How do you care for a wife hurt by her husband’s pornography struggle?

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.

Posted in Battling Sin
10 comments on “How do you care for a wife hurt by her husband’s pornography struggle?
  1. Scott W says:

    Brian,
    thanks for these words. Here is a question though that seldom comes up in discussions/blogs about porn- How do you care a husband hurt by his wife’s pornography struggle?- namely, why is the assumption that the man is at fault when statistics are showing the porn among women is almost equal? This is not a condemnation but a question as to why the church/church leadership isn’t addressing as publicly the sin issue of women & porn. Thanks for the site. Looking forward to coming back to it. FYI- Tim Challies made mention of your blog today in his a la carte piece…Blessings.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Great question and one that deserves to be addressed. I may address it in another post, but my quick response is it is certainly a growing problem for women struggling in the same way. Because men and women are drawn in to it for different reasons, a different direction would need to be taken to address women. I do think within the context of Christian marriage, men are greater targets and fall easier into this sin, which was the background for this particular post. Thanks for your question and one for me to think through more carefully before addressing it publically.

  2. Thank you for your insight. I just found this blog but am going to follow it and add it to my blogroll. I have been a pastor and plan on planting a new church this summer so resources like this will be invaluable.

  3. Brian, great to see you blogging. A pastor-friend of mine pointed me to your newest book – a subject I love along with you!! Thanks for the practical advice. You are regularly in my prayers and I so appreciate your kind, patient, faithful pastoral ministry. It is a sweet gift of God to my own soul.

  4. momofsons says:

    Is your counsel directed toward a wife of a repentant husband or a wife of an unrepentant husband or both?

    • Brian Croft says:

      Great question. This particular counsel is for a wife whose husband is repentant and they are both submitting to the care and counsel of the pastors/elders of their local church. Thanks for stopping by and for asking your question.

  5. em says:

    very well said…

    I’m getting married this weekend and I know this has been a struggle for my fiance… He’s repentant and growing and has received much grace but I know it is something we will deal with in our relationship.

    Thank you especially for encouraging accountability between husband and wife. I’m aware of too many instances where leaders have encouraged accountability between men RE porn use but have actively discouraged men from sharing their struggle with their wives (out of fear that it will tempt the wife too much or maybe because it’s just so much work to deal with a wife’s response to this sin?)…

  6. colin says:

    Brian,
    I really agree with your first point and have been greatly blessed by increased accountability with my wife. However, I think a lot of ministers and church members believe just the opposite. I know I have been advised by some not to make my wife a source of accountability, but instead to have accountability relationships with men. The reasoning behind this position was that it puts a burden on the wife, and often puts the wife in an uncomfortable, anxious, and undesired position. How would you respond to someone who held this view and how would you counsel someone who had been given this advice by a professional counselor? Thanks

    • Brian Croft says:

      Great question and one I get asked often. I would agree that in certain situations the wife is not at a place of spiritual maturity to be able to handle any role of accountability and men need to play that role solely. I also believe that in many cases the wife at first feels inadequate to the task, but realizes after playing her part that she is a very valuable piece of the puzzle. I say “her part” as she is not solely to carry this burden. She plays a part in a husband’s accountability just like other men in the church are to play their part. However, just as you have found, in many cases the wife’s role is invaluable and must be involved if at all possible. I do recognize that there are exceptions to the role, which must be measured with great pastoral wisdom.

      I hope that helps.

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