I get a lot of reader’s questions like this one:
I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning. I regularly asked to use his phone, so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time. We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord. Here’s my issue. I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust? I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is? I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused.
And here is one woman’s answer to rebuilding trust after a porn addiction…welcome Jen Ferguson from Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.
I was in my bed sobbing uncontrollably. The revelation hit me in the gut and never have I felt so alone as I did in that moment. The reality of my life hit me: I cannot trust anyone not to let me down.
Thankfully, with the new morning came new light into my darkness: No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes, including me. People will fail me, but this does not make all relationships destined for failure.
That wisdom right there seemed to right my sinking ship. Suddenly, I had gone from shipwrecked to being fortified with a grace I hadn’t known I was withholding from people in my life, primarily from my husband. For years we had battled together against his porn addiction. Never did I consider divorce, but looking back at it, never did I consider living into the fullness of marriage again, either. For years I could not bear to think about trusting Craig again.
Could I ever stop my suspicions he would one day return to porn? Would I ever be able to talk to him about his addiction without accusation and fear? The truth was, I could give him my body in the bedroom, but could I ever truly again give him my heart?
Realizing my own fallibilities was the first step in helping me to rebuild trust in my husband. How many times had I hurt him over and over in the same manner? I was not a white lamb in this relationship. My blemishes, though different than his, were still sins for which I needed forgiveness and grace. It was me that was placing his sin on a grander scale than my own. This was certainly not how God saw it. Sin is sin.
Rebuilding trust was a dual effort for us. Yes, he had betrayed me by using pornography and needed to show me that he was actively pursing a life without it. But, truthfully, I had lost some of his trust, too. When I first discovered his porn addiction, I went into “control” mode. I watched over his every move. I accused him before listening to him. I became a parent instead of a spouse. I let my anger rule my words. We both had to come to a place of acknowledging our own needs for forgiveness and recognize our marriage wouldn’t thrive without a foundation of trust.
Four Steps to Go from Ruin to Reunion
1. He communicates with me and I listen.
One of Craig’s major triggers that would propel him into his porn addiction cycle was stress. When things felt too hard or too much, when he felt as though he was at risk for failing or rejection, he would shut me out and get lost in the world of porn for release and escape. Before he really became invested in freedom, I would ask him questions, knowing something was wrong, and he would simply give me a pat answer like “things are busy at work.” Now, he knows I know when something is bothering him and he is willing to sit down with me and be real and honest with what is happening and how he is responding to those situations.
2. I respond with wisdom and he listens.
One day, Craig’s friend invited him over to watch the TV show, Game of Thrones. I happened to see part of one episode the previous season and I knew there was nudity in it. When I saw the invitation on Craig’s computer, my first reaction (that thankfully, I kept in my head) was “No! You can’t do that! It’s not good for you!” If I had said that, I would have regressed back into my fear-based, parenting-like behavior, where he felt disrespected. Instead, I simply told him how I thought the show might trigger him back into porn and asked him to pray about whether or not he should view the show. He ended up not going, not because I demanded him to stay home, but because God led him to the conclusion that watching nudity on TV would not be conducive to his walk toward freedom. He felt respected by the fact that I asked him to fully consider the ramifications and seek God instead of shouting at him about what he should or shouldn’t do.
3. He accepts accountability.
I know the password to all of Craig’s electronic devices and have permission at any time to view anything on them. There is a password on our cable account that restricts adult entertainment access and MA-rated television shows and movies that only I have (which he asked me to put on). He has a regular group of friends he can count on to pray for him and from whom he seeks counsel. All of these things give me tangible ways to see that he is trying to keep himself safe from things that could easily ensnare him.
4. We forgive each other continually.
We must make it a practice to forgive and extend grace. We will both mess up in a variety of ways, but instead of using these mistakes as ammunition against each other to try to prove that we are not trustworthy, we choose to use them so to practice the character of Jesus, who always extends forgiveness.
Rebuilding trust does not happen overnight and it can feel like an impossible goal, but with God, anything is possible. Trust is a crucial piece to your marriage and it will not thrive without it. God knows this and He will actively help you rebuild it. You’re not in it alone.
Jen Ferguson is passionate about Jesus, her husband, and her two girls. She is the facilitator of The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and loves to encourage women to bring their true selves out into the light. She is the co-author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.
Now it’s your turn! Have some marriage advice? Leave a comment, or link up a URL of your own Wifey Wednesday marriage post in the linky below!
This Wifey Wednesday we talk about how to rebuild when he’s the one who has sinned sexually. Next Wednesday we’ll look at how to rebuild trust when it’s been you–especially if you’ve been withholding sex, and now you want to change but your husband doesn’t trust you yet.
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