By Robin W.
This was shared in the Blazing Grace Newsletter here: http://www.urbansermons.org/f/blazing-grace-newsletter-march-2006
Robin’s new website is www.loveyoursister.com.
This month, I should have celebrated my fifth wedding anniversary, but, my marriage was destroyed by my husband’s love affair with porn. Not physical adultery, “just porn.” I am now single and dealing with the healing process.
My husband and I met in the singles group at church, and we had an extended friendship before dating and considering marriage. We’d both been married before, and it was very important to me to do what was right in God’s eyes, so we decided to abstain from sex before marriage. Looking back, I remember there were signs that pointed to problems in the area of sexuality even in our engagement period. I often wondered why my future husband did not seem to be aroused when were alone together. Having experienced infidelity in my other marriages, I wanted so much to believe it was his respect for me and his promises not to violate my boundaries. I ignored these early signs because of my high expectations.
A more romantic, idyllic setting could not have been chosen for our honeymoon. We were the only occupants of a beautiful Victorian Bed and Breakfast in the heart of a historical city. Each morning my husband would go down to the dining area and bring me breakfast in bed. We spent days meandering in and out of the downtown shops and seeing all the historical sites. I experienced my first horse-drawn carriage ride sitting by the man who promised he would never hurt me. I wanted our marriage to be everything God intended it to be; perhaps that is why I ignored the nagging thoughts as the struggle began on our wedding night.
On our first night together, my husband had difficulty consummating our union as husband and wife. I attributed this to “nerves;” not having been sexually active before marriage. After all, didn’t I save myself for this man and have his respect? But as the problem persisted throughout the week-long honeymoon, I began to question my desirability. Even the lingerie I brought to spice up the honeymoon seemed to have no significant effect. I remember thinking that it might have something to do with our being older. I didn’t want to believe my husband didn’t find me physically attractive, and was feeling a sense of failure to please him.
Other problems began to surface in the first six months of our marriage. My husband began to have anxiety attacks, and would go for drives or long walks alone. I knew something was wrong, but was confused as to why this hadn’t shown up during our engagement. Our times of intimacy were now becoming limited, and “strained;” it seemed my husband wasn’t attracted to me physically. Instead of bonding with him, I began to feel disconnected during sex, but he assured me it had nothing to do with me.
Six months into our marriage my husband lost his job, which left him with a lot of time alone at home. I began to see changes in his personality; there were outbursts of anger, and he started showing signs of depression. Unemployment was at an all time high in our area due to the closing of a nearby textile mill, and it took him 11 months to find employment.
As I left for work each day, my husband was often on the computer, and would be at the same place when I came home. It became the pattern of our lives. Whenever I’d approach the computer room, if he was online, he’d suddenly click back to the desktop. He’d stay on the computer into the hours of the early morning; if I woke up and went to see what he was doing at 2 am, he would become extremely defensive and angry.
I started complaining about it. “How long do you plan to be on the computer tonight?” I’d ask. His standard reply was, “You want to control everything I do, and I’m not going to live under your yoke of control. I’m searching for jobs online and you aren’t going to tell me how to spend my time.”
As his depression became more obvious, his church attendance dropped off. Frequently, when I’d return from an evening meeting at church or school, I would find my husband alone, sitting in the dark. If I turned on the lights it would send him into an angry tirade. His relationships with others began to be strained; he seemed to prefer being alone. He began having problems sleeping, and his remedy was to play games online until he became tired. There were many nights where I would lay alone in bed, crying from loneliness for him. I didn’t understand that the man I’d married had disappeared.
I began to be suspicious, and learned from a friend how to search the history files on the computer. As I looked at the history on our computer, I had the impression that I was about to be faced with something horrible. My pulse quickened; there were sites with names like “obsessions” and “lotsa ___”; I opened the first site, but when I saw there were no pictures almost closed it, thinking I was just being paranoid. (My husband had often accused me of being suspicious without reason.) But when I read the content, I was shocked to see it was stories of sexual encounters. My stomach churned as I skimmed the first few sentences; I couldn’t believe my husband would read this. I began to weep uncontrollably.
After I regained my composure, I felt an urgency to seek help before my husband arrived home. How would he react when I confronted him with my new knowledge of his problem? I had heard of New Life ministries and decided to call their help line. The online counselor spent some time talking with me about my discovery and urged me to confront him as soon as possible.
