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!
I found this insulting. First he tries to be empathetic yet it’s insulting to try to say she needs to heal her past? Yes he got it right when he said he had never been betrayed. If your gonna try to show compassion then don’t throw those lines of past healing or codependency theories. It’s not one size fits all and everyone reading it, to some it will just be another slap in the face. I recommend the book your sexually addicted spouse by Barbara and I believe Marsha meads. They know the truth about how throwing the codependency insinuation out there just like he did he can actually show a sign of lacking empathy for what porn is putting families through. Women take to heart because they are often the most vulnerable.
The author of this article is a woman not a man.
I believe this was written by a woman and wonder if that changes your opinion of the article.
I do think we are called to remove the planks from our own eyes as well. If I’m expecting my husband to be more Christlike, shouldn’t I examine my own life as well?
This was written by a woman…not a man….women can b addicted to porn and sex just like men. Geeze this is no longer just a man’s issue. And the offended spouse IS responsible for their healing just like the perpetrator IS responsible for their recovery.
Your comment doesn’t make any sense. The author (a she, not a he) says that she DOESN’T subscribe to the notion that every spouse of a sex addicted person is codependent.
The point I believe she is trying to make is (in context) that betrayed wives need healing, both from the betrayal of their husbands and the damage that did to them personally as well as from their pre-existing brokeness. The fact that they have sin and brokenness apart from their husband’s betrayal no way imparts blame on them for the addiction (again, read the whole context of the article), but it is a reality that every person faces as a part of the fallen human race.
Adressing the wounds of sexual betrayal can also be an opportunity to address the wounds of other brokenness in our lives, and there’s nothing codependent about recognizing that reality.
A woman, who had an addiction problem wrote this article, and I get what she is saying. She does not agree with the codependency theory where sexual addiction is concerned. All she is saying is that, as humans, we are all sinners, and we all have ways that we can improve our lives, by making changes. In other words, if we are expecting our husbands to make huge changes (and we are), is there anything that we can do to improve ourselves and our marriages? I’m sure everyone has room for improvement in their lives. She just meant to reflect on our lives, and make self improvements, that’s all. I am the wife of a former porn addict, and I get what the author is saying. My husband made huge changes to better himself, and our marriage. I am not perfect either. So, I reflected on myself, and made some self improvements that would also help our marriage, and myself of course. And…my favorite book is also Your Sexually Addicted Spouse…one of the best books ever written that tosses the codependency theory into the fire…and I am in full agreement with that perspective. The author of this article was just making a generic statement that EVERYONE can make improvements in their lives.
My beautiful wife went through the same thing. The worst was when I cheated on her. But she never gave up on me. I’m a Vietnam war veteran and was messed up in my head for most our marriage. I stayed in the military for 15 1/2 years and she followed me around the world several times. After I was discharged I got help from the local VA. I now know how important, how beautiful and how much I truly need and love her. I no longer look at women the way I did before. I now understand I didn’t have any respect for women nor did I have respect for myself.
My wife and I have been married for 45 years been together 46 years. We’re growing old together and we respect each other. Most importantly we love each other more today than any other time during our marriage. I’m not saying this is for everyone because the husband has to be understanding and ready when the wife will bring up the cheating and it will come up if you stay with her. But remember we married because of our love for her. The two most important words in a marriage is respect and understanding.
Thank you for your commpassionate article it did help ☺❤
I agree and understand where you are coming from. Of coarse as believers we all strive to improve and be free and mature in the Lord etc. I think where this article can seem insulting is the mention of the wife doing her recovery. Not that in and of itself this would be a wrong thing! It’s just that grouping in with this article on betrayal trauma .. seems inappropriate. Not the right place for this to mentioned. Almost comes across like equalizing. As the author compares the fallout from sexual betrayal to rape.. then goes on to tell the wife that she must do her part. It just feels like a slap to be included in a piece that was intended for validation of the sexual betrayal. Again, of coarse we are all a work in progress but this was an insensitive time to mention that..
Thank you for the reminder to focus on my healing, not his choices and most of all that this is not my fault!
A grieving wife-
So glad this served as a reminder that this is NOT your fault. You deserve to focus on your own healing from this trauma in your life.
