About the Guest
When Jonathan Daugherty got married, he believed his struggle with porn was over. And it was, for a while. Daugherty tells what finally led him to lasting repentance and reconciliation with his wife.
Bob: Jonathan Daugherty says when a marriage has been ruined from pornography and infidelity, it’s possible for a husband and wife to get to a point of reconciliation—but on the husband’s part, that’s going to require more than confession.
Jonathan: You can’t just confess and think the fact of stating whatever you’ve done—even if you’re quote-unquote “sorry,”—actually changes the heart. I really believe the thing that begins to turn the heart is what the Bible calls “repentance”—that godly sorrow—that ache. Like David said, when he said, “Against You and You only, God, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
That was not the case in that confession. That’s how less than a week later—I can be out with somebody else and my wife find that—and then decide it’s over.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 15th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What does it take for reconciliation to happen in a marriage relationship—
—after there’s been profound sexual sin? We’re going to talk about that today with Jonathan Daugherty. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
You have to wonder how many marriages today are starting with husbands and wives keeping secrets from one another about their sexual past—or about their sexual present—as they enter into the marriage relationship.
Dennis: Yes. If there have been sixty million abortions, there are a lot of marriages that are taking place today where both the man and the woman have been party to an abortion.
Dennis: And that is something they bring into the marriage.
We’re talking not about that aspect of sex today, but we are talking about pornography.
We have a gentleman who is the founder of Be Broken Ministries—a ministry to men—helping them overcome addictions to porn. Jonathan Daugherty joins us on FamilyLife Today. Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan: Thanks. It’s so good to be here.
Dennis: Jonathan is married to Elaine since 1995. He has three teenagers—so you’re in the thick of this right now!
Jonathan: Oh, yes.
Dennis: Boy? Girl? How many?
Jonathan: Two girls and a boy in the middle.
Dennis: There you go. He has written a book called Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances.
We’ve talked about how Jonathan was exposed to pornography as a twelve-year-old boy by a buddy who just took him out in a field and pulled a magazine out of a stump. Jonathan had never heard of pornography or seen pornography, and that sent an electric jolt through his body that set him off on a quest to satisfy his need for pornography—
—that continued all the way through his teen years, and into college, and beyond. Well into his marriage to Elaine—when he started his relationship with her.
I want to talk to you about your relationship with Elaine. She’s watching you express this anger—she doesn’t know about the pornography addiction. Was there an incident that caused you to want to come clean with her? What—ultimately—sent you to the edge of the cliff, where you knew you had to bring her into the interior of your life?
Jonathan: When we were married for about a year-and-a-half, I ended up packing everything up into my little Ford Escort and leaving. I’m thinking, “I’m just going to go away.” So I drove halfway across the country, crashed at a buddy’s house, and stayed there for about three weeks. My wife had no idea what was going on!
Dennis: Wait a second!
Jonathan: I mean—
Dennis: You just left?!
Jonathan: I just left.
Bob: Were you mad?
Jonathan: I’m sure I was.
Dennis: Did you tell her you were leaving?
Jonathan: I just basically said, “I’m outta here.”
I didn’t give her a reason—I didn’t give her context. It was like—one day I just decided, “I’m gone!”
Dennis: Had you ever threatened divorce?
Dennis: Had she?
Jonathan: No, but things were definitely not good. So I took off halfway across the country, stayed at this buddy’s house and, eventually—that didn’t go well—because running away from the problem doesn’t make the problem go away.
One of the things that we tell guys all the time—and I learned this the hard way—is that there really is only one person that you’re ever guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with.
Jonathan: That’s yourself. So if you have problems—if you have—like I’ve mentioned in previous broadcasts—this emotional deficiency—this real stuntedness—this anger issue—all of these things are contained within me. Guess what? Wherever I go, it’s going to come with me! I kept trying to externalize all of those issues: “It’s my wife’s fault!” Or even trying to say, “It’s pornography’s fault,” or even, “It’s God’s fault!”
I had to finally realize, “No, it’s my fault.”
Here’s the thing: I came back from that, and we sort of put a few Band-Aid patches on that. My wife—being incredibly gracious—said, “Okay, he’s back! I really want to try to make something work.” We went to a few counseling sessions—but I never fully divulged or fully confessed. Certainly, there was no sense of deep repentance, or the idea of what the Bible calls “godly sorrow.” Certainly—in just a matter of time—things started coming back again. I started getting into my old habits.
The precipitating event for me actually—finally—hitting rock-bottom was about four years into my marriage. One Saturday morning, I went out for a hook-up. My wife was in the shower, and when she got out of the shower, she must have found a piece of paper with a name and a number on it. She actually found out what I was doing, and when I came home from that, she was like, “I’m done. I don’t want to ever see you or speak to you ever again.”
