The sacred ground of marriage (to a sex addict)

Freedom in following Jesus — Robin Weidner

If your marriage has been turned upside down by sexual sin, my heart goes out to you. To say this is painful ground is a vast understatement. Sexual sin strikes a blow to our highly relational nature, stirring up numerous questions of a woman’s heart…Will I be alone? What do others think of me? Who will rescue me? Who can I count on?   But, as we’ll soon see, it is also sacred ground, ripe with possibilities for God’s re-creative work.

Wherever you’re at in the process, you’ve likely had a multitude of different “solutions” chase through your head…from leaving, to laying down ultimatums, to retaliating, to doubling up your efforts to please, all so that he couldn’t possibly hurt you again. You may have had well-meaning friends, family and church members encourage you to take these paths.  Perhaps, you’ve even had zealous sisters in Christ ask things like… How often have you been having sex? Are you holding out on things he wants to do in the bedroom? Have you tried ramping up your sex life? (As if you’ve either caused this problem or need to become a better competitor in the war for his attention.) Others may even suggest, with all spiritual earnestness, that you go to him immediately and comfort him sexually after he sins, regardless of how devastating the loss.

“Wait just one hot minute,” you exclaim… “My husband felt the right to make this about him…to go out and do whatever he wanted, seemingly without any consideration of me. Don’t I have the right to do the same?”

Shouldn’t this be about me now, and what I need? What I want?

Doesn’t he well deserve whatever I give him? 

And how will I stop him from hurting me, devastating me again?

I’m convinced that neither of these two extremes (making it all about your husband or making it all about you) gets to the heart of where Jesus would have us be. (And let me say that I’ve tried out both extremes!) As followers of Christ, we are exactly that, followers of Christ.  So any solution that puts anyone other than Jesus at the center of the picture, will leave us short of where he would lead. This is where God has a simple, yet profound answer.  And this answer is the only thing that restored my sanity after trying out every human answer I could find.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.”  1 Peter 2:21

For me, the beginning of this conviction came when Dave and I came to the breaking point of our marriage. After going through nine months of counseling with an elder, my husband still was struggling. And it seemed that his struggles were becoming darker, more frightening. One afternoon when I sensed something was terribly off, I asked him if he had sinned sexually. Sheepishly, he admitted that he had called a dating line to talk with a stranger about sex. But he wanted me to see a victory. When she didn’t want to talk about sex, he asked her to throw away his phone number. Didn’t I see God’s protection? When I stood firm that his actions were devastating, he threw out the words that finally broke through my denial… “I’ll never be able to please you!”  Knowing it was time to finally take a stand, I asked him to pack a bag and leave.

While he slept for three nights in our car in a health club parking lot, I wrestled with the decision of my life. Some of my friends rallied to let me know I had a Biblical right to a divorce. They would support me if I wanted to leave him. While, I was truly grateful for their support, I knew that only I could make this decision…after all, only I would live with the consequences of my choice.  And who would fight for Dave if I didn’t?

Then it came to me. There was something much bigger than Dave or I to consider. I was convinced that God himself had ordained the circumstances that brought Dave and I together. Was God calling me out? What did Jesus want for me?  As much as I wanted the pain over, I knew in my heart that God had not given me any kind of clear call out of this marriage.

This did not mean going back to a boundary-less existence. No, it meant reclaiming my dignity (Proverbs 31:25) and expecting Dave to show a clear commitment to getting better. It didn’t mean sitting back and crossing my arms, thinking that this all depended on Dave, and had little or nothing to do with me (Matthew 7:3-5). And it certainly didn’t mean watching him like a hawk, ready to heap on shame, or flee, at the slightest suggestion he wasn’t getting well (Proverbs 12:6, 14:1).  Most of all, it didn’t mean some kind of nebulous trust in God that required nothing from me.

You see, the call to follow Jesus is never a passive call.

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did”  (1 John 2:5b-6 emphasis mine).

Following Jesus means getting into motion. As the partner of a sexual addict, this meant many things…for one, moving forward into my own recovery, believing that God intended to bring perseverance, character and hope out of my heartache (Romans 5:1-5).  And then, with God as my guide, it meant wading into the deep waters of understanding how my own losses were entwined with my husband’s.

But before I could do any of this, I needed to learn a deeper surrender to Jesus as Lord.

Freedom in Lordship

You see, God was calling me to the potter’s wheel, to the furnace, where he had a massive work to do on my own heart…creating new life out of the chaos of sexual addiction.  And I could only find my way there through prayer. In the beginning, my prayers began and sometimes ended in desperation. Then I learned a simple secret. After pouring out my fears about Dave, my heartaches, and my losses to my God with many tears, I would then surrender myself to Jesus as Lord.

Quickly, I learned that this commitment in prayer to Lordship couldn’t carry me over from one day to the next.  I could leave one morning of prayer surrendered to Jesus, and wake up the next morning full of self!  With time, I learned that this surrender to Lordship needed to be a daily one (Luke 9:23).  It couldn’t be an unspoken understanding. Daily, I needed to lay down my own stubborn will, by reaffirming my commitment to Jesus as Lord out loud in prayer.

