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Broken Trust: A Christian Response to Your Husband’s Porn Problem

Last Updated: August 18, 2014

Guest Author

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“I don’t trust you anymore.”

When you learned of your husband’s sexual immorality, you most likely experienced a flood of emotions. Wives who have learned of the pornography problem describe swinging from paralyzing shock to disbelief and overwhelming rage, crushing pain, grief, and sorrow that defy description.

Thus began a journey that you never intended to take.

Broken Trust

You are in the midst of a trial that has broken the trust you once had in your husband. Regardless of what kind of sexual sin he was involved in, the faith and confidence you once had in him has been damaged, or, at the worst, destroyed.

You may wonder if anything he tells you is the truth and it may be that way for a long time. This breeds insecurity and causes you to be fearful and suspicious all the time.

Being the Wise Wife

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

Take seriously the message of this proverb. You can destroy what remains of your relationship through fear, anger, bitterness, and suspicion. Some women check up on their husbands constantly. They are afraid to leave him alone in the house; they check his phone and computer for downloads, search through his things looking for “evidence,” and live with a suspicious eye cast toward the man they once trusted implicitly.

Insecurity in the heart is revealed by these kinds of actions and can lead to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. I want to gently remind you that your security is not to be in your husband, but in the Lord. Placing all your security in a changeable and fallible human is setting yourself up to be hurt all over again.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. (Psalm 46:1–3)

It is critical that you place your husband and your marriage into the hands of the Lord, and entrust yourself to Him as well.

What Repentance Looks Like

Does your husband claim to have repented of his sin? Repentance is not a one-time action, but a lifestyle. Living repentant is something he must do daily, hour after hour.

Biblically, true repentance is a threefold response to sin that is found in the use of three different words that each express a different aspect of repentance. There must be change of mind, change of heart, and change of life. All three components or aspects must be present for there to be fruit of true repentance in a person’s life.

Most wives find it difficult to accept that they have no control over whether he repents. Despite your fear and insecurity, you must give your repentant husband opportunities to regain your trust.

The Trust Bank

When our children were little and began to want a little freedom to go to a neighbor’s house to play or to be dropped off to see a movie with friends, we began to explain to them the idea of “The Trust Bank.”

We told them that their Trust Account with us was full, that they had all the trust we could have in them at that point, and the balance in the Trust Account after this outing was completely up to them. They could add to their account by being exactly where they told us they would be, by doing what they told us they would do, and by coming home on time. This would give them greater potential to receive approval for larger or “riskier” things like sleep overs and out of town events in the future.

If our children came home late, or we learned that they had been dishonest with us, the result was a withdrawal from their Trust Account. This meant that there would be more restrictive measures taken for a while until they regained our trust.

The key was that they were not sent to their room for three months, but that they had an opportunity to regain our trust again through small and structured steps that were designed to help them succeed. We also adopted the “trust but verify” method. Our kids knew that we would check up to see if they were really where they said they would be.

Now, of course some of this is not applicable in a marriage, but the idea can be utilized nonetheless. You, as the wounded and betrayed spouse, must allow your husband to regain your trust through testing in life situations.

Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned.

Some couples work together on ways for him to regain trust such as giving her full access to his computer, phone, not erasing computer history logs, and installing special software that will allow a remotely located accountability partner see where he has been browsing, and the searches that have been done on the Internet. Other men place a phone call when leaving work for the drive home and provide financial accountability for every dime spent.

The day will come when you will simply have to trust that your husband is being faithful and true to you. The more trust building opportunities that are behind you, the easier this will be. You will need to entrust your husband and your marriage to the Lord and remind yourself that if your husband proves not to be trustworthy, the greater violation is against God, not you.

Keeping the Godward perspective is imperative; therefore, I suggest routinely reading Psalms and Proverbs to gain wisdom, insight and understanding.

Trust but Verify

Because deception is such an integral aspect of sexual sin, the temptation is to disbelieve everything your husband tells you. It is easy for someone outside the situation to tell you to just believe him because they are not in your marriage and they don’t feel your heartbreak. They also don’t live with your fears regarding deception.

It is not biblical for you to continually disbelieve your husband if you have agreed to remain in the marriage and have determined to forgive him. You may not realize it, but each time you do not accept his words as truth you are accusing him of being a liar. You must understand that the more you tell yourself that he is untrustworthy, the more convinced you will be that it is still true.

This makes it very difficult to move forward and rebuild trust in the marriage. My encouragement to you is to accept what he tells you as the truth and pray that the Lord would confirm it for you as truth or a lie. God detests lying as much as all other sin, and He exposes the things done in the darkness.

Building trust will come with the passage of time. The more your husband is proven to be honest with you, the more you will find trust beginning to build. This will not be accomplished overnight but will come a little at a time.