God bless you,
Thank you for the apology. It’s been 5 years, and he refuses to apologize. He tells me he doesn’t feel bad for all the pain he caused me because he has no conscience. Instead, he goes to church and portrays himself as a victim and slanders me. He has all these people that circle around him and feel sorry for him, but they have no idea that when he comes home, he abuses me. I am disabled and have not been able to leave this horrible situation.
Lori, I am so, so sorry. My heart just breaks.
Lori, I can relate to your story. Many times sexual addicts are also psychopaths. (they don’t always look like Ted Bundy) They lack empathy and are only concerned with how the rest of the world views them. They love to play the martyr and also relish in being the victim. It sounds like your husband is a narcissistic psychopath.
You need to leave to protect your safety. You need to talk to a trusted friend or family member. If they don’t believe you then the next time he’s abusive call the police or social services. You are not alone. I have had to deal with the same kind of personality. I always say hate the sin not the sinner but if he refusesnhelp you must help yourself.
No it does not change my opinion. Thank you for correcting that part. I still stand by my opinion on this based on facts that I’ve researched myself over the years. By the way, your plank eye comment is irrelevant. If therapist are going to improve I’m sure comments like mine could hopefully get them to listen and stop using the codependency theory so loosely. Porn is destroying families and marriage life. This is something we need to take more serious and the answer that many therapist offer on the victims affected by it, are still needing improvement. But I can’t expect things to improve because porn is everywhere and easily accepted.
I truly feel sorry for you. It seems that you have been hurt very badly and are having a hard time healing from it. It is very easy to allow anger and indignation to rule your life after a betrayal of this kind. Holding onto those feelings doesn’t allow spiritual growth to happen. Nobody here is saying that porn use isn’t destroying families or marriages. What they are saying is that we should all have the desire to be more Christ-like. When you are suffering from betrayal it is very easy to allow yourself to feel self-righteous. Afterall, “you would never do something so terrible to your spouse.” This is not a helpful attitude to have in regards to your own healing or the healing of your marriage. Please allow me to recommend a couple sermons by Tim Keller. They are called “The Struggle For Love” and “How to Change” and you can find them on YouTube.
God Bless you and I hope and pray you can find true healing from your hurt and brokenness.
The sermons I recommend don’t talk about porn use or healing from betrayal. They do discuss the importance of God’s love and the spiritual growth that can happen in us when we allow God to transform our lives. Sometimes it is necessary to remove yourself from the subject of porn use to get the most healing from it. Focusing on God and Jesus will always help in every areas of our lives and heal any hurts we have.
I completely agree with you, Maria! Actually according to my therapist aside from the betrayal trauma I am a really healthy individual with pretty amazing coping skills in spite of the way I was brought up and how my family was. I completely get what you’re saying and the codependency talk makes me upset as well, because in NO WAY can I identify myself with it!
Maria C… I understand your comment. When articles bring up the betrayed partner’s part to play in recovery, it sounds like equalizing. Of coarse we are all sinners. Of coarse we forgive, but forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Sexual betrayal in marriage is adultery and many of us are experiencing betrayal Trauma. When there has been much deception, lying, ongoing manipulation, life and peace robbing stress from a spouse who is continually being dishonest and unfaithful , then a comment is made about the wife’s part to play in recovery, it can come off as a slap. I don’t think that was the author’s intent here. I think she was referring to women who are going forward in staying with their recovering spouses. So that they can work through their betrayal from past relationships as well as the current one. I’m not for sure of the intent but that’s my guess. Just want you to know I hear you and understand what you mean here!
The wife’s part to play is first and foremost, HEALTHY BOUNDARIES which will allow her the space she needs to recover from trauma and decide what she wants to do with her future. Here, here, and here are some articles on boundaries. Bloom for Women is a wonderful website that takes a trauma-informed approach to recovery for women, highly recommended!
I agree. I had no unconfessed sin when my husband cheated and I found out about his porn addiction 2 years later. The closer I grew to God, the further he moved away from God.
Christ is our vindicator. He does not blame us. Fingers should never be pointed at the victim in any way or it blots out the phrase, “It’s not your fault.”
