You have been crushed by your husband's behavior, and rightly so. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with him? Punish him? Dump him? All you know is that you cannot and will not compete with the images filling his mind.
And what of the emotions? These feelings are plain awful, and you know you will have to do something about them if you're ever to begin rebuilding your life with him. But what do you do with them? You may be wishing you could just forget the mess and let these feelings go, passing them off as overreactions. So would he.
But even if you could manage that, something tells you that this would be the worst thing you could possibly do. You can't put your finger on it, but you sense that the effects of his sin range from far beyond the emotional chaos of your wounded heart. To let it go seems not only foolish but very perilous to everyone involved.
Don't ignore your intuition this time. You are right on target, and you must recognize the very real and treacherous spiritual dangers lying beneath the stormy emotions swirling on the surface.
Real Life Expectations
Now that I know much more about how men are wired sexually, my husband's courageous fight to control and restrict his natural sexual tendencies for my sake has become the most priceless gift he'll ever give me. Since men are built by nature to look, it takes a loving, daily commitment to keep that part of his nature pure. I can assure you that this is a gift I don't take lightly. I cherish knowing that when he looks at me, I'm everything to him-that he's fully satisfied with what he sees.
Come now! Is that really possible? Nancy's husband didn't think so. He claimed that while he didn't want to desire other women, he couldn't help what he liked.
But we disagree totally with this guy. My husband Fred believes that although I can never look like I'm twenty again, his passion for my body can remain the same. The Bible says so, and he's taken the following scripture to heart:
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife? For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. (Proverbs 5:18-23, AMP)
Obviously, it is possible for a man to take joy in the wife of his youth and to be always and only ravished by her beauty alone...if he exhibits the discipline to do so. What's more, since it's God's Word that defines what normal behavior is for Christians, we're also forced to conclude that the discipline of guarding the eyes and the heart is not only possible but that God considers such discipline to be normal among His sons.
We have every right to expect normal Christian behavior from our husbands, and when we don't get it, it's normal to feel hurt and disappointment. If your husband is not leading a disciplined life, he is robbing you, so you naturally feel crushed.
The Emotions of a Betrayed Wife
What other feelings will surge over you in the wake of his porn and the masturbation that follows? Anger, for one. When Fred's business office was robbed a few years ago, we were both furious. Why not? It's normal to be angry when you've been robbed, and so it's normal to be angry at your husband's sexual sin. You needn't apologize for that.
"I was angry, hurt, and humiliated when I found his stash of porn," Linda wrote us. "I had so treasured the thought that he had no one to compare me to. I'm short and fat, so I can never compare to those bodies he's looking at. Worse yet, after I made my discovery, I started eating to medicate my life-is-so-unfair depression."
Don't be surprised if you're feeling like an outright fool too. What could be more normal? When you find out that your husband has been secretly looking at another's bare body, you'll feel utterly blindsided. You may even be kicking yourself for not having seen it coming, especially if your female intuition sent out early warning signals...signals that you, in your faithfulness to him, laughed off as paranoid or even out-and-out silly. Don't be too hard on yourself. Patrick Middleton, who counsels those bound up in sexual addiction, told us, "It is not uncommon for wives to know for some time that something is wrong with their sexual relationship, but they dismiss their feelings of disconnection and shame as being crazy. For some reason, they refuse to trust their own intuition, which is plainly telling them something is wrong."
I didn't realize just how much Fred's sexual sin was rocking the foundations of our home until much later. If you ever expect to rebuild a stable life with your husband, you need to understand this clearly now.
Which brings me back to my question: what are you going to do with your feelings? If you're to get through the pain and catch the vision for your role as a helper, you might begin with a few tough and penetrating questions.
For instance, what have you genuinely lost through the revelation of your husband's sexual sin? Think hard about what your marriage was like before you discovered his sin. I suggest that you haven't lost as much as you think, because the foundation you thought you had was never there in the first place.
Was your marriage a mirage, like mine? That's not to say I didn't love my husband or that we didn't have a lot of connection and fun times. Our marriage was good in many ways. But something was definitely missing behind the scenes, and my marriage wasn't what it appeared.
Think back. Was your marriage all you had dreamed it would be? At the time you may have thought you were living your dream, but in truth, you weren't. Your dream began to die with the birth of his sexual sin.
Because of his sexual sin, your marriage was compromised. Sure, you're hurt and very angry. You've lost that warm, cozy image of your marriage, and that naturally wounds you deeply. But in another sense, you haven't lost as much as your think, because your marriage wasn't what it appeared to be. My point? There is a bright silver lining to this dark, billowing cloud. While you may not feel good about what has happened, this event could bring about one of the most hopeful times in your life. The discovery of your husband's secret sin has revealed the truth state of your marital union, and now you have the opportunity to experience something real with him.
It will be very helpful if you view the discovery of your husband's sexual sin as God's grace in your life. His sexual impropriety has been like a huge life-sucking tumor silently attacking your marriage. But now that you've found the cancer, there's hope. Now you can pray for healing, begin treatment, and seek a marital life restored and brimming with health.
You now have a choice. So what will you focus on-the pain or the hope? Probably both at first, and I don't blame you. There will be days when the pain of your husband's betrayal will overwhelm you, and your anger will drive hope far away. That's okay. God understands, and He won't condemn you for a lack of faith. He'd rather hug you and draw you near, if you'll let Him. You're His child, remember?
Still, thanking God for the revelation and choosing hope for the future is the first step to your freedom. Sure, your first faltering steps in this direction will be like crossing a stream by jumping from rock to slippery rock, which means it won't be easy. But as you discipline your heart to the truth and choose to be thankful for what He has done in opening your eyes, your obedience will kick up a breeze of the Spirit's breath in your life that'll begin to dissipate your pain.
The above piece is an adaptation from Every Heart Restored by Fred and Brenda Stoeker. Colorado Springs, WaterBrook Press, 2004.
Brenda Stoeker is a registered nurse, mother of four, and seasoned marriage teacher with life experience in rebuilding a broken marriage. Fred Stoeker is the co-author of Every Young Man's Battle, Every Man's Marriage, and the award-winning book Every Man's Battle. Their insightful and encouraging books can be ordered at www.newlife.com. In addition, New Life Ministries provides help for men struggling with sexual integrity through the Every Man's Battle conference. Wives are encouraged to attend the small group New Life Weekend: Restoring a Wife's Heart. And together couples can attend a marriage group at the New Life Weekend.