He used porn, she used "helpful" words; both behaviors contributed to a marriage on the rocks. Meg Miller tells her story to Kim Anthony.
He used porn, she used "helpful" words; both behaviors contributed to a marriage on the rocks. Meg Miller tells her story to Kim Anthony.
Bob: When Meg Miller’s husband confessed to her that he’d been looking at pornography, he said he had a weight lifted from his shoulders. Meg did not have that same kind of experience.
Meg: He was so excited to help other guys. He was ready to become the man of God that God had always wanted him to be, and he was so excited to have this behind him. I, on the other hand, was just devastated. I was repulsed; I was disgusted; I was confused. I wanted to let him bring all of his confessions out, but I certainly didn’t want to stick around and be with a guy who was doing this.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 18th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Meg Miller says her husband’s involvement with pornography was ultimately what God used to save their marriage. We’ll hear her story today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have kind of a loaded—this is a hard ball; and I’m going to throw it at—I’m going to throw it at you, Ann, to start this off.
Dave: Good; throw it at Ann! I don’t want any hard balls. [Laughter]
Bob: This is a question that I feel like I have to put some disclaimers around this. We would agree that if a husband—this could be a husband or a wife, but we’ll just say a husband—is involved in looking at pornography. We would say the responsibility for that choice is all on him; right?—a hundred percent on him—that he’s doing that.
Bob: He needs to own—that’s all on him.
Ann: Yes; yes.
Bob: So the hard ball question is: “Couldn’t his wife have had some influence in the fact that he’s over there, looking at porn?”
Bob: Yes! You understand the—
Bob: —because we’re in a tricky area. We don’t want to do anything to lessen the full culpability of the man, who is off looking at porn; but when a husband and wife are one, there can be oneness factors that can lead either of them into a sinful choice; right?
Dave: I can’t wait to hear my wife’s answer to that question.
Ann: Well, I was going to say—this happened to Dave and I, where he came to me and told me he had an issue, years ago, when we were first married. If someone would have said to me, “Ann, you probably have a part in this; and maybe you do,” and “Don’t you have your own sin?” I would have probably slapped you in the face. [Laughter]
Dave: She is not kidding. [Laughter]
Ann: But had I been able to think through it a little bit—and go a little deeper and talk to God about it—I would really ponder that, because none of us are without sin.
Dave: And yet, you know, I’m the guy she’s talking about that struggled, decades ago. I would tell you it had nothing to do with her—I said that to Ann. I mean, one of the darkest days of my life was when I confessed to Ann my struggle. Of course, immediately, she thought it was her fault or, at least, a part of her fault. I really, at that time, felt like: “No; it has nothing to do with you. This is my struggle.”
Ann: But I had my own sin. I had my own things that I struggled with, but I just felt like his were so much worse.
Bob: Right; well, that’s the subject we’re going to dive into today as we listen to a portion of Episode 1 of a new podcast that FamilyLife® has put together. It’s called Unfavorable Odds with Kim Anthony. Kim is sharing stories of people, who have faced dark moments and dark days in marriages and in families, and who have found how to overcome those dark moments/how to get back to victory in those moments.
Kim had the opportunity, in Episode 1 of her podcast, to talk to Meg Miller. Meg is the author of a book called Benefit of the Debt; and the subtitle is How My Husband’s Porn Problem Saved Our Marriage.
Dave: That’ll get your attention!
Bob: It [subtitle] said Ruined. She cut [line through the word] Ruined and wrote Saved.
Bob: We’ll get a chance to hear, in this excerpt from the podcast, a little of Meg’s story.
Meg: I thought it was a good marriage. We were happy-ish/happy enough, but our definition of happiness might have been off.
Kim: Well, there was something you said in the book—you mentioned how, before you got married, you expected there to be problems. Why were you so sure about that?
Meg: The church has done a good job helping women prepare for differences in marriage: “We’re not the same,”—you know—“Don’t expect to change your future husband,”—stuff like that. So I knew there would be conflict. I almost even looked forward to it; because I’m creative, and I could figure out how to handle it. I thought I was really brilliant.
I can handle little differences; for example, if it’s true that all men—or 95 percent of men—struggle with lust, I almost anticipated how we would handle that: “We will put some boundaries in place.” I had a plan. [Laughter] Unfortunately, I took it the extra step and considered myself ready and self-sufficient in my own knowledge to handle these things.
Kim: Wow. So, you walked into the marriage confident, in spite of your expectation that problems would occur?
