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Rebuilding Trust: Marsha’s Story

March 28, 2009

Even though I knew Jeff was committed to the recovery process, I was pretty sure he would fall again. We had been down this road before.  He had been in counseling, he had enjoyed periods of victory, but then he would slowly slide back into pornography.  Why would this time be any different?

On top of that, this time Jeff had been outright lying to me for months regarding pornography.  The last time he had been in counseling, he was encouraged to find an accountability partner.  When that partner moved out of the area, I became his accountability partner.  He gave me a series of questions to ask on a regular basis, which I did.

At some point, Jeff began lying when I would ask him “the questions.”  Just weeks before he had been caught, he had assured me that the Internet was no longer a temptation.  

After our world fell apart, I could no longer be Jeff’s accountability partner.   I couldn’t believe him.  Plus, he was too honest with me.  He would come home from the grocery story and tell me how great he had done while standing in line behind a woman in a mini-skirt.  These are things I didn’t need to hear.

Consequently, Jeff initiated a pretty intense accountability relationship with his best friend, a fellow pastor who lived out of state. They talked daily and Mike, his accountability partner, asked Jeff tough questions.  Jeff was very forthcoming and transparent with Mike.  It seemed to be a great solution to the accountability issue.  Jeff was very excited and so was Mike.  I, on the other hand, was skeptical.

I remember one particular phone conversation with Mike that went something like this:

Mike: How do you think Jeff is doing Marsha?

Marsha: How do I know?  I thought he was doing fine before and he clearly wasn’t.  I don’t know how to gauge how he is doing?

Mike:  I think he is being totally honest with me.  I really don’t think he would lie to me.

Marsha:  Mike, he has been lying to me blatantly and I had no idea and I live with him.  You are thousands of miles away.  How will you know if he is lying to you?

It was an honest dilemma.  Deception plays a major role in the life of the addict.  Part of the high of sexual addiction is the secrecy and keeping it from others.  It’s a sick game that has the hallmarks of Satan written all over it.  “Nobody has to know.  You aren’t hurting anyone.  You are sparing Marsha by keeping this from her.  You deserve this.”


Mike saw where I was coming from.  And he wanted to help Jeff rebuild my trust.  Mike suggested that we compare notes regularly on Jeff’s behavior.  He would check in with me monthly to let me know how Jeff was doing from his perspective.  I would report what I was noticing on my end.  If there was any discrepancies, that would be a red flag.

I also came up with a 24-hour rule.  If Jeff had a setback and viewed pornography (or anything questionable), he had 24-hours to confess to me, and I would demonstrate grace.  We could discuss it and talk about ways to avoid a repeat.  If he waited longer than a day or if I found out some other way, the consequences would be very serious.  Leaving would be a very real option.

Over a year has gone by and there have been just a few setbacks.  Jeff continues to talk weekly with Mike.  Mike continues to check in with me monthly.  When Jeff did experience a setback, Mike came down hard as he should have.  And we have expanded the 24-hour rule to include masturbation, as well as pornography.

I don’t know when the day will come that I will fully trust Jeff.  To be honest, I can’t imagine that day yet. But the supports we have put in place certainly reassure me and work for now. 




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