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?
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.
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.
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.
- Part 1: Making a Crisis Out of a Crisis
- Part 2: Listening to Wise Friends
My husband is envolved in the church, but he still does his porn thing secretly. He has been through counseling and is now back on the platform singing every Sunday and Friday. I do’t get it. I don’t understand how some one can act so Holy and then do what he does
Your struggle to make sense of this is understandable, both from a female point of view and from the standpoint of morality. Obviously, the people serving to lead the church in any capacity cannot be perfect–no one is–but neither should they be nurturing a secret sin on the side.
Because this has been a problem in the past, you undoubtedly have some history involving others, perhaps even your church leadership. At this point, he has obviously decided to compartmentalize his problem, a common coping mechanism among men. The ability of men to separate the issues of life into categories and compartments is a God-given ability that helps us think clearly during crisis, which can be a great blessing to women. Unfortunately, every gift has a dark side. In this case, the ability to separate sin from church helps your husband maintain a double-life. Your job as his partner is to help him reintegrate his life. That’s done through accountability. Sin loses its power when the light of truth is shown upon it.
However, that doesn’t mean you should expose his sin yourself. At least not right away. Give him to opportunity to confess this sin and get help on his own. Of course, you will have to apply some pressure in the form of a tough-love confrontation. I explain how to do this in my article, “My Husband Is Having an Affair with Pornography, What Should I Do?” This will explain the concept of tough-love confrontation and how to apply personal boundaries in a way that will break the stalemate that exists between you. You will need to adapt the general principles to your specific circumstances. For example, the letter you carefully prepare and then read might include something like the following:
“John, I want to support you and your spiritual growth, but I have lost respect for you. You’re living a lie, and it sickens me to see you serve the Lord in public while you indulge your sin in secret. To appear with you in God’s house as a show of my support would be dishonest; therefore, I will neither ride with you to church nor sit with you during services or class, and I will not attend services in which you serve as a leader.
“Because we have been down this road before, I need to see genuine repentance and a sincere effort to conquer this evil in your life. I believe in you, and I know you can beat this with the right help and through the power of the Holy Spirit. But this is something you must do for yourself. If you do what is right, I will be there to support you. If you do not, I will need to take this matter to the church leadership.”
For the sake of your marriage and for the health and welfare of your husband, refuse to remain a silent partner in his sin.
I recently discovered that my boyfriend has been struggling with an addiction to pornography for many years. Two months ago, I stumbled across porn on his computer. I felt extremely angry, disgusted, and betrayed, and I confronted him about it. Although he had told me before that he struggled with sexual temptations, he never revealed to me the full extent of the problem. I think that he didn’t want to hurt me, and so he thought that he could quietly deal with the problem on his own, or with close friends, and then talk to me about his addiction after he had conquered it.
We have been dating for about 5 years now and have been talking about getting married. Yet neither one of us wants to bring this into our marriage. I have told him that I will not marry him if this behavior continues. He feels the same, and seems resolved to face this addiction seriously, now that it is in the open. He says that he wants to be free from porn, but he also feels hopeless because he has tried fighting this for years.
My boyfriend and I are both Christians, and have tried to abstain from sex before marriage. It has been very difficult because we are in love and have been dating for so long (we met at a young age). Sometimes I think that if we were having sex, he wouldn’t find the need to gratify his sexual desires by viewing porn. If we were married, we could direct our sexual energy toward each other, which I believe is what God intended. Yet I have also read so many posts, written by wives whose husbands continue to struggle with porn. I am afraid. Does this get any easier within the context of marriage?
My boyfriend has installed Covenant Eyes on his computer, and after talking, we decided that I would be added as one of his accountability partners. Although I initially wanted that, now I am not sure that it is a good idea, or that I will be able to handle it. I’m afraid that I’m doing this for the wrong reason – so that I can monitor or “police” him. Because he kept secrets from me in the past, now I want to know everything. I find it hard to trust him and feel that he needs to earn back my trust. I thought that being his accountability partner would help me to trust again and ease some of my anxieties. Just the fact that he is willing to sign me up as an accountability partner means a lot to me and shows me that he wants to be completely transparent with me. If I am going to be a part of this process, I don’t want to simply stand on a moral high ground and wave a finger at him. I want to be able to talk with him about the root of the problem. I want find a way to be vulnerable with him about sins that I struggle with, so that we can be accountable to each other for our words, thoughts, and actions. I am still unsure about this whole thing…Should I be one of his accountability partners or not? Any advice?
