Every Heart Restored: A Wife's Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband's Sexual Sin Paperback – Jul 20 2010
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About the Author
Brenda Stoeker is a registered nurse, mother of four, and seasoned marriage teacher with life experience in rebuilding a broken marriage. Fred Stoeker is founder and chairman of Living True Ministries, coauthor of the Every Man series, and a conference speaker who has counseled hundreds of men and married couples. Stephen Arterburn is founder and chairman of New Life Clinics, host of the daily New Life Live! national radio program, creator of the Women of Faith Conferences, and the author of more than sixty books. Mike Yorkey is the author, coauthor, or general editor of several books for men, including Daddy’s Home and The Christian Dad Answer Book.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
by Stephen Arterburn
I am so glad you found this book. It could change your life and your love forever.
If you are a woman in a relationship with a man who is struggling with sexual sin, this book can help you in ways you never imagined. You will be amazed that there are so many other women who share your experience. These women have been through that same dreadful period of sensing something in a relationship was not right, and at the same time being unable to identify exactly what was wrong or who was at fault. They have felt the same searing anger that arose when you realized you were being betrayed. They have experienced the same feelings of inadequacy and the false belief that, If I had just been more of a woman, he would have remained faithful and pure. They have been blamed for his problems and carried the weight of his shame.
If you have been through what these women have been through, this book will help you see yourself, your circumstances, and your husband’s problem in a different light.
Every Heart Restored will guide you from dark despair to new hope, from resentful bitterness to emotional freedom, from protective detachment to the possibility of a deep connection with your husband. The transition and transformation won’t be instant, nor will they be easy. Restoration is going to take some hard work on your part, at a time when you may feel you have worked hard enough and are ready to give up. But if you follow the path laid out here by Fred and Brenda Stoeker, your heart can be restored—even if your husband is unwilling to make changes. You will be able to live in freedom even if he chooses to remain in bondage to sexual sin.
Not every relationship can be salvaged, and perhaps restoration and freedom seem impossible to you now. But there is hope. God can use this book as a tool to restore your heart.
If you have felt lost and confused through this journey with your husband and his battle with sexual sin, you are not alone. A friend of mine has an extremely bright little boy named Carter. At the age of four, he and his mother were in a discussion about why Jesus came to die on a cross for us. Carter, recalling Christ’s last words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), very confidently told his mom that Jesus died because, “We don’t know what we are doing down here.” I don’t think it has ever been said better. We don’t know what we are doing down here. And when it comes to sex, that could not be more true.
Part of the problem for men can be traced back to 1953 when Hugh Hefner began saturating the world with his philosophy, which was articulated in his Playboy magazine. Hefner talked about a new view of sex without any boundaries or shame attached. He told us men that if we used the pornography he wanted to sell to us, it would make us more sophisticated, more sexual, and much better lovers. Millions of men bought into that philosophy and made Heffner (and other pornographers like him) rich.
The problem was that Hugh Hefner lied. Then later, with the establishment and accessibility of the Internet, we have seen the true result of pornography: It has not made men more sexually capable and competent; it has made them impotent. Pornography has objectified women and turned the hearts of men away from them. All over the world men have failed to perform sexually unless they are stimulated with pornography. And beautiful women have been destroyed when a man has to pull out a Playboy or turn on a video and look at it while he has sex with his wife.
Not only has pornography caused men to be weak sexual partners, it has disconnected them from those they love. This disconnection is often the first step toward a painful divorce and the end of what God intended to be great. We simply don’t know what we are doing down here.
But now, men are starting to wake up to the Playboy-porn lie and get their acts together, resulting in hope for marriage and hope for discouraged and persevering wives. There is a counter sexual revolution going on, and men are turning away from their sexual sins and back to their wives for all their sexual gratification. Men are aware that their decision to do so does not heal the hurt and resentments that have built up over the years. And that is where this book comes in.
For some time now my team and I have been conducting seminars for men struggling with sexual integrity. (You can find out more about The Every Man’s Battle Workshop at NewLife.com.) The results of those seminars have been amazing Lives have been changed, marriages saved, and hearts restored. Men from all walks of life—pastors, truck drivers, entertainers, single fathers, old and young—have straggled into the sessions, burdened with the guilt and shame of their past misdeeds. They have often come kicking and screaming, not wanting to be there, not wanting to pay for the workshop, and not wanting to change. But even though they have shown up under the worst of circumstances and the weakest of motivations, miraculously we have seen dramatic transformation, repentance, and healing.
