The first time my husband confessed to me that he’d looked at pornography we weren’t married yet— I don’t think we were even engaged yet. We were sitting and talking in my car (as college students do) and he just broke down. The awkwardness turned to shock, which turned to indignation. Eventually I accepted his apology and naively assumed we’d crossed that bridge, never to see it again. He was so repentant!
We’ve been married almost seven years now and we’ve crossed that bridge many more times. We’ve had good seasons and bad seasons regarding his fight against pornography. By the grace of God, we still love each other. And we honestly still like each other! Here are six truths I’ve realized along our often-painful journey:
1. Sin is not about you— it’s about God
When your husband chooses to sin by looking at pornography, he is rebelling against the all-powerful, all-creating God of the universe. You are decidedly not the most wronged party here.
It’s much bigger and worse than you may have imagined— a created being (your husband) has devalued and dishonored God Almighty. Has ludicrously preferred the coddled sin of lust to the infinite glory of Jesus (Romans 1:18-32).
Do you care more about the offense against you or the offense against God? Are you more concerned for your honor and glory or His?
You’ve definitely been wronged— but there’s a line between righteous hurt and the sort of wallowing, victimized self-pity I’ve often indulged in. Remember Christ and roll your burdens onto him (Matthew 11:28-30). Let yourself become blessedly dim in the light of His glory and grace.
2. Your husband is your brother in Christ
If your husband is a born-again, Christ-following believer, he is your precious brother in Christ. What a blessing! And how freeing! He is a sinner saved by grace, just like you. He isn’t your savior; only Jesus is that (John 14:6).
In the disorienting wake of betrayal, I need to reorient myself firmly in reality. I make a list of all the ways I’ve failed my husband— and all the ways he’s been a conduit of God’s grace and blessing to me. We’re both wrecks! My husband and I— we’re companions, co-travelers together on the bumpy road to glory.
As a wife, you are uniquely equipped to care for, encourage, and support your husband on that journey. To mourn with him and fight alongside him.
Are you broken for him? Do you cry out to God on his behalf? And not just to alleviate your own suffering, but to increase his joy and holiness?
It’s easy for me to indulge in self-pity but the gospel consistently points us up to God and out to others. Remembering that my husband is my brother in Christ, another sinner saved by grace like me, can jolt me out of my navel-gazing and into Christ-exalting service and love.
3. Guard yourself against sinning in response
Once, after having been betrayed yet again, I was in the garage aggressively sanding or painting something, listening to this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast. The context isn’t about pornography specifically, but he articulated so clearly the internal turmoil I was experiencing:
“One of the greatest battles for holiness and love in Christian marriage is the battle to avoid my sin in response to my wife’s sin… My responsibility before God is not the behaviors of my wife but my response to those behaviors.”
Honestly, just listen to the whole thing.
When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ one glorious day, I won’t answer for my husband’s failures. I will, however, be called to account (Romans 14:12) for every malicious word, every unkind thought, for bitterness, resentment, and coldness.
Dear wife, THIS is your fight. Remembering this may not make the fight easier, but it does ensure you’re at least fighting in the right direction!
4. Fight paranoia
I’ve seen it in wives again and again. I’ve had to fight it ferociously in my own heart. When my husband looks at porn, I’m tempted to succumb to paranoia. I want to go through his phone constantly when he’s not in the room. I want to watch him like a hawk when we’re out in public and an attractive woman walks by.
Can I tell you something? Your husband needs your prayers more than he needs your policing. All the blindfolds in the world can’t change his heart. But the Holy Spirit can (Psalm 51:10, Ezekiel 36:25-17, Romans 6:17-18).
Ultimately, your husband is responsible before God for his behavior (Romans 14:12). You can fight alongside him, but you can’t win the battle for him.
There’s a lot of practical safeguards you and your husband can prayerfully research and agree to implement— we use accountability software, have an open phone policy, have sought counseling. These things are super helpful!
Be on guard, however; if you seek these safeguards out of fear, trusting them to protect you… Romans 14:23 reminds us that “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
Instead, trust God to finish the good work He’s started in your husband (Philippians 1:6) and approach these safeguards as a means of His grace and help to you both (Hebrews 4:16).
5. Die to insecurity
It’s one thing to know that your husband’s looked at another woman. It’s another thing to see exactly what he lusted after. That’s where the mental jiu jitsu starts.
“If I were in better shape, or looked like her, or tried harder in the bedroom…”
Yeah, just throw that nonsense out right now, thanks!
Here’s the thing: sin is sin. There are many factors that go into why a man looks at pornography, but the bottom line is that he does so because he’s broken and sinful— not because of the way you do or don’t look.
Your husband is called to love, honor and desire you regardless of you (Ephesians 5:25). Insecurity like this is just the ugly stepsister of self-centeredness and vanity. Don’t make it about you— don’t give sin one more millimeter in your life and marriage!
6. Yearn for Jesus to return
I’ve saved the best for last. This, for me, is the sweetness that compensates for all that bitter.
I’m not sure I understood Christian hope before, but now you can bet that I yearn for Jesus to return. Jesus promises to make all things new (Rev. 21:5, Isa. 65:17), to eradicate sin forever and ever. In this life, my husband will probably need to fight against lust until his very last breath. And I’ll need to fight pride, insecurity, irritability… the list goes on. But in the next? Perfect freedom and holiness and joy forever! Because God has satisfied his great wrath against both of our sins in Jesus’s perfect death on our behalf.
So, even though I get tired and sad and angry and frustrated, I rejoice in the hope of the Gospel for my husband. And for myself, as I’m also a wretched sinner in desperate need of a Savior. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?