Over the past few years I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories from wives who have learned about their husband’s secret sexual lives. This discovery, or its disclosure, is what I refer to as blackout. It’s like sitting in a friendly, familiar room and suddenly having all the lights go out. The familiar surroundings take an unfamiliar form. Well-known objects become obstacles that trip us up. Fear shrouds us as we grope in the dark, searching for something to orient ourselves by. Up is down and down is up when sexual addiction invades your marriage.
Some would say the above descriptions are overstated. You may have family or friends who say that you’re overreacting. After all, looking at pornography is “harmless” adult entertainment. Fantasy doesn’t harm anyone. Such opinions, though, are made out of ignorance and denial. Sexual addiction typically begins with the habitual use of porn combined with masturbation. This self-gratification conditions men to experience sex in isolation, moving them into what I call “the world of me.”
I’ve experienced firsthand the devastation a wife feels when she realizes the most intimate area of her heart has been betrayed. I’ve seen over and over the same pain in others. Only those who have been there truly understand it. But well-meaning onlookers, because they lack this understanding often make comments that create additional wounds.
Blackout occurs in different ways and at different levels. Sometimes disclosure is quick, and it seems like someone flipped the off switch. More often, a bit of information starts a dimming process that, over time, ends in complete darkness. One reason for the slower progression is the way many men are discovered. Often, they’re caught —a bill, note, or Web site gives them away —which leads to a partial confession. Even husband who desire to come clean leave out information in the face of fear. Add to that an angry and hurting wife, and to many men, complete disclosure seems impossible.
The result for the wife is like candle flames being snuffed out one at a time, as he discloses or she discovers more and more information. But, in a diabolic twist of irony, a partial confession turns out to be worse than none at all. Husbands must confess everything in order for real healing to begin. Lies of omission are still dishonest even if well intentioned. Anything left in the darkness leaves a noose the Enemy can tighten at the opportune moment. Inevitably the rest of the story comes out later, increasing the wife’s pain and making blackout complete.
…I suggest you use great caution in demanding too much detail from your husband. Morbid curiosity has left many a woman with too many images that are difficult to erase. The best thing is to get only the general facts needed, not the gory details.
Confession and Questioning
When my husband got tired of running from the truth —and from God —he finally confessed everything. I took advantage of his desire to be completely honest. Looking back, I realize I asked some questions that crossed over the line of what I needed to know. Plagued by images I didn’t need, the war raged in my head every time those images came up. Thanks to the teaching in my husband’s men’s group, there were times I’d ask questions and he would say, “I’ll answer that question, but are you sure you want me to?” This was a good check. Realizing I had all the information I needed, I stopped asking for unnecessary details.
You may cringe at this next statement. If your husband has come to you and confessed all, you will eventually come to see that as fortunate. I was one of the fortunate few. My husband did come to me, though at the time I couldn’t see how anything good could come out of it. Eventually, though, I recognized my husband’s coming completely clean was the first truly positive step even though the further disclosure caused more pain for me. It was God’s way of giving me a fresh perspective. It was also the real beginning of healing.
Pain from the Disclosure
Dave’s disclosure caused more pain for me. It was God’s way of giving me a fresh perspective, and it was the real beginning of healing. Dave’s complete disclosure helped me to realize I wasn’t the only one hurting. It began to sink in that God was showing me Dave’s years of pain. He was a broken man and God had let him hit bottom.
My anger cooled. Dave wasn’t having fun. On the contrary, he’d been living a double life and battling demons since he was eleven years old. In addition, with his full confession he had to be willing to accept all of the potential consequences, including losing his marriage. He realized nothing could be worse than remaining where he was —in spiritual bondage.
Healing Can Start
I’ve encountered many wives who’ve had to deal with this same heartache of sexual betrayal. But I’ve repeatedly witnessed that once the whole truth has been revealed, even by accident, healing can start. This is true for the husband, or wife, or both. Most men want help out of their bondage but are too ashamed to ask. Many have cried out to God in agony asking Him to release them from it. Every man believes, however, that if others knew fully what he has done, they wouldn’t forgive him. This lie keeps him in hiding and away from healing.
Discovery is the First Step to Freedom
His being discovered, then, can be a husband’s first step on the road to freedom. But just as important, his being discovered can be a catalyst for the wife to get help —if shame doesn’t keep her in hiding. Yes, I hated what I’d learned from Dave, but finding and dealing with the truth, though painful, was still healthier than living a lie.
This article comes from the book Hope After Betrayal: Healing When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage, written by Meg Wilson, published by Kregel Publications. This is a TERRIFIC book for women who need to experience healing after finding out that adulterous sexual addiction has invaded their marriage. Not only does Meg minister through her own personal experience, she also gives insight into the lives of several women. She also tells of the journey they took to healing after finding out about their husband’s addiction and adulterous situations.
— ALSO —
Another article you might find helpful is written by Vicki Tiede, and is posted on the Family Life Today web site. Because Vicki had first-hand experience in dealing with the grief and subsequent choices she had to make because of her husband’s sexual addiction, you may find it helpful, because of your situation, to read:
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Filed under: Pornography and Cybersex