When a wife discovers her husband is hooked on pornography, she's instantly tossed into an unintended journey by a blistering sense of betrayal. My wife Brenda shares about a similar journey in The Healing Choice, co-written with Susan Allen:
Any wife who is enduring the pain of a husband's porn addiction is experiencing the most shattering, deep kind of pain she may ever encounter. One day her marriage seems normal, and the next perversion seems to have broken out everywhere. She hasn't a clue how to find her way out, and is likely unprepared for the crushing pain of betrayal that has her buried deep in an emotional wasteland. What happens if she doesn't have what she needs to pull through and get her heart back?
Once that storm crashes in and she realizes she doesn't have the knowledge she needs about her husband's sin, or the connection with God that she requires to handle this kind of trauma, she must immediately begin to learn and to build up her own intimacy with God, just like I did in the middle of my grief. She must choose to move in to God with all of her heart. That's the key.
Steps to Recovery
Perhaps you've begun a similar journey. If so, what immediate actions can you take to move in closer to God? Obviously, you must dive deeply into prayer and into the Word. On my wife Brenda's journey, she began praying at the top of every hour for five minutes, transforming her spirit. She found the stress made it difficult for her to remember the Scripture she needed for support, so she wrote out the verses on sticky notes and posted them all over the house to keep his Word alive throughout her day. Get creative and run to him with all of your heart. As you run, be careful to do these three things as well:
1. Get Knowledgeable About Male Sexuality
When your husband turns to porn for sexual pleasure, it's common to blame yourself for it all. Don't. At its root, it isn't about sex at all, so it isn't about your attractiveness or the extra 20 pounds you're carrying since the baby, or what you do or don't do in bed. Trust me. You have what it takes sexually, so don't worry. He's the issue—not you.
Of course, you must believe this inside and out, so get knowledgeable. Start by reading Brenda's book, Every Heart Restored, which includes nine chapters on male sexuality. You'll soon recognize that your husband's sexual sin likely spawned from past wounds inflicted upon him long before he ever met you—wounds that taught him to use his sexuality as a crutch to medicate the emotional pain in his life. Such knowledge changes everything, freeing your heart to move more quickly from judgment to mercy, which is exactly where God wants it to be.
Don't get me wrong. Your frustration and anger at the betrayal are natural, and you needn't feel guilty about it. In action, porn and masturbation are betrayal, stabbing at the female heart and crushing marital oneness. It must stop. But in motive, it's rarely betrayal. Let me explain.
When I engaged my battle for purity as a young husband, I soon had my eyes retrained to bounce away from the sensual imagery around me, and quickly learned to take lustful thoughts captive. I figured these victories would eliminate all traces of sexual sin, but the masturbation habit retained its grip on me. I couldn't understand it.
At the time I was in full-commission sales, which meant that if I sold nothing, my kids ate nothing. That's pressure, so on many nights I tucked my kids into bed, gave Brenda a kiss and headed off late to my office to prepare for the next day. That's where the masturbation occurred.
Why was this happening? I loved Brenda, and our sex life was wonderful. My actions surely betrayed her, but my motives were pure. I wasn't chasing sexual betrayal.
When I looked more closely at those late nights, I noticed a pattern. I always felt lonely and disconnected, and as the hours wore on, my sense of stress would multiply. I hadn't yet learned to trust God with financial pressure, or to lean on him as a son. I could only hear the haunting cries of my childhood, sneering that I just didn't have what it takes to succeed out there or to stand at my dad's side in the world of men. I just didn't measure up in his eyes, and because of my job stress, I seriously doubted whether I'd ever measure up in my own eyes, either.
That's where the masturbation came in. Somewhere along the way, I'd "learned" that masturbation provides a very real sense of intimacy and connection, and that orgasm gives a guy a strong sense of manhood, dominance, and control, even though it's fleeting. That's a pretty strong draw for a frightened man who feels like a loser night after lonely night.
In truth, I didn't have a sexual sin issue after all. I had a financial trust issue, and a desire to reassert some control over my stressful life. The masturbation was only a symptom, something I used to medicate my pain instead of allowing God to heal it. When I changed my focus from the masturbation to my lack of my intimacy with God, I soon began turning to him in prayer during those moments of fear and temptation instead. The masturbation soon vanished on its own.
2. Relish Your Role as Helpmate
Your role is to lift your husband to Christian greatness and oneness with God, whatever that may entail. Of course, your motives are everything. If your motives are love, you'll remember his wounds and speak from an encouraging perspective instead of harshly speaking in ways that tear and destroy. Memorize 1 Corinthians 13, and continually assess your motives from this foundation of love.
As you approach your role, what behaviors can you expect to see in your husband if he is truly committed to change? First of all, he'll be open and honest about his sin, and will share any level of detail necessary to help you heal. If he stumbles again, he won't wait for your interrogation to reveal it. He will immediately come to you to tell you. All lying will stop.
Second, he'll be very patient as you heal, which is a sign of deep repentance. He'll know that since he created the mess, he's the one who must clean up the mess, no matter how long it takes.
Third, he'll perform trustworthy acts regularly. He'll eagerly read the books you give him, like Every Man's Battle. He won't wait for you to place the computer in a high-traffic area and purchase the filters. He'll seek out accountability relationships with other men, and will regularly ask you for other ways he might help rebuild your trust.
If these aren't happening, bring them up to him. Your voice is critical in his life. Refuse to be muzzled.
3. Develop Close Friends on Your Journey
You may find it difficult to talk to other wives about your husband's sin, but it's urgent to develop friendships for support on this confusing journey. Push through these feelings until you've found true Christian community, that life-giving connection that's part of healthy support groups.
After learning of her husband Clay's addiction to porn, Susan Allen restored her heart in this kind of community through the help of other hurting sisters in Christ. Before long, Susan began leading her own groups and soon created a nonprofit organization called Avenue that distributes support group curricula and provides mentoring help to group leaders through their volunteer staff in California. If you can't find friends locally, join a small group community via 800-number. Simply contact Susan's volunteer staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.