By the time my husband arrived home, my fear had been replaced with strong resolve. “I found something on the computer today and it frightened me. I wasn’t sure what to do so I called a help line. This is a serious breach of my trust in you; I want to know why you’re saying I’m the one with the problem?”
He was strangely quiet at first, almost as if he was unaffected by my discovery. I remember hoping that perhaps I was mistaken… “That was just an email I opened by accident” he said. The subject line looked as if it was about something I had ordered. I opened the email and when I saw what it was, I immediately deleted it.”
“I know the difference between an email and a web site that has been opened,” I replied. Then the volcano went off.
“If you tell anyone about what you’re accusing me of and they come to me about it, I’ll kill them with my bare hands. I don’t need this; I‘m leaving. I’m sick and tired of your snooping around and checking up on me. You think you can tell me when to breathe… this is all about you controlling me, and I won’t put up with it. I’m leaving and I won’t be back.” As he packed all of his things, yelling and screaming about how I wanted to play the victim in life, I went to the other end of our house and prayed that he would leave quickly.
After he left, the initial shock wore off and I started crying. I tried to reach him, but he turned off his cell phone. Days later, he finally called, repentant; he said he would never be that angry again. He arrived home soon after this, convincing me he was innocent. This was to be our way of life for the next 3 years.
When he finally found work a year and a half into our marriage, things seemed to be going in the right direction; he was working long hours, and his computer use diminished.
A few months later, I sat down at the computer after work one day. What I found brought that sick, disgusted feeling back; the entire monitor was filled with a full length picture of a scantily clad young woman.
“How can I ever measure up to this?” I thought, angry at the woman who posed for this picture. It was humiliating, that, once again, I had believed my husband, in spite of the signs that something was wrong in our marriage. At that moment, my husband called to let me know he was on his way home.
“Why am I sitting here at our computer, looking at an almost naked woman on the screen?!”
“You look under every rock to find something to pin on me… I’m tired of it. You’re so self- righteous, and think you know it all; you think I’m like all the men you hear about on Oprah. I’m sick of trying to measure up to your standards; I won’t be coming home tonight.” Click.
My husband had found the way to control me.
As we approached our two year anniversary, his anger got worse. He would storm through the house, gathering his belongings, slamming doors and shouting why I wasn’t a good wife, and I’d ask him to leave, knowing it would bring relief. My self esteem was being whittled away one day at a time.
I had always been a responsible person, having successfully raised my two children alone while holding a career as a teacher for almost 25 years, but the choices I was making at this point weren’t rational. My family tried to convince me to give up the marriage, seeing how it was affecting me; by our third year of our marriage I began to having chest pains and other symptoms of stress.
But I believed God would work a miracle in our lives. I told my children that I was doing what God expected of me: loving and forgiving my husband. They saw the abuse, and encouraged me to get help.
I first sought help from a pastor during one of our separations. He encouraged me to “just keep praying.” I called a second pastor, who said, “most of the time these issues are related to problems from a man’s lack of relationship with his father.” He promised to call me back to make an appointment, but never returned my calls. I tried a third pastor, who said, “Men need a lot of boosts to their ego, a lot of strokes; that’s just the way we’re made.” I went away with the feeling that he agreed with my husband; that I couldn’t measure up to the task of satisfy my husband’s needs. I did find some help for myself in personal counseling. My husband wasn’t ready to confront the real issues, and he only attended a few times.
I was crying out to God daily with all of my heart for my husband to be delivered from bondage, and for His help for the part I was playing in creating the problems in my marriage.
As an almost last ditch effort, we spoke with a new pastor at our church. Three days later, my husband left again, and I found myself back in this pastor’s office where I finally confessed that I believed my husband was struggling with pornography. He told me that my husband never once looked him in the eye during the appointment earlier that week, and said, “You can probably expect to see your husband’s life go downhill now. He might even move someone else in with him. He will most likely give in to the sinful life style in which he has become involved.”
There were no offers of help or suggestions for seeking help for the restoration of my marriage; this is one of the most hurtful things I experienced in my years of seeking a solution. When I was a young girl, I saw my father get saved and walk the aisle of the church, after many years of living a life in the world and addicted to gambling. I believed someone would recognize my husband’s need for help and come alongside us in the church and provide the support we needed, but was very disappointed to find the church was neither prepared nor ready to meet this challenge.
