I caught my husband chatting on the internet. Help

Q. I recently discovered that my husband has been not only viewing porn on the internet, but also “chatting” with multiple women. I even found e-mails where he refers to me as his “soon to be ex” and exchanged phone numbers, and talked about times to meet, etc.

When I confronted him, he swears that all of this is fantasy and that he has never done anything physical with these women. He says he is deeply sorry and will give this all up. But I don’t now what to think. How can I trust him again? How will I know if he is really sorry or just sorry for the moment? He has been very emotionally unavailable to me in the past and verbally abusive at times. But now he’s being very attentive. I don’t know how to respond. Help! Tammy in OK

A. First let me tell you how sorry I am that you have experienced this in your marriage. Internet pornography as well as chatting with the opposite sex is a huge temptation for men and women these days. (see blog post October 13, 2008 for my response to a women in bondage to pornography).

It is perfectly normal that you’re struggling to trust your husband. Once broken, trust in a relationship is difficult to rebuild and it takes time and effort. Your recent discovery isn’t the only problem in your marriage but it can be a wakeup call for your husband to work to change his ways.

I’m glad you’ve confronted him when you discovered the pornography and chatting. In order to invite further change in your marriage, you might want to add something along these lines:

“I appreciate that you want to work on restoring our marriage. I can see that you are trying and now doing some of the things that I’ve always wanted you to do (mention some specific ways you see him trying to win you back). However, my trust in who you are and what you say has been fractured and it will take time for you to rebuild it.

Right now, I can’t easily believe what you tell me and I’m not sure you really care about me and my feelings. When I’ve told you before that your emotional distancing and angry words hurt, you didn’t care because you didn’t change. Now you’ve disrespected me and our marriage vows by what you’ve been doing on the internet.

I am willing to work on restoring our marriage, but I am not willing to be disrespected and abused any longer. It would help me trust you if I saw you take some specific steps to set boundaries on your internet use, learn how to handle your temper and figure out why you’ve been emotionally unavailable to me.”

Then watch and wait. Don’t nag. See what he does. Jesus tells us to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). Your husband will build trust as he shows you he is willing to do these things and takes the initiative to do them.

As your husband does his part, your battle will be to learn to trust him again. Your enemy here is not your spouse, but Satan, who wants to destroy you both. He will use every opportunity to taunt you with your husband’s sin. Don’t let him. In these moments, remind yourself of the positive things your husband is doing to earn back your trust.

Remember, honesty and accountability are the cornerstones for rebuilding trust, not perfection. However, if your husband does not make strong efforts in these areas, regaining marital trust is not possible.

Finally, consider attending a support group for wives whose husbands share similar problems. If you can’t locate one in your area, use the Internet to find one. Here are a few resources to get your started, Newlifepartners.org, PureIntimacy.org or Faithfulandtrueministries.com. Please know many women share your struggle. You are not alone.

If you’d like more information on how to initiate a difficult discussion with someone, please visit my home page at www.leslievernick.com and go to the Free Resources page.

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