@unknown – Thanks so much for your comment and sharing some of your story. First, let me commend your desire for your boyfriend’s purity and the health of your future marriage (God willing) to him. Many couples do not address these sort of issues prior to making a marriage covenant.
Second, your boyfriend is in a difficult fight, but there can be victory over it. I know many people (I’m one of them) who have experienced a slow but nonetheless steady victory. Our faith in Christ is not only the thing that ties us to His saving grace, but it is the thing that ties us to His sanctifying grace. I’ve listed a number of excellent books and resources below that can stir up and encourage your boyfriend to grow in God’s grace in a way that doesn’t just change his behavior, but his heart as well.
Third, sexual temptations can get easier in the context of marriage, but sex in marriage does not neutralize temptation or the desires of the flesh. Paul certainly believed marriage was a God-given relationship that could curb sexual immorality (1 Cor 7:2), but Paul also counseled married couples to pursue a God-centered, servant-hearted marriages. As you read forward in 1 Corinthians 7 you see a healthy married couple is one that does not see sexual pleasure as a self-centered, but self-giving (vv.3-5). For many men, years of solo-sex (through masturbation and pornography) has trained their minds to grasp selfishly at sexual pleasure and this is a habit that must be broken.
There is much to be said about not unnecessarily postponing marriage. Many Christians have bought into the belief that delaying marriage is always good advice so we can finish education, launch careers, become financially independent, and prove our worth. We wait until we are “ready” for it. But God designed marriage as a formative institution, a tool in His hands to shape us as we move through life. Delaying marriage is sometimes a recipe for unnecessary temptations.
That being said, you are right to have concerns about your boyfriend’s pornography habits. He needs to not only eliminate the behavior but get to the big “Why” question as well: Why is he drawn to the pornography? It has only some to do with hormones. It has a lot more to do with his heart. I would advise you to find godly men and women in your church who can help you both work through the decision process.
This gets to your last question. Should you be one of his accountability partners? I would say he should certainly be accountable to you, but not lean on you as an “Accountability Partner.” I don’t want to split hairs here, but I think there is a difference. An accountability partner is someone who should be asking him the hard questions and nitty gritty details, someone who can help him identify his cycle of temptation and sin, someone who can encourage him with God’s truth and walk beside him as a fellow traveler. I do not believe a wife or girlfriend can do all the work of real, biblical accountability for her husband or boyfriend. For one it is often too taxing on the relationship to continually touch the raw nerve of past sexual temptations. Two, it often puts the woman more in the “mothering” roll with the man, and this is very unhealthy for a marriage (or future marriage). And three, a man can and should pursue godly friendships and mentor relationships with other men in the body of Christ. He needs discipleship. (Tell your boyfriend about my webinar on porn addiction. It could be a good thing for him and another trusted man to watch together.)
It is great that your boyfriend has offered to send you his Covenant Eyes report. It shows his willingness to work on his problem and be transparent with you. This is a good thing. If you see no problem receiving his reports, then I encourage you to continue to receive them. But he also needs active, engaged, wise, godly brothers to stand with him in his fight. This video we made describes that sort of scenario.
Here are some books that might be of help to him:
Sex Isn’t the Problem (Lust Is), by Joshua Harris
Wired for Intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain, by William Struthers
Undefiled, by Dr. Harry Schaumburg
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, by John Piper
Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, by Jonathan Dodson
Samson and the Pirate Monks, by Nate Larkin
Porn-Again Christian, by Mark Driscoll
Crossroads, by Ed Welch
Freedom Begins Here DVDs (great videos all about porn addiction and breaking free)
Twenty-six years of counseling men with a porn problem, 1000s of them married, sex in marriage DOES NOT fix the problem without both of you developing spiritually, relationally, and sexually maturity. Go beyond sexual purity!
When I read what you had written it was as if I had written it. My boyfriend have been together for about 2 1/2 years and we had been talking about marriage for a while- we were hoping to be married at the end of the year. Whilst I had known that lust both on the internet and people on TV/in real life had been an issue, it was only about 2 weeks ago that I discovered the extent of the problem.
