Although this is written in the first person as a man, it applies identically to both genders. Trying to include male and female pronouns got to be too cumbersome! Ladies, please read and translate as needed.
Do you ever go grocery shopping when you’re hungry? What typically happens is you get to the checkout aisle wondering how so many chips, Oreos and donuts ended up in your cart. Meanwhile, the cashier is asking you if they can scan the wrapper of the Snickers bar you’ve already torn open and bitten in to.
It is generally a bad idea to go shopping on an empty stomach because everything looks appetizing when you’re hungry. The same is true when watching television commercials for food. I hate to admit it, but when I’m really hungry, even Burger King commercials look appetizing. It’s like my stomach takes over my brain and all of a sudden the thought of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets sounds like a delicious idea. When I’m hungry it doesn’t really matter what it is, if it fills my empty stomach and it looks or smells halfway decent, it will do.
The same is true of our drive for intimacy, validation, approval, and acceptance. If we are running on empty and we don’t already know who we are, then we are bound to be drawn to sources of affection that are temporarily satisfying, yet ultimately toxic.
Pornography. Lust. Fantasy. Affairs.
In all of these, I find a mythical woman, the “10 out of 10,” and I create a situation where she accepts me. She is attracted to me. She tells me I’m valuable.
The reason the mythical woman is so appealing is because of how she makes me feel about me.
In other words, she worships me.
In fact, if we are honest, much of our lust and longing comes from wanting to be a god ourselves. We want to have sex with the pretty girl in the room because it’s a way for her to worship us. It’s a way for us to be shown that we are desirable. And if I can’t get the girl to actually have sex with me or I don’t want to deal with the consequences, I can at least flirt or fantasize about it.
If I feel like a loser but the most desirable girl around wants me, then everything changes. My self-perceived value skyrockets.
We Want to Be Wanted
It’s not simply physical body parts that make us feel this way–it’s the ability to fantasize about the experience of being worshiped by a desirable person. It’s not just this person existing as a static object and being able to look at them–it’s them (in your fantasy) wanting you with all of their being.
The allure of being made into a god is an extremely powerful magnet. It’s the same snare Satan used to get Adam and Eve to rebel against God in the first place:
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
Becoming “like God” snared Adam and Eve, it has snared world leaders throughout history, and it snares us when we long to be worshiped by women.
What better place to find this worship than pornography? The “10 out of 10” women simply line up, all posing passionately for me, none of them rejecting me, and I can fantasize about them worshiping me in every way, shape and form I desire.
Over time, lustful glances at waitresses and receptionists are saturated with these same longings.
Worship me. Please. Tell me I’m desirable. Tell me I have value.
Saying “I want you” is inaccurate. You care nothing for them. You want what they can offer you, but you don’t want them as full human beings. “I want you to worship me” hits it spot on though.
Acceptance. Value. Approval.
Faux intimacy is better than no intimacy, right?
Even Burger King tastes good when you’re starving.
Filling up on the Good Stuff
But on this same note, have you ever watched TV commercials on a full stomach? You’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner and you are stuffed to the gills with your fourth helping of turkey and gravy. You of course have a second stomach for dessert, and the homemade pecan pie was out of this world. So you had three pieces, which you washed down with a big glass of apple cider. Wiping your face with a napkin, you call it a day and somehow roll yourself onto the sofa to turn on the Lions game.
The first commercial you see is for Burger King.
Are you more likely to head to the drive thru or the puke bucket?
Food looks entirely different when we are stuffed than when we are hungry. The key to avoiding junk food isn’t to tell yourself repeatedly not to eat it–it’s to stay full on the right foods. If you’re already full (and you become accustomed to eating the good stuff), the junk is going to naturally lose its appeal.
Related: Porn and the Desire Dilemma
Temptation looks entirely different when we are full to the brim with the love, intimacy and affection of our Father. Whether it’s the seductive eyes of pornography, the flirtations of a cute acquaintance, or the temptation to withdraw our affection from our wife, we will respond entirely differently if we know who we are in Jesus versus if we don’t.
Jesus was tempted beyond what we can imagine, yet was without sin. The only way He was able to do this was by being filled to the brim with His Father’s love and living in the truth of His identity as a beloved Son.
