It is a lazy Sunday afternoon. The football game is on TV, the snacks are on the coffee table, and my husband and our 13-year-old daughter are lounging in chairs during a commercial break. The game comes back on, or rather the cheerleaders do….the camera focuses on a barely dressed blonde bombshell. My daughter turns to ask her dad a question about the score, but his eyes are glued to the TV.
“Dad, I just asked you who was winning! Did you hear me?”
“Huh, what’s that? I’m sorry, honey… tell me again?”
“Never mind. Dad. Let’s just watch the game.”
Late one night a few months later, the sound of the television in the living room wakes me up. I think to myself, “he must not be able to sleep… he’s probably worried about work. I’ll go ask if he wants to talk or pray.” I walk into the living room and see my husband sitting on the floor, staring at scrambled images on the television screen. Just as I’m about to ask him what he’s watching, it hits me; he’s staring at the scrambled images of naked women on the Playboy channel – in our living room!
This can’t be happening… I stand there, frozen in shock and horror, unable to move. My husband doesn’t know I’m standing 10 feet behind him. I can’t wish the scene in front of me away, and I hear myself say, “What are you doing!?” Startled, he jumps up and looks at me angrily, as if I were an intruder in his fantasy world… then his expression quickly changes to one of guilt, and he mumbles “uhhh, I was channel surfing and accidentally ran into the Playboy channel.”
At the time, I hadn’t heard of “sex addiction” and didn’t know that many Christian men were struggling with porn; no one at church talked about it. I asked some of my Christian friends if they thought I should be concerned, and they didn’t see a reason for concern, saying they thought it was just an isolated incident. I had no reason not to believe them or my husband, after all, he went to church every week, had taught Sunday school for years, and read his bible and prayed often.
My husband kept his sexual addiction hidden for the first 16 years of our marriage, but as time went on his demeanor changed and we knew something was seriously wrong. Many nights at the dinner table he would just stare off into space, often without speaking; he was usually too tired, depressed, or withdrawn to talk to anyone.
My husband may have covered up his addiction, but he couldn’t hide what it was doing to him – and us. One night our then 16-year-old daughter came to me, crying, and said “Mom, something’s really wrong with Dad; he doesn’t talk to me like other dads talk to their kids. If he asks me how my day was, he doesn’t listen to my answer. When we go to church, it’s like he’s sitting alone in a room full of people. He can’t look anyone in the face. My friends ask me why he’s like this and they don’t want to come to our house. If this is as good as my life gets, I don’t want to live… and have you noticed that Dad can’t take his eyes off the cheerleaders on TV, or other women at church??”
We wives have a very hard time facing this issue; no woman wants her husband to be into this stuff. It’s painful, and it’s hard to find other women to talk to who will open up about it. When my daughter dropped into a suicidal depression I put it all together and confronted my husband with his behavior. He agreed to get into counseling for himself, and we went to marital counseling.
But the damage was done to my daughter, and she started looking for the love and attention she craved from her father from the wrong kind of men. When she was 18 she had her first sexual experience – as the victim of date rape. This was just the beginning of her search for love from selfish men who would use her for their pleasure. One night a year later my daughter fell at my feet in tears as she revealed she’d turned to prostitution. My heart ruptured in grief and sorrow as I watched my beautiful daughter, sobbing on the floor … I tried to pick her up and hold her in my arms, but she pushed me away. I wondered if she felt so stained and dirty that she believed no one could love her now, not even her own mother.
When I told my husband of the tragic turn our daughter’s life had taken, he was silent; he wouldn’t even look at me. His response was to withdraw even deeper into isolation. This went on for weeks until I couldn’t take it any longer, and I cornered him in the dining room:
“Are you still using pornography and masturbating?!”
He wouldn’t look at me or say a word. After 22 years of marriage, I knew.
I was seething in anger… “Your silence is deafening”.
“I don’t want to lie to you again, but I can’t tell you the truth,” he responded.
In an instant I flipped over the solid oak table in our dining room; my husband backed into a corner behind the table and stood there, shaking and sweating.
After 22 years of betrayal, I’d snapped and was ready to kill this man who worshiped sex instead of God. Instead, I called a girlfriend and asked her to drive me to the mental hospital. It was there, surrounded by cinderblock walls and the smell of disinfectant, when I realized it was time to let go of my husband and get a divorce. I had to seek a new life, alone.
I have lost so much because of sexual lust and pride. If you’re struggling with sex addiction, please don’t believe the lie that your lust isn’t hurting anyone else. Please don’t think you can beat this thing yourself. Please don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with others, to tell the whole truth to someone who can help because he has been there.
My husband attended a Strength in Numbers group three times. I remember the group leader calling one Saturday morning to ask him how he was doing; after my husband got off the phone he said to me, “that guy knows the right questions to ask… I hate answering those questions.” My husband never went back to the group, and he is now my ex-husband. Please, before you lose your family, get help today.
I agreed to share my story because we Christians have to talk about this stuff. I heard a Focus on the Family broadcast that addressed the issue a while back, and I cannot completely describe in words how much it meant to me; I realized I was not alone and that God cared.
Another wife’s story was published in our March 2006 Newsletter.