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Guess what I’m doing in just a few hours?

Keith and I are getting in our car and driving to the airport, where we’re taking off for Ireland! We’re going on our 25th anniversary trip. We’ve always wanted to see Ireland, so we’re taking a walking tour (we walk about 15 km a day, staying at different bed & breakfasts along the way, and they drive our luggage to the next destination). I’m so looking forward to it!

I’ve got posts scheduled for when I’m gone, and I’ll likely pop into the comments periodically. But my daughter Rebecca will be taking over and making sure everything runs smoothly, and moderating comments for me.

Before I left I thought I’d do some housekeeping, though, I’d like to address a common–but very sad–reader question I get about husbands doing really bad things.

Here goes!

My Husband Watches Porn and Goes to Strip Clubs. What do I do?

When Your Husband Goes to Strip Clubs: You have two choices in how to respond. Most of us choose a third. That will never work.

I’m a full Time home school mother husband is a truck driver. We’ve been married 15 yrs. Throughout out marriage we’ve had ups and downs but one that never seems to go away is my husband use for porn and strip clubs. Before I became a christian I was addicted to porn that it caused problems within our marriage. Due to both of our affairs years ago which has made me hit rock bottom and in need of a savior I gave up porn. I thought he did, too. Well….I have found porn, he’s taken a girl out to eat which lead me to herpes cause she kissed him. ( least that’s the story I got ). For the last 2 yrs our sex life hardly exists now he says cause he gained weight but over the last few months I think there’s more to it then that. We share a FB and he’s following pages with mostly naked women. Last week while he was gone I noticed where he looked up a strip club in the same place he was delivering and then withdrew $200 there. While he was gone he texted me the whole time so I don’t fully know if he went to that strip club. I take receipts from his wallet and file em weekly and there’s no money in there. How can you take $200 out 5 hrs before come home with an empty wallet and no money or receipts to show for it? Then this week last night I found lots of pornography apps he downloaded. He doesn’t know that I know about any of this. I’m stumped at what to do. I can’t go at him from a christian point of view cause he seems bitter about me being a Christian cause I use to be “fun”. I wonder if he’s truly saved.

First–I am so, so sorry that you’re going through this. This must be so scary, especially since your whole way of life is threatened. If the marriage falls apart, you likely can’t continue to homeschool, so I’m sure you’re in absolute turmoil.

But let’s get a few things clear: when you repeatedly find that he is doing things he shouldn’t be doing, and he denies it, you are not the one who is crazy. You have not done anything wrong. Catching weird things on his bills or on his phone does not mean that you’re violating his privacy. Privacy for the purpose of covering up sin should not exist in marriage. We should be open books.

So, here’s what we know: your husband downloaded porn apps. Your husband (at least) kissed another woman. Your husband is no longer having sex with you. Your husband is seeking out strip clubs.

You’re asking if he’s truly saved. There’s a simple answer to that one. Here’s Matthew 7:17-19:

17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

A true Christian does not repeatedly seek out sinful things, lie about them, and then make fun of you for wanting to follow God. We have so cheapened grace that we think as long as you say the prayer you’re now a true Christian. If the heart change is not there, then you’ve got a big problem. Jesus is not a magic formula. He is God–the Alpha and Omega–who is worthy of our praise and adoration and even obedience.

Transformation is not instantaneous, and people do mess up. But a pattern of seeking out sin and refusing to repent shows that transformation has not happened.

And you need to decide if you are willing to be married to someone who will visit strip clubs, watch porn, seek out naked women in real life, and ignore you sexually.

I can’t make that decision, but this is what is happening, and there is absolutely nothing that you can do to stop it. Too often we think, “If I can just find the right argument, or if I can just catch him so he can’t deny it, or if I can just make him understand how I feel, then he’ll stop this.”

Nope. He’s doing this because he wants to do this. There is nothing magical that can make him stop.

The only leverage you have is telling him that you won’t tolerate it anymore. You can’t convince him not to do it–he wants to. You can’t convince him it’s wrong–he doesn’t care. The only leverage you have is that “If you continue to do this, you will lose everything you hold dear.”