Meg: Yes; I knew problems would occur. I had no idea how much it would hurt when problems actually did occur. He wouldn’t bend to my brilliance, and he wouldn’t take my advice and do things the way I said he should. That frustrated me. In fact, it was hurtful that he wouldn’t do everything my way. [Laughter] So we settled into a little bit of a pattern, where I was frustrated with him often; and he would escape in his own way often.
Kim: So, take us to the point where you discovered his use of pornography.
Meg: He almost seemed to want to get caught, almost. He did not cover his trail—he did not clear his browsing history. He almost seemed to be crying out for help. When I found his browsing history, I was crushed. I thought I was ready for this—because it’s so common, and I had heard that it’s so common—that I felt ready and I wasn’t. I thought that I would be able to overcome it and not believe the lies that arrive as soon as that browsing history is exposed; for example, “You’re not good enough,” and “He’s dirty,” or “He’s worth less because of this.” Those kinds of lies creep in right away. I thought I was ready for them, because I had heard that it is such a common issue. My heart, as soon as I found it, betrayed that I was not ready for it.
When I found evidence of his pornography use, I stopped looking. Now, this is uncommon; because a lot of women want to find out everything and see how bad it is. But I knew that if I did that, it would somehow take the privilege away from him of coming forward; because that is an experience he could use to heal. On the other hand, if I confronted him with every single thing that I had found, he would be tempted to hold back the stuff that I did not find, and I knew there would be something that I did not find.
No one was counseling me on this; I just felt a still, small voice that said: “Hang on. Don’t go crazy. Let’s give him the benefit of confessing.” So I don’t have to accuse him of everything.
Kim: What did that do to you, as a wife, to discover that your husband has been using pornography? What did that do to your emotions, your feelings about yourself, your feelings about him?
Meg: It is terrible; it is terrible. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. I would rather have a physical illness or something—a tragedy from the a tree falling on the dog or something—I’d rather have some kind of unexplainable thing that does not pit us against one another, something that we could bind together and face together. This does the opposite—pornography does the opposite—and puts us on opposite sides of the problem, where he seems weak now; and he seems like an escapist.
It’s confusing to me, first of all, because we had always been very open with each other; so suddenly, there are these secrets. It’s also confusing to me because: “Why isn’t our life good enough? Why do you need something else to get by?” It’s also confusing to me because: “Why that? Why would that comfort a guy?” That’s just a difference between many men and women. To me, other things comfort me; and if I need to escape, that’s not where I’m going.
Kim: So what did you do—you and your husband do to seek help? How did you strategize towards healing?
Meg: He was repentant immediately. He was thankful that it was out in the light. He was probably healthier than I was, at that point; because: “Yay! Healing is on the way!” He’s optimistic/encouraged; he felt connected. Secrets are out, so he felt relief. And he’s a Christian, so he also felt forgiveness from the Lord. He and the Lord were tighter, now, than ever before. He was so excited to help other guys. He was ready to become the man of God that God had always wanted him to be, and he was so excited to have this behind him. I, on the other hand, was just devastated. I was repulsed; I was disgusted; I was confused. I wanted to let him bring all of his confessions out, but I certainly didn’t want to stick around and be with a guy who was doing this.
You asked about the treatment that we sought.
Meg: We did go to couples’ counseling. The couples’ counselor told us: “You, Mr., you need to go to his group,” and “You, Mrs., you should go to her group.” It really struck me—the difference—when we came out of our groups: how sad I was after my group and how excited he was after his group. It was like we were going further and further away from each other in our own respective cocoons.
Kim: Was your husband sensitive to how you were feeling, even though he was in this place that was much better than before?
Meg: He was sensitive. He would always ask me what I need to heal, and I didn’t know. He would try, and I didn’t know what I needed. I’m so hurt; it’s just so—it’s not getting better. I felt that hurt turning into resentment; and when that began, I started feeling permanently repulsed by him instead of just temporarily repulsed.
I knew—I got desperate—I knew I had to find healing or we would be done, not because of his problem, but because of my unforgiveness. I couldn’t figure it out.
Meg: And I knew forgiveness was a command, so I tried. I tried, tried, tried, tried. I said it over and over: “I forgive you,” “I forgive you”; but that hurt remained. The hurt was evidence of unforgiveness.
When I begged God for answers—and I did not let Him leave me alone until He did give me answers—what He gave me was almost, at the time, felt like a change of subject. He showed me my husband’s heart next to mine, and it was just as damaged. I wondered: “Where did all that damage come from? He couldn’t be as damaged as me; that has to be hypothetical.” The Holy Spirit was kind enough to say: “Sure. Go ahead; just explore it. Just consider it. What if—what if your husband was as hurt as you are?”
