If recent statistics are any indication about today’s culture, some 40 million Americans regularly visit porn websites. That’s a whole lot of hurt, confusion and resentment.
It also means there are a lot of case studies. Those who are married to spouses struggling with porn addiction can look around and see how others are coping. How do they do it? Do they simply accept it? Is there a way to heal?
When I discovered my husband’s porn habit, I did what most people do — I picked up books, followed bloggers, and saw a counselor. I began studying how people moved on from a discovery such as this. What became of them? Had they learned something they could teach me? I was desperate for healing. I would have done anything to learn how to cope. I knew there had to be some type of information out there that could fix the pain, alleviate the ache, and restore the innocence to our marriage.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Most of the materials that I consumed provided temporary comfort and psychological knowledge, but nothing reached those deep, dark places in me that this betrayal had poisoned.
Most marriage counselors know this common scenario. Partners freed from the secrecy and shame of their addiction experience relief, grace, affirmation and, best of all, cleansing. Their spouses’ pain grieves them, sure, but they’re no longer oppressed by their heavy secret. They are finally free to focus on recovery. There’s hope, and they taste the potential of a new start.
Meanwhile, the addict’s partner often feels like the trouble has just begun. At that moment, they’re left to deal with an ugly surprise — one that comes with intense disillusionment, fear, disappointment, anger, hurt, confusion and, sometimes, even jealousy. There’s nothing remotely like relief in the mix.
I prayed fervently, while continuing to devour media on the topic. Some authors encouraged me with their “hang in there” messages, others picked apart the science of a man’s brain to dispel my confusion, and still others instructed me to begin volunteering my community in order to muster up a sort of “gratitude” for my own situation.
It wasn’t until I came to the end of my search when I realized that the experts were beginning to repeat themselves. And that’s when I became truly frantic. Wasn’t there anything I could learn that would heal my heart? True hopelessness, for me, was realizing that there’s nothing else anyone can say to help, and that I was all alone to deal with the situation.
Looking back, I’m glad for that time of sad isolation. It forced me to turn back to prayer. Had I found something sufficiently helpful, had I received a glimmer of hope from any of the experts or fellow wives I clung to, I would have moved on. But I didn’t. I found nothing except the familiar pangs of pain from the indescribable hurt of betrayal.
After a year of my constant begging, God moved. He honored my pestering questions with a revelation. Because I sensed strong conviction without an ounce of shame or guilt, I knew this revelation must be from the Holy Spirit.
Contrast that with familiar “wisdom” from well-meaning people. For example:
- If you forgive, you’re condoning someone else’s destructive behavior. (Truth: You can release someone of the hurt they caused without diminishing the wrongness of their actions.)
- Forgiveness always means reconciliation. (Truth: Often, forgiveness is granted, but healthy boundaries must remain.)
- If you can’t forgive someone, you’re not trying hard enough. (Truth: Forgiveness comes from a change in perspective, not more effort.)
- Forgiveness means you can never feel hurt or angry about the situation again. (Truth: Hurt and forgiveness can — and often do — coexist in the heart.)
This was different. A child of God knows the feeling of liberation. And this startling insight from God changed my view, making forgiveness a byproduct of the new perspective, instead of some unattainable goal.
Like a chemical reaction, my indignation dissipated and was replaced with compassion. My bitterness melted into concern for the person I see now that I had been hurting. That’s right: My husband’s addiction did not hurt me — it healed me.
In an instant, I went from the darkest pit of despair to the highest heights of gratitude, love, understanding and compassion for others. I had far more grace than I’d experienced before I was hurt in the first place.
Ask God to send you a revelation: a clear view of your life, and the hope, and the excitement, about the future of your relationship.
Over time, my faith grew as I discovered one Bible character after another who received a similar revelation. Turns out, the God of our fathers has been redeeming stuck people from their own indignant hurt for thousands of years.
Maybe you’re still hurting, and this revelation of forgiveness and grace seems out of reach. And I understand. I know the feeling. It’s impossibly oppressive.
The pain of loving a fallible partner can be illimitable torture.
But there’s more to your story than this. God loved me enough to deliver me from my pain in a single instant. He has more than coping mechanisms for those who are hurting. Do not settle for the tips and tricks that help you simply get through the day. There’s more to life than a loved one’s porn addiction wreaking havoc on your marriage.
I beg you to consider doing what I did. Press into the anguish instead of trying to survive it. Learn to identify people in your life who have lived through the same marital trauma — and have come out on the other side healthier for it. Dismiss every psychological pain management tactic that leaves you feeling empty.
Ask God to send you a revelation — a clear view of your life, and the hope, and the excitement, about the future of your relationship.
Meg S. Miller is an award-winning author whose latest book, “Benefit of the Debt: How My Husband’s Porn Problem Saved Our Marriage,” shares her unique perspective on porn addiction and healing in Christian marriages. Miller and her family live near Washington, D.C. Learn more on her website.
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