Whether you’re new the chaos of sexual sin in your marriage or you’re all too familiar with the destructiveness of it, there are usually signs that your husband may be struggling with sexual addiction (or addictions of any kind for that matter). As wives, we need to be in tune to our husband’s spiritual, emotional, and physical behaviors and attitudes so that we can be the wife God created us to be. We were not created to cower behind a bunker, turning our backs to the war raging all around us. Neither did God create us to merely be “help-mates” to our husband. Rather, God created women to be “ezer kenegdo.” The Hebrew word God used to describe Eve during her creation is used over 20 times in the Old Testament and it never implies “help mate.” It’s a word that always refers to strength and power. In fact, it’s a word that is often ascribed to God in times of His rescuing. God created woman to be a strength for her husband, to take part in his rescue in times of trouble. And in the war against sexual addiction, our husbands have never been in greater need for strength and rescue than this.
Sexual addiction is a lonely addiction. One that usually takes place in secret, one that your husband desperately wants to hide from you; from everybody. It’s an addiction that is still pretty “taboo” in our society, though millions struggle with it. It’s one that brings great shame and fear, creating a vicious cycle of dependence on the sexual deviance and constant torment from it. Ultimately, it’s one that your husband cannot overcome alone. And to be victorious, it is one that he will not only need the power of Jesus Christ and His Word, the wisdom and accountability of sexually sober men, and the support and prayer of godly friends, but he will also need strength and rescue from his bride. It’s a difficult position to be in. Heart broken and confused by his sexual betrayal, yet called by God to take part in his deliverance. It’s not impossible, and it’s certainly not without reward, but it’s not a task for the faint of heart. To be strength and rescue for our husbands, we must engage the war against sexual addiction. After all, our husbands are worth fighting for.
One way to engage the war against sexual addiction to is to be aware of shifts in your husband’s behaviors and attitudes. Each man is different and each couple is different, so I must draw from my own experience. But there are some universal, external clues that may apply to many couples experiencing the destructiveness of sexual addiction. These may include: constantly clearing the internet history, turning off the computer quickly when someone enters the room, having an abundance of pornographic “spam” in his email, not bouncing his eyes at sensual images in movies or on T.V., ogling other women in public, unexplained ATM withdrawals, constantly working late, being unable to account for periods of being “out of the house,” being overly protective about his cell phone or email accounts, justifying or explaining away a woman’s phone number, being caught in lies, etc. However, there’s more to it than that. It’s not just external. Looking back, I can see tell-tale signs that my husband was struggling with sexual addiction. Signs I wish I had been more keenly aware of years ago. Yes, many of those external clues were present, but there were also several attitudes and emotions he exhibited and behaviors portrayed that pointed to a deeper heart issue. Prior to my husband’s repentance from his pornography addiction, signs that he was struggling included:
- Uncontrolled Anger. My husband exhibited extreme anger. Anger over just about everything but especially towards me. His anger was out of control. He wasn’t physically abusive, but there were moments I knew it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities. His anger would flare up about little things, but he would rage whenever I confronted him about his attitudes or behaviors because I made him feel like he was “never good enough.” His feelings of inadequacy or insecurity as a man fueled his addiction and my confrontation of it fueled his anger.
- Blaming. “You’re too emotional.” “You’re too needy.” “Nothing’s ever good enough for you.” “You treat me like a child.” “Why do you always nag me?” Everything was my fault. No matter what the circumstance, no matter what the argument, he always found a way to shift all the blame on to me. He had to be guarded at all times, making sure his sin would not be found out. So blaming was his way of deflecting attention from his own sinful heart and keeping the focus on my flaws as a wife.
- Isolation. Nothing feeds sexual addiction more than isolation. Some call it escapism, but the idea is the same. It’s when a man disconnects himself from reality. Some men use sports, some use video games or T.V., some use work, and then some men use sexual deviance. For my husband, pornography became a way of escape for him. Escaping the pain of his past, the inadequacies and rejections in the present, and the fear of failure in his future. He would isolate himself physically, often choosing to stay home alone while the kids and I went to the park or the mall, even the grocery store, etc. And he would isolate himself emotionally; he was physically with us but emotionally “checked out.” He would immerse himself in television, internet, studying (the Bible of all things), sleeping, etc. and did not seem to care what was going on in our lives. He wasn’t present, physically or emotionally.
- Lack of sexual intimacy. Our sex life was a joke. We rarely had sex, and if we did, it was void of any real intimacy. My husband never seemed interested in pursuing or initiating sex with me, and when I approached him about intimacy, I would often come up against a brick wall. Of course, I blamed myself (as did he) and I often felt extremely unattractive and unwanted. As well as fearing that I just didn’t satisfy him. If we did engage in sexual activity, it was never intimate in nature. There was no emotional connection. It was just physical, and at times, aggressive. I always felt like I had to play the role of a porn star in the bedroom in order to get him aroused. And he would get very easily frustrated with me. There were many nights that we ended our love-making abruptly, unsatisfied, him going to sleep angry, and me crying myself to sleep. His sin kept him from being capable of intimacy with me.
- Lack of spiritual discipline. My husband and I were in ministry together while he was trapped in his sin. It’s a paradox I’ve yet to understand, but there was often times when his spiritual disciplines were inexistent. He would go long periods of time without praying or reading his Bible, except for when preparing to teach. As someone who also struggled with discipline, I always just assumed he was in a “lull.” But I began to see a pattern in his lack of spiritual discipline and his influx of other symptoms. The less time he spent in the Word and in prayer, the angrier he got, the more he would shift blame and the more isolated he became.
I can say with certainty that all these symptoms were signs that my husband was struggling with sexual addiction because with his repentance came a dramatic improvement in every area. His spiritual disciplines became a main priority, spending time every day in the Word and in prayer, seeking God’s deliverance, comfort, strength, and wisdom. His anger began to subside and our ability to communicate disagreements or conflict greatly increased. He stopped shifting blame onto me about everything, but rather was able to take responsibility for his own attitudes and behaviors. We developed intimacy both sexually and emotionally that is something we’ve grown to cherish and enjoy. And he no longer isolates himself, but rather pursues me and our children. It wasn’t just the pornography that was eliminated, but his heart was changed as well.
If my husband were to begin reverting to these same “old” behaviors and attitudes, I would have to prayerfully seek the Lord and confront my husband about a possible slip or relapse. Purity takes a lifetime of diligence and when that diligence begins to wane, signs of past sin do creep in. However, if we’ve continued in our efforts to engage the war against sexual addiction and be a continual strength for our husbands, we will be prepared to help rescue him from whatever lies ahead.
Accountability is a key component in recovery. XXXchurch.com offers two options for accountability.
X3 Groups is a online based group that meets weekly at the same time offering personal accountability with others. This is an option if you are unable to find someone in your area that will offer this help.
X3 Watch is another option that goes hand in hand with the X3 Groups and any accountability. This is a program that can be placed on either your computer or mobile devices.