Many are hurt by a man’s struggle with pornography, but no one more than the man’s wife. The feelings of hurt, betrayal, and distrust that a wife experiences toward her husband because of this struggle are very similar to those that come with adultery. The gospel is the only hope for a man to find victory over this bondage and the only way a wife who has been deeply hurt by her husband can find forgiveness and reestablish trust.
Thus, the work to restore trust and intimacy within a marriage deeply affected by this sinful struggle is possible through the gospel and is applied most effectively within the local church. Nevertheless, it takes a diligent, patient, and gracious effort on the part of both the husband and wife. First, let us consider six practical ways a wife can help her struggling husband and find forgiveness toward him in the process.
1) Embrace that you play an important role of accountability for your husband.
The wife may be tempted to distance herself from helping her husband and, thus, rely on other men to play that role. However, the wife is an important source of accountability for her husband. She knows him better than anyone, cares more than anyone that he overcomes this struggle, and is the object of the husband’s greatest affection. Urge the wife not to be afraid to play this role. She becomes a great asset for her husband to overcome this struggle.
2) Know that this is not your fault. (It really isn’t you; it’s him.)
Ironically, when a husband chooses to sin in this way, a wife will often blame herself. She was not attractive enough, did not show him enough attention, or did not see the warning signs. The fact is we are all responsible before God for our own sinful hearts. An unhealthy marriage can be a breeding ground for this struggle for a husband, but the wife should never feel the responsibility for his sinful decisions.
3) Share your hurt with him.
Encourage the wife not to hesitate to share how his sinful actions have made her feel. It will remind the husband of one of many reasons why he should never allow this destructive pattern to return. In turn, it also acts as a healthy and good way for the wife to grieve through the hurt and find forgiveness.
4) Seek counsel and care from another godly woman.
If possible, put the betrayed wife in the care of another godly woman who has walked through this struggle with her husband, or a similar one. Choose carefully, however, as this is meant to help the wife find empathy, grace, and forgiveness towards her husband, not an opportunity to fuel the fire of hurt and bitterness that already exists.
5) Guard your heart from bitterness.
Bitterness is an all-too-common response to the offenses of others against us. The best way to guard a wife harmed by sexual sins against bitterness is to remind her of the gospel and how God has forgiven her sins. Keep her need for repentance and the promise of forgiveness from God before her, and God will provide the grace needed to forgive her husband.
6) Pursue regular sexual intimacy with your husband.
The best thing for a hurting wife to do is the last thing she feels like doing after being hurt in this way: pursue sexual intimacy with her husband (1 Cor. 7:5). This intentional intimacy acts as a safeguard for this particular struggle in a husband and will break down the barriers to intimacy that the enemy wants to keep up as long as possible.
May the Lord give you grace as you attempt to care for a wife who certainly needs care after this sort of betrayal. Remember, the gospel is powerful enough to restore any marriage from the deepest damage caused by sexual sin and God powerfully uses the local church to care for those affected. Next will come suggestions to help a husband reestablish trust and intimacy with his wife whom he has harmed through this struggle.