The question posed to me this month is “How do you survive your husband’s addiction?” I wish there was a prescriptive answer I could give you. If you do this… then you will survive. But I’m not sure there is a prescription for surviving something like this. Each couple is different and each situation is uniquely different in difficulty and pain. However, I can share with you what I have seen work in my life and in the lives of many other women, and hopefully you can adapt what we have done... and not only survive, but find healing.
For me, I could not have survived my husband’s addiction without Jesus Christ. And I don’t want to turn this blog into a soap box for evangelism, but I will say that Jesus is my sustainer, my healer, my comfort, my strength, and my husband’s deliverer. Without Him, we would not have found healing and my husband would still be dying in his addiction. But because God loves us and desires to restore us, He allowed the power of Christ to come in and radically change our lives forever. He delivered my husband from a 16-year addiction to pornography and He brought tremendous healing to my heart in the midst of remarkable pain. Only God can do that.
In the majority of survival cases I’ve seen (including my own) -- marriages that have been restored and women who have found healing from the pain of their husband’s sexual betrayal -- there have been four key elements: prayer, counseling, and support group.
PRAYER: Ok, so I know the last thing you want to do is pray for your husband! I felt the same way. I was so angry, so bitter. I couldn’t stand the thought of praying for him. But God burdened my heart to do so, and so I did. I prayed for my husband’s deliverance from his addiction to pornography and lust. Every day, several times a day, I prayed out loud, in secret, in the shower, in the car, in the middle of the night, I PRAYED. At first, I didn’t have much faith. I knew I was supposed to pray for my husband but I didn’t really believe it would work. But as I continued to pray, God began to change my perspective of my husband and his sin. I was able to look at him through the eyes of Christ. God reminded me that my husband is His son. A redeemed heart that was wounded, just as I was. A man who needed healing, just as I did. And as I prayed for him, God showed me that my husband needed to know that he isn't identified by his sin. Sexual sin was not the final judgment on him. He needed to know that I believed he could be transformed by the renewing of his mind. That God would not want him to live defeated by his mistakes. I started emailing or texting my prayers to my husband. And as I did, my husband told me how much it meant to him. That little by little he was feeling guilt and shame lifted from him, a burden that had tortured him for many years. I came to realize that my prayers weren’t just for him, they were for me. As I prayed for my husband’s deliverance, God was softening my heart towards him. Allowing me to see him in a different light and increasing my faith all at the same time. Prayer played a key role in our healing.
COUNSELING: Counseling is essential to survival and the healing process for both the husband and the wife. It helps you work through the "whys" of sexual addiction and offers a mediator to help you communicate more effectively. Counselors have insight, outside your marriage, that might help you better understand what's happening inside your marriage. Our counselor was able to help me understand that my husband’s addiction was not about me. As a woman, we take sexual sin personally. We think of it as a direct attack on our attractiveness and sexual abilities, that our marriage was a big sham, and that our husband never really loved us. But that is NOT the case. And sometimes it takes an outsider, with no emotional attachment to the marriage, to help us work through those rollercoasters of emotions. I highly recommend counseling for any couple who has been wounded by sexual sin. But let me make a stipulation. Don’t just go to your pastor or a friend for counseling. Seek out a counselor (could be a pastor) who is well equipped with handling the issues of sexual addiction and betrayal. Many women have been devastated and marriages destroyed by trusting the words of a counselor who does not understand the intense emotions that are invoked because of a husband’s sexual addiction, as well as the radical changes that must take place in order to recover from said addiction.
SUPPORT GROUP: Struggling couples need the support of other men and women who are going through the healing process as well. You cannot survive your husband’s addiction alone! My husband and I attended a weekly support group for 2 years that was specifically designed for overcoming addiction. In our group, couples met together to discuss things that pertain to marriage, then met separately to discuss specific issues that come up for the husbands and the wives. This allowed for the husbands and wives to discuss their struggles in greater detail and added accountability. Through support group, we have formed life-long friendships with men and women who UNDERSTAND what we have gone through and the hiccups that can still arise as we continue on this healing journey. I know I can call on these women day or night for immediate help with any situation. My husband can call or text “the guys” and find accountability and encouragement when temptations arise. We know they are praying for us and we are praying for them. I highly recommend attending a weekly support group to receive encouragement, prayer, biblical advice, and also maintain accountability.
I survived. We found healing. Our marriage has been restored. My husband is sexually sober and I am confident that he will be victorious until he is face-to-face with Jesus. Purity demands a lifetime of diligence. But my husband is willing to put in the effort and I am standing by his side. We are honest with each other about how we're feeling, how we're struggling, and what we need. We pray for each other and fight together against the enemy. We strive to take every thought captive and leave no room for the enemy to get a foothold. We are so blessed to have come through this trial with a greater love for our God and for each other than we've ever known. One passage of Scripture that really made the most impact on me was Galatians 6:7-9, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” For years my husband sowed to his flesh. And he reaped corruption. After a difficult battle, he is now sowing to the Spirit. When I first read this passage, I was encouraged and I understood that purity was going to be a long road; but we could not lose heart in doing good. In time, God gave us the harvest. We have reaped restoration, healing, strength, and joy. Praise God.