“There’s nothing I can do. As a Christian I’m obligated to simply ‘forgive and forget,’ and just move on.”
“I can’t set boundaries with him. I’m not his mom!”
“I’m completely alone. And I have to deal with it alone, since telling anyone would dishonor my husband.”
“Well, this is just my life. I can’t divorce him. He refuses to repent, so I just have to live in a degrading, miserable, and emotionally starved marriage relationship for the rest of my life.”
Lies! These are just a handful of the lies I believed when my husband was deeply entrenched in his love affair with pornography and sexual sin. Oh how clever the enemy is to twist the truth in our minds in order to keep up helpless, hopeless, and isolated.
Over time my husband became so calloused by the snowball effects of pornography that he just became blatantly unrepentant in his pursuit of sexual gratification. What may have begun with a struggle became an all out surrender to the idol of sexual idolatry.
So what can you do when your husband is completely unrepentant and just unapologetically views porn? What steps can you take?
There are some things you can do, but let me clarify a few things.
- First, you aren’t looking for behavior modification for a season, but a heart transformation for eternity. A transformed heart looks like so much more than just remorse. It comes on the heals of brokenness and results in a hatred for sin, a willingness to do whatever it takes to make it right, and a complete turning to the Lord.
- Second, you cannot change your husband, nor is it your job to do so. That’s the role of the Holy Spirit. What you can do, however, is create an environment that makes it increasingly more uncomfortable for him to walk in blatant sin, and helps prepare the way for the conviction of the Holy Spirit eventually leading to brokenness.
- Third, your number one motivation should always be love and complete restoration. There may be times when what you do or even say doesn’t feel like love to him, but as long as love (not bitterness or retaliation) is the motive, God will honor and lead you in your efforts to reconcile your marriage.
So, what are some steps you can take when your husband just unapologetically views porn?
1. Love Confronts Sin with the Truth
The most obvious initial step you should take is simply to confront him. You should clearly communicate the way his actions have made you feel and what it’s doing to your relationship. Then firmly express the natural consequences of his actions in the form of specific boundaries that will take place from that point forward.
From Adam and Eve in the garden, to idolatrous Israel, to the adulterous woman, to the churches in Revelation, time and time again we see the love of God in action as He confronts and disciplines those He loves (Revelation 3:20). In fact, the Lord has some seemingly harsh words for the Laodicean Christians when he called them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Does He say these things because he hates them? Never. He confronts them with hard truth because His love compels Him to arouse the calloused saints from facing the eternal consequences of having hearts turned against the Lord.
2. Love Exposes Sin to the Light
Satan works in the darkness. As long as a couple remains silent in the battle while sin is hidden in the dark, it’s easy for the enemy to continue his foothold. But when light penetrates the darkness through the help and counsel of other strong believers, somehow Satan’s grip weakens and often chains begin to fall from one or both partners.
Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
Expose the problem to mature friends. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to tell everyone you know how awful you husband is. However, Satan wants to keep you isolated, yet God created you to flourish within community. Prayerfully (and very carefully) consider asking one or more godly men of high moral character to come alongside your husband confronting and challenging him with the truth in love. Then seek the same for yourself: a wise woman who can encourage, counsel, pray, and hold you accountable as you tread these high waters.
Expose it to the Church. After you’ve confronted him personally and with others, Matthew 18 then directs you to the church. Biblical church discipline doesn’t mean excommunication (though it can as a last resort). But it does include support, accountability, reproof, love, and boundaries. Though unpopular, if done in the right way, involving the church can be one of the most loving things to do.
3. Love Sets Boundaries on Sin
Many times a wife will unknowingly stand in the way of the natural consequences of her husband’s sin because she doesn’t understand how to implement healthy boundaries. So she resorts to nagging, complaining, or emotional manipulation, which are all efforts to control her husband.
Boundaries have nothing to do with controlling your spouse. It’s about controlling yourself.
Some starting boundaries may include:
- Christian Counseling: Boundaries may say something like this, “I can’t force you to seek help for our marriage, but I love you and am not willing to allow us to fall apart so easily, so I’m going to counseling.” This is a clear and enforceable boundary because it has to do with you, not him. Christian counseling is an excellent place to start. It will help you set further boundaries specific to your situation.
