**If you aren’t married, or don’t have a husband struggling with pornography, you may want to skip this one, as it might offend you. Not that it’s graphic, but it’s not a fun topic, and just the thought of it offends some women. In response to the ladies who are struggling in this area, I’m writing at their request. The pain of this sin deeply wounds many women – and it is a real struggle for men with their visual natures and physical drives. It’s also becoming a struggle for wives, although I’m speaking to the majority of wives whose husbands are involved. The Focus website below has resources for wives as well.**
She sat on the couch and cried. I handed her tissues, and used a few myself.
Sometimes, being a good friend means, “helping your friend cry,” as my daughter puts it.
Then she asked me the question I knew was coming eventually.
“What should I do?”
I have been a follower long enough to know that sometimes, God leads us through others, and confirms with His Word. He always confirms with His Word.
The thing we have to be OH SO VERY CAREFUL about, however, is thinking WE know what others should do in their circumstances. We avoid giving advice in our ministry, and instead focus on praying with others to help them hear His voice, and staying out of His way. The Bible is a living document, meaning it can seem to contradict itself, but in actuality, if you have a real relationship with the Creator, it becomes something seriously more than a book of advice and ancient stories.
I had all of that in mind as I responded to her.
I let her know first that I understood, that it must be so hard for her – he had, after all, committed adultery (Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.) And I reminded her that this was her husband’s sin, that it wasn’t her fault.
And I sat and helped her cry.
And I shared with her His Word.
Her choices, if I remembered them, were as follows:
- Option 1: Leave him. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. The “but if she does” part indicates that he knows this will occur sometimes, and the purpose is to reconcile their differences. Be careful – don’t take this lightly…and only follow through if you feel led here, but know that God might ask you to leave your husband for a time. I’ve seen women do this – one recently, weeping because she didn’t want to, but felt led, and so she did. And God used it to get her husband’s attention – know that if you go because YOU are trying to get his attention and you do not feel led, you might be stepping outside of God’s will.
- Option 2: Divorce him. Matthew 19:3-9 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” So yes, God still hates divorce, but He knows some will have hearts that are hard enough to do that. He understands how painful and heart-hardening adultery is. BTW, we have not had a woman yet tell us she felt God leading her to divorce her husband, and that He confirmed it with His Word. Separate, yes, divorce, not yet.
- Option 3: With-hold sex until he stops as a punishment. Um, I don’t have a Biblical reference for this one, but I’ve seen wives do this. I’ve also never seen it be of any help, unless the couple is abstaining for the purpose of prayer and healing. It is clear from the Word that “lack of self-control” is an issue that can be helped by intimacy: 1 Corinthians 7:1-40 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. …
- Option 4: Ignore it and maybe it will go away. Well, maybe. If it’s the first time he’s done it, or if it is something that seldom occurs, this verse may apply here: Proverbs 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance the same day, but one who overlooks an insult is prudent. We’ve seen wives ignore pornography, and have reported that it’s stopped if it was minor and everything else in the home/work/life was functioning healthfully, AND the husband felt respected. Sometimes “use” comes and goes a bit, but if the wife is affirming and encouraging and building him up as a man in every other area, sometimes the usage stops. I like this verse, but in application to the husband here, as we ladies are not sinless, either: John 8:4-11 They said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. …In other words, maybe the “judge not” rule may apply…
- Option 5: Actively choose to engage in conflict by factually, calmly sharing with him how this affects you, because it is a SIN against you. This is what we call the Matthew 18 response, because you are considered, “one flesh,” and sexual immorality is a sin against the body. There are also a few conditions – 1) Matthew 18 is employed when there is sin committed against you, and in this case, there has; but we also often miss the second, 2) have witnesses come with you – which means they need to have seen the behavior. These are not just people you’ve complained to – those are not witnesses. So if your teenager has walked in on your husband and his computer, technically, yes, you could involve him or her (pray over this, first, please, and only consider it if your teen is exceptionally mature and you feel led to involve him or her). But start with just you and your husband, as it would be extremely hard for him to deal with both of you first. Another option would be if your husband knows this is wrong behavior, does it any way, but agrees to talk about it with a counselor. In this case, a male, Christian counselor might be the best choice, as men learn more easily from other men – and unless your husband requests this, don’t make the counselor your father. He’ll be biased, and your husband may be resentful. Matthew 18:15-17 reads: “If your brother sins again you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 5 also comes into play, as you don’t want to wait: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” I have known women who have followed this and it’s positively impacted their marriages. Know, however, that if your approach is judgmental, condescending, and unloving, it may just create more of the same behavior. We recommend only engaging in conflict when you have full emotional control, so talk it with your past or wise Titus woman first, to get control of those emotions! Remember, it’s not about you. J
- Option 6: Accept his struggle as yours as well (thinking like “one flesh”), and walk along-side him if he’s addicted, perhaps encouraging him to join Celebrate Recovery, Gateway Men, *http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com (*update) or start here at Focus On The Family’s website. This may involve discussions that aren’t demeaning that result in the installation of NetNanny, Covenant Eyes, and BeSafe software, as extra helps, as may getting rid of the cable or satellite tv. Because there is a ton of research about how pornography use can easily become an addiction similar to a drug or alcohol one, we recommend thinking of it like that, as opposed to an issue that is rooted in negative feelings toward the wife – which is almost never the case.