Often psychology and Christianity are blended together. Psychology is worldly and filled with opinion. Look to the Bible. You will feel no blame.
The victim should only focus on healing, not focus on anything else. Infidelity defiles the marriage bed.
I do believe that partners of addicts have past wounds that need to be healed. The betrayal creates new wounds and opens those old, unhealed wounds. This is a part of the partners recovery and really has nothing to do with co-dependency. Healing whole heartedly. We all have old wounds and traumas from our past that haven’t been properly healed. The only way to truly recover is to heal the new and old wounds.
To start getting well my husband and I had to give up the blame game! Instead of fighting each other we needed to pull together and start fighting our true enemy, the porn! Covenant Eye has helped us to pull together in this way. CE has helped us bond together and to see the damaging effects that porn can have on our marriage, and in turn, also, the damaging effects that porn can have on each of us, and both of us. By pulling together and becoming a fighting force against all this nonsense we are both now protecting each other, as well as ourselves, and the marriage in general, of course. Win win, win win, win win!!!!! If we emotionally depart and go back to the ‘you did this’ ‘arh but you did this game’ neither of us win, that is all loose loose, loose, looose, loose loose, and that goes for our marriage in general too. What on earth would either of us want to go that way again for? Temptation is everywhere, but knowing how to create a great marriage can be much harder to comprehend, and harder to keep hold off. All the suffering we two have been through because of all this has spelled out clearly ‘just how much the pulling together and working together is needed’. This has been absolutely essential for both of us to start recovering from all of this, and for the marriage, ‘that is a gift from God’, to repair too!!!!!!
YES! Finally a person who has put my own thoughts on this matter into clear and concise words! I believe that a husband and wife are the perfect, God-selected team to battle sexual sin. Along with the blame game, many people insist that the man and the woman seek healing separately and I just don’t see how this is Biblically sound advice. God created a husband and wife to be partners in everything. Spouses have the ability to help each other out in these situations far better than most people are willing to give them credit for. It’s often more of a struggle to understand each other, but it is a struggle that is SO worth it!
God Bless you, Joanne!
my husbands use of porn has ruined my life on every level. I am depressed. its been years since he repented and stopped but the wounds are so painful. I live in anger and rejection and pain every day of my life. I am triggered and I literally can’t function. his use of porn has cut me deeper than anything ive ever experienced. every week I log into his browsing log and I literally ache with pain that this is my life and I don’t trust him at all. sometimes I feel like I just hate him. I have 5 kids with him and I can’t leave. I don’t believe in divorce. so I’m stuck in this relationship that is excruciating with a man who I feel so unsatisfied with on every level and I have to repent daily from my angst towards him. I lost a year of my life living in complete trauma and it emotionally wounded one of my babies. I wasn’t able to connect with him the way I connected with my other children. I feel like my husband has ruined my life and my childrens lives. he makes me sick and I am so lonely. he is a crappy communicator and I walk around completely in misery. trapped. he has repented and not fallen once. but yet I seethe with bitterness from the 10 years he did this. my anniversary is coming up and I don’t even want to celebrate. marrying him was the most painful thing ive ever done. I spent the first 9 years begging him to have sex with me. I looked like a porn star when he married me. I saved myself for him. he wouldn’t touch me hardly. I was so sexually frustrated after a while I just gave up. I never masterbated. I just lived in sexual frustration wanting to have sex with him everyday. he was giving it to porn sluts. now that the napalm and bomb have destroyed me when we have sex I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel good anymore. sex is ruined and I always wished I could have enjoyed it. I’m a complete mess inside. I have nowhere to put this pain and loneliness. I’m installing covenant eyes tonight on a new laptop we bought and in doing so am reliving trauma over and over in my mind. I hate him. and God I’m sorry. I’m sorry I hate my husband. I hate porn more than anything in the world and wish it did not exist. it has stolen my life from me in every way and smashed every dream I ever had. nothing will ever take the stain of this away from my heart.
