Counseling a Wife Whose Husband is Involved in Pornography

Dear Amy:

I’m counseling a woman whose husband is involved in pornography. She is a Christian, her husband is not. She recently discovered he is caught up in pornography. He told her it is all her fault because she is not intimate enough for him. She believes it to be true and that when she changes, he’ll stop. Any suggestions?

Dear Friend:

It’s distressing to be faced with a husband caught up in pornography, and scripture aptly describes the pain of situations such as this.. I’m glad God has put you in the path of this dear lady to encourage and uplift her. You’ll want to be especially quick to offer hope. It’s devastating to learn your spouse is involved in pornography, and it’s hard to hold onto hope in those moments.

Understanding the Depth of the Anguish

Psalm 55 may be especially meaningful to this wife. The author of this psalm is clearly in distress as he pours out his heart. In verse 1, he begins by pleading with God to hear his prayer; he pleads with God not to ignore him but rather to hear and answer. I’m convinced that any sister in Christ who has ever discovered her husband looking at pornography has also pled with God to hear and answer.

I’m sure she can also identify with verses 2-5: “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.” “My heart is in anguish within me.” “Horror has overwhelmed me.” All these emotions accompany the discovery of a spouse caught in pornography. Discovering your husband is involved in pornography rips you open more effectively than any knife ever could.

Not surprisingly, in the next verses we read of the psalmist’s desire to flee, to escape, to find someplace far away from the tempest life has become (verses 6-8). Discovering pornography has tempted many women to run from their marriage, to seek a refuge where the hurt can’t touch them. Verses 12-14 poignantly describe the heartbreak of having a loved one betray his marriage vows. “If an enemy were insulting me I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me; I could hide from him. But it is you, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship.”

We expect and are somewhat prepared for insults from enemies. But rarely do we prepare to be wounded by a spouse. Finding a hiding place when you’re living intimately with a spouse caught up in pornography is next to impossible; the attack occurs in your home and follows you into the bedroom. In such cases, home is not a refuge or hiding place; it’s the place where the attack occurs.

Finding Refuge in God

Refuge and stability in this tempest is found in God. Now is the time for this dear wife to call on Him – and God will hear and come to her aid. Verse 22 of Psalm 55 gives this sweet instruction, “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” The grand finale for the psalmist is his ending declaration, “But as for me, I trust in you.” Trusting in God will be the ballast this wife needs for the difficult days ahead. (A book such as Trusting God is a great resource in this area.)

Addressing the Questions: Is it her fault? Will he be satisfied if she is more intimate?

When we understand the curse of sin, it’s clear why this woman’s husband would believe that his desire for pornography is her fault. Sin causes us to believe that our choices are forced upon us by others. (But just as in the Garden of Eden, God holds each of us accountable for our choices.) This wife needs to understand that unless her husband turns to Christ and is rescued from his enslaving desires, he will probably continue to blame her for his choices.

While she does need to be intimate with her husband at every possible opportunity (Pr. 15:19), she needs to be prepared for the reality that when we give ourselves over to sensuality, it never satisfies; it just produces a continual lust for more (Eph. 4:19). Thus, this wife will more than likely find that increased intimacy does not decrease her husband’s desire for pornography. (The continual lust for more will often include a desire for degrading sexual acts. The wife should not be surprised when this is the case; however, since our sexual lives are to glorify God, there may be acts requested by her husband which she may feel compelled to deny.)

Upon learning that their husbands will never be satisfied, it is often tempting for a wife to ask in despair, “If he’ll never be satisfied, why bother?” Ultimately, the answer to “Why bother?” is “Because I trust in the Lord.” This is the conclusion reached by the author of Psalm 55: “But as for me, I trust in you.” I trust Him because He loved me and rescued me (just as my husband now needs to be rescued). I trust Him because if He would make the ultimate sacrifice of His Son, I know He’s not out to harm me now (by allowing me to have this husband with this problem) (Rom. 8:31). I trust Him because He has promised to work all things (even a husband involved in pornography) together for my good (Rom. 8:28-29). I trust Him because He plans to prosper, not harm, those He loves (Jer. 29:11).

Resources

Other resources which may help sustain this wife are How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie Vernon and Marital Intimacy by Rob Green.

Amy BakerAmy Baker
Amy Baker is the Director of Resources of Faith, an editor, a counselor, and a conference speaker.
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