Next week I’m officially launching a new series, 10 Things I Hate About… Your Addiction. In that series I’ll be focusing on the ways in which our husbands' addictions have influenced them, for the worse. By this I mean character traits they develop (or that are reinforced) because of their sinful habits: traits such as lying, anger, cowardice, etc. I’ll be basing the series off of feedback I’ve received from women I support as well as concerns women listed in the 2014/2015 Survey of Wives of Sex Addicts.
For today, I’d like to bridge Marcella’s Forgiveness series with this upcoming series with a post on sex addiction and its effects on the family. I’ve particularly got our kids in mind this week, as I’m launching a new book for older children/younger teens on pornography vs God’s plans for sexual intimacy. You can read more about There’s WHAT on my Phone? here.
The horror stories I’ve heard over the years about kids’ response to “dad’s” sex addiction have been numerous. Many of these I list in detail in Beyond Betrayal, but to summarize, the themes that recur over and over:
- Mom is blamed for overreacting to dad’s problems (it was just porn/one visit to a prostitute/a couple of affairs)
- Mom is blamed for under-reacting to dad’s problems (how could you put up with this!)
- Sons are accidentally exposed to dad’s porn, etc. – it kicks off their own problems with porn, acting out, etc.
- Daughters are accidentally exposed to dad’s porn, etc. – it kicks off their own addiction, promiscuity, traumatizes them, etc.
- Objectifying of women is noticed by kids and negatively impacts their view of women and their value
One of the areas that I did not delve into in great detail in Beyond Betrayal are the spiritual impacts of a husband’s betrayal on the family. This is a big issue, and may in fact merit its own book. Briefly, from my own and others’ experience, I’d say that sometimes:
- Children experience what looks to be direct demonic attack — in their dreams, but sometimes also while awake
- Children are left more vulnerable, spiritually, to getting sucked into the addiction
- Children are left more vulnerable to getting involved with people with a sex addiction (e.g. marrying a sex addict)
Our Bad Influence
Moreover, our reactions, as the wife and mother, can have a detrimental spiritual and emotional impact on our children. In her last post, Marcella alluded to her bitterness “defiling many” – the many being her children. I’ve seen children also harmed (emotionally and possibly spiritually) by:
- Mom’s denial
- Mom’s trauma (inability to stay present, panic attacks, rage, etc.)
- Mom’s spiritualizing (especially when she excuses his abuse of herself and the kids based on twisted Christian precepts)
- Mom’s unwillingness to protect the children from the addict’s harmful behaviours (including anger, bitterness, physical violence, emotional abuse, etc.)
Whenever I hear of children being negatively impacted by their father’s sex addiction (or mother's struggles with it) – I begin praying for redemption. It doesn’t matter if the child is an adult now, that’s my heart’s cry for our kids.
And while there are many brokenhearted mothers who have yet to see the damage repaired and the redemption plan made plain… some of us have.
Here’s what the Lord has done in some situations:
- Opened up the dialog between older children and the parents about sexual temptation, dangerous sexual behaviors, etc. — building parent-child intimacy, healthy accountability and destroying secrecy
- Built a much broader and deeper empathy for mom in the child
- Built an empathy for those caught in sin
- Armed the child with wisdom about the world’s traps and given them knowledge about how to avoid them
- Given the children an awareness of the painful consequences of sin
- Given the child a desire for holiness and purity
- Shown the child (where the addict seeks recovery) how, with God, people can escape the most painful traps
- Shown the child the wise use of boundaries in damaged relationships
- Shown the child how with God we can forgive the most grievous wounds
- Shown the child how, with God, we can overcome – and that “overcoming” may not always look the way we expect (i.e. it may be in separation and healing, it may be in staying and healing).
Moreover, as spiritual growth is so often an outcome of the betrayal-healing/addiction-recovery journey, children often benefit from their parents' new, transformative walk with God. Often they themselves begin to desire that type of intimacy with their heavenly Father — whose amazing love and power is being displayed in their midst, regularly.
When this happens, despite the devastation and the sorrow, we may be surprised to find we can “count it all joy.”