Today, in her wrap-up to her series on ministry wives, guest blogger, "C" shares responses from three other ministry wives of porn and sex addicts, "NJ," "A," and "N" These are responses to the questions, "if I could go back, what would I do differently" and "what do I feel I did right." Her pastor/husband, "G," also answers these same questions.
What Would I Do Differently?
NJ, who co-pastors, says, "I would have insisted that my husband go to extensive rehab immediately after discovery. Even though we took a sabbatical for several months and have had the help of trusted mentors, we should have gotten professional help early on to expedite healing."
A whose marriage to a pastor did not survive adultery, and who is now a therapist, says, "I would have been more direct in reaching out to proven leadership for intervention instead of trying to figure it out on my own."
N, whose husband is now a chaplain, says, "I actually retreated emotionally from my marriage, and tried to hide from the problem. (That) prolonged getting to the root."
From G: "I would never have allowed myself to believe the lies that led to my involvement in porn and dating sites. I see how I have grieved the Holy Spirit, and hurt and betrayed my wife."
What I did Right
NJ says "I faced (my husband) and told him (that) I love him, and am not prepared to let the enemy have him or our generation, or destroy the people he has impacted over the years. Pornography has to be eradicated from his life and he has to get help beyond just 'me and Jesus.'" She also insisted that her husband confess to the church leadership, and submit to their authority.
A says, "I am glad that I did not project my husband's choices and behaviour on God. I remained anchored in His love without allowing hurt and anger to alienate me from His grace."
N says, "I did stay in the marriage, and continued to turn to God for help even when my relationship with Him seemed so dry. We persevered, and I am, with God's help, trying to learn how to love (my husband) throughout his recovery."
G says, "I am glad that I confessed it to God, my wife and accountability partner, and am proceeding to get proper help progressing to victory."
C writes: The first thing G and I did right after "D-day" was to implement internet filtering and accountability. We chose Covenant Eyes.
I did much research about this sin that had invaded our lives, as I had been woefully ignorant about its addictive nature. We both have "in-the-flesh" accountability partners, and because there were no support groups locally, we each joined a weekly L.I.F.E. teleconference group, (cost was workbooks and a nominal donation), which provided us both with essential accountabilit,y along with group study. We also went to a three-day intensive and received qualified counsel.
Early on, and almost daily, we began watching videos, reading blogs and books. The first book, Shattered Vows by Debra Laaser, opened G's eyes to how the betrayal of marriage vows, including how "just porn", had affected other wives. It helped him understand the impact of his betrayal on me and why he was seeing me wailing in grief and pain, sometimes raging.
We also agreed on strict boundaries, which had to be adjusted a couple of times, and which I would suggest you insist on even if your husband initially resists. There is much information available on setting boundaries, including in Lisa Taylor's book.
Some are standard, (e.g., absolutely no porn, contact with affair partner), some are individual (e.g., not going to the beach, taking a break from all forms of ministry). In our case, I made the mistake of not always enforcing the boundaries and consequences, which just ended up delaying recovery for G and healing for me.
After G crossed every boundary several times, including using deception and unprotected browsers, I had to enforce (I hate that word!) a necessary in-house separation including only minimal verbal communication. This was extremely difficult, but effective. Looking back, I wish I had asked questions throughout our marriage on a regular basis, and set healthy boundaries early in our relationship, instead of just assuming that, because he was a "man of God," he wouldn't fall.
Dear ones, this is an incredibly painful wound that takes its toll on every aspect of our being. (I honestly believe I have aged ten years in less than two.) Ministry wives frequently have a problem with self-care. Many of us have somewhere gotten the idea that, even when things are terrible on the home front, we are supposed to sacrifice ourselves and our needs for others—that we are never allowed to say, "no." But it is important to take care of ourselves, in order to facilitate healing from the trauma of betrayal.
Jesus, in Matt. 19:19 commands us to love our "neighbours" as ourselves. This implies that we can't love others until, or any more than, we love ourselves. And yet we (and often our flock) tend to expect more of ourselves than we would of others! Betrayal trauma and healing from it, are exhausting. Adequate rest is imperative, even if you have to pass some of your responsibilities to someone else.
Isaiah 61:1 (NIV) says, "...He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners." The Hebrew word for "bind" means to wrap tightly for the purpose of healing. That may not always feel comfortable, but it is essential. Our God is compassionate and wants to heal us. Will we ever "get over it" and be left without scars? Hopefully, in time they will go from looking angry and painful to barely visible...
In her book, Lisa Taylor says, "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."
Believe me, this trial may feel like it will last forever, but I pray that God will grow in you more courage and strength than you could have gained otherwise. You will probably be more equipped to help others who need a shoulder to lean on, as well. (Gal. 6:2 says, "bear one another's burdens...").
So stand strong and keep hope alive, my sister! Don't quit before the breakthrough comes and God brings good out of it! (Romans 8:28)