Being filled with this type of moment-by-moment wholeness of who you are in Christ doesn’t happen with a generic microwaved acknowledgement of this truth. Jesus fasted for 40 days meditating on the truth from Matthew 3:16-17 that He was the Father’s Son whom the Father was well pleased with. Forty days of meals reminding Himself of the truth of who He was so He could thwart off the lies when they came.
Whether it’s in real life or it’s the allure of porn, when we feel our eyes being magnetically drawn to a woman, we need to identify what’s going on for what it is. We aren’t just attracted to her because she’s “pretty,” we are attracted to her because we want her to worship us.
Name this when it happens.
We do have a natural longing for intimacy and approval, but it doesn’t need to be filled by women. Our freedom is found when we realize we don’t need someone to worship us because we are already filled up with the validation of Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22. We are already filled with Jesus’s approval of us, which satisfies our appetite from having to look elsewhere.
Like Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, we have to daily come back to the truths of who Scripture tells us we are. This can only happen from a daily time with the Lord with our Bibles open, allowing the Spirit to remind us that we are already loved, valuable and approved. By all means, we still need filters on our online devices and regular check-ins with accountability partners. But without regularly being filled up on the love of Jesus, our stomachs will continue to growl for something that will make us feel okay.
 Admit it: you have eaten these. And you still haven’t digested them…
 We long for this, yet Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes in terror and immediately use it to give God glory when it happens to them (Acts 14:8-18).
 The Journal of Adolescent Research (January 2008, vol.23 no.1 6-30, “Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults”) reports 87% of men age 18-26 are using pornography.
 Which they lose. The Lions always lose.
“We do have a natural longing for intimacy and approval, but it doesn’t need to be filled by women.”
I know what you’re trying to say–seeking complete “worship” from a woman is wrong–but the wording in this statement semi-implies we /never/ have a need for intimacy and approval from women–which is also wrong.
I can only speak for myself, but I have never craved worship from a woman. I have (and still being single, do), however, crave acceptance and simple affirmation from women/a woman as I believe God created me to. In my mind, there’s a significant difference between the two.
As a test on this: If our natural longing for intimacy and approval doesn’t need to be filled by women, then please explain why anyone bothers to get married? Or why God created a woman in the first place? God should have embodied all the intimacy and approval Adam ever needed–the conditions were perfect for that. No sin, and perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden. No need for a woman; period. But God Himself wasn’t happy with that (thankfully)!
I think we need to be very careful about making statements that might be construed to the effect that intimacy and approval from the opposite sex doesn’t matter. It certainly matters when you’re single, and it still matters when you’re married.
Jesus should always be the center of everything we are and do. But God also created each of us with a specific type of need and desire(s) for intimacy (men and women desiring each other with the goal of one-man, one-woman marriage), that He intended to be filled/met by the opposite sex (Genesis 2:18)–not Himself. The words of Jesus at the end of Matthew 19:12 “Let anyone accept this who can.” speaks to that, as well as 1 Corinthians 7:9, where lack of self-control is channeled to marriage; not outright denigrated.
There is nothing wrong with sexuality. And the bible is clear that wanting a wife is a good thing. However, like so many people have said, when a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, it is a bad thing. It becomes an ultimate thing whenever we would like to distance ourselves from God because we want what we want.
At that moment, we ARE wanting to set the rules and control reality. We don’t like God’s version of reality (which is why we run from His commands, His people, and His word). So we ignore God’s version and set up our own. Put differently, we dethrone God and sit in His place. And what we want from everyone else (including the people we lust after) is to have them affirm our rules, instead of God’s.
This is worship. What all sin craves in the end is self-worship. (Whatever the English language has done with the word worship, the word–as used in the bible–simply means service, e.g., like a vassal owed a lord in feudal Europe. It’s only because we have made the word mean something like “falling down before and treating like a god” that it has become hard to see how a person caught in lust really wants to be worshiped.)
Anyway, here are some points:
1) Jesus spent 30+ years on this earth, fully human, feeling the full onslaught of sexuality and never had a lustful thought. Having a wife is God’s general plan for humanity, but it isn’t His will in every case.
2) “If God did not spare His Son, how will He not with Him give us all things…” God does good things and does not deprive His children of anything that they need for life, godliness, and their maximal joy.
