What are some healthy boundaries, expectations, and tools, for trying to salvage your marriage? I could you some words of wisdom, because I have reached my end. How I managed to not pack a bag for him, and send him to his best friend’s sofa, I don’t know. Maybe I should have. After 20 years of struggling and begging, I am barely holding on to the desire to even try. There can be no more “trying” from him. His porn addiction seduces him into being abusive towards me, and I will take no more. He says that he wants to change, so anything you’ve got for us, I would appreciate. Otherwise, he’s on a fast track to lose his family.
Having just reviewed your other question about Contentment, I am going to go out on a limb and say the boundary you need is a good sturdy lock. If he is still doing the things you described in your answer–the surprise slapping (regardless of his stated intent), the name calling, belittling, the constant tethering of yourself to him–I think you definitely need to be apart from him, and soon. Others who are wiser and more experienced in this area than I will have better advice about how (whether to wait for a counselor to guide the process or to just kick him out and then get counselling) but that is behavior that should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Around here, people would be arrested for treating a dog the way you described–sudden slaps, purposeful conditioning to cower, overly tight restriction.
Sadly, there’s no easy way forward, no matter what. I am so sorry you are going through this. I am also sorry for your loss, because in a way you have lost the man you love to an essential change to his nature through the use of porn, just as an egg that has been boiled has changed down to the molecule. Allow yourself to mourn. It is a sad loss. God can certainly restore him, but you don’t have to continue enduring the abuse from the damaged man in the mean time.
I will keep you in my prayers!
Wren, based on what you said in your Contentment thread, you are in an abusive relationship. The kind of behavior he is exhibiting is not all right. It is certainly emotionally abusive, and has already started crossing over into physical abuse.
He may say he wants to change, but he’s got 20 years of actions that say otherwise. As you said in your other thread, there were red flags early on, but as these things tend to progress very slowly, it’s no wonder you didn’t notice them. However, those red flags say a lot about his personality, even back then. He’s had 20 years to get worse. Changing something so deep seeded is going to be extraordinarily difficult for him to change. It will involve hundreds of hours of work, and I’m not exaggerating that.
Go ahead and set your boundaries, but also go see a licensed therapist who has experience with abusive relationships. Life does not have to be this way.
Let me first say how deeply sorry I am for you and your husband’s situation. I am sure you are a wreck right now and completely despondent.
However, I will reassure you that putting your foot down, and doing so hard and fast, is the right thing to do. What your husband appears to have is a disease, even if many would object to that word. I have walked down that road, not nearly as far as your husband it seems, but I have walked it nonetheless. I tried to fight it by willpower alone for over a decade, but it wasn’t until I outed myself to my DW that I was broken enough to seriously fix things. That said, I’ve been free of it for long enough and run into enough temptations to know that it will always be a battle.
“Going soft” on your husband will not help. It is not the loving thing in this case. He needs real accountability and real, qualified help. Sweeping it under the rug is not the solution. And I’ll say one thing that some here may disagree with–if he has been doing things that are illegal (child porn, videos of rape, etc), then he should be turned in to the authorities. That kind of material is not easily found by something like a Google search (full disclosure: my problem never got that deep i.e. outside of mainstream porn). Turning him in will not only help him (in the long run, which will be a rocky road for sure), but may help track down the purveyors of those sorts of material to help real people in horrible situations. The leaders at your church will need to know so that he’s never given an opportunity to be in a situation where he might do something wrong. For instance, I recently found out that over a decade ago someone in my church had a horrible porn problem including child porn, at least one pastor knew, but it was swept under the rug and that person was allowed to serve in children’s ministry. No incidents happened (to my knowledge), but it seriously shook me to find that out.
Long story short–find real help, turn him into legal authorities if applicable, protect yourself, pray pray pray, and prepare for a long road ahead. Again, I am so sorry this has happened to you, but the abuse and addiction need to stop and playing it as a minor thing will not help.
I’m really saddened to hear that Wren. Both his addiction AND the destruction of your marriage. I think you said it, it starts with drawing a line in the sand, telling him what you will accept as a spouse to continue and what you will not tolerate any longer. I believe it should be done with a Christian counselor’s help so that there’s the potential to reconcile the relationship IF he gets the help and accountability he needs AND you get the support and encouragement you need.
I told my now-ex, I want a God-honoring Biblical marriage of spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy. Your behavior must stop because I will not share you with another man. She chose differently but we had been seeing a counselor before the truth came out, and I was willing to continue if she would’ve stopped, she chose to continue AND she filed for divorce.
It certainly seems like boundaries (no porn…counseling…accountability in person with Godly, spiritually mature men AND in ALL forms of technology…and whatever you believe he needs) and a separation are in order. I would also say, no return to “normal” until you see intrinsic motivation and change. His behavior has gone on too long to just sweep it under the rug for the sake of reconciling. It MUST change for your marriage to be saved.
