A HUGE thank you to the JoyfilledWife for sharing her story. What her counselor suggested for her may apply to some other wives in similar situations – or some of it may not. If you are experiencing severe issues in your marriage, please seek godly counsel with someone you trust, who will hold you to biblical standards and who can walk beside you on this journey. Please note, the things this wife did may not be the right approach for other sins (a husband’s unrepentant infidelity or drug/alcohol addiction or physical abuse). My greatest prayer is that you will seek God, His Truth, His Word and His Spirit’s power to help you walk in obedience to Him no matter what your circumstances may be right now.
There are times when we must respectfully, but firmly, confront sin in our husband’s lives. Here is a post about that.
Perhaps this wife’s story might bless you – she faced some very tough situations, but I hope you will read all the way to the end:
When I was a little girl, a family member with severe anger issues tried to strangle me to death. I was not the cause of their anger…I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and was an easy target. By the grace of God, He gave me the strength to break free and run away from my aggressor.
From early childhood all the way to my pre-teen years, I was the target of very hateful bullying by other girls. Not one specific group of girls, just girls in general. When you’re an adult, being slim is considered desirable, but it’s not such a popular thing when you are in your adolescent years. The bullying got so bad that I attempted suicide at age 11. The Lord stilled my hand seconds away from taking my own life and whispered to my heart, “It’s not your time. I’m not finished with you yet.” That was a turning point in my walk with God and I made the decision to dedicate my life to accomplishing His will.
I could go on and on with stories of horrible things that happened to me throughout my life, but I’m not sharing these things to give you a sad story. The point I want to hit home is that,
because of all of the terrible things I experienced throughout my life, one of the characteristics God sowed in me all those years was “longsuffering”.
I know what it is to live most of my life loving others, in spite of their sin against me, and continue to love them regardless. Looking back on my life up until this point, I think I must have spent at least half of my nights crying myself to sleep as I prayed for God to just wrap me in His arms and mend the places of my heart that have been wounded by others.
I learned early on that God was the only one who could heal the hurt and give me the strength to keep loving others when my flesh told me to hate them for how much they hurt me. I never understood why God allowed me to go through so much suffering at the hand of others, but I can’t help but be reminded of what a friend said to me once: “God knows He can trust you with trouble.”
After I gently confronted my husband about his addiction and he opened up about it, we immediately sought out a godly counselor. Our counselor challenged us in all areas of our mind and heart. He didn’t minimize any sin or take sides. The process of reconciliation and recovery was challenging for my husband, but truly painstaking for me.
The counselor told me that if I wanted to help point my husband back to Christ, I had to be willing to do things that I didn’t want to do. Things that wouldn’t always seem fair.
Since I had no part in provoking my husband’s addiction, the advice was not easy to hear, but it worked. I remember crying once after reading an email regarding how I should respond to my husband’s anger, lies, and control issues he had developed through his addiction. He was an almost unbearable man to live with during that time and the constant barrage of temptation I was facing as a result of his harshness toward me and depriving of any kind of intimacy for sometimes 3-4 weeks at a time, I felt like I lived my life in constant inward mourning. Although I never considered divorcing my husband over his addiction, I remember one night, when his outpouring of anger was at an all-time high and he seemed to not even see me as a person of value anymore,
I sobbed quietly in my pillow and told Jesus that I wished I had never married in the first place. The pain of constant loneliness in marriage was far more painful than singleness had been for me.
I asked God that night why He didn’t bring my husband’s sin to the surface before we got married. We took all the precautions before marriage, including lengthy pre-marital counseling, in which all topics were covered thoroughly, including pornography. I had even asked God to reveal to me if there were any red flags in my potential husband…but His voice was silent at that time.
That night, when I asked God why my husband’s addiction hadn’t been revealed to me before marriage, He showed me something that I think is seldom understood in marriage. You see, we have often heard the saying, “Marriage is not meant to make you happy, but to make you holy.” What that looks like in action is to sometimes forsake your own desires or “rights” in order to help your spouse turn back to the Lord.
