We would like to say a big thank you to Rebecca and RJ for sharing their story with us. We hope that their openness to share provides you with both insight and encouragement wherever you are at on this journey. Their real names have not been used to uphold anonymity.
At some point while we were dating, RJ confessed that he viewed porn. He had literally stumbled across a stash of pornographic magazines in the local park as a pre-pubescent boy, and over the years had begun to view internet pornography. Both RJ and I were fairly new/immature first-generation Christians, and although we had decided (and were thankfully able) to save sex for marriage, we hadn’t had much guidance on the topic of sexual purity. We both naively assumed that RJ’s porn use was simply “an outlet” for his sexual desire, and that once we were married, he would have no further desire to look at porn since he would be replacing it with “the real deal”.
How wrong we were!
Although on lots of levels we had a great relationship, underneath things were not so great. I was regularly turned down when initiating sex, shut down when trying to discuss deep issues, we were out of sync with our daily routines, as RJ would often stay up late or spend hours ‘working’ alone in his study. A few times I caught him in the act of viewing porn. I’d weep and wail; he’d apologise, promise to try to do better, and fairly quickly fall back into porn again. During this time our communication suffered, our sex life suffered, our relationships with others suffered, and our spiritual life suffered as RJ’s relationship with God was hampered by his porn use.
For most of this time I was governed by fear. I was afraid to ask how he was going with his sexual purity, afraid to demand that he put a stop to his porn use lest it make me an “unsubmissive wife”, afraid to go out while he was at home in case it started another porn binge, afraid of what he might want me to do in the bedroom that he may have seen in porn, afraid that he’d graduate to ‘really bad porn’ and that we’d have our door broken down one morning in a police raid. (What can I say, I come from a family of worriers!)
I felt so alone. I desperately wanted help and advice, but I felt like I couldn’t discuss it with anyone without ‘ratting him out’ or causing other people to think badly of him.
The tide began to turn, when a few weeks before the birth of our first child, RJ confessed (without being sprung first) that he was again struggling with pornography, but wanted to come clean & really fight it. This finally opened up communication between us and helped to clear the air.
This good spell came crashing down, when a month after our son was born, I again caught him looking at porn, while our son and I had been sleeping in the next room. I don’t know whether it was my newfound ‘mama-bear’ strength, or whether I’d simply reached my limit, but this time I was furious! How dare he do this to us?
I thought about leaving him, but as a Christian, I didn’t feel like this was an option. I would fantasise about RJ dying as a way out, or about harming myself as a way of getting some outside help.
For a few weeks the emotional battle raged. Night after night we would discuss the problem into the wee small hours. RJ would help to calm me down, remind me that he was serious about fighting his addiction and remind me of how much he loved me. But then, the following day when he was at work, I would feel the weight of it all start to crash in on me again. I still felt like I couldn’t discuss the problem with anyone else, and although RJ was now serious about dealing with his porn addiction, he wasn’t ready to talk to anyone either. So in desperation I threw myself on God in prayer. Any time my emotions started to get the better of me (which as the mother of a newborn was a lot!) I would fall on my knees in prayer. I railed at God demanding “why me!”. One prayer time, I had the sudden realisation “well… why not me?” I had honestly felt that God had brought us together as husband and wife, so what if this was part of the reason why? If I was meant to be RJ’s helpmeet, then maybe part of my role was to help him get free from this sin. I felt like Esther being spoken to by Mordecai “And who knows but that you have come to your
In that moment everything shifted for me. I knew that if I wanted RJ to be honest with me about his struggles with porn, I had to make it easy for him to do so. After all, I wouldn’t want to confess to someone who was going to weep and wail for days either. With God’s help, I started to respond with grace. Instead of being mad at him for sinning, I began to thank him for his honesty. I reminded myself over and over again that I too was a sinner, saved only by grace. I reminded myself that God’s grace was sufficient for me even to deal with my husband’s sin.
We were very blessed that at this point, our church ran an evening discussion on guys and pornography, and started a small group for guys who were struggling with porn addiction. Finally RJ had people to talk to who wouldn’t judge him for his struggle with porn, and was given tools for battling it. I finally knew that I wasn’t alone in dealing with this issue, and also began to find tools and resources for myself as the spouse of someone who had an addiction to porn.
Through this group, and by the grace of God, we are now at such a different place in the battle. Whilst RJ is not completely free of this sin yet, his ‘stumbles’ are becoming few and far between. We are able to talk about his difficulties and stumbles and generally have much better communication. I am able to trust him to be the godly leader of our family. We also have a great sex life and a much deeper understanding of each other. Best of all, this experience has greatly deepened our relationship with God, and we are now both serving in our church.
Fear no longer governs me; grace does. Seven years ago, I never thought we would be in this strong happy place in our marriage. But we have a God who is in the redemption business, and takes great delight in redeeming people from their sin and brokenness.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17