A Wife’s Response
Pastor and counselor Deepak Reju passes along sound advice to wives who find out their husbands look at porn. Husbands need to be patient after confessing their porn addiction to their wives, and must give their wives time to come to a place of forgiveness and trust.
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Deepak Reju says, husbands need to be patient after confessing their addiction to their wives, and must give their wives time to come to a place of forgiveness and trust.
A Wife’s Response
Bob: Pastor and counselor, Deepak Reju, says a wife can be an asset to her husband when he is trying to fight against the temptation to look at pornography.
Deepak: I had one wife, who said [in front of] me as her husband had confessed, “I want to be an ally with you against your sin.” I thought: “That's exactly right. You're not against him; he's not your enemy. You want to battle this together to defeat this together.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 29th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. There is healing and hope available for a marriage when a husband or a wife has become ensnared by the sin of pornography. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We're talking about something this week that—Dave, you shared this part of your story—is a struggle in this area with pornography early in your marriage; right?
Dave: It was something that raised its ugly head because I made bad choices before I got married. I was one of those guys, who thought: “Oh, this will go away. You get married, it's not going to be a part”; and it was a part. I had to go into a war—I mean a war. I had never experienced, I don’t think, a struggle that intense as that battle to win the battle of sexual temptation, especially with pornography. Victory is real, and Jesus can bring it; but it's a battle.
Ann: And then it became a war in our marriage because, when he told me about it and when I caught him in some of the things, I was so angry. I was hurt and felt rejected. I felt shame myself, and I became all the things we had talked about earlier: I became the cop; I became fearful; I didn't want to feel the pain again. It brought up a lot of old wounds, too.
We were back in the day when nobody was talking about this. I'm so glad there's help now. There are a lot of resources where people can go and counselors where people can find help.
Dave: We've got a resource today.
Bob: We do. One of the sources of help is a devotional called [Pornography]: Fighting for Purity, written by Deepak Reju, who's joining us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Deepak: I'm glad to be back.
Bob: Deepak is a counselor; he's an author; he's a speaker; he's on the pastoral staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
You described the trajectory of a man's life, or a woman's life, when they are starting to deal with this issue in stock market terms. It can be: “We're headed in the right direction”; and then, “Oh!” we fall off; then we head back in the right direction. Did you have a “stock market” phase in your battle, Dave?
Dave: Oh, for sure; that is an accurate depiction. I think it's true of any sin struggle/any temptation, but it's intense in this area.
Ann: Dave would come to me and he'd say, “I promise this will never happen again in our marriage”; and then it did. He would say that several times; so then I'm like, “Don't even say anything.” I lost trust, and it was hard to know where to go.
Bob: Let's talk about a couple in the midst of this. A husband has either just been found out or he has come under conviction of sin and gone to his wife and said: “This has been an area of perpetual struggle for me,” and “By God's grace, I want to head in a new direction. I'm getting help; I'm seeing a guy at church who's an accountability partner. I need your help.”
I’m having that conversation; what should that first confession/conversation sound like and look like?
Deepak: The hard thing is to open up this part of your marriage and begin to let your wife see the devastation that it's going to do to your marriage. It's painful on all parts; because, not only is it going to feel like betrayal to the wife, the husband is going to have an added layer of shame and guilt because now he sees directly how his sin affects his wife. He's seen it before in other ways, but this is especially painful; it cuts to the heart of a marriage. If sex is a fundamental part/a foundation of our marriages—this precious intimacy that God allows us to share as a husband and wife—this cuts straight through that.
Yes, the first part of it is just being honest. Don't hold things back. Rip off the Band-Aid®. Share with your wife in a way that you don't need to, later on, say, “Oh, by the way, I forgot to add this...” If you're going to talk, talk.
Bob: So, a guy can do that and wind up, at the end of that, feeling free: “I'm unburdened. I just finally shared my soul.” And the wife walks away, feeling like she—
Deepak: So, this is the other part of it—you can't just think in terms of, “Okay, I get to confess this; and I'm done.” You're the husband; you now need to shepherd your wife through this, which is the strange dynamic in this. You're the chief confessor at that moment; and yet, you're supposed to lead your wife through a sin that you've committed against her.
Now, you have to help her actually follow your leadership in helping her to deal with your sin—a couple of basic things that you're going to help the wife with—like forgiveness is going to be first and foremost because, as Christians, we're obliged to forgive. But I don't want a wife to rush to a superficial kind of forgiveness. There are some women who will feel they are obliged to forgive right away and just move beyond this. There's anger, disappointment, betrayal, confusion. Forgiveness is not just a decision; it's a process. It may take some time to work through that, and that's okay.
But—and here's the caveat—a wife cannot take forever to forgive her husband; because in that in-between period, there's condemnation that hovers over his head. Her pronouncement of forgiveness matters more to him than any other pronouncement of forgiveness, apart from God.
