I have a case of the Monday’s. I won’t say much, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will tell you that I watched Safe Haven and Downton BOTH yesterday. And, I just ran out of K-cups. I could use a stiff drink…

As we continue our series on marriage, a guest blogger/friend shares the story of her husband’s pornography addiction, and how they overcame it together. 

Praying that each of you, whether or not you are still recovering from last night’s shows, will be blessed by Patricia and Stephen’s story. It’s a powerful one.  

Caught

Caught. I remember the panic of getting caught – do you? Caught stealing an armload of peas from the garden.  Caught in a tangled web of lies I’d created.  The panic of those moments pales in comparison to the horror of catching your husband deep in the clutches of pornography. 

Sharon Hersh, in her book The Last Addiction, refers to ‘being caught’ as a gift.  I have come to agree with her.  Unfortunately, in the first moments that turn to days, then months and often years, it sure doesn’t feel like a gift.  It feels more like a knife –  a knife cutting to your core, disemboweling and leaving you writhing in pain, your innermost parts exposed for all to see.

How does a marriage that begins with so much promise get to that point?  My husband and I were Bible College sweethearts.  Both of us felt separately called to ministry. We wanted to help others. We wanted to be involved in marriage and family ministry. 

As a couple, we walked lots, talked lots, read and shared our thoughts. We laughed together.  We loved and wed and bred little ones.  We were a team. He preached well. I enjoyed administration. He sang. I played piano.  Together we worked to raise the children and lead the church God had given us. We enjoyed each other’s company, hugged lots, joked lots, and loved lots.  It not only looked good on the outside, I can honestly say, it felt good on the inside. 

What I didn’t know was that beneath the surface of our lives a cancer had taken hold and was silently eating away at the core of our marriage and our ministry — the cancer of pornography addiction. 

Through the years, I occasionally had an unsettled feeling that something was wrong. I could never put my finger on it but a suspicion gnawed at the fringes of my mind that all was not as good as it seemed. I began to have dreams of my husband being involved in affairs, but during my waking hours there was no solid evidence that anything was amiss. I occasionally stumbled across things on the computer that were easily and quickly explained away. I had no grounds to take the accusations farther; he was a good husband, a good father and a good pastor. 

In his own words:

Growing up, I presented a perfect, “good boy” exterior while under the surface, a battle was raging. After my mother passed away at 12 years old, we were transplanted from my coastal home to the middle of the prairies. The trauma of the events wounded me and I turned inward.  I was suffering emotionally and began numbing that pain in unhealthy ways. I maintained the lie that no one would really have to know because the outside would look polished. Like so many others, I led a dual life

One warm summer day, he arrived home early and shared the news that rocked my world.  Pornography had taken over his life and led him to do things he himself couldn’t believe he’d done. I stood numb – blindsided and disemboweled.

I’d like to say he confessed, we sought counseling, and everything was all right. We then lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. Addiction, once it sets in, typically takes a lifetime to heal. To begin with, it seems you are madly spinning your wheels trying to get out of the hole you’ve created but your panic only makes the hole deeper. There were years of more hiding. There were years of attempts and failures. It took time to find, and then address the myriad of problems in our lives. 

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. I would agree. One day, after years of more hiding, more getting caught, more heartache with seemingly little improvement, my heart was dry and empty. I didn’t care anymore. I begged God to just let him die so I could be free of this nightmare. I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t involved in it. I had struggled numerous times with whether I should stay or whether I should leave. I had always chosen to stay because he honestly seemed to want to do the right thing. He continually said that this was not the kind of man he wanted to be. 

I struggled with God during this time mostly because I felt sorry for myself. I had done nothing to deserve this. I had always been a good Christian girl. It wasn’t my fault – why did I have to spend my limited time and money on counselors? During one of my prayer times – or more adequately put – a whine and rail time, I was begging for an answer to the question, “Should I stay or should I go?” That day, a thought dropped into the inbox of my mind: “You are free to do what you want. You were chosen as a help-meet though. So are you going to help or not?” 

That one message changed my entire mental hard drive like a positive virus. I became aware of all the things I was doing that weren’t helpful – all the ways I tore down instead of building up.  Pity, self-loathing, whining, and a heavy dose of self-righteousness were all valid and excusable responses to my circumstances – but they were not helpful. 

From that day, I set my mind toward being “the help” I was called to be. I began to practice “Taking every thought captive.” (II Cor 10:5) It was liberating to know that I had been chosen by God above all others as the perfect partner to help heal a hurt that had begun long before I entered the picture. 

Standing on this side of our marriage problems, I can truly say, I’m glad we went through what we did. The pretense has been stripped away. We know each other, sins and all, and love each other deeply. We love others better. As pornography ravages so many marriages, we are proud to stand on this side and say, “You can make it through.”  We are privileged to be a part of God’s healing and reconciliation in so many broken lives.

Where did our help come from? Oddly enough – everything helped and nothing helped. We pursued every avenue of healing we could. We took time away to rebuild our relationship…and then we did that again…and again. We took time away from each other. We went to counseling with a few different counselors, together and separately – some were helpful, some were maddening, and some seemed pointless. He set up accountability partners. I had prayer partners. We read good books, bad books, and ugly books. We walked. We cried. We held. And ultimately we healed.  None of these things in themselves helped, but in another sense, they all helped along the way as vehicles of God’s ultimate healing.

The most effective healing factor that we can point to is our decision to carve out time with God.  We chose for a season to limit the busyness of our lives to allow more time to spend in the presence of God – reading, studying, memorizing, marinating, talking to, listening to, walking with, arguing with, yelling at, crying to, questioning, doubting, blaming, crying some more, and just being with. God’s timing, wisdom, plan, and healing are perfect. 

II Cor 5:18: It is all from God. He brought us back to himself through Christ’s death on the cross. And he has given us the task of bringing others back to him through Christ. (NIV)

Stephen & Patricia have recently celebrated their 26th anniversary. They enjoy being part of God’s reconciliation in lives in the church they have been serving for 13 years in Canada. 

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