I am so, so sorry. It’s really normal for women in a situation like this to meet the clinical criteria for PTSD. I want you to find a counselor who’s familiar with the treatment of trauma, someone who can help you process these emotions, heal, and decide on healthy boundaries for yourself. Find a group. Check into the online resources at Bloom. There is healing, there is hope, there is help. Please reach out today! Peace to you, Kay
Be careful – we all are fallen and although your husband has sinned against you grievously and beyond what is imaginable- I think you need to decide if “ you don’t believe in divorce”. Is better than living by with the amount of contempt and hatred you have towards him. It will destroy you and the way your children see marriage. It seeps out. It’s palpable friend. I know. I have had it. I struggle with it daily.
To forgive is not about Him. It’s about you and freedom you desire. Christ’s love for us and His deidre to have us be free is a remarkable thing the church has forgotten to include in most sermons.
Google “ freedom”. In the scriptures.
And here are a couple of articles about when divorce might be the most compassionate option for everyone: here, and here.
I completely feel everything u said… I’m so sorry u are in such a dark sad place. I also can’t funtion. It’s been only a couple months and I sit and wait to feel that he still loves me, I tell him what I need from him n he just doesn’t do it… it’s all I think about is if he is really sorry then why can’t he show me more affection like I’m wanting. He was never a touchy person but to me I think he can make that extra effort since he made the choice to betray my love and trust. One would think he would jevextra nice n extra attentive but it’s not this way at all. I feel so alone with him I don’t feel connected anymore n I still want him and us but I feel he just doesn’t . I can hardly work or sleep or funtion… I don’t know what to do I’m losing my mind….
I just want to affirm that your assessment is absolutely spot-on: in the words of reknowned relationship researcher John Gottman, your partner needs to be able to “turn toward” you. He needs to be able to care how you are feeling, he needs to take responsibility for himself and how his choices have impacted you, he should be doing all he can to make amends for his mistakes. That is the basis of trust in a relationship. What you’re experiencing is that your partner is turning away from you, rather than toward, and that has destroyed the connection in your relationship. You are not crazy, you are not losing your mind, you are absolutely correct in your assessment of the situation. That brings on a lot of sadness and grief, and those emotions need to be processed. but set aside this idea that you’re crazy, because that’s not true at all. You are simply seeing the relationship for what it really is, and that is heart-breaking.
I want to suggest that you find support for yourself as you process the reality of what’s going on here: a personal therapist, and the online resources at Bloom for Women could be really helpful.
You’ll want to think through your boundaries. Here, here, and here are some articles that can help with that.
Just know for sure that you’re not crazy, and that you are capable of wholeness and healing, no matter what your partner chooses.
The article does state “and any other broken areas from your past.”
It is wrong to “assume” that the wife has “broken areas from her past” or that if she does that she has not dealt with them. This again puts a shame burden on the wife.
She does need to deal with her lying, cheating husbands Adultery, but that does not mean she has issues from her past that “hint, hint” somehow contributed to the broken marriage.
Please consider going to an attorney to get information so that you can protect yourself financially. You can pay cash if you need the privacy.
Also please, please get tested for STD’s. Your husband has lied to you. Please don’t risk your physical health. I also urge you not to have any sex with him until he has done everything YOU require of him to really know he has repented & his actions, not words verify that.
Thank you. You expressed exactly what I’m feeling and I thank you for your empathy and understanding. I am meeting with a coach in the morning. I am setting up an appointment to see my OBGYN and I will be setting some boundaries. I remain hopeful our marriage will survive. Fears and anxiety do run through my head about either one of us having enough patience for that. And I know I have a broken past. None are perfect. I know I’m not the cause of his addictions but my responsibility is to begin taking responsibility of my own physical, mental and emotional health. That’s my part. And it is my sin to continue in anger and revengeful thoughts and not do something proactive about it. I would have no one to blame for that except for myself.
Thank you for this. I have yet to talk with someone else about my husband’s pornography addiction, and you have helped me to see that I should. I can feel your sincere empathy for what I am going through, and it means more than I can say. Thank you again.
I’m glad, Diana! Feeling heard is often the first step in healing. There absolutely is help and hope and healing for you! Find your way!
