In her first blog post, guest writer, C, shared thoughts about how to move from "wondering" if our husband has a problem to prompting disclosure. Today she shares the hardship of dealing with the knowledge that a husband (in ministry) has a porn or sex addiction.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I am overwhelmed with grief, anger, shame, embarrassed that G ever saw me naked. I get in the car in the dead of a Canadian winter night and drive to a quiet, lonely place, where, retching, I scream and rail at God. "Who is this man you let me marry?" "How can I ever compete with young, firm, beautiful bodies, none of which I have ever come close to looking like?" "How can I just get out of this?" My knees are literally shaking now as I remember the trauma.
I have been on a roller-coaster only a few times, but I have to say that this has been the most terrifying emotional ride that I have ever been on, including having been raped as a child, date-raped as an adult, and almost having been killed in a car accident, with permanent injuries.
The pain is so severe partly because, as women, we find it difficult or even impossible to separate sex and love. Likely your husband has told you, as mine "assured" me, that they were "just pictures," that he never stopped loving you while indulging in porn, having the affair, etc. With the way God wired us, that seems impossible. Men, rightly or wrongly, seem to be able to compartmentalize... and, in this case, it is very wrong.
When we got married, we heard our spouses promise to "love, honour, and cherish (now that's a whole 'nother topic!), forsaking all others, til death do us part." So we ask, what happened to those vows? I really like the title (and content), of Debra Laaser's book, Shattered Vows, as shattered is exactly how it feels. In Beyond Betrayal, Lisa Taylor says, "Whether or not our husband has told us directly in words, 'you're insufficient, your gift isn't good enough,' he has told us indirectly with his infidelity." That is why the pain of betrayal hits us to the very core of our being.
The following are "red flags" your husband may have a sexual integrity issues. Some are general, some specific to those in ministry.
- Not as engaged in family life/household duties as he should/used to be, especially preferring to spend time online. Excuses: sermon preparation, praying
- You seem to be living separate lives
- Stonewalling/raging become his way to deal with conflict
- Emotional numbness
- Frequently and inexplicably irritable/defensive
- staying up after everyone has gone to bed to watch TV/go online
- Complains of fatigue, yet spends hours browsing the net alone
- Spends a lot of time in the bathroom with technology
- Unaccounted for phone bills/credit card charges
- Deletes texts and/or internet history; secretive about what he is doing on the net
- Spends a lot of time on sermon/teaching prep, but there is little content when speaking
- Seems to be getting burned out/losing interest in ministry
- Frequently laughs at crude jokes
- Resists talking to son(s) about sex/porn (G also let our son take the blame)
- Affection relegated to brief hugs; kisses are barely pecks
- Not interested in meeting your needs for foreplay, etc., demanding sex (eg. even when you are sick) shaming you for not being up to it; asking you to do or wear things you are not comfortable with; he seems distracted during sex with focus on the end result
- No interest in having sex with you/repeated non-initiation
- Has (non-medical) erectile dysfunction
- Counseling female clients alone/doing visitation with female elder, especially preferring to travel together to "save money"
When lusting/soft-core porn becomes boring due to "needing more" to get the same high, there is often a progression to harder or more violent porn, chat rooms, dating sites, affairs, etc. Minimizing, justifying, rationalizing, blaming, etc., are common techniques they will use to not deal with their sin, eventually believing the lies they tell themselves.
We all know the numerous scriptures about immorality and adultery, and know that our ministry husbands do too; so we wonder, does he not think that they apply to him? Does he think he is "above reproach," that they are "just pictures," that God cares only if someone "gets hurt"(ignoring the fact that the hurt extends far beyond their wives and families, to those coerced into the sex trade).
Luke 12:48 says, "...to whom much has been given, much will be required." God is holy and people in ministry are, rightfully, held to a higher standard. Ministry leaders are responsible to live God-honouring lives, being examples to their flock. So why and how have so many allowed themselves to get caught up in (mostly) secret sin? The stats on ministry people becoming addicted to porn especially, are staggering, with over half viewing porn at least occasionally. Then there are those who allow the flattery of women in their congregations to boost their egos and, unless they count the cost, before they know it...
From Overwhelming Reality to Hope
I know this is all very overwhelming, but I implore you not retreat into denial or try to deal with it on your own. The sooner you and your husband can establish accountability and get professional help, the sooner health can be restored. Even if he is not willing to get help, it is imperative that you do. This is a tough, gruelling journey, but God has promised to provide the tools. "But my God shall supply ALL your needs..." Phil 4:19.
The grief, pain, and anger will not just go away, but will fester and be destructive in the long run, likely affecting all of your relationships. Those emotions are legit and need to be felt and dealt with, so healing can eventually take place.
Again, there is hope!
C first became aware of her husband’s compulsive porn use on their 35th wedding anniversary, two years ago. Her past work with abused women has fuelled a passion today for helping those impacted by the pain of betrayal. C's love of gardening, music and singing have helped her along on her healing journey.