The last day of each workshop is filled with open confession and relentless tears as men turn from God-defying pasts to become God’s men.
As these transformed men have returned home to bruised women like you, we have realized the possibility of a relational disaster—the reunion is usually fraught with difficulties even though he has obtained help for his wandering eyes and heart. He has returned intent on giving his wife full attention and wanting a deeper connection. He has now committed to receive all of his sexual gratification from her. But just when he is wanting her the most, his wife often is starting to resent him the most—as the full reality of his problem becomes evident to her. He wants to confess past sins that are not quickly or easily forgiven. So at the height of her anger, he wants to be with her in a new way and experience intimacy that perhaps the couple has never known before. He wants her to trust him, while her stagnant
heart wonders if he can ever be trusted and if she can ever fully love him again. The aftermath of sexual sin is a tough place for both husband and wife.
There is yet another element of despair for many women whose husbands have been involved in sexual sin. After reading Every Man’s Battle or attending the workshop, his transformation begins and is often noticeable to others. People start to admire him for the changes he has made and the new way of living he has so bravely embraced. Ironically, the husband who betrayed his wife becomes a moral hero and is often sought out for counsel. For years she struggled, persevered, and served through his sin. But now, within weeks, all of that appears forgotten as he becomes the man of the hour. Her frustration with this new role can lead to her abandonment of the relationship at a time when it has the greatest opportunity to
If you have experienced any of these emotional and spiritual dilemmas, I know your pain is real and deep. Now here is a resource for you or any woman who has sacrificed for a man who has been sexually unfaithful. Whether it was Internet porn, compulsive masturbation, or an actual physical affair, this book will help you understand him. It will help you understand why he did what he did and show you that you were not responsible for it, even though he might have tried to convince you otherwise.
In no way do you have ultimate responsibility for what he did to you and your marriage. But no one is perfect—especially in difficult circumstances such as those you have been through. The tough reality is that you might have contributed to problems in your marriage (not caused them, but made some contribution to them). For numerous reasons, you might not have been available to him in the ways he thought you should be. You might have withheld sex from him altogether. While that did not help the situation, it did not force him to be unfaithful. That was his choice. Now, both of you have choices, and Every Heart Restored will help you make the best ones with the greatest likelihood for success.
I close this foreword with the words of Jesus. In John 5 we find the story of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda with a man who had been seeking healing there for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked the man a simple question that all of us must answer as well: “Do you want to get well?” (verse 6). Healing is a choice, a choice we hope you make as you read this wonderful book.
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I picked this book up with great expectation. I had read Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (The Every Man Series) several years ago in my attempt to conquer pornography. I enjoyed it, but cannot say it helped much. Looking back, the Every Man series didn't offer anything beyond the cycle. If you have any experience with this issue then you probably know about the cycle. It goes something like this:
1) the wife gives it all she's got, but eventually quits
2) the husband gives it all he's got, but eventually quits
3) Wash, rinse, repeat
I felt like Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (The Every Man Series) called me to give it all I had. Every Heart Restored: A Wife's Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband's Sexual Sin (The Every Man Series) basically calls the wife to give it all she's got. (Though I think they even did a rather poor job of convincing me of that, but maybe that's because I'm a man.) The hope offered between these two books (not judging the others in the series) seems to be that the husband and wife will get their cycles aligned and then enjoy marital bliss for the rest of their lives.
I now know of only 3 ways to break the cycle. The first two are suggested and supported by the authors: divorce (legal and/or emotional) or 'aligning the cycle.' The last way to break the cycle is hinted at in this book, but I just don't feel like the authors ever got there: true victory in Christ.
Since I suggest that you skip this book, let me recommend the one that God used to break through my thick skull: Undefiled: Redemption From Sexual Sin, Restoration For Broken Relationships. What did it for me is the realization that God isn't going to answer a selfish prayer. I had begged God to remove the sin of pornography so that I could live without shame or so that I could have a happy marriage... most recently the latter. You see, even my marriage is just another false lover. God wants my whole heart. He has been trying to win it back. When God revealed this, I suddenly realized I didn't need to learn a new trick (like bouncing my eyes) and just work harder at it. I needed to decide to love God back - even more than I wanted to have my marriage healed. And that has restored my heart.
