Addressing Intrusive Thoughts

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (ESV)

A very common problem for a woman who is grappling with forgiving her husband for sexual sin is recurring thoughts that spring from the information she knows about his offence.

Choosing to stay and reconcile does not mean the pain of the offence goes away, even when you forgive him. There will always be a scar on your heart. Like any deep wound that hit a nerve, it will be extra sensitive and prone to ache from time to time.

You may be more sensitive to television programs that discuss infidelity or sexual sin of any kind. Because sexual sin is so deeply personal and intimate, you may find thoughts intruding into your everyday life at times you least expect them. You might find yourself sad at times for no apparent reason until you check your thoughts and understand that you are thinking on things of the past.

You may not always be able to control if thoughts of your husband’s sexual sins pop into your mind, but you are able to control what you do with those thoughts and how long they stay active. Past counselee’s have told me that when they meditated on the thoughts of their spouse’s sexual sin they became harder to dislodge. It stands to reason, the more you play with any sin the greater the hold it has on you. The more you ruminate on the actions of the past the more the hurt stays alive, the betrayal feels fresh, and you remain stuck between the sin of the past and moving forward.

The woman who forgives experiences a kind of post-traumatic stress response. She can struggle with thoughts and memories that cause her to relive the trauma or re-experience the pain she felt when she learned of the immorality or infidelity. When a wife struggles with recurrent memories and thoughts about her husband’s past sexual sin, it provides fertile ground for ongoing anger, bitterness and hurt to grow. In her thoughts and emotions, it is as though she is being sinned against over and over, keeping the hurt and betrayal alive. Recurrent memories can be a troublesome problem for both people in the marriage as they try to move forward in the reconciliation process.

The husband who has repented of his sin and is demonstrating fruit of that repentance also suffers by the memories his wife has of his sexual sin. He often suffers the verbal assault of the angry outbursts and other sinful reactions when those occur. Even when there are no sinful responses, he is keenly aware of the pain that repeatedly occurs when those memories surface. The repentant husband relives his (forgiven) sin against his wife each time it is talked through and hurt and pain is expressed.

Remember, some days will be better than others.

The world’s way of addressing intrusive thoughts is to modify your behavior. Behavior modification is an ineffective way to lasting change. You must learn to do more than control your thinking; you must change your thinking. You must be renewed in your mind (Romans 12:2) through the Word of God.

The biblical method of changing your thinking begins in the heart and is a work of the Holy Spirit. Your growth and change in this area of your life will affect much more than your thoughts about your spouse’s sexual sin and subsequent repentance; it will produce overall growth in Christ-likeness.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)

It is important to understand that we are to not allow our thoughts to have free reign. Scripture instructs us to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), to fix our thoughts on God (Isaiah 26:3), and to be disciplined in our thinking (2 Timothy 1:7) as in other aspects of our lives.