Adultery, Porn, and Sexual Sin: Healing Your Broken Marriage

By Mike Genung

Christian answers to healing a marriage that been’s shattered by adultery (yes, that includes porn)

Picture taking a 9” stiletto knife, and then plunging into your wife’s back, all the way to the hilt. Then as she screams in pain and horror at the recognition that you, her best friend have stabbed her, you say “I’m sorry. Can you please get over this quickly?”

healing-marriage-adultery-porn Adultery cuts into the fragile and vulnerable places of the heart causing indescribable pain and trauma. It annihilates trust, destroys self esteem and severs the bonds of love with the cold steel blade of betrayal. It is only a loved one, who was trusted with the deepest joys, fears, hopes and dreams that can hurt another so deeply. Porn with masturbation, by the way, is adultery, and it can hurt our spouses just as deeply.

In 1991, 2 years after I married my wife, I had sex with a prostitute in a hotel room while on a business trip. Overwhelmed by guilt and knowing our marriage covenant was broken I told Michelle what I’d done a few days later. I’ll never forget her reaction. She fell apart crying with deep, heart rending sobs, repeating my name “Oh Mike, Mike, Mike….” When I heard the pain pouring out of my wife I realized I’d hurt her deeply and inflicted an enormous amount of damage to our marriage. I was terrified that she might leave me.

In the following weeks our marriage teetered on the brink of disaster. Michelle would be ok one moment, and then something would trigger in her and she’d either start crying or go off on a burst of anger. Our married life became a volatile emotional roller coaster that I couldn’t fix, and in fact my presence made it worse; all Michelle had to do was look at me to be tortured with the reminder of what I’d done. I couldn’t comfort her because I was the one who’d hurt her, and when I touched her physically, even if it was just holding hands, it was as if I was rubbing salt in her wounds.

At a loss for what to do I sought the advice of another Christian brother. John had committed adultery on his wife several years earlier, and his marriage had made it. When I asked John how long it took his wife to heal from his betrayal, John’s response was short and to the point: “years.”

My mouth dropped. “Years ???” I said in disbelief. “Years ??? I thought surely you were going to say a few weeks or maybe even months… but… years??!!

“Yes, years” John repeated firmly. “The old marriage you had is dead and you have to build a new one. This is going to take a lot of time and effort on your part; you’ve got to kill her with kindness and win her all over again.”

Today I know that John was right. It took two years before my wife was able to feel completely at ease when I traveled again. My all out efforts to break free from lust were critical; if I’d have continued to slip with porn or committed adultery again then she would have had no reason for hope, and our marriage would have been over.

To rebuild a broken marriage takes solid commitment in the midst of what at times can be a red hot boiling pot of emotional turmoil, from both partners. For the marriage to find healing, the wife, when she’s ready, (not when she’s been manipulated, guilted, or cajoled into it), must come to the place of forgiveness. The husband must build a new foundation of trust and be willing to walk with his wife as she heals. He will have to choose between the marriage and his pride, meaning he has to be willing to allow her the complete freedom to express her rage and hurt without defending what is his indefensible position. In other words, the husband has to die so the wife and their marriage can live. For this article I’m taking the approach that the husband is the betrayer, but the reverse happens as well. The principles are the same either way.

First, we’ll address the one who has committed adultery

The big question after adultery has been committed is “do I tell my wife what I’ve done?”

Both answers to this question are fraught with problems. Hiding adultery doesn’t change the fact that the marriage covenant has been shattered, and the husband who has betrayed his spouse will be haunted by the truth as long as he keeps it a secret. On the other hand, telling the spouse is a journey into the unknown; no one can predict how their wife will respond when betrayal is revealed. She could immediately file for separation or divorce, or she might try to work it out. If she agrees to stick it out the couple will be in for months of emotional strife and pain. There’s no easy way out.

After I’d committed adultery and was pondering whether to tell Michelle I asked John whether I should tell her or not. I knew John and his wife had gone through a rough time keeping their marriage together so I was hoping he’d say “ there’s no way I’d tell her again”, as I didn’t want to tell Michelle what I’d done. John’s response rang in my ears: “you have to tell her or there will never be true intimacy in your marriage again, because the person you committed adultery with will always be between you and your wife.”

Before I told Michelle of my betrayal, when we talked on the phone and she would cheerily tell me how much she loved me, the images of what I’d done tormented me. My wife was loving and trusting a liar, me, and I had a hard time accepting her love after knowing what I’d done to her. It would be like the president of a bank giving me money to live on after I’d robbed his bank. I owed Michelle a tremendous debt and needed to make my crime right; to continue accepting her love felt too much like stealing. There was also the issue where I’d physically soiled our marriage after having had sex with the prostitute; I didn’t know whether I’d picked up an STD and if Michelle got it… shudder. For me to withhold the truth would be like keeping the prostitute in our marriage bed.

There can be no doubt that the cost for telling the betrayed spouse is extremely high. My biggest hurdle in telling Michelle was the fear of losing her, in addition to knowing she would he deeply hurt – and mad.

My opinion is that the large majority of those who have committed adultery (I’m talking 95% here) should reveal the truth to their spouse so the marriage can be healed.

The times when adultery shouldn’t be revealed, I believe, are extremely rare. Some examples might be if a wife has gone through a stressful time, perhaps with a loss of a parent, or if they were dealing with some sort of trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or rape. To tell her when she was broken already would border on abuse. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the spouse should never be told, but that telling her at the present time may not be wise.

Before your wife is told you should have the men in your support group (you are in a support group by now, right?) pray for the Lord’s hand on your marriage. Spend a few days asking the Lord to heal your wife and lay the outcome at His feet. God’s involvement in what will be a bloody process at best is critical.

Once she knows the situation:

Now we turn to the spouse whose been betrayed

Although we’ve focused on recovering from the physical act of adultery, those marriages that are affected by a husband’s porn addiction often have the same struggles. Masturbation with porn is adultery. The pain and rejection women experience from their husband’s porn addiction is just as real and can go just as deep as if he had committed the physical act.

In the rebuilding process a new, truer marriage is often built to replace the old one, which was often marked by emotional imbalances. When a marriage is torn apart and built up again from the ground up, the exposure of faults and weaknesses that were hidden before can foster deeper communication that didn’t exist before, binding the couple together in new and wonderful ways.

There is hope; as the Lord has been setting men free from sins of all kinds since the beginning of time, so has He brought many marriages back from the dead. I’ve been privileged to see some of His work, both in my marriage and in the marriage of others. I can tell you from experience that a couple who have made it through adultery can have a stronger marriage than those who’ve never been tested by the fires of betrayal.