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.
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:
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:
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.