Has your marriage been touched by sexual immorality? No matter what sexual sin your spouse has committed, when you learned of it your life was changed. Your world tilted off of its axis and you realized nothing would ever be the same again. This is true, nothing will be the same. But it can be better. Sexual sin does not have to ruin your life or your marriage. It does not define who you are. This book offers the help and healing our Lord offers in understanding and overcoming the pain of a spouse's sexual sin. You will find the God who heals.
Living Beyond the Heart of Betrayal: Biblically Addressing the Pain of Sexual Sin
About the Book
This is an interview that was done for the Biblical Counseling Coalition for my book, Living Beyond the Heart of Betrayal: Biblically Addressing Your Spouses Sexual Sin.
As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Julie Ganschow as she talks about her new book, Living Beyond the Heart of Betrayal: Biblically Addressing the Pain of Sexual Sin.
BCC: “Share with our readers your thinking behind writing this book to both men and women.”
JG: “In years past, it was very unusual to have a woman be involved in sexual sin or at least be up front about being involved in sexual sin. The availability of pornography on the Internet has opened up a whole new world of filth for women, and immorality is an equal opportunity purveyor.”
BCC: “There are many fine books written about sexual sin from a biblical perspective—what are some of the unique aspects of your work?”
JG: “This book is written to the man or woman who wants to preserve their marriage, who is determined that they are willing to forgive their spouse as Christ has forgiven them. It is aimed at hope; it is aimed at healing; it is aimed at helping the couple to reclaim their marriage.”
BCC: “You spend time explaining the character and actions of the adulterous man or woman in your book. What is your reasoning for this? Could it be considered harmful for the spouse who has been sinned against in this way?”
JG: “We live in a day and age where people do not understand boundaries. A wedding ring used to mean something. When a man or a woman saw a wedding ring on someone’s finger it used to mean, ‘Stay away.’ Now, a wedding ring has become a sign of conquest. I think it’s important that we are aware that some women and men have become sexual predators.”
BCC: “You focus on the importance of understanding the role of the heart when it comes to sexual sin. Share with our readers how vital this heart-focus is.”
JG: “The heart is where sexual sin begins. I often tell my counselees that the actual adultery was the caboose on the train. Before a person takes that step there are things that take place at the heart level—sinful thoughts, sinful desires, and longings. Scheming and plotting have to occur before a person can click on that XXX porn site, meet up with someone at a bar, or even flirt with them at work. The role of the heart and understanding the role of the heart is critical to the person who as sinned against so that they can see that adultery or sexual sin is just the symptom of the problem, not the real problem.”
BCC: “You illustrate one church’s involvement through the story of Randy and Sandra. How important is it for the church leadership to be involved with a couple whose marriage is struggling due to sexual sin?”
JG: “I think that it is critical that the church be involved. The pastor and the elders need to be aware and need to be taking an aggressive leadership role with the one who has been unfaithful, to urge that person to repentance. They also need to be caring for the wounded party. They need to be wrapping their arms around that one as a church, and demonstrating the care and compassion of Christ.”
BCC: “How important is the Matthew 18 process in situations such as these?”
JG: “In all of the things that we do in counseling, or even in a discipleship role, we are always doing Matthew 18. Matthew 18 is urging another to repent. It is the process of restoration. There needs to be that one-to-one confrontation between a person and the sinner, ideally the person who has been sinned against or the person who has uncovered the sexual immorality. After repeated urgings, if there is no fruit of repentance that person needs to enlist a couple of trusted and close friends of the sexual sinner to urge that person to repentance. After that the pastoral leadership needs to be involved, and then the body of the church needs to be involved—always urging repentance, confession and restoration of the relationship. It is the system God has set in place.”
BCC: “In one chapter you explain how a couple moves forward in their marriage, in spite of past infidelity. How common is this in your counseling experience?”
