My Un-Saved Spouse Views Porn and Doesn’t Care

Emilie HighkeyThere are multiple things to consider in response to a pornography-using, unrepentant husband. The ugly truth is that many marriages have at least one spouse who is involved with sexual sin through pornography. Numerous surveys report that 53% of men admit they view pornography weekly. In many cases, the wife is completely unaware that her husband views pornography. With statistics like these, it is very safe to say that many of you reading this article are in a marriage where your husband is actively involved in unrepentant sexual sin with pornography.

Obviously, it is much easier to live with someone who is committing sexual sin if you are not aware of it. While there is no comfort in the knowledge of any kind of infidelity, if you have been suspicious about his odd behavior, there is consolation in finally knowing you are not crazy or imagining things. He really has been acting different and your suspicions are true.

However, the impact from learning the truth is enormous. It is a devastating revelation. I don’t have to tell you how hurtful you find his pornography use—you live with it every day. If you are like many of the women I have counseled over the years, you are angry, confused, insecure, and afraid. There is no way to compete with the surgically altered and silicone enhanced bodies in those movies and magazines. You agonize over why he has to look at that stuff, how he can indulge in such perverse things, and why you are not enough to satisfy him sexually. Most of all, in the deepest part of your heart, you wonder what is wrong with you that he looks at porn. Confronting him does nothing but cause an argument, and your objections are ignored. It is especially painful if he thinks there is nothing wrong with ongoing use of pornography and says your objections are overreactions.

You must understand that you cannot badger him to stop lusting for it. All the threats and manipulation in the world will not change his heart. Your husband is looking for something to satisfy lusts and desires of the flesh that are not legitimate. He has no right before God or you to desire these things. However, because your husband is not a Christian, he is bound to sin. He is acting out the only nature he has, and there is nothing in him with which he can fight the lustful desires of his flesh.

Suggested Responses

Instead of reacting to his sin, talk openly, honestly, and above all biblically with your husband about the sin of sexual immorality. You can speak biblically to him without quoting chapters and verses. You can communicate biblical truth in ways he will at least hear what you are saying without tuning you out.

Begin by speaking respectfully to him. Many wives are so angry that they lash out at their husband with their tongue. They say terrible things to him that often include insulting his manhood, and they are critical of him in many ways that have nothing to do with his use of pornography. They call him demeaning names that are intended to hurt him.

Ladies, this may feel good in the short term, but it is a terrible violation of the command to respect your husband (Ephesians 5:22), even if you think he is disrespecting you by viewing pornography. It is not a reciprocal arrangement. Verbally attacking him is also a sin against God (Psalm 39:1; James 3). It is revealing what you have stored up in your own heart (Matthew 15:18). In addition to all the complicating sin factors, it is not accomplishing anything redemptive; you are not demonstrating Christ to him at all. I do understand your pain, but sinning in response to his sin is not helpful to anyone. You must still speak to him in a manner that glorifies and honors God.

Many women tell me that they want their husband to know how they feel. Communicating feelings is very important to many of us. However, your husband will probably not be receptive to it. Venting your feelings to him will not be as helpful as speaking biblical truth to him. If hurt feelings and anger were enough to help a person change then there would be no two-time offenders in this area! Your words, feelings, hurt, anger or rage is not enough to affect his heart. Only the Word of God can do that.

For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

If you are going to stay in your marriage, you will have to accept that you cannot change your husband; only God can. You will have to come to terms with the reality that you cannot prevent him from continuing in sexual sin. You have to give up the idea that you can control him or control the outcome because you cannot. The only person who can change right now is you (Matthew 7:3-5).

The heartache of being sinned against

Living with the day-to-day reality that your husband is involved in unrepentant sexual sin is a heavy burden to bear. It is a very helpless feeling and can lead to despair and sorrow without hope if you focus on him and his sin. You might experience much sorrow, much loneliness, and much abuse from your husband—particularly as you continue to grow and change in your relationship with Christ. Your transformation into Christ-likeness will most likely eat away at your husband’s conscience.