I thought: “Well, okay; I’ll go with You there. I’ll consider that.” But what would be the source of that hurt? Where would he have gotten so hurt from? I was confused again. Very gently—oh, so gently—I ruled out one factor in his life after another, until the factor of my own presence in his life came into view. I was like, “Okay; I’ll examine myself as the source of Joe’s hurt.” Everything came into clear focus at that moment: “If I am responsible for his broken heart, then it would explain all the confusion—all the confusion that I had had would be cleared up.”
Kim: Tell me how you went from God showing you that his heart is just as broken as yours to actually taking on the responsibility—and please correct me if I’m wrong; you can clarify for me—but you said that you found that you were the source of his pain. Are you saying that you were the source of the pain that led him to using pornography?
Meg: No; I can say that I’m the source of the pain that I saw in this insight/in this revelation. I’m the source of his hurt. What he does with that hurt is up to him, but I am not responsible for his actions. I am responsible for: “What is the condition of his heart?”
When I realized I’m responsible for the condition of his heart, that hurt that I was feeling, as the result of his pornography habit, instantly dissipated and was replaced with concern and regret—not guilt and shame—but regret: “What can I do to make this right?!” I was consumed with excitement and desire to make it right and to help him heal, because I knew what it felt like to be damaged.
I didn’t realize I was criticizing my husband as much as I was. For example, in the home, when I tell him how to do things, a little wound appears in his heart. “I did not mean to hurt you, but when I tell you how to do everything, that starts to look like a lot of pain.” Now, I’m not saying that that pain causes him to sin, but I am saying that that pain is an issue. I’m involved in that, and I can move toward that. That’s something I can do—in all the helplessness, I can move toward his pain and say, “I did not know what I was doing,” and that was very healing for both of us.
Kim: Tell me how that critical spirit played out in your marriage. What did it look like?
Meg: Every day, there are many things that a couple has to talk about to run the household—I call it household administration. A lot of the things are lessons learned; for example: “When we get a little flock of backyard chickens, we should probably make sure they don’t jump the fence and bother the neighbors,” “We should also drop off the car to get the brakes fixed,” “Did you feed the dog?” All these things—they don’t sound like criticism; do they?
But when you pile them on top—one on top of another—and you start saying, “Hey, you should have gotten the car in a little earlier”; if you start criticizing your life in general, a husband often takes that as a direct assault on his character. Often, women—we just think we’re collaborating to run the house; but a man, after a full days’ worth of collaborating, that can sound a lot like a drip on his performance.
Kim: Is it possible that, in the marriage, he felt like you were controlling him; and his acting out through the use of pornography was possibly one of the only places he found that he had control over?
Meg: Yes; and it was a source of comfort for him, where I should have been the comfort, instead of his control. If I only have a certain number of words allotted to me every day, and I use most of them for household administration and control, then I haven’t used them to comfort. I should be comforting my husband more than controlling him. Again, it doesn’t sound like control, at the moment: “I just have to get this stuff done.”
Kim: So, tell me what the Lord has done in your life in the area of having a critical spirit.
Meg: Having a critical spirit is not a habit that I need to work on; it’s a big debt I have incurred. What I mean by that is—when I hurt someone, someone has to pay for that. Either my husband’s going to live with that hurt every day—like I was living with the hurt of his pornography use; I was paying his debt, one little bit at a time; and I would never have been able to pay it off by myself.
In the same way, when I criticize him, a debt is incurred; and I cannot make it right. I need a third party—I need someone to pay that debt for me. I don’t mean debt cancellation—that’s just changing the numbers—I mean, someone has to go pay. Someone has to hurt on our behalf so that we don’t have to.
Thankfully, Someone already has gone through all that on our behalf. The Lord Jesus died for me so that I don’t have to go through this. He was beaten and betrayed—that’s how I felt—I was beaten and betrayed by my husband’s porn use. I do not have to go through that anymore—not because I have done nothing wrong, which is the lie that I was believing before: “I am better than this. I have done nothing wrong. My husband owes me fidelity,”—those are not the entire truth.
The entire truth is that Somebody has gone through this betrayal and abuse on my behalf so that, now, I can stand and say, “I don’t have to put up with that behavior anymore,”—not because I’ve earned better—but because Somebody’s already gone through the trouble/that difficulty, and the abuse, and betrayal on my behalf.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Meg Miller in an excerpt from Episode 1 of Kim Anthony’s new podcast, which is called Unfavorable Odds. To hear her say, “I’m not owed fidelity,” I’m thinking, “Well, sure you are!” I mean, he promised fidelity when they stood at the altar and said, “I do.” This is kind of a tricky minefield to wind up in; but I think the heart of what Meg is trying to say here is: “We both have to acknowledge—we come into marriage with our own stuff and our own junk. If you’re the person, who’s sitting with the log in your eye and looking at the speck in your spouse’s eye, that’s where the problem is”; right?
