As a counselor who specializes in sexual issues, I’ve heard from many wives with spouses who struggle with pornography. Their stories of courage fill my heart with gratitude for their resolve and strength. Their stories of pain and betrayal grip me and tear my heart in two.
If you’ve experienced the unfaithfulness of a spouse through pornography or other sexual sins, I have no doubt you understand the pain I am describing.
I seriously wish time and other circumstances allowed me to sit down with you as a friend and listen to each of your stories for hours. I would love to cry with you, hug you, hold your hand, and offer encouragement and support. Since that’s not possible, I’d like to offer a very condensed summary of some of the things I’d share if we were in person.
This is not your fault.
I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I have yet to meet a man who didn’t bring his sexual struggles, including porn use, into his marriage with him. Most men who struggle with porn actually have the false notion that marriage will stop their problem.
So, if the problem didn’t start with you, it certainly can’t be your fault.
Also, if you’re tempted to say, “But I should have been enough to stop him from these cravings,” then you’re tempted to believe a lie.
In the rare case where a husband begins struggling after marriage, it speaks to his inability to have healthy intimacy. It does not speak to the wife. Each of us are responsible for our own choices. We each choose sin at times, because we are sinners. If your spouse chooses sin, it is because of his sinful desires–period.
You can’t fix your husband.
A wife recently told me her husband had left and refuses to deal with his problem. She said, “I just don’t know what I can do to help him.”
My heart sank, because so many women think if only they did the right thing, he would be okay. This is not about you failing to be beautiful enough, skinny enough, or sexy enough. It’s not about you not having enough sex with him or not wanting to try new things in bed.
He is responsible for himself. Only he can make the choice to change.
You experienced a trauma.
Women who have experienced a betrayal, including the betrayal of pornography, often suffer through some of the same symptoms as someone who has experienced a rape. What you have experienced is serious, and you deserve help.
Allow yourself time to grieve, and surround yourself with help. You cannot do this alone. Please do not worry about protecting your husband’s privacy by trying to battle this alone. Know that you will go through the stress involved in trauma, and be gentle with yourself. It is healthy to allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, betrayal, etc. These emotions are very real, and they must be felt in order to move on from this betrayal.
Those who mean well and say, “Forgive and forget,” often do more harm than good. Although forgiving someone certainly is Biblical, ignoring and living in denial of our pain is not.
God loves you, cares about your hurt, and desires to heal you. Take the time you need to grieve. Join a support group, get some counseling, tell a trusted friend. You deserve to be loved through this difficult season.
It’s okay to set boundaries.
Unless there is truly a desire and effort to change, you do not owe it to your husband to blindly yield to every one of his whims to have sex with you. You have permission to set boundaries, often with the help of a counselor or trusted advisor, to move your relationship with your spouse toward health. If you are unsure whether he also betrayed you physically, you could possibly even be putting your life at risk by submitting to him sexually.
I want to be clear, I’m not talking about punishing, getting revenge, or being cruel to your husband. I’m talking about working through this, and setting a boundary meant to both protect you and allow your spouse to understand the severity of his offenses.
You must move toward your personal health.
I do not swallow the notion that some subscribe to, calling every woman married to someone sexually addicted a codependent. However, marriage is comprised of two people, not only one, who are broken, imperfect, bent toward sin, and prone to selfishness. We do ourselves a disservice if we demand someone else to change, yet refuse to look at our own brokenness.
Again, as stated above, your husband’s issue is not your fault. However, you have a responsibility to allow yourself to heal from your husband’s betrayal and any other broken areas from your past. This responsibility doesn’t lie in your husband’s hands. You are a strong, beautiful, powerful, precious child of God. The power to heal lies in your own reach.
I am sorry.
I have never been betrayed in this way. However, I have experienced both sexual addiction and pornography addiction. So, as someone who has sexually sinned, I would like to apologize on behalf of your addicted husband. I am sorry for your pain, your betrayal, and all the horrible things that you have had to deal with because of his choices. You deserved, and still deserve, so much better. I am truly sorry.
Precious lady, be encouraged. There is hope for your husband. But more importantly, there is hope for you!
Kimberly Johnson is a counselor, speaker, teacher, author, and founder of Divine Identity. Most importantly, she is a broken but beloved daughter of God. Her experience and knowledge come not only from the hundreds of stories she has heard, but from letting Jesus love and heal her on her own journey of sexual brokenness.