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October-November 2013


November 2013

Journey of a Lifetime


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HIs Wife's Response


The pain caused by sexual addiction and steps toward recovery...

His Wife's Response


Read the companion article: A Pastor's Confession

A tsunami of emotion rushed over the sands of my soul. My pulse quickened, and initial shock gave way to numbness as I scrolled through the horrendous contents of a hidden pornographic folder on my husband’s computer. Sadly, this was neither a first-time discovery, nor a one-time occurrence.

Where does a wife go?* To whom does she turn? How can she wrap her mind around a partner who desires God’s will, yet indulges in the desires of the flesh? And what if that husband is a pastor or ministry leader? Why would a godly person seemingly abandon his beliefs and convictions and risk losing everything and everyone he loves? It just doesn’t make sense. Addiction never does.

The first wave came without warning. I was basking in a blue ocean of blessings, totally unaware of the dark undercurrents and hidden secrets of my husband’s life. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, he voluntarily confessed his struggle with pornography. Reeling from shock, I fell to my knees. And, God provided the strength I needed to cope, to forgive, and to continue.

He repented, sought counseling, and obtained accountability. I assumed we could get on with our life and ministry. Yet as we continued, so did the waves—sporadically at times, but each one swelled with greater intensity. After a few years of multiple discoveries, repentant confessions and repeated promises, I realized this was more than a one-time-prayer-at-the-altar kind of issue.

A random read opened my mind to a new possibility. The author’s list of characteristics and repeated behaviors sounded all too familiar. We were living this cycle, and it had a name: sexual addiction.

Sexual addiction and ministry seem to partner frequently. A friend who worked for a denominational help hotline recently recounted the multitude of calls she received daily from ministry wives concerning these issues. She believes ministry families are particularly vulnerable to these fiery darts from the enemy.


His Wife's Response

Although sluggish to accept this reality, the evangelical world is now beginning to respond with resources and programs. Thankfully, many bound by sexual addiction are breaking free. But what about partners who’ve been pounded by the waves? Where does a wife turn?

  • Turn to God and His Word. Focus particularly on His faithfulness. We can trust God, even if we can’t trust a husband. He can direct our steps and give us wisdom to know truth. God’s Word provides an unending source of strength, encouragement, and renewal. Throughout my journey, He has sent His Word into my situation time and again, providing discernment, guidance, and comfort.

  • Seek Counsel. Go to God and His Word; then seek counsel as a next step. It’s wise, Proverbs 15:12 says. Proverbs also adds, “In the multitude of counselors is safety.“ Sadly, in our day, there’s also room for plenty of confusion. Many in our churches (even a good number of pastors) would encourage a wife to leave promptly or begin the process of divorce after repeated incidents. Others would listen intently, then send the story through the gossip mill, often in the spiritual sounding form of a prayer request. Finding good counsel can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to contact a trained counselor or life coach.

Obviously, Christians should seek Christian counseling. Many in secular psychology view pornography as acceptable. Some would challenge the existence of sexual addiction. A columnist in one psychology magazine recently poked fun at wives who consider themselves wounded or traumatized by a husband’s viewing of pornography. (Psychology Today, September 20, 2012. Dr. David J. Ley: “Abusing the Term Trauma”)

Still, good counsel may be difficult to obtain, even in Christian circles. Through the years, as my husband sought professional help, I would sometimes be included in a session. As counselors would suggest I do this or try that, I would come away feeling that his struggles were partly my fault, that my own inadequacies fueled his behaviors—that somehow, there wouldn’t be a problem if I were meeting his needs.

God did not create women to be doormats. Rather, we were created complementary equals. God established hierarchy for the home in His image—fashioned after the Trinity. But sin and its resulting punishments caused the scale to tip, and from that time since, a woman’s desire is toward her husband. The enemy seeks to distort that desire to please—either through a tendency to control, fix, or condescend. Along the journey, I’ve attempted all of these. Yet my personal responses neither excuse nor justify my husband’s behavior. Ultimately, his choices are his choices. I am only responsible for my reactions to those choices. God has shown me that I do own several character defects; I seek to daily surrender these.

