Article taken from “Shattered Vows” by Debbie Laaser, MA, LMFT (Pages 184-187)
When beginning to recover from sexual betrayal, a wife needs to know daily that her husband has stopped his sexual acting out. Some are afraid to ask because their husband gets angry and defensive when they do. Others want to avoid “being his mother” by constantly asking him questions.
To avoid these pitfalls, Mark and I suggest a checking-in process called FANOS, an acronym derived from a Greek word meaning “to shed light on” or “to bring to light.” It not only brings to light the nature of sexual purity, but also provides a way for a couple to connect emotionally – bringing light to each other’s hearts and restoring trust in your marriage.
Each letter of the acronym represents a subject you will talk about together:
Feelings: Share with your spouse a feeling you have.
Affirmations: Affirm your spouse for something he or she has done.
Needs: State a need you have today (not necessarily one that must be met by your spouse).
Ownership: Take responsibility and apologize for something you have said or done.
Sobriety: Here your husband has an opportunity to tell you the status of his sexual purity that day. You have an opportunity to check in regarding something you are working on (sobriety from overeating, raging, criticizing, withdrawing, etc.)
One of you will begin the check-in and run through your entire FANOS; then the other will do the same. Talking through the entire FANOS should take no longer than a few minutes, but it gives you both a regular opportunity to share what you are thinking, feeling, and doing on your journey toward healing from sexual betrayal.
Vicky carried out the following FANOS with her husband; it provides an excellent example to follow:
Feelings: I’m a little scared, but hopeful. I’ve gotten used to being alone for the past two months. I’m worried about the conflict when we move back in together.
Affirmations: I’m thankful for your demeanor during counseling today. You seemed quiet, settled, and kind. I felt loved and heard.
Needs: I need some recognition from my boss that I helped solve a big problem for the company last week. I took a big risk to be honest and report some inappropriate conduct, and I realize I want to be thanked.
Ownership: I’m sorry that I have yet to recognize many issues from my family of origin. In particular, I regret my financial phobia. You’re a generous man. We could have resolved our financial issues if only I hadn’t been so sensitive. I believe my conduct has harmed us, and I’m sorry about it.
Sobriety: I’ve practiced healthy eating habits all day. While I have occasional periods of hunger, I’m making progress in being more honest about how I’ve used food to cope with my feelings.
Another concrete way for a couple to rebuild broken trust is to talk frankly about the dynamics that typically led up to a husband’s sexual infidelity, especially if his infidelity had become a pattern.
As Mark began to understand the patterns of his sexual sin, he reinforced his renewed commitment to our marriage vows by sharing with me boundaries he was creating to protect himself from acting out again. He needed to change certain rituals, including behaviors that weren’t directly associated with sexual choices. For instance, when Mark was overloaded with work responsibilities, he felt entitled to treat himself with some kind of pleasure.
If I was unavailable because of my work or the kids, he would turn to other sexual pleasures. Numerous triggers were part of the cycle that led Mark down the slippery slope of sexual sin, and our relationship improved once he identified these triggers and established a plan to protect himself with appropriate boundaries.
Karen’s husband shared frankly with her in a similar way. Ted typically fell into affairs with women while traveling for business. As he dissected his cycle of sinful choices, he told Karen it started during happy hour when he would have a few drinks and then become flirtatious with other women. He was already tired from the day and bored with evening hours to fill in his hotel room. The combination of alcohol, tiredness, and boredom led him into a cycle he couldn’t stop. Choosing to give up social drinking when traveling and to replace cocktail hour with working out was a way he began rebuilding trust with her.
Creating solutions that work for you
If you are ready to begin trusting again and your husband has joined you by doing whatever it takes, you should think about the things you need that he may not have thought about. While ideally he will be working hard to earn back your trust, you may find that your fears or anxieties are calmed when you make specific requests.
For example, when Mark and I were in public together, I asked him to introduce me to women who might come up and talk to him. (He had quite a few community responsibilities, so it wasn’t uncommon for people to approach him.) Susan asked her husband if he would call her each night before he went to bed when he was traveling. Nancy needed to know that she could ask questions about women at her husband’s workplace if she felt triggered when she saw them.
You don’t always get your needs met in the moment, but it’s healthy to keep identifying your needs and asking for a response. If you learn to ask in a non-demanding, non-critical way, your husband should be willing to try to meet your needs in the interest of rebuilding the trust he has broken.
Get help restoring trust in your marriage
JD is a licensed marriage and family therapist, who brings experience and training to help you get your relationship to a better place. If you would like support on your journey to restore trust in your marriage, contact J.D. Murphy. Call now or just fill out the contact form and press Send.