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Dr. David Christian Marriage Advice

Pornography, Adultery, and Sexual Betrayal

  • Dr. David B. Hawkins The Relationship Doctor
  • 2007 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
Pornography, Adultery, and Sexual Betrayal

Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family?  Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.

Dear Dr. David,

I am a 33 year old woman and have been married to my husband for almost six years. We presently have a close relationship and are very happy. However, in the first year of our marriage I discovered my husband's addiction to pornography. It devastated me. I am still trying to recover. How do we recover from this hurt. Both of us are still hurting...he feels guilty and ashamed of his past, I sometimes feel angry, resentment, and fear him being led astray again. In addition, it does not help me have a healthy body image. How can I heal from his betrayal? I love my husband and want to make our marriage work. ~ Betrayed

Dear Dr. David,

I have been betrayed by my wife who had sex with another man on several occasions. We did not have kids when it happened, but now we have three. I am often reminded about what happened as the man who was involved lives in our town. I cannot describe the hatred I have for him. I have cursed him every day of my life for the last few years and I cannot get over that he is just carrying on with his life while mine is a life of daily pain and anger. I have tried praying and have tried counseling with the church, but it seems there is no one that has any understanding of the hurt involved. They say I must forgive and move on. I am sure this is true, but it is not that simple.

My wife has apologized and I have tried to accept that, but I just don't see her the same way anymore. She has really tried hard,but I just don't seem to have that feeling toward her that I once had. I feel that I love her enough not to be without her, but not enough that I could just go on with her as though nothing has happened. I am still so angry. I feel that she obviously did not love me enough and was therefore able to do what she did. Sometimes I even feel that I hate her and if it wasn't for my two kids I think by now I would have divorced her for sure. I need some desperate help and I hope for my kids sake that there is. ~ Betrayed

Dear Betrayed,

In both of these situations there have been very painful betrayals. While the circumstances are somewhat different, both feel understandably angry, hurt and frightened.

The responses to the betrayal, however, are somewhat different, with the woman appearing to be more dedicated to restoring her marriage. In the second situation, the man not only harbors resentment, but rehearses and nurses his resentment on a daily basis.

Sexual betrayal is perhaps the most intimate and painful violation that can occur in a marriage, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that it should be easy to forgive and move on with life. Rarely do I see couples rebound quickly from such an intimate and personal loss. Thankfully, however, it can be done. Let’s consider what needs to happen to recover from sexual betrayal.

First, there must be a complete and total separation from the other person/ situation. It’s impossible to heal if your mate continues to dabble in pornography, or if they are unwilling to set firm boundaries so that relapse is unlikely. A decisive and permanent break needs to occur from that other person or opportunity. The betrayed person needs to see, and feel, their mate’s dedication to living a safe and pure life.

Second, there must be safety for the couple to process ongoing feelings about what has occurred. Since there are natural feelings of anger, resentment and betrayal, and these feelings are likely to last for some time, the couple needs to agree upon a place and time to talk about these feelings on an ongoing basis. The betrayer often wants to “get on with life,” leaving the “betrayed” to deal with their feelings alone, when what is needed is an agreement to talk about the problem in a reasonable way, for a reasonable amount of time. The couple needs to agree not to hurt one another with their words, only aggravating the problem. These agreements, when kept, create safety.

Third, guard against being judgmental and perfectionistic. It may be tempting, when feeling betrayed, to narrow your view of your mate, seeing only their sinfulness. Feeling righteously indignant, it’s tempting to see the other as “wrong/ bad,” and yourself as “right/ good,” as you rehearse their wrongful actions.  Such dichotomies are not likely to be true, and certainly are not helpful to healing. Rehearsing resentment hurts you and your marriage. We need to remember that we’re all capable of any sinful action. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3: 23)

Fourth, the couple must determine why the betrayal happened. In some cases, the betrayal has nothing to do with the marital relationship, and more to do with sexual addiction or other emotional issues. In other cases, it has everything to do with the marriage. With wise counsel you can determine which is the case for you and set out on a course of healing weak areas in your personality/ marriage. For this to happen, of course, both need to be willing to consider the part they’ve played in this betrayal.

Fifth, the couple must embark on the task of rebuilding the marriage. With such a momentous infraction, the relationship may never be the same. Innocence has been lost and it is easy for cynicism and resentment to gain a foothold. Again, with godly counsel, the creation of safety and writing new history into your marriage, you can move forward. In fact, this marital crisis can be an opportunity to grieve what has been lost, learn from the experience and strengthen weak areas, and forge a new and exciting relationship. You can learn not only to forgive your mate, but to offer support and love to one another, further strengthening the marriage. 


David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage   Saying It So He'll Listen, and  When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.