Back from the Brink: A Real-Life Story of a Marriage in Recovery
When I met my husband, Peter, through a mutual friend in North Carolina, I thought I'd found Mr. Wonderful and that my dreams of a perfect marriage had come true. He was cute, friendly, and a gentleman. But what I liked most was his spontaneity. Whenever we'd go on a date, I never knew what he had planned.
I couldn't believe how well we got along during our first two years of marriage. Even our sex life was great, or so I thought. Then one day Peter came home from work with a pornographic movie. "I just want to spice up our sex life a little," he said. "There's nothing wrong with trying something new." The kinky three-partner sex scenes we watched tormented me the rest of the night.
But that was just the beginning of what he wanted to try.
I grew up in a legalistic Christian home where my mom lived to please my dad. I learned at a young age that women should be submissive to their husbands, and I strictly applied this concept to my marriage. I felt trapped in a moral dilemma and didn't know what to do. Do I run from this repulsive situation and disobey what I had been taught about proper wifely behavior, or do I submit to my husband and humiliate myself?
After enduring a lot of Peter's "sweet talk," I gave in to his wishes.
I didn't complain. I felt as though I had to submit. Every time I tried to protest, I'd hear my mother's voice: Make sure your husband is happy. Do whatever he asks of you.
I didn't dare talk to anyone about our lifestyle. I couldn't confide in my family. And although Peter and I had both become Christians at a young age, we rarely attended church. With nowhere to turn, I felt desperately alone.
Everyone who knew us thought we had the perfect home life. And in reality, outside of my husband's perversions, we did get along well. He didn't drink, smoke, or use drugs. He treated me with the utmost kindness at home and in public. He just couldn't get enough of this sordid lifestyle.
Four years into our marriage, my husband lost his job because of an expired work visa. We had to move back to his home country of Canada.
Finally! I thought. A chance to abandon our acquaintances and stop this filthy lifestyle. For a brief period, hope rose within me.
We moved to a small Canadian town, immediately found jobs, and rented a nice apartment. At first we didn't meet anyone, and I actually thought we'd left all the garbage behind. But before long, it all started again.
Attempts to silence my conscience led me to a church in a nearby city.
While driving home from church one Sunday, I broke down in tears over the pressures of living a double lifestyle. With no end in sight from our sex rituals, and no hope of my husband changing, something snapped inside of me.
"I can't take this any more," I cried out. "I've had enough! God, I need to get out of here."
A new strength surged within me. I drove home, stuffed what I could into a suitcase, jumped back in my car, and made a beeline for the border.
Back in North Carolina, I settled into a new job and apartment. Determined to start over, I found a church where I could grow spiritually and emotionally. Every sermon helped bandage my wounds of hurt and shame, and the people I met showered me with love and compassion. I also found a great counselor to whom I poured out my grief and despair. Many long, lonely nights were spent in tears and prayer before God. Slowly, I began to realize I'd been way too passive and had enabled my husband's lifestyle. My backward thinking was replaced by a new understanding of whom God had made me to be. I could finally say to myself: I'm a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.
Then, I started thinking about Peter again. The marriage was dead and buried in my mind, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for him. Trapped by his addiction, he needed someone to intercede for him. I felt it had to be me. When I sent him a small gift on his birthday, he phoned.
I kept the conversation brief, but for the first time since I'd left, confusion set in. Deep in my heart I didn't want to be another divorce statistic. I loved my husband despite his perversity. Our phone calls grew into weekly events. He never asked me to come back. Instead, we talked about his background—something we'd never done before—and about God.
"I've always been adventurous," Peter said. "And I began looking at porn at a young age with my buddies. By the time I turned eleven, I was sexually active. At fifteen, I left home to hitchhike around the states, and I indulged in every sexual act you can imagine.
"When I met you, I thought I could settle down and forget everything I'd done. But I couldn't turn off my thoughts. My mind was like a cable porn channel: sex, sex, sex, twenty-four-hours a day."
He started phoning on a daily basis. The more we talked, the deeper his repentance grew, and he begged my forgiveness.
"I've been going to the same church you went to," he said. "I've also found someone to hold me accountable. He knows a lot about marriage problems and really understands the sexual struggles men can have."
Peter never asked me to return; he only seemed interested in my happiness. During one of our conversations, he confessed: "I'm a sex addict. I can't control my filthy mind without God's help. My friend is showing me how my past promiscuity is running roughshod over my life. We meet after Sunday services and pray together, then he gives me homework to do for the following week." For the second time, hope rose inside.
With Peter changing, a debate raged in my mind. Should I, could I, go back to him? After much prayer, a small voice inside convinced me to return. I now had the courage to say no if he tried to manipulate me, and I wouldn't condone or enable his sordid fantasies through my silence any longer. He cried when I told him I was coming back and offered to come for me. I refused. I'd return on my terms and leave again if need be.
Once I was back in Canada, we attended church together. Peter stayed with his accountability partner, and I sought further counseling. My sessions confirmed what I already knew: I'm infinitely loved and valued by God, and he never intended me to be a sex slave for anyone, including my husband. We could enjoy our sex life, and I could and would stand up for myself.
I also learned that biblical submission isn't bowing down to control tactics; it is coming under the love that a godly husband has for his wife. Now, as Peter grows into a mature Christian, I feel safe in his arms.
We've both learned that prayer and honest communication are the weapons of our warfare. I've also learned to stop condemning his shortcomings, and I've chosen to encourage him through his conflicts, as he supports me when I'm feeling down.
We'll never be the perfect couple. But we're building a strong, Christ-centered marriage. And that's the type of marriage I've always dreamed about.
Margret Wright is a pseudonym. Simon Presland is a writer who lives in Canada.
2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
Back from the Brink: A Real-Life Story of a Marriage in Recovery
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