As a current grieving wife, I can totally feel this article. The first thought that comes to a womans mind when this happens to her is “what is wrong with me?” And we start to feel ugly, fat, unwanted and not sexy enough. No matter what we do. It is very important for the woman going through this to fully understand that it is not her fault. And you can forgive but you never forget, and it is very hurtful and requires a lot of healing and self love.
And what about the husband who leaves you for another woman? Please speak to that type of infidelity as well.
When the marriage covenant is broken, you are free to choose a way forward that is right for you, including divorce. Perhaps this article will be helpful to you.
I appreciate what you have shared! It is refreshing and helpful to me. I have battled with all of the lies you mention. My husband of almost 11 years confessed in June to a pornography addiction he has had since he was introduced to it at 12. This addiction led to adultery with women online. I was devistated like I have never been before. The pain has been the worst of my life. We have 5 beautiful children together. At the time he confessed, I was in a sexual abuse survivor class to deal with burried trauma of childhood sexual abuse which was also fueled by a pornography addicition. So, while it was alot to deal with at once, I see the kindness of God in providing me mentors when I needed them. The biblical counseling ministry at my church has walked me through this. I want to offer hope and encouragement! You should not walk this alone. Walking with godly women has been a balm for me in this terrible circumstance. I have been able to begin walking around with my head held high (still droops sometimes) because I have been washing myself in God’s word as these ladies mentor me. I have been finding my identity in Jesus. My husband is also being mentored through men in our church. Breaking this addiction is not easy, and as hard as this is to swallow, our husbands need grace from us in this difficult process. I would not have picked this suffering, but I can also see how God has used it to reveal more of himself to me. We have a long road ahead of us, but I know I can trust my Father, God! He says he is near to the broken hearted, and I have experienced that. He is teaching me to daily forgive my husband and others. He is patient with me because it is not easy and I struggle! I have been able to begin to pray for the many woman my husband has been with. They are broken, too. So, yes, life – altering and heart shredding, but I am confident that as we both grow in the Lord our marriage can be stronger.
I found out a month ago that my husband of 30 years cheated on me 6 months ago. He is the only man I have ever been with and I am the only one he’s been with other than a few quick girls in high school. It started with porn and then Craig’s list adds and other filthy message boards where men post their reviews of hookers. He paid for sex with several of them. We are Christians but I am really struggling with it all. The betrayal is just devastating. All the sneaking around and lies and planning is just to much for me. I was totally blind to all of it. The really sad thing is I never in a million years thought he would do something like this. He is quite, not outgoing at all and a little backwards, but he managed to do it several times in spite of all that. I’m trying to forgive but all the scenarios and messages on the boards are always in the back of my mind. He’s answered every question I had and I think he’s being honest. He doesn’t want to loose me. If he looses me he will lose his daughters as well. They were very upset over all of this and it makes me sad for them and their futures with husbands. Has anyone experienced this kind of betrayal? I just don’t know how to let it go and move on. It’s been a month and I still want to cry all the time….
I too sinned by looking at pornography and commiting adultery. I am a wife…I eventually found ‘mr right’ 3 decades ago, not realising the plank in my own eye.
From my wedding day, I vowed to change my wild ways, for The Lord, while My husband took this opportunity to expand his ‘secret library’. I was enraged. Mostly for allowing myself to be decieved. I decided To end the marriage and rejected him. Then I got pregnant, and we rejected our baby (as ex-Catholics, THE mortal sin).
When I woke from the op, The Lord had rejected me! I was lost-desolate. I committed adultery, with anybody who would have me. I defiled/slept with my husband after others (so many), I Told my husband I had met someone and was moving on-we separated.
He was relieved, quite happy with his own ‘hobby’…I found Jesus (or He found me), and I started to try to change myself (sin no more), I failed again…My husband didn’t seek change, his sin wasn’t ‘physical’. Then came the internet, Which took both of us over, as if things couldn’t get any worse…Somehow, we’re still together, not sinning sexually (any more) but severely damaged-childless, because of the abortion. I am sorry, for your betrayal. I know how it feels, don’t give up, there is Hope of deliverance and forgiveness. Why would Jesus say ‘repent’ if He didn’t want to forgive? ‘…with God, all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).