The day of our ninth anniversary was a much-anticipated milestone. It had been almost three years since I had contacted Focus on the Family Canada for advice on how to stop my husband, Don*, from looking at Internet porn. 

A long and painful journey

Our long and painful journey began even before we were married. Don* had flirted with pornography and masturbation and had promised he’d never do either again. He was fully committed to me and to God. Don was very remorseful a year later when he confessed to looking at a porn magazine he had found at work. I was horrified and ashamed. I forgave him and we never spoke of it again. But it happened again and again. We tried to ignore it. Tried to hide it. Tried to prepare for it. We spoke of it to no one. We ran from it. Surely we would be safe on the mission field. 

We weren’t. We became more isolated, unable to talk to anyone about it – that would be scandalous and an embarrassment to God. We waited for Him to deliver us with His mighty power and strength, our God who is all-powerful, loving, forgiving, and who rescues the lost. But He didn’t. He allowed our marriage, which had the appearance of perfection and blessing, to rot from the inside. He allowed Don’s ministry to suffer. He allowed our faith to be burnt in the fire until nothing but ashes were left. He allowed me to feel anger, resentment, despair and disappointment toward Him. And I hated Him for it.

Losing hope

I gave up on God. I stopped waiting for Him to rescue us and to free Don from his addiction. With the benefit of several years of hindsight, I can see that God guided me to Focus on the Family Canada. I trusted their faith, their experience and their resources. I was also grateful for the anonymity that I could maintain. I was desperate not to be known for who I really was.

Although Don never wanted pornography to be in his life, he didn’t readily want to go through counselling. He wanted God to set him free. He didn’t want to face who he was or what he was doing. He just wanted it to go away. He tried white-knuckling it several times. He tried ignoring it. He prayed for release. He tried repressing his sexual desires toward me. Eventually he found a pastor who ran a men’s ministry two and a half hours away. The pastor told him he was normal and to just keep fighting. I could have screamed. 

You're not alone

In our sixth year of marriage I contacted Focus on the Family Canada. They assured me that I wasn’t alone and sent me a lot of literature on the matter. They also suggested Don speak with one of their counsellors. Jason was excellent for Don. He was non-condemning, loving, caring, encouraging, extremely patient and very straightforward with Don. He taught Don about his addiction with expertise and grace. The addiction was rampant and buried deeply in shame, secrecy and denial. His addiction is also a symptom of a much deeper, festering hurt.

I kept waiting for freedom around every corner, after each of Don’s counselling sessions. I kept trying to say the right thing to make him stop. I tried to be everything for him and lost myself in the process. I became numb to the pain. I denied the addiction. I ignored the obvious and hid myself in isolation. I separated Don from his addiction: he was perfect and strong. I became the excellent co-dependent wife. I rarely got mad at him and forgave him readily. I forced myself to trust him. But I could not escape the fact that while Don was making great changes as a result of his sessions with Jason, his addiction remained and my hurt and despair were becoming unmanageable. 

Counselling for both spouses

I was embarrassed by my reaction to Don’s recovery. I was annoyed by the pain that was surfacing rather than disappearing. I felt like an absolute failure as a Christian wife. And so, several months into Don’s counselling sessions – several months of me feeling worse rather than better – Focus graciously offered me counselling sessions with Louise.

Louise did not cover for Don or excuse his behaviour. She exposed my co-dependence and guided me back into myself and back to God. And I will be forever grateful! She guided me into and through the deep hurt, into the rage and hatred. She validated my grief. She didn’t blame me for Don’s addiction; rather, she showed me how to allow him to face the consequences of his choices. As God taught Don through Jason, He used Louise as an agent of grace for me. God did come for us. He came through Jason and Louise. 

Cautious hope

By the time we were nearing our ninth anniversary, recovery was going well. We had installed Covenant Eyes on all home and work computers. Don had found an accountability partner who received his Internet browsing reports. Accountability was a good deterrent and Don was "sober" for a couple of weeks at a time. He was eagerly seeking God, learning about sexual addiction, and quite excited about life in general. 

