While the spouses section here is intended for the spouse of the one struggling in sexual sin, I felt led to put up a blog for those who come to this section who are trying to relate to the spouse- who want to help the spouse but are unsure how to do that. This particular blog entry will also serve (hopefully) to affirm the spouse that they are not alone and that I understand what they would like to see happen in their church- their family- their friendships.
How church leadership can support the spouse:
I have been in 4 churches throughout the duration of my marriage and the struggle my husband has with pornography. The reason for attending that many was simply because my husband thought he needed ‘more’ and was on a search to find it in a ‘place’. I followed to honor my husband’s wishes and in obedience to God’s word stating I need to submit to my husband.
The problem I encountered at three of those four churches was that while showing grace and or mercy to my husband in his constant battle- they didn’t seem to recognize why I was expecting them to challenge my husband in the Word. I felt like I was made to be the “bad guy” because I wanted them to spur him on (Heb 10:24) and to hold him accountable to God’s Word concerning his choices. Instead, somehow my husband’s problem with porn actually got turned around onto me by two of those churches. The world does this to women every day- the church should not. Do not ask a woman if she is giving her husband enough sex. Do not ask a woman if she is submitting. Do not ask a woman if if if… This scenario makes it look like she has some power or control over her husband and then of course points his problem to somehow being her fault. Those questions are important, but they should not be asked of her in the context of discussing her husband’s porn problem. Those types of questions can be asked at a separate time OR better yet by someone in women’s ministry like perhaps the pastor’s wife or a biblical counselor during a marital session and should be asked to get a general feel of the marriage as a whole not necessarily in the same conversation as his pornography issue.
In the church the spouse should also receive the same support and the same amount of time as the husband. Usually I found that leaderships felt like their primary goal needed to be with the struggling spouse since he/she is the one with the ‘issue’. While it is crucial to get the husband help, someone needs to be calling the wife on a regular basis and asking how she is doing as well. The wife needs accountability also. While the initial shock of it all can put her in emotional overload- she can’t stay there. She can’t stay angry, she can’t stay depressed etc. She must be encouraged to live as unto God even in the midst of this awful trial. She needs support and encouragement and should be referred to other women and or ministries that can help walk her through some of what she faces. She should be included also in what the leadership is doing in regards to her husband and how well he is responding. If indeed we believe that the marital union has made the two into one flesh then she should be included in everything that has to do with her husband. There should be no secrets or things withheld from her. She needs to trust you and know that you are for them as one.
The wife needs to be active in the church and should be encouraged in that. I have found with most women- they are afraid to leave their husbands alone to go to bible study or to go to women’s outings including retreats because it is when he is left alone that he usually acts out. While I am not excusing the wife for not taking better care of her own spiritual walk with God- and turning her husband over to God, it helps when the leadership is willing to hold the husband accountable during those events so that the wife can partake of them without a nag in her stomach wondering what her husband is up to while she is gone.
Most importantly, let the wife know you care and that you are invested in her well being as much as her husband’s.
How friends & family can support the spouse:
I want to speak to both sides of the family as well as friends of both spouses. It is always easy to take sides when one spouse is hurting the other. We must remember that God doesn’t take sides with us. He loves us in spite of our sinful behavior. He does however commission us to take care of the widow and the orphans. I truly believe that when a man has abandoned his wife and children spiritually and emotionally, he has in a sense made them widows and orphans. We can support and encourage the wife and the children all the while loving the husband and or the sinner.
Encouraging her does not mean telling her that her husband is a loser and she should leave him. Encouraging her does not mean telling her what you think she wants to hear. Encouraging her means that you will stand with her, pray for her AND her husband and believe God’s best for her, her husband and their marriage. For some of you this is hard to hear, I get that but it doesn’t make what I am saying untrue. In the beginning stages of a woman finding out her husband is wrapped up in porn she usually goes through a dramatic gamut of emotions. Those include hurt, anger, grief, frustration, hopelessness etc. She needs time to discern what God is asking of her in the coming days, weeks, months, years. She doesn’t need to be confused by opinions that are made up of feelings and not of facts and or biblical truth.
It was comforting when people took my side, I admit that, but it was temporary. It made me feel safe and it made me feel better BUT… it made it very difficult to make decisions and to hear from God when I had those voices in my head that said things like “men never change” or “I wouldn’t put up with that if I were you”. What was truly helpful and beneficial was knowing that God raised up those to carry us and to bear us when we were too weak and too weary to do it alone. We the wives love our husbands even through the heartache and the hurt. We love them and we need to know others love them and are rooting for them too. We need to know someone out there also believes God for them.
To the family of the spouse who is the one caught up in porn and or other sexual sin. Do not abandon the wife because the husband (your family member) did. Do not blame her. Do not punish her if you do not understand why she may not stay with a husband who will not repent of his sinful ways and continues to act out sexually with others and or himself. Again, just like I said above. Stand with her, pray for her and try to be supportive even if you don’t understand or agree. You know in your heart that what has been done to her is wrong. Extend the same grace to her that you extend to the one caught up in this sin.
This is my heart anyway. Forgive me that grammar is not my best attribute. I am not a professional writer but I am writing from a very sincere place in my journey.
I welcome others to share what was beneficial and what was harmful to them during this time of crisis in their marriage.