I left this church and attended another for the next year, while separated from my husband. I asked for prayer for my marriage the first Sunday I visited, but didn’t reach out for help again because I feared I’d get the same reactions I’d experienced before. I felt alone, and was resigned to the reality that there is a lack of knowledge and/or courage for the church to face this issue that is destroying marriages every day. It saddened and angered me that no one was talking about this problem. I wasn’t aware that there might be other women dealing with the same issue sitting on either side of me within the church.
When time for our divorce drew near, my husband sent me an email, saying he still loved me, and we agreed to meet for coffee. He expressed how he didn’t have good feelings about himself and never had. I convinced him to go to church with me and we attended yet another new church together. The pastor and his wife were the first to agree to help us restore our marriage. I was excited, but afraid of living with my husband again. I had managed to heal from some of the damaged emotions of the last 3 years and wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved in an abusive marriage again. I met with the pastor’s wife alone and expressed my concerns about his struggles with pornography. Amazingly, they were still willing to work with us. I felt encouraged for the first time. I told her I had never heard a confession from my husband, only denials.
Six weeks later, while visiting my husband’s apartment, I found evidence of his porn addiction again. This time, I confronted my husband with a boldness I can only say came from the Lord, and told him I would not accept the lies anymore. He confessed to me that he had been struggling with the problem since he was 12, for about 40 years. He wept like a child as I knelt beside him and prayed, and I told him I would walk with him through his recovery because I loved him.
That night we were to participate in the kids’ camp at the new church as volunteers. I took the opportunity to talk alone with the pastor’s wife before camp began to tell her of his confession. She again was not deterred from her commitment to helping us with the repair of our marriage. My husband did not discuss the confession with me over the next week and I had no idea of how to continue the process of confronting this problem. The secret had been brought out into the light but I felt as if my husband wanted to send it back into darkness and I needed help with what to do next.
My husband ultimately made the choice to continue in his sinful pattern. After repeated requests from me and appeals from the pastors to come in for counsel, he refused. His last words to me were “I told you if you let anyone know about my sin (the pastors), there would be serious consequences. Well the gloves are off. I want a divorce. I never want to see you or hear from you again.”
I waited for things to cool down, and sent him some heartfelt messages about how his use of pornography had affected me. There were repeated efforts on the part of the pastors to help. He never answered except to say that he was deleting all my emails.
The Lord spoke clearly to me one day in prayer; He told me that I must let my husband go so He could have control of him. I said “Yes, Lord.”
For almost three years, I believed my prayers and my faith in God’s word would be enough to bring about a miracle in my marriage. I prayed for my husband daily and confessed God’s word over his life. I forgot one piece of the puzzle; God does not override man’s will. He has given us a choice which separates us from all His creation.
One morning as I was praying, I lay across the bed and began to weep. I heard the Lord speak into my heart. He spoke ever so gently knowing how much I wanted my marriage to work. I realized I had my hands clinched tightly in fists. I heard Him say “Just open your hands and let it go. You have done everything you possibly can do; now I must be allowed to work in his life.”
It was a very sad day for me, but I knew I must be obedient. There are those who criticize my decision to file for divorce. They did not live with the turmoil in my home or know of the many efforts I made to reconcile with my husband. I surrendered. Obedience to God’s word is often misunderstood. Our human reasoning can never explain what God intends when He asks us to relinquish something very precious to us. Like Abraham when he laid his son Isaac on the altar, I believe God has a purpose in asking me to lay my husband down at his feet. Sometimes we must die to ourselves that someone else might live.
I am now leading two support groups using Marsha Means’ book, Living With Your Husband’s Secret Wars. I also do some online counseling for Blazing Grace. The women I am helping are so grateful to find a place where they feel safe to discuss the hurt and pain that pornography and sexual addiction has brought into their lives. They find a listening ear in me and others like themselves and a place to unload some of their anger and shame.
I believe in the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping. As I sow into this ministry my prayers and tears for other couples’ marriages to be restored, I believe I will reap a harvest. Not only will marriages be healed but I believe I will reap my husband’s deliverance from the bondage of sexual addiction. You see, I still love my husband and I want to see him walk in freedom. That is the reason I still fight for him. The word of God says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Recently, the Lord spoke to my heart again. He said “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, there will be no life, no resurrection.” God has by His grace given me a compassion for the soul of my husband and that of others caught in the trap of sexual addiction. I still fight for him and all the other wives whose husbands need to be free to become the men God created them to be. I know God will honor my obedience to His voice with a harvest of souls including that of my husband.