“God, I come to you very weak and broken. Grieved over the sin of my husband that I just discovered. Shocked—feeling betrayed—angry—distrustful—sad at sin’s corrupting power—very aware of my own desperate need for grace as I must confront him.” I wrote these words in a journal entry when I discovered evidence on my computer’s history that my husband had been visiting pornographic sites. Although I knew of his struggle prior to our marriage, I naively assumed that he was done battling pornography and that our marital bliss would provide the antidote he needed against temptation. My dreams of a happy, secure marriage in which I felt compellingly beautiful to my husband were instantly shattered that afternoon—barely more than a year into our marriage. It was made worse by the fact that just the day before I had asked him if he had been struggling lately with pornography, and he said, ‘No.’”

I remember getting the call from this woman. She was devastated, confused, and angry. Pornography usage is an unfaithful behavior that breaks the sacred promise: I am devoted and faithful to you alone. We might even call it treason of the marriage covenant, though some may think this too dramatic or stern. But aren’t husbands called to faithful oneness to their wife, to lay down their lives for her? She, of course, is called to the same, but why is it that church leaders can minimize the traumatic impact of porn, as well as the grave sin of sexual infidelity—which porn viewing is?

How should a wife respond when her husband continues to struggle with pornography, confessing yet another pursuit of sin? Should she keep forgiving when he keeps failing to take the radical steps to cut off the pathways towards it so as to starve it out?  Should she resign herself to live with it, because, well, isn’t this just what most men do, even Christian men? Or should she separate, even consider divorce, to end the pain of her troubled marriage?

Three Christ-Centered, Faith-Driven Responses

Sister, if this is your situation, I’m so sorry. After fifteen years of listening to hundreds of painful stories, I’ve learned a few things I want to encourage you with. You’re not the only Christian wife facing this; it’s not your fault; and God has the power to help you! How can you respond to these painful revelations?

  1. Grieve

God invites you to grieve the hurt, the broken trust, and the deep disappointment caused by your husband’s pursuit of pornography. Grieving acknowledges the damage of sin and is a pathway toward the profound comfort God gives: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

Again and again in Scripture, God reminds you that you matter deeply to him.

  1. Be Angry

It is not wrong to experience anger in the face of sins and temptations that remain this side of heaven. Sexual immorality in marriage robs both spouses of Christ-centered oneness and the joy of marital intimacy.

  1. Seek Community

You need a trusted friend or spiritual leader walking with you. Many wives wrongly believe that submission and respect mean keeping their husband’s sin private. Though it would be dishonoring to broadcast your husband’s sins to everyone in earshot, a small group of godly and trustworthy friends are a precious comfort and help to your soul. A healthy church will look at you and say, “I am my sister’s keeper.” A pastoral church takes seriously the call to care for, protect, and advocate for women in marriages that are suffering due to a husband’s sinful choices.

Three Ways Forward

As you address your pain, the Lord calls you to seek out avenues of further redemption, not just for yourself but also for your marriage. Here are two additional responses to your husband’s sin.

  1. Learn

If your husband continues to struggle, learn more about this particular issue. Two trustworthy websites regarding sex addiction (including the effect on spouses) are the blogs of Harvest USA and Covenant Eyes.

  1. Discern

As you learn more about his struggle with porn, do you see a positive trajectory of overcoming this sin, even if there are failures at points? Or is he stuck? Worse, is he giving up? Worse yet, is he defiant and refusing to give this sin up? Discerning whether he is really trying, with humility, to overcome his sin—or is just playing around with it—will help you know if you need to reach out to a pastor or elder who can come alongside you in confronting your husband, as Matthew 18:15–20 instructs.

This, my sister, is not betrayal of trust but a demonstration of courageous love. Your husband may have threatened you to never tell anyone about his sin. Or, he may have cried and pled with you to keep it secret because of how ashamed he is. As counter intuitive as it may feel, humble love will actually seek to ask for help from someone outside your marriage. Jesus is with you as you seek to live in the light. You are worthy of support and care!

  1. Seek personal healing and growth

Yes, you are worthy of care, healing, help, and comfort! That’s why I wrote a workbook called “Jesus and Your Unwanted Journey: Wives Finding Comfort After Sexual Betrayal”.[1] It’s one resource for you to seek guidance, personal healing, and wisdom for the path in front of you. You may benefit from a season of personal counseling, or mentoring from a trustworthy, mature woman who has a track record of wisdom, compassion for those who suffer, and a patient listening heart.

Sister, hoping in your trustworthy God, your Rock, will steady you in the weariness and pain of your situation. Jesus Christ has power to bring radical transformation to anyone mired in sin. So don’t lose heart or give up. The wounds you’re experiencing are real, but they are not in vain, and they don’t have to ultimately end in tragedy. Your hope-infused dependence on Christ’s love and strength—and on a healthy church—can shape the way you move forward alongside your husband.

[1] This new ten-session workbook from Harvest USA will launch late August 2022, as a free digital download from www.harvestusa.org.

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Ellen Dykas

Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.