How Respect Shrivels the Power of Porn

If you had tried to convince me 11 years ago that I needed to respect my porn-addicted husband, I would have laughed in your face. Not the “funny ha-ha” kind of laugh. More like a sneer with words dripping with venom:

I’ll respect him when he’s worthy of my respect.

What has he done that is remotely respectable?

You’re telling me that I need to respect him? After he has repeatedly disrespected me?

No. Absolutely not.

No one tried to convince me, though, because no one knew. No one knew Craig was addicted to porn. No one knew that our marriage was filled with tension and contention. No one knew we were drowning in a sea of despair and hopelessness and anger.

But God knew.

How Respect Shrivels the Power of Porn

There was a Mother’s Day 11 years ago where I had caught Craig using porn. Again. A Mother’s Day where I took my infuriated, wounded self into my bathroom closet, closed the door, and let God know how unhappy I was with my current situation. I spelled it all out for Him—this was unfair, unjust, unreasonable, unloving, unkind, un-whatever. Since I didn’t consider it an option for me to be unmarried, I was asking Him if this was really how I was expected to live out my days. I told Him how I had done everything I possibly could to help Craig, but he was refusing to get with the program. My program. What was wrong with him?

I finally ran out of words. My head on the carpet, I was spent. In that open space of silence and utter depletion, God spoke. Not audibly, but I could see the words in my mind. I could feel His presence. He said (paraphrasing): “I see your pain. I have a plan. Would you like to try it?”

“In the darkness of that moment, God brought light, showing me that I had I lost sight of my husband. I had defined him by what he was doing instead of who God created him to be. Perhaps even more revealing was the notion that I had lost sight of God’s power and His place in our lives. I had strapped on the burden of “healer” when I should have been showing humility, bowing low to the One who can do all things.

On the floor of the bathroom closet was the turning point—both in my relationship with my husband and my relationship with God.” –excerpt from Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography

God Sees You

Before we go any further, I want you to know, God sees you. Just as He saw me, a crumpled, desperate heap on the floor, He sees all you have endured. He sees all your wounds and all your battle scars. He has compassion on you and for you.

I am not unique. God has a good track record of seeing, really seeing, all of us. During the time of the Old Testament, God saw Hagar in all her misery bred from being poorly mistreated by Sarai and cast off by Abram (Gen. 16). What’s more, God did not only see her, but He also covered her with a promise and a plan.

He has a promise and a plan for you too. But just like with Hagar, yours—ours—comes with instructions, ones that are crazy hard to fathom, much less to carry out, but instructions nonetheless. God tells Hagar to go back to Sarai, change her own attitude, and show respect. Ouch.

If I didn’t know what I know now, I would be all kinds of prickly too. This would feel wrong on so many levels. I know. I know. I know. But keep listening for just a minute (or however long it takes you to finish reading this). Hang with me here because this saved my sanity and my marriage.

When God called me out on some of my own mistakes after He validated my pain, it didn’t feel good, but it was good. He specifically told me that I had not shown Craig respect, which was adding to the deterioration of our marriage.

As Craig worked through his recovery process, God was faithful to show me a new role to play, one that required a new attitude, but that would be helpful, and not hindering. To do this effectively, He had to teach me (and I had to be willing to learn) that:

Respect is not something to be earned.

God asks us to treat everyone (and this includes our husbands) with respect and honor (see 1 Peter 2:17, Romans 12:9-21, Ephesians 5:33). This is antithetical to what we have been taught in our society, that respect must be given only after one does the hard work of earning it. Truthfully, I began to show Craig respect out of obedience to God, not because I felt like doing it. But acts of obedience can lead to heart change even if it’s not our heart’s motivation at the time.

I had a bad habit of turning a blind eye to my own sin.

I always viewed myself as the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and Craig as the one who squandered everything. This was until God showed me that sin is anything that separates me from God. On some level, I knew that holding onto bitterness, resentment, anger, and control were sinful. But I had always weighed my sin on a scale and viewed my misdeeds as less grievous than my husband’s. Yes, different sins have different consequences on earth, but when you boil it all down, God hates all sin (and loves all sinners).

I am in need of forgiveness and grace just as Craig is, just for different things. I started to pay attention to what God wanted to do within me to address areas where I was falling short, instead of solely paying attention to Craig’s shortcomings.

I was limiting my own vision.

For many years, I saw Craig as “the porn addict.” I saw him in terms of how he had hurt me and how he could continue to hurt me. This obscured (or at least, skewed) my vision of who he was and the positive things he did during that time.

Because of my pain, I chose a life of continual self-protection. I was unwilling to lay down my manufactured armor and refused to be open to God’s direction of laying it down when I needed to. In my self-protection, I wouldn’t allow myself to celebrate the positive things he was doing or his positive attributes for fear of being hurt or let down again. When I became open to God’s direction, I was able to trust Him that He was working in Craig and that even when I couldn’t see progress, progress was still happening on some level.

I slowly learned to ask God to help me see Craig as He saw Him. With this vision, not only was I able to maintain hope, but I was able to celebrate and recognize Craig, both for who he is and for what he did (related or not to his recovery). This was especially critical to our relationship because Craig’s love language is words of affirmation. By never affirming him because of my own fear, I was actually withholding love, which was devastating to him and to our marriage.

I needed to know who God really is…and I didn’t.

God called me to spend time getting to know Him. Through this process, I realized I had misconceptions about who God is. Understanding the depth of God’s unconditional love and sacrifice for me filled my heart so full that I had capacity to love Craig even when I felt unloved. In turn, this allowed for Craig to see within me who God really is (part of the reason he turned to porn revolved around his misconceptions about God). It really was 1 Peter 3:1-2 in action.

For years, I thought that honoring Craig while he was still in the throes of addiction meant dishonoring myself, that somehow if I was respectful and loving, I would be communicating to him that his porn use was okay with me. But I had to trust that God’s prescription for healing broken relationships was good, despite my feelings and emotions. I had to trust that He was in control and could redeem all my futile attempts to change my husband.

I also had to learn that respecting my husband didn’t mean squashing and hiding my own emotions or boundaries, but rather learning how to communicate and hold to them in a more effective way.

So, that day in the closet, my pain seen and instructions given, I stopped trying to change him and, instead, did my best to love and respect him.

What Did Respect Look Like for Us?

There are many ways we can show respect to each other, but here are the ways God prompted me to show it to Craig:

  1. Speaking words of affirmation—affirm the positive things that he did and his attributes.
  2. Releasing control to God instead of trying to rule over my husband (a.k.a. giving up my job as the porn police).
  3. Validating our union by continuing to be intimate (after having some time to heal). *Some of the resources listed below can help you determine where you’re at in the recovery process and what’s healthy for your situation.*
  4. Devoting time and energy to help him think through his addiction and behaviors without taking things personally or judging his responses.

Here’s Craig’s response when I asked him how my attitude change impacted him:

When Jen started showing me respect even when I was still addicted to porn and messing up, it made me more confident in our relationship and encouraged me to build trust and open up to her. (You can read more about his perspective on our blog.)

Respect and love built intimacy. The power and allure of porn shrivels as true intimacy and real relationship grows. As with anything, heart and attitude changes take time. They take sacrifice. But it is worth it.


Discovering your husband’s porn addiction is no doubt a painful experience to walk through. Each marriage brings with it two unique individuals with their own set of past experiences. Because of this, a woman’s recovery from her husband’s betrayal may vary and should be approached tenderly. These additional resources below may also be helpful as you determine what healthy boundaries look like in your situation:

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