Sinners want others to join them in sin. Unrepentant husbands will often accuse their wives of being pompous, pious, or “holier than thou” because they desire to live a holy life. Do not be surprised by this. Those involved in darkness are offended when Christians refuse to join in. You must pray consistently for him, asking the Lord to give him the gift of repentance and regeneration.

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1—6)

Hope in heartache

Peter wrote two epistles to encourage the persecuted churches who were suffering horrifically because of the Emperor Nero. He wanted them to trust in what God was doing despite their circumstances. He wanted to give them hope in difficult times. The more you are like Christ in your marriage, the more persecution you may endure. You can find immediate comfort by knowing that if Peter’s words were sufficient for people in such deadly danger, they will surely meet the need of a woman in a troubled marriage. Take seriously the purposes for which Peter wrote these letters so that you might follow his instruction and admonition.

One of the greatest adversaries you may face in this fight are your feelings. It will be very easy to become undisciplined and to allow your feelings to dictate your actions instead of letting the Word and the Spirit of God order your steps.

Dear friends, as resident aliens and refugees, I urge you to keep at a safe distance from the fleshly desires that are poised against your soul like an expeditionary force, having good behavior among the Gentiles, so that while they slander you as wrongdoers, by observing your fine deeds they may glorify God on the day of inspection. (1 Peter 2:11-12, CCNT)

In this passage, Peter personifies feelings (fleshly desires) as though they were predatory and on the hunt with intent to capture and destroy the Christian. He is saying that feelings have a way of wanting to take over your life if you let them. Your fleshly desires are lusty (Galatians 5:19-21). You must be alert to their wiles and learn to order your steps by the Word and the Spirit. If you are a feelings-oriented person, you may have a hard time persevering this way because your feelings may discourage you to the point of giving up or giving in to sin.

Suffering is difficult, and suffering for doing what is right is somehow harder than suffering for doing what is wrong. Our Lord knows this and again we look to Peter’s first epistle for encouragement:

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable (or perverse). For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:18-23)

While this passage was written for slaves who had ungodly owners, we can make application to situations where we are under the authority of someone who treats us harshly. In this case, it would be your husband who is hostile toward you because you are showing him love, living in forgiveness, and wanting to make your marriage work even though he is unrepentant.

Your example is that of Christ Jesus who, as the Scripture says, did not retaliate or revile in return when He was persecuted, but entrusted Himself to God. Like Jesus, you can hand yourself over to the Lord to avenge and vindicate you (Romans 12:17-21). You do not need to repay evil for evil, but trust the Lord to take care of you. Notice this passage also reminds us that we receive grace when we suffer unjustly, especially when doing good things for another person. God will give you the ability to endure the pain and suffering; He promises to do this.

Because there may be times you simply need encouragement, I want to direct you to 1 Peter 3: 13-17. Here Peter again reminds us that we are blessed when we suffer for doing what is good. He also says that the person suffering righteously is a powerful witness for God.

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 1 Peter 3:13—17

Determining to stay with your unrepentant husband is not the easiest decision you will ever make, but the Lord will use it in your life and in the lives of those you encounter as you give testimony to His goodness and faithfulness to you in your suffering. The person you may have the most effect on is your husband. It may be the means by which he repents.

Both First and Second Peter are rich, fertile ground for the soul of the suffering saint. I highly recommend you spend time reading and meditating on these two books of the Bible.

Photo credit: 26912057@N02


Julie GanschowJulie Ganschow earned her Bible degree from the Faith Bible Institute and began a Biblical counseling position that grew into Reigning Grace Counseling Ministries. She is a certified counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, American Academy of Biblical Counselors, and the International Association of Biblical Counselors and is on the Council Board for the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Julie has published several biblical counseling resources including The Process of Biblical Change, and she speaks at conferences across the nation.