One of the memories that will forever be a driver in my recovery journey  was the day that my wife (then my fiancé) took her engagement ring off, slid it across the table, and with tears streaming down her face, exclaimed, “I can’t marry you. I won’t marry a liar. Someone who’s more in love with images on a screen than he is with me.” That moment will  always be etched into my memory.

As painful as it was (and still is to  think about), it serves as a reminder of one of my greatest motivations:  Becoming the man that God created me to be. And being a husband  who can be entrusted with his wife’s heart. 

That experience became for me one of the greatest reality checks I would need at that time in my life.

It was in that moment that something inside turned over. A light went on. A fire was lit. It finally dawned on me that I had so damaged my own soul that it was now spilling out and  leaking onto someone else. My fiancé’s world was now being wrecked because of my own sin. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I will always  be for that moment. At the same time, I know that damage I did to my wife’s heart was catastrophic. 

It would take months and even years before my wife could fully trust me again. Why? Because I had lied to her over and over and over again. No other man had done to her what I had done. She had all the justification in the world to leave me if she wanted to. But she chose to stay. 15 years later, I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am that she stayed. I think it  was because she saw something change inside of me. She saw the change take place in my life. 

In our work with other couples, I’ve often heard my wife talk about the  “the life I didn’t ask for” when she first met me and learned about my addiction. She didn’t asked to be lied to. To be deceived. To play second fiddle to fantasies and digital daydreams. That’s not what she signed up  for and that’s not what any person should sign up for in marriage. So what changed for us? How did our marriage become healthy again? Here’s a few thoughts: 

1. For the first time in life, I had to become honest with myself and with her. Up until that point where Tracey was almost ready  to leave me, I hadn’t really been honest with anyone about my addiction to pornography. I was too afraid. I felt too much  shame. I had no idea what to do. In some ways, I feel like the timing of when I was exposed was perfect because then someone else really knew what was going on with me. Unfortunately, my wife’s heart was now entangled in that  process.

But this really is the starting place for any kind of potential change in life: honesty.

If you’re not willing to be  completely honest with yourself and your spouse, you might as well call it quits and walk away. Obviously, I don’t want anyone reading this to actually do that. But that’s how important being honest is. Once you have come clean and allowed other people like your spouse into your heart, you can start to craft a plan for what freedom and healing look like. 

2. I had to be willing to do whatever it took to find freedom. For me, this included many things including spending a season with  a trained CSAT (certified sexual addiction therapist). That meant being committed to a weekly support group that met for men who struggled with sexual addiction, attending several men’s intensives, and being open to daily and weekly forms of accountability and recovery work that needed to take place. 

Believe me when I say there was a lot that needed to happen in my heart. To this day, I’m still learning about my heart and what makes it tick. But especially in the early days of recovery, I had to do whatever it took to become the man that God was calling me to be. All the while, my wife was watching me. And championing me!

It couldn’t be just words. I had to do the work. And from the start of recovery to this very day, it had to be for me first and foremost. 

3. I needed to be both supportive and patient as my wife struggled on her journey. This one is really hard for most men.  I know it was for me. The sad truth about addiction is that it never only affects the person with the addiction. Everyone  around them will be impacted in some way, shape, or form.

And so in our case, Tracey had to almost start her own journey of healing. And it was tough. She would often be triggered by different things along the way. And I needed to be sensitive and  understanding to what she was walking through.

At this point in  the reading, you might be asking, “How am I supposed to do the work I need to do for myself and also care for what my wife is  going through as well?”

This is where I need to lovingly push back a little and remind you that your wife didn’t cause this.

She wasn’t the one to bring this into your marriage. Now, I know every marriage is different and that is not always the case, but  for most couples, the wife is the one who is betrayed. 

These are just a few guiding principles from the journey that I’ve been on. Feel free to take them, spit them out, or adapt them however you  need to your situation.

But here’s the bottom line: Your marriage can be  restored.

Your marriage can become whole again. And not only that, you  can experience more intimacy with your spouse than you could ever  know. And I don’t mean just sex – I mean in every way of life – physically,  spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and socially. There is hope today for  your marriage!

Commit to being the person that God is calling you to be – someone who is honest, authentic, and willing to do whatever it takes to get there!