Today, guest writer, C, continues to share from the perspective of how being the wife of a porn or sex addict impacts ministry wives.
"I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me." —Psalm 16:8
Much as I wanted and even prayed that G would be delivered miraculously from the porn addiction, so the pain would just end and life would go "back to normal," God did not do that. I now realize that would not have been in our best interests. God needed to work a deep heart change in G. And also in me... I was often spiritually dry and had settled for a marriage with a lack of intimacy on almost every level. I had to learn that I could not change my husband, and that in the process of trying to change him and depending on him to meet my deepest needs, I was missing out on what God wanted to do in my own heart.
It is vital to first grieve our losses, what we thought we had — including security, implicit trust (i.e. believing we are "the only one he has eyes for") and knowing we can never compete with what he has seen. Our husbands need to know that we are shocked, grieving, angry, feeling betrayed, etc. Feelings of love mixed with contempt are very common in this stage. I was amazed that I could feel the full gamut of emotions in the span of a few minutes, often pleading with God for the pain and feeling of defilement to just STOP!
Early on, checking, obsessing, and even "spying" are common reactions to the lies and deception that are typical of persons with sexual integrity issues. However, as we learn to trust the Holy Spirit, who has the ultimate power to convict and change our husbands, that should gradually decrease.
It is imperative that you find a trusted confidante—difficult for women in ministry—who will pray and weep with you but also gently encourage you in the right directions. The first one I chose is a close friend of both of ours, which was somewhat humiliating for G, as she had sat in the pew many times while he preached, and looked up to him as a spiritual leader.
There is definitely a stigma attached to sexual integrity issues, especially within the church. So you both need to swallow hard and wisely choose your therapists, your accountability partners, and others with whom you share this very personal issue. The therapist you choose should use the "trauma model," and if words like "co-dependant," co-addict," "just forgive," "you just need to do more .... for him," are used, look elsewhere. Pastors are often not qualified to deal with this effectively. Please do not settle for someone who prays with you once or twice, and then sends you on your way to deal with it yourselves.
The Forgiveness Process
And the pressure is on, as your husband (and possibly even another spiritual leader) may think that if you would just forgive him, life could go "back to normal." But life cannot, and should not, even if it were possible, go back to the unhealthy way your marriage has been.
Forgiveness is not dependant on his repentance, but forgiveness is essential for our healing, regardless of what happens to the marriage. I pray that your husband is willing to do whatever it takes to overcome this insidious sin but, whether he works on himself or not, it is important to relinquish him to the Holy Spirit, sincerely wanting what's best for him while you work on your own healing.
Forgiveness is a difficult process (yes, process), and isn't a one-time event. But I beg you not to waste the pain by deliberately holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness. (Lisa adds: but if you're "stuck" there, just start by telling God you are open to the idea of forgiveness, and try and stay open to His leading). The desire for revenge is natural, but living there comes at a cost — to your relationship with God, yourself, your children and, yes, your spouse. James 1:14, 15 are good verses for both of you to ponder.
Trust must be earned, so be prepared for a wild rollercoaster ride, depending on how entrenched the behaviors, and his willingness to not only become sober, but to submit to a heart change orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.
Does he blame you? He must take responsibility for his own sin. Immature behavior and attitudes, secrets, lying, and deception are typical of someone with sexual integrity issues. I couldn't tell you how many times I've read/heard that "lying is the last to go."
Is he patient with your process, willing to listen and "be there" for you when you are having to vent your anger and pain? Is he willing to face the consequences? Has he counted the cost of continuing? Is there an attitude change? Intimacy in communication should increase and there should be a tenderness toward you along with loving actions that may have been lacking in the past.
Watch for an eagerness to get right with God and you, with true repentance. (Due to the numbing effect of his seared conscience, visible signs of remorse may not come for years, if ever.) Is he willing to put internet accountability and filtering on all personal and ministry technology? Does he willingly give you passwords to all accounts and devices? Is he becoming truthful? Does he keep to boundaries? Is he spending time educating himself? Is he willing to answer truthfully any questions you ask, no matter how embarrassing? How is he spending the time he used to spend on his addiction? Is his relationship with the family and God progressing? Is he willing to submit to the discipline that his ministry leaders deem appropriate? I highly recommend both of you read, preferably together, "Worthy of Her Trust," by Jason Martinkus.
If possible, support your husband in his quest to be set free, messy though it may be. God is on our side and promises to set the captives free. He wants to forgive and heal us and, yes, deliver our husbands from bondage, as unrealistic as that may seem right now. I like what Lisa Taylor wrote in Beyond Betrayal, "God wants to redeem what has happened to us, using it to make us wiser, stronger, more mature, and more truly at peace in all circumstances."
As part of C's next post, she will recount the answers she received—from various ministry wives she interviewed—to the questions, "What did you do right?" and "If you could, what would you do differently?"