Then, she left.
That was actually the event that rocked me. The reason that that rocked me was because I never thought she’d leave. Now, there’s crazy, and then there’s crazy! I was really—literally—going crazy. How could I not think that—at some point—she’s got a last line that, if I cross it, she’s gone?
I like to tell guys all the time that every woman has a last line. In my case, having been in ministry for many years, I realize that my wife’s line was actually a lot further down the line than some wives. A lot of wives wouldn’t have gone as far as my wife did before she finally left.
I failed to mention that I had confessed to her less than a week before that last encounter—I confessed everything to her.
Bob: You confessed—not just looking at porn—but the fact that you’d had liaisons.
Jonathan: Everything. Prostitutes—affairs—all kinds of stuff.
Bob: What happened in that confession?
I mean that’s a pretty big load to drop on your wife, who knew nothing about any of it!
Jonathan: Yes—she didn’t know. Certainly, she had hints about their being porn and some of those kinds of things, but she didn’t know anything of the fullness of what was going on.
She withered during that confession. You can only imagine! I mean—how could she not? She was having—basically—just tons and tons of garbage dumped on her. The strange thing—for me—is that once I finally confessed everything, I felt better.
Now it sounds terrible! It sounds like, “What a terrible thing!”—but I was experiencing something in that confession that I think is a Biblical truth. That is, there is a lightness to not having any secrets—a lightness to not having anything in the dark.
The problem was—I misinterpreted that feeling to thinking, “Oh, confession is all that’s necessary.”
Dennis: You didn’t consider what it would do to her?
Jonathan: Not only did I not consider what it would do to her, I didn’t consider what must come next. The thing that has to come next is there has to be godly sorrow. You can’t just confess and think the fact of stating whatever you’ve done—even if you’re quote-unquote “sorry,”—actually changes the heart.
I really believe the thing that begins to turn the heart is what the Bible calls “repentance”—that godly sorrow—that ache. Like David said, when he said, “Against You and You only, God, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Not making excuses about all of the things that could be going on around.
That was not the case in that confession. That’s how less than a week later—I can be out with somebody else and my wife find that—and then decide it’s over.
Bob: Jonathan, what prompted the confession in the first place?
Jonathan: Getting very close to completion of suicide. There had been a couple of instances before that moment where I had sat on the end of my bed with a loaded gun in my hand, thinking of one good reason not to pull the trigger. I was in deep depression.
I think there was a part of me that didn’t want to die—but I didn’t know of any other way to handle what was going on.
Bob: You said you came right up to the edge of suicide—sitting there on the bed with a loaded gun—and didn’t pull the trigger.
Jonathan: I didn’t pull the trigger. Here’s the reason why: I had actually trusted Christ as my Savior when I was a six year-old boy. Now, don’t make the connection there thinking that Christians can’t commit suicide—I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that—when I had that gun against my head those couple of times—all these thoughts were rattling through my head very loudly. All the thoughts of shame—all the thoughts of anger—all the thoughts of fear and doubt—and all of those kinds of things—but there was always this little, tiny whisper that was always—just kind of nagging in the back. It was a gentle, soft whisper. It wasn’t projected. It was just this soft whisper of one word: “Maybe.” Maybe.
I’m convinced, to this day, that was simply the Holy Spirit, just putting that out there that there might be a way out.
Jonathan: There might be another path to take here. I think that’s what just convinced me:“Okay, I’m not going to go through with this.” But when my wife left—that was the thing that caused me to realize, “This is beyond my ability to spin the plates. I can’t keep all of the secrets going on.”
I went back into the house after my wife drove off and, as I was sitting there, I realized I had to make a decision. The decision was one of two choices—I could keep doing what I was doing, but I knew I would be dead—or I could repent and return to the God who saved me when I was six years old.
I remember…when God reminded me of how He saved me as a little boy, the reason that impacted me so much in that moment of desperation so many years later, was that was the moment when I realized God doesn’t exist in time as we do—
—it’s not linear to Him. I felt like that was God saying, “I knew beforehand—before you brought all of this garbage and filth and waste into your life—I knew that was coming into your life, and I still chose you and still wanted you in My family.”
When I recognized that, I hit the floor and started sobbing my eyes out, and just really experienced the grace of God in a way that I never had before. I just heard the Lord speaking to me, “I know. I know. I know.”—over and over and over again—deep into my soul. That’s when I really feel like I got a new—not only new understanding—but a new experience of the grace of God. He was willing to meet me in that moment and say nothing of condemnation—nothing of, “Let’s hammer you over the head with the Bible right now,”—but just comfort and presence.