Bob: So, what's “forever”?—is it two weeks?—is it three weeks?
Deepak: I don't want to put a definition on that, because every situation's different. But I want to put that caveat on there because a wife can get to a place, where she's saying: “I can't forgive you.
Deepak: “This has been so devastating.” And yet, if she's a believer in Christ, she doesn't have a choice; she has to work towards forgiveness.
I'm trying to be really sympathetic—that she's been betrayed. This is horrible; we need to be patient. Just because she forgives him, doesn't mean she's ready to trust him all over again.
Bob: So, one of the first things that happens is—you have a wife, who is thinking, “I don't know how to be a wife to you/how to be intimate with you, because you've just confessed betrayal to me.” She's thinking, “I don't know how to do this again.”
Meanwhile, he's thinking, “I need you to be with me, because that's a part of the protection that marriage offers.” So, as soon as he's confessed and she's trying to do all this, he's in a period where it may be a while before he's with his wife again; and that can be very hard for him.
Deepak: Yes; that is, and that's where trust is going to be really important; because trust has been devastated in the marriage right now. Trust and intimacy go hand in hand. As trust is rebuilt in a marriage, then also intimacy will slowly come back to the marriage at the same time. It would be really bad to demand of my wife, “You need to be intimate with me, because you need to meet these needs.” That shows me that the guy doesn't understand the consequences of his own sin and the devastation he's created in his marriage.
Bob: I'm thinking that, once a husband has confessed, the wife is thinking to herself—everyday for the next year—maybe, “I wonder if he looked today.” Does she ask him?
Deepak: Yes, there is an openness in marriage that now needs to exist. And often, there's fear in entering back in; there just needs to be a dialog between them. Now, the parameters can look different: “Does the wife ask once a month?” “Does she ask once a week?” It just depends on the marriage, and the circumstances, and the communication.
But yes, this has to be part of the dialogue; but she can't be the only one holding him to account. This is where her access to his accountability partner, also, is an important part of the conversation in marriage. She needs to have men pressing in on his life, regularly, as a fundamental part of their church community, who are going probably even more deep into the issue—into it regularly/pressing in on him more often—so that she doesn't have to be the cop.
There also is a vulnerability—I think she needs to be able to access his phone to be able to check every once and a while. There needs to be a transparency in the marriage
that the man understands, now, is a fundamental part of “Me helping to rebuild trust in my marriage.” It was committing sexual sin behind her back—he was lying to her—that was a deception. Now, he has to live in the light and show that he can live in the light by giving her access to these things.
My wife has access to all of my technology. She's welcome to check it anytime she wants. Because I have a clear conscience, I've got nothing to hide. If you're creating a new pathway for your life, then I'd encourage you to have that kind of disposition.
The temptation for the wife is now to become a cop with all of that access; we don't want to do that. The other part of having betrayed and lied is that, now, my words don't matter that much at the beginning of this. My actions have got to prove that I'm going to live according to my word. My [actions] matter a lot more on the front end of recovering my marriage.
With time, they'll be recovery of trust from my words, too. My words are really not very meaningful at the beginning because I've spent months lying to my wife. I'm going to prove it, not just by having transparency, I'm going to prove it by taking the time to do the dishes tonight; I'm going to actually take the garbage out; I'm going to spend extra time with the kids this weekend. I'm just going to show that I am here to be a godly husband, and I'm going to be faithful to what God's called me to.
The third part of that for the wife is acceptance. The danger now is: “I can put my husband in this test period. He's got to live up to certain things; and if he does, I'll accept him back. And if he doesn't, well then, I'm just going to consider whether I need to stick around or not.” That's the third part of forgiveness: trust and acceptance.
Dave: As I'm listening to you, I'm thinking, “My wife went through this journey.”
Ann: Oh yes; I went through all of that.
Dave: Again, we're talking 30 years ago.
Ann: It's interesting; you live in this balance. I would say to Dave: “It feels like something's between us. Are you struggling?” And he would say, “No.” And then I could still feel it, so I'd ask him again; and then he would lie. And then it would come out; and then that sent me even higher into my fear and anger because “Now, you've lied to me a couple of times.” Now, I go into this cycle of that whole trust/forgiveness—everything that you just said.
Dave: The lie—if I remember back on it, the lie was—many reasons; but one of them was: “I told you before, and it didn't go well. You were hurt; you felt betrayed; you got angry. I can just—I'm going to win this on my own.”
Deepak: The husband is also fearful of the wife's response.
Deepak: Can I just say?—like I've heard so many women say: “The lying is, in many ways, worse than the sexual sin.
Deepak: “If you'd been honest with me, we could have dealt with this together. But because you've been dishonest for so long, you've made it ten times worse.”
Dave: Yep; exactly.
