On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Brain, Your Marriage, and Your Sex Life

The Effects of Porn--a Must Read!

Pornography is ravaging marriages. In our culture porn is treated as if it’s harmless, but it’s not. Porn will wreck the arousal process in your brain and end up wrecking your sex life in marriage. The effects of porn are devastating.

I receive emails everyday from women who are desperate to fix their marriages, but they don’t know what to do. They married men who never seem to want sex. Or their husbands are never satisfied. Or their husbands call them boring or unattractive. And the root of many of these problems is porn.

Here’s the really devastating part: Because so much of what porn does to you happens chemically in the brain, the porn use doesn’t have to be going on NOW to have these effects. A boy who grew up on porn in his teens, and then managed to stop watching it in his twenties (with occasional relapses) will still suffer from many of these things.

The good news: There is healing! You can rebuild those chemical pathways to arousal. But first we have to understand 10 ways that porn affects the brain, and thus wrecks many couples’ sex lives. And so today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share:

Top Ten TuesdayThe Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Sex Life

And remember–women use porn, too! While some of these apply just to men, many of them apply to both genders.

For sources of these claims, see the graphic at the bottom of the post. They’re all listed there.

1. Porn Means You Can’t Get Aroused by “Just” Your Spouse

Do you remember reading about Pavlov and his dog in Psychology? Pavlov would give the dog a nice juicy steak, but right before he did he would ring a bell. He conditioned the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting great food. Eventually Pavlov took the food away, but kept ringing the bell. The dog kept salivating at the bell, even though there was no steak, because the dog associated the bell with the food.

The same thing happens when we see porn. Porn stimulates the arousal centers in the brain. When it’s accompanied by orgasm (sexual release through masturbation), then a chemical reaction happens and hormones are released. In effect, our brains start to associate arousal with an image, an idea, or a video, rather than a person.

When you don’t watch porn and save yourself until marriage, then all of those chemicals and hormones are released for the first time when you’re with your spouse, and it causes you to bond intensely (and sexually) to your spouse. But when you spend a ton of time teaching your brain to associate arousal and release with pornography, your brain can’t associate arousal and release with a person anymore. Either you have to fantasize about the porn, and get those images there, or you have to watch porn first. Often people can “complete the act”, but it’s not intense for them the way porn is. You’ve rewired your brain, and now you’re salivating at the wrong thing.

2. Porn Wrecks Your Libido

It’s only natural, then, that many people who use porn in the past, or who use porn in the present, have virtually no libido when it comes to making love to their spouse. The spouse is not what turns them on, and so the natural drive that we have for sex is transferred somewhere else. I get so many emails from young women in their twenties who say, “my husband and I were both virgins when we married, and I thought he’d want sex all the time. But after our honeymoon sex went to maybe twice a month, and that’s only if I pressure him. He says he just isn’t interested.” With so many men growing up on porn, this is just to be expected.

3. Porn Makes You Sexually Lazy

In porn, everyone is turned on all the time. You don’t have to make any effort to arouse someone; it’s automatic. There is no foreplay in porn. And so if your spouse isn’t aroused  you start to think that it’s somehow their fault. There’s no expectation that we will have to “woo” someone or be affectionate and help jumpstart that arousal process. It’s almost as if we approach sex as two different beings and we’re just using each other, rather than thinking of each other. And thus we never learn how to please the other or become a good lover because we’re always thinking that the other is somehow “frigid”. Sex is about getting my needs met; it isn’t about meeting someone else’s needs or experiencing something wonderful together.

4. Porn Turns “Making Love” into a Foreign Concept

Those arousal centers and pleasure centers in our brain are supposed to associate sex with physical pleasure and a real sense of intimacy. But the intimacy doesn’t happen with porn, and so the pleasure is all that registers. Thus, sex becomes about the body, and not about intimacy. In fact, the idea of being intimate isn’t even sexy anymore; anonymous is what’s sexy. We may call “having sex” “making love”, but in reality they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Someone who has used porn extensively often has a difficult time experiencing any intimacy during sex, because those arousal and pleasure centers zero in only on the body.

God made sex to actually unite us and draw us together; He even gave us a bonding hormone that’s released at orgasm so that we’d feel closer. But if that hormone is released when no one is present, it stops having its effects. Sex no longer bonds you together.

Making love and having sex are not necessarily the same thing.

5. Porn Makes Regular Intercourse Seem Boring

An alcoholic drinks alcohol for the “buzz”. But after a while your body begins to tolerate it. To get the same buzz, you need more alcohol. And so the alcoholic begins to drink harder liquor, or drink larger quantities.

The same thing happens with porn. Because porn teaches us that sex is all about the body, and not about intimacy, then the only way to get a greater “high” or that same buzz is to watch weirder and weirder porn. I think most of us would be horrified if we saw what most porn today really is. It isn’t just pictures of naked women like there used to be in Playboy; most is very violent, extremely degrading, and very ugly.

“Regular” intercourse is actually not depicted that often in porn, and so quite frequently the person who watches porn starts to get a warped view of what sex really is. And often they start to want weirder and weirder things.

Now, I’m not against spicing things up, and I do think lots of things can be fun! But when we’re wanting “more” because we’ve programmed ourselves to think “the weirder the sexier”, there’s a problem.

6. Porn Makes it Hard to Be Tender When You Have Sex

It’s no wonder, then, that people who use porn often  have a hard time being tender when they have sex. Sex tends to be impersonal, rushed, and “forced”. I’m absolutely not saying that all porn users rape their wives, but porn itself is often violent. There’s no foreplay. There’s no waiting to arouse someone. It’s just taking what you want.

Being tender means to be loving. It’s to give and to express affection. Because these things aren’t paired with sex in the porn users brain, tenderness and sex no longer go together.

7. Porn Trains You to Have Immediate Gratification and Have a Difficult Time Lasting Long

With porn, when you’re aroused you reach orgasm very quickly, because porn users tend to masturbate at the same time. Thus, orgasm tends to be very fast. The porn user hasn’t trained his body to draw out sex so that his spouse can get pleasure; his body is programmed to orgasm quickly. Many porn users, then, suffer from premature ejaculation.

Some porn users go to the other extreme when they start suffering from erectile dysfunction. They have a difficult time remaining “hard” enough during sex because the stimulation isn’t enough. In their case, orgasm can take an eternity, if it’s possible at all.

8. Porn Gives You a Warped View of what Attractive Is

Sex is supposed to bond you physically, emotionally and spiritually with your spouse. But if porn has made the chemical pathways in your brain go haywire, then sex becomes only about the body. And porn shows you that only certain body types are attractive. It’s not about the whole person; it’s just a certain type of person.

