Pornography is a sexual sin in a class of its own. Its arrow is aimed at one of a woman’s deepest fears—that her husband’s heart is not faithful. It strikes one of her deepest insecurities—that, somehow, those images in magazines and on TV really are what her husband desires. And it leaves a mortal wound in her hope—that, no matter what she does, she can never look like those perfect women. There is a raw wound that comes with discovering this kind of sin in the man you love.
But the freshness of the wound will fade. And turning to the Lord will provide renewed determination to fight for your marriage and your husband. There are several concrete steps you can take in the battle against the evil of pornography.
How Does the Process of Change Begin?
Change always begins with self-evaluation.
What? you may ask. He’s the one who’s messed up! I’ve been faithful! Yet Jesus asked us to look at ourselves first before we ever attempt to correct someone else (Matthew 7:3–5). So make a few hours to be alone. Take your Bible; take your journal (if you have one). Reflect on your heart and attitudes. Confess anything to the Lord that He shows you. Then straighten out any differences you may have in other areas with your husband.
This may be quite difficult, especially when your husband is sinning so blatantly. But if you want the Lord to bless your efforts at restoring your marriage, you must not begin with a self-righteous heart but with a humble one. Then God’s power will shine through, just as James promised: “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).
Confront with Love
You cannot close your eyes to the fact that your husband has a problem. While you do not have the power to change your husband, you can certainly refuse to help him sin! When wives pretend that nothing is amiss, they help their husbands sin. It is important to let your husband know that you know he has a problem. The charade that all is well in your marriage must end. There is a serious wound, and it must be dressed.
Seek Outside Help
Refuse to hide this problem from others. Talk to several people you trust so that others know the truth. Ask trusted friends to pray for you, but also seek out someone who can offer you and your husband wise counsel—such as your pastor or a godly, Christian therapist. Sharing our struggles with others fits Scripture’s exhortation for us to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NIV).
Know When to Forgive
As in any relationship, when a deep rift occurs in marriage, part of the process of restoration is forgiveness. Forgiveness assumes a deep, grievous wrong has been done. It calls upon the forgiver to let go of his or her right to be repaid for that wrong. Forgiveness asks for no penalty, no payment. Forgiveness releases the offender.
You feel betrayed by your husband, and forgiving him might be the last thing you’re interested in. When someone has really hurt us, we think we shouldn’t have to forgive. We think we have the right to be angry because what he or she did is so bad. We like the feeling of self-justification that comes with angry self-righteousness. Because we feel we have a right to our anger, we don’t want to let it go. Yet without forgiveness, restoration never occurs. If you desire restoration, you must be willing to forgive your husband.
Our hearts can be forgiving and we can offer forgiveness to another person, but the process is incomplete without the offender’s participation. Perhaps your husband refuses to acknowledge his viewing pornography as sin. He might even try to blame you for his actions, justifying his behavior and turning conversations around so they focus on you rather than him. In this situation, remember:
You are not crazy.
This is a problem. And while you cannot force your husband to change, you can refuse to make it easy for your relationship with him to stay the same.
What If He Won’t Change?
Depending on the seriousness of your husband’s problem, there are several steps you might take. First, alert those whom God has placed as spiritual shepherds in your life (such as pastors or Bible study leaders) that there is a problem. Ask them to become involved. Second, seek outside counsel for yourself from a leader or a professional. Third, determine if the level of your husband’s involvement in pornography presents a physical threat to you. Has he visited prostitutes? Could you contract a sexually transmitted disease? If your husband is sexually involved with other women, he cannot expect to have a normal sexual relationship with you. Fourth, learn how to draw limits. This includes things like saying no to sex as long as he is sexually involved with others and insisting that he remove all pornographic material from your home.
Drawing limits does not mean arguing with your husband over his sin. Speak the truth in love, but do not be drawn into a debate. If your husband can argue with you, it will be easier for him to avoid facing the Lord. Likewise, an argumentative wife can be a diversion from what the Lord desires to accomplish in a husband’s life!
Again, speak the truth to your husband, then move out of God’s way and allow Him to work. Only God can change your husband’s heart. Your best weapon in this battle is your ability to pray for your husband . . . not your ability to convince him he is wrong. As a wise man once said, “When we work, we work. When we pray, God works.”
Restoration Can Happen
So many couples have found restoration and healing after the devastation of pornography. It requires hard work, soft hearts, and much forgiveness and repentance, but men do find freedom and women do experience healing. If you and your husband are fighting for godly change and it’s proving very hard, don’t give up.
Sinful habits do not work themselves into our lives overnight, and it takes longer than a few weeks to overcome them. But with each of you working together, old habits can change. And with this change can come new intimacy, oneness, and openness for you and your husband. Our Lord is a God of redemption, and, as long as we are living, it is never too late to be restored.