Can your husband admit his faults to you? Can he come to you with his struggles?
Are you a safe place for your husband? I was thinking about this recently listening to a friend tell me her story. And it reminded me of a post I wrote a year and a half ago that most you likely haven’t seen. I think it’s worth running it again, so here goes:
One of the best things about marriage is that you have each other’s backs.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
That’s beautiful–when one falls, one picks the other one up.
But early in my marriage, if Keith fell, he had to pretend he didn’t. He might come home bruised and bleeding, but he had to pretend everything was okay, because I couldn’t handle any of his weaknesses.
Now, we weren’t struggling with major areas of sin. It was just more sexual frustration on his part. But if he voiced any of that to me, then I would start thinking about how all men are perverts and about how he only wanted me for one thing. Like I explained in my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, the way I was thinking was hurting our marriage and driving my husband away from me.
How Can 9 Thoughts Help My Marriage?
That’s what happened early in my marriage.
And in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I show you 9 thought patterns that can change everything. And it’s not always about becoming nicer. Often it’s just about recognizing what is GOOD.
That may mean learning to confront sin. It may mean learning to own our own issues. But it always means learning to grow together, not apart.
Here’s what I’ve seen again and again on this blog, from commenters and from people who email me: husbands admit something wrong, like porn use or being tempted to look at other women, and we wives hit the ceiling. We are absolutely devastated, and even if he tries to make it better, we can’t get over it. We’re convinced that our husband is evil, or that he’s a pervert, too.
And then something that could have been dealt with and worked through gets blown up so much that it does end up wrecking trust. So how can we do things differently?
When your husband admits to a sin, especially a sexual one, OF COURSE you will be hurt.
Absolutely. As his wife, you have the privileged position of being the only object of his sexual desire. If he violates that, you will be hurt.
But let me ask you this: In that hurt, can you keep perspective?
Let me tell you about a couple I know in their early 30s. They’re a ton of fun, they’re very open with each other about everything, and they have no secrets. He has struggled with pornography before and during their marriage, but he’s come through it and he’s doing his best to stay faithful.
Nevertheless, his eyes have always wandered. When he sees a beautiful woman, he looks.
But he doesn’t want to. And his wife knows he doesn’t want to. So if they’re out in public and his eyes–or his head–start turning, she touches his arm or his leg and just whispers, “eyes”. And he immediately turns to her and smiles, and, if he’s close enough, he gives her a kiss. And he whispers “I love you.”
Her husband is on the road to recovery with his battle with lust. He’s in an accountability group. He talks about it openly. And his wife is his greatest ally in that.
In those moments when his head turns (and it turns much less frequently now than it used to!), she could say to herself,
he’s never going to get over this, he doesn’t find me attractive, he’s always going to lust over other women,
and she could get angry and grow distance between them.
Or, she could take her current approach. She could say to herself,
I know my husband loves me and that this is just a struggle for him. I know he doesn’t intend to do this and he doesn’t want to hurt me. So I’m going to help him.
This approach, of course, only works because her husband is grateful for it and is open about his struggle. There have been so many heartbreaking stories on this blog from women whose husbands did not want to stop looking at other women or did not think porn was wrong, and that is an entirely different situation.
But I do think that if husbands know that they can admit a temptation or a weakness without their wives becoming irate, then more people could talk about things before they got out of hand.
How Do You Become a Safe Place for Your Husband?
Keep perspective! If you find out something bad about him, like he was watching porn or struggling with lust or even texting another woman, ask yourself, “Is this who my husband wants to be, or is he struggling with something that he does want to fight against?”
If your husband is struggling, then fight with him.
Draw some boundaries so that it won’t happen again (like getting Covenant Eyes on your computers and devices or sharing passwords on your phone or changing his phone number), but then be on his side.
If he’s only upset that he got caught using porn, however, and doesn’t think you have a reason to be upset, then it’s best to bring in a third party or talk to someone else about how to walk through this.
But if he honestly wants to stop, then tell yourself: this sin and struggle is not bigger than our marriage and does not define my husband. And together we can beat it!
Confront your own insecurities.
When I got married I had a LOT of rejection issues. So whenever Keith would get upset about something I would go into “he’s going to leave me!” mode, and that made it harder for him to bring up conversations we really needed to have. You may have issues, too, that make it harder for your husband to bring up some stuff. If you’ve got negative views of sex, for instance, or really feel like “men only want one thing”, then if he confesses something, you’re likely going to react out of your own hurt and not only to what he’s saying.
So fill your head with truth!
You may feel that God created sex just for men and that all men are perverts. But your head may know that God created sex for you, too, and that it’s not wrong if guys want sex. So when those feelings come over you, start reciting back the truth you know. Fight back!
Take time to digest news.
For me, this would be the hardest one. If your husband confesses something that has the potential to blow up your marriage, it’s likely a good idea to not hash it all through right then. Take a few days to process with a girlfriend, to tell yourself truth about your husband and your marriage, and to figure out what you’re going to do.
Those days are important for two reasons: sometimes women are so desperate to save the marriage that they “forgive” too easily–they say, “it’s all right, everything will be all right, we’ll move forward from here.” Often people learn by experiencing the consequences of their actions, and they need to feel the pain of doing something wrong. By taking a few days, you help give perspective that, “no, this wasn’t okay, and we do need to figure out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
But then there’s the opposite problem, when women are so upset that they make it sound like the marriage has ended, when it hasn’t. Take some time to process and pray, and then you can figure out what the next rebuilding steps are (and sometimes rebuilding means drawing some major boundaries!).
Most problems in marriage can be solved if both parties are willing to work at it.
I once had a marriage mentor tell me that if both people are willing to work at a marriage, 95% of problems can be solved, no matter how big those problems are. But if only one person is willing to work at it, then less than half of problems can be solved, no matter how small.
If your husband messed up, it’s easy to say that it’s his fault if the marriage is on the rocks.
But if he’s willing to work at it and willing to change, then the ball is back in your court. Are you going to work with your husband, or are you going to stay upset?
Does that make sense? I know that if a guy isn’t willing to work at it there really is nothing you can do except for pray, but if a guy is willing to work, then let’s not make it worse. That’s all I mean. I hope that’s not a harsh thing to say. Let me know in the comments what you think!