If a woman gains even ten pounds, then, she’s no longer attractive, and the porn user has an honest to goodness difficult time getting aroused, because he associates only a certain body type with arousal.

9. Porn Makes Sex Seem Like Too Much Work

All of this combines to often make sex with your spouse too much work. You’re not aroused; you find your spouse not attractive; sex is blah; and sex requires you to make an effort for your spouse, while you’re used to immediate gratification.

Thus, many people who use porn retreat into a life of masturbation. Even if the porn use stops, they often find it easier to “relieve” themselves in the shower than to have to work at sex.

10. Porn Causes Selfishness

All of this causes a spiral of selfishness where the person ignores his spouse’s needs and is focused only on getting what he wants, and getting it instantly. Often this manifests itself in other areas of the relationship as well, where the spouse becomes annoyed if they have to wait for something, or if they don’t get what they want. Porn has sold them the message: you deserve pleasure when you want it. You shouldn’t have to work to get what you want. Your needs are paramount.

It’s no wonder that shows up in other areas of your relationship.

People who think that porn is harmless and simply helps people “get in the mood”, or “relieves frustration”, are kidding themselves. The chemical processes in our brains are really complicated, and when you start messing with them, it’s really difficult to develop a healthy sexuality again.

However, it absolutely can be done! Later this year I’ll be working on an ebook about it, but for now, this post may help:

Marriage Recovery after a Pornography Addiction

Dayspring My Chains are Gone

Also, let’s remember: too often we tell teenagers not to use porn because it’s a sin, and they’re not supposed to lust. I think we need to start telling them these ten things. If you want amazing sex when you’re older, don’t use porn now. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Ask teenagers, “who wants amazing sex when you’re married?”, and pretty much everyone will put up their hand. Then tell them: Use porn now, and you’ll make that almost impossible, without a major work of God in your life. Tell them the truth.

Covenant EyesAnd make sure that in your house everyone–girls, boys, women, and men–are protected from temptation. I’m a big supporter of Covenant Eyes. No, we can’t rely on it alone, and yes, we need a work in the heart. But if we need to reduce the temptation so that God has time to work, I think that’s worth doing. Covenant Eyes sends emails to people of your choice to tell you when someone has accessed an inappropriate site. If kids know their parents will get an email if they try to find porn, or if men and women know their accountability partners will get emails, they’ll be less likely to surf inappropriate stuff.

Show Grace

One last word–please show grace to those who have been ravaged by porn. Especially if the associations in the brain happened when they were young, these people often want to change the most, but it seems really helpless. Rather than pointing the finger in blame, join together to fight the problem together!

Porn is serious. It wrecks people’s sex lives, it makes people selfish, and it ultimately wrecks marriages. Let’s spread the word, and fight against it!

UPDATE: I’ve been asked in the comments and on Facebook to provide citations, so I’ve created this infographic with a few. There’s tons more research at Fight the New Drug, and many other sites.

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Marriage and Sex Life: Click through for tons more information and explanations.

Pornography is a Cancer on our Society

Pornography is a Cancer on our Society

Not a long post today, but an important one.

Please watch this video. It’s deeply disturbing, but he’s exactly right on. The two key things that had me really scared: porn is almost entirely about violence today; and most porn watchers are between the ages of 13 and 18.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Wifey Wednesday: Do You Need Controls/Filters on Your Computer?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then you all can comment or link up your own marriage post in the linky at the bottom.

Today I want to talk about internet accountability.

Do You Need Internet Controls or Filters on Your Computer?

When I was a little girl, about 9 years old, I was staying at a sleepover at a friend’s house. The friend belonged to a good family. Yet while there, she showed me the stack of porn magazines of her dad’s that were back there in that shed. I found the pictures fascinating (and hard to get out of my mind).

Yet back then it was hard to see porn unless someone actually went to a store and bought it. So it was relatively easy to avoid. You had to make the decision to get in your car, drive to the store, ask for the magazine, and fork over the money. At any one of those points you could have changed your mind. It wasn’t such a temptation because it wasn’t easily accessible.

Today the most common emails I get from women are from those who have caught their husbands using porn, or soliciting women for online sex (which only happens after they’ve already indulged in lots of porn). These women are devastated, and they don’t know what to do.

One recent study found that 86% of Christian men will seek out porn if they know they won’t get caught. We as women need to recognize what a HUGE temptation this is to men (and to many women as well).

And what about our kids? When they’re starting to get sexual feelings, it’s asking an awful lot of them to refrain from checking things out on the internet.

Do we understand how huge a problem porn is? I don’t think we do, or we would take more steps to stop it. Porn use is not all caused by women withholding sex in marriage; porn is a separate temptation, and can happen even in marriages where she wants sex very much (and, in fact, in many marriages the wife wants sex, but the husband doesn’t because he’s getting sexual release elsewhere). Porn use also often predates marriage, and many men find it difficult to stop.

And now women are increasingly using it, too, thinking that porn is somehow empowering our sex drives.

Yet why is porn harmful?


  • Porn can make it difficult for you to become aroused by your spouse, since your arousal is now focused on media, not relationship.
  • Porn makes sex into something that is purely physical, not something that is intimate. Then it becomes very difficult to experience sex as intimate.
  • Porn makes fantasy during sex necessary to “complete the deed”, since you can’t focus on your spouse. Sex becomes selfish.
  • For young people, porn sets them up to entirely unrealistic expectations and unhealthy arousal patterns.

Porn will not stop just because we want it to.

  • Studies have found that porn is even more addictive than crack. It triggers chemical reactions in the brain that are intense and hard to resist. Just because someone wants to stop does not mean that they easily can.
  • In other addictions, the only thing that has consistently worked is accountability. We need others to help us; it’s not a matter of just “praying harder” or “believing more”. It’s a matter of being there for each other.
  • Porn is too easily accessible, and too easy to access anonymously, to think that teenagers and adults will always be able to resist temptation, even if they have not used porn in the past.


Stop Temptation Before It Starts with Covenant Eyes

You install the program, and then someone you trust receives a report of all the websites you visit. Voila! Temptation gone.

Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability tracks every site you visit, rates each one for its content using six age-based ratings, (such as T for Teen or M for Mature) and delivers a regular report to the friend you choose.

The best part about this? You do not have to be your husband’s accountability partner! If he slips up, he knows he’ll be talking to another guy about it. But you can let it go and trust that this guy will follow up so that you don’t have to.

It’s not healthy to serve as his accountability partner, anyway, so this way someone who doesn’t even live in the same house can still help your husband avoid temptation.

