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6 Things to Consider Before Becoming Your Spouse’s Ally

Last Updated: November 2, 2020

Beth Denison

Beth Denison, CLC, PRC, along with her husband, Mark, founded There’s Still Hope, a national sexual addiction recovery ministry. Beth works with ladies one-on-one and in groups as a trained life coach and an A.A.S.A.T. Certified Partner Recovery Coach. She brings the experience of being married to a sex addict for 35 years. She has been a faithful pastor’s wife, popular speaker, and women’s ministry leader. For help in your own healing journey, visit There’s Still Hope.

“Ally” comes from the Latin word alligare, meaning “to bind to.”

We may be familiar with the term in the context of nations who are allies. They make a commitment to act together and protect each other. The Bible paints a similar picture in marriage when it speaks of a man and woman becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), and says, “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).

Wouldn’t it then stand to reason that if we are married, naturally we would be our spouse’s ally?

When issues of sexual impurity enter the marriage, allies can begin to feel more like enemies in a fight against each other for survival. Those who have committed sexual transgressions need accountability going forward, meaning they should be required or expected to justify their actions or decisions in areas of purity and integrity. What does that look like and to whom should they answer?

For a marriage to thrive and experience true intimacy, there must be honesty and transparency. Dave Willis said, “Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Every healthy relationship is built on a foundation of honesty and trust.”

In that regard, spouses absolutely need to be honest and accountable to one another.

When the issue involves pornography or other forms of sexual acting out via the Internet, should the spouse be the one to receive any report generated by accountability software? First, let me reiterate what was previously stated. Regardless of who receives the report, honesty is critical for the survival of the marriage. So, even if the spouse is not one of those who receives this report, he or she has the right to know if there has been sexual acting out.

That said, there are several things to consider before taking on the designated role of ally and receiving these reports.

1. What is the motivation?

If your spouse has asked you to fill this role, what is the reason? There are times when those trapped in the snare of pornography do not want anyone else to know their secret so they would rather have only the spouse to receive the report. While understandable, this is not healthy. There should be at least one person of the same gender who acts as your partner’s ally, whether you do or not.

If it is your idea to be your spouse’s ally, honestly consider why you want to fill this role. If you think it may give you some control over your spouse’s recovery, you are mistaken. We can’t control our spouses or their recovery. If you think it will keep your spouse from acting out, it may just give you a false sense of security. Addicts determined to act out can be very resourceful, whether it’s by means of an old phone, another computer, or any number of other ways.

2. Where are you in your own healing journey?

The discovery or disclosure of a partner’s sexual acting out can be devastating. The first phase of recovery for the wounded spouse is stabilization. Before this, thinking can be confused and distorted, emotions can feel overwhelming, and simple tasks can seem unmanageable.

Have you been seeing a therapist, attending a support group, or reading recovery materials? Do you have a safety plan in place? Do you have a strategy to identify, avoid, and manage triggers? If you’ve not made progress in your own healing, you may not be ready to take on the added burden of being your spouse’s ally.

3. Do you have a good support system?

Receiving a report each day on a loved one’s Internet activity can be very triggering for someone experiencing betrayal trauma, even if there are no incidents cited. The mere anticipation of it can cause anxiety.

Do you have a safe friend who knows your story and to whom you can reach out when you are struggling? Do you have a coach or therapist available to help you process your emotions surrounding this? The ability to regulate your emotions when acting as an ally is important.

4. Can you patiently listen?

There may be a time when something is flagged on a report that has an innocent explanation. We run the addiction recovery ministry, There’s Still Hope, and there have been times individuals received red flags on their reports simply because they read one of our articles that contained the word pornography.

It is important to be able to sit and listen with an open heart and mind without jumping to conclusions. One of the characteristics of a good ally is being a good listener.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

5. Can you be nonjudgmental?

If your spouse is ensnared in pornography, that does not make him or her a bad person. Do you have the ability to separate the person from the action—the sinner from the sin? The Bible is clear that we’ve all sinned. But, the problem often arises in our evaluation of different transgressions.

As Stephen Covey describes it, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.”

The Bible cautions, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

The ability to refrain from judging is vital for an effective ally.

6. Can you celebrate the victories?

Those attempting to break free from a life of sexual addiction are in for the fight of their lives. It is not as simple as praying more or just saying, “no.” Addicts who have recovered from both cocaine and sex addiction have said breaking free from sexually acting out was considerably more difficult.

For someone who achieves thirty days of sobriety from pornography and masturbation, it may seem like their life’s greatest achievement thus far. Yet, many wounded spouses have difficulty sharing their enthusiasm for doing something that they themselves have been doing the entire marriage—honoring a vow to give themselves sexually only to their mates. The one in recovery needs an ally who can celebrate the victories and be an encouragement.

Should you be your spouse’s ally and receive a daily report of his or her Internet activity? Many counselors, therapists, and partners who have tried it would say, “no.” One thing we know for certain is there are no two people or situations exactly alike. There are some for whom it may work beautifully and foster a new level of honesty and intimacy. Before you make that decision, consider the previously stated points, consult your therapist, coach, or spiritual advisor, discuss it with your spouse, and pray about it.

Even if you do not take on the designated role of ally, remember two things. First, you still have the right to know if your spouse has acted out sexually. Have a clear understanding with your partner about what information you want to know and the time frame in which you want to be informed.

