by Ella Hutchinson
Unfortunately, the Church—and most Christian counselors—have little to no training or knowledge in how to address pornography addiction or chronic infidelity. But these are likely the biggest issues couples are facing. When couples go for help, the pastor/counselor undoubtedly wants to help and means well in their guidance. But time after time I hear of more damage being done by those that should be the safest people to go to. It’s time to help these people get educated!
The following is not even close to an exhaustive list of what NOT to say to betrayed wives, but it’s a start:
1. “Have more sex with your husband”
Sex is an important part of marriage. But two facts are present when a wife discovers her husband’s sexual betrayal. First, the amount of sex they were having didn’t play a role in why he committed adultery, with others on a screen or in the flesh. This progressive addiction existed long before he even met his wife. Second, for many wives, their husband has become an unsafe person for her to have sex with. You can quote scripture that doesn’t apply to this situation. Or you can tell a wife that it is okay to protect her mind and body by not giving herself to her husband until she feels ready and he has chosen to give his mind and body only to her. By telling the wife of a sex addict to have more sex with her husband, wear sexy lingerie, or be more creative in bed, she will feel blamed or that these behaviors will prevent future betrayal. Addiction just doesn’t work that way.
2. “Don’t express anger toward him because it will only push him away”
When the Israelites betrayed God by worshiping another, He said, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them”. God created marriage to be between one man and one woman “until death do us part”. Wives are not jealous or envious of their husband’s attention toward other women because they are insecure or controlling. Their wrath does not come from dysfunction or possessiveness. They are fiercely protective of their marriage because God created us to be like Him! He is a jealous God!
To encourage a wife to stifle her emotions will only cause those emotions to grow stronger. She needs to be heard and validated just as much as her husband needs to hear how his actions have affected her.
3. “Don’t demand that your husband get help. Be patient and wait until your husband is ready to get help.”
This is one of the most abusive and outlandish things to tell a wife and yet it happens all the time. Is it not acceptable for a woman to demand that her husband honor his marriage vows? Is it inappropriate for a woman to refuse to wait patiently while her husband continues to betray her? A wise woman will require faithfulness from her husband, as he should from her, in order to stay in her marriage. Anything less is not loving, but is enabling destructive behavior. A marriage involving more than two people isn’t a marriage at all.
Part-two of Ella's excellent series, first written for Christian Sex Addiction Specialists International, and adapted for Beyond Betrayal Community will be posted next week.
Ella Hutchinson LPC-S, CSAT-C, CCPS (APSATS) graduated from St. Edward’s University in Counseling Psychology in 2006 and has experience working with severe mental illness, trauma, and crisis intervention.
In 2008 Ella’s life was turned upside down through the discovery of her husband, Jeff's, sexual addiction. After two years of healing, recovery, and restoration, she began counseling wives of sex addicts herself. Soon after, Ella and Jeff began working together to help couples find the same healing they had found. Today Ella and Jeff are following God’s calling for them as they facilitate couple intensives from their office in Houston.
Ella is a passionate advocate for partners of sex addicts. Among other mediums, Ella uses the power of the written word to help change the systems through which partners have been abused.
Learn more about Ella and her counseling services at her website.
If you have ever experienced re-wounding/re-traumatization when you went to seek help and support for the pain of your husband's betrayal, please know that those who wounded you were not representing Him in that moment. His heart is to piece together again all of us who have been broken by our husband's sin.