But you can make sure that YOU avoid temptation, too! And you can watch what your kids are watching as well. Don’t assume that just because you have daughters, not sons, that this won’t be a problem. The fastest growing demographic for viewing porn right now are teenage girls. We all need accountability–even females.


Customizable reports

The easy-to-read reports can be customized so your accountability partner isn’t overwhelmed having to scroll through mountains of data. It can report only when you visit sites ranked Highly Mature, for instance.

Covenant Eyes also rates and reports web searches, such those done in Google, Bing, and other search engines, and keeps track of YouTube videos (and other videos) watched, too.

Mobile accountability

Covenant Eyes can also be installed on iPads, iPhones, iPods (great for teens!), and even Android devices. And these apps are free when you subscribe to Internet Accountability on your computer. Learn more about Accountability for mobile devices.

Optional filtering

For $1.50 more, add Internet filtering to your Windows computers for added protection.

Try it today for one month free!

Covenant Eyes Accountability starts at $8.99/month, but Covenant Eyes is offering it to readers of To Love, Honor and Vacuum free for the first 30 days when you sign up using the promocode tlhv.

Learn more about Covenant Eyes’ pricing.

Seriously, this isn’t something we should just let be. I’ve heard people say things like, “you have to trust people. And everyone needs to learn to withstand temptation.” Or “one day your kids will move out and they’ll have to stand on their own two feet, so don’t shelter them too much now.” I do understand that line of thinking. But we wouldn’t lead a teenage boy into a strip club and say, “remember, you’re only here for the chicken wings. Just don’t look at anything.” I think we forget how strong a temptation this can honestly be. And if there’s a tool that will help people avoid temptation–when the ramifications of not doing so are so great–why would you not take it?

Talk to your husband about this. Talk to your kids about this. Maybe it’s time ALL of you got accountable. Not just the men, but we women, too. I think it’s a great tool, and as a wife and the mother of teenagers, I endorse it wholeheartedly.

I get so many heartbreaking emails, and I want the problem to stop. I think this is one tool we have in our arsenal, and I hope that many of you will take me up on it!

Now, what do you have to share with us today about marriage? Link up a marriage post in the linky below, and be sure to share the link back here so other people can read great marriage posts, too. And you can copy my button code from the sidebar!

How Do I Forgive My Husband?

What Does It Mean to Really Forgive Your Husband? A different way of thinking about it...

I get the emails or comments on this blog all the time: “My husband confessed he uses porn, and I can’t get past it. How do I forgive him?” Or “my wife had an affair and I can’t see my way through this. How can I ever treat her normally again?”

Forgiving your husband (or wife) is hard.

A while ago I reviewed Vicki Tiede’s book When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, and she said something very interesting about forgiveness. In essence, she said that God does not ask us to forgive in a way that He does not. He asks us to forgive AS He forgives. And how does He forgive? He forgives fully and graciously, but only when people repent and turn to Him. He doesn’t forgive everybody.

1 John 1:9 says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unrighteousness.

The confession comes before the forgiveness.

Jesus’ blood covers everyone’s sins, but it is only applied to those who repent. And if that’s how God forgives, then God does not ask us to forgive lightly, either. God does not say that if someone confesses a sin, but doesn’t really turn from it, or doesn’t really have any intention of changing, that we need to forgive.

I thought about that long and hard, because that’s quite contrary to what I’ve normally thought about forgiveness. Yet Vicki makes a good point.

She says that “cheap forgiveness” can do more harm than good.

Let’s say a guy is addicted to porn, for instance, and his wife finds out. He acts all contrite because he knows he’s in trouble, and asks her to forgive him. She does, because she feels that she has to, and so she tries her best to treat him exactly the same as before. He goes on sneaking around behind her back again because there is no need to actually change.

God wants us to do the hard work of healing and repentance, and if we offer forgiveness quickly, when there is no change of heart, we take away the need to do that hard work.

I agree with her. I do. And yet I was uncomfortable with this line of thinking. I have tended to think of forgiveness as something we offer partly for ourselves. We grant forgiveness because it frees US. We can’t carry around this anger anymore, and we can’t live always tied to something from the past. We need to walk forward with God.

Perhaps much of this problem is that we mean so many different things by the word “forgiveness”. Vicki was using it to mean a fully restored relationship: you cannot have a fully restored relationship if there has not been a change of heart from the one who has done wrong. Reconciliation demands true honesty and repentance.

But there is an element of forgiveness that does not depend on the other person, and this is how I’ve come to see it:

To me, forgiveness means taking the hurt, no matter what it is, and placing it in God’s hands and saying: I don’t want it anymore. Take it from me. I leave it to You to bring justice. I leave it to You to work out dealing with my offender. I leave it to You to fight for me. As for me, I will walk forward, with this left behind me.

That’s saying, “God, I believe that you are a just God who loves me and will go to battle for me and will work out your purposes for me and for this person, and so I trust you. I’m not going to try to manipulate the circumstances or extract an apology or demand restitution. I’ll leave it all up to you, and I trust you with it.”

How to Forgive Your Spouse

Forgiving your spouse is really more a matter of trust than anything else.

And forgiveness is about letting go. When I walked through the whole forgiveness process with my father, who left when I was very young, I had to come to terms with the fact that he would never apologize, because he didn’t really understand what he had done. He did not get the magnitude of how much he hurt me. And I realized that a part of me was hanging on to the dream that one day he would sit down and spill out all of his offences, and apologize for them, and ask me to forgive him. Forgiveness, though, means letting go of the dream that he will one day ask that. Forgiveness means putting that dream in God’s hands. God will be the One to fight for you. There is justice, and God will work it out. Perhaps the person will come to repentance and will claim Jesus’ forgiveness. And perhaps they will not. But regardless, God will go to bat for you. You don’t have to. And if we let go of this dream of an apology or acknowledgement of our hurt, then we can move forward.

Recently I was out with a young friend of mine who had been a victim of a violent random attack. She’d been skittish since this happened, and had experienced a difficult time processing it. We were just chatting about nothing in particular, but I was in the middle of writing the review for Tiede’s book, so I was just talking out loud about some of these thoughts. And I told her what I was thinking about forgiveness: it’s not saying it didn’t matter, and it’s not saying we’re best friends now. It’s just putting the whole thing in God’s hands and letting Him deal with it. It’s letting go of the need or dream of any apology or acknowledgement because you know God will handle it. And it’s turning away from it and walking forward.

Trust in the Lord

A few weeks later her mom called me and said, “I don’t know what you said but she’s been so much LIGHTER.” That made me lighter, too.

