How do you counsel a husband who has revealed a struggle with pornography to his wife?

Every pastor already faces this. Unfortunately, I fear the problem will only become more common in the future; that is marriage counseling as a result of a husband’s struggle with pornogrpahy. The work to restore trust and intimacy within a marriage deeply affected by this sinful struggle is only possible through the gospel and applied most effectively within the local church; having said that, consider six practical ways that husband can reestablish trust and intimacy with his hurting wife: 1) Be patient towards your hurting wife. Men are known to deal with something, then move on. A wife, especially one sinned against by pornography will not move on so quickly. A wife does not get past this offence in the same amount of time a husband often expects she should. Encourage the husband to be patient with his wife as she tries to find forgiveness and reestablish trust. By God’s grace it will happen—but in time. 2) Understand the seriousness of your sin against her. Sexual sin hurts a wife more deeply than most other sins against her. A husband needs to realize that the reasons this sin stings so much is that it seems to confirm almost every doubt and insecurity most women already battle within themselves. Understanding the seriousness of this sin and the pain it causes will help cultivate patience and prevent a reoccurrence of it. 3) Look to your wife to play an important role of accountability. It is easy to seek the accountability of another man when it comes to this struggle because, we say, “only another man knows what the battle is like.” Yet, you do not have to sleep next to that man every night. You do not have to look into his eyes knowing the hurt you caused. You do not have to be as patient and gracious with your buddy through this like you must with your wife. It may need to be in the context of regular counseling for a while, but convince him his wife will be a great asset to establish his new patterns and protection from falling again. 4) Consistently and creatively romance your wife. A husband should have already been pursuing his wife romantically as a regular practice. Now, he must understand this pattern must be established to restore his marriage. Sexual sin attacks a wife’s confidence and security that her husband loves and desires her. This confidence is a must for a healthy marriage and remains so for one

to be restored. 5) Affirm your physical attraction to her. It should surprise no man that when he looks at other women in lustful ways, it will communicate a sharp message to his wife that he does not find her attractive. Most men would confess that is not what drove them to pornography, but it is inescapable that this is how a wife feels because of it. Encourage the man verbally to affirm his physical attraction to his wife. Then, he must back it up with his actions. 6) Realize the battle never ends this side of eternity. The gospel is powerful to free men from this bondage and to establish new patterns in their lives, but the fences of accountability must always remain. Most of the men who slip up in this area do so just when they start getting confident that they no longer struggle with pornography (1 Cor. 10:12). The guards come down. The wife has forgiven. The accountability partner has not asked about the struggle for a while. The gradual decline of these forms of accountability should act as a warning sign and a reminder that this struggle in our sex-saturated culture will only end when the perfectly faithful husband, Christ, gathers his bride to himself (Rev. 19:6-9). Pastors, may the Lord grant you wisdom as you work with husbands who struggle in this way so that the patterns would be broken, marriages would be mended, and the power of Christ would be credited.

Posted in Battling Sin
9 comments on “How do you counsel a husband who has revealed a struggle with pornography to his wife?
  1. Ryan Bebee says:

    Thanks for this, Brother. I appreciate you labor in the trenches more than you know.

  2. Jeff Jackson says:

    Amen, Brian! This is such a pervasive, growing issue in our highly sexualized culture. Building on your counsel I would offer the encouragement to husbands to get in “attack mode” (against this sin) and take the initiative in what you’ve outlined in this post. In other words, go to your wife in genuine brokenness and contriteness of heart with a plan to rebuild. She needs to know you are serious about the heart issues going on in you and that you are going to face these issues head on. Begin with a heart that is willing to do anything which will serve to reassure her of your commitment to slay this sin and to build trust with her about how serious you are concerning your own purity and integrity in your walk with Christ. Next, get practical and get real about the problem i.e. own the issue and the solution. If you keep doing the same things you will keep getting the same results. It doesn’t “go away” and it doesn’t “get better” apart from a total life commitment to mercilessly kill it. Satan, the world, and your own lust will win the day unless you burn all bridges to this thing and pursue the Lord anew. This is a big topic with multiple levels of entry for mortifying it. But do a few things right away: Get a quality filter for your computer, let your wife administrate it and make it where she has unhindered access to what you do online; open your life to your wife and others and don’t live in the shadows. Work to make it as near to impossible as you can for you to view lewd material of any kind. No secrets. Own it and do something about it. Start somewhere and stay with it. Big topic and so much more to say but maybe others will weigh in and build from here. Bottom line: your wife needs to see you are killing this while pursuing the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Press on!

  3. Charlie Irish says:

    As a man who has struggled with this issue I mostly agree with the advice given. I would refine number 3 a little bit though. The wife should be as involved in ongoing accountability as SHE wants/needs to be. But it is my opinion that a man needs another man as an accountability partner too. Someone to share the everyday temptations and struggles with. It would seem to me that if the wife tried to fill that role, the constant ongoing hearing about the struggle would be overwhelming to her. Especially after having been betrayed, every temptation, even those that are sucessfully faced down, is likely to feel like another betrayal. The constant and ongoing reminders will make it impossible for her to heal and move on at all.

    I’m NOT at all suggesting keeping anything from her, I’m just saying that having her as the primary daily accountability person may not be the best idea. Absolutely be 100% and completely truthful, open and honest if/when she asks of course.

    • Mark says:

      I whole-heatedly agree with you. There’s a reason why wives are referred to as the “weaker” vessel. To put that kind of burden on her is wrong. She should be praying for her husband. He should be honest with her. But to put the burden of an accountability partner on her may not be wise.

      And let’s be honest. An accountability partner is as only good as the person is being honest. Brokenness and humility (and a strong dose of transparency) is the way to go. Putting to death the works of the flesh and walking or being under the influence of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) is what is going to work. Anything that I try, outside of a surrendered will to God, is a work of the flesh. Putting the flesh in charge to do good is as successful as putting the fox in the hen house. The fox may not eat the hens at first, but his nature will eventually eat them…because that’s what foxes do…and so does are flesh. As men we must learn to walk in the victory that we already have through Christ’s death and resurrection. We will continue to fail time and time again if we deny the power of the Cross and deny the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

      My random thoughts for what they are worth.

  4. Nitoshe Nekha says:

    Truly practical and helpful tips. Thank you for the thoughts. God Bless.

  5. Me says:

    As a woman I’d like to agree with the first point about being patient. I also think it’s important for men to be aware that their tendency to assume it’s been fixed so we can move on will not be appropriate. They will need to realize their marriage won’t be the same, the deep trust and sense of sexual freedom embedded in security she once relaxed into is no more, even with accountability(what wife wants to know her husband has to choose to be with her rather than want her!). This is important to know straight out because he may grow impatient with her to return to what was before as though there are no consequences. It reminds me of the drug addict that destroys his relationships, gets sober and becomes demanding that the family return to their previous closeness or that their boss wants them back at work.

    There is a reason to protect that precious space because when it’s shattered it reconfigures differently. It may be good but not what it was and accepting this is so important so as not to lay heavier burdens upon the person wronged. There are always consequences for our actions and men involved in this behaviour can hope for something good to grow but please give your wives room to be real and human in their journey along how to relate in a new way within an unfamiliar and insecure marriage.

  6. jane says:

    i feel my husband needs christain healing towards dealing with pornagrafy as its squashed his marriage and trust with his wife how do i know he has stoped as he has acesses to the internet on his phone at work i want my husband back the loveing carring husband i married 8 years ago i do trust him but so many things have happened in our marriage its hard to trust him now because what will he do next.

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