We have a lot of husbands who use our accountability software. They want to make sure that someone is holding them accountable for where they go online. Some of them have really struggled in the past with viewing pornography online, and they are doing all they can to protect their eyes and their hearts from lustful images. Some husbands have not struggled with Internet porn, so they use our software to make sure they never do.
Should a man’s wife be one of his accountability partners when it comes to Internet use?
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The Case For Spouse Accountability
There are many good reasons why accountability is healthy for marriage. Marriage thrives on openness, honesty, and vulnerability. In contrast, when husbands and wives are in the habit of keeping secrets from each other, this deteriorates communication and trust.
Accountability is also important for Internet use. The Internet is a virtual mine field of sensual images. The Internet can also sap tons of our time and attention. When we surf the Web in solitude and secrecy, away from our families, we run the risk of spending countless hours wasting time, and possibly bonding with women made of pixels rather than bonding with our wives.
There definitely should be expectations communicated with regard to time spent on the Internet. If time in front of the computer is getting in the way of time together, this needs to be communicated. Husbands and wives ought to have an open door policy (literally) when it comes to Internet surfing: to build trust and integrity, the office or bedroom door needs to stay unlocked and opened when you are online. When a husband closes the office door and gives his wife the impression that time on the Internet is “his time,” this might breed suspicion.
Certainly some men can spend long hours on the computer for legitimate work-related reasons. Again, expectations need to be communicated. If a man needs to spend a few extra hours on the computer, there should be an open discussion about that with his wife so that she understands his reasons for being online.
The point of all of this communication is to build trust.
Some men who use our software make sure that their Internet accountability reports are sent to their wives. This, they say, is a great deterrent from viewing pornography: when men know that their wives will see when a porn site comes up on the report, they stay far away from those sites. The last people they want to hurt are their wives.
Some wives prefer to see their husband’s report for themselves. As they see a consistent track record of clean and porn-free surfing, this builds trust.
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The Case Against Spouse Accountability
All this being said, there are many cases where we advise that a wife not be a husband’s accountability partner.
If a husband has just been caught or just confessed to a habit of viewing porn, this can be devastating to a wife. Feelings of rejection, resentment, anger, and fear can be overwhelming. There will also likely be confused thoughts, a sense of craziness or even hopelessness that sets in. Couples in this situation must face the broken trust, broken communication, and broken intimacy that has resulted from his secret life of lust.
These feelings are natural and common for a woman in this situation. These feelings can also cause potential problems down the road if either the husband or the wife insists on having the wife act as the husband’s accountability partner.
- If she sees a highly rated site appear on his Internet report, regardless of the reason, this can be like picking at a scab, uncovering the raw emotions all over again. This can cause a sense of panic, even if the high rating on his report is a result of an advertisement, a pop-up window, or just a random highly rated link on an otherwise safe Web page. Because she is so emotionally invested in his purity, she may not be able to think clearly through an accountability report to discern his intentions.
- What the husband needs in an accountability partner is not just someone to look over his shoulder when he’s online, but someone who can help him to get to the root of his porn habit. At times, because of the breach of trust in the marriage, a wife may not be the best person to help him get to the bottom of his addiction. He needs another man, probably an older, wiser man, who can counsel him with wisdom, who can help him navigate through this difficult season of his life.
In these difficult emotional situations, it may be best to find a man or a group of men to hold the husband accountable. These men should also be people that the wife can trust to do their part in helping her husband though his sin.
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More Help for Wives
My suggestion: Be involved in a church. Find a good church, a good community of Christians who have strong, godly leaders with integrity. When a marriage goes through hard times, when husbands and wives sin against each other, in the church they can find counsel and godly mentoring to help them through tough times.
I highly recommend reading the three-part story written by Laura Booz. She tells the story about how her own husband confessed his porn addiction, how he found accountability, how they navigated through the rough waters, and how their church was instrumental in bringing them through.