, who are both sinners, standing together at a level place at the foot of the cross. When that happens, you'll be able to embrace each other, offer forgiveness and experience restoration.

Think about your wife today and who she was seven years ago. Those long-ago infidelities probably say more about her past insecurity than they say about her relationship with you. You've probably wrestled with secret sin yourself, as most men do. But you both can look back and see how much you have changed. Now it's time to do as Paul teaches, forget those things that are behind and move ahead (Phil. 3:13).

This is a severe test of your faith. But forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation—these are what our faith is all about. Christians are people who forgive.

My husband is a stay-at-home guy, and I've spent ten years of our marriage attending social events alone or dragging him along and enduring his unsocial behavior. I'm fed up with it. I might just as well be single since I have to go everywhere alone anyway.

This problem is prevalent among couples, and there isn't a sure-fire cure for it. But various remedies have been attempted, some with moderate success.

As a starting point, see if you and your husband can't agree that in most marriages, some social give-and-take is part of the bargain. He goes to your things; you go to his. It's immature and unrealistic to expect every experience of life to be perfectly comfortable for everyone involved. There are always going to be long events with tedious speeches or social gatherings full of seemingly meaningless small talk. Maturity demands that couples grow up and accept these realities.

You may already have tried nagging. This actually produces some surface results, but generally it doesn't change a spouse's unsociable behavior. And it can create even more unhappiness. So here are some other approaches to try.

First, solicit the help of other couples. If another husband extends an invitation, rather than the two women setting up a couples' get-together, your husband may feel more welcomed or more interested in participating.

Second, try inviting couples to your home, where your husband feels most comfortable. If you keep inviting the same few couples, eventually your husband may lose some of his shyness or insecurity as these people become more familiar.

Third, there's the "if you can't beat him, join him" approach. What does he like to do? The world is full of women who go to car races, sporting events or fishing contests because those are things that interest their husbands. These women expand their own social world to include their mates' interests, then find friendship with other wives who attend.

Fourth, consider the possible causes of your husband's desire to stay at home. Sometimes a person who is deeply antisocial doesn't go out because he is depressed. Talk to your husband about this possibility and be prepared to take the next steps of contacting a counselor or even a doctor. A friend of mine made excuses for his wife's absences for many years. Some years later I had dinner in their home and was astonished by her liveliness and outgoing personality. It turned out she'd been depressed due to a chemical imbalance for 21 years. A minor prescription righted the condition, and she's been vitally engaged in life ever since.

But, having said all this, some people are just loners who aren't going to change very much. So do your best to find a workable compromise for dealing with friendships and social activities. Keep reminding yourself of your husband's admirable qualities—the things that drew you to him in the first place.

Jay Kesler is president of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He was formerly a pastor and also served as president of Youth for Christ.

Jay is not able to respond personally to readers' letters. But if you have a marriage question you'd like him to address in this column, send your question to:

Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, IL 61088

If you subscribe to an online service, you can e-mail your questions to:mp@marriagepartnership.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Affair; Compromise; Marriage; Trust
Today's Christian Woman, Fall, 1998
Posted September 12, 2008

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