- Expecting the Truth: You may say, “I’ve caught you in three lies recently. Real intimacy and love cannot exist on a foundation of lies. So for now I’m going to have to distance myself from you.”
- Physical separation: There are times and situations where a separation is the only appropriate response. This doesn’t mean divorce or that you’re giving up on your marriage. It means that you are willing to allow severe consequences for severe sin in an effort to get his attention and turn his heart back to the Lord.
In Jeremiah 3 God gives Israel some harsh truth and then issues them a certificate of divorce. But it’s a certificate with a promise—a promise of full restoration and abundant blessing if they would only repent and turn back to Him. The Lord used a period of separation to both discipline and give his people time to repent. Seek wise counsel, soak it in prayer, and God will make the decision clear.
4. Love Intercedes on Behalf of the Sinner
Finally, this is a spiritual battle that won’t be won without the Lord. You must get in the Word and get on your knees. The outcome of this battle has eternal ramifications and could be the difference between heaven and hell.
Ephesians 5:3-6 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God…because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
You husband’s porn addiction may be a salvation issue. He needs you to be consistently interceding on his behalf. My husband grew up in church and knew all the right answers, yet it was a personal encounter with the Lord during our time of separation that brought him to genuine salvation.
As damaging as pornography is, there is hope. Porn addiction doesn’t have to be the end of a marriage. In fact, it can be the catalyst that leads to brokenness, leading to genuine repentance, leading to full restoration, leading to a stronger and more fruitful marriage than ever. Don’t be discouraged. The greater the impossibility, the greater the miracle. And God is still in the miracle working business!
What’s impossible with man, is supernaturally possible with God (Luke 1:37).
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Micah Horner is a wife, homeschool momma of four, student, and teacher. She and her husband, Michael, have been radically transformed by the supernatural grace and power of God in their lives. Along with being passionate about teaching/training her own children to walk in the light, share the light, and be the light; she lives to teach, train, and build women to live beyond themselves…for Christ and the next generation. Her husband is an Area Director of Man In the Mirror Ministries, which also exists to build and disciple men. Together they have made it their life purpose to intentionally invest in others by giving hope to the hurting and solid truth to the hungry.
Micah, thank you for this excellent outline of responses. I will be saving this to share with others!
Thank you Lisa. I’m so thankful to be able to use some of those lessons learned in the pit.
My wife and I are counseling a believing wife of an unbelieving husband (49 years of marriage). Are there any tips or articles available that can be applied to a situation like hers? It seems everything I read concerns marriages where both spouses are believers.
God put me and my husband together.
Years of infidelity had torn us apart; round one counselling; round two, he brought a woman with 3 little girls we were “helping” home. He lost his nerve, ended the affair, more counselling. Now more porn, and 3-5 women, one of which has him changing bank accounts, demanding passwords and codes. I filed for separation on Mon, he gets served tomorrow. Our court date is Dec. 10th. Today is our 31st anniversary. He can lie like a rug. I cannot trust him. So sad for him, losing the live and relationships of his children.Hoping he wakes up and turns around before it’s too late. I fear for his soul.
Bless you for being so brave. You’ve tried hard, I can see that, and I’m glad you are able to make healthy choices for yourself given the reality of the situation. I hope you’re getting support and healing help just for you? A therapist, a group, and/or the online resources at Bloom for Women are so necessary at a time like this. Peace to you, Kay
Thank you for this. I don’t know yet if I will need it, but I have been preparing for the next conversation with my husband about his behavior (which, although greatly improved, is clearly only behavioral modification at this point and is still lacking that true repentance and heart transformation). I do plan to approach him in love, and we will see where it goes from there.
Theresa, I’m so glad you recognize the difference between behavior modification and heart transformation. Knowing what you’re really looking for will help you to stay proactive in the battle for his heart and not become stagnant in the struggle. Seek the Lord and He will direct your every step.
Please pray for me as I have some
really tough decisions t make. I have been married 36 years who “put me away” after the second week of our marriage. Of course, we’ve had sex once every 4-6 months after I bring it up, cry, he makes excuses and we argue. He has sex with me once or twice and then another six months passes and we repeated the cycle. Fast forward to now, and it’s been 21 months since we had sex. He doesn’t want me, but his porn habits caused me to separate from him 7 years ago. I was very emotionally raw and dependent upon him, so he totally played me to get me home and then it became having sex once a year. I’ve followed the classic church recommendations that seem to only protect the image of a marriage,and allow the women to die at home while they wait. There is no repentance from my husband at all. He never owns anything, lies and covers up his sin more and more which is hard because he has so many passwords, bells and whistles on his prized technology that it rarely
Surfaces. What has happened is that my own abandonment and rejection issues of my childhood has caused me to be fiercely loyal, and I love Jesus and my husband. Despite all of these facts, I am still at a loss of what to do, but I am so broken from my husband’s zero interest in me as the woman who loves him and lays beside him every night. I feel like I need solid “proof”, before I separate from him,but he knows me finding out about his sexual secrets could cost him our marriage, so it is very carefully hidden. I could go on, butvthe bottom line is I so wish that I had recognized what was happening our first year of marriage and really had had a clue about boundaries, but I didn’t. My heart’s desire was to have a forever family and be the perfect wife and mother, but despite all my efforts, we look like a lasting marriage while we are rotten and dying inside. (It is truly such a picture of Jesus message to the Pharisees about cleaning the outside of the cup and leaving the inside dirty, and whitewashed tombs full of dead man’s bones.
What makes this super hard is I am financially dependent on him, have health issues that make it very difficult for me to support myself. I believe God has (or is) shown me that I have tried everything I can do and nothing has worked. I probably need to leave, but I think deep down he will probably choose the porn over me still. He is 65 and I am 56. He claims he has no memory of when he saw porn the first time and that he doesn’t “use” porn. A Christian counselor said 7 years ago, “I think we’ve seen all the truth we are ever going to get out of him”. It breaks my heart to do the hard thing of leaving because he just won’t “deal” with his stuff. I really need prayers for divine revelation, wisdom and the strength to create some strong boundaries and walk them out. Thank you for praying for me and for listening!
Jeanne, you are a wise and powerful person. I’m so sorry for the pain you are suffering, and have been suffering all these years. It breaks my heart for you that “the classic church recommendations” that you so faithfully tried to follow were so toxic to you, and did no good for your husband either. So often this is the terrible reality: other people would rather see a fake relationship than have to face the pain with you. You are so right that this is a terrible, Pharisaic practice in the church today. May God judge those who perpetuate abuse on women in this way. In my experience, I have seen abused women leave their husbands and almost like magic, their bodies begin to function again and health problems clear up. I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but I know for sure that the kind of stress you have suffered all these years cannot have had a good impact on your body. Leaving at this point is not to force him to change, it’s to give you a chance for life and health and joy and peace. I hope you have a good support system around you as you take these courageous and necessary steps? A group, a therapist, and the online resources at Bloom for Women are great places to look for support. Peace to you, Kay
Upon discovering that my husband had been watching porn, of course, my heart sank. I confronted him about it and all he could say was I’m sorry. I explained to him how damaging this was to me and how it hurt me as his wife. But he seemed to brush it under the rug explaining that it was lack of intimacy on my part. We were intimately weekly but apparently not as much as he would like to be. After several more times catching him watching porn and finding it on the computer i sat down with him and asked why he watched porn. At first he tried to blame me on our lack of intimacy but i pointed it out that we were intimate at least twice a week. I explained to him that it was affecting our relationship and our intimacy. although we were intimate, it felt cold and mechanical and all about him. I urged him to perhaps get counseling and finally said that he was a man, he loved women and sex so it was ok for him to watch porn. He didn’t’ see it a problem that he needed counseling for. That just devastated me and made me feel as