For the Women Who Love the Men Who Love Porn

Bill was a hard-working, family man, a guy who took his daughters on dates, led family devotions and remembered his wedding anniversary. So when his wife, Carol, found a rash of 900 numbers listed on their phone bill, she had no idea what she was looking at. She called the first number, and that’s when she learned the family budget was supporting Bill’s phone sex habit. It came out of the blue, and it nearly destroyed her.

Unfortunately, pornography and sex addiction are growing phenomena in the digital age, and mature, Christian men are not exempt from their pull. While resources are becoming more available to support and provide accountability for these men, their wives are often left in the lurch, furious and confused about who they can tell or how to go forward. If you happen to be one of them, let’s talk. There are a few things I’d like you to know.

It’s Not Your Fault

Even if it’s not a conscious thought, most women in your situation eventually wonder why they weren’t enough, and whether their husbands would have turned to porn if they were doing everything right. Please notice this insidious lie when it rears its ugly head. It’s not your fault. Even if you have been withholding sex entirely (which I am not condoning unless it is part of an open and progressive plan toward healing), even then, it is not your fault. Your husband has a responsibility before God to remain faithful in his mind, his heart and his actions, whether he is married or single, satisfied or not. If you need to work on sexuality in your marriage, do that work because you want to please the Lord, not because you want to manipulate your husband – even to ‘keep him faithful.’ That responsibility doesn’t belong to you.

It’s Not Personal

Every wife I have ever worked with in this situation, believes that her husband has aimed his sin as a weapon directly at her. Every porn-addicted man I have ever worked with has told me it has nothing to do with his wife, personally. It’s not about whether he loves you or finds you attractive. The sexual instinct of a male gets triggered many times every day, often in innocuous circumstances; this has nothing to do with the person he loves at home. He is not consciously trying to betray you when he looks too long at the bartender’s cleavage or watches that video late at night. Does he realize you would not like what he is doing? Probably. But it’s not about you as a person any more than sneaking out of the office early is about the man or woman who owns the corporation.

Processing Betrayal

Perhaps you think I am excusing what your husband has done or minimizing it in some way. I do not intend to. What your husband has done is a deep sin which goes to the heart of his masculinity, his relationship with Christ and his relationship with his family. He has deceived you. Christ calls the sin of lust every bit as bad as adultery itself. Your husband’s love for God must result in a real, humble, heartfelt and determined repentance. And it is part of your healing process to grieve and repudiate his sin which has broken your innocence, your trust and your dreams. Just as God, Himself, feels angry with evil and grieves all our sins (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 4:30), both anger and mourning are a valid part of your journey. It can be helpful to use a workbook or see a counselor to help you work through those feelings.

Finding Support

I wish I could tell you there are lots of good options for women in your situation. If you live in certain parts of the country, you may be able to find a support group you can connect with, but in many cases that will not be available. If you cannot find one, you could create your own. I don’t mean you should start asking strangers if their husbands look at porn, but you may already know someone you could share with. If he is in recovery, your husband may also be able to help you find one or two other, healthy wives a little farther down the road. If you are in an intimate, safe small group, that might be an option, too. Please involve your husband in this decision if you are working toward healing together.

Prayer support is essential. That can be as simple as turning in a prayer request at church: “Please pray for my family while we wrestle with some hard things.” But if you have praying friends you can share some or all with, that is even better. You may be able to ask your pastor to pray for and with you, but, again, involve your husband, if possible. I hope you and your husband can pray together about this issue, too. I’d encourage you to keep it on the table for a long time.

Where Do You Go from Here?

In part, where you go from here depends on your husband’s willingness to get help and be honest with at least a few others. But there are things you can do, in any case.

  • Find a good, Christian counselor or an experienced, empathetic pastor and talk through your feelings and your options with them.
  • Consider reading a Christian book about pornography addiction to gain a better understanding of what your spouse is doing and going through.
  • Connect with at least one other person who cares about you and your marriage to encourage you and pray for you.
  • Dig deep into your relationship with God. Find your worth, your strength and your wisdom in Him in new ways as you pass through this valley. Cling to His promises to work all things for good for those He calls (Rom. 8:28), and meditate on the inability of sin or circumstances to separate you from His love (Rom. 8:35).