Hopefully he will understand this process, and is patiently waiting for you to see the changes that are taking place in his heart.

Photo credit: sodaniechea


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.

  • Comments on: Broken Trust: A Christian Response to Your Husband’s Porn Problem
    1. Struggling Wife on

      Hi there,
      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. My husband and I have only been married for 8 months and I found out about his addiction 1 month after we eloped. My first struggle was not knowing if I could ever trust him again, so hearing this confirmation is so uplifting. Although the struggle was hard, I truly recognized my husband’s repentance and forgiveness throughout everyday that passed since the discovery. Now, I would give anything to be back in that moment, although the hurt was still fresh. It’s as if the tables have turned and I am the one who was unfaithful. I am constantly questioned and doubted everyday. A little has been revealed that now he is worried I will seek revenge or seek someone else because of his wrongdoings. I am more hurt now that when I discovered his infidelity.

      Any recommendations?

      Sincerely,
      Struggling Wife

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Struggling Wife,

        Thanks so much for your comment. You ask some good questions. Tell me a little more about this situation. Are you saying that he is genuinely fearful that you are going to take revenge on him, or are you saying that he is just saying that in order to shift the attention to you? You might say to him, “I’ve told you that I have forgiven you, but you don’t seem to trust that I have. Is there something I am doing or saying that is giving you that impression?”

    2. Laura on

      This is a Great article! Thank you!

      Reply
    3. Kathy Reynolds on

      I have a question. Is/was Mrs. Ganschow married to a sex/porn addict?

      Reply
    4. wounded on

      I ask the same question , is/ was she married to a sex addict ? Also , does she counsel sex addicts? I have never heard or read that trust is a sign of forgiveness. Trusting an addict who has not earned trust can cost you your life, the lives of your children . Being married to one for a very long time and teaching myself to ignore the nagging gut feeling has been a hard behavior to overcome. Trusting my doubts is actually what finally led to Covenant Eyes, to seeking resources for him to read or talk to someone, and subsequently his partial confession. Other than my gut I had not one drop of ” evidence ” to go on.Ignoring it may have cost my husband even more. To tell a wife to stop “checking” seems to go against all that Covenant Eyes is built on. One excellent counselor said , if there is nothing to hide what are so irritated about? Goes for both spouses it would seem.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I could be wrong about this, but it seems like she is saying that trust and forgiveness are two different things: trust is earned, but forgiveness is given. However, she is also saying that there is a difference between being unable to trust (because your husband is not trustworthy or hasn’t demonstrated trustworthiness) and being unwilling to trust despite all signs of trustworthiness. Being unable to trust is a matter your husband proving his trustworthiness (adding to the Trust Bank). Being unwilling to trust in spite of have a full Trust account is possibly a manifestation of revenge: “I will hold my lack of trust over your head for the rest of your life, regardless of what you do or don’t do.” Is this a fair reading of the article?

    5. only4him on

      Who tore whose household down and why do you even quote this here. Some of us have chosen to forgive and trust again too many times. These are addicts. This article makes me mad.

      Reply
    6. only4him on

      i wanted to clarify what was upsetting to me about this article. And i may have over reacted. Certainly i am very thankful that the author cares and wants to help. i really appreciate having a place to turn to in my pain and have understanding after living all these years feeling crazy trying to navigate what i thought were temporary situations that now i see has done such damage to our family. For many years i decided to trust even though everything in me said he was lying. The signs were there but i didn’t want to be a woman that tore down her own house- so i kept wanting to believe the best and now here i am 30 years down the road and the monster- addiction- grew while i hoped for the best until i am presently looking at damage not only to him, but to me and most importantly- to my kids. i look back and think how in the world did this happen because it surfaced over and over again and i kept thinking it was being dealt with, temporary remorse and promises. Often hearing that i needed to trust so we could move on. So my read on this blog is contrary to what i wish i had done. i wish i had trusted my intuition and gone after this like a tiger to try to get resolution. My husband fed this type of reasoning to me while continuing in sin and lies. And the damage multiplies with time so i would say to other women- Be very sure and do not relent from pressing the issue because a man who is in recovery and truly repentant will not see that as “tearing his house down”. but rather protecting his family and himself from the roaring lion that is bent on ripping his family apart!

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I think that’s where the “trust bank” concept comes into play. Women who neglect the importance of letting her husband rebuild trust can be terribly burnt in this process (as you yourself painfully know). However, when the author says, “The day will come when you will simply have to trust that your husband is being faithful and true to you,” she is obviously speaking to the woman who is on the opposite end of the spectrum, the woman who is resistant to trust, who never feels like she will be able to trust again.

        I talk to both kinds of women every day. Some just trust their husbands out of obligation or fear or love, not realizing that trust needs to be earned. I also talk to women who are married to husbands who do everything in their power to regain trust, but they can never let their hearts trust again. Both the blind giving of trust and the unchangeable withholding of trust can kill a relationship.

