I can remember the day I caught my husband using pornography as clearly as the day I first met him – it was that significant to our lives and journey as a couple, although that may not be the place to start… Let’s start at the beginning.
As a young Christian couple we lived separately throughout our dating period and engagement and so it was easy for him to hide the fact that he used pornography from me at first… until he broke down in a prayer meeting and confessed all. By this point I knew that he was the man I was going to marry and so did everything possible to support him and help him overcome what had become a habit.
But subconsciously he was smart. He chose someone to be accountable to, as I requested, but chose someone he could easily go a few weeks or even months without catching up with just because of the busyness of life. He confided in friends – but they were friends with the same bad habits who were very sympathetic (some might say, too sympathetic) if he fell off the wagon, and he attended a group set up at church, bur only twice.
Naively I thought the problem had been addressed and we got married, me thinking everything would be rosy and we would live happily ever after – every girl’s fairytale ending!
Fast forward a few years to January 2011 and I was about to come down to earth with a crash! We had been away for a weekend and had a great time, followed by a great drive home (late at night so our little boy would sleep all the way) when we had talked about everything and nothing, including what we thought God would do with us that year. When we got home I took our son to bed and said I would meet my husband upstairs once he had emptied the car. An hour later, I woke to find him not in bed and went to find him and caught him in the act.
The feelings that followed over the next few months are so difficult to put into words and do them justice because it was like the worst roller-coaster you have ever experienced. There was a lot of blame – I felt it was all his fault. There was anger – how dare he in my house? There was disappointment – where have I gone wrong? There was self-doubt – why am I not enough for him? There was fear – does he think about the things he watches when he is with me? And shame – if anybody finds out will they think it’s my fault and that I am not doing a good job as a wife?
Fortunately, we are in a fantastic church and received some incredible support over the coming weeks and months, which started with me being told I was not allowed to make him move out (which had been my initial reaction). I was clear that I did not want our little boy growing up in a house where he could witness this and see it as okay, but I also knew this was something we had to work through. We also received protection from our church, so that key people in our lives knew and created a support network around us, but so that it was still a very private matter. This was really important for us both because in our own ways we both felt ashamed.
The first step in that was time alone with God when he spoke to me out of Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones. I knew these dry bones were our marriage and that God was telling me to speak life into them. But in my hurt, anger and disappointment my response was, ‘You have got to be kidding me!!! Why is that my job? He should be doing the work to change and make amends!’ But God brought me back to the same passage time and time again, until I could ignore it no more. I confided in a great friend who told me that I had to do as I was told and (here’s the kicker) maybe I was partly responsible for what had happened.
After that and on advice (well, instruction) from church we started marriage counselling. It was tough. I very soon realised that I was partly responsible. My husband used pornography when he felt stressed, rejected (ouch) and unloved by me (bigger ouch). It became apparent during our counselling sessions that my focus had been so taken up by our son and our lives had changed so much that at times he felts all these things and I didn’t make enough time for him and our relationship.
We stayed in counselling for six months, and they were a long, hard, but very productive six months. I have no doubt that without the counselling, support and protection from our church, our little boy would be from a broken home.
It took me a long time to trust my husband again, and is something that on occasions I still struggle with. But that is my issue not his, because I know that at times when he is struggling he now tells me.
The hardest lesson in all of this was that I had to forgive and keep no record of wrongs that I could go back to and throw at him in an argument. Harder than that is the recognition that there will probably be more occasions in the future when I have to forgive again, and again, and again. (The same way he forgives my bad habits.) But there was also the acknowledgement that in a small way I was also responsible through my actions, and for that, I had to forgive myself.
And now? We are a happily married young couple and are expecting our second child. Don’t get me wrong it has been a long, hard, uphill journey and we still have challenges on a weekly basis. But we also have firm boundaries. The computer is in our lounge, has the software from Triple X Church on it and (on the advice of a good friend) it is me and our associate pastor who receive the fortnightly reports and who my husband is accountable to. It doesn’t go on when nobody else is around (apart from for football games which I am assured are an essential part of his relaxation on days off!) The TV has codes on it and my husband doesn’t stay up late watching the TV. On the rare occasions we make it to the movies we rarely see anything rated over a 12 and never over a 15. We make time for each other. We don’t sit on separate sofa’s anymore, instead we sit and cuddle (far nicer!). We are open and honest with each other… always.
Are we perfect? No. Do we have hiccups? Yes. Has my husband slipped up? Yes (once). Will he slip up in the future? Probably. Will I forgive him? Always.
Men: Get help. Acknowledge the problem and get accountability from someone you can’t avoid. Deal with what is at the core of the behaviour – is it a habit or an addiction? Be honest with your partner – it’s hard but so worth it in the end. Make sure that the people you confide in will protect you and your partner so that it stays private. Forgive yourself.
Ladies: Forgive – even though it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Choose carefully the friends you confide in because you need to protect your man (and yourself). Get time with God and ask him to speak over your relationship. Be honest with your partner – make sure he knows how it makes you feel. Take an honest look – are your actions in any way a contributing factor to the issue?