It took Bill a while to admit he couldn’t overcome his addiction alone, but he now meets weekly with a group of men who hold him accountable and support him in the struggle. He and Carol started seeing a counselor who helped them talk about the damage to their marriage and where to begin healing. Carol has put a few boundaries in place to help her rebuild the trust she’s lost, and with Bill’s blessing, she has a few good friends who support her in prayer. They are also talking about starting a small group in their church which would minister to the men and women impacted by pornography. They realize it will start small, but one thing they have learned is that keeping this demon in the dark only gives it more power. Working together to overcome pornography has, ironically, been good for their marriage. In fact, Carol thinks there might be a few more areas which could use the same level of attention. Bill has learned that covering over sin doesn’t make it go away, but facing it together just might.

Related Material:

A real-life story from CRU
A real-life story from The Gospel Coalition
Pastors and porn
Free spouse support groups in the St. Louis area
Fee-based spouse support groups
Do I have an addiction?

What Marriage?

Dear Christian Counselor,

What do I do with my marriage? I am tired and hurt and devastated. We have been married three years and have fought this entire time because he is controlling and emotionally and verbally abusive to me. I have since learned he cheated on me before we were married and also recently. I feel lost and not knowing what I am to do at this point. On top of all of this, he is not remorseful for his behavior and choices and says I deserved it.

Lost and Alone in Marriage


Dear Alone in Marriage,

My first reaction is to say to you, “What marriage?” Jesus names adultery as His exception to the prohibition on divorce (see Matt. 19:9, for example) because it breaks the relationship so thoroughly – physically, emotionally and spiritually. So you do have the option of divorce. You did not say whether you or your husband are Christians or have a Christian community, but if you do, it is time to engage those resources. You need a pastor, a counselor and a group of friends supporting you, praying for you and helping you through this time. If you don’t have these things, go get them!

Just because divorce is an option doesn’t mean you have to take it. But if your husband remains unrepentant in the face of confrontation by you, your pastor, Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then I would suggest you enforce a separation, even if you remain in the same house. Use the time to do your own counseling, especially in terms of your identity and decision-making, investigate your legal and financial options, and pray, pray, pray. For something this important, you want to know you followed God rather than culture or even your own ideas. In the end, you will either have to build something totally new with your husband or pursue life on your own, because what you have is not what I would call a marriage.


Related Material:

Questions About Forgiveness
An Unrepentant Spouse

It’s Not Just about the Money

Dear Christian Counselor,

I’ve been married 26 years. I’ve always handled the finances with very little input from my husband. I’ve quit my job to take care of my Gma full time, his idea, and am not receiving a paycheck. Our daughter is ready for college, but he refuses to sit down and talk about anything to do with money. He’s out of town during the week and comes home on the weekends. He’s been helping his brother with our money but finally quit that. He loves to play the slots and scratch offs. I keep telling him we do not have money to spend like that. He went and got two loans for cash 6 months ago and I found out by accident. The non-communication is killing our marriage. I feel like I don’t have a choice cuz he’s the only one with money coming in. I feel like he does and says what he wants cuz he knows there’s not a thing I can do. Help!

 


Dear No Choice,

How exhausting! You have so much happening all at once. It is heartbreaking to read. The first thing I wondered when reading your question was, “Does she have any type of support system?” This is certainly a time to rely on your friends, relatives, and church group for prayer, emotional support, and help navigating these issues. This is not a road to walk alone.

I also highly recommend counseling, even if your husband will not attend with you. Your questions highlight sadness, worry, frustration, loneliness, and feeling helpless. It would be beneficial for a counselor to screen you for anxiety and/or depression. I also wonder if your husband is struggling with an addiction given what you’ve said about disconnection, taking out cash loans, and lottery tickets.

Money is one of the largest topics of dispute among married couples. Because the deeper nature of this dispute is less about money and more about anxiety and control, it is easy to see why couples disagree. Money is never just about money. It is both sad and hopeful to point out that financial issues are merely the tip of the iceberg. My guess is that there is much more happening beneath the surface for you both. A counselor can help you explore the history of your marriage, your personal histories, and how you two took on the roles that you are currently playing in your relationship.

Lastly, there are some red flags in your letter that concern me. If you were my client, I would advise you to consider talking with a financial manager. It might also be a good idea to consider meeting with a social worker who can help you make decisions about your daughter’s education and your grandmother’s health. Alleviating some of these stressors might give you more space to heal as you address the aforementioned marital problems.

This is probably not an easy response to receive. Let me encourage you in the promise of hope. The Gospel teaches that no pain is ever wasted and nothing is beyond God’s redemption. May you know the shepherding presence of Jesus as you walk this valley and may you know a marriage better than what you could dream of.

— Jessica