3) Marriage between a man and a woman is a shadow thing and not the ultimate thing. It points to Christ and the Church and in heaven it will be eclipsed by Christ and the church. The angels are not given in marriage, and the population of heaven will be filled with single people who are no less satisfied/full in their humanity because they are single.
4) Desiring a wife and lust are a million miles away from each other. People who struggle with lust are nearly always willing to exchange the objects of their lust. Some people are serial adulterers/lusters, fixating one person before moving on; more typical (especially of men) are those who crave variety and “fill” their lust with sex object after sex object. But in neither case does raw sexual desire equate to desire for a spouse.
5) Nowhere is this more clear than when a married man is caught by his wife looking at porn or having an affair. The thirst for a wife and thirsts of lust are separate (albeit interrelated) things. If they were the same thing, then having a wife would satisfy the thirst for lust.
6) As my last point is unclear: Properly speaking, sexuality IS built to be satisfied in God’s plan for you sexually–which is marriage 99% of the time. But lust, which is a plan of the Enemy, will never be satisfied with marriage because it is his perverse hijacking of sexual desire.
8) God intended sexuality to be another means of worshiping Him and enjoying each other. Sexuality, as God intended, includes a desire to please God and the object of your desire–often and even at high cost to yourself. Lust is what happens when you take God’s sexuality and replace it a self-reliant, self-seeking streak that is discontent with God and the situation that He has placed you in. It is the furthest thing from His intention for marriage that I know.
9) I am 30 year old single guy. I know what you are talking about, and I will be praying that God grants you your desire to pursue a wife soon!
Sorry if any of my points are sound snarky or combative: I wrote this quickly.
Hi Greg, you make some good points. Remember that Jesus wasn’t married, nor was Paul. I would argue that yes marriage is part of God’s design for humanity, but it’s not a need on an individual level. Community is a need, but not marriage. I wasn’t sure where you were going with the Matthew 19:12 passage but in that passage Jesus is subtly saying it’s better to be single, and of course Paul is saying it’s better to be single in the 1 Corinthians 7 chapter. I’ve been writing a lot more on singleness in my personal blog because I’ve found it’s such a neglected path in the Church today, yet Paul and Jesus raised it up so highly:
I have been having great success in my leaving porn on the web, and other areas of information: TV and movies. All thanks be to God!!! But I still need to be careful every minute of every day so as not to be trapped and hurt my wife in the process.
This article is very well articulated…It should relate to every soul whether or not they have admitted problems/issues or not.
I need this reminder. I can successful avoid consuming actual porn but I can’t stop wanting to be wanted. I know objectively that I’m loved by God but I don’t always feel it. And I want to feel it. I will continue to trust in Him and seek Him in ThevWord and persevere in the life of prayer.
My husband goes to church every single Sunday. At home, he’s never looked at a Bible once in 32 yrs. But he likes his porn, flirting, emotional affairs, and yes, even the “real” affair. I cannot live with this elephant in the room. I cannot do pretend normal. I can’t even try any more. I can’t quit fighting and nagging, even though I know it leads nowhere. I am so exhausted!
Joanna, I am so, so sorry. I’m not surprised you’re exhausted after decades of this. Many, many women will meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a situation like this.
Your husband will make his choices, and you can’t control them. I know you’ve learned that by now!
What you CAN do is control YOUR choices, and YOU can choose to be healthy, YOU can choose to recover, no matter what he chooses.
And I would encourage you to find a counselor who can help you process through your emotions, and think about what healthy boundaries will look like for you at this point. Here and here are a couple of boundaries articles.
And here is an article about the biblical support for divorce when porn is the problem. When we see the kind of damage that porn does to women, porn use becomes just another kind of abuse. Most of us these days recognize that abuse is a completely legitimate reason for divorce. A few people are still clinging to the idea that women have to stay no matter what, but you’ll notice that these people are men who aren’t actually suffering from abuse!
Peace to you, healing, hope and restoration–Kay
Very good, thanks! Starting a few years ago, seeing lust as a worship (idolatry) issue was a huge step forward in my battle.
Noah, your footnotes cracked me up! Great article too, by the way.