Secondly, you are uniquely positioned to be your spouse’s greatest ally. The battle for sexual integrity and the restoration of your marriage may be the toughest challenge you will ever face. But remember, you are on the same team. The enemy is great. God is greater. He’s on your side so there’s still hope!

  • Comments on: 6 Things to Consider Before Becoming Your Spouse’s Ally
    1. T on

      In my experienced opinion, it is always a bad idea to have a spouse as ally. It’s purely a control tactic. When there’s success, you’re only hiding it well. And were there ever to be a failure, well, I can only imagine the hell that would be. A decade of success has been hell enough.
      I can’t even have an honest dialog with my allies, because all commo (email, phone, text) is monitored, and it’s presumed the only reason I have to contact these friends is to discuss “the issue”, and you only need to discuss that is if there’s a failure, so I’m alienated from friends.
      Worst is being locked out of my own CE account. My spouse threatened divorce unless I turn over the password, despite me voicing concern that it was a bad idea (as CE has stated). Can’t see my own reports, can’t set up allies, can’t change billing, can’t do squat.
      Except stay trapped here.

      Reply
      • Sandyjeanie on

        A control tactic?? It is my lifeline. It is what keeps me sane. My husband gave up porn 15 years ago. However, if we didn’t have in place that which you call control tactics..I would still completely lose my mind. The fear of the unknown..the fear of him back sliding into that dark place..is always there. The pain that was inflicted on me from his porn use in our marriage..was greater than the loss of my father to death. And, the thought of experiencing that pain again is too horrible to even think of. That fear never goes away. And so, those decisions that you call control tactics are probably the only things that offer your spouse some sense of security and some feelings of calmness in her life. I wish you could look at it with a different perspective. I have no desire to control my husband. I just never want to feel like I’m balancing at the edge of a cliff..waiting to fall off again. That is what it feels like to a woman..when they don’t have complete reassurance that everything is stable in their marriage..and their husband is not using porn. Porn feels like actual cheating to a woman. You are replacing your wife with other women for your sexual satisfaction..instead of making love to your wife. Horrific feeling for a woman & no getting over it. If you dearly love your spouse..you should be happy that she has some reassurance in her life & in your marriage. I don’t think she wants to control you. I believe she wants to safely love you & not be afraid to love you. Try to resolve it & find peace in your heart. I’m sure she senses how you feel and I know that wouldn’t make me feel very safe. I wish you well.

    2. T on

      Sandyjeanie, glad that works for you. You are the 1% the explains why this answer is not a flat-out H*** NO. She’s wrongly motivated, has not healed, is impatient and judgmental, and wouldn’t celebrate 100 solid years of success. I love her, but you presume being in the position of ally gives her the sense of reassurance it gives you. It Does Not. (If it did, I WOULD be happy for her.) What it DOES do is give her a sense of remembrance. ANY time the subject comes up (even from a news item on TV) it just stirs up memories from well over a decade ago and I’m in the doghouse like it happened yesterday. Years of effort (and victory!) on my part mean nothing. She has the logs that back me up, but to her it means I’m even more skilled at hiding it somehow. Being in position of ally just pushes that to the forefront. I am literally in a place where I Can’t Win. She doesn’t care how I feel and hasn’t loved me in years. I’m holding on for the sake of the kids.

      So please go back and re-read my original post. Not in light of your own experience being a positive in the 6 areas mentioned, but imagining yourself as a woman where all those areas is a negative. Imagine what that would do to your husband, who already struggles with shame, guilt, worthiness, self-loathing. Would you still recommend spouse as ally? Being uniquely positioned to be your partner’s greatest ally ALSO means being uniquely positioned to be his greatest enemy. I wouldn’t inflict it on anyone.

      Reply
    3. Noname on

      I understand both T and Sandyjeanie.
      My situation is closer to that of Sandyjeanie’s, but my being my spouse’s ally was basically his choice. I suggested and actually strongly recommended that we adopted CE, but made clear to him that he was 100% free to choose his ally.
      Like Sandyjeanie, in these first weeks after his last relapse, CE helps keep me sane. I know I don’t have to be always looking over his shoulder. I don’t have to wonder if his computer activity was really innocent or if he just quickly closed a dirty webpage when he heard my footsteps. Over the years he had a few relapses, which became harder and harder for me to get over… So this keeps me sane.
      But I do hear you T. I could have become just as suspicious as your spouse, but that demands too much energy, it destroys my life and any chance of peace of mind. Your spouse seems to be basically stuck feeling the way I felt in the 1-3 weeks that immediately followed the last 2 times I stumbled into his watching porn–and that is sheer agony.
      She needs counseling–possibly with you–she needs therapy or a support group for spouses (or a combination of them). You may be trapped in H*ll, but so is she. If I had not been able to move out of those crippling initial couple of weeks, I would have looked for counseling/therapy–I may still go for it anyway. Believe me, she is just as trapped as you. Living with that degree of suspicion is torture.
      Talk to her about attending counseling and a support group. If she does not want to hear about it, don’t force it, but go yourself. It may help you find ways to help her and to deal with your own side of this personal h*ll.
      I do hope things get better for the two of you.

      Reply

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