5 Pieces of Advice to Husbands
1. Do not let relief of shame turn the emotional tables on your wife. It is very common for husbands to turn the emotional tables on their wife after a pornography habit is found out. This can happen in two ways. First, the husband feels relief because he no longer has to carry the burden of his secret life. The burden is passed to the wife who had no idea and is now in shock. The legitimate hope that you feel now that the secret is out should lead you to be prompt in following through on the third piece of advice below. In the meantime, do not be so self-centered that you let your relief minimize the burden you have passed to your wife.
Second, the husband can feel intense shame for his actions or feel that beating himself up for his “stupid” choices is a sign of more genuine or deeper repentance. The wife is placed in a position to either join in the bashing by agreeing with his wallowing or to rescue the husband by comforting him. Neither is good for the marriage. You need to speak in a way that takes full responsibility for your actions and conveys a willingness to take the steps necessary to overcome this sin. However, this should not cause you to lose sight of the fact that your wife is hurting.
2. Do not get angry or insistent on a time table of forgiveness. Forgiveness takes time and you do not get to hold the stop watch. If the first piece of advice was about not turning the emotional tables on your wife, the second piece of advice is about not turning the moral tables on your wife. Do not say any version of, “I said I was sorry and now the Bible says you have to forgive or you are the one sinning not me.” For you to take the moral high ground in the days or weeks after hurting your wife is wrong and an abuse of Scripture. You will be severely damaging your ability to be the Christian leader of your home if you use God in this way for a short-term advantage.
It is important here to differentiate between forgiveness and restoration. Forgiveness is the willingness to relinquish a debt or cancel a punishment on the basis of grace not merit. Restoration is the process of repairing something to its original condition or better. Restraining from using your sin against you in an argument, taking verbal digs when she is insecure, and only talking to mutually trusted agreed upon friends (see #3 below) are parts of forgiveness. Learning to trust, wanting to see the fruit of repentance, warming up to more natural expressions of affection, and regaining a moral respect are parts of restoration.
You must remember you do not deserve forgiveness. That is an act of love and obedience she gives to God of which you are only the beneficiary. If you forget this, your sense of entitlement will shipwreck your repentance (which is just as continuous as her forgiveness). You must also expect that restoration will take longer than forgiveness. If you mistake the two, you will wrongly criticize your wife for not forgiving, and she will grow discouraged and say, “I just can’t do it; maybe divorce is the best/only option” because you have mislabeled a marathon as a sprint.
3. Be pro-active in seeking accountability for you and support for your wife. One of the most important ways that you can protect your wife at this time and fan the flame of relief/hope you feel (if that is the case) is by seeking out an accountability partner who is not your wife. This person should be someone that the two of you mutually trust.
The reason for seeking out this person is not so that your wife will not ask you questions. If your wife asks you questions, you should answer them honestly and without defensiveness. The reason for seeking this person is so that your wife will not have to ask you questions. Unless you have an accountability partner your wife will know that unless she asks you questions, no one else will. That is a fearful position to put her in.
As you decide whom to ask, considering the following points about a good accountability relationship:
- You need to be able to meet in person weekly or at least every other week.
- You should be comfortable calling them and with them calling you.
- They need to have an active walk with the Lord and participation in a local church.
- This person needs to have the courage to speak about sin and ask direct questions.
- They need to demonstrate wisdom in decision-making and relationship. If your wife has requests of you that you are uncomfortable with, you should talk with this person about them. Ask your wife to write her request to make sure you present it fairly.
- It is helpful if they are willing to allow you to hold them accountable for some things as well. One-sided accountability relationships tend to be very short-lived.
- As the relationship develops it needs to address more than pornography. You are asking this person to walk with you on a journey to be a better Christian, husband, and father; not merely to be porn-free.
- You should start by answering the questions listed in “Advice to Wives” number three with your accountability partner.
- Another important step for your accountability and your wife’s trust is to install accountability software on computers to which you have unsupervised access. A free version can be found at www.xxxchurch.com or, if you have multiple users on the same computer, www.covenanteyes.com has a more elaborate program. Either way, these programs will send a regular e-mail report of your internet usage to your accountability partner.
4. Realize you will likely need to be more real than you have ever been. One of the common descriptions of pornography is that it is “intimacy without vulnerability.” Often those who look at pornography are uncomfortable being open in a relationship with a real person. Pornography provides the pleasure of pseudo-closeness without any of the risks of rejection. Pornography is also often used as a form of stress relief or a way to escape from life for a little while.
In any case, if you are going to honor your marriage you must learn to share with your wife what you hid with sin. It is not enough to not sin. Unless you learn to be healthily vulnerable and authentic it will only be a matter of time before you find another outlet to find “pleasure/relief without vulnerability.” It may not be porn. It could be fishing, video games, alcohol, television, or any number of things. Regardless of what you replace the pseudo-closeness with, unless it is the openness Scripture calls for a husband and wife to share, it will deteriorate the marriage. For practical guidance on this consider the articles “Vulnerability by the Beatitudes” or “Not Again Sin” found under “Articles” at www.bradhambrick.com. These would be good resources to study with your accountability partner.
5. Allow your sin and folly to point you to your need for Christ. You have to admit that you will not overcome this struggle in the way you should in your own strength. Many parts of this article have probably discouraged you greatly. That is because this article has focused on what is necessary without consideration of your family history, social position, personality, or relational weaknesses. The question is not, “What can/can’t you do?” The question is, “Who will you surrender to–self or Christ?” That is the ultimate question before every one of us (Luke 9:23-26).
This article was written primarily for your wife. Not to take her side, but to give her guidance. You are reading it to understand better the hurts and challenges in her life at this time. For that reason, guiding you through the challenges in front of you has not been addressed as thoroughly.
Click the link to read the entire article, Is Pornography Biblical Grounds for Divorce?