I am not advocating putting up with physical violence or the like, but I think we make the mistake of thinking that, if our “rights” are infringed upon, we have an automatic “out” in marriage. The problem with this is not only that it isn’t Biblical, but that it doesn’t achieve the outcome of refining each other and helping our spouse become more like Christ. What the Lord revealed to me that night is that the reason my husband’s addiction wasn’t shown to me before I married him was because I wouldn’t have married him if I had known about it. God had chosen me to be my husband’s wife because He cultivated within me specific character traits of Christ that were to serve as an example to my husband and help Him come to a place of deliverance.
God fully intended, from the beginning, to use the longsuffering He developed in me over the years to win my husband without a word as he gradually overcame his addiction. I only wish I had realized that when I began this brutal, but worthwhile, journey over a year ago. When God choses our spouse for us, he puts two people together who are best designed to help refine each other and become more like Christ. I think we often get so caught up in the fact that our spouse is not meeting all our desires that we lose sight of the fact that our spouse’s shortcomings, and even sins, are often what God plans to use to help us overcome our own sins and struggles.
Some of the practical, day-to-day ways I won my husband without a word were very difficult to put into action. I did all of them based on the guidance of our counselor and pastoral approval. Here are some of the actions I lived out daily, while in constant prayer for my husband’s recovery:
Pornography brings about a desire to control and dominate. To see people as objects to conquer or devour, instead of people to love and value. To say that my husband became micromanaging over every area of my life would be a true understatement. I remember a specific incident when my husband become angry with me for eating a slice of bread. I had eaten lunch 4 hours prior and he didn’t think I should be eating again so soon.
My counselor explained to me that my husband felt like his life was out of control and that rebelling against his unreasonable micromanaging would serve no purpose but to feed the desire to control more. They emphasized the importance of me always checking my heart and that I needed to remain as “behind the scenes” in my habits that angered him as possible. If I insisted on putting up a fight, even though he was unreasonable, it would only serve to drive him further away out of feeling like he also was losing his authority in his marriage. I decided to keep snacks in my bathroom drawer and my purse so I could take a few bites while I went out to get the mail or was in the other room. Was he unreasonable to become upset about me eating a slice of bread 4 hours after my last meal? Yes. But my counselor helped me see that I needed to avoid being a distraction as God worked on my husband’s heart. My husband apologized to me later that night for being controlling about the bread.
Because my husband’s addiction caused him to become a man he wasn’t proud of, he would often take his inner frustrations with himself and project them verbally onto me. He would blame me for things I had no part in, would become angry that I didn’t meet an expectation he had failed to communicate to me, and, on one occasion, belittled me in front of our guests for not having dinner completely ready when he walked through the door with them, even though he had failed to call me and let me know they were heading over, as agreed upon.
My counselor explained to me that my husband was projecting his feelings of failure and inadequacy onto me because he was not happy with himself and the choices he was making. Pornography addictions are built upon a foundation of selfishness and it was easier for my husband to shift blame than to own up to his own failures, when he already was overwhelmed by the shame of his failure to resist his sinful addiction for so long.
The counselor guided me to not respond to my husband in front of others or to fight with him when he lashed out at me. Instead, I was to calmly and firmly explain to him, privately, that I was not responsible for the failure he was angry about and how it made me feel when he belittled me in front of others. After that, I was not to carry on or get into an argument, no matter how much he wanted to fight. The counselor warned me to keep my heart and spirit in the right place in these situations, so the devil would not gain a foothold with me and perpetuate the situation further. I was to be an instrument of peace. Not a doormat to walk all over, but a wife with inner strength that uses her tongue to impart peace amidst the war within my husband’s heart.
HELPING w/ CHILDREN:
My husband was very unhelpful with our children during the time of beginning to overcome his addiction and would gripe if I asked him for even a small favor. I did not ask him often, but there were times when I was incapable of accomplishing two things at once and he would refuse to help out.
My counselor showed me that taking care of the children was my God-given responsibility and that I could show my husband respect and build him up as a husband by taking on all of the responsibilities in this area and thanking him for how hard he works to provide for us.
I’ll never the counselor’s first words to me when I asked what I should do when my husband refuses to help: “Don’t fight a battle that’s not worth dying for!”
Those words rang over and over again in my head. God had bigger things to work on in my husband’s heart than unhelpfulness. I did not need to dwell on the smaller things and make them as big a priority as the serious stuff. The small stuff would be ironed out over time after the Lord refined my husband and helped him break the chains of his addiction.
