I love my husband. He is a godly man, and I respect him more than any other man in the world. Though he is influenced by his history, his past does not define him. I share this information with Joshua's encouragement. We want to help others break free from the bondage of pornography. It destroys hearts, marriages, families, and society. But most important, pornography addiction destroys your relationship with God. It is my prayer that, by being transparent and honest about the struggles in our own lives, Joshua and I can help someone else overcome this sin and heal from the destruction pornography brings. There is forgiveness in Christ, and through Him there is victory.
I have never cried so hard, nor felt so broken. A rage boiled through my veins unlike any I had ever experienced. The intensity of my fury frightened me. The oppressive weight of hopelessness and the frantic pounding of desperation crushed me until I felt physically beaten. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scream. I wanted to break something. Or someone.
When Joshua arrived home early from work one overcast summer evening, I immediately knew something was wrong. Taking my hand, he pulled me toward the couch. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.” The worst possible scenarios flashed through my mind and I braced myself as I sat down beside him. My heart pounded. My hands trembled. My head spun. His voice was thick when he finally spoke. “I’ve lied to you.”
A few days prior to this I had been up in the middle of the night with a fussy baby and picked up Joshua’s phone, intending to surf the web while I tried to rock our newborn back to sleep. The internet browser was already open. And it was set to search images.
Not wanting to jump to any conclusions, I investigated a little further but couldn’t find any inappropriate material in the search history. Deciding there was probably nothing suspicious about whatever Joshua had been searching online, I eventually tucked the sleeping baby back in his crib and crawled into bed beside my husband. Joshua rolled over and wrapped his arm around me. I was reasonably certain that there was nothing to my fleeting suspicions, but I felt compelled to make sure. “When was the last time you looked at porn?”
Somewhat impatiently I asked again, “When was the last time you looked at pornography?”
“I don’t know.” There was a long silence. “Sometime back before we were married.”
I knew Joshua, like many men, had struggled with pornography before we were married. He had told me this before we ever began courting and had apologized and asked my forgiveness for letting lust rule his actions. There, lying beside my husband in the darkness, I had to make a choice: Choose to trust that he was telling me the truth and had remained faithful since our wedding, or go crazy questioning every move he made in the weeks to come. Doubt and suspicion are vile companions. I had lived with them before and the past had proved that they were needless weights in our marriage. So, I chose to trust.
However, several days later, Joshua sat me down and with many tears confessed that he had lied to me and that he had been using pornography off and on for the last year. I listened quietly as he answered my questions and watched as my strong husband fell to pieces before me. I had never seen Joshua cry before. Now he sobbed, begged my forgiveness, and swore that he would never do it again. With silent tears I kissed his cheek, told him I still loved him as much as ever and that I forgave him, but that I really needed to be alone. I slipped out to our balcony and there collapsed in a crumpled heap, crying out to the only One who could heal my broken heart.
If you have ever experienced a similar betrayal from the man you love most in this world, then you know what the following weeks and months held. You know the biting confliction of wanting to run to the man who has always been the one to comfort you, sooth your hurts, and wipe your tears, and yet holding back because he is the very person who has wounded you so deeply. You know the numbness which envelopes you as you go about your daily routines while trying to bury your emotions for fear of losing control once that floodgate is open. You know the inward battle between loving this man more than you ever knew one human being could love another, and yet contemplating methods of cruel revenge against him. You know the temptations that come out of nowhere, inviting you to betray your husband the way he so heartlessly betrayed you. You’ve asked the questions, “Why? Was it my fault? Am I not enough? What else might he be capable of? How could he do this to me? To us? To his God?” so many times that they’ve become recurring thoughts even in your dreams. You’ve felt the fury, the agony, the despair, the emptiness.
I know that feeling of isolation, like there is no one who will understand, no one who will listen to your hurts without passing judgment on your dearest love. I know the struggle you have gone through to balance your desire to protect your husband’s reputation with your need to find somebody in whom to confide. I know that suffocating fear that comes from wondering if it’s only a matter of time before he betrays you again. I know. I’ve been there. I’m still there at times. I know. What I want you to know is this.
You are not alone. Statistics state that 50% of men who claim to be Christians are addicted to porn. What does that tell us about the number of women who are experiencing the heartache of finding out that their husbands have been virtually cheating on them? Pornography is an ugly, rampant sin that is invading countless marriages. You are one of many wives struggling to recover from this devastating blow. There are other women just like you who have gone through the anguish of broken trust but who are committed to fighting for their marriages. You are not alone. There are women who will hold your hand, cry with you, pray with you, and assure you that it is possible to heal. There are already people praying for you who may not even know your name. I’m one of them. With the strength of the Lord, you can make it through this.