Where is the section for the guy who didn’t have a porn problem, waited for marriage, then married a beautiful woman who was seemingly into him (such that we had to work hard not to have sex) then get married only to find she was faking and is really cold and unaffectionate (and I’m not just talking sex).. Talk about false advertising and fraud! She “gave” me one week of affection for our honeymoon and then patted me on the head like a pet.. Later, after months of her constant complaining and daily crises, quite frankly she became less attractive to me anyway. But I still tried to work on our relationship. The point is – A faithful guy is kind of “stuck” at that moment. His wife doesn’t want him, but she sure makes it clear she would divorce him if he “cheated”. Eventually, after one point of no sexual relations at all for over a year, I did succumb to temptation. Unfortunately, in our culture today you don’t even have to go looking for it, it comes to you via “spam” emails, ads on the edge of webpages, magazine covers, commericals, etc. That is how my porn experience started, as a substitute for a real relationship. Yes, I was angry, yes I made bad decisions, and yes I was rationalizing. It IS my fault. But..it still drives me crazy that the church at least seems to feel everything is always the guys fault, that his desire for sex is “too much”, and that the woman is blameless even if she is a cold shrew. I can’t even tell you how many of my male friends are “stuck” in cold, loveless marriages. And no, I’m not talking about sex, that’s just part of it. Then, on the other hand, I read and hear about wonderful, loving women who are in cold loveless marriages. Is there not some way to get good men and women together?
I am so sorry. Wifes often don’t understand what they are doing to their husband. I have read a lot about how important sex is to men and we are so blessed in this area. Maybe you can talk openly to your wife? This article was an eye-opener for many wifes, including me (i read it before marriage and it saved as from many problems)
Praying for your marriage,for healing for both of you! It just saddens me so much that we can hurt each other so deeply without realizing it…
Hi Joe, what you are talking about is very real for many men, you are not alone. I wrote about this in a previous Covenant Eyes article: https://www.covenanteyes.com/2015/03/31/porn-is-not-your-problem-entitlement-is/ and much of it is the motivation for why I wrote a book for men around this subject. Essentially a book for when you’ve tried to work on your marriage and nothing works and you’re stuck.
Hey Joe, right there with ya; your story could be mine word for word, except for looking at porn before marriage (having made a habit of it after early exposure to porn by an older (teen-age) family “friend.”
Like you, I feel not only betrayed and defrauded, but now as I am nearing 50 and suffering the effects of an illness and long-term medical side effects, I am grieving the loss (and it is a genuine loss and genuine grief) of my sexual function and the identity that goes along with it. My sex life was over before it ever really began. Throw in the death of my mother (my father passed away nearly 30 years ago) and my daughter moving off to college and I am nearly gutted. My wife and I had had our problems over the years but I had honestly hoped that we would take advantage of the “empty nest” to re-discover (or in many aspects begin to discover for the first time) each other. But my wife, who was already involved in church, school, work, community, etc activities and running 5/10 K’s, now seems to find even more reasons to avoid me; I have given up hope of the situation ever improving; bottom line-she is content with the situation as it is and sees no reason to work at it. I just try my best to look at the situation as my cross to bear in this world and look to the day when it will have been worth it . I live day to day and do my job and try maintain peace of mind and quietness of heart (which often involves simply refusing to think about the situation as often as possible; eventually the craving for not only sexual release but the emotional and spiritual intimacy that marriage is “supposed” to hold. I can’t remember a time in my marriage when I didn’t feel my wife recoil from my touch; in fact it has been weeks or months since she touched me at all except in the most casual way. And vice versa; after literally years of being rebuffed , who wants to take the risk of being rejected yet again? She is repulsed by me/my touch/my “advances.” She swears that’s not the case but I’m not stupid (although she apparently thinks so, which is insulting, but that’s a whole other post altogether). I know when a girl/woman is not aroused by me.
After a recent “blow-up” I finally told her that when she realized that 1.) she did not desire me as a wife should a husband, and 2.) she had no desire or intention to work toward resolving that, then she should have done the honorable thing and let me go, so that I could have been free to find someone who DID want/desire me. Instead she basically “cut me off,” probably in hopes I would cheat and she could scripturally get a divorce, being the “betrayed” partner.
Now I deal with the pain of loneliness and betrayal and just pray for the day when SOMETHING changes; at this point I’m not sure I even care what that is.
I realize that, all other things being equal I probably have another 20-30 years left. I cannot bear the thought that this is the best it’s going to get and I am going to live the rest of my life lonely, useless and unfulfilled. I believe I would honestly rather be dead.