I came back to update this review with another recommendation and an excerpt to encourage you:
"I am reminded of a story from the desert fathers. The desert fathers (and mothers) were Christian hermits, monks, and ascetics who lived in the desert, mainly in Egypt, during the third century-- when Christianity was still illegal in the Roman Empire. The story goes like this:
"One of the fathers followed by his disciples arrives at the gates of Alexandria. He sees a very beautiful woman coming along the road. The disciples cover their heads with their cloaks so as not to fall into temptation of the flesh. From underneath their cloaks, they see their master and are scandalized to find him looking straight at the beautiful woman! After she has entered the gates, they remove their cloaks and ask, "How could you succumb to temptation and look at the woman?" Their master replied sadly, "How impure are your hearts. You saw her only as a temptation. I saw her as one of God's wonders."
"These disciples, living in community with one another and their master, had cut themselves off from the fuller community by reducing women - especially beautiful women - to temptations to be avoided. Their master, on the other hand, had learned to love and embrace the fuller community because he was able to see others as wonders of God. This is the very trap I want us to avoid. I don't want you to be either afraid of women or to reduce them to inhuman objects of lust, desire, or temptation. We can end up doing this by falling into either extreme, by refusing to look at them at all or by willingly looking at them as objects of desire. I want you to be able to love your female neighbor by seeing her as the wonder she is: the image of the living and true God."
- Letters to My Sons: A Humane Vision for Human Relationships by M. G. Bianco.
If you've just been wounded by a man's sexual sin, DO NOT read this book. I picked this book up under the guise it was supposed to help wives deal with the emotional, mental and physical aftermath of her husband's sexual sin (porn and/or affairs), but it's more about justifying a man's bad behavior and stressing how the burden of correction is on the woman.
My first problem with this book is that it's written by a man. As a woman, there's healing in hearing how other women felt, dealt with and hopefully overcame this crisis. A woman who has been devastated and wounded by her husband does not need to hear the cool, casual and dismissive remarks of this male author. Nor does she need to hear how she should be excusing her husband's behavior because he is biologically prone to sexual sin, had an absentee father or experienced childhood abuse. Let's not forget that many people have had bad childhoods and either end up in serious personal troubles or grow up to have productive lives -- it's all about choice. A bad start in life doesn't excuse one's poor life choices -- regardless of gender. What's worse is the author condemns women for wallowing in their hurt and sorrow, calling it a sin to stay in that frame of mind. Well, yes, we need to eventually move on from our pain toward healing and forgiveness, but do not condemn a devastated, betrayed woman for what she is feeling. She needs to feel in order to move on. Let's not forget God knows what it feels like to be betrayed. The Old Testament is full of passages on God speaking about the hurt, rejection, betrayal and sorrow He felt over his people constantly rejecting Him and committing idolatry. God understands a woman's plight in this area, and even on a greater scale. I ask the author to read Hosea with the intention of really hearing God express his deep hurt over being betrayed, then the author will get a glimpse into a heart of a betrayed woman. I personally found reading Hosea quite healing and also guiding in terms of finding that I can forgive.
The author of this book, however, has no compassion and demands forgiveness rather than lovingly points the way.
Another concern I have about the author began early on in the book during a discussion he had with his wife about a pre-marriage group he leads. He had upset several women in the group over a discussion on PMS. He commented on how women can simply overcome mood swings, aches, pains and other symptoms by just praying harder. The author's wife tried to explain to him that the women were upset by his comments because they seemed to make light of this very real female issue. The author, in his arrogance, threw scripture at his wife in reply. I'm not surprised the author showed little compassion.
Yes, it is true that God is greater than PMS, but it's not an easy physical issue to deal with. Each woman is different and each woman experiences PMS in greater or lesser degrees. To have a "Christian" man come in and make light of a very real issue appalled me. What's worse, in the same breath he turns around and tries to excuse the poor sexual behavior of men, including his own, on background and childhood, without ever really talking about an individual's responsibility to pray and seek God for help and deliverance. He is quick to point out how women should do this, but avoids talking about how men need to take responsibility for their own actions as well and hit their knees. The men can curl up in a ball of guilt demanding the women do all of his work. I find no scripture or verse that backs this attitude up.
Sadly, this book glosses over the deep wounding and pain of a betrayed woman. If you have been betrayed, this book will offer no comfort or guidance toward healing and forgiveness and rebuilding of trust. In fact, I really don't recall it addressing these issues in depth at all. It touches briefly on "here's what you're feeling," than rushes on to talk about how men feel and the needs of men and what men have to have for the rest of the book. The author's wife speaks briefly in spots, only to be overshadowed by her husband's remarks. The author makes no bones about having had a very bad and violent temper, so it's no surprise his wife is agreeing with him throughout the book.
An additional problem I had with the book was the assortment of accounts from other women who have dealt with their husband's sexual sin. The stories are the same: wife catches husband, husband lies, "repents," then just finds better ways of telling lies and hiding his sin until he's caught again. These men never honestly deal with the issue and their wives are left wounded over and over again and told they need to keep praying, keep forgiving, keep excusing their behavior as "well, this is his natural tendency and he had a bad childhood," and if I pray hard enough, he'll change.
While prayer is crucial, the husband needs to take responsibility and pray if he's to be free of sexual sin. If he's not honestly praying and earnestly seeking God for help, guidance and deliverance every moment of his life, he will not change. He hasn't hit a point where he feels he needs to, so he does not. God does not force us to change. He will gives us all the tools and ability we need to change, but unless we step out and use them and rely on His strength, we will not overcome that sin. As wives, we are helpmates and stand beside our men in prayer. But preventing them from sinning is NOT our sole responsibility. The husband needs to be the one to take action in getting his life right before God. The women in these accounts seem little more than doormats, and there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that says we should permit that.
The author is also quick to hammer home the point that women's bodies belong to their husband. True. I kept waiting for him to talk about the rest of that scripture, about a man's body belonging to his wife. He never did. He points out how men have twisted that scripture to abuse their wives. The author's wife even joins in to tell women our bodies belong to our husbands and to withhold it is a sin. But neither of them bother to say how men are wrong for depriving their wives of their bodies through sexual sin. If more men viewed their bodies as belonging to their wives, maybe they'd be less inclined to give it to another woman, to pornography or to whatever the sexual sin might me. This point was not discussed.
The main point of this book: "Wives, your man is going to fall into sexual sin, so give him sex whenever and however he wants or he'll be FORCED to look elsewhere because of his natural tendencies and bad childhood. It doesn't matter if he's not taking care of your emotional or relational needs, because marriage really is only about sex to him and your needs are secondary as a woman. Oh, and it's nothing personal, because men can separate love from sex and therefore have affairs with dozens of women but still say he loves you. But as women, your job is to always forgive, not matter what he treats you like, and then maybe he'll decide to change, after he cheats on you again."
I think the author has forgotten 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
AND Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
If more men AND women believed and lived by those scriptures, and many others talking about what love really is, we wouldn't be having to write or read such awful books on sexual sin in marriages.
I am not one of these women who don't believe a man cannot speak into my circumstances and have something worth to say regarding my pain. Anyone who brings God's Word to me and offers me hope can do that regardless of their gender, so I am not criticizing this book because it was half written by a man. What I do want to bring across is that the book promises one thing and does anything but that.
I want to briefly share my story. Just two weeks ago I discovered my husband's horrible secret, that for his entire life he has struggled with the pull towards lust of looking at naked women. He did not share that deep struggle before we married and thought he could "control it". Things got much worse 6-8 years ago when the personal computer, then ipad, then iphone all entered our home. Even though we had safeguards on our computers for our kids' sake and I held all passwords he found other ways. The last 8 years or so have been a constant struggle for him. Being held captive for 2-3 months to graphic pornography (no longer just naked women), renouncing it thinking he could 'handle it' for 2-3 months and the cycle would continue until I discovered what was going on.
Of course the hurt and pain came in like a flood leaving me numb with anger, and raw from the pain of the constant lies and betrayal. However, God very quickly intervened and gave me the grace to forgive him and filled me with compassion as I began to understand the depth of bondage and despair he had been in for so many years. As i looked to God's Word and prayed with my husband and saw him take steps to overcome I began to feel some hope.
It was at that point I felt I needed to read some books by people who had experienced my pain and see if they could map out a path to lead me through the mine field of emotions that lay before me. As I began to read this book it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a difficult read for me. The authors felt the need to explain in great details the male sexuality and the pull towards visual gratification and the traps that that brings. Coupled with that, throughout the book are "testimonies" of other men who have struggled through pornographic addiction. I decided to wade through the first chapters that seemed to endlessly explain all of this hoping that eventually they would get to the "good stuff" .... how do I personally deal with the hurt?
Each time I would pick up the book I would be forced to put it down after a chapter or two as my mind would begin to fill with all the horrible things my husband must have been doing and as that filled my mind the hurt and the fears with flood me with new pain. Where was the help?!!
Finally, just yesterday (Father's Day!) we had lavished my husband with love and gifts hoping to bless him. We (he and I) were in a good place after an especially good weekend together. He left to run an errand and I decided to pick up the book again. Big mistake! By the time my husband got home I was angry and hurt all over again. He was confused and hurt and didn't know what to say to me. By the time the evening was over we felt like we had destroyed all the Lord had tried to work in us this past two weeks! All because I'd read this stupid book again!!
I have always tried to understand my husband as a man and his sexual needs, what drives him. I am no prude in bed and would always at least try what ever he wanted thinking I was blessing him (and I was). I know now pornography is not about him not loving me but it's a trap of Satan. I'm saying that to explain that I did not need a book to graphically lay out for me again why he'd fallen into sin, I needed something to help me as a wife deal with the pain.
If they had just titled this book for what it really was it would be "no harm, no foul" but they're marketing this book to be something it is not. This is a dangerous book for a hurting woman to read. If you've managed to get through this long review my final words are if you are hurting or if you are trying to help someone who is hurting DO NOT READ THIS or recommend this book!!!!!
I am considering writing the authors themselves because they should know how this book actually inflicts more pain rather than helps.
If want to ask more questions on this feel free to comment
There were nuggets of practical advice and hope. I liked the way views from both wives and husbands were presented. The most important thing I learned was that it is possible for a husband to love his wife and still sin against her. I don't understand it or like it, but I believe it and this book does a good job of introducing that concept. I also learned a lot about the importance of a Christian wife's role of encouraging her husband spiritually. I liked Fred's description about how Brenda influenced him by lovingly refusing to accept anything less than righteousness from him. I also liked Brenda's attitude that her destiny is forever entwined with Fred's and that when one sins it pollutes the stream for both of them.
If you are in deep pain right now, understand that healing will take lots of time and lots of God. This book won't fix you or your marriage, but it can give you some insight and encouragement. For biblical healing, I strongly recommend "Lord Heal My Hurts" by Kay Arthur.
A really bizarre thing Brenda Stoeker wrote was "... two dear old school chums who... suddenly and inexplicable found ourselves in bed together." This oddity begins in the second to the last paragraph on page 222 and continues onto page 223. I am still shocked that she would write something so flip. To describe intimacy with her husband as being like fornication, in my opinion, is completely irresponsible. Considering the primary audience for this book is women who are newly and/or deep in suffering through the reality of their husband's illicit sex, her words are really insensitive. Perhaps Fred's mental adultery is far enough behind them that she can talk so "lightly" about such things, but it shows disrespect for the majority of readers. Also, it is flat out bizarre and out of context in Christian self-help! The book has some good stuff so it really is unfortunate she tossed in that bit of trash and, in my eyes, did much to discredit herself.
Take this book with a grain of salt and, if you haven't already, find really good Christian therapists for yourself and husband! Good luck to all of you in one of the most painful trials of your life.
Helpful books for you and him: Any of the Boundaries books, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, Trapped in the Mirror, The Narcissistic Family, writings by Patsy Rae Dawson (gospelthemes.com), Douglas Weiss. Ph.D (sexaddict.com), Mark Laaser (faithfulandtrueministries.com and Edwin Cole, especially Maximized Manhood