Christian counselors are available to help you. Pornography thrives on secrecy. Because of this, it is hard for men to admit when they have a problem. This sense of shame also affects us as wives. We don’t want anyone to know that our marriages have difficulties, and we certainly don’t want anyone to think badly of our husbands. So we hide our hurt. But there is no shame in seeking help with the hurt. Allowing yourself to open up to a trusted Christian advisor will help you process this devastation and help you deal with the aftermath.
Because so many other women have gone through the pain that pornography inevitably brings, there are many wise counselors within the Body of Christ who can help you through this struggle. Getting professional counseling as a couple is a good idea, but just calling up an older woman you trust, or maybe even getting in touch with someone you don’t know personally but who you know will give wise advice, is incredibly comforting. Seek counsel from those who are within the Church, as those outside the Body of Christ will not be able to give you the spiritual support you need.
You are married to a good man. Do you remember why you fell in love with your husband to begin with? Can you still list the good qualities in your man? I encourage you to sit down and list all the reasons you love your husband. Then, on those tough days when Satan tries to sow seeds of misery in your heart, think on those things.
My husband is a good, godly man. I truly believe that he is the absolute best person in the world for me. He loves me, cherishes me, sacrifices for me, protects me, encourages me, strengthens me, and treats me like the most precious gift on earth. But Joshua is just a man. He has moments of weakness, temptation, and folly. When the stresses of life are great, sometimes those temptations seem unbearable and he stumbles. His sin of pornography was horrific and it shook me to my core. But that’s how God feels every time I lie, every time I fail to glorify Him, every time I lose my temper with my children. It hurts my God’s heart. I am not in any way minimizing the significance of Joshua’s sin, but who of us has not struggled against some vice that we cannot seem to defeat, a sin which at times seems impossible to overcome?
We all stumble and we all fail. Just because your husband struggles with pornography does not mean that he is a monster or that there is nothing good in him anymore. You married this man for a reason. He is still the man you fell in love with! He is imperfect, he has hurt you beyond words, and he has set your marriage up for many years of hardship. But he is still your man. It may be hard to see right now but, if he’s like most husbands struggling with this sin, he wants to be free from its clutches. He loves you and he longs for you both to have the marriage you ought to have. He is a good man, and he needs you by his side.
Your husband needs your heart. You must turn your heart toward your husband, not away from him. This is incredibly difficult. To open your heart back up to the one who has so piercingly wounded you does not come naturally. To choose to again become vulnerable to the man who has shattered your trust goes against everything in human nature. But if you are going to rebuild that trust and work toward a God-honoring marriage, you must turn your heart to your husband.
Much like the process of grief, I went through several different stages of emotions in those first few weeks after Joshua’s confession. I truly felt as if something, part of our marriage, part of me, had died. I could see Joshua suffering, knew that he was fighting similar emotions of hopelessness and defeat, but I didn’t know how to be there for him while I felt so lost.
Slowly, with much encouragement from Joshua, I allowed myself to verbally express my feelings to him even when the words I said were painful for both of us. It’s important to communicate what you are thinking and feeling. If you try to hide those thoughts, they will only fester until what you once knew to be only a feeling becomes your mindset and outlook on life. Do not say things merely for the sake of revenge, but do honestly let him know what you are feeling and how you are handling the knowledge of his betrayal. Something like, “I just don’t understand what makes you want to look at that stuff,” is much more helpful toward rebuilding your marriage than, “You scum of the earth, I always knew you would do something like this to me!”
It’s hard. Oh, I know it’s hard. But to rebuild your relationship you must both commit to open, honest communication.
There is hope. Right now you may be wondering how you can ever trust your husband again. You may look at him and wonder what convinced you to entrust him with your heart in the first place. You may not even be able to stand the thought of being in the same room, let alone the same bedroom, with him. But know this. There is hope. There is forgiveness. There is healing. And, eventually, there can be trust. It is a long, rocky road, and issues that you thought you had dealt with may pop up years from now. But IN CHRIST there is hope for your marriage.
We all sin. We all fall short. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We have an opportunity here to reflect Christ’s love for every undeserving soul. We can choose to demonstrate His mercy and forgiveness toward our husbands in order that Satan’s attempts to bring shame upon the Body of Christ may be thwarted. We can have marriages that are stronger for the storms they have weathered, that are beacons of light in a world that dishonors marriage and treats spouses as disposable. We can demonstrate God’s grace by the way we choose to cherish and honor our husbands.
With prayer, counsel, open communication, and sheer determination, your marriage can recover from this brutal shock and become stronger than before. You can one day look at your husband and see a man who is cleansed by the power of Christ, a man who loves and adores you, and to whom you feel blessed to be married. And you can find more purpose, more closeness, more meaning in your marriage than you ever thought possible. Believe me. I know.
[Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/FreeDigitalPhotos.net]