Healing After My Husband's Betrayal with Porn
As a young girl and then as a college student I naively and subconsciously believed that all my problems (or most of them anyway) would disappear as soon as I got married. My own father had been a good provider and did the best he could, but as was normal in my community, he was not really involved in the details of my life, especially not in my emotional life. So without realizing it, I grew up with a man shaped void in my heart. It wasn’t something I could ever name, but I always believed that once I was married, once I had a man who could really see me, know me, and value all that I was, I would finally be ok.
I brought this belief into my marriage. I believed it was my husband’s responsibility to meet my needs and make me feel that I had value. At this time, I knew Jesus. I told others that he was the most important thing in my life, but it wasn’t true. My husband was my god. He was the one I looked to for the things my heart needed--things that can only be fully met in Jesus.
In the beginning (probably to my spiritual detriment), my husband did a great job of actually meeting most of my needs. During this time, it was easy to give lip service to Jesus but really be worshipping my husband, the one who had taken the place of God in my life. Of course he was never perfect, but I know he bent over backwards to keep me together emotionally.
In my eyes, we had a good marriage, but we generally stayed on the surface in terms of communication. We did fun things together, didn’t fight much, but the deep soul connection I had always hoped for seemed just out of reach.
Our first child was born after we had been married for about three years, and having a new baby was a blessing, but it was also really hard. The stress of a newborn exposed the cracks that had been lying just below the surface in our marriage. When our baby was about six months old I found out my husband was using pornography and had been lying about it for the last two years.
I was devastated. The man I had believed to be my savior, the one I had trusted in to meet all my needs had completely let me down.
Providentially, during this time both my husband and I were a part of Healing Care Groups. These groups focused on practicing meeting Jesus in our deepest wounds and were run by a counselor and her husband who specialized in teaching people how to bring their emotional pain to the Lord. During one group exercise we were asked to finger paint about an emotional experience we had that week. I painted myself lying on the ground crying tears of blood. My husband’s pornography use hurt that bad.
Thankfully, my husband and I were not alone, like I know many couples are when dealing with this type of relational pain. The night I found out my husband had been lying about his use of pornography, I called my counselor Carolyn who told me she had experienced the same thing, that I was not alone, that she would walk with me, and most importantly that I could take this pain to Jesus.
Lament: Taking the Pain to Jesus
Per Carolyn's prompting, I spent the next week writing a long lament to the Lord. Carolyn had taught me about the practice of writing laments--these were prayers written directly from my gut. Prayers that had no censorship. Prayers that included curses, rage, the rawest of pain, lots of theological incorrectness, and several four letter words not allowed in church. Carolyn had taught me that in order to get the pain out of me and onto God, I had to release it. It had to be spoken, poured out of my physical body, and onto the only ONE who could handle all the pain.
As I wrote my lament, I realized I was grieving not only my husband’s betrayal of our marriage, but also the destruction of the idol I had created out of him. Moreover, I was also grieving for the little girl inside of me that had been longing for a perfect man to meet her needs and tell her she was ok. As the pain poured out of me, I could sense Jesus with me in the unique way that I only feel in times of deep sorrow.
After I finished writing my uncensored letter to God about how my husband had betrayed me, I prayed it aloud in the presence of my Healing Care Group. Never in my life I had I allowed myself to be that vulnerable in the presence of others, but I soon found the risk involved with that level of emotional exposure was completely worth it.
After I finished reading my lament to the Lord in the presence of six safe and supportive women, Jesus met me in the way only HE can. There in that space, I saw an image of Jesus with nails in his hands. And in that moment, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I knew in my heart that he had come to this earth, left perfect fellowship with the father for his bride...his spouse who mocked him, abandoned him, spit on him, and then killed him. He understood. Jesus understood what it was to be lied to and to be cheated on by the one he left everything for. He knew the pain of betrayal by the ones he loved the very most, and I sensed the tears he was crying right along with me.
