I am going to be perfectly frank with you, my husband has never struggled with pornography and I have never experienced the pain of betrayal. But because I teach Awaken-Love, I have walked beside a lot of women that have. It breaks my heart to see the pain that pornography causes for these women, but it also breaks my heart to see how pornography has impacted their husband.
God keeps calling me to speak into this arena, I don’t know why. Maybe it is because I haven’t been personally impacted and so I have a different perspective. Is it possible that what might be most helpful for a wife to do to help her husband battle pornography is the exact opposite of what every fiber in her body is telling her to do? Read more about How to Create a Safe Place for Your Husband to Share about Porn.
Maybe we need to take a huge step back and ask ourselves a few questions…
- What is the goal in marriage? Is it connection? Being fully known and fully knowing our spouse? Or is it pretending and keeping a safe distance?
- What do we value in our husband? Do we value a husband that is gaining the courage to be honest? Or do we value a husband that is pretending that everything is ok?
- What do we want to encourage in our husband? Do we want to encourage our husband to be real or to be perfect?
If your husband struggles with pornography or lust, the only way he will stop, is if he wants to stop. You cannot shame him into it, you cannot force him, and you cannot police him enough to make him change. He has to be truly repentant, filled with Godly sorrow and willing to do anything to make things right. A husband that is truly repentant will do whatever it takes to rebuild trust with his wife by being an open book. A repentant husband will seek accountability partners, counselors, Celebrate Recovery or other resources to seek healing. He will not just give her lip service, but he will make changes to gain freedom and to rebuild trust in the marriage. He may have setbacks, but ground is taken back bit by bit through openness, vulnerability and honesty.
Though we cannot make our husband stop viewing pornography, there are things a wife can do to help a repentant husband gain freedom. We have the power to either inspire or deflate. Even when you feel hurt, betrayed or angry, he must know that you value his honesty and that you hate the sin, not the sinner. Communicate that you are on his side and your greatest desire is for him to experience freedom and true intimacy. So what are some practical ideas to help your husband battle lust or porn?
Take Care of Yourself
One of the most important parts of helping your husband battle porn is to take care of yourself. Do not go through this alone. Tell your husband you need a couple of safe, Godly girl friends to open up with, that will point you to God’s truth and that will pray for you. Read up on pornography, I recommend Shattered Vows by Debra Laaser, and seek out resources on healing. Meet with a counselor, support group or Celebrate Recovery Group. Forgive your husband because it is the best thing you can do for yourself, but also communicate your needs in order for him to rebuild trust. Work on yourself and your own insecurities. Why does his brokenness impact how you see yourself? Do you believe that God created you unique and beautiful? Can you be the women God wants you to be regardless of anyone else’s actions? Seek out opportunities to connect with God and deepen your relationship because your worth must come from Him.
Understand the Battle
Getting clean from porn or lust can be harder than getting off of drugs. Your husband must hate his life of lust and porn more than the battle that he will wage for freedom. It might be 2 steps forward and 1 step back, but if he is truly repentant and moving towards healing, then Christ calls us to offer grace and forgiveness over and over. Battling pornography requires a multi-pronged approach – accountability, setting controls and going after the core issues. Habits that have taken years to form may take years to break. See his small steps of honesty, openness, connection or taking his mind captive and encourage him in order to spur him on.
Understand His Triggers
Most men have certain triggers when they reach for pornography. It might be when they are stressed from work, or feeling inadequate at home. It might be when life gets too busy and he doesn’t take time to connect with God, or you or friends. Feeling like a failure can drive a man to struggle. Your husband needs to know and understand when he struggles and you need to know too. As a wife, you can begin to recognize his triggers and during those times reach towards him in connection. Provide a safe place for him to open up and share about what is going on and how he is feeling. Take him for a walk and hold his hand. Encourage him to connect with a friend. Fill his needs with intimacy and grace rather than porn and shame.
At some point in this battle if you are growing in intimacy with your husband, you may decide that you should be part of his accountability. I have a friend that realized she could usually tell when her husband struggled, whether he told her not. A husband might avoid connection, or eye contact, or I don’t know what… but you know the difference. Accountability with you may look different than with a friend. You do not need to know every detail of how he slipped, but you could help him wrestle with what triggered it, how he was feeling and how he could react differently next time. For some couples, regular check ins make the process easier. Other couples just check in when necessary. In some ways, a wife makes the most sense for an accountability partner, because what greater incentive to stay clean then to be able to tell your wife it has been a good week.
Create the Sex Life that God wants for You
Part of battling pornography is creating a great sex life together. It is not about competing with what happens in pornography, it is about claiming God’s gift of sex to create intimacy. In fact create something drastically different than pornography. Bring God into your marriage and pray over your marriage asking that God bless your time together and help you encounter each other in a new way. Stay present during sex through eye to eye contact, using words to draw each other back and really feeling each other. Generously serve each other and enjoy your spouses pleasure as much as your own. Praise God after your connection and thank Him for how He showed up. Embrace the freedom God wants for you and create a sex life based on intimacy and not performance.
Believe in What God Can Do
Your husband may be in for the battle of his life and honestly breaking free of pornography might take a miracle. Do you believe that God truly changes lives and that he can change your husband? Can you speak it to your husband? Do you believe that God can heal you enough that you can trust and cherish your husband? Do you believe that God can restore your sex life and make it brand new? Ask God for what you want, take small steps of faith, and watch God show up.
The hard work of helping your husband battle pornography is an opportunity for change and growth- for both of you. Pornography is fueled by hiddenness, deceptions and pretending – the opposite of intimacy. Battle pornography by creating what God originally desired, intimacy, to be fully known. Strengthen your relationship with God and your dependence on him. Know who you are and who He created you to be – regardless of anyone else’s action. Make your goal in marriage connection. Create an environment of openness, trust and vulnerability that is founded on God’s grace, even when someone messes up. Affirm your husband for the small steps that he takes and encourage him to step into the man that God created him to be.