Hello, Joe, I apologize that this comment has not been addressed until now. The level of despair you are feeling must be immense. Please understand that you are incredibly valuable. You ended the post with a comment indicating that you’d rather be dead. I’m not a counselor, but I’d like to connect you to a crisis counselor if those thoughts become more than you can bear – 1-800-273-8255.
Are you able to find a regular counselor of your own? http://www.aacc.net/resources/find-a-counselor/ Also, are there some ways that you can redirect your energy toward activities where you are giving of yourself to others in positive, generous ways?
God is for you, Alan. Search for Him in the Psalms. In David’s most desperate moments, there was God.
Joanna- Pure Desire International has resources for women who are going through the exact things you described above. Their website is http://www.puredesire.org/en/women. I was a guy similar in some regards to what your husband is going through and it took me experiencing devastating consequences of my sin before I woke up and got my life back in order. I pray that God will intervene in your husbands life and that He will rise up godly men around him that can lovingly confront him. Unfortunately too often husbands can finally hear the same thing from someone else that their wife has been telling them for years but they have just ignored it. I will remember you in prayer and I hope God gives you His peace and direction in your life as you wrestle with what to do. Remember that it’s God alone that will love us into eternity. Peoples love her on earth is but for a moment but who we are in Christ carry’s us into eternity. Keep trusting and holding on to Him!
Noah- this is a great article! The part where you talked about our need for intimacy and approval actually being filled by Jesus Christ instead of women especially hit home for me. That was one of the key things that drove me to pornography but I just didn’t understand who I was in Christ back then. Hopefully your post here rings true to other guys and they can find that out before it’s too late. Blessings!
My husband and I have been together 12 years now & I found out 2 yrs ago that he has been masturbating to “hundreds & hundreds” of women since he was a teen. I’m devastated, obviously. We home church (about 15 of us) & he’s all in for that but after, he sets his bible on the kitchen counter and there it sits until the next church service. I found out that one of his ‘fantasy girls’ is from our church group and she is, within a month, his daughter’s age. Being a survivor of incest, this is doubly painful. Two years is a long time to try to heal & still hurt. We have a therapist but he sides with my husband who proclaims he read a book (Every Man’s Battle) and now is healed, & that I need to forgive & forget or decide to move on. Never mind the fact that he got aroused while reading it. I think that if he has been addicted to masturbation for 40+ years, it’s going to take more than a book to cure him. Besides, I walked in on him once while clearly he was self-stimulating & the 2nd time, the sheets gave him a way out. Both instances were within this year. I don’t understand it bc we had a strong foundation. We are at a standstill now bc he won’t fess up his women playmates. My stance is that if he doesn’t bring it all into the light, he will still have his darkness to hide in. And, if he can’t be honest now, he won’t be later. Any advice?
Hi Judy. I agree with you that reading one book is not going to do the trick, especially when you’re still seeing that his behavior is problematic. Is the therapist a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist? I think sometimes counselors who aren’t very experienced with sexual addiction will tend to think that it’s a fairly easy fix, especially if the client believes that.
My advice to you would be to find a counselor JUST FOR YOU who can help you process your emotions and decide on healthy boundaries. “Forgive and forget” is not a good road for spouses in this situation. So many times, women will meet the criteria for PTSD, and I often see that going completely untreated and ignored in the great rush to “save the marriage.” However, moving on may be a good choice if you decide that your husband isn’t able to be honest and really do the work. Here’s an important article about pornography and divorce. It would be great if every marriage were restored, but that’s just not the reality we live with these days. A 40-year masturbation habit may be something your husband chooses over a real relationship.
Whatever your husband chooses, you choose health! Peace to you, Kay
This is a great article at a good time for me. I’ve been meditating upon Matthew 12:43-45, where Jesus is impressing upon all that you cannot just kick demons out and clean up your house to make it presentable. It needs to be filled with the presence of God. The real relationship that we have with God and His word will fortify our household from re-entry by the demon and his friends. It prevents footholds and strongholds when we know how to do battle, rejecting the familiar friendship of sin and its friends. We need to be fulfilled by God, not by sin, and this is a difficult understanding for me that I’m only starting to grasp. His presence has been sustaining me more and more, allowing me to rebuff the false love of lusting after pure sexual stimulation and release. We cannot stem the free flow of blood from an artery with a band aid, cannot subsist for long on candy, and cannot be fulfilled spiritually by a wrote walk-through of a couple of scriptures – it needs to be a real, filling, direct relationship with God. Nothing else can be more important than this, and all other good things will flow from walking in the Spirit.