Ann: And it's harder to trust in that.
Bob: So, when there was a relapse—a second violation of trust or, then, a third violation of trust—does each time take you deeper down to where: “We're never going to win this,” and “I don't think I can ever trust him again”?
Ann: I think for a while, it did. But then what happened was—I had to go vertical and say: “Jesus, I need You desperately,” and “I need to learn how to love my husband unconditionally.” I have my own sin and my own issues and I felt like God was saying to me, “You need to encourage him in this; you need to love him through this.”
I felt like: “Why would I do that? He doesn't deserve it.” But then the conviction of the Holy Spirit says, “And neither do you, and yet I give that to you.” Learning how to do that—it took me a while, to the point where I became his partner. Instead of his mother that he had to confess to, I was his partner—that we were fighting the battle together. I think that changed things a lot.
Deepak: I had one wife, who said [in front of] me as her husband had confessed, “I want to be an ally with you against your sin.”
Deepak: And I thought: “That's exactly right. You're not against him; he's not your enemy. You're here to partner with him.
Ann: “We're battling together.”
Deepak: “We're going to battle this, together, to defeat this together.”
Dave: I felt like—again, as I remember, and I'm glad it's been decades; I do remember—and you have it in your devotional, in the chapter, “Be Radical”—I remember the day I said, “This is it,”—not that I'm never going to sin again—but: “This is the day I'm going to do everything that needs to be done to win this war,” which is all the things that you list in this 31 days—from walking in the Spirit to accountability—to telling, not just my wife, but another guy now.
That moment was: “Okay, this is going to be in the light; no longer in the dark.” That's when victory started. I'm not going to say that it was instant; but that was day one of earning trust. It didn't take five days; it took years. The trust was broken immediately, but it [rebuilding trust] took a long time.
I'm thinking, right now, there's a guy/there's a woman, listening, that's been playing with this. I'm saying to you: “The reason you tuned in today is—God is saying: ‘Today is Day One. Is today the day you're going to say, “I'm going to finally come clean”?’”—which means you're going to have to tell somebody—your spouse, another guy; another woman, if you're a woman. Start the process.
One of the great things about your book is: “Here's a 31-day—start a new habit; start day one,” and “You can't do it by yourself.” I think you've got to listen up and go, “How did I end up tuning in today?” This was not a coincidence—God says, “Today is the day of victory to start.”
Bob: Deepak, I've told guys, over the years, that bringing this out into the open/bringing sin into the light drains half the power of the sin. Do you think that's true?
Deepak: It does. Ephesians, Chapter 5, Paul uses the word, “expose”—“expose the sin.”
Bob: —“the unfruitful works of darkness.”
Deepak: Yes; just the fact that you bring it into the light begins you down that pathway of coming to understand what God can actually do. And yet, Satan wants to keep you trapped in the dark. Mold grows in the darkness, not in the light.
Bob: I had a friend of mine/a co-worker, years ago, came to me and he said, “I'm finding myself attracted to a woman at work.” He explained, “I don't know why it is; but I'm in meetings, and I'm attracted to her,”—this is a married guy. We talked a little bit about that: about managing some of that and about dealing with that. I looped back around, less than a week later, and I said: “How are you doing? What's been going on this week?”
And he said: “You know what? Just coming and talking to you about it—kind of like that took the power out of it.” I didn't say, “We're okay,”—I checked back three or four more times—but it was almost like—as soon as I confess to somebody else/as soon as I brought it out into the light—now, all of a sudden, half the power is gone.
There may still be a battle you've got to do there, but you're not trying to battle on your own. I think Satan thinks, “If I can keep you isolated, and I can keep anybody else from this, I've got you.” As soon as somebody else is in there with us, part of his power is drained.
Deepak: Proverbs 28:13: “He who conceals his sin does not prosper. But whoever confesses and renounces them, finds mercy.”
Ann: One of the things Dave did that I appreciated was—I said, “I need some prayer partners in this for myself.” I thought this was super brave of him—he said, “Then tell whoever you need to tell.” He's not hiding; he's not trying to protect his image. He said, “I messed up; so if you need some prayer partners and girlfriends that you can trust, go for it.”
Deepak: Could you talk about that for a second, Dave? There's a lot of men, who are too ashamed to let anybody else know—that fear of man takes over your life, especially when you're embroiled in guilt and shame. What made you do that?
Dave: I think I did that because I knew it's every man's battle—and women, as well—it's not just a man thing. I felt like: “Nobody's talking about this at church. It's like the quiet, silent sin.” Again, I'm not saying it's 100 percent in our churches, but it's like: “Oh my goodness; I know it's out there, and nobody's going to lead the way.” I felt like: “I've got to lead the way.”
I've got to be honest; I was selfish: “I need victory personally,” and I knew this would help. I wanted to model this.
