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When She Says, “My Husband Has Been Looking at Porn”

As women we know how to encourage each other, to admonish one another when we see sin in each other’s lives. But what happens when a woman comes to you broken because of her husband’s sexual sin? When she is broken because another person has sinned against her deeply, in a very intimate and personal way?

I won’t ever forget the first time this happened to me. Years ago, the doorbell rang at 7:30 in the morning. I opened the door and was greeted by a friend who immediately fell into my arms sobbing. Her husband had just confessed to being addicted to pornography. My mind raced and frantic prayers were sent to God asking for wisdom as I scrambled for words to help and comfort her. I felt so inadequate and lost. I was mad at her husband. My heart was breaking for his wife. And I had no idea what to say.

Pastor’s wives, women’s ministry workers, and lay women in the church from all over have had to navigate this reality, often with little idea of what to say to these broken women. Each situation is so unique and nuanced that it often feels impossible and overwhelming.This sin, when acted out in marriage, cuts to the core of the earthly representation of Christ’s relationship to the church. It is a betrayal of the deepest kind.

There is no chapter and verse that specifically tells us what to say in this situation. However God, in his wisdom, gives us Biblical principles and truths that can be applied and give you a starting framework for conversations. Here are four starting places for you to go when a woman confesses to you that her husband is addicted to pornography.

It Isn’t Your Fault

The first thing women need to hear is that her husband’s pornography addiction isn’t her fault. I am appalled how often in Christian circles women are blamed for their husband’s sexual sin. “If you would sleep with him more, or be more willing in bed he wouldn’t sin” seems to be the common refrain. Even worse, a wrong reading of 1 Corinthians 7:5 (which warns “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”) may be hauled out as a justification for the husband’s sin.

Do not get me wrong. This verse clearly instructs the married couple to have regular sexual relations. However, lack of relations does not then allow the husband (or wife for that matter) to commit sin. The verse says to “come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” The inevitable outcome of a lack of regular sex between husband and wife is the possibility of temptation to sin. Sin is not an unavoidable act as a result of a lack of sexual relations.

God clearly commands us, within the bounds of marriage, to have regular sexual relations. It is possible that neglecting to do so may be a sin the wife needs to address in her life. If she loves her husband, she should want to help him to avoid temptation. And there is a reason God requires us to renew our marriage covenant through the physical relationship. Regardless, the husband choosing to sin, even if he is tempted, is his fault alone. There is no justification for sin. It is not her fault.

It Isn’t Necessarily the End of Your Marriage

The second thing women need to hear is that this is not necessarily the end of her marriage. God, in his mercy, allowed this situation to come to light. She is entering a hard season. One that will hurt a lot. Her husband is living a life that is contrary to God’s will and plan. The spiritual stress that he is under, and that he has placed his family under is not to be taken lightly. However, sin that is brought to light is sin that can be fought and put to death. There is the possibility of redemption, forgiveness on the other side of this. Christ makes broken hearts whole and redeems the unredeemable. A changing of heart, forgiveness and mercy can make her marriage whole again. But…

You Need Help

…this is no small matter. The spiritual attacks that happens when a person is engaging in persistent, consistent sin is devastating. She must be encouraged to seek help from her pastors. She will need help working through this betrayal. He will need help to overcome this sin. Their marriage will need help in order to thrive. Many men and women feel too much shame to confess this sin to their church leaders. If her husband refuses to speak to the pastors, and continues persisting in the sinful lifestyle, she must seek help on her own. So many women don’t understand the widespread devastation this sin can cause in their families. It does not only affect the husband and wife, but also affects the spiritual health of the children and even her church family. She needs to be encouraged to seek help and prayer from her spiritual leaders.

Live in a Christ-like Manner

The final thing a woman must be encouraged in is to react in a Christ-like manner even in this betrayal.  Her husband may claim to be her brother in Christ, but is living in a manner which is inconsistent with true conversion. He is living in a manner  which could potentially mean, without a spiritual transformation, he may be separated from God for all eternity. Consistent, persistent, unrepentant sin, shows a heart that has not been washed clean by Jesus blood. 1 Peter 3 talks about the importance of a woman’s conduct when a husband does not obey the word. The wife is responsible, even in this betrayal, for living in a Christ like manner before her husband. To show love and concern for his soul. To maintain the hallmarks of the fruit of the spirit, love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5 22-13). There will be a season of mourning and a time of righteous anger. But she must not allow her behaviour towards her husband to become sinful in response to his sin. She needs to be encouraged to live in a Christ-like manner before him.

Your role in all this is to be a prayer warrior, encourager, confidant. You cannot fix him or her, so your responsibility, and privilege, is to offer support. On the good days you rejoice with her in what God has done, remind her to store up his promises in her heart. On the bad days you give her scripture to encourage her, you pray with her, you remind her that trials such as this produce steadfastness and growth in sanctification so that one day we might be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Christ’s sacrifice gives us perfect hope.

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