Dave: Yes; I’m listening to the end of that and thinking, “The depth/the maturity to be able to not demand fidelity—I mean, she is—but to be able to take her eyes off her husband and put them on the cross—honestly, I’m like, ‘I can’t do that!’”
Ann: Well, that’s what I thought too. I thought it was a good ending; because we come into marriage/we come into a covenant with our hopes, and expectations, and dreams, and our promises. Many times, in our marriage vows, we make promises that we don’t keep. To me, this is all about putting Jesus in the front and allowing Him to be the One that forgives us and gives us power to take the brunt of our sin.
Dave: So talk about this—you’re that wife. You’ve gone through what Meg went through, and you forgave me and are still forgiving me; how?
Ann: I can only do it when I look in the mirror, honestly. It’s taking the plank out of my eye; because, sometimes, the plank has been really big because, all the time, I think I was noticing yours. The cross makes me realize we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Dave: And yet, as I even think back to those days in our marriage, it was hard for you. I mean, as I would come back to you with another struggle, there was anger; there was hurt; you felt abandoned. Yet, here we sit, decades later; you’ve forgiven me. Was it quick?
Ann: It took a long time. The forgiveness part was there, but the trust part had to be earned back.
Bob: One of the things that Meg goes on to say in this episode of the podcast, she talks about the fact that, for guys who are dealing with pornography, there are support groups.
Ann: That’s good.
Bob: She says for women, who are dealing with control issues or nagging, there’s no support group in the church.
Ann: Right; it’s true.
Bob: I’d just encourage our listeners to hear the entire conversation that Kim Anthony has with Meg Miller. Again, it’s Episode 1 of Kim’s new podcast, which is called Unfavorable Odds. You’ll hear Meg explain why, today, in spite of her husband’s porn use, she says, “When I look at him today, he’s perfect.” She’ll explain what she means; again, that’s in Episode 1 of Unfavorable Odds. You can hear the episode or subscribe to the podcast when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. The information about Kim’s podcast and the other new podcasts we have available can all be found there.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com—find out about the FamilyLife podcast network—and if you’re interested in a copy of Meg Miller’s book, Benefit of the Debt: How My Husband’s Porn Problem Saved Our Marriage, we have that in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, as we reflect on what we’ve heard today, the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, is here with us. David—a lot to reflect on/a lot to chew on in what we’ve listened to today.
David: Yes; indeed. The whole conversation really is amazing. The main thing that strikes me today is that we are each responsible for how we deal with pain and discomfort that we experience. We can’t always control the pain—
Bob: Well, and we certainly can’t control how another person is going to process their side of the story. We can only deal with our own stuff; right?
David: No doubt. Let’s reflect on two sides of that coin. First, the question we might ask ourselves is: “How might you be contributing to your spouse or family members’ pain?” Like Meg, you probably aren’t doing it intentionally; but still, consider it and ask them if there’s anything that they have to say.
Bob: “Is there a log in my eye that I need to look at here?”
David: Yes; it’s worth asking and offering ourselves up to that conversation.
The other side is: “How are you dealing with your own pain and stress in life? Are there sinful expressions that we’re simply allowing to exist and allowing to fester?” We long to be fully-known and loved, especially by a spouse or family member; but we often hesitate to take the risk to let people in and invite them to speak honestly to us, because there is risk of being hurt. I mean, it’s a legitimate risk.
But as Tim Keller said, “To be loved but not known is superficial, to be known and not loved is our greatest fear; but to be known and loved, that transforms us.” Jesus knows us fully and He loves us. Let that free us up to be able to move toward our spouse and members of our family today, even if there’s risk involved.
Bob: Yes; and to be honest with another, we have to be able to trust one another in that environment; but that’s good. Those are good thoughts, David. Thank you.
A quick word of thanks to those of you who made today’s program possible. You know who you are—it’s those of you who help support this ministry, either each month as a Legacy Partner or, from time to time, with an occasional donation to help support this work. Thanks to those of you who are a part of the team.
Those of you who are long-time listeners, can we ask you to join the team? Call today or go online to make a donation. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation.
And we hope you can join us back, again, tomorrow when we’re going to hear about some remarkable young people, who have decided to invest their time in memorizing Scripture. In fact, you’ll meet a young man tomorrow who has hidden a lot of God’s Word in his heart, and I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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