Editor's note: Crosswalk welcomes our newest contributor, Dr. David Hawkins, The Relationship Doctor. David Hawkins, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, family counselor and author who wants to connect with you to answer your relationship questions and concerns. To submit a question to Dr. David's advice column, see the contact information at the bottom of this article.
Dear Dr. David:
My husband, who is active in the church, has been viewing pornography for most of our married life. For many years I just tolerated it, but feel like I can’t do it any longer. He has promised to stop many times, but I catch him at it again and again. He says it began when he was very young, and for years he told me that he did not consider it to be unfaithful because they were just women in pictures. I finally had to ask him to leave, and once again he says he has stopped and that I should trust him. I have no trust left and it hurts me to even look at him. What should I do?
There are many women (and men) who know your pain. Pornography is a growing problem in and out of the church. Our culture, sadly, is permeated with this problem and marriages are being destroyed because of it.
It is completely understandable that your trust is weakened — as it should be. To trust him without real evidence of a repentant heart that seeks help and radical change would be foolish. What to do now?
First, seek understanding about addictions. They consist of any mood-altering process or substance, they are controlling and affect one’s ability to make healthy choices. It is unlikely that your husband wants to be addicted to pornography. While addiction creates limited choices, he can choose to get help.
Second, your husband, and others addicted to pornography, require specialized intervention (see helpful links at the bottom of this article). This consists of professional help by someone familiar with sexual addictions. It requires significant therapy to change. There are no shortcuts. Without intervention, as with other addictions, you can expect relapses to happen, leading to greater and greater disappointment.
Third, be prayerful about making positive choices concerning your marriage in the days ahead. Perhaps your separation, and firm stance on the matter, will finally lead your husband to seek help. Then, together, you can rebuild your marriage. Many who have hit bottom finally find the strength and courage to seek help, seek God and make changes necessary to save their lives and marriages.
I just finished reading your article about not playing God in your marriage. I am not sure I agree with you and perhaps I do not understand your heart in this matter. What if your mate is a professing Christian who is doing ungodly and/or unhealthy things or some very selfish things that put his family and God last every day? What if your spouse is behaving in ways that are clearly sinful? Are we to always avoid sharing our opinion, especially if they don’t want to hear it, just because it might sound like we are trying to prove our point or be "right?" Isn’t it right at times to be dogmatic in our opinions? Doesn’t the Bible tell us to "speak the truth in love?" Aren’t there times when we need to stand up for what is clearly "right" and not settle into a "world view" of things? Please help me in this matter.
Yes, you have misunderstood me. I agree -- I don’t think we should sit idly by as our mate indulges in sinful behaviors. To do so is not only unscriptural, it allows a sinful behavior to continue. The Apostle Paul tells us in Gal. 6:1: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted." The emphasis here seems to be on our attitude when approaching someone. Matthew 18 also instructs us about going to someone who sins against you.
There is far too much enabling taking place on critical marital issues today, allowing serious problems to run rampant and causing extreme harm to all concerned. Balance is the key. We must find a way to say what needs to be said in a compassionate way. Shame-based communication ruins rapport and is hurtful, adding insult to injury. Ephesians 4: 29 also instructs us to build one another up, using only language that would encourage. This is quite different than "preaching" at our mate, or nagging them about a particular issue. Those two techniques never works. It is never effective to use coercive language in a futile attempt to get someone to change their behavior.
So, say it to him straight — speak the truth in love; share your feelings and thoughts clearly on the matter, and set healthy boundaries for yourself and your family.
Have a question for Dr. David? Contact him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
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 book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, will be released in February, 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
Ministries for those struggling with pornography addiction:
Pure Life Ministries
Focus on the Family's PureIntimacy.org