if he didn’t respect or love me. After that conversation he secretively continued watching porn and little by little i started retreating from being intimate with him. And the past several years, I’ve found texts from other woman on his phone and on social networking sites. He says its not big deal that he is just being social and flirting. It really hurt to see my husband just totally disregard my feelings. One time, i found a Facebook message of a woman asking him is he was involved with anybody and he told her no that he was single. that just broke my heart in pieces again. At first he was angry with me for looking through his phone then he started crying for me not to leave. But that didn’t change anything. He continued to text her and He kept spending more and more time on his phone and computer. I felt like he was not spending enough time with me and our little boys. But he felt that being the provider was enough. Our intimacy became non existent and eventually he asked for a divorce about a month ago citing that he was unhappy and loved me but was not in love with me. He wanted to be friends and end it amicably and rather quickly and not discuss anything He just wanted to be happy and wanted the same for me but ever since that day, he has been cold towards me, time with his kids is non existent. To add to the stress, he has not made good financial decisions in the past year that caused us to be homeless and take residence with family members. And now although he hasn’t filed for divorce, he is in a relationship with another woman much younger than him. I had asked him if his desire for a quick divorce was because he was involved with another woman and he had said no. Of course that was a lie. He has shown no interest in saving our marriage, he shows no concern for his little boys although he stressed that they would be his utmost priority. One day he speaks to me amicably and next he curses me out and says im a bad wife and mother and that I’m the cause of his downfall in every area of his life. I’m trying to figure out what i did so wrong to treat me this way and then I ask myself if his porn addiction would cause so much stress, anger, bitterness in my husband. He is not the same man of God i once married. He drinks, he smokes, he curses. He just doesn’t seem to care about us but only about what pleases him. We are now broken family. And my faith in God is what has kept me strong. Does porn addiction cause a man to change in such a bad way??
Oh Zooey, my heart breaks to read your story.
While I won’t say “porn did this” to your husband, it is clear that porn has contributed to the warping of his mind and desires. Your husband was the one who chose to go down this dark path, and now he’s reaping what he has sown in his heart.
Porn reinforces the selfishness innate in us all: it delivers the promise of something highly pleasurable with little personal cost. Porn makes a man feel like a man without requiring him to be one, and for some men this is what is so intoxicating about it. It provides a fantasy world where their desires are king.
Nothing you did made your husband like this. No woman, not even the most nagging or pestering or inattentive wife, can “make” her husband rush headlong into porn. That’s just nonsense. It’s this kind of blame-shifting that keeps men trapped: they are locked in the prison of their own mind thinking everyone but themselves is to blame for their problem. This is the essence of immaturity.
I say this as a man who used to be trapped in the same ugly habit. I hated the man I was becoming.
I do think, Zooey, that it is time to address this issue in a proactive way. Have you talked to anyone about this? A pastor? Counselor? Even a good friend? Have you followed the steps in this post? This article gives a great place to start.
I am so grieved over the hurt you and your boys have been handed , by a man who vowed to love and cherish you. Porn users do have a much higher rate of adultery also. There is a direct connection because of all that porn wires a person to become, a user of people. It slowly removes his ability to empathize with your pain, or others except himself. I hope you find a caring counselor, pastor or friend. You will it need for you. God can still heal , he really can.
Oh, I’m so sorry Zooey! His behavior is NOT your fault! He made those choices and he will have to live with the consequences. He’s trying to shift the blame to you in order to keep the light off himself. He’s just so deceived. As long as he can continue to convince himself it’s all you, then he won’t have to repent and change anything in himself. It’s just manipulation, which is highly characteristic of addictive behavior. You must set some boundaries in your marriage. I would highly recommend you reading “Boundaries in Marriage” by Cloud and Townsend to help get you started. http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Marriage-Henry-Cloud/dp/0310243149/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408392176&sr=1-1&keywords=boundaries+in+marriage I’d also encourage you to seek out a Christian marriage counselor to help you.
