Man gets hooked on porn in his teens. After years of binging on it, he gets married, without telling his wife. He thinks marital sex will resolve his lust problem, but instead it makes it worse. Not long after their wedding day, he’s into porn again.
He dare not tell his wife about his secret, so hiding, lying, and deceit become his way of life. He neither sees nor understands the depths to which the lies are corrupting his character. Deception creeps into every part of his life; work, family and friends.
Five, ten, or 20 years pass. It’s not uncommon to hear of a man who kept his porn problem a secret from his wife for decades. One day, after years of watching her husband’s character and mood degenerate, it happens. His wife stumbles onto his secret world, and their marriage fractures. She’s horrified, confused, and enraged that the “good Christian guy” she married isn’t who she thought he was. Did she ever know him at all?
Lying is always packaged with sexual sin. Most men are oblivious to the fact that deceit can be as damaging to their marriage as sexual sin. Some wives say they were just as hurt and angry that their husband lied to them for years as what they did. How can this be? Trust is the cornerstone of a relationship. Once trust is destroyed, the relationship goes with it. If your wife can’t trust you to care for her, be faithful, reliable, or honest, the relationship crumbles. Security and safety is a big deal to women; they won’t give themselves to a man they can’t trust.
Your first priority to heal your marriage is to stop the sexual sin; the second is to eliminate all lying, hiding, and blame-shifting.
In practical terms this means:
- If your wife asks you a question such as “when is the last time you looked at porn?”, shoot straight with her. Getting angry because you screwed up and she asked you a question that threatens your pride is a bad move. No deflection, justification, or blaming allowed.
- Setting up a time to be accountable with her on a consistent basis. I recommend that couples with a husband who hasn’t established at least one year of consecutive sexual purity meet once every two to four weeks for the purpose of accountability. This gives the husband powerful incentive to do whatever it takes to break free from lust; a guy isn’t going to look his wife in the eye and repeatedly hurt her (or have her want to spill his blood) for long without realizing that every time he acts out there are serious consequences. It also shows the wife that her husband is serious about rebuilding their marriage.
Lust sedates a man spiritually; there’s a disconnect when it comes to consequences. “It’s just pictures… I’m just acting out once every two or three months… Hey, I’m going to a group…” For the married man, every act of sexual sin is adultery against his wife and God. I’ve talked to a lot of guys over the years who have no idea what they’ve done to themselves and are blind to how they’ve wounded their spouse.
The only way to break through the fog is to make continuous, rigorous honesty a way of life… starting with your wife.
While lying feeds and shelters lust, honesty disrupts it. Consistently bringing the truth to the light opens doors to restoration and healing. It also begins the process of rebuilding trust in the marriage, one honest response at a time.
Honesty with our weaknesses requires humility and courage; you will be driving a stake through your pride, and it doesn’t go down easily. The good news is that God promises grace to the humble; living with a clear conscience is a freeing and fantastic way to live, compared to the misery that comes with being weighed down with secret sin.
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Psalms 32:1-4
So there’s one of two ways this could end up.
- You make the choice to come clean with your wife, commit to rigorous honesty and integrity from this moment forward, and schedule accountability times with her. You will still hurt her by your confession, and she will be angry and shocked, but the two of you will be able to start out on the road to healing. Hint: when she pours out her pain and anger, listen. Defending yourself, blaming, or making excuses will blow up in your face and show her you still don’t get it and are in self-absorption mode. Focus on making her feel heard. Don’t try to fix her.
- Or, you can take the hard road. You can wait for God to orchestrate events in His timing, to where one day your wife discovers your secret world on her own. You can allow her to be traumatized in a much harsher way than the first method would have been. Instead of taking the time to pray for God’s grace before confessing on your own, you’ll risk that you’ll respond to her discovery from your wicked flesh instead of the gentle power of the Holy Spirit, increasing the chances that you’ll rage, blame, criticize, deflect, or lie. You’ll risk tearing her wound open more viciously than it should have been if you would have confessed to her on your own.
Lying, raging, and deflecting, will show your wife she can’t trust you; instead of setting out on the road to healing with her, you’ll set yourself against her. You won’t have a shot at rebuilding trust or restoring your marriage.
I don’t want to give you the idea that taking the first road will be easy. By God’s grace I came to my wife and told her that I’d been unfaithful to her, but it still was one of the worst days of my life when I saw how deeply I’d wounded her. We had to endure a long and painful recovery. There were many times when she’d burst into tears at a moment’s notice because of what I’d done to her. But, honesty put us on the road to recovery much quicker than it would have if I’d have kept my sin hidden. Without upfront disclosure, I would have continued to binge on porn, risk that I would have been unfaithful again, and I would have continued to carry the draining load of my sin. I would have accumulated more pain that my wife would have had to deal with at a later time, or worse, I might have done so much damage that she might have wanted out.
Honesty is the only entrance to the road to recovery and healing.