You may not be willing to do that. But you have those two choices:

  1. Let it go, accept that he will do this, don’t question him about it, and continue to live in the same house.
  2. Confront him, draw some boundaries, say that this isn’t acceptable, and let the chips fall where they may.

The one choice you don’t have is to stay in this marriage and to continually check up on him and see what he’s doing and obsess over it and talk to him about it and beg and plead and yell, because that won’t do a thing. And it will make you lose all self-respect.

You need to make a decision. Are you going to accept it and live with it, or are you going to say, “I am worth more than this. My children are worth more than this. My HUSBAND is worth more than this. And I am going to do the one thing that may allow him to be jolted into understanding how destructive his behaviour has become.”

I see too many women whose husbands are cheating by using porn and strip clubs who then refuse to make a decision.

They spend all of this emotional energy trying to “catch” him in lies or discover what he’s doing behind their backs, and they rage and cry and pray. But they don’t do anything. They feel as if they are doing something because of all of this investigation and all of these emotions, but really, if I can be so bold, they’re avoiding the situation. They’re prolonging the agony because they won’t make a choice, because they’re afraid of what that choice will have to be.

When I was reading Leslie Vernick’s book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, she made a really important point. She said that sometimes we love the marriage more than we love ourselves or our husbands.  We’re so scared of losing the marriage and the security that it brings that we won’t take the steps to truly love our husbands. What does love look like when someone is acting so wrong? Love confronts evil and does not enable it, because that is the only way a person is ever really jolted into changing.

Do you love your marriage more than you care for your husband's soul--or your own?Click To Tweet

Are there times when you should just tolerate pornography and strip clubs?

I think there likely are, because what I’ve found with marriage is that there is never a one-size-fits-all answer. Sometimes God really is going to work a miracle (I think this is extremely rare, though). Sometimes you stay because if you don’t, he’ll get joint custody and you won’t be able to protect the children during his time with them. Sometimes you stay because you need some time to financially get your life ready.

That’s when we need to go to God and get clear direction. You need to pray about it and give it time.

What if you want to do something?

Get some help. Get a support system around you to pray for you and to help you figure out what to do next.

That means that you need to belong to a good church where you’re plugged in. And maybe the first thing to do is to find such a church. Then start serving (because that’s the best way to meet people!). It may take a few months, but you likely need that time to pray and to calm down and to figure things out.

Be very clear about what you need him to do.

If you decide that you can’t tolerate it, then that means you need to set up a boundary. He’s welcome to do whatever he wants, but you are not going to tolerate certain things. So you can say,

“I know that you enjoy watching porn and that you enjoy going to strip clubs. I understand that’s important to you. It was once to me, as well, and we both know that it wrecked our marriage in the past. I may have done things I regret, but I also know now that those things were wrong. They were a violation of our marriage vows, and your actions now are exposing me and our children to potential health issues and financial issues. So I am unwilling to tolerate that. You need to make a choice. If you continue to watch pornography and to go to strip clubs, then I have some friends lined up to help move your stuff out of the house and to help me and the children start a new life. This is NOT what I want. I want our marriage restored. And if you want that, too, I’ve lined up some people who can help see you through this, hold you accountable, and support you as you come back to the marriage. But I am worth more than this, and I need the children to know that they are worth more than this, too.”

Then don’t engage in arguments. Don’t cry. Don’t rage. Just state your piece. That’s all. Just be prepared to follow through. And if you can say that with a mentor couple also there to support you, that’s likely a good idea, too.

It’s okay if you don’t want to leave your marriage over strip clubs.

You are free to make the choice to stay. But remember: If you do stay, you need to stay deciding that you will accept his behaviour. You can’t stay hoping that you can do something magical to make it change, because you will drive yourself crazy.

I wish I had a better answer, but there isn’t one. But here’s one thing I do know, and this is the one thing that we all need to remember when we’re dealing with a really scary decision like this:

No matter what you do, God is there to carry you. You are not alone. You can trust Him in the storm. And He will not leave you alone or abandoned.

Let me know in the comments: Have you ever had to realize that you loved your marriage more than yourself or your husband? Did you ever have to set a hard boundary (or help a friend do that?) Let’s talk!

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