Also, I totally agree with Luke’s comments. Porn didn’t make him bad, but because porn use is ultimately a matter of the heart, the more he seeks the idol of his heart, the more calloused his heart and behavior becomes to the Lord and His truth. Sin has a numbing effect that over time causes us not to feel the damaging effects of it. It makes us careless and blind to the way we hurt ourselves and especially those around us. Porn, like any other addiction, just intensifies selfishness as time goes on. So while porn didn’t make him bad (his heart was already deceitfully wicked above all things) it does produce a false reality where he is king and is entitled to live and do according to whatever gives him pleasure at the moment.
Pray for brokenness in your husband. And that may require that you get out of the way for a season so that God can deal with him alone. Read 1 Cor. 5. It will give you some insight into how seriously the Lord considers immorality within the church.
I’m praying the Holy Spirit will clearly lead you in the next steps to take. The road ahead may be very uncertain for you as it was for me, (homeschool mom of 3, never worked, didn’t finish college, no money of my own etc.) yet God provided for my every need during our time of separation. Trust the Lord with whatever He tells you to do. His arm is not too short to save!
Thank you all for the words of encouragement. I think the one thing that i hold onto sometimes is that i keep thinking i made my husband this way because i wasn’t what he needed in a wife and a mother. A good friend told me that the way my husband has been behaving is not my fault, that he is an adult who can make his own choices and he chose to go down this path of destruction. I don’t know if God will restore our marriage. He left because he said he was unhappy, was tired of making me happy, was not in love with me anymore, said i didn’t respect him or appreciate him, that i abused him emotionally, the list goes on. And now, he is in a relationship with another much younger woman but denies it although i have evidence. He doesn’t seem to care about our young children, he doesn’t support them financially nor makes the effort to spend time with them. It’s like he’s a different man. I’m just torn. I don’t know what to do. Some tell me to just walk away and not give him any chance to come back into my life and manipulate me because they feel he’s done that in the years we were married. I believe that i lost myself, my identity, compromised myself in this marriage and i let him take advantage. I don’t want that. God opened up my eyes to that but deep down, i know that i loved my husband and that i was a good wife and mother. I’m just torn. I don’t know what to ask God for. I just don’t want to make the same mistakes again.
Hey Zooey. I read your comment last night and just thought about it and prayed for you for a while. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’ve got good friends around you. I’m so sorry for all the pain and confusion you’re experiencing right now. I hear all the conflicting ideas you’re trying to balance: is it your fault vs. you know it’s not your fault; should you want your marriage back vs. he’s got a free will and he’s making hard choices with it. I think that you’re in that hard, hard place of letting go of the life you had before and waiting for what’s to come–and we don’t know what’s to come, and that’s scary.
As you’re letting go, I think maybe this is the big struggle: when you’ve done everything as right as you know how, and it’s come out so badly, what then? And I hear you, that you don’t want to make the same mistakes again and wind up in this kind of pain again. I hear you, I do. But I think you know already that we don’t get to have that kind of control. You already know that the world is a hard place, and that people make bad choices, and we end up in pain, despite our best efforts. I think maybe you’re wondering how you can hope, when you can’t make things right, and it seems like God is willing to let it all be crazy, too.
And, Zooey, I think that in times like this, hope comes out of the experience of God’s love for you, beyond the circumstances, beyond the choices your husband makes, beyond the hard things you have to face. I feel like that’s a really bad answer. I wish I could tell you which switch to push, which choice to make. And all I can tell you is, trust the Love. Trust the Love. Wait. God will carry you through. Get with the people who love you. Let them be God’s hands and feet for you. I know you’ve got tough choices to make, and you’re scared of mistakes. But Love will carry you through mistakes, too. God’s got you. He won’t let you go.
Do you know this song? Robbie Seay Band, Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go. I’ve been leaning hard on this song this spring, and this is what I pray for you: that you will experience that God loves you, and He makes you whole in that love, no matter what happens. And, as you make decisions and walk through this, you’ll have the peace that passes understanding. Blessings and prayers, Kay
Micah,my husband is still the king of excuses, like you stated in another article. He claims to be free of the porn but his attitudes and lying about other things don’t show a man in recovery. He is older and this has been a lifelong addiction. I have been extremely frustrated with the counselors we have been too, some made it worse. Can you share with me who you and Michael worked with? If not in this blog could you share it with Covenant Eyes and they could send it to me? I would be so grateful.