Again, it was cos he didnt want to hurt me that he didnt tell me, as well as knowing that I would be so angry about it. I felt so angry and betrayed and just humiliated that he had been looking at these attractive women all the time. I still feel incredibly self conscious.
We’ve also struggled with the purity thing cos of being Christians- it is so difficult! I think it’s hard when you meet at a young age when it is not necessarily feasible to be married. I’ve also wondered if it gets easier in marriage– but also noticed the number of married men who still struggle. One of my friends says that it’s easier in the sense that you’re together more; My boyfriend struggles the most when it’s late at night- but if we were married then I would be there so he wouldnt need to look at porn. Having said that you still spend plenty of time apart.
I think the ‘open door’ policy in marriage as they were saying in one of the articles is great- always be very honest and open about internet use.
I think what hurt me more was that my boyfriend was dishonest with me about his struggling. I am still trying to work out how much of an issue this is. He’s got better over the last week or so- i’ve asked most days how he’s finding it and he’s been hoenst and I’ve tried to respond in a less angry way. That has helped- I think before he feared my reaction (and rightly so, from how I acted).
Guys, is it hard to be honest and open with your girlfriends/wives about your struggle? What would make it easier for you to be honest and open?
About a year ago my boyfriend installed x3 watch on his computer, so similar to covenant eyes…I am one of the accountability partners, though he also chats to his youth minister about it in more detail. I totally understand what you mean about it helping to build trust- but also what you mean about wanting to know every tiny detail and policing it. I am exactly the same. I think the problem is that, for example, i want to know every detail of it but I want it to be good news- THAT is how trust is built up- if we know exactly how he’s going, but knowing that he has been going really well. The catch is that if we know every detail and it is NOT good news then it is totally shattering for us.
I’m still working that one out.
But please don’t feel alone in this struggle to understand and to “be ok” with all this.
I think it’s helpful for us to know when they have slipped up etc, but not details like what they found attractive. It’s so hard not to ask but I think it’s probably best for us not to.
It is hard. I will pray for you guys :)
Also thanks for the insight, Luke. It was helpfiul!
I know that this site is about sexual accountability but I have been searching (and not finding) any guidance about other sorts of accountability in a marriage relationship.
A recently married friend of mine came to me (unmarried) for advice about her husband hanging out with his old (non-christian) buddies and possibly over imbibing. The last time he got together with his buddies he got very drunk and acknowledges his mistake. She is not liking the prospect of him going on a weekend away with his buddies but not sure what she can do while honoring him as the head of the family. They are both Christians (as am I).
As I was talking with her I found myself questioning the role of accountability within a marriage. Should she be his accountability partner when it comes to drinking, or would it be better that another Christian man comes alongside him?
Again, I know that this is not your focus but I am trying to give Godly advice and I don’t want to steer my friend wrong. Any help you can provide me (preferable with Bible references) would be greatly appreciated.
@Jeni – You might like listening to one of our recent podcasts on this very subject. I think you’ll appreciate what the interviewees have to say.
You’re right. Accountability does go beyond the issue of pornography. The question is what does that accountability look like and from where should it come.
A husband needs to be accountable to his wife in the same respect that all leaders are accountable to those they lead. His wife has a right to expect that he takes his role seriously and that he’s guarding his home against anything that would harm those in his care. However, she should not have to shoulder the burden of his growth as a man. Maturity must be his responsibility. She cannot be both wife and mentor. Not without forfeiting the gift of marriage God intended women to enjoy.
Instead, he must find a godly peer or, better, an older male mentor, who will challenge him, guide him, convict him, and yes, hold him accountable, just as “iron sharpens iron.”
Moreover, any accountability must have teeth–that is, real consequences for failure. As a friend of mine once stated, “Stupid should hurt.” People generally continue doing stupid things until it hurts. But that must be a part of his mentor relationship. It’s not something a wife can do without becoming a mother to her husband (a repulsive thought to most women.)
Nevertheless, your friend is not powerless. In fact, she must not remain passive. While avoiding coercion or control, she must respond to his failure with a carefully planned tough-love confrontation. The purpose of tough love is neither to punish nor control, but to encourage a wayward mate to rise above the pull of sin to become the man or woman God created him or her to be.