Ann: I think Dave knew that I was desperate and I was in it alone. To have some women—that were trustworthy/that they wouldn't spread this—but they're in the battle with me. I knew that Dave had his guys in the battle—to come into a community of people that love each other—that are supporting each other/that are fighting for each other on our knees in prayer—I think that makes a big difference.
Deepak: There's going to be women out there today, who it will sound scary to be honest about their husband's sin with other women, especially in unhealthy churches, where people will gossip about it and talk about it fairly quickly—yet, finding a trusted circle of people you can lean in on, who you know will be behind you to help support you and your marriage.
Bob: Talk about how you shared it with other women; because some women would come along and say, “Girls, let me tell you what my husband…” How did that conversation with your prayer partners go?
Ann: I had already had some real tight friendships with girlfriends—that we had made a pact—I chose those girls because they were trustworthy; they are women of the Word; they're in battle with me/for me—with each other—in prayer.
When I went to them, I said: “You guys, we're struggling; and I'm struggling. Dave has struggled periodically with pornography. He lied to me about it at first, and now he's told me. I can't handle this. I need you to pray for me.” It was amazing—nobody was talking about this at the time—they were shocked; but they were like, “Okay, we're going to pray for you; we'll pray with you.”
But then, they told their husbands. Dave had already told the guys; so what ended up happening was—a lot of these women came and said, “My husband is struggling, too.” It kind of all came out. What's happened in that group is we've had lifetime battles, together, of all different circumstances. This group of people—we've done life with each other, and we've held each other up over the years.
If you don't have that, you're missing one of the sweetest pieces of Christian fellowship—of people that are trustworthy—that are battling beside you.
Bob: When did you get to a point, where you said, “I can trust Dave; he's not going to look at this stuff”?
Ann: I don't really remember a time or date, but I just remember I could see him in the battle; I could see him fighting this. I could see him being open. I saw his commitment to telling these guys the truth; and yes, he won me back. He was really honest, and so he won that trust back.
Deepak: That's hopeful for some marriages right now, that are in the middle of this battle at this moment, that need to know that there is hope waiting for them on the other side of this—that it's not an impossible battle.
Dave: Yes, and I would say the stock market—up and down—it isn't the stock market anymore—it isn't up and down—it's up, up, up, up, up. It isn't daily up and down; it's: “You're winning,” “You're winning,” “You're winning.” You're never going to be perfect, but that earns trust as well.
And that's all the things you mention in your 31-day devotional—the things that help you be victorious. Jesus brings victory in this area. It's a beautiful thing; it's real. Don't give up. I think one of the last things you said—and I'll just remind people of this—forgiveness is huge. He does forgive you; and He gives you a new start every day, and that's big to be able to receive that so you have power to win.
Bob: I think you have provided some hope for some folks/ some guys, who are listening, who are going, “I need a way out.” Your devotional helps with that. But I think for some couples, who are saying, “This has just come to light; we're in a painful period,”—there's hope; God can redeem. He can bring beauty from ashes, and that's the message of the gospel.
Deepak, thank you for being here. Thanks for the devotional. Always good to have you on FamilyLife Today.
Deepak: Glad to be here.
Bob: We've got copies of Deepak's book in our Family Life®Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order Pornography: Fighting for Purity, a 31-day devotional. Again, you can order online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you'd like to order by phone. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, online, find us at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”; and get a copy of Pornography: Fighting for Purity by our guest today, Deepak Reju.
You know, the seriousness of this issue—I've seen that, a lot of times, guys don't address this until things get out of control. David Robbins, who's the president of FamilyLife is here with us. This is not something that men or women should toy around with; is it?
David: I think we have to remember that the New Testament is very clear—sin is usually mentioned with a common companion, and it’s almost like a dynamic duo of sin and death. Sexual sin, especially, is not to be trifled with for a number of reasons. A major one is that it always brings with it, its partner, death. Sexual sin can lead to death in relationships, of marriages, of ministries.
If you are in the midst of this sin, please hear me: “Jesus is the God of resurrection. Death doesn't need to have the final word; there is hope.” If you are toying with this issue, stop right now and bring other people into your life before resurrection becomes necessary. Take action today. Begin by being honest with God and then tell someone you trust. Bring someone else into the struggle, like has been talked about this week.
Bob: Well, and again, I'd just encourage you to get a copy of the devotional we've talked about that Deepak has written called Pornography: Fighting for Purity. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. This will be helpful to go through this and get engaged in the battle. Don't just surrender, but fight. Fight for purity and for holiness in your life and in your marriage relationship.
Thank you, David.
Now, tomorrow, we want to introduce you to a couple who, well, their world changed on an autumn evening a number of years ago when they got a call that their son had been injured in a football game. You'll meet Pat and Tammy McLeod tomorrow. I hope you can tune in and hear their story.
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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