I was cautious. I was watching, terrified to hope, biding my time. I had given Don back my beautiful engagement ring and told him I would only accept it back when he could show himself faithful and committed to me. I wanted him to choose me and fight for me. I wanted him to know I would no longer tolerate his porn addiction, his divided loyalty and the pain and destruction he was heaping on me and our family. 

I still wore my wedding ring. Even though our marriage was lying in ruins, I was committed to honouring my vows. But I did draw my "do-not-cross line," and that line was involvement with child porn. We had three young children and I would never knowingly allow their safety to be jeopardized. 

A crossed line

And so the day of our ninth anniversary arrived – and it was the worst day yet. I had hoped Don would take me out to dinner and return my ring. I had hoped we could celebrate and that it would be a new beginning for us. I had hoped that the entire trauma was behind us, that we could start living in freedom and redemption. But Don’s Internet browsing report showed a site that had naked children in it. 

Unaware that he had crossed my line, Don told me that his accountability partner wanted him to confess to his boss within the next two days. If Don would not do it, his accountability partner intended to speak to Don’s boss himself. I nearly threw up. His job was now on the line. Our secret was about to come out. Strangely, I was more furious with his accountability partner than I was with Don. Couldn’t he see all the changes? Couldn’t he see all the progress we’d made? What this would do to Don’s ministry? And yet, he was right. 

Facing consequences

This addiction had to be brought to light. Don had to take responsibility and face the consequences. He confessed to his boss. Because he was already involved in counselling and progressing well in his recovery, and because he was deeply committed to sobriety and honesty, Don was granted conditional permission to continue working. He had to check in with his boss on a weekly basis, his boss would review his Internet activity, he had to continue with weekly counselling and maintain close contact with his accountability partner. It was also highly recommended that I continue counselling and I was to keep in touch with Don’s boss.

Don felt surprising relief and grace; I felt sick. It was not technically child porn, nor had Don actively searched for child porn, but he had viewed the site. He had crossed my line. Yet there was also no denying the changes I was seeing in Don. His heart was different. His attitude was different. His periods of sobriety were longer and his relapses were much shorter. His honesty about himself and his addiction was sharpening. He was recognizing and owning the destruction he had caused in our marriage. His desire for wholeness was real. Perhaps there was a chance that we might actually heal and make it through this together. 

Our ninth year was incredibly difficult. It was a year of dealing with layers of trauma and hurt. It was a year of anger and sadness for me. For Don, it was a year of learning to live with an addiction, a year to face the stresses of life without the comfort of his addiction. A year of learning how to live and fight and win.

Rebuilding what had been broken

We celebrated big for our tenth anniversary. Our tenth year has been one of rebuilding, relearning, renewing, and even a bit of relaxing. Don has continued with counselling for healing for his deepest wounds. He has switched from filtered Internet access to restricted access – only sites that have been approved by both of us can be viewed. Without access to Internet porn, the battle is now for his mind. I still battle co-dependence and hiding. But the peace we have this year, the absence of repeated trauma, has allowed me time to process all the hurts. And so while it has been a wonderful year, it has also been a very sad one as we look at all that was broken and lost.

The staff at Focus on the Family Canada were right when they assured us at the very beginning that God is in the business of healing and restoration. Our marriage and faith would have been lost without Focus. No one enters a marriage equipped to deal with addictions and betrayal. No one can navigate through so much hurt and destruction on their own. No one can see hope or a future when their world is caving in on itself. When we couldn’t pray, when we couldn’t believe, when we couldn’t open our Bibles, when we couldn’t figure anything out, Focus was there to speak God’s truth, hope and love into our lives. God used the staff at Focus to bring healing and wholeness into our lives and into our marriage.

* All names have been changed to protect the author's privacy.

© 2013 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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