Morning friend,

We had our big workshop yesterday on the Three Shifts You Need to Make to Move From Victim Mindset to Owner Mindset. I hope you got to watch it. We had a lot of positive comments and good questions.

Our six-month group coaching program Empowered To Change has just opened. For more information go to www.leslievernick.com/change.

Question: My husband used porn since age 14 and brought it into the first 10 years of our marriage. When I finally found out and confronted him he stopped but all the symptoms mentioned in the TED talk you linked in the blog (https://leslievernick.com/husbands-porn-habit/) are still present such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, and of course anger, control, all the destructive behaviors, etc. 

My question is, even though it’s been 25 years since he supposedly looked at porn, can he be like a dry drunk who may have stopped drinking but still has all the damaging addictive behaviors and thought life? 

Answer: First of all, we all have issues. No one escapes life without some bumps in the road that either challenge us to grow or sink us in the pit of immaturity and sin. I don’t know where your husband is at nor do you for sure. But how sad to think that a young, vulnerable boy of 14, was exposed to porn that warped his future development.

The short answer to your question is yes. Just because he has learned to stop his addictive behavior (watching porn) does not necessarily mean he has done the work to get himself healthy and mature. He may think stopping sin is his work to do without realizing that God calls him to continue his growth and maturity as well.

But I wonder if you are zeroing in on his “problems” or “issues” and neglecting your own? Because you are in Conquer, you are familiar with the term #doing your own work. Even spouses of alcoholics (addicts) are encouraged to stop focusing on the addict and do their own work through AL anon.

It's so tempting to focus on the person with an obvious problem, the addict. The one who is clearly dysfunctional. Problematic. Sick. Even if he is technically clean from his acting out addictive behavior you see the remnants of unhealthy relating. But instead of focusing on his dysfunction, what about working on your own growth and healing? By doing so you take your eyes off him, (blaming or excusing) and put your eyes where they belong. On your own work and growth. 

For example, let's say he is “sober” from porn use, but still demonstrates the attitudes of objectification of women or entitlement towards you. Instead of figuring out what he needs to change (which goes nowhere), what is your work to do so that you can kindly but firmly stand up for yourself as a woman? As a wife? As a child of God?

That doesn’t mean you never speak into someone’s life. You do (Hebrews 3:13). And when it’s a healthy relationship there is usually appreciation and compromise to make a relationship work for both of you. [Tweet “But if you’re expecting an unhealthy immature person to change in order to make your life work better, then you’ll probably be waiting a long time.”] A better strategy is to take responsibility for your own life and well-being. 

For example, if your husband smoked in the house and you asked him to stop smoking and he refused, then what? What are your next best choices? What do you need to do to not be exposed to secondhand smoke if he refuses to change or smoke outside?

If your husband refuses to do his own work to deal with his ADHD, depression, anxiety, and anger, etc., then what do you need to do to not allow his choices to continue to harm you? This is your work to do. Both to accept your husband’s decision and to make your own. For too long women, especially wives, have been counseled to stay passive victims to another person’s unhealthy choices. But I do not believe that is what the Bible teaches or God calls us to do.

For example, in the Old Testament Nabal made a poor choice to not extend hospitality to David and his men, even though this was a common Jewish practice. David was insulted and outraged. Abigail, Nabal’s wife didn’t stay passive. She didn’t try to change him. She accepted her husband for who he was but did not allow his decision to be her decision. She gathered food and provisions for David and his men and courageously went out to meet them. She did not know how David would receive her, or what her husband would do when he found out. But she did what was right, even when her husband did not (1 Samuel 25).

In the New Testament, Jesus tried to have a constructive conversation with the Pharisees many times about their hearts, and the changes they needed to make. Those conversations only enraged the Pharisees, and they wanted Jesus dead. Jesus knew their plan and fled. He didn’t allow their sinful pride and envy to thwart his own ministry and God’s plan (See John 10:39, 11:48-53).

Your husband will still struggle with his own issues. You are clear on this, but let me ask you to think about it a different way. What are your problems with his problems? Are you afraid of him? Are you unsafe? Lonely? Resentful he won’t do any more work on himself? Despondent that you don’t have a partner in your marriage? Understandable. But now you have things you can work on. [Tweet “You can’t fix him, but you can steward yourself and your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.”]

Friend, How do you discern the difference between the other person’s problem and your problem?

2 Comments

  1. Moon Beam on December 11, 2021 at 8:45 am

    Boundaries education is very helpful for this. Most of us know the ministry of Dr. Henry Cloud.

    I guess I would ask myself if it wanted to spend my one and only life on earth yoked to someone else’s problems. Physical illness is one thing, “the sickness of the sickness and health vow”, but willful foolishness is another matter. Being unevenly yoked with a mentally ill, character impaired individual doesn’t seem like good stewardship of your spiritual gifts and person good. You future has value.

    If it was me, I would set a time line that I found acceptable to see change and to expect permanent and consistent new actions and enduring behaviors. If reasonable behaviors and character changes are not achieved or agreed upon, that one needs accept those truths and disengage from the destructive partnership.

  2. Sunflower on December 17, 2021 at 9:07 am

    He has been a addict for our whole marriage, going on 40 years, but I’ve been too stupid to see it. Now my eyes are opened. He refuses to get help. I told him if he continues then I will leave. I’m pretty sure he just hides it more. I don’t know my next step.

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