Because of the limited space here, I have prepared an article to describe just how this can be done biblically and honorably. Perhaps the kind folks at “Breaking Free” will post it soon! :-)
@Mark – Will do. I’ll post your article soon.
Mark, thank you very much for your help. You said pretty much what I was thinking… only more clearly. :) I’ll keep my eyes open for your article (assuming I can get to it by clicking on your name) and pass it on to my friend. Thank you for your time and swift response.
@Jeni – Mark’s article is now up on our blog. Click here to read it.
After 22 years my husband is still struggling with porn. After this last time it was so bad that I asked him to leave. We’ve talked a few times since, he is trying to get help (again). But the one thing he insists is that if we ever do get back together, he wants ME to be his accountability partner.
This is never going to happen – for a few reasons.
1) every story, image, video, chat conversation that I’ve had to see of his unfaithfulness has been forever burned into my mind. I can not forget it.
2) I don’t want to be his Mommy and have to police him for being “naughty” – that is just so disrespectful for him to even think that each instance is not like a new betrayal of our covanent vows- it is not simply “being naughty” from my perspective
3) in a perverse way he is drawing me into this “game” of being a “part” of his fantasies by telling me about them. I am voyueristically there at the moment he cheats. That is just so sick and twisted and cruel.
4) OF COURSE wives compare themselves to their usurper! DUH!!!! It is impossible not to. That is how God created us, so that we would want our husbands all to ourselves and we would try to be pleasing to them.
It remains to be seen if my husbandchanges his mind. But if he thinks that his wife (maybe that won’t be me) will have to watch him, but if he does, I can guarantee that for sure, it WON’T be ME. That is a deal breaker. Been there, done that, my sanity will not be squandered on his selfishness.
I’m sorry for my directness, but this has been painful.
@22 Years – Thanks for your comment. I believe you are being very reasonable about why you don’t want to be his accountability partner. I tend to advise wives to never take this role with their husband, especially in this area. As you put your foot down about this, I highly recommend he find a mature, male accountability partner.
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I was addicted to pornogrophy and fornication, but through confession and accountability, I have been able to walk in freedom (a large portion of that is due to Covenant Eyes). My sin and dishonesty hurt my girlfriend very badly, but after I confessed she stuck by me and that was a deterrent for me getting into that mess again.
I still struggle with being honest and sharing the specifics about my failures (masturbation, lustful thoughts, etc) with her because we’re now engaged and I know it would hurt her so much more. I have 3 accountability partners that get my CE Reports and those are the men that I meet with and open up to when I about my temptations and failures in that area. I have seen myself grow tremendously in those areas because of those relationships.
I share some things with her, but at the bequest of one of my accountability partners try not to be specific because of further emotional damage that it would do to her. I still fight guilt at times for not sharing everything with her. Is that normal? How do I get past it?
@NotSure – Great question, and one that I’ve wrestled with regarding confessing to my wife. This video with Christian counselor David Powlison talks about the “generic specificity” we should have when it comes to this topic. I encourage you to watch it.
Speaking personally: I have overcome my feelings of guilt because of an agreement between my wife and I. We decided early in our marriage that it was very important for me to be involved in accountability and discipleship with an older man from our church that she and I both trust to offer me wise advice and a listening ear. She knows I meet weekly with him and she knows he is my “confessor,” the one I give the nitty-gritty details to. These are the details she doesn’t want or need to hear about (inappropriate thoughts, etc.). While I don’t talk with her about those struggles, she rests easy knowing I have the regular discipline of talking about these things with someone she trusts to be thorough with me.
As a female addict it hurts to see comments such as ‘female point of view’ (as a partner of an addict) and ‘For many men, years of solo-sex….’. I would hope someday professionals such as yourself would realize the lure and hold of p and lust knows no boundaries and yes women can have lost painful childhoods and turn to p and mb as a savior when none other seems to exist.