In that sacred space, my self-righteousness was also uncovered. Until that point, I believed I was better than my husband because I felt incapable of doing something as "bad" as lying about pornography. But the Lord showed me I was wrong. My self-righteous pride was just as much a sin as my husband’s use of pornography. Possibly for the first time, I experientially knew that the ground really is level at the foot of the cross. And it is only the power of the Holy Spirit that could have moved that truth from my head to my heart.
In my pain, Jesus gently showed me that I had been worshipping my husband and our marriage, and then he offered me a better option--Himself.
I had been looking to my husband to give me the things that can only come from God. I had hoped my husband would be my security, my source of worth, my place of belonging, and the one who pursued my heart. When it became apparent that he was not capable of this, the idol I had turned him into crumbled. Without my idol to worship and cling to, all my God-given core needs were exposed, and my deeply unmet and exposed needs felt like open wounds dying to be covered.
As my tears flowed, the Lord gently whispered that he has been waiting to meet my needs. He reminded me that HE is my true husband. He is the ONLY one who will ever and can ever love me perfectly. It is only in him that I can find my true identity. It is only HIS embrace that can fill the vast emptiness of my heart. Once I knew that it was Jesus who was taking the place in my life where my husband had once been, the ground on which I stood became firm. I knew that no matter what my husband did, whether he changed or not, that my foundation was secure because I was rooted in the love of Jesus--and not the love of my husband.
And it was out of this gospel-security that God graciously gave me what I needed to forgive. Oftentimes, forgiveness has a bad reputation. People mistakenly think it means saying what your offender did to you was ok. It is actually the opposite. Forgiveness requires acknowledging the fact that what your offender did was wrong and sinful. Forgiveness says, “I choose by an act of my will to take the offense off myself and put the offense on the cross.” It says, “I choose to give up my right to demand punishment and give that right to God.”
Carolyn walked me through this process as well. She sat beside me as I asked God for a picture of moving my husband’s offense off me and onto Him. I can explain the process of what this looked like, but the experience itself is something that’s difficult to put into words. I could see Jesus taking the punishment my husband deserved and putting it on himself. In the choice to forgive, something supernatural happens. God honors the choice of the victim to hand over their right to punish their offender and takes the punishment on himself. I still don’t fully comprehend how this works, in the same way I don't fully comprehend how the gospel works, but I know it does.
After I could sense that Jesus had taken my husband’s sin off me and put it on the cross, I was in a place where I could begin to re-enter engaging in relationship with him. This does not mean I went running back into my husband’s arms or started to act like porn had never been a part of our marriage or that I had never been lied to.
The process of re-establishing trust after it has been broken often takes a good amount of time. A practical tool that Carolyn walked us through was what she called a trust agreement. This was a written list of specific items that I needed to see happen in order to be able to begin to trust my husband again. The trust agreement also had a timetable included in it, in order to make it measurable (ie. install a filter on all devices, meet once per week with an accountability group/partner for at least one year, etc).
My forgiveness and love for him was not dependent on the items listed in the trust agreement, but my ability to trust him was. The purpose of the agreement was not to punish my husband because Jesus had taken his punishment on the cross. But having the trust agreement in place honored our marriage, and it was a way for me to show respect to myself.
On this journey, I also learned that it was not my job to be the porn police. I was not responsible for my husband's actions. It would have been too much for me to bear the weight of his recovery. My ability to trust him was dependent on his recovery, but his recovery process was not dependent on me.
As soon as I felt myself slipping into becoming his “recovery manager” I knew I was once again making him my idol. While my husband recovered, my only job was to rest securely in my true and perfect husband--the Lord. The one who would remind me again and again that no matter what my earthly husband does or does not do, I am totally loved, secure, accepted, desired, treasured, and known by the one true king, Jesus Christ.
What the enemy meant for evil, God used for my good. (Gen. 50:20)
Is this your story? Has your husband or partner used pornography, lied to you, or betrayed you in some way? You are not alone, and it is not your fault. Healing is possible. My passion is journeying with other women as they walk this messy road of healing. I would love to connect with you.
You can reach me at: email@example.com
If you would like to learn more about what the healing journey can look like for you click here
"These trials have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Pet. 1:7-9