JG: “I wish I could say that every single circumstance of infidelity has resulted in reconciliation and reunification. Everything hinges on if that sexual sinner is willing to repent and forsake their sin, and if the person who has been sinned against is willing to demonstrate Christ like forgiveness. When the sinner repents, and the one who is sinned against forgives, there is every single hope in Christ that the marriage can be restored!”
BCC: “What is the greatest struggle a couple faces as they choose to move forward in their marriage?”
JG: “I think it is the establishment of trust. In some of the cases that I’ve written about in the book, the sexual sin took place years earlier. The sexual sinner has lived with this knowledge for a long time and has changed their pattern of behavior due to their repentance, but their spouse has been completely unaware of the infidelity. When the spouse learns of the infidelity, it is a brand new day. It could have just happened yesterday as far as that spouse goes, so all of the groundwork that the former sinner (now repentant person) has put into the marriage, all of that is wiped away the moment that the spouse learns of that infidelity. And it is a very daunting hill to climb. But, with perseverance on both parts, it can work, and it does work.”
BCC: “What do you say to the wife or the husband after they find out about their spouse’s infidelity and then become angry/unforgiving?”
JG: “There is a chapter in the book about the victim’s heart. The person who was the victim often has unresolved anger, bitterness, and distrust, leading the person to switch roles. At times, the victim is now the victimizer in the relationship, if I can use that terminology. The repentant spouse is never able to do quite enough to suit the person who was once their victim, the other person in the marriage. When that repentant spouse does whatever has been requested of them, they find the bar is suddenly raised to the next level. It sets up a standard or a situation for the repentant sexual sinner that it is never enough; I’m never forgiven; it is never going to go away; it is always going to be here. If that spouse does not deal with the bitterness and the anger and begin to accept the demonstrations of those things on behalf of their formerly sinning partner, no trust is going to be established and the relationship will not move forward.”
BCC: “You stress the importance of the faithful spouse to respond and not initiate or defend themself during divorce proceedings. What is your reasoning for this?”
JG: “If a spouse has the goal of forgiveness or restoration in mind, filing divorce papers or taking legal action is the exact opposite of that. Divorce is a final act. Legal separation is a creation of man intended to be a “working on” period, or a “cooling off” period, but it doesn’t really work that way. I think that a Christian who desires to honor God (in almost every circumstance1) should be a respondent, waiting for the sinning spouse to continue to take steps. This reveals the heart condition of that spouse, makes for every opportunity for reconciliation, repentance, gives time for the Matthew 18 process to go forward. It gives the other spouse time to come to their senses, essentially. Waiting leaves the door open for repentance and reconciliation.”
BCC: “What is one of the greatest challenges a woman or man faces when their spouse has divorced them and they are forced to move on alone?”
GC: “I think it goes in stages. Initially it is the, ‘What is he or she doing now?’ There’s a great void that’s created when there’s a divorce, even when there’s a divorce due to sexual sin. Marriage is a bonding, a union. When a divorce is created or takes place it rips one whole into two pieces. The divorced or abandoned spouse cannot help but wonder what is he or she is up to. Are they enjoying their new life? And then there is the result of being the spouse that’s left, and having to shoulder the responsibility of a home and, perhaps for a woman, a full time job for the first time in years or decades—or ever! If there are children involved, dealing with the fallout of having to shepherd and nurture these children to prevent anger and bitterness from setting in. it’s just a very difficult situation all the way around.”
BCC: “What final thoughts would you like to share with our readers?”
JG: “Whatever whatever sexual sin the spouse has committed, when you learned about it your life was changed, your world tilted off its axis, and you realized that nothing was ever going to be the same. And the truth is nothing will be the same—but if you handle the situation biblically it can be better than you ever imagined. Adultery and sexual sin don’t have to be the end of the story. With God’s grace, with repentance, confession, acceptance, forgiveness, a couple can move on and their marriage really can be better than it ever was before.”
BCC: “Thank you, Julie, for writing this important work and for introducing our BCC readers to it.”
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