by Kimberly Johnson
As a counselor who specializes in sexual issues, I’ve heard from many wives with spouses who struggle. 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 are a female who has experienced the infidelity of pornography or other sexual sins your spouse has committed against you, I have no doubt you can relate to 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 is not possible, I’d like to offer a very condensed summary of some of the things I’d share if we were in person.
1. This is not your fault.
I’m not saying there aren’t any out there. But I have yet to meet a man who didn’t bring his sexual struggles (including pornography) 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 able to be enough to stop him from these cravings” then you are being tempted to believe a lie (which we will address more in #2). In a rare case (and I do mean rare) where a spouse begins struggling after marriage it speaks to the spouse’s lack of ability of 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.
2. You can’t fix your husband.
Recently I had a wife email me and tell me her husband has left, and he 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 not being beautiful enough, it is not about you not being skinny enough, it is not about you not being sexy enough, not wanting to try new things in bed, or about you not having sex enough with him. He is responsible for himself. Only he can make the choice to change.
3. Know that you are a victim of trauma.
Women who have experienced a betrayal (including pornography) often go through 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 are well meaning and say, “Forgive and forget” often are doing more harm than good. Although forgiving someone certainly is Biblical, ignoring our pain and living in denial of that pain is not. God loves you, cares about your hurt, and wants 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.
4. It’s okay (and sometimes mandatory) 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 not sure if there has been physical betrayal, you could possibly even be putting your life at risk by submitting to him sexually. I want to be clear. I am not talking about punishing, getting revenge, or being cruel to your husband. I am talking about working through, and setting a boundary meant to protect you, and give your spouse a chance to understand the severity of his offenses.
5. Moving toward health for yourself is mandatory.
I do not swallow the notion that some subscribe to calling every woman married to someone sexually addicted is codependent. However, of this I am sure, marriage is comprised of two people (not only one) who are broken, imperfect, bent toward sin and are prone to selfishness. We do ourselves a disservice if we demand that someone else change, yet refuse to look at our own brokenness. Again, as stated above, your husband’s issue is not your fault. However, if you choose not to allow yourself to heal from your husband’s betrayal, and any brokenness from your past, that is your responsibility, and the responsibility does not lay in your husband’s hands. You are a strong, beautiful, powerful precious child of God. The power to heal lies in your own reach.
6. I am sorry.
I have never been betrayed in this way. However, I do know what it is like to be sexually and pornography addicted. So, as someone who has sexually sinned, on behalf of your addicted husband I would like to apologize. 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 deserve(d) 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!
Learn more about Kimberly Johnson