Occasionally, I’ll have Chris write to the readers of this blog as well. He offers a different perspective, and he’s paid for a lot of his wisdom through hard-earned lessons and true repentance. I am always amazed at some of the wisdom he speaks over our lives now, and I hope you see his sincerity and heart in these letters from Chris.
If you’ve gotten this far into my wife’s blog then you already know that I was unfaithful. What you don’t know is that my problems started started long before I had even met her. I was eight when I had my first encounter with pornography, and unfortunately I still remember it vividly. The image on the magazine foldout is imprinted on my brain.
At eight, I didn’t really know what to do with that picture. Only a small group of boys knew that we had looked at that magazine, but no one talked about it. I didn’t tell anyone about it; it became a secret that I hid from everyone. This innocent first encounter with pornography led me down a long, secretive path.
Growing up, my family had TVs in every room. We also had every cable channel you could subscribe to: Showtime, HBO, Cinemax, the works. At night, all of them would show the same adult movies, i.e. soft-core pornography. It didn’t matter what night it was, there was bound to be a channel that had something I could watch that fed my curiosity. Not even Sundays are sacred in the world of adult entertainment. This went on well into my college years, spilled over into my relationship with my soon-to-be wife, and then eventually into my marriage.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in pornography because porn always loves you; porn is always there for you; porn will never argue with you; porn will never kick you to the couch after a fight; porn will always let you have your way; and porn will never leave you. Porn always let you win…but it is all a lie.
I had managed to maintain my secret after we got married until one day pornography wasn’t enough anymore. I started having inappropriate conversations with other women, testing the waters more and more. It eventually grew more and more inappropriate until I found myself in a full-blown affair. All the while, I was still maintaining my secret porn addiction, and juggling more and more lies. I was completely out of control, and I had no way to escape.
I truly feel like God intervened. My secret was out. I had been exposed. As the weeks went by, I had to reveal the full extent of my actions. This was my wake up call. I had a choice to make. I could either run and hide, losing my family in the process, or I could fight with everything I had to try and salvage what was left of my marriage. I chose the latter.
I quit watching pornography cold turkey. I had no other choice if I wanted my marriage to work. It wasn’t easy. I was fighting against a 20-year addiction. When I slipped up, I had to confess to my wife. Those times of confession were difficult because I had never confessed my pornography addiction, much less any other sins, and my wife was still in a lot of pain and struggling to trust me, and herself, again.
At that point watching porn became a lose-lose situation. I either had to continue to lie, or confess to my wife and risk another fight in an already tumultuous season of our lives. That lose-lose situation helped me escape my addiction. That may sound like an interesting way of looking at it, but for me, I would rather not look at porn than to tell Kate that I’ve slipped up and hurt my family all over again.
I will always struggle with lust on some level. I pray that God would take that burden from me and that He would erase all the images from my memory. I’ll be honest. That hasn’t happened yet. What I can say is that through prayer and healing, the Holy Spirit has given me a lot more self control.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:15-18
I love how Paul is honest in his letter to the Romans about who he is and how sinful he is. I often feel the same way. I wanted to be a good man, but I would fail over and over again. Reading this passage reassures me that I am not alone in my struggles. Yes, I am a sinner, but I have God’s grace.
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:21-25
“Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Jesus did when he took my place on the cross. When I do the things I do not want to do, Jesus steps in and intercedes for me. He took my punishment for me so that I may live.
Looking back I didn’t have a porn problem; I had sin problem. My addiction to pornography was a symptom; it wasn’t the diagnosis. Each of us struggles with the same diagnosis. We’re sinners in need of a Savior. Our symptoms may vary, but the diagnosis is always the same. For some of us, the symptoms are written all over our lives; for others, the symptoms are hidden and lay beneath the surface.
Pornography addiction and rehabilitation is a difficult journey to walk, for you and your spouse. If you discover your husband has a porn addiction, try to remain calm. I have experienced first hand how damaging a pornography addition can be, and I don’t mean to downplay its destructive nature. But as a wife, try to love him through your hurt and anger. Let him know that he’s not a bad person and that together you can get through this.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, addicts get assigned a sponsor. “The sponsor is not only a person to guide the member through the AA program, but to also be there to listen. Being able to rely on a sympathetic ear can be particularly important when the individual feels on the verge of relapse.”
If you are not able to be a sympathetic ear, and that’s understandable, then help your husband find a pastor or Christian counselor that will be able to step in. Accountability is an important part of recovery from a pornography addiction. The accountability of a sympathetic ear inherently transforms pornography from a win-win to a lose-lose situation. When your addiction is a secret, it is difficult to recognize and admit the damage it is causing to others. When there is accountability, you are forced to face the ugliness head on.
Kate and I installed filters on all of our electronic devises; we went to counseling, and I worked through an addiction-based therapy plan; and I found two Christian men that could not only relate to my struggle, but were also able to provide judgment-free accountability when I slipped up.
I often wonder if I would have followed the same path if I had told someone about that first encounter with pornography on the playground. This addiction, while chemical in nature, feeds on shame and secrecy. Try to eliminate both for your husband by allowing him to come to you with his struggles without fear of being seen as a monster. This addiction is more common than most of you realize, and I pray that your husbands do not walk down the same path I did, keeping this struggle a secret from those who love him.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” -Philippians 4:13