Kay, you are in too much of a rush to encourage wives to “move on” and to dismiss the time and effort it will take to heal a marriage — “It would be great if every marriage were restored, but that’s just not the reality we live with these days.”
A wife who is hurting is going to seize on this attitude and on your invitation to see the husband’s addiction as “just another form of abuse” and of course, today it’s the term “abuse” that provides the “Get Out of Marriage Free” card.
I understand that the wife is in great pain. But is it a counselor’s place to always go first to the place of relieving the pain at the cost of a sacrament, or at least to be careful never to mention the value of marriage without inserting a caveat that “of course, you might need to bail, if it hurts too badly”?
If a husband has a physical addiction such as drinking or drug use, then it is incumbent on the wife to hang in there are suffer for a time in order to honor the marriage and to do what she can to bring an amazing and inspiring result that will help other couples to see the reality that yes, there is a God, and yes, marriage does mean something sacred and real, and yes, there is hope. A spouse doesn’t abandon another spouse when the going gets excruciatingly hard. But your comments more than imply that it’s OK here, because the husband is at fault, which shames every man who is trying to extricate himself from satan’s snare and a very real addiction that doesn’t deserver blame and shame. I’m angry that your comments are undermining the work that Covenant Eyes is trying to do for men caught in satan’s snare. Don’t encourage women to let satan win.
Well, I do think that pornography is another form of abuse against women, and should be treated as such. Most women in a situation like this will meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with the same symptoms of a wife who is beaing beaten by her husband. From a mental health persepctive, it doesn’t matter to me if the person was abused by fists or porn, I’m seeing the same symptoms and I want that wife to be safe and well.
I absolutely DO think that women may leave a marriage that is too painful to be borne, whether that reason is physical or emotional abuse.
Here’s what Luke Gilkerson discovered about porn and divorce.
Men who are legitimately healing will understand that there are consequences to the choices they have made.
That has nothing to do with blame or shame.
That has to do with taking responsibility for the choices you have made, and making amends when possible. Sometimes making amends includes allowing the other person to be free of a relationship that has caused deep damage.
[typo: “hang in there are suffer for a time” should be “hang in there and suffer for a time”
Well,but Jesus didnt walk away when he suffered very much because of what he have done. God hates divorce. I know the pain firsthand,but God is able to heal and restore. It gives him much more glory than giving up. Although I can understand wives who divorce,i would never advise someone to do that. I think it diminishes gods ability!
I would agree that pornography use and associated behaviors that affect a marriage can rise to the level of abuse, and that for purposes of mental health one understandably needs to remove one’s self from such an abusive situation.
My problem is that nowhere in your comments here do you note the option of leaving the abusive situation by separating for a time, prior to the decision to “leave a marriage.” Instead your comments come across to me as black-and-white: abuse means it’s time to consider divorce.
Also, I see no mention of the possibility of restoration, as a result of the separation.
A marriage is an evolving relationship that involves two people who are capable of growth and change, in which a powerful and loving God is intimately involved and concerned. It’s not a plate that is broken as a consequence of the porn user’s actions, such that it’s time to throw out the plate and go shopping for a new one/spouse (“tough luck, buddy, live with the consequences of your behavior”). There IS the potential for healing and growth for the hurting spouse, even when the current situation for the hurting spouse is horrendous. In fact, it can be a real opportunity to grow spiritually, including the realization that it is God who ultimately is the source of our value, not a spouse. Take a look at this site’s review of Debbie Laaser’s book: https://www.covenanteyes.com/2009/05/04/book-review-shattered-vows/ — I took great comfort in her having successfully remained in her marriage, and how Mark’s sin and Debra’s pain has been redeemed (they now have a counseling practice that has helped hundreds of people). My wife bought her book, and I attended a men’s intensive workshop and began many other steps toward recovery. After a 6-year separation, during which time my wife did not divorce me, we are together again and I am very far along in the recovery process (thanks be to God), having been able to surrender my addiction to God. I now have three years of no porn. Our son benefited greatly from our not having divorced. Other marriages benefited greatly from the example of our not having divorced and the improvements we’ve made.