      • Godspeach1968 on

        I totally agree. People who have not been on the ugly side of love don’t know that the betrayed spouse is ALSO broken and human.
        I’m sick of pious platitudes about forgiveness that insinuate that the Betrayed is “evil and “wicked.” I believe Jesus requires no less from the “Cheating” partner than for them to repent. Turn from their sin, and live differently. Expecting anything less is winking at sin, and reconciliation doesn’t stand a snowman’s chance in the Arizona sun of lasting. Calling someone out and holding them responsible for THEIR STUFF, is NOT evil or wicked, but Love in its highest form. Don’t believe their words, but ONLY DEEDS THAT ARE A 360 degree turn from what they used to be. I can forgive their sin, and hold them responsible. If they don’t change, THEIR CAN BE NO RECONCILIATION. Forgiveness IS NOT a “Get out of Jail Free Card.”

      • Kay Bruner on

        “Forgiveness is free, trust is earned.” We trust because of trustworthy behavior, repeated, over time. That’s been such a helpful thing for me to learn. And you’re right–we so often lose sight of the fact that confronting sin is actually Love in its highest form. Nobody benefits from a pornography habit. Nobody. And there is so much freedom available! But not when we misuse forgiveness as sweeping the mess under the rug.

    7. HeartBroken on

      What if your husband defends his actions, and does not seem interested in repentance, trust bank, counseling, etc. Just keep praying? Worried I’m just going to keep getting hurt.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey there. I’m glad you wrote in. This is a difficult place to be, for sure, and I think your concerns are valid. I think you need to consider what your boundaries need to be in that situation. I’m a counselor, so my first concern is for your safety. When I see a guy who just doesn’t want to work on recovery at all, I’m concerned that the situation may escalate to more acting out, and that would put you at risk for STD’s, HIV, etc. Of course I don’t know your particular situation, but I think it’s wise to be aware that this can happen. I want you to be safe.

        Have you read our free download, Hope After Porn? It’s the stories of several women who had to make tough decisions about their boundaries in situations like yours.

        Also, I think it would be so helpful for you to have support while you’re thinking through all this, so I’d recommend a counselor. Check the American Association of Christian Counselors for someone in your area. I’ve also found that Celebrate Recovery is a good place to look for support, and there are groups in lots of places.

        I’m really sorry for the pain you’re in right now, and I hope some of that helps. Let me know! Blessings, Kay

      • Godspeach1968 on

        Read “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s time to put up some safeguards. Stop sharing the bedroom or ask him to move to the sofa for awhile.

      • Kay Bruner on

        The Boundaries books are the best! Thanks for the recommendation!

    8. Sweetz on

      I got to the place of just beginning to trust, but this is what I got:
      A few days ago I found out that he has been having a woman “friend” in the back room for lunch and chats. Of course, he KNEW that I had asked him for years not to get personal with women…just keep it a business transaction. I also asked him not to bring women behind the counter and into the back room of our store. Since his son also runs the business with him, he did this on Saturdays when his son was off work. The woman had never met me so I was “unreal” to her in her mind. But the other day I stopped by the store and she walked in. The air was “thick” and I could not seem to make her comfortable…and my husband who says she is a “fun” and gregarious person was tense also. The first words from her mouth to me after I introduced myself were “OH!, you are a beautiful woman”! Right then, I knew that my husband was busy trying to seduce her and that she now saw me as “competition”.

      She also left her hair brush in the back bathroom…so she had been primping when visiting my husband on Saturdays. He told me that he has had her there “several times”. This is his method of operation…getting vulnerable women comfortable with him…finding common ground to talk to them about non-business things, then compliments, then flirting, sexual innuendos, and they were even talking about her buying a house going in halves with my husbands son.

      She was given a large inheritance from her deceased father and had purchased a house in another state…then decided not to leave our town. I thought that was odd, until I realized that my husband has become to mean so much to her that she opted to get a rental house in our town instead of making her move out of state.

      So this idea of trusting him has not even begun. Each Saturday he comes home and wants to have sex with me. I feel as though he has gotten himself “primed” by his time spent with her. So there is my boundary…I cannot have sex with him anymore. Doing that never resulted in him being faithful…and sex between a husband and wife is supposed to be for preventing the devil from tempting and stumbling a man. Too late, this has been the case our entire marriage…no sooner I think I may be “safe”, I find something else and now I have zero trust, and more importantly, zero desire to service a man like that.

