I am presently separated from my husband and considering divorce because of his repeated betrayal of our marriage through pornography use. What are your perspectives?
I can imagine you’ve already endured a lot, and you may not know what it’s like to have a good marriage and a loving husband you can trust. But that doesn’t mean those things aren’t still possible, given time and God’s miraculous ability to work in both of your lives. Time is the only thing that provides this possibility.
If your husband is not truly repentant, and demonstrating his remorse by taking his sin seriously and committing to getting the help he needs, then a separation for a time may be in order. A temporary time of separation is best done with clear boundaries and a goal to repair and restore the marriage. Terms of the separation should be thought through, spelled out (ideally with a godly counselor or your church leaders), and agreed upon by you and your husband. For example, set a specific length, perhaps three months or so, depending on the severity of the addiction, with both of you involved in counseling, and list the specific things that need to happen in order to end the separation.
We know that God’s desire is always one of restoration. However, restoration can’t happen unless your husband desires to change. This will take time and a proven track record in order for you to build trust. He can’t just say “I’m sorry”; he must earn your trust again. This will require hard work on his part, most likely counseling, and definitely participation in some type of accountability group or with a trusted godly man who will ask the tough questions. But I believe God would bless and honor you if you gave your marriage a chance and kept your marriage vows. Psalm 15:4 talks about the person of integrity who “keeps an oath even when it hurts” (NIV). I’ve seen God honor this type of commitment in many people’s lives over the years.
Christian counselor Dr. Sandy Wilson has experienced deep betrayal in her marriage. After God healed their marriage, she and her husband started a ministry for women whose husbands are sex addicts. She shares lessons she learned along the way in a series of short videos you can see on their website. In them she tells her story, and talks honestly about things like feelings, boundaries, and forks in the road of the relationship. What she shares has been helpful to others in your situation.
It may not be best to reconcile with your husband right now. But I’d encourage you to give God more time to do His work. Through this process God has things He wants you to learn that will deepen your walk with Him. I would ask yourself, “Am I absolutely sure God wants me to go ahead with this divorce and break the covenant I made before God?” (Randy has written some thoughts to consider for those who are contemplating divorce.)
Women who’ve been in a similar position to yours often desire to be free from the struggles of being married (which is understandable). But that desire can circumvent a higher calling to endure suffering and hardship as the way of the cross, which in the end brings greater strength, endurance, perseverance, and proven character (see James 1:2-4).
My heart’s cry is for more women to want to be part of a redemptive story, one that would speak to the rest of the world of what Christ can do through a seemingly impossible situation. This is a high calling indeed. But I know that each situation can be complicated and requires much prayer and Godly counsel from those closest to you who will speak the truth in love. I certainly don’t know all that God is up to but one thing I do know for sure: He will prove himself faithful to you and will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Kathy Norquist was Randy Alcorn’s Executive Assistant from 1997-2015, then worked in Ministry Development up until September 2018 when she retired. Kathy remains on the EPM Board of Directors.