I think in marriage that this can be the hardest thing. We want the other person to pay. We want them to list out all their sins in great detail and grovel. And yet I believe the proper model is that if there is true repentance, which is always accompanied by confession, not secrecy, and by a dedication to work hard to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, then you forgive your husband, let it go and are fully reconciled. If there is not that repentance, and the sin is one that could seriously endanger the marriage (like adultery, or addictions, or porn), then you act smart. You draw boundaries. You do not become fully reconciled yet.

But you also leave it to God. You don’t punish your spouse. You don’t demand. You don’t play scenarios over and over in your mind where your spouse humiliates himself or herself before you. You hand the offense over to God and ask Him to take care of it. You let go of the need for that sin to ever be fully acknowledged, or to ever receive a full apology. That’s what that waiting period means: you trust in God to take care of it. And in the meantime, you act in love, but also in wisdom, not reconciling when there isn’t full repentance, but not living trapped in this sin, where everything in your life revolves around your anger and your need for restitution.

Forgiveness, then, is not so much about the sin as it is about trust in God.

And that’s hard. It’s so, so hard. But it’s also so freeing.

What have you found? Have you ever had to forgive and leave something in God’s hands? Have you ever had to let go of the dream of a full apology?

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Wifey Wednesday: 4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

4 Things You Must do if Your Husband Uses Porn

What should you do if your husband watches porn?

Well, it’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today we’re going to tackle the tough problem of pornography in marriage.

This week I’ve had a mini-series on what to do when you discover your husband is using porn. I’ve been interviewing Vicki Tiede, author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography. We looked at what to do when you discover your husband’s watching porn, and how to deal with your husband’s porn use. Today I thought I’d sum up what we’ve discussed and add some of my own thoughts.

1. You Must Grieve Your Husband’s Porn Use

It’s going to come as a major sucker punch. You’ll feel betrayed, and dirty, and angry. That’s natural. Likely you knew something was wrong, and you suspected something, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. Now you know, and very likely the feelings are overwhelming. People often arrive on this blog the night they discover their husband watching porn, and they find posts talking about pornography use and pour out their hurt in the comments. That hurt is raw and very real.

That’s okay. Give yourself some grace to be upset. Give yourself some time to yell at God about it, to wrestle this through, and to cry. You don’t have to fix anything overnight, and sometimes if we try too hard to fix it right now we do more damage. At times, when we first find out something so devastating, we’re tempted to say, “it’s okay, I know you didn’t mean it, let’s just forget it and go back to normal” because we’re afraid to face what this means.

But we need to admit brokenness. If we don’t admit it, it can’t be fixed. And it could be that what God is going to make out of the pieces of your heart and your relationship, will be different from what you started with, but that doesn’t mean it won’t also be beautiful. Grieve, and give God time to work. Don’t deny the gravity of the hurt. And don’t deny the gravity of the effects of porn on a marriage, either!

At the same time, if I can offer some reassurance, so many marriages have emerged on the other side. And one thing that helps is that, after that initial grief is over, you realize that you are on the same page, fighting an evil together.

Don’t let porn come between you; instead, decide to fight together to defeat your husband’s porn addiction.

Most Christian men desperately want to stop watching porn. They don’t want to be doing this. It enslaves them. If you can be an ally, rather than an attacker, you both will move forward so much more easily.

2. You Must Live in the Light and Not Keep His Porn Use a Secret

When Your Husband is Addicted to PornographyPorn thrives on secrecy. In her book, Vicki  recounts the words of one woman, married 45 years, who discovered her husband’s masturbation habit two years into this marriage. “if it ever got out, I’d kill myself,” he told her. And so she didn’t say a word, and lived with it. For 45 years. Can you imagine?

Vicki doesn’t believe that staying in darkness is the answer. As I’ve said before, you need to bring these things to light.

As a church, we need to bring this to light.

There is so much ignorance around the whole pornography problem. It truly does ensnare people, making it almost impossible for them to function normally sexually with a human being. What becomes arousing is an image, and they become so focused on masturbation and pornography that a relationship isn’t sexy anymore. And it’s too much work! Once you start using porn, too, it rarely stays with the tame stuff. People will seek out more and more hard core stimulation. Eventually, they may even act things out. This isn’t people just looking at something to get their jollies; this is something that can all too easily turn into an addiction.

Living in the Light: Bringing Light onto the dark places in your marriage--even your husband's porn useAnd that’s why you must bring light to it. You can’t let it stay a secret. Your husband needs help, but so do you. You will likely need someone to walk through this process with you, and that’s okay. More churches need to provide support for couples going through recovery from a porn addiction. And most pastors have dealt with this at length. So talk to your pastor and find out what support your church offers.

3. You Must Get Help

It is not enough for a husband to apologize and promise never to do it again. You wouldn’t accept that of an alcoholic; you would ask him or her to go to AA meetings. The same goes for porn use.

There’s such shame involved with pornography because it’s sexual, but the admonition from the Bible doesn’t change. James 5:16 says, “confess your sins one to another”. Confession should be a regular part of the Christian life. If a husband admits he watches porn, apologizes, but then asks that his wife not say anything and is unwilling himself to seek any help, then he hasn’t really repented.

True repentance is always accompanied by true humility, and that means that someone will seek help. I’m not saying tell everyone you know. I’m saying tell one person who can hold your husband accountable; one person who can call your husband or take him out for coffee periodically and look him in the eyes and challenge him on whether he’s been watching porn or not.

Pray about who that one person should be, but do find that one person for him.

And then find one person for you, too. One person that you can pour your heart out to, and can help guide you as you deal with this, move on to forgiveness, and rebuild.

'fence' photo (c) 2010, marc falardeau - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/4. You Must Set Boundaries around the Porn Use

Finally, if you don’t want this to happen again,  you must set boundaries. That isn’t being vengeful; it’s just being smart. If your husband had an affair at work, you’d likely want him to find another job. You’d want something to change so that he won’t fall into it again.

And this should be the same thing. I don’t know what those boundaries will look like for your family; they could involve computer controls to filter pornography, or getting rid of the internet temporarily. They could mean choosing to share computers and cell phones so that there is no longer any secrecy. Perhaps sharing passwords. Maybe it might mean setting “technology free” hours at home, where all screens go off at 9:00 pm, so that it’s relationship time and you know you have his attention.

One warning about boundaries, though. It is must easier to build trust again if you know that there is someone else helping your husband set those boundaries, and someone else holding him accountable. It’s not a good situation to feel as if you have to monitor your husband’s every move. That sets up a very unhealthy dynamic, where you’re constantly on the watch for him to mess up.