If…if…IF the relationship is to continue, it’ll need to be on a new foundation because the old one is gone. It has been crumbling and destroyed. There is hope BUT it will only start when both of you want it and are willing to do the work and therefore, it must be on a new foundation with a NEW person in each of you because neither of you will be the same if you choose to continue the marriage. He’ll have to change his behavior completely and you’ll have to fall in love with him again and you’ll be new and different because you’ve grown personally, will understand how you’ve enabled him over the years to get by with his addiction, and how you’ve grown and developed a backbone and won’t go back to “the way it was” for the past 20 years.
Wren, you’re turning a corner and a new life by ending your “business/marriage as usual”. My prayers are with you because it will not be easy. May God bless you with wisdom in decision-making, provision for your financial needs, SAFE friends for your emotional encouragement and accountability, and courage and strength to face one day at a time with God and your family!
Dear Wren, you cannot change anyone. They alone have to decide that for themselves as i know you well know. You cannot love or sacrifice enough for someone like that and i know it breaks your heart. I do believe you should get out while you can to salvage any kind of self worth and dignity and to stop the depression from deepening any further. Seek help as soon as you can, i am praying for you 🙁
I think that one of the reasons that this has come to a head, the way that it has, is because I already started therapy on my own. After so many years of thinking that there was just something wrong with me, that I was being “crazy”, it was a weight lifted from my shoulders to know that how I’m feeling is … normal. Normal for someone who was abused as a child, and has struggled to identify that sort of behavior in my spouse.
My husband is deeply, deeply broken. He is a dead man walking, and I see that. I don’t want to enable. I also don’t want to take away every good thing in his life, so that he can’t see anything worth living for. He is embarrassed and ashamed of his behavior. I think that at first, he just thought of it as a little bit of a kinky thing, that wouldn’t cause any harm. Honestly, I suspect that he may be a covert narcissist. He can’t seem to see beyond his own wants and desires, until someone hits him with reality so hard that it busts him wide open. Our faith community is very small and tight-knit, but they think the world of him. This other side of him is reserved only for me. To everyone else, he is the epitome of generosity and kindness. He has been terrified to make himself vulnerable to them, for fear of losing all of his friends and community. And I… I’ve just been embarrassed, and have just thought that no one would believe me, because the man that I know is so very different from the one they think they know. I haven’t wanted to bring him low, and publicly humble him before the people that he loves. I also didn’t want anyone to look at me with pity, or to believe that I was just … stupid. How is someone supposed to know what “healthy” looks like, and to understand boundaries very well, if they’ve never had someone truly love them, and to be kind?
As it stands, having a therapist in my corner has helped a lot. It’s very beneficial to have someone who can throw a flag on the field for me, and let me know that something isn’t right, and to help me learn what it looks like to be treated with dignity and respect, let alone love. I have confronted my husband about his porn addiction, the severity of the depravity, and how I will not allow him to act out that garbage on me. He has confessed things to me that have shocked me. The shock is just beginning to wear off a little, and I don’t know how I feel about it all just yet. I do know that after his repeated attempts to control himself, and how it always just leads to hidden sin and lying, I don’t trust him. I struggle with the idea of ever trusting him. I’m not sure how I can forgive him. After he confessed to me, I think that he thought he had done his duty, but I can offer him no forgiveness. My wedding band is in a drawer. I am living with a dead man, and I am afraid for him, because I do honestly and deeply love him. I love him enough hurt him, if it means breaking him down enough that he might lean on God to save him. Right now, he believes himself to be disgusting and vile, and I agree. I don’t say the words, but I agree with his assessment. His heart is corrupt, and he’s right to feel the weight of his sin.
Today, all of our electronics are being locked down. That’s not enough though. I’ve been looking for the counsel of believers, who are knowledgeable enough with these matters, to be able to help us. So far, I haven’t found anyone. I don’t know why this isn’t easier. THIS part shouldn’t take deep digging, and trying to quietly network with trustworthy people, to help me find help. If I can’t find anything more suitable, with the help of my believing friends, then I will do the best that I can with secular intervention. He will have to go to therapy. Whether it is with a believer (definitely preferable), or with someone who operates in the secular realm, he has to get mental health treatment. He has always failed before, because he thought that he could just deal with porn through sheer willpower, not only has that failed, but he’s gotten more depraved over time. If he isn’t willing to acknowledge that this is beyond his ability to handle on his own, and he refuses my request, then I will put him out of the house. This is scary for me, because I am physically injured, and unable to work. I have no idea how I will care for myself and our children, but I will. I am trying very hard to do the brave thing. If he doesn’t want to go willingly, I’ll do the one thing that he is absolutely terrified of; I’ll tell all of our friends and family what is going on, and ask the men of our fellowship to peacefully help remove him from my home, before I call the police. I don’t think it will go that far. I hope that it doesn’t.
I will be praying for you Wren that God will give you both wisdom and strength.
I feel like the Spirit is telling me to encourage you that you truly have a Godly heart. For you to still be concerned about the hardship your husband has brought upon himself after what you have endured is an amazing testimony of inner strength of truly being Christlike.
I hope that your husband gets the help he needs to put this darkness out of him and repent and is healed. Sadly his sin has hurt you so much, but you can’t take it on or fix it – this is his battle and his responsibility to bear, not yours. Is there one brother in his tight knit group that he can confess to and become accountable to? It sounds like he needs both that and therapy.