We are currently at the place where God is working on the medium to small things now and it has been such a blessing to come home now from running errands to children that have been bathed and put to bed!
During the progression and height of my husband’s addiction, I was denied sexually almost every single time I asked. There was always an excuse made why he couldn’t do it. Usually he would say that he was too tired or in a bad mood, even though he would stay up for hours afterward doing other things. I tried not to nag him about this, but did come to him several different times and let him know that I was struggling greatly with temptation from lack of intimacy in our marriage. He would simply respond, “Maybe in the morning.”
My counselor explained to me that, while my husband was clearly sinning by defrauding me, the selfishness that comes from porn addictions, as well as the fact that he was already meeting his sexual needs through that outlet, was responsible for his sin in refusing me. He had trained his mind to mentally “dispose” of images that no longer excited him in search of a more exciting image. When you train your brain to become aroused by two dimensional images, it’s a lot harder to be interested in your real life relationship with your wife. It had nothing to do with my value as a person or my physical attractiveness, but he literally trained his brain to seek arousal and fulfillment from things that will never satisfy.
When he had just met his own sexual desires in sinful ways, he no longer felt a need for intimacy with me. As hard as it was to do, my counselor told me that when I felt temptation coming on, to go into the other room after my husband falls asleep and work out as hard as I can to release excess energy. Once I finished that, I should spend time in the Word and in prayer for myself and my husband. I needed to memorize Scripture and inundate my mind with the Truth. That was the only way to resist the enemy.
It’s hard to explain just how trying the battle has been for me, but I’ve seen so much growth come about in my walk with God as a result. There were some strongholds of insecurity that I had struggled with throughout my whole life as a result of some of the traumatic things that occurred in my adolescent years.
God used this trial to bring me to a place where I have been freed from that stronghold and now see myself through His eyes. God used my husband’s sin to help me overcome the struggles in my own life. There was a time when I almost lost all hope that I would ever be delivered from my strongholds, but I found that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He is so faithful.
My husband is a drastically different man today than he was even a year ago. Although there are still sinful habits that he is working to cast aside after all those years of addiction, they are on a much smaller scale than the big things he was facing every day. I see my husband viewing me as a woman of great value and showing me a vulnerability and tenderness that I had never known before. He is doing more to serve me, initiating sex daily, and even asking me if I am in need of intimacy, even when I can clearly see that he is tired.
- Recovery truly takes time, but I couldn’t be prouder of how incredibly far he’s come and the steps he’s taken to be completely honest with me and seek my accountability in his struggles. I feel like I’m getting to know who my husband is for the first time and I cherished the moment when he said to me, “I feel like I’m falling in love with you all over again.”
When my husband got to a place where he was right with God again, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to ask my husband to disciple me in some areas. This was very difficult for me to do because I had been the spiritual influence in our household when my husband was living in sin and it was very hard to ask him to teach me. The Lord revealed to me that if there was one thing that would heal my husband more than anything else, it was time in the Word. If my husband were to agree to disciple me, he would inevitably be spending more time in the Scriptures as he prepares to teach me.
This was one of the best decisions I ever made for our marriage. He has stepped back up to the plate as the spiritual leader of our family and teaching me the Word has spurred on the habit of reading his Bible even more every day. He has been teaching me so many things lately and I am so blessed by the wisdom he has been imparting.
God is so faithful to be with us through the storms of life. He truly does work all things out for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. My husband told me the other day that he looks forward to the day when his sin is far behind him and God uses his testimony to reach other men who desire to be delivered from their bondage as well. In the mean time, he has given me permission to stand in the gap and to minister to wives who are experiencing the same devastation that I went through. Although no two stories are identical, I hope that my story will bring hope to hurting hearts in desperate need of healing.
www.brentriggs.com (he has an e-book for couples facing porn addiction issues from a biblical perspective)
www.desiringgod.org (pastor John Piper’s site – search “porn” or “pornography”)
www.xxxchurch.org (a Christian site with biblical help for those addicted to porn and their spouses)
Do I Condone Marital Rape or Abuse? – By Peacefulwife
Nina Roesner’s eCourse Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity