Some things seem so self-evident, it feels stupid pointing them out. Does anyone really need to say “Air is good, so you should breathe” or “Concrete is hard on your stomach, so don’t eat it” or “Porn isn’t good for your marriage, so don’t watch it together?”
No, no, and yes. The air and concrete issues seem universally settled, but the porn question is one I’m hearing with some alarming regularity. I was asked it again this weekend; it’s been coming up more and more over the past few years when I’ve been doing seminars on purity. Someone comes up after I’m finished, identifying as a Christian and saying they and their spouse have been watching X-rated films together to “spice things up” in their marriage. It’s something they’ve come to enjoy, so is that OK, since it enhances their sex life, and it’s just between them?(This is why you should never say “Now I’ve heard everything.” You haven’t.)
OK, there’s nothing wrong with an honest question, and just because something seems ridiculously obvious to me, that doesn’t justify a snarky attitude because, after all, I also miss things that are ridiculously obvious to other people. So let me rewind and simply say I am concerned to hear that any Christian needs clarity on this, but I’m still glad to offer some. If you’re insulted by my even bringing it up, and feel it’s unnecessary and inapplicable to you, I get it. Please come back for tomorrow’s post. Otherwise, let’s break this down, because you may be asked the same question yourself someday.
First: Sin is no less sinful when committed in tandem. If it’s wrong to get drunk alone, it’s wrong to get drunk together. If it’s wrong to hate alone, it’s also wrong to have a “hate night” with your sweetheart. What’s wrong for one never becomes right for two.
Second: Lust is sin. To lust is to covet what’s not rightfully yours, therefore to sexually covet anyone other than one’s spouse is lusting, and Jesus made no bones about the adulterous nature of desiring what you’re not entitled to. (Matthew 5: 27-28) So in light of Point One – “Sin is no less sinful when committed in tandem” – let’s remember no contingency is given in scripture letting a husband off the hook just because he’s doing the coveting in the presence of his wife.
Third: To view porn as husband and wife is to literally introduce third parties into the bedroom. If lust is adultery of the heart, than the man and wife watching erotic DVD’s together aren’t just using a marital aid. They are, in fact, agreeing to commit adultery in front of each other, jointly introducing other people’s images and passions into their relationship. It’s the same, in principle if not physically, as transporting others into the bedroom for an orgy, then justifying the event as a means of “spicing things up.”
Which raises the whole “spice” issue. Of course, porn arouses its viewers, so I fully believe the couple who says, “We both get awfully turned on by it, which in turn heats our sex life up.” Some even go so far as to say porn saved their marriage because their sex life had dwindled until they tried watching skin flicks, but now, with X-rated assistance, they’re going at it more than ever. Well, sure. But is the value of sex between man and wife measured by its frequency and intensity? By that standard, we could also advise couples snort methadrene together. I’m pretty sure that will heat things up, get their systems going, and probably turn the bedroom into a marathon arena.But is that really the goal?
If we have an intense experience together, does that mean we were brought closer, or did we simply experience something in each other’s company? I love roller coasters, intense suckers that they are. And when I ride one seated next to a stranger, I’m sure we could say we had an awfully intense experience together, but I’d never say it brought us closer. Intensity within proximity is a far cry from unity.
And that’s the point. If the physical union has not brought us closer together as man and wife, then it wasn’t good sex, no matter how hot it may have been. Not that there’s anything wrong with “hot” – I mean, what’s happening in the Song of Solomon if not a wonderfully intense, deeply passionate episode? But it’s the mutual closeness, the communication of love and consideration, the celebration of a life partnership, the sense of being more one than ever, that make good sex. If those elements are missing, heat alone can hardly compensate for them. And it certainly can’t replace them.
I’m really heartbroken to hear about Christian couples polluting themselves and defiling their marriage beds with porn. Nothing good can possibly come from it, but so much that