I have been an addict for 37 years and began lusting when I saw a man sunbathing naked in the yard behind ours. Yes I lusted flesh with my female eyes; yes I searched and found porn in music, magazines, and many mainstream forms of media until I could obtain real porn. Yes when I watched porn I mb-ed many times a day in a dark room in front of a computer, yes I am turned on at the ‘drop of a dime’ and yes I have a female form of E.D. and cannot have sex unless I fantasize about porn scenes. I do not care to kiss or hug or enjoy intimacy beyond gaining my means. Yes continuous porn viewing changed my view of the world and I see others as objects, yes or no he is worthy of sex, and yes I undress men every time I see a ‘worthy’ one.
I am a man’s fantasy but wait; I am just as much of a selfish, sick, uncompassionate, angry, aggressive, immature person as any male addict the idea of a female addict is not all one might wish.
I have no idea how to connect, be intimate, and enjoy sex for unselfish reasons. I am alone in my recovery, posing as a man on “no porn” sites so I can obtain support because so many people believe the female mind is not capable of such filth.
BTW I have used your software in the early days of my recovery. Thank you for helping us addicts find a real life in real people.
@Sarah – I hope you had a chance to look at more of our blog, because we have a whole category set aside for women who are struggling with pornography, a regular author who runs a ministry for women, and a special section on our “Struggling?” page with resources for women. This specific post was for men who struggle with the question of spousal accountability when they are struggling with lust, but we have many other posts that address questions from a female point of view. Each post has its own audience, and I hope among our resources you find something that can be of help to you.
Thanks for sharing some of your story with us. It breaks my heart to read about it. Too few people see this as a problem among women and as a result so many women feel isolated. The truth is, it isn’t an isolated problem. Among today’s young women, around 16% seek out online sex on a weekly basis. You are most certainly not alone.
I do recommend you find some community support at DirtyGirlsMinistries.com. They might have some great resources for you.
I have a friend who is struggling with participating in homosexual promiscuous activities. He has encounterances with other men at gym clubs in steam rooms. He has a girlfriend who is a christian and he is a christian as well. He tells me its his hormones and sin at the root and that he doesn’t want to have sex with his girlfriend because he wants to wait til marriage and feels it will complicate things further. He’s seeking help from a professional christian counselor as well. Im not sure what to tell him frankly.
It’s great to hear that he’s seeking help! Keep encouraging him to seek professional assistance, rejoice with him over his victories, mourn with him when he falters, and keep praying for him.
Traditional accountability has a huge problem, you are only as accountable as you want to be. So one asks the “tuff”questions, than asks, “Have you just lied to me. Have you just lied to me about lying to me?” If a wife is an accountability partner, it offen feels like a parole officer married to a parolee. That leads to relational problems, only to feed the temptation for false intimacy. The fact that 2 sinners always say “I do,” requires one anothering, in the marriage, and in the church. So, the betrayed wife can also ask, “Do you see me facing my relational weaknesses with you?”
My boyfriend has asked if I would like to receive the emails that will also be going to his accountability partner.
I’m just really not sure! I want to but I don’t want to.
Hi, Anna – then follow your gut. There’s nothing that says you should. For now, maybe you don’t, and trust that as long as he has a process in place with Accountability, relationships, regular conversations with you, and that’s enough. I know that my wife (married 19 years) does not want to receive my reports. Her heart just isn’t wired to handle the responsibility of policing me and being my loving wife at the same time. For her, that doesn’t work! For some it does, but that’s completely your call.
My husband of 18 years has had this porn addiction throughout most of our marriage. I first discovered his addiction in our first year of marriage. I have discovered many more instances throughout the 18 years. We went 10 years with me being completely oblivious to the fact that he was still addicted. We have four children and this has completely crushed me and taken away any love I had for him. He now has an “accountability partner” and has signed up for Covenant Eyes, and the reports only go to his AP. This AP is his buddy, his age, and we’ve only known him for a year. It was a friend and it has ruined my relationship with him and his wife.
I recently discovered through seeing a text that a bad report had been sent to the accountability partner. My husband never said anything about it nor did the AP. I saw where he had denied it to the AP and covered it up. I just confronted my husband about it yesterday and he swears up and down that it was a mistake and did not happen. I guess my question is…how do I believe him and how do I trust that the AP will actually keep him accountable and not believe the lies and cover ups? Should I have a conversation with the AP? Should I find a different AP? And my other question…at what point should the AP let me know there’s a red flag? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Hi, and thanks for your question. Would your husband be open to having more than one accountability partner?