Most people think the toughest part of healing from your spouse’s infidelity or sexual addiction is the shame or embarrassment when friends or family find out.
Some think the most challenging part is restoring the broken trust.
Others think the hardest part is finding a safe group of people to connect with that “get” what you are feeling.
While all three of these are challenging, they typically aren’t the most difficult.
The Insanity Loop
For the vast majority of betrayed spouses, the most challenging part of healing from sexual betrayal is learning how to stop doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.
Most betrayed spouses spend weeks, months, and even years caught in this obsessive, life-sucking, reality-distorting human hamster wheel. I call it “the insanity loop.”
It’s when we allow ourselves to linger in the path of our unhealthy spouse’s destructive choices, falling prey to their confusing deflection, persuasive passive-aggressive manipulation, or blame-shifting because they refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
We may often stay in the insanity loop because we want to control our pain level in the wake of our spouse’s sin or we’re terrified to set healthy boundaries because at least we’re familiar with the trauma; we have no idea what life will look like without our addictive partner. Our fear leads us to think it might be worse.
Are You Stuck?
So how can we recognize when we are caught in the insanity loop?
First, we’re repeatedly thinking the same thoughts, saying the same words, or performing the same actions over and over expecting it to produce some change in our spouse. We nag or question them, use passive aggressive behaviors, or subtly manipulate them to get answers.
Second, we scour their phone or credit card records to find out who they’re talking to or where they’re spending time or money. We may secretly scan their emails or look up their internet search history.
Third, we may digitally stalk them via their cell phone’s GPS or physically track them down to spy on their whereabouts.
Fourth, we may hire a hacker to break into their private accounts to see what they’re looking at or who they’re talking to.
Fifth, we may confront them with our damning evidence thinking surely this is going to make them change. Instead, we present our evidence and then are dumbfounded when they deny any wrongdoing, make lame excuses, and turn the tables on us.
You’re Not Alone
If you are doing these things or experienced this kind of response from an unrepentant addict or adulterer, you’re not alone. I did some of these repetitive behaviors myself and quickly learned all it does is make us angrier and feel more out of control than we already feel.
We start realizing that all our obsessing is doing is making us worse. We swear we’re not going to do it again. We tell ourselves, “I’m not going to play detective anymore. I’m not going to obsess over them anymore.” We get by for a couple of days or a couple of weeks or maybe even a couple of months before we start right back at it again.
The Bible speaks to this uncontrollable need to do what we know we shouldn’t do. In Romans 7:15, the Apostle Paul says, “I do not understand what I do for what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.”
Can you relate? This is Paul talking about the human condition.
“I Just Want the Pain to Stop”
Why do I keep falling into these same patterns? Why do we keep doing it?
And the biggest reason we do it is because we just want the pain and uncertainty to stop. We feel caught in a vortex and become disoriented. We don’t know whether we’re coming or going.
Even though our spouse is enslaved to their sin and blinded by their selfishness, we are still expecting them to give us something they are mentally, emotionally and physically incapable of giving us—peace and security.
Instead of being our protectors, they are the ones damaging our souls. It’s like our home is a carousel ride in the middle of a battleground. And it just goes round and round and round…
That’s the insanity loop, and we get sucked into it when we forget two things: God is God, and we aren’t.
God is God
First, we forget that God is on his throne, and he sees everything. Nothing gets past him.
Jeremiah 16:17 says, “My eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.”
Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Unlike us, God is not bound by time and space. He’s omniscient and omnipresent. In other words, he sees it all. Whatever we think our spouse is hiding that we feel we just absolutely have to find out, God already knows about it. Psalm 90:8 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.”
We Aren’t God
The second thing we forget is how much smarter, stronger, and more powerful God is than us when it comes to creating an environment to prompt our spouse’s repentance.
In our humiliation and anger, we forget who God is and think—in all our human wisdom—we have to do something to change our spouse.
1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “For the foolishness of God is why wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
In other words, there is no plan or scheme that you can create that God can’t do infinitely and immeasurably better.
