Brenda's heart ached. Her husband, a youth pastor, had been arrested. The problem behind it all was even worse than the arrest itself — he had an uncontrollable sexual addiction.
Frank didn't see it coming. His job kept him on the road a lot, but he thought his relationship with his wife — a Sunday school teacher — was fine. He didn't know his wife's casual conversations about religion in a Christian chat room had grown into an affair, until she announced she was leaving him.
For Brenda and for Frank, these situations were tragedies. They felt hurt, betrayed and helpless. Yet they made it. The good news is that today their relationships are restored and are continually improving. The process was difficult and required incredible patience and forgiveness on their part. It also required a lot of vulnerability and willingness to look at their own lives. Still, they'll both tell you that their commitment to recovery paid off.
Are you facing a similar tragedy? Are you still in shock after finding a stash of online porn or hearing that your wife has lost her job for constantly violating company policies against personal Internet use?
Or are you just growing more and more concerned about where your spouse's online habits are headed? Has your spouse's daily online time grown from a few minutes into a few hours? Is he online later and later into the night? Is she increasingly irritable when you question her Internet use?
Whether your spouse is just starting to show signs of using the Internet too much or has allowed a habit to explode in some tragic way, I encourage you to fight for your relationship. You have every reason to care about the health of your marriage and to take appropriate steps to keep the Internet from driving a wedge between you and your spouse.
The tough challenge for you at this point is to direct your thoughts and emotions in a positive direction. That's difficult when you feel hurt, anxious, and vulnerable. Dr. James Dobson addresses this struggle in his book, Love Must be Tough:
"As a love affair begins to deteriorate, the vulnerable partner is inclined to panic. Characteristic responses include grieving, lashing out, begging, pleading, grabbing and holding; or the reaction may be just the opposite, involving appeasement and passivity." Dr. Dobson says such reactions are understandable but are not often successful in restoring the relationship. "In fact," he says, "such reactions are usually counterproductive, destroying the relationship the threatened person is trying so desperately to preserve."James C. Dobson, Love Must be Tough: Straight Talk (Nashville, Tenn.: Word, 1999), p. 30.
So what do you do? You start with prayer and follow with a day-to-day commitment to love your spouse the way God loves you. The purpose of this series of articles is to give you some general direction, to answer some of the questions that are likely to be going through your mind and to direct you to resources that can help you understand and address the struggle your marriage is facing.