That is the foundation upon which the rest of my life has been built—is that grace.
Dennis: And the “maybe?”
Dennis: The “maybe” became a reality.
Dennis: To that person who’s listening to us right now, who may not have a gun, and maybe it’s not pornography addiction—maybe it’s an affair—maybe it’s drug/alcohol abuse—what would you say to that person right now?
Jonathan: I would say that we have a wonderful, wonderful God, who will meet you wherever you are. If you’re on the floor; if you’re in your car; if you are at the end of your rope—I can tell you that the grace of God will go anywhere and extend beyond anything you have ever done—in order to call you back into a place of stability and strength and hope. I would say the key thing—for me—that I would want to share with somebody else is that the motivation I had getting up off that floor was to no longer do life alone.
What I mean is no longer do life in the shadows.
Dennis: Yes; yes.
Jonathan: What I would say to that person out there is—absolutely ask God for a moment of brokenness. Ask God for your heart to be broken over that, and have that intimate moment with God, but may He change your heart to no longer want to do life in the shadows—no longer want to do life in the dark. Actually step out into the light—get with some safe people—to begin journeying toward healing and growth.
Here’s the way it manifested in life—it was not an instant cure. I still battled; still struggled; still had these kinds of things. For me, it was about getting plugged in with a counselor. I got in with a support group and some guys that I could start putting around my life and start sharing my story with these guys, so that we could actually start doing life together.
That’s when I realized—God did hear me—God did care—God did have power.
My problem was that I was trying to get all of that outside the context that He really built it to thrive in, because community is where He built all of that to thrive—He built our life to thrive in community. I’m not saying that God can’t or won’t deal with a person—maybe powerfully, in the dark—so to speak. But He won’t do that without drawing them out into the light eventually.
Dennis: What have you found to be especially helpful as you coach men to deal with this with their wives—because they typically don’t understand how this devastates a woman?
Jonathan: Yes, so clearly, one of the things is just—no more secrets—we can’t be doing life in the dark anymore. Now the way that looks—especially when you’re talking about, maybe, confession—is we often tell husbands who are needing to confess to their wives that it’s important to have full disclosure—but that doesn’t necessarily mean graphic detail.
Jonathan: But we do say—one of the things that I tell husbands all of the time is, “The key characteristic to work on is humility.”
If you want to understand what a man of integrity looks like—in all areas of his life, not just sexuality—he is a man who has humility as the central characteristic of his life. In other words, he’s not going to be one who’s boastful and proud and puffing himself up. That humility is going to manifest itself in how he offers his strength to his wife.
Now at first, the wife may not be receptive at all to any kind of strength he can offer—because all he’s offered to this point is weakness—all he’s offered at this point is his failures and his sin—but over time, as he begins to rebuild trust through humility—because humility is going to be incredibly different from how he has engaged her before. He has probably engaged her in anger, control, manipulation, and those types of things to get a particular outcome. When he begins to adopt a humble heart, all of the sudden, she sees a different man emerge. “Here’s a guy who tells the truth. Here’s a guy who doesn’t hide it from me anymore.”
Dennis: Practically speaking, unpack how you rebuilt trust with Elaine.
Jonathan: We were actually separated for nine months, first of all. We didn’t even see each other for seven of those months because she said, “I’m out of here!”
So for me—at the beginning—all it meant was, “I’m going to work on becoming the best man I can be,”—because again, I’ve got to live with me for the rest of my life, regardless of what happens to my marriage. That’s what I would tell husbands at first—you might be trying to do anything you can to try to appease your wife, and give her whatever she wants, and all of these kinds of things, but recognize that, at some point, you’re going to have to be dedicated to your personal character, regardless of how your wife responds—regardless if she is amenable to reconciliation or whatever else.
When we did finally get back together, what this looked like—practically—was that I was accountable for my time and money with my wife—every minute of my day—I wanted her to know exactly what I was doing and where I was going.
The key to this was—I initiated all of these things. We want to take that burden off of the wife, where she feels like she’s got to be a cop, or be a mom—she just needs to be a wife. We need to—as husbands—be the ones that say, “I’m taking full responsibility for my character and how I’m also going to be accountable to you on some of these things.”
Bob: So, seven months after she has walked out and you’ve had no contact, did you just call her one day and say, “I want to try again?”
Jonathan: Well, it’s interesting—the call that we actually had was purely logistical—we had to deal with some financial something—I don’t even remember what it was. In that conversation, it just started to kind of morph into, “What’s been going on with you? What are you doing?”
