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Dear Dr Matt,
"I have a question for you? My husband has been watching pornography. I caught him watching on his computer lap top, not once, not twice, but three throughout our married life. I've absolutely had it! And I've been thinking of ending our marriage. I am heart broken and can't decide what I should do.
I can forgive, but I can't forget. He has deceived me for many years about his pornography addiction. I feel like he will never change. I am devastated, and I want to know how I can find some comfort and peace in response?
Thanks for your help,
As long as the you decide to stay IN the marriage, it will not help your situation if you to continue feeling "devastated" or victimized. Why? Because being victimized is part of mortality — get used to it, and get over it! Then, follow the example of Jesus.
Jesus was victimized. And from His example of patience and compassion we learn to choose the right and love our enemies, anyway. By following the Savior's example, you will receive the "comfort and peace" that you seek -- you will be comforted by Holy Ghost — who is also called "The Comforter" (John 14:26).
In addition to following the example of Christ, you will further feel the presence of the Comforter as you cease judging and blaming of your husband; and instead, seeks inspiration on how to best help him overcome this particular sin.
You see, if you divorce this man, you may eventually find and marry another man who will also, and inevitably, be a sinner! Because we are ALL sinners (Romans 3:23).
If you move on and find a new man to marry, you will eventually discover that he is a sinner, too.
But his most prominent sin may not be pornography — it could be drinking or drugs or adultery or physical abuse or apostasy from believing in Christ? And sadly, there's a chance that you will find yourself in the a similar situation of devastation that you are in now.
If you will discover how to follow Christ with all your heart, mind, soul and strength today ... feeling devastated will become a thing of the past. Why? Because you can NOT feel "devastated," and at the same time feel the presence of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter — it's either one, or the other.
Just as Light and darkness literally cannot coexist in the same space, so also the Peaceful presence of the Comforter cannot coexist at the same time and space as feelings of devastation -- again, you will feel either one, or the other.
But God doesn't expect husbands or wives to tolerate certain abusive behaviors. There have been many married people who have chosen to divorce after being physically or emotionally abused. God revealed this true principle to the Apostle Paul:
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers:
There comes a point where verbal, emotional, or physical abuse should NOT be tolerated, and divorce is chosen instead of enduring abusive behavior from an unrepentant spouse.
In your situation, where your husband is viewing pornography, you are not threatened by physical harm; although, because your husband will NOT have the Spirit of God to bless and guide his life, your emotional and spiritual peace will definitely by threatened by a man who is walking in spiritual darkness.
But before you decide to divorce him, it is good for you to assertively spell-out your desire to have a marriage that is equally yoked in the Lord; and further, that if you will give him another chance to prove that he loves you more than he loves his momentary lustful pleasures. In the end, don't believe the words from his mouth — believe his actions.
Viewing pornography is committing adultery within one's heart -- it is an emotional and spiritual betrayal of one's vows of Holy Matrimony.
Again, before you divorce this man: give him another chance to repent of his sins. And in the mean time, you also get to apply gospel principles: You get to forgive this man, just as Jesus taught (Matt. 6: 14-15).
Now it may be that you have patiently loved your husband through many years while he has groveled in sin. But this time, it is good and wise to assertively let your husband know that you want a marriage that is equally yoked in the Lord -- and he is getting yet another chance to choose what he loves more — his marriage or pornography.
Again, watching porn drives away the Spirit of God, and it is a sin that dishonors one of the Savior's direct teachings (Matt. 5:28). Viewing pornography is a sin that will keep a man or woman from returning to God's presence.
You will do well to keep your eye single to the Light of the Lord (Luke 11:34) and then, do your best to help your husband (as long as he is her husband) to repent of his lustful sin of watching pornography — this is what a Christian partner would do. As opposed to declaring an ultimatum and then treating one's spouse with judgment and criticism while you are giving him a chance to prove his love. You see, if you are NOT loving him, how do you expect him to return the same love to you. So, follow Jesus by living the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).
Here are some cues that I hear from you, that reveal a non-Christian response on your part. All these responses will push away the Spirit of God:
* "I've had it"
Of course Christ can heal this man and change his heart, and completely remove the desire to view pornography. I've personally observed it happen many times in my professional work. That's how powerful Christ's atonement is.
Still, if he fails, year after year, to apply the atonement, then ... it will be a fact that he will never change, and he will remain addicted to lustful thoughts and viewing lustful images.
But It does not good to put all BLAME upon this sinner. It is much more productive for both Husband and Wife to each accept their own Response-Ability:
*** He gets to accept 100% Response-Ability to repent of his lustful sin.
*** You get to accept 100% Response-Ability to forgive and forget — because that's the way God does it (see Hebrews 10:17). People who don't "forget" have not really forgiven in the first place.
And as long as you stay in this marriage, how many times should your forgive and forget? Read the answer in Matthew 18:21-22
If you do eventually divorce this man, it will be because he simply refuses to live a faithful Christian life: He simply refuses to follow Christ and will not repent of his sins.
And if you leave this marriage to find a spouse who will be committed to being equally yoked in the Lord, Heavenly Father will be most pleased if you do so as a covenant Christian woman — one who has learned how to push aside the temptations of the adversary, to include pushing aside these temptations:
* Feeling like you've "had it"
If you eventually choose to divorce this man, God will be pleased if you do so after giving all heart, mind, soul and strength to loving your husband, and feeling compassion for his sinful plight (Matt. 5:46-47).
Learning how to love those who are not being loving toward you, is learning how to be like Christ. As a covenant Christian, learning this level of love is a central purpose for mortal life.
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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