Freedom in Examination

As I began daily coupling my cries to God with a spoken commitment to Jesus as Lord, my focus began to change. God began opening my heart to understand that his spiritual work was not just needed for Dave’s addictive behavior. It was also needed for my own wounded heart.  Now I needed to take my Lordship prayer deeper.  I needed to surrender to Jesus as Lord over each specific fear or loss in my life.  How did this flesh out? Usually, I would start praying broadly and become more and more specific—Jesus, I surrender to you Dave’s sexual addiction; I surrender whether Dave has another relapse; I surrender my pain over our tense words last night; I surrender the night sleeping alone—surrendering over and over again until I couldn’t think of another thing to surrender.

Although these prayers were making a real difference, with time I began to realize that my surrender was still incomplete, because I didn’t fully know my own heart. Then I added the next element to my prayer, asked God to test and examine me (Psalm 26:2).

For the wife of a sexual addict, this is a terrifying prayer.  You see, our worst fear is that somehow all this is our own fault…that we are defective.  So to ask God to show me my own heart was a BIG step of faith.  And sure enough, God began to answer, taking me back to memories from growing up—the losses from my father’s alcoholism and my sexual abuse by a babysitter at a young age, showing me a deep insecurity and a desire for love so deep, that it twisted my interactions with my husband.  We had formed a dance of addiction in our marriage, and I was as equally versed in my own steps, as Dave was in his.  Yet God, in his goodness, was calling me to another level of surrender…one that required letting go.

Freedom in Entrustment

“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed in, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”  1 Timothy 1:12

I have some good news for you. As a daughter of the King of Kings, you are not the true guard of your marriage! You don’t have to stand by with a “big gun” ready to shoot down any sexual temptation/sin that threatens. You don’t have to throw your husband in a prison cell every times he slips and falls. You don’t even need to put some kind of bracelet around your husband’s ankle that tracks his every movement! (Although on some particularly difficult days, the thought has been tempting!)

Since you are the apple of God’s eye, his treasured daughter, God himself stands by ready to be your guard (Deuteronomy 32:10).  But there’s an important condition.  God can only guard what we put in his hands. Read 1 Timothy 1:12 one more time… “he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him.” You see, if I ask God to guard my marriage, and then take it back, like it all depends on me, then I’m limiting God.  How can he guard what I refuse to entrust to him?

Entrustment is a spiritual discipline that requires us to empty our hands before God. Paul gives us an important clue how to do this in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What this tells me is that thanksgiving is key. What’s more God wants me to thank him for how he is working situation by situation. When I truly entrust a situation to God, I’ll thank God as if He has already moved on my behalf. (Remember when the Israelites went into battle singing God’s praises?)  And then not only will God step in as guard, his peace will guard my mind and heart.  Wow!

How did I implement this? I began ending each prayer with a time of emptying my sticky hands before God…thanking him for guarding the specific situations I was anxious or overwhelmed about. Thank you God that you are my guide and that you will lead me in this path. Thank you God that you are my rock, my only firm place to stand. Thank you that you alone guard my marriage.

As I entrusted our battles to God, thanking God again and again, a miracle was happening.  I would enter these times of prayer completely distressed and leave with a miraculous peace. And with my heart quieted before God, I could now listen for the Holy Spirit…instructing me how to communicate with Dave with both truth and grace.  I wasn’t perfect, but I was growing.

At the same time, I went to war in prayer against the stronghold in my husband’s life. Moving along in my personal recovery, I knew that this battle would only be won in intercessory prayer.  I spent many hours weeping on park benches and on bike trails, begging God to break the hold of sexual sin on my husband’s heart. As the answer to these prayers didn’t come quickly, God was teaching me perseverance.  Wait on me Robin.

Walking like Jesus

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly…You are her [Sarah’s] daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”  1 Peter 2:23, 3:1-3, 6b

For years, I gave way to fear…fear of not being loved, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection by others if they knew the truth about our battles, fear of telling my husband the truth, fear of a future destroyed by sexual sin. Fear leads us to many un-Jesus like behaviors…making threats, retaliating, withdrawing from others, hiding from reality and more.  It’s not wonder that one of Satan’s chief strategies is to enslave us to fear!

By walking with Jesus as Lord, I was ready to truly engage the work of recovering from my own codependency and Dave’s sexual addiction. Surrendering to Jesus, helped me to learn to mourn openly, not as one without hope, but as one who has the surest place in the universe to turn.

And now, eight years down the road from the breaking point of our marriage, the Lordship of Jesus is still my sanity and hope.

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One thought on “The sacred ground of marriage (to a sex addict)

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I struggle with fears of all kinds and you have reminded me to lean on Jesus instead of “solutions” for my fears. It is so easy for me to look at fear as the world does and to make humanistic attempts to eradicate my fear. Of course, it always comes back. Only with Jesus and the calling He makes through the scriptures, and much prayer can I make it each day. Thanks again for this reminder.

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