It’s a new divorce every week. A woman walks into my office to chat. She begins talking about her upcoming divorce. There are a lot of tears. Her story opens with confusion over why she is getting a divorce. I wait for her story to unfold. Slowly, as she becomes comfortable, she shares about her husband’s pornography “habit.” That habit is an addiction that is destroying the marriage, the wife, the children, and yes, the husband.
How does her husband’s pornography addition affect her?
- She feels worthless. She has been made to feel fat or ugly or too skinny or not adequate by the comparisons her husband makes.
- She does not understand. How could the man she loves turn into this addict? The depths of the addiction devastate her.
- She is shocked by the financial condition of her family. While there is an enormous amount of free porn online, as the addiction escalates this is not enough. Addicts are drawn into spending large amounts of money to satisfy their growing need.
- She feels shame. She feels that if she could have been “enough” then her husband would not have given in to the addiction.
- She is exhausted from walking on eggshells. A porn addiction changes the behavior of a husband; he becomes irritable, angry, and self-centered.
- She has isolated herself from her support system out of shame, fear, and stress from the situation.
- She is facing a difficult choice: stay with her husband or move on to divorce?
As women face the realization that their husbands are addicted to pornography, they are angry. In some ways, there is a confirmation that the feeling they have harbored that something is “off” in their marriage is not their imagination. But that is little comfort in the midst of the devastation and hurt.
What does a woman in this situation need?
- To be prayed over and with
- To be connected with other women
- To be heard
- To feel free of judgment and accepted
- To be supported as she heals
- To be helped in finding hope for the future
- To de-stress her home and environment
- To be educated about pornography and sexual addictions
- To be tested for sexually transmitted diseases
- To hear the stories of other women who have experienced the same thing
- To meet with qualified counselors specializing in sex or pornography addiction
- To be in a support group for wives of sex or pornography addicts
Pornography addiction has become an epidemic within churches. It’s something that most of us would rather ignore than deal with, but it is not going to go away. Helping a wife through the discovery of her husband’s addiction is not a 30-minute, one time meeting over coffee. It’s a long-term commitment. And it gets messy. But isn’t that what ministry is suppose to be? A long-term, committed relationship between us and God and others?
Life is messy, and pornography addiction makes a messy life even messier. With help, there is redemption, reconciliation, and renewal. There is hope. Our job is to share the grace of hope and healing. We must be ready by becoming equipped, knowing the resources available in our area, praying for our women and their families, and staying prepared to serve.
Just a reminder: We as women’s leaders stay prepared to serve through prayer, spending time in personal spiritual growth, having boundaries, resting, and having healthy priorities. We cannot help others when we ourselves are in an unhealthy place spiritually, emotionally, or physically. We have been called to a difficult task, and taking care of ourselves keeps us ready to fulfill that task no matter how messy life gets!
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.