In order to overcome betrayal and begin to rebuild trust, I needed my spouse to be accountable for their time, friendships, spending habits, leisure/hobbies and work place. At the center of the betrayal were a collection of secrets that had kept the affair hidden from me. In many ways, the discovery of the secrets hurt as much as the betrayal itself. I thought that we had shared the value of honesty. The affair revealed a long-term pattern of lies that makes a spouse question everything about the marriage. I knew that if we were to make a commitment to reconciliation we must also renew our commitment to accountability. No longer could secrets exist in our relationship.
At the same time, I did not want to be a private detective, sifting through the trash for information or hiding in the bushes with camera in hand. I wanted boundaries in place that made accountability something that we chose to do out of love and respect rather than something I imposed. I didn’t want to be the policeman in our relationship; I wanted us to be lovers and friends.
Accountability means to give an “account” of one’s actions. All married couples need to be accountable to their spouses’. Accountability is not something that is needed only when a crisis occurs in a relationship. On the contrary, accountability is the highest form of respect in a marriage.
The lack of accountability become clear whenever there has been a betrayal of trust. A betrayal exposes a culture of secrecy within the marriage that must be eliminated. An offended spouse needs to know that his or her spouse will no longer keep secrets excluding things such as Christmas presents and surprise parties…
In particular, the spouse who has broken trust needs to be prepared to: Answer questions about his/her day, including whereabouts, schedules, phone calls, emails, contacts and interactions with others. Spouses needs to establish a way to contact each other at all times by agreeing to return texts, calls or emails as soon as possible. Couples should have access to bank records, credit card statements, phone records and computer passwords as a matter of normal practices. Depending on the circumstance there may be additional areas that require greater accountability.
A simple way of describing accountability is disclosing the details of your life. This is not punitive or controlling. Instead it creates opportunities to reestablish honesty with one another. One of the unforeseen benefits of accountability is developing a renewed intimacy by talking about your day, schedules, interaction with other people. Another benefit is reestablishing the priority of your relationship and/or family. Many married couples do this instinctively in the early stages of their relationships only to neglect this discipline of accountability as the demands of life and family grows.
Couples will gain added support when additional accountability partners are included in the rebuilding process. These accountability partners need to be people who are committed to the marriage not exclusively to one spouse. These accountability partners can help to bear some of the unpleasantness of asking very specific questions that may be painful for a spouse to ask on a regular basis, such as, have you made any hidden purchases, what is your thought life like, have you acted out inappropriately?
(Part one of three)
In what ways has accountability improved your marriage?
How have you been able to overcome unhealthy or destructive habits through accountability?