The article you cite helpfully contains the advice of Vicki Tiede — “Once the third and final level of confrontation is reached, Vicki Tiede recommends a time of mediated separation for the couple in order to “create the crisis necessary for him to seek help and finally work toward restoration,” with the goal still being the restoration of the marriage.”
Please consider including “or separation for a time, to get relief for yourself and to hopefully motivate your spouse into repentance and change, which can happen” or words to that effect, when talking about divorce as an option for the hurting spouse. I guess that’s what’s made me angry.
My grandmother fought back against my grandfather’s verbal abuse that lasted for decades. I was raised by them and witnessed the constant arguments and my grandfather’s constant cursing and swearing directed by Dad ( I called them Mom and Dad) including many false accusations of adultery. Mom fought back and there was an understanding that the abuse never got physical, but if it had, he would have been siting in jail, but words carry their own sense of pain. Mom stayed in the marriage although Dad had committed adultery many times as in those days there was no shelters for women. She stuck it out and gave as good as she got. She didn’t use cursing until the last few years of the marriage.
One time the pastor was there and Dad dropped his visitor’s mask and showed what kind of man he was. Mom fought back and the pastor said that as far as he was concerned, that awful verbal abuse he witnessed was a kind of adultery. I never forgot. As for Mom, she planned to outlive Dad and get his miner’s pension, black lung and social security checks. She outlived him 19 years.
Both were the products of brutality in their respective families and Dad beat his children mercilessly until one time Mom clobbered him with an empty metal kitchen trash can and knocked some sense into him when he was especially vicious in a beating of their son. I escaped that and was doted on by comparison and came along as an infant when the children were leaving. My mother had divorced her husband because as she was giving birth to me, he was with a girlfriend.
With the coal mines shutting down in the early fifties, money was tight and mother moved away to find work an eventually a second husband while sending money to Mom and Dad for my support( I do not understand this fixation in Christian circles with white collar people, there are millions of poor Christians now and there will always be blue collar and poor Christians)
Needless to say, my grandparents were my parents and mother was an outsider to me. I had to take sides in Mom and Dad’s constant fighting which got entertaining when in the family car as Dad would accelerate to over 70 mph while exchanging verbal blows with Mom.
In the seventies, he threatened us with his pistol and so I had to take it off him and empty out the bullets. Dad was very strong even with Black Lung and being on oxygen and I tried and failed to take the shotgun away but after that, verbal threats of shooting us ceased.
Meanwhile my mother’s second husband turned out to be a drunk and a wife beater and so she left him. Husband number three was a success. Mother outlived all three and has bitter memories of her parents home life.
Mom’s conversion in the late forties led to Mom and Dad getting married, as they had lived together for a couple decades. Unfortunately, the local church was very legalistic and involved many non Biblical rules that Mom applied to the misery of her son and my mother. Both walked away from church.
Mother became Catholic to spite her mother and my uncle went to liberal churches and sent his very hard core porn to Dad where it came into my hands as I was only fourteen or so.
I had already discovered porn Dad left lying around and uncle’s contribution introduced me to lesbian, bisexual and groups. At age 19, I started buying it myself to my ruin.
I became a Christian at age sixteen, at age seventeen my mental illness became really bad as it also involved legalism beyond the local church version. It has taken me decades to recover from the damage to my relationship to God that my OCD caused (Scrupuloisity).
Dad died in 1982 at home. Mom lived until 2001, after witnessing a century as she was born in 1902 and died at the age of 98. In her nineties, Mom would pull out the fridge to clean behind it. She was very strong and tough but even she sometimes cried and God was there for her.
Now, after all this, do you still think that Mom should not have divorced Dad a long time ago? Really, adultery could cover this kind of abuse, could it not?
Hi Thomas. I am so, so sorry for all the pain in your family. I do think that abuse is grounds for divorce, and I include abuse of all kinds: spiritual, emotional, verbal, physical, sexual. You’re absolutely right, that verbal abuse has a terrible impact on its victims; in fact, brain research now suggests that impact of verbal abuse may be worse than physical abuse. So I agree with you that this kind of abuse is definitely grounds for divorce. Peace to you, Kay