But for the men reading this, know that your wife will be able to trust you easier if you have an accountability partner (Covenant Eyes is a great way to organize this; use the code “TLHV” for a free month!). So don’t shy away from finding someone to talk to!

Rebuilding trust and rebuilding your sex life after porn takes time, but it is possible. But it is only possible if you admit the gravity of the problem, get some help, and truly repent and become humble before God. You both need God’s help. You both need outside help. And you both will need some time.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIn my book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I share the story of Anna and Paul. Anna discovered her husband watching porn years into their marriage; she was devastated, and he was mortified to be found out. But in the end, it was the best thing to happen to their marriage. Paul had been living in secret shame for so long, and now he was able to deal with the problem. And their marriage has been rebuilt.

Your problem is not bigger than God; and if you are honest before God, His strength is more than sufficient to see you through.

If you’ve ever had this problem, leave a comment (anonymously if you have to) and let us know your story.

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Discovering Your Husband’s Porn Addiction

When Your Husband Uses Porn--what to do

This blog focuses on marriage, and so, tragically, it’s only natural for the subject of pornography to come up. So many of you send me hurting emails about discovering your husband’s porn use. I received an email just yesterday from a woman who has just left her marriage after three years without sex because her husband spent hours on porn every night. This is a horrible evil that is rampaging so many families. We need to take it seriously.

And so I’ve asked Vicki Tiede to join us for a few days, because I thought it’s time we delve into this topic in a bit more detail. Vicki is the author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, and I’ve read her devotional book, and sent her questions that I know you readers have. Today and tomorrow we’re going to go through those questions, and then on Wifey Wednesday I’m going to do a wrap up myself.

So let’s jump in!

Has your house ever been infested by termites? You don’t notice at first. They gnaw away at the insides, and on the outside everything can look perfect. But it’s not. There’s rot deep within, and eventually that rot is going to become apparent. It can’t hide forever.

Vicki says that’s what porn is like. He may keep it secret, but it rots away at your marriage. It rots at your relationship, it rots at his relationship with God, it rots at your intimacy, and it rots at your sex life.

And so she’s written a book for women who discover their husband’s porn use. She says, “It’s not a handbook for fixing your husband.”Instead, she walks you through Scripture to help you deal with this on an emotional and spiritual level first, and then to help you get in the right frame of mind to take the practical steps that are necessary to protect yourself and your marriage (if possible), and to seek help.

I sent her these questions:

1. When a woman finds out that her husband is using porn, it feels like such a betrayal. Can you talk to our readers and help them understand the nature of this addiction–and that it honestly has nothing to do with their bodies, or their sexual ability in bed?

Let me preface my answer by telling you that my book is about helping the woman experience healing through Christ and I don’t promote myself as an expert on pornography. However, I’ve spoken with many who are experts on this issue and they have explained that pornography is an intimacy issue for both the man who is using pornography and (don’t shoot me) for his wife. Often the husband experienced emotional detachment from one or both parents. As a result, sex addicts have four mistaken core beliefs according to Dr. Patrick Carnes:

1. I am unlovable
2. If someone really knew me they wouldn’t love me
3. No one can meet my needs so I must meet them on my own
4. Sex is my greatest need. (this can come in the form of not wanting sex too–that would be an avoidant attachment style).

The acting out is not about the wife. That means she is not in competition with digitally enhanced images of other women. This is not about her appearance, her sexual availability, or her competence in the bedroom. She does not need to be a size 8, get a tummy tuck, or engage in sexual acts that make her uncomfortable.

Though the acting out is not about the wife, how they share intimacy (emotional connection) is. There is a reason she was attracted to an addict. This reason is different for everyone, so it’s important for a woman to seek counseling to understand what this is for her. Carnes believes wives carry the same mistaken core beliefs as the addict (listed above). They are more neatly packaged though–harder to crack and convince to the wife as she has been majorly betrayed and is wounded deeply/to her core by her spouse. She can always pull the ‘you hurt me’ card, which in reality holds a lot power.

2. You said, “remember that YOU did nothing to drive your husband to pornography.” Is that really true? Because we’ve had a ton of men on this blog commenting that they started using porn because their wives wouldn’t have sex. Is that a cop out?

The sexual availability question is trickier than you might first think. In an extremely small number of cases, I hear a woman admit that she almost never has sex with her husband, so he turns to porn because he’s frustrated. Note: It’s still wrong, so to answer your questions, yes, it’s a cop out. However, Scripture is pretty clear on this one. In such a situation it would appear that both of them have sin issues that need to be addressed. Counseling is probably in order. Answering this question requires me to walk a fine line as those who want her to share the blame for the pornography are going to read this differently than those who want to understand what might be contributing to her choice to withhold intimacy. This is not the subject of my book and therefore I do not spend a great deal of time on the issue. Again, this scenario is very rare. Having said that, on more than one occasion I let my reader know that it’s not biblical to get into a pattern of withholding intimacy from her husband or using the gift God has given her as a means of wreaking vengeance on her husband.

What I usually hear (and research supports this) is that women are more than willing to be intimate with their husbands, but their husband isn’t interested because of the porn. You see, when men regularly engage in porn use, their interest in real relationships decreases and their appetite for more porn increases. In fact, more than 50% of people involved in cybersex eventually lost interest in intimacy with a loved one.

I’m not interested in playing the blame game in my book, so you won’t find me ever pointing fingers at the wife and suggesting that she is equally responsible for the sin. How would that promote healing in the name of Christ? In the end, we are all responsible for our own choices. Whether or not she was as sexually available as she would have liked, he still had a choice.

With that said, I want to share this thought with you and I’m going to quote directly from my book (p. 67) on this one. Before you read this, I want you to know that this comes directly from the chapter that addresses surrendering guilt. When you read this out of context, it may sound like I’m shaming the wife. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I hate to break it to you, but you have not been the perfect wife. The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Before you let this revelation get you all worked up, I want you to know that it was unrealistic to assume that you always had to be the perfect wife. There. That feels better, right? However, it doesn’t let you off the hook. You still need to do some constructive self-examination to determine if you have done things to contribute to your husband’s addiction. (Remember, he is still ultimately responsible for the choices he makes. You are not.) If you are being honest with yourself, there are certainly things you may have done that contributed to the problem you are dealing with today. Every time you make a decision to act or react to your husband’s addiction, you are choosing to feed the problem (pornography addiction) or feed the solution (actions that promote healing).”

