I listened to a voicemail from my husband, Dave. “I’m on my way home,” he said. “Please make sure the girls are not there. I have to talk to you.” He added that his boss supported his decision to leave early, so I knew he had not lost his job. My every nerve was on edge, and I sensed something awful was coming. I paced, waiting for the mother of all shoes to drop. Seventeen years have passed since that day, but I can still feel the same deep pit in my gut.
When Dave walked into our home, he held a rolled-up journal in a death grip. I saw agony etched on his face. We sat down and he opened that book he carried, sharing notes he had written about a life I knew nothing about. His voice was low and strained as if every word was a struggle to formulate.
I had learned about pornography addiction a few years before when a good friend told us he had stepped down as deacon of his church. He was an attentive husband and a loving dad. The fact that he shared his struggle with us and was getting help only confirmed that he was a man of integrity. I didn’t understand how it could happen to a man like him, nor could I fathom how my friend, his wife, processed it. I listened to her pain, but I had no real grasp of the burden she carried until the load landed on me.
As I listened to my husband’s confession, I felt devastated. I watched my legs shake with the shock of it all. Then came the tears and the whys. I knew enough not to make any big decisions in the moment, but I initially felt sure I had the divine OK to divorce Dave. He had gone outside of our marriage, after all, and I thought, Isn’t that grounds for divorce?
I remember picking up my Bible and saying, “OK, God, I’m going to open your Word because I’m a Christian, and that’s what Christians do.” It was the smallest of mustard seeds, for I was pretty sure there was nothing in it for me — until I read Isaiah 54:5-6: “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.”
It is still difficult to describe the power of the Lord reaching down and saying through His Word, I see you, and I know exactly how you are feeling. It was the beginning of a new level of faith and intimacy between God and me. Everything I knew about Him began to sink into my dry and damaged heart. But it took time to develop into something practical.
Seeking God’s direction
I asked the Lord for permission to leave Dave. God asked me to wait. He knew my heart would not have received an adamant stay. So I waited, poised and ready to run at the next sign of trouble. Months passed. I learned a lot about myself and the broken world we live in. A few weeks before our 20th anniversary, words came to my mind that could not have been from me: Recommit to your marriage fully.
How could I recommit to vows that felt used up?
In the 15 years since asking these questions, I’ve ministered to hundreds of women devastated by their husbands’ poor sexual choices. The details vary, but the pain is universal. I know that some version of the same story is played out every day all over the world. Every church has couples struggling with sexual addiction — alone, isolated and thinking they are an anomaly. Steeped in shame, they seldom reach out for help. Dave and I were fortunate to have friends who risked condemnation to share their struggle.
Not every marriage survives, but not usually for lack of effort. Often one spouse gives a Herculean effort, but it takes both people fully committed to rebuilding a healthy marriage. I’m often asked how many marriages are saved at Hope After Betrayal Ministries, a ministry I founded. We don’t track those results. The statistic that matters most to us is that 100 percent of the women who reach out for hope and healing in Christ find it. God’s care is always individual and personal.
When the question of divorce is raised, I counsel women to pause, read God’s Word and listen for His voice. How do I hear God? He speaks both through His written Word and His personal spoken work, and the two never contradict each other. His way is seldom easy, but it’s always best. However, it takes total trust and obedience to hear Him. Much of how you can progress has to do with the repentance and choices your spouse makes over time after a difficult discovery or confession.
Making new vows
What vows did I make to my husband when my heart, and my trust, were still mending? I promised to trust Christ with my husband.
It made sense to trust the One who knew my husband’s heart and mine completely. He knew the future plans He had for me. I could see my husband’s behavior changing. I could see God’s work in the man He was rebuilding. When fear gripped me, I paused and considered the last time I saw God at work in Dave. Then I could relax and remember my trust was secure in the One who is 100 percent faithful.
Those renewed vows helped me place my greatest trust in the Lord. I’ve learned that I did not do anything to cause my husband’s addiction or make him choose the path he did. Neither were his choices part of God’s will. But the Lord works in our weakest moments. He uses our brokenness to show His glory.
This painful journey enriched both our lives in so many ways especially as Dave undertook his recovery with diligence and growth. My eyes were opened to amazing aspects of God’s love, grace and character. We continue the process of renovation, looking to the day when we are presented unblemished to our eternal Bridegroom in perfect marriage with our Savior.
Author’s Note: This article is my personal experience. It’s important to state that men are not the only sexual addicts. A husband can face the pain of his wife’s poor choices as well. Though this story is gender specific, the principles are not.
Meg Wilson is the founder of Hope After Betrayal Ministries, a nonprofit named for her book of the same name.
A variety of issues can fuel habitual pornography use. Understanding the deeper needs of individuals affected by this common problem is important. Reach out to well-trained helpers, and if you are a married couple do so together. Change is possible! We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or