      Reply
      • Sweetz on

        Just to make things clearer…he is an older Christian man of 62, I do not know if he has taken these relationships into the physical level, he NEVER confesses, and when caught, he minimizes his behavior as though he did not realize what he was doing…even though he sees the impact it has on me. So I suppose I want him to be the one who will feel that impact instead of me being compliant with him having his cake and eating it too. I informed him that until he gets “victory” over this sin (lust) I will have to wait until the Lord impresses that fact upon my heart/mind and that is the day I will be available for sex. If this leads to divorce, well, so be it. I am finished with his “battles”….he never wins the war. Porn and lust for other women has ALWAYS been THE issue in our marriage…he supposedly got rid of the porn at home, but now he is stepping over the lines that I had to draw for him at work, because apparently, he draws none for himself regarding his behavior with other women. This is no marriage…this is just a relationship…and he is not able to be satisfied with what I was giving in it.

      • Kay Bruner on

        I think trust would be a REALLY BAD IDEA in the situation you’ve just described! Here’s the deal: we only give our trust to TRUSTWORTHY people. And the only way we know that people are trustworthy is if they behave in trustworthy ways over time. It sounds to me like your husband has a long-standing pattern of untrustworthy behavior, and I think it’s healthy for you to draw those boundaries you’ve mentioned, and maybe even consider what other boundaries need to be put in place.

        Ultimately, he has to take responsibility for his behavior. You’ve tried fighting his battles for him, and it just doesn’t work. Healing is possible! But it would be up to him to do the work.

        While you’re thinking things through, you might appreciate looking at a couple of resources. Hope After Porn is a free download here. Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is a really good read as you think through what’s healthy for you.

        Meanwhile, I hope you’ll find some local support for yourself. There might be a Celebrate Recovery in your area, and you can check the American Association of Christian Counselors for counselors near you.

        Let me know if that helps and if you have other questions! Kay

    9. N4tier on

      Why is it always laid on the wife to do this or that? Why is that verse Proverbs 14:1 always used in THESE situations. A pastor at my church even told me about the 1 Peter verse wife submit to your husband. Is anyone going to address the fact that this is adultery. That the bible says the sexual immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God. That if we harm a child, we should tie a millstone around our neck & throw ourselves into the deep?! Porn supports sex trafficking. If your spouse is continuing in sin and places like this are giving them excuses like, oh your an addict, your brain on porn….where will he/she ever. .ever see themselves as sinning and in defiance against God. Did you see God say to David, “well your a sex addict now”…no he brought judgment on David & his household. Have you forgotten we serve a Holy God, who tells us to be holy as He is holy?! Porn is a given..run from it like Joseph in potiphars house! Think of the kids this affects, that are sex trafficked. I’m not judging here, I’m a mom of a daughter who went into that industry. I’ve seen the catastrophic outcome of this stuff. Why are we being told it’s on us, when we are faithful, loving, supportive, sacrifice our selves fully, serve with all we have….that’s something I will never buy into. I feel your are using one verse and slapping that on wives. You need to read the bible in context and you need to give the wife serious support so she can heal. We can’t work on “trusting him” till we heal first or its all for nothing. Ugh….and that’s if we can. We forgive, they do it again. .we forgive, they do it again, on and on. Adultery over and over and over again. The porn user is not the victim here, the spouse being faithful is, the person on the screen is. Stop smacking “their hands” when you should be “waring their tales out”. I mean this is eternity we are talking about here. Jesus said So if your eye–even your good eye–causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.Matthew 5:29
      please help me understand where YOUR coming from cause this to me is “church counseling” not biblical counseling. …show me where God let sexual immoral people of his just get “a talking to” or some accountability installed somewhere. Grace..don’t even go there either, or that I’m upset. ..of course I am, this is putting a bandaid on a gushing wound!!” But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people”. 1 Corinthians 5:11.
      Look, I love my husband & I’ve begged him to get help, I’ve done everything including “not saying a word”, going to studies& counseling to help me walk through this. ..it’s needed!! But please stop making the spouses using porn the victims here. Stop telling wives to not tear down their houses when their husbands just drove through it with a bulldozer. ..again.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I agree with you that there’s a popular myth that wives are somehow making the mess, and can somehow be in control of their husband’s choices. It’s just not true. If he’s not willing to do the work, then he’s the one who’s breaking the marriage. It sounds like you’ve done everything you’re responsible to do, in trying to deal with your own pain, educating yourself, etc.

        My own personal opinion is that when a husband unrepentantly looks at porn, he breaks the marriage covenant, just like adultery breaks the marriage covenant. And then I think the wife has a choice to make, about whether she will stay in that broken marriage, or if she will separate from it. I don’t know if you’ll find a male pastor anywhere who would tell you that, but that’s my opinion. I believe divorce is an option for all abuse, and I certainly believe that unrepentant porn use is abusive to wives. We have only to look at the incidence of PTSD among wives to see the traumatic results of porn use.

        So there you go. A different opinion from me :) Blessings, Kay

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