Now, during our entire nine months of separation, I wrote my wife a letter every day. Honestly, she says that for about the first month, she just threw them all away. She didn’t even open them.
But eventually, she started opening these, and started seeing that there was a different person emerging here—so that seven-month conversation was one of those where we both kind of had the “maybe.”
Jonathan: I think we were both starting to hear the “maybe.” Now I have to say that when we started…a little bit of dating, just going…really, really light stuff, like, “Let’s just go have coffee for 30 minutes and see how it goes,” kind of a thing.
Jonathan: I think we were both getting the sense that God was doing something special here. But I have to say—I need to give such an incredible amount of honor and props to my wife—because when you think about the pressure that a woman in that situation has—
Jonathan: —to even consider reconciliation—I think we need to celebrate and lift high those women who are willing to step into that.
Dennis: Yes! I agree.
So what’s the trust factor now?
Jonathan: Well, the cool thing about it is, about five years after we got back together, I got to hear these beautiful words from my wife—“I trust you completely.” They were beautiful words, because they don’t come without real work and real focus. The thing is—it’s not something that I take lightly—even to this day. It’s not as if, “Okay, I worked hard for five years. I got that, and now I’m going to be sloppy as a man.”
No! We want to continue to build character. One of the things I’ve learned—even 18 years later—is there are always more opportunities to serve my wife—there are always more opportunities to connect with my wife—there are always more opportunities to earn her trust even more. It’s not about trying to reach a destination in time in your relationship or in life—it’s about a journey over a lifetime.
Dennis: To that man who’s listening to us right now, and is going, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I would say, grab your wife’s hand!
Take her to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—and maybe get a copy of Jonathan’s book, Secrets. Just ask God to begin to peel the layers of your heart like an onion—and bring you and your spouse into an authentic relationship—where it is the adventure of a lifetime.
Dennis: Jonathan, I appreciate your authenticity in allowing us to step into your journey—your story. Thanks for being on the broadcast. I hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime.
Jonathan: Well, thank you, sir. Again, my pleasure.
Bob: Yes, and I hope we’ve got a lot of listeners who are going to listen to your podcast as a result of hearing you on FamilyLife Today—guys who are in this battle and trying to get free.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link to Jonathan’s podcast available there—and a link to his website if you want more information about his ministry. You can order his book, Secrets, from us here at FamilyLife Today. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number.
Again, the book is called Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances. Order online 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.” Of course, if you want information about the upcoming fall season of Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, we’re going to be in about three dozen cities this fall with the getaway.
I’m going to be speaking up in Portland, Oregon. I’m looking forward to going to Portland for the Weekend to Remember. To find out more about when a getaway is happening in a city near where you live, go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask about the Weekend to Remember.
You know, this issue we’ve been talking about today—I’m just so aware of how many men in our culture today are impacted by this. How many young men, growing up, are being assaulted with pornography, which is so easy and so accessible.
It’s happening without moms and dads knowing anything about it. Where do you find help and hope? Here at FamilyLife Today, our goal is to provide you with programs like this; with resources that we’ve got online. We want to help effectively develop your marriage and your family to be a godly marriage and a godly family. We believe those kinds of marriages and families can change the world one home at a time.
We’re grateful for those of you who partner with us to reach more people more regularly with practical, Biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. Those of you who are monthly Legacy Partners and those of you who will donate from time-to-time, thank you for your support of FamilyLife Today and all we’re able to do together.
If you’re able to help with a donation today, a couple things are going to happen. First of all, your donation is going to be doubled. We’ve had some friends who have put together a matching gift—
—and every donation we receive during the month of August is being matched dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $500,000. So if you make a $25 donation today, it’s worth $50 to us here at FamilyLife®. Along with that, when you donate, we’re going to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s new book, The Art of Parenting, as soon as it arrives from the publisher. We expect it any time now. You’ll be first to get your copy of the book—and it’s our thank you gift to you for your support of this ministry.
Of course, The Art of Parenting™ is something that we’re focused on here at FamilyLife. A lot of churches are starting Art of Parenting small groups this fall using our video series. A lot of churches are using the movie, Like Arrows, to kick off those parenting small groups, and that movie is now available for churches to show.
There’s more information about all of that online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, we just want to say thank you for those of you who partner with us to make all of this possible. You can donate to support this ministry online at FamilyLifeToday.com—or you can call to donate.
1-800-FL-TODAY is our number, and we appreciate whatever you’re able to do in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow. Brooke McLaughlin is going to be here to talk about what it looks like when your parenting is gospel-centered. What does that even mean? Brooke will explain that tomorrow, and I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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