Question: “How do I weather my husband’s emotional affairs with his co-workers and self-satisfaction through pornography? I’m really interested in understanding better how to stop being continually surprised and hurt by his actions.”
There are several layers to this question.
First of all, I’m not sure you should just weather it and stop being hurt. Sin hurts people. Your husband is breaking his vow to you when he enters into inappropriate emotional relationships with other women and when he views pornography. There are not three easy steps to just pretending your partner isn’t actively sinning against you. You should be hurt. That is the appropriate response to being sinned against.
So I would begin with acknowledging to yourself and to God what exactly your reality is. Maybe even write it down.
From January through April of 2012, Joe texted Susan late at night almost every night.
I don’t even know if he watches pornography anymore because he changed his computer password.
I think he might be spending extra time now with Jennifer, but when I ask him, he denies it.
You know, I always thought it wasn’t my place to say anything to my husband about sinful behavior because I was a such a sinner and I should therefore just constantly work on removing my planks and turning a blind eye and hoping upon hope that it would stop on its own.
Can I tell you a couple things I didn’t know back then?
First of all, sin – usually – does not just go away on its own. It manifests. It infiltrates. It changes a person. It gets worse. But it doesn’t just stop.
And secondly, you are allowed to take your husband to task on something that is hurting you and your relationship. You are! How you do it is super important, but you must first settle it in your head that what he’s doing is not okay and that you are allowed to bring it up and, dare I say, confront him about it.
I would tackle this in a few steps:
Pray. Ask the Spirit to help you look at your own life first and deal with any sin issues you’ve got. Then I’d ask the Spirit to soften your husband’s heart. And I’d ask the Spirit to help you find the right words and the right timing to say what needs to be said.
Talk. Prepare what you’re going to say. Keep it simple and brief. Tell your husband that you want to work on your marriage and that these are the things that he does that hurt you, and why they hurt you, and that you would like him to stop. (Yes, you are allowed to ask your spouse to stop doing hurtful, sinful things.) If he is remorseful and repentant and you see changes take place, wonderful! If he is defensive and denying and perhaps even throwing accusations back at you, tell him respectfully but firmly that this is a very important issue to you and that you need help trying to figure out how to handle it, so you will be talking to so-and-so (a counselor, a pastor, and elder, etc.) about it.
Wait in expectation. You’ve thrown down the gauntlet. What your husband does next will take patience, time and grace. God will do something, though it may look nothing like what you’re expecting.
But promise me this, do not just have this conversation and then go back to status quo. I lived in that cycle for fifteen years and it’s painful and it caused unnecessary suffering to me and my spouse. If you’re going to lay down some expectations, then be consistent and follow through with what you’ve said you’re going to do.
And as far as continually being surprised each time you stumble upon a new porn site or a new woman’s phone number, and I say this with as much gentleness as I can, it’s time for you to stop living in denial. If this has happened more than once, it is becoming a pattern, and surprise is no longer the appropriate response. Ask God to help you look it full in the face and respond accordingly, with grace, peace and strength.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.