- Option 7: Pray. This should be done in combination with ALL of the above. Pornography usage does not have to destroy your marriage, and it can be something God uses to help others overcome their own addiction. We are called to carry each other’s burdens, and sometimes, prayer is the only way to deal with the hurts involved.
- Option 8: Be respectful. Yeah, I know. Oh boy. REALLY hard to do when you feel like he’s not worthy of that respect, unless you are so filled in relationship with God that you can see your husband the way Jesus does… I don’t know about you, but I would be devastated if my husband was unloving when I was fat. Yes, I know gluttony is a sin, but I wanted him to love me anyway, in spite of being overweight – and there’ve been times when it’s been a real struggle for me to be a healthy weight. And yes, I know that pornography is sexual immorality, which is a big deal to God… but so is idolatry, and I’ve certainly spent more time on His throne that I care to admit. Know that ultimately, God is in charge of when your husband overcomes – and while you are not responsible for your husband’s use of pornography, as wives, we can create an environment where the temptation is less. One of the things men say over and over about the attraction of internet porn is that there is a complete lack of condescension – that to the woman staring back at him, he can do no wrong, that she looks at him with approval, he’s so very tempted by her approval. Am I sending that message to my husband?
I know some of the above sounds a little contradictory, but only because it depends on where your husband is in his walk with God, and what the Lord would have you do. There is no formula. I know, bummer, right? I wish I could give you a 1-2-3- step process to walk through that would solve everything, but nothing works that way. This is a tough topic, one that many marriages struggle with for years, even decades. Know there is no quick fix and easy solution for many. 🙁
I know if you are hurting, you are probably disappointed with my answer, but please remember, dear sister, please remember – God can use even THIS to grow His relationship with both of you – and that is worth everything. A dear friend of mine once told me, “My husband’s choice of pornography over me is the reason I have such a vibrant relationship with God – no one else could fully understand how deeply he hurt me, and so I wept in the Father’s arms. He held me when my husband should have. Being on the other side of all of that now, I can tell you that I am thankful.”
Lord, please free the husbands caught in this snare, and God, oh, God, please help us grow our relationship with You, may we seek You deeply in all situations. Help us know what You would have us do, help us respond, help us create, help us be the wives that delight you. Help us be like Christ, Lord, loving those who don’t deserve it – our husbands are those people, as are we…Father, protect our children from this hideous and evil thing called pornography…in Jesus’ name, amen.
The main point is to know what the Bible is saying, grow your relationship with God such that you know, moment to moment, what He wants you to do – even if it goes badly or doesn’t “solve the problem,” you’ll know you are walking in His will, which is the absolute best place to be, regardless of what you are dealing with.
Please feel free to add resources, thoughts, etc., in a respectful way. Dare you to at least pray for those who are struggling, and consider sharing to encourage others.
Thankful to be on the journey with you, praying you aren’t struggling, but love to you if you are facing this – know you are not alone.