When my husband and I were separated, there were countless times when I had to metaphorically sit on my hands until they were numb to cease my desperate need to force my husband to repent. I had to wrestle my will and my pain into submission and let God deal with him. It was one of the hardest personal battles of my recovery.
So why is it so hard to step away and let God deal with them?
In simplest terms—habit. We’ve done it for so long, we don’t even realize it has become automatic to us.
I call it, the dance. And just like in a waltz where one partner leads and the other follows, there is a pattern we fall into with our unrepentant spouse. They say this and you say that. You do this and they do that. And on and on.
It’s as healthy as bashing your head against a wall to cure a headache. It just doesn’t work, and yet we continue to do it.
The Apostle Peter says, “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud” (2 Peter 2:22).
Fear vs. Faith
The second reason that we get stuck in the insanity loop is because of the most basic of human instinct—fear. Ask yourself, why do you keep diving into the same obsessive cycle over and over again?
I want to encourage you to drag the answer to this question out of the shadows of your heart and into the light by journaling all the reasons why you feel like you desperately need to act or speak when it comes to uncovering or confronting your spouse’s sin.
Some examples might be:
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being alone
- Fear of being unloved
- Fear of being homeless
- Fear of being unable to support yourself
Maybe our parents or friends rejected or abandoned us at some point in our life. Maybe we turned to marriage to alleviate the fear of being alone. Maybe we’re a stay home mom financially dependent on our addicted or unfaithful spouse.
My Personal Fears
Mine was fear of rejection and abandonment. Because of my father’s own childhood core wounds, he didn’t know how to meet my emotional needs, and I was left to feel like I wasn’t worthy of love. Consequently, I was emotionally neglected throughout my youth by the person who was God’s template in my life and the primary person designed to teach me my worth. I unconsciously carried my unworthiness and fear of abandonment into my marriage.
And how did God respond to me when my husband abandoned me? My Father took care of every need of myself and my children. We always had food. I was able to pay my bills on time each month with minimal support from my husband while initially working a part-time job. After two years, God provided me with a full-time job.
I have no doubt it was because I chose to believe the promises of God and trust him. Ultimately, it was my faith in God over my fear of the unknown that enabled me to move in a healthy direction. It was choosing to trust that God was God, and I was not.
It was choosing to believe Romans 8:32 that “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously, give us all things?”
It sounds simplistic and naïve. It’s not; it’s faith (Hebrews 11:1, 6).
A third reason we have such a hard time stepping out of the insanity loop is idolatry.
I’m not talking about bowing down to golden statues. Idolatry in marriage happens when we look to our spouse to give us our primary identity and value instead of to our Creator.
Some of us learn this as children from the unhealthy pattern in our family. Some of us learn it from entertainment and social media. The idea is absorbed into our thinking and our life from our environment. We turn to created things like relationships, possessions, jobs, institutions, and ideologies to tell us who we are and what we are worth.
As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, we “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and serve created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
See, God is the only thing in this universe that is not created and worthy of our worship. Not a spouse, not a marriage, not a reputation.
So, how do we stop? How do we get off the insanity loop?
Owning Our Recovery
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The first thing we do to exit the insanity loop is accept that what we have been doing is not working. We admit we can’t win an argument with an addict, and we can’t change their mind. We admit that playing detective is only keeping us from healing.
Second, we do the opposite of what you have been doing. Stepping off the dance floor may literally mean walking away from a conversation mid-sentence. It means us repenting of our idolatry and choosing to obey God’s word rather than our feelings.
Third, we choose faith over fear. We choose putting our faith into action.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
We don’t have any control over our spouse’s choices to change, but we have complete control over our own choices to not marinate in perpetual pain, heartache, and disappointment of the insanity loop and choose a path of healing.
Ready to Exit?
So, what about you? Has the acid of your pain eaten through the wall of your denial?
If you’ve reached your pain threshold and are ready to exit the insanity loop and invest time, energy, and yes, even a little money into your own healing, schedule a free breakthrough call with me. You can also check out the Hope for Spouses recovery programs and communities.