I feel your frustration. I wouldn’t recommend going to any counselor who wasn’t coming from a clearly biblical perspective. There are so many good Christian counselors out there now that you shouldn’t have a problem finding one in your area. Here’s who we used plus a few other options to help in your search.
We used Heart Life Soul Care in Germantown, TN and they were amazing. http://www.heartlifesoulcare.org/heartlife/index.html
1) The AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) has a very useful tool on their website that could help you locate some counselors in your area. http://www.aacc.net/resources/find-a-counselor/
2) Also the Focus on the Family website has a database of counselors they recommend as well. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/counseling/find-a-counselor.aspx
3) Restoration Path is also an incredible ministry that helped my husband. The Founder, David Jones is so very wise and full of truth. They have distance counseling that they do for both husbands and wives by way of Skype. http://restorationpath.org
Hope this helps. I’d also recommend you reading “Boundaries in Marriage” by Cloud and Townsend if you haven’t already. Praying for wisdom as you seek help and healing for your wounded heart. Micah
Micah, Thank you so much for being such a joy in my heart. I love you and continue to be so humbled to call you daughter!!! Love , Mom
It’s been 7 months that i left my last comment and it will be a year this June that my husband announced him wanting a divorce. Currently, I’m completing paperwork to file for divorce. as the months have gone by, I realized this man i used to call my husband, is no longer the same Godly man i once knew. Perhaps he was never that man either. I don’t know. What i do know is that no matter how many times he denies it or how he tries to paint our current marital situation, sin is sin. He truly believes that since he and I are no longer together, although still married, that it’s ok for him to be with the other woman. the woman that caused his Facebook status to change from “nothing” to” in a “relationship with *****” two days after he announced his plans for divorce. I say from “nothing” because he never put his Facebook status as “married.” He explained he didn’t want people to know about his personal life. He was aspiring to make it as a secular rapper and didn’t want to mix personal life with music business. He continues to blame me saying that I was unhappy and he was tired of the verbal abuse, that i was a bad wife. I see no hope for reconciliation. I have confessed to my sins and fault in the marriage. I know that i could have done things different, better but i refuse to keep beating myself up for his sins and decisions he has made that lead to where we are today. I’m heart broken because I guess deep down i still care for my husband who shows no remorse or responsibility. i feel like he threw me under the bus. and it hurts to see him take our kids on his weekends along with the other woman and her child. Just keep me i your prayers. i just want to be a better mom and grow closer to God.
Oh, I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through. Even though things have been so difficult with your husband, of course it’s a huge loss and of course it’s heart-breaking to see someone you cared about so deeply turn toward such a destructive life.
There may be no hope for reconciliation, but there is great hope for your healing, for your growth, and for redemption. I don’t know how all that’s going to look, but I hope with you for light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
I just want to check and make sure you’re getting the support you need? Maybe through personal counseling or through a Divorce Care group? Lots of churches have those and they are very low cost or free usually.
Thanks for staying in touch, and please let us know how things are going for you. Blessings, Kay
Thank you for the Godly wisdom. The lies from the enemy have been loud and noisy. Almost believable. My pastor husband, has struggled on and off with porn addiction for 17 yrs. We have the Covenant Eyes filter, done an intervention, counseling, accountability partners, ultimatums, everything over the years. He is sorry he got caught, but not transforming his heart. He has checked the block on the recent discovery. He went to counseling once this time. He said he was told he was good. He didnt need to go back. I am confronting him tomorrow about the continued lying and deceit. I dont believe he has gone back to porn (yet). With the confrontation, I am announcing I am leaving. I have not left like this before. It will be one of the hardest things I have ever done. Please pray for both of us.
Lynn, be strong and courageous. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. You are not required to submit to sin, or to live under it. Thank you for sharing your story with us here, and know that we are standing with you. Here’s an article that might be an encouragement to you. It talks about a high view of marriage including divorce. It’s sad when it comes to this, but you are not a slave to sin, even if your husband chooses to be. Peace to you, Kay