Opinion | Sexuality

Your Husband Looks at Porn: Now What?

Advice from a husband and counselor on how to respond when your spouse is struggling
Your Husband Looks at Porn: Now What?

Typically the event doesn't start with a confession but by discovering your husband has a secret problem with lust, masturbation, or pornography. Faced with horrifying acts of betrayal, your reactions may range from sadness to depression, from anger to rage, to sexual disinterest or having an affair.

Obviously, this is a relational problem between you and your husband; it's a breach of trust with the love of your life. You promised to forsake all others when you said, "I do." Very few couples getting married recognize that all marriages are a fragile covenant consummated by two sinners with seemingly good intentions. While strong love and commitment go a long way, it's never enough—sin is always going to express itself with some level of hurt and pain. It's always the grace of God that ultimately makes any marriage survive unfaithfulness and become more meaningful and glorifying to God.

All marriages are a fragile covenant consummated by two sinners with seemingly good intentions.

Whether you've been married just a few months or for more than 25 years, your worst fears are realized when you discover hidden sexual sin. Every moment of joy, satisfaction, and intimacy you've known with the man of your dreams seems to have been shattered. What was real now seems unreal. What was true intimacy now feels like false intimacy. What was a trusting relationship is now filled with paralyzing mistrust. This relational mistrust becomes the main element between you and your husband in the struggle to move forward.

All marriage relationships are complicated. Unfaithfulness takes the normal complications to the tenth power. There's no formula, "Do X, and then Y will logically follow," but instead it's a process of radical change, not only in your husband's behavior, but also in his spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity.

Where Did it All Begin?

You need to understand that your husband's lust, masturbation, or pornography use did not begin when you "gained 20 pounds" or "lost interest" in sex. Neither is it because your husband is visual and sexually hardwired. Women are sexually hardwired as well and are increasingly becoming addicted to pornography.

Long before you met your husband, his problem with looking at porn began, probably around age 11. Pornography is more accessible than ever, but the problem has become more extensive in conjunction with what has always lurked inside each of us: The drive to "look" isn't an overpowering sex drive or an addiction to sex, but an overpowering, demanding, selfish desire. Pornography, with its inherent ability to be secretive with easy accessibility, uniquely meets that demand. The essence of your husband's condition is an unwillingness to be told what to do spiritually, relationally, and sexually. You need a new man, not just a change in behavior.

You could have sex twice a day with your husband, but he would still be lusting over other women if his selfish demand is out of control. Frequency is never the real issue; rather, it is a lack of passionate desire for mature spiritual, relational, and sexual intimacy under the supremacy of Christ over all selfish demands. Death is the only viable solution for sin. Thanks be to God that death has already occurred in Christ. Marital unfaithfulness is always a relational event between you and God, and between God and your husband. Heart change is required to move from false intimacy to real intimacy with God, and you! This is the change that will give you a new man.

An Appointment with God

Experience tells me that behind every question you have, the never-ending threat of uncertainty lurks. How could this happen. I thought he loved me? What's wrong with me? What do I do now? And the critical question: Can I ever trust him again?

When the marriage covenant is broken by unfaithfulness, the most important preparation for moving ahead starts with the offended party. Think of your situation as rock climbing at the most precarious moment you could be in. Your 200-pound husband lost his grip on the side of the mountain and has fallen. You, the 150-pound wife is holding the rope he's dangling from. This is your life and your marriage, but most importantly, this is your sinful husband hanging over the cliff.

Pain is an appointment with God for him to do his deepest work in you, your husband, and in your marriage relationship for the glory of God.

We don't like when things get out of hand, but this kind of moment in life forces us to face reality about God and ourselves. Truth is, you can't get through life without pain, and you can't make it out alive. So you either crawl under the blankets and never get out of bed, or you develop the biblical attribute of godly steadfastness. You will never be certain of what comes next, but you can learn to always be certain of God in your future. God reigns; not chance!

In all my experience in counseling and in searching Scripture, I'm convinced that all unfaithfulness is a testing of faith, and pain is an appointment with God for him to do his deepest work in you, your husband, and in your marriage relationship for the glory of God.

A heart and a mind that is steadfast in the midst of betrayal is not numb to pain but learns to respond to all the pain and uncertainty by recognizing that your Father knows all about your situation. Long before you ever knew of your husband's hidden sexual sin, God was fully aware, waiting for the right moment to expose it for a purpose and to bring a radical change of heart. Pain is inevitable, but "we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love" (Romans 5:3–5). When you practice steadfastness with an understanding of the reality of God and what is really going on, you can turn your visual husband toward obedience to the Word, when he sees "your pure and reverent [life]" ().

Where Do You Go from Here?

Trust is essential in any relationship, but unfaithfulness shatters trust. Sometimes working to build trust only feeds fear. You go back to thinking, What if he's lying again? In fear you pull away just at the moment when real intimacy needs to increase. Instead of pulling away, focus on caring for your husband's spiritual condition. The greater challenge of any wife facing uncertainty is not to believe that your husband will change, but that God is able to change your husband. In reality, your husband is seeking fulfillment through false intimacy. By caring, you are able to offer him what he's always wanted: true intimacy. Looking at pornography is a complete contradiction to what your husband wants. He wants you! He has always wanted you—care enough to help him want you not only more, but better!

The greater challenge of any wife facing uncertainty is not to believe that your husband will change, but that God is able to change your husband.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that traditional accountability will control his lust. A person is only as accountable as he wants to be. The problem with formalized groups of accountability is that men, wanting to perform and look good, learn to lie better in their meetings. Resist the temptation to become his "parole officer," because constantly checking everything never reveals the internal heart condition but only external performance. You, with a heart seeking to be his wife according to the will of God, are his best hope for real change. Become his ally against sin, mutually asking each other, "As the months and years roll by, do you see me seeking more to be the will of God as your husband or wife than seeking my own selfish will?"

Take the path of forgiveness; it's a narrow path! "Forgiveness is to pardon an offender by which he is considered and treated as not guilty" (Noah Webster's Dictionary, 1828 edition). Justice has been served for your sin and his sin; both of you are no longer under the wrath of God. Therefore, treat him better than he deserves because that's the way God is treating you.

When dealing with the betrayal of unfaithfulness, the change for both of you is from the inside out. It is not simply a matter of his giving up pornography but of both of you giving up yourselves, your natural independence, and your self-will. Now you can work together to build spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity in your marriage. Always remember, together, that this is a significant relational event between you and God that can change everything, now and for eternity.

Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg is the founder of Stone Gate Resources, a counseling ministry specializing in the treatment of adultery, pornography, and all forms of sexual sin. He's written several books including Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships.

May
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