  • Cautiously proceed. Although the field of sex addiction therapy continues to grow, Christian counselors trained in this area appear few among many. Typically, Christian counseling follows one of three models:

Nouthetic model.Based primarily on Scripture, nouthetic counseling contends that the success of a husband’s recovery hinges on a wife’s level of spiritual commitment and submission to her husband. While this principle bears truth, under this model a wife also bears a heavy burden in believing her walk with God will either “make or break” a husband’s recovery. This model also emphasizes total healing and encourages claims of instantaneous deliverance.

True healing comes in obeying God and accepting His will—whether or not a sin struggle goes away in this lifetime. Beware of quick fixes. Yes, God can deliver and completely heal. But He can also use struggle as a platform for growth and continued dependence upon Him. This has been the case in our lives.

Addict/Codependent model. This model serves as the mainstay for the majority of recovery options, including 12-step programs. Twelve-step groups hold value. Completing the steps offers avenues for personal reflection and spiritual renewal as the Holy Spirit reveals areas of need and places for growth. God used a Christian 12-step program to change my life. Yet part of this model presumes that individuals with certain tendencies, missing childhood elements, or basic character flaws are attracted to individuals with addictive patterns or personalities. While these descriptors may be true for some, this codependent pattern does not fit everyone—especially the wife of a sex addict, who often knows nothing of her husband’s secret life.

Trauma-based model. Psychologists have recently discovered that wives’ responses and behavioral reactions to their husbands’ addictive behaviors mirror those of women with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Further studies reveal that trauma-invoked responses mimic those of codependency. Treating the effects of sexual addiction as trauma offers hope for healing. Wives discover tangible ways to cope, without adding undue blame or reinflicting pain upon themselves. I’ve found this model most effective in my own journey to healing.

  • Budget. Most ministry households operate on limited budgets. If a husband is seeking help for an addiction, more than likely, it comes at a cost. A wife’s emotional health and healing should rate equally with a husband’s treatment for addiction. But often, like the proverbial squeaky wheel that gets the grease, since he’s the one with the obvious problem, everything gets spent on a husband’s recovery, leaving a wife to fend for herself and heal on her own as best she can.

Build room in the budget for both of you. If the dollars won’t stretch that far, budget time. Seek out free resources or low-cost opportunities. Christian counselors and ministry personnel are making more of these available as their case loads increase and the numbers of individuals with sexual addictions continue to rise. Many cannot keep up with the steady stream of new calls they receive each week.

  • Start to Rebuild. Tsunami damage and destruction require massive cleanup efforts. Yet after the storm comes the sun. New life can emerge from heaps of devastation. Homes can be rebuilt, more structurally sound and with added reinforcements for protection against future storms. Trauma need not remain untreated. There is help and hope in the midst of the maelstrom.

Restoration is possible. I know. My husband and I just celebrated another year of marriage and a full year of his sobriety from pornography and other forms of sexual sin.

If you are caught in a storm, struggling against the waves, even fearful of drowning, the Savior still speaks peace. Turn to His Word. Seek good counsel. Trust God for healing. And find comfort in knowing you are not alone. Join the band of survivors who, through God’s strength, have weathered the storms. In His grace, we are still serving alongside our husbands, fighting for our marriages, rebuilding from the rubble and finding joy in the aftermath.

*Sexual addiction is not limited to men. A growing number of females seek help to overcome this addiction. Although the focus of this article is wives, information and resources should also prove helpful to ministry husbands married to addicts.


Free Resources:

  • New Hope for Sexual Integrity ( Pastor Darrell Brazell’s series for wives.

  • A Circle of Joy Ministries ( Christian site provides helpful articles and continued support through groups and counseling. Offers a free session.

  • Pure Intimacy ( A Focus on the Family site.

  • Porn to Purity ( Look under Resources tab: Wives of Sex Addicts.

  • Hope and Freedom ( Former pastor and addiction specialist Dr. Milton Magness offers insight and help for both addicts and their partners.

  • Covenant Eyes ( Tracking and accountability software also provides helpful resources for addicts and their families.


Support Groups:


©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists