You wanted to live out your own fairytale—marry your Prince Charming and live happily ever after. It was a beautiful tale, filled with ringing church bells and romantic love songs. Then you discovered your husband’s problem with pornography and your dreams shattered. It was like finding out your prince had fallen in love with the wicked witch and brought her into the castle to live with him!
Does this sound like your story? If so, you know the flood of overwhelming and confusing emotions that comes with the discovery of sexual sin. Are you looking for peace in the midst of the storm?
It is possible to make it through with your marriage and your faith strengthened. Let’s look at each emotion in detail.
The Deception Is Uncovered—I Can’t Believe It’s True!
Upon learning of your husband’s sexual sin, the first crushing feeling that grips your heart is disbelief. This might come when your husband confesses. More often, though, it occurs when you catch him viewing pictures on the Internet or notice unexplained charges on a credit card or find pornographic movies in the back of the closet. How could the man you know—who may outwardly exude godliness—be involved in so much secret sin?
Eventually the truth sinks in, and as it does, so does a sickening sense of betrayal. Christ said that lustful thoughts are the heart-equivalent of adultery (Matthew 5:28). Your husband’s pornography addiction has introduced a brothel of women into your one-flesh marriage. Your stomach turns just thinking about it.
The Self-Doubt Begins—Am I at Fault?
You start to wonder what you could have done differently. You might feel like a fool for being so trusting. You might even blame yourself, thinking if you had only acquiesced to your husband’s (increasingly degrading) demands for sex, he would not have been “driven” to another outlet.
However, you’re not responsible for your husband’s sin. The book of James reminds us:
Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:14–15)
When James stated that sin comes from inside, he was echoing Jesus’s teaching: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Matthew 15:19–20). Scripture clearly teaches that we are each responsible to the Lord for our own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:29–30; Ezekiel 18:19–20). You are accountable for any sin you have committed against your husband, yes. But you are never at fault for his sin. It is not your fault.
The Fury Sets In—How Could He Do This?
Anger is often the next feeling that swirls to the surface of this storm. A sense of betrayal and self-blaming thought may keep anger at bay temporarily. But the fury will come, and as it sets in, you may desire to hurt your husband for the pain he has inflicted on you and your marriage. You may be tempted to tell your children their father is a pervert. You might consider abandoning the relationship. It’s easy to stay angry, because anger feels strong and powerful; it feels safe. But anger is not always helpful, especially anger that desires to wound another.
Paul warned us in Ephesians 4:26, 31 of the damage done by out-of-control anger. (See also Proverbs 29:11 and James 1:19–20.) While righteous indignation is appropriate, we must be careful. Your husband has sinned greatly against you and the Lord. But anger alone does not have the power to put your husband onto the right path. Let your anger ignite a passion to fight for your marriage, but remember that anger can never in itself accomplish a heart change in your husband.
You Come to a Resting Place—I Grieve for What Has Happened.
In the midst of such deep pain is a resting place. You feel sadness for what has happened and deep hurt over your husband’s betrayal. Yet the sad heart can also be a still heart. Peace flows from a heart that is grounded in Christ. Turn to Him in prayer for your marriage. Spend time grounding your heart in the truth of His Word. As the raging flood of emotion subsides, out of your sadness will blossom a hope for restoration like a flower after a spring storm.
Recognizing each of your emotions in this storm is no easy task. And once you can see them clearly, there’s more healing work to be done. Here are some active steps you can take:
- Start a journal of emotions. Record your angry, sad, and fearful thoughts, and ask the Lord to minister to your heart as you pour out your feelings.
- Meet regularly with a prayer partner. Find a good friend who can listen to your concerns and support you through your husband’s recovery.
- Meet with a counselor. To answer some of your deepest questions about yourself and your marriage, you may find it helpful to consult a godly, Christian counselor.
And, perhaps most important, practice hope. Pornography does not have to be the “wicked witch” that puts your husband under an unbreakable spell and destroys your marriage. Our God is a God of redemption. We are each fallen creatures, so far from God’s standard of holiness. Yet He has changed us and continues to do so. He loves your husband more than you do. He values your marriage more than you do.
You can trust Him with both.