When a Wife Must Confront Her Husband

by Mike Genung

Recently, a woman posted the following on our blog:

“My husband is a pastor. I was shocked to find porn on his phone last March. When I told him I discovered his porn use, he exploded in anger and blamed me.  I told him he needed to go to someone in our church. When he did, there was no accountability and our leadership never asked him to take any time off. My husband went to counseling and a group, but has not repented. He’s walled off emotionally and blames me for being an unsafe person.  If I share my feelings He tells me what I should do to fix myself or says I shouldn’t feel that way. He still blames me for his sin… he says porn is about comfort and that I don’t comfort him.

I’m struggling with feelings of neglect from my husband, my church and God. I began seeing a counselor but she keeps trying to get me to see my codependency. It left me confused and self-doubting.

It’s been a year of waiting, forgiving, telling my husband my needs, and confronting him. He still has the same attitudes toward me and remains emotionally disengaged. Last night it hit me that we have made no progress. I feel completely alone. I don’t want to minister with him anymore. I’m struggling to keep my faith in God.”

We get emails like this all the time. A wife discovers her husband’s porn problem for the first time after 10, 20, or 30 years or more of marriage. Husband explodes. Wife asks husband to get help. Husband gets defensive, angry, and tells wife he doesn’t need help.

Nothing changes.

Time progresses and the cycle repeats. Husband keeps using porn, or engaging in other forms of sexual sin. Wife asks him to get help; he says he can do it on his own. Maybe he goes to a few groups to get her off his back, but he doesn’t really want to give up the sin.

And nothing changes.

What should a wife do in this situation?

First, she needs to understand what has happened to her husband and who she’s dealing with. The outside world sees her husband like this:

Holy Joe

We’ll call him Holy Joe. Holy Joe reads his Bible, prays, and knows all the right verses. He goes to church, and is involved in ministry. No one outside of their home would suspect that Holy Joe, who looks and acts so… spiritual… and humble… could be a porn or sex addict.

But what no one understands, including Holy Joe, is what has happened to his heart.

On the inside, he looks like this:

gollum2

As the ring warped Gollum, Lust has twisted Holy Joe’s entire character; he lies, hides, and deceives. His heart is hard. He’s sex and self-obsessed. Should anyone try to take away Holy Joe’s “precious,” his secret porn habit, he lashes out at them in anger, just like the pastor who blamed his wife at the beginning of this article. Since Holy Joe’s wife is the only one who knows about his precious, she experiences the full force of who he really is.

Not every man is in this place. It takes years for lust to completely harden a man’s heart and twist his character into complete sex and self-obsession. There are husbands, who, after their wife asks them to get help, they jump right in and go to support groups, get into counseling, cut off the stumbling blocks of temptation, and work on their root heart issues. This article isn’t about those men.

This is for the wives who have to confront their Gollumized, twisted, Holy Joe husbands. The men who respond in anger and deflect, blame, and justify. The ones who aren’t willing to give up porn.

Wives, think back to when you were dating. Would you have considered marrying your husband if he told you he intended to masturbate to porn after you got married? You would have been gone seconds after the words fell out of his mouth. No woman would stand for being treated like that. He might as well have told you he was going to have a mistress in the spare bedroom. Or in the family computer room.

The first step is to give your husband an ultimatum: “It’s me or sexual sin; you can’t have both. Choose one.” Choosing you means he goes all out to break free from lust. He takes responsibility and stops blaming you for his sin. He goes to support groups on a weekly basis, for at least a year, and takes every action step necessary to break free. If he’s not willing to do this he’s not choosing you. His words and promises are worthless. You’ve probably had him break a lot of promises anyway. The only concrete proof of his intent to turn away from lust is consistent action steps taken over an extended period of time.

Before you confront your husband, you will need to be prepared with what you will do if he goes into blaming and rage mode. Any of this should trigger swift, firm consequences. In most cases, if your husband isn’t willing to get help, separation should be considered. While this sounds harsh, remember, your husband cannot have you and lust. If you allow him to continue in Gollum-mode unabated, you’re sending him the message that he can have you and sexual sin.

Never allow yourself to compromise the fact that you are God’s daughter, and the most important person in your husband’s life. Never accept the blaming or excuses. If his heart softens and he repents, show him grace and mercy. If his heart hardens and he snarls at you like Gollum, show him the door.

There are some wives who are reading this, and everything I’ve written fits. You know you need to draw a hard line in the sand with your husband, but you’ve held back. The longer you wait, the deeper he’ll fall into the pit of darkness. It may be that the day you confront him is when he finally realizes he must change.

13 responses to “When a Wife Must Confront Her Husband”

  1. I discovered my husbands pornography use and masturbation about 6 years into our marriage. I had three small children. We are coming up on 23 years this summer. We went through the horror and anger on my part and his being sorry. Things got swept under the carpet until my next discovery. This has continued throughout our marriage. In January, 2015, I told him that I wasn’t going to go through this anymore and that he needed to get treatment. Since that time I have continued to find his pictures, magazines, etc. In November, 2015 he told me had a slip and acted out. That was the first time he ever told me of a slip on his own. I have not been intimate with him since Janaury, 2015 as I do not trust him and don’t want to be hurt again. In addition to secretly viewing porn and masturbating, he has also masturbated when I have been readily available, like doing it in the bed next to me while I’m sleeping and waking me up. He has been seeing a certified sex addiction therapist, however, he will not share with me his sessions. I don’t think he has been honest with the therapist that he continuing to have self sex. I do not believe that he has not been masturbating this whole time. At one point he said he thinks there is nothing wrong with it and he wasn’t going to apologize for it. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on an addict who says he is not acting out by looking at pornography but continues to masturbate. It would seem to me that if he was truly working on recovering from this addiction, self sex would be a big no-no.

    • If he’s still masturbating then he’s still using sex for the wrong reason.
      He’s still having sex with a person other than his wife… it should only be reserved for you.
      On another note, if he’s not contacting an accountability partner on a daily basis then he probably won’t see lasting freedom

    • Nancy, I am new on here. I read what you wrote, and felt like you were telling my story, the years married, the waking up in on a daily basis in the middle of the night…
      I am by nature a very positive person, and it’s hard for me to see bad in people. Did you struggle with justifying or thinking you were over reacting? I am struggling wether to confront again, trust God to totally reveal it, or if there’s things I need to do to change, to be more like Christ… Where are you in this process. I am truly sorry for the hurt you have experienced.

  2. I found out in January that my husband of ten years has been addicted to pornography our entire marriage. I was shocked as we had made many efforts to guard our marriage. They were all a front. I caught and confronted him and after some lying he broke and revealed his issues. The next day he was in a mens group for SA. Which has attended weekly and claims its really helping him.He devoured the book he was given on the issue and kept saying that God had given him the fresh start he had been praying for he just wasn’t strong enough to do it on his own. I fully supported his recovery. I was aware that this was an addicton and all i asked for was that he would seek the Lord and be honest with me in the good and bad times. He gave up his phone on his own ( his device of choice) Around month three I started feeling like things were off and asked him if he was being honest. He said he was doing great. I began to question my faith and fall into a depression because what i had given to God these feelings were causing me to pick back up. Just a couple weeks ago I felt like I hit a place of true healing with the help of the Lord.We are just at month five and after many more occassions of questioning things i had noticed he finally stopped lying, totally broke, and admitted he has been acting out for two months this time using his work computer and putting our livelihood at risk. I told him before that if he acted out again without coming clean on his own we were done. Yet i found myself conforting him in his pain. He is saying all the same right things, but i have heard them all before. Its not so much the acting out though that destroys me, but the dishonesty and breaking of trust after seeing the pain i went through before that makes me question how to move forward. I know he loves me and I him but i have five children to think of. I can’t let this be in their future i want to break this generational sin now. In your opinion what should my next step be.

    • First I want to validate you for how you’ve handled this. Often the wives sense what their husband is doing before he confesses.
      I would need to know more before commenting on your next step. Have you and your husband set a day when he can be accountable to you with how he’s doing? I usually recommend once every 1-2 weeks. How often is he calling an accountability partner? Until he has at least 6 months of abstinence, once phone call or contact a day would be best. What is he doing to resolve the heart issues that drive lust? Is he just white knuckling it, which never works long term, or is he learning to resist temptation in the power of God? How often is he going to meetings? What kind of help are you getting? I would strongly encourage you to get plugged into our wives support groups if you haven’t already.

  3. What a bold warrior for Christ you are Mike. Thanks for your refreshing honesty. There are those that truly do repent and get accountable. Others will not and too many spouses try to hold it together for the family while the situation gets worse. It is a generational sin pattern and when spouses can’t unite under Christ to defeat it then the enemy wins.

    • Hey, thanks Mona. Appreciate the feedback. I’ve been blessed to see those who repent, as well as be grieved at those who lose everything.

  4. I’ve been married for 6 years & noticed an unusual partiality my husband has for his youngest daughter who was about 19 when we married. He treated her like the “other woman” but I blowed it off as me being over sensitive. About 4 years into our marriage he began to have erectile problems & spent a lot of time watching late night tv. I woke up late & he had left his phone n the bathroom & that’s how I discovered the porn. I kicked him out for a week. He apologized repeatedly & gave me his phone to make me feel secure. That’s when I found my friends 18 year old daughters pics saved n his phone. He had saved them off FB & he saved one then went back to the girls pic 2 weeks later & saved 2 more. This disturbed me more than the porn. This has been 2 years & I still see problems & inconsistency n a lot of things with him. God showed me the gollum character & it reminded me of him so much. I done a little research about it & came up with spirit of mimic. I see what could be a mean man but he has quite a few people that he know he would have to answer to. I got sick & had taken cough med that makes me extremely drowsy & I caught him on several occasions rubbing himself on my feet masturbating thinking I didn’t know he was doing it. I don’t know how much more I can deal with.

  5. I had a gut indication of my husband’s sexual sin briefly before we married and actually blew it off.
    After 3 months of marriage I knew what it was but had no proof. Finally small discoverys came and each time I brought up to my husband thid drvedtsyuon my husband twistedbit up blew up with anger and had me totally convenienced that it was my fault and I was mentally ill. The deception, the lack of emotional intimacy and then lack of sexual intimacy…… Finally I began counseling then I quit and for years barly kept myself above water if it had not been for God I would not have made it ….. almost went under and then I confronted him one last time and he admitted it. We have been married for 15 years and admitting his sex addiction came just 4 months ago. I began counseling for a second time and have stuck with it. I am doing everything she says to do. I also sought out a pastors wife who specializes in helping wives of sex addicted husband’s. My husband said he would get professional help ….. I gave him a 3 month time frame and it’s been 2 months and he has not done anything to get help. He has continued to deceive me. I pray and read Gods word daily and am looking to broaden my support group The emotional abuse / scarcasim / anger from him has reached its peak and I am willing to go to any lengths to get the recovery I need
    I love my husband however I am not willing to continue to live with active sex addiction anymore

  6. My pastor/husband’s addiction began in the early years of our ‘marriage’. I wasn’t aware till 20 yrs later when I was looking for family photos on his phone …. it broke my heart.
    My father was also a minister spoking highly of women and was moral to the core, so to realise the man I married was looking elsewhere for gratification, it hurt deeply. But then it all made sense, the withdrawal of intimacy, lack of finding me attractive, not wanting sex etc for the last 20 years. I had put it down to the pressures of ministry, but no, it was porn.

    When I chose to approach him, he blamed me for not giving him enough sex and it wasn’t a big issue which was totally out of character for his easy going, jovial personality.
    At the same time, we were going through difficulties with our 16 yr old, being pressured by a boy she liked at school doing things that were against her christian convictions. During this time our other child was spiralling downhill with his Autism and learning disorders which we were already struggling with. Life was and still is desperately lonely as I battle to stay afloat with our 4 children.

    Weeks later, after he realised he was ‘discovered’, he said he’d give it up like he has before. He says it’s been an off and on issue and it’s easy to give up. Everything I read says it’s not!
    What is destroying me is not just the sin but his lies to me, his wife and best friend. I don’t know how to trust him. I feel like I’m living with a stranger?
    It’s been a year since that conversation and he’s done nothing to prove he’s changed – his phone is back in the bedroom and he goes to bed ‘early’ while I settle the kids. Despite setting boundaries for the family about the phones being locked away, he ‘forgets’ and gets lazy.
    I noticed familiar behaviours returning and so I reasked him about his addiction again ensuring I approached this with prayer and a gentle tone, but he exploded and become so angry that I was sure he’d hit me. This was so out of character for him.
    I feel like I’m loosing grip as he shouted how dare I doubt him and that he gave that up and I’m now accusing him. Reality is I just gently asked.
    How do I do this? While I’m breaking inside, I’m trying to understand his journey and I can’t speak out as I don’t want the kids loosing respect for their beloved dad. To move out is impossible with a special needs child and 3 other young children – the workload is enormous with no support from our elderly families. How do I move forward while living in this current situation? What practical helps are there for men to heal with this sin?

  7. Lisa,
    I could have wrote this myself as i feel lik im in such a similar situation. My husband of 21 years has used porn off and on for our entire marriage but i didnt find out until 6 years ago. I was so devestated and broken. I felt like i was married to a completely different man. I didnt know this person. After dealing with this for 6 years im done. He is going to have to leave. I confronted him a week ago and gave him 2 weeks to see some real change or we are going to separate and so far he has been mean and rude more than ever.. this is not surprising even though i had myself covinced that he adores me and the kids. Satan has a hold on him and Now i am really seeing that this is what its going to take to get him to chose me or his porn. I cant live like this any more. The kids is what has kept me from taking this step. I too have a 13 yr old with a lot of special needs. And the prospect of having to handle everything on my own is overwhelming but God is my strength and he will get me thru this.

  8. I am very fearful and anxiety redden living with my husband. ( He has not ever once even come anywhere near close to hurting me physically ) it’s the continued emotional trauma and emotional abuse that is the issue. SA has made him an unsafe person for me. This traumatizes me enough. My husbsnd personality disturbs me. It does not seem normal towards me. He tears my flesh with scarcasm and mocks me each time I have ever come to him with an issue concerning our marraige and he does not talk to me. We used to go do things together except I got tired of always asking him to ask me and also I got tired of making the plans. Now he icriticizes me in front of others. I used to be so full of joy and happiness and heart and he has literally sucked it out like a vampire . My question is does SA do this ? If he chooses recovery over SA and actually works a program will these things go away? OR is SA a result of his personality? I have always believed that addiction is just the tip of what other issues are really going on.

  9. Hi
    My 5 cent’s on the subject, the addict is defending his drug of choice, porn. He will do close to anything to keep the dopamine supply safe. Inform yourself, and act accordingly. Your brain on porn website is the first step, the rest have been a child’s game for me. As a partner I get you’re pain, it took me some time and lots of reading, but now I am no longer letting him play his dopamine game on my discomforts anymore. Google addiction behavior and see have their crazy making, gas lightening is only to keep us from demanding them to grow up and be accountable for their behaviour.
    Love to you all.

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