Sheila says: I so agree with Vicki here! Honestly, I have scads of women who write to me in agony because their husbands never want sex, but they’re into porn all the time. As I said in a comment on a Reader Question post recently, in general, I have found far more marriages are sexless because the husband uses porn, rather than the husband uses porn because the marriage is sexless. This is especially true for younger women. So many women marry guys who have used porn all throughout their childhood. For a few weeks of the marriage they have sex a lot, and then it suddenly comes to a stop, because the guy turns back to porn.

I do believe that a woman can feed a habit (in Vicki’s words) by withholding sex, though this isn’t an excuse for her husband using porn. But I think far more marriages find that sex comes to a standstill because of the husband’s porn use, rather than the sex comes to a standstill so the husband uses porn. Neither are right; but let’s not assume that when the husband uses porn, the wife drove him to it.

Tomorrow: Dealing with Your Husband’s Porn Addiction

Vicki Tiede is the author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, a step-by-step road to healing for you as well as a game plan for what to do.

She writes: I am an author and speaker who has a passion for opening the Scriptures and pointing women to their true source of grace and faithfulness. For the past ten years, I have been honored to speak for numerous women at conferences, retreats, and women’s events. I am the author of three books including When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography (2012), Plug Me In and Let Me Charge Overnight (2009), and Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years (coming January 2013). I live in Rochester, Minnesota, with my husband Mike, daughter, and two sons. Visit her on the web.

 Sheila says: ladies, this is a HUGE problem in so many marriages, and the women don’t know what to do about it. Can you share this post on Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter? Do it like this: “I know porn is a huge problem in many marriages, and here’s a post that deals with it.” That way it doesn’t look like you’re announcing “my husband uses porn!” You’re just saying, here’s a resource many people need. Thank you!

Marriage VLog: My Husband Used to be Addicted to Porn

I thought every week I’d post a video of me answering a reader question. So here’s one that came through recently, from a new bride with a dilemma:

I need to keep the videos to under 3 1/2 minutes, so it’s hard to give a topic a thorough answer. What would you all add? I know she’ll be reading, so if you can think of some other great advice, please comment!

If you have a problem with a husband who is involved in porn, see my series here. Or if you have a problem feeling that sex is positive, reread Monday’s post! And, of course, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex deals with both these issues in detail.

How to Deal with a Husband’s Pornography Use: A Man’s Perspective

How to Deal with a Husband's Porn UseYesterday I asked the question, “Is Porn Cheating”? That was an interesting discussion, but one comment that really stood out with me was left by a Christian man who had been addicted to porn and had emerged on the other side. I’d like to post that comment pretty much in its entirety here, because it’s so good and I want to make sure that you all see it. Then I’ll add my own thoughts to the end. So here we go:

I have been a Christian since I was 8 and grew up in a good Christian home but pornography can get to anyone. I am a Christian husband that struggled with pornography. I could have been considered an occasional user. I could go days and even weeks without any issues, but eventually that temptation came back. Let me first say to the wives, this is hurting your husband more than you will ever know, especially if they are trying to be a strong and obedient follower of Christ. Also know, it is NOT your fault for him using. It is their sin and their responsibility. They are defiling themselves and the marriage bed by using it. As a Christian, I was so ashamed and embarrassed by the fact that I was caught up in pornography. I tried to hide it and this was the worst thing that I could have done. I didn’t feel like a good man or a good Christian. I hated the fact that I could not stop and I felt so disgusted with myself that I was using that junk. I have been going through a separation and now divorce for nearly 2 years now and I took over a year to figure out what was wrong with me. I had family, friends, pastors, a good Christian counselors, and an accountability partner by my side. Once this sin was in the open, the desire to use pornography slowly just disappeared.

The biggest thing I learned was that as a man, I had no clue what intimacy was.
As a man, I saw intimacy and sex as the same thing. This is false and a complete lie from Satan. Sex cannot meet the man’s need for intimacy. I can see how there are so many men that were never taught what true intimacy is, and I believe this is the responsibility of a father to teach their sons. My relationship with my father was a huge barrier my entire life until this occurred. I thought getting married and having sex with my wife would resolve all my issues, when in fact, it made it worse. When my expectations were not met, I turned to pornography instead of opening up to my wife. I didn’t know how to open up to her, I didn’t know how to be intimate with her, and I didn’t know how to be her best friend. I thought a man holds things in and deals with it himself, another lie from Satan. That is not a man. More importantly, I didn’t know how to have an intimate relationship with Christ. This is where it all starts.

Before a man can be a good husband and strong man, he has to learn how to be intimate with God. I read dozens of books and studied the bible to figure out what it takes to be a man of God, a Godly husband, and a Godly father. This changed my life forever. Only God can give me strength to be a man and overcome my failures. I am only strong in Him. A man that uses pornography or any addiction is weak and he needs to be broken. He needs to humble himself to God to get back on the path to righteousness.

Women, take this advice. Help your husbands become the man he is called to be. In this situation, love has to be tough. Do not let him become a selfish and immature man that is out for his own desires. If he will not stop using for you, tell someone immediately no matter how upset he may become. Do not think of it as hurting him, believe me, you are helping him more than you will ever know. Tell a close friend of his to confront him, or tell a pastor to confront him. He needs help. Now that I am free from the bondage of pornography, I feel unbelievable. With pornography, I felt like I was a little boy trapped in a cage trying to become a man. Without pornography, I am free to give everything to God. I am free to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. I am free to love others and be the sacrificial man I am called to be. I want to love my wife and sacrifice everything for her more than anything, but I have lost her. I have three children that I can give freely too and love with everything I have. I have not lost them and praise God for that.

I promise you, if your husband is truly a Christian who wants to be obedient, he will thank you down the road for speaking up and stopping the sin that is in his life. Remember, pornography is a purely selfish act to meet his own needs. He is not thinking of your needs, his families needs, or anybody else needs. A man is to sacrifice everything for his wife and family. Pornography is the complete opposite. Pornography destroys a man’s heart and mind. He ends up living in a fantasy world. Wives, save your husbands before they are in to deep and they end up in a world they cannot get out of. Thank God, I never got to that point.

That’s the voice of a Christian man who has truly found healing from porn because He turned to God. I hope that this can give women encouragement that healing for their own situation can also come. But let me highlight a few key things:

1. A Husband’s Porn Use Is Not About You

As I said yesterday, over and over again, when men break the porn habit, they will say that it wasn’t because of their wives that they turned to porn. It’s not because you’re not beautiful enough, or not sexy enough. Of course, if you never have sex with your husband, he may turn to porn because he’s frustrated (though this is still wrong). But that’s the minority of the cases. In most cases, it’s because something was broken inside of him.

So if you find out that your husband is involved in porn, know that you don’t have to compete. You don’t have to try kinkier things, or buy racy lingerie, or become a size 2. Even if you did, that wouldn’t solve the problem. It is something that has sucked him in, and the way out is not by you competing or changing. It’s just by healing from God.

I know you feel so angry, and so used, and so degraded, and so rejected. But, as much as possible, try to transfer your anger onto the porn industry and not on your husband. I’ve known men who have been sucked in as children. They saw it inadvertently, or they were shown it by a friend. And they found the images exciting, so they kept seeking them out. Picture your own son at 9 or 10 being exposed to it. You wouldn’t be angry at him; you would be horrified. And the problem is that once they’re exposed, it’s so hard to stop.

Many of these guys have been on that road for that long. They want to stop. They don’t like the dirty feeling they have, either. I know what they’re doing is wrong, but if you can become their ally in helping them stop and in upholding them in prayer, rather than attacking them, I think you’ll find you can get through this together much better.

2. A Husband’s Porn Use Can’t Be Ignored

If your husband is using porn, you cannot ignore it. It won’t just go away.  All the people that I have talked to who have been healed of porn were healed because they sought outside help (or their wives forced it on them). One woman who commented yesterday, and whose story I know, called her brothers who came over, had a stern talking to with the husband, and then announced that they were disconnecting the satellite and the internet. The man had been addicted to porn since he was 8, and this was the beginning of healing. He was a Christian just like this commenter was, and he felt so terrible about it.

So confront your husband about it, and if he won’t stop, seek out a mentor (just one!) who is wise whom you can talk to about next steps. But I firmly believe that in most cases, those next steps likely include asking a good friend of his to confront him, or asking a pastor to confront him. I’d go with the friend first, before the pastor, because you don’t want to endanger his relationship at the church. But as this commenter says, “tell someone immediately no matter how upset he may become.” Do not let the admonition to be submissive keep you from confronting sin, or make you enable sin. It won’t get better on its own.

3. Healing from Porn Use Needs Forgiveness

The other thing that stands out to me in this comment is that this man came to a genuine place of healing and forgiveness, and has found wholeness, and yet his wife has left him anyway. I find that heartbreaking.

I know another couple where something similar happened. The husband had been involved in porn, and had also had some one night stands. But he had been going to counselling, and he had been working at things. But the wife had been walking through these problems for so many years, and she was tired. And one day she met another man who made her feel alive again.

So she left her husband. She claimed she had grounds–he had committed adultery, and he had used porn. The problem, though, was that these things had been in the past. Even the porn use, if he had slipped, was getting better and he was seeking help. So she had stayed with him through the worst, but as he was getting counselling and getting better she chose to leave.

This is actually quite common. During the worst times the wife is so downtrodden and so depressed that she doesn’t have the energy or self-esteem to leave. But as the counselling progresses, and she starts to get healing, and he starts to get better so that she’s not just focused on survival mode anymore, she often leaves.

So let me say very clearly: you cannot claim a past sin that has been dealt with is grounds to leave your husband. If he has confessed his sin and is trying to work towards God, then you can’t just up and leave.

This is a really touchy subject, because I don’t want people to take what I said yesterday that “sometimes you have to separate” to mean that anyone can just divorce because of this. Lots of women want out, and they see this as justification. It’s not. Sometimes you have to separate if life has become unbearable just to protect yourself and the kids and to jolt him into seeking healing. And if that separation doesn’t work, and he chooses to stay away from you, I think there are times divorce may be okay. But this is the vast minority of cases, and this is NEVER the case if the man is seeking healing.

The Christian story is beautiful not because people can be holy in Christ, but because Christ can take vessels that are filthy and dirty and redeem them so that they become the most beautiful and the most useful. It is often those who have gone through the most who are the most anointed by the Spirit. When Christ heals in a big way, there is little else more beautiful in this world. Do you not want to be a part of that?

My commenters’ kids must be hurting so much. When you leave your husband, the kids bear the brunt of it. Please don’t do that to them lightly. And if your husband is seeking healing, support him in that. Do not let your anger at him or your fear or your shame make you break up a family. The most dangerous time for you will be when your husband seeks healing, because up until then God had you and the devil had your husband. The devil isn’t going to be happy, and he’s going to turn to you. You’ve come so far as a couple already. Don’t let the devil win.

So please, when healing is happening, work through your own issues so that you can forgive your husband and rebuild. I know that healing isn’t present for everyone, and my heart aches for those of you who so long for it. But I pray that you will listen to these commenters’ words, shed light on your husband’s problem, and then see what God can do. And even if God never heals your husband, remember that He can still heal you.

The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex has a whole section on how to reclaim your sex life after a porn addiction–and lots of stories of people who have come through to the other side! Check it out here.

Wifey Wednesday: Is Porn Cheating?

wifey wednesday

 Is Porn Cheating? If your husband watches porn, is he breaking a marriage vow?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Today I’m going to deal with a question I get a lot: Is porn use the same as adultery?

Is Porn Cheating? A look at why it is--and what we should do about it.One of the most common problems that I hear about from women is that their husbands use porn. Men start turning to porn, and then they stop turning to their wives. It’s really so, so sad, because so many men are trapped in it. I get so many emails just like this one:

My husband watches porn and I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve told him I don’t like it but I caught him again. What do I do?

Now porn users aren’t necessarily male. About 30% of porn users are now female, so let’s not assume it’s always the guy. Nevertheless, it is a problem that many males battle.  But regardless of the gender of the user, how serious a problem is porn?

Well, Jesus said in Matthew 5:28:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Now some blogs, primarily in the “manosphere” (the blogs that talk to men about how marriage law and society is tilted towards women and away from men) have given me grief because I’ve come out so hard against pornography, but haven’t seemed to take a similar stand against romance novels. And besides, porn isn’t necessarily cheating, they say. Men aren’t necessarily lusting after those women; they’re merely using porn to get excited, in the same way that women use romance novels to get excited.

But using something else to get excited, instead of your partner, is lust. You are using something other than your spouse for sexual gratification and arousal. And that is wrong.

And let’s be perfectly blunt and a little bit gross: porn and masturbation go hand in hand, if you’ll excuse the pun. Rarely do you have one without the other.

Can romance novels inspire lust and fantasy? Yes, but they don’t necessarily do it. Romance novels can fuel dissatisfaction with one’s spouse, but they don’t always. Porn, on the other hand, was created primarily to arouse, and that is what it does, so much so that porn users often come to the point that they require porn to get aroused.

So while romance novels CAN be bad, by setting up unrealistic romantic fantasies, porn ALWAYS is.

Do you see the difference? Watching porn is lust. It distorts our sexuality, making sex about merely the physical, and not the relational and spiritual connection. It makes it harder to become aroused by a person. To compare Jane Austen to Hustler magazine is ridiculous. My 11-year-old read Jane Austen’s books. But I’d never let her touch Hustler. With romance novels, some of us may take them too far, but many will not. With porn, the intention is that it be taken that way.

But is porn cheating?

When I asked my my Facebook fans “is watching porn cheating?” the overwhelming response was “yes”. So here’s the thing for men to understand: to women, watching porn is cheating, even if you say the porn has nothing to do with your wife.

But I’m not sure the answer is as clear-cut as this, because there are really two aspects to the question: the spiritual and the practical. Spiritually, Jesus said it was the same. But the practical question is really the more important one: adultery is grounds for divorce. Is porn grounds for divorce? Jesus also said, in that same passage, that whoever hates his brother is guilty of murder. Yet we don’t lock up people for bearing a grudge. So I think we have to tread carefully.

I do believe pornography is a sin.

It’s a sin against one’s own body, it’s a sin against God, and it’s a sin against one’s spouse. It wrecks the sexual relationship, and wrecks one’s spiritual intimacy both with God and one’s spouse. It is bad in every way.

But that does not mean that the marriage cannot be redeemed, and nor does it necessarily mean that the spouse (normally the wife, but it could go the other way) has grounds for divorce. I have known many women whose husbands have cheated on them with actual women, and I think to compare a guy who occasionally looks at porn to a guy who has an affair is unfair. The hurt is far greater.

However, I have known other women who are married to compulsive masturbators who use porn everyday, and occasionally even when children are running around. In many ways this is worse than a one night stand.

Thus, it’s hard to make a definitive rule. It depends on the situation, and because divorce is so devastating for all involved, I would err on the side of patience and grace for as long as is possible. So with that in mind, let’s look at what to do if your husband watches porn (and I’ll talk about it in those terms now since it is primarily women who read this blog.)

1. Confront Your Husband About His Porn Use

If you suspect he’s using porn, often because he has no sexual interest in you, ask him point blank. If he says no, ask him to see his computer and his phone. If he refuses, you likely have a problem. That’s a major marriage red flag.

Have a serious talk with him and tell him that you will not put up with this. This is endangering the marriage, is sinning against you, against him, and against God, and endangers the children. It must stop.

2. Install Filters

Install filters on your computer that eliminate porn, or that send emails so you can see what he’s watching on the computer. Some men actually are relieved to be discovered, and find this freeing, because most men who use porn don’t actually want to. It’s become a compulsion.

When porn is cheating--how to confront him.You can also install an accountability program like Covenant Eyes, which will send an email to an accountability partner of your choice whenever you access a site you shouldn’t. It’s a great deterrent! Find out more here. And use the code TLHV to get your first month free!

If he refuses, then you really need some more help. Talk to a mentor at church, or your pastor, and get some outside counsel as to what to do.

3. Ask Your Pastor for an Accountability Partner

Ask your husband to request an accountability partner at church–another man that he can talk to. You should not be his accountability partner, because he can’t be honest with you if he slips up. You’ll be very upset. He needs someone with distance whom he can confess his struggles to without dealing with fallout in the relationship.

4. Rebuild Your Sex Life

You can’t compete by buying lingerie, or by being extra kinky, because the problem is not with you. It’s that he’s become aroused by outside images. So rebuild your sex life slowly, helping him to learn to be present in the moment and to be aroused just by both of you making love again. That can take some time, and let him be free to stop in the middle of things if he finds his mind wandering and returning to images. You want him to be able to be honest.

And if he won’t stop using porn, do not feed the habit by agreeing to act out what he sees, or by making love right after he’s used porn. In that case, you’ve become a sex toy, and not a wife. Be available and open to him, but only when the sex reflects real love and a relationship, not when it’s fed by something else.

5. When Can Porn Use Be Grounds for Separation? 

I would view porn as somewhere on the continuum between alcoholism and adultery. Porn can become an addiction, and when it is a compulsion that is hard to break, there is often little you can do about it. But someone who is addicted to alcohol and drinks everyday is in a different category than someone who binge drinks occasionally. Both are bad, but one will destroy your life; the other is wrong, but not deadly to a marriage. So while any porn use is wrong, I don’t believe it is necessarily grounds for leaving the marriage. In fact, in most cases I would say that it is not.

Nevertheless, if he refuses to address the problem, and you know that he is a compulsive porn user, there may come a time when you have little choice but to separate.

I would see this in a similar way to someone who is married to an alcoholic who refuses to change. When the alcoholism starts to endanger your finances, his work, your marriage, and the kids, you need to get out. Similarly, if he is watching porn all the time, and it’s endangering his marriage, his kids, and other aspects of his life, then it may be necessary to do something drastic. I wouldn’t do this if he wants to change, and is struggling, or if the porn use is only occasional. Separation is only for the destructive, compulsive porn user. When the porn use has become a porn addiction, you’ve got a serious problem.

And in this case, I would start with a separation, not a divorce. Divorce is really only a last resort, because even if you are justified, your children will be hurt by it, and the far better outcome is reconciliation. Nevertheless, as James Dobson says in his book Love Must be Tough, sometimes the only route to a healthy marriage is to have the offending spouse feel the consequences of his actions.

So this must be a last resort, taken only when you have asked a mentor for good counsel, and only after a lot of prayer.

This isn’t something you do the night that you discover he’s been using porn.

I hope it never comes to that in your marriage. I hope that, instead, you can rebuild your marriage slowly by focusing on building a friendship, on cementing the goodwill, so that you can deal with these difficult issues. Spend time together just laughing and having fun. Do things together. And then, as he tries to stop, and as you try to forgive and move forward, it’s much easier.

I know this is such a heartbreaking issue for so many women. They’re desperate for their husbands to stop using porn, and nothing seems to be getting better. They’re lonely, they’re angry, they’re rejected, they’re hurt. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I pray that your husband will be able to see porn for the evil that it is, and that he will turn back to you. But just know, as you’re going through this difficult time, that most men who are involved in porn really don’t do so because their wives lack something. It truly isn’t a reflection on you; it’s just a temptation that men are especially prone to. Keep that in mind, and try to maintain an emotional distance, as much as you can, from the anger you’re bound to feel. God can change your husband, He can bring healing, and He can help you forgive. Walk down that road, and don’t give in to anger.

UPDATE: I changed the wording a little because I thought of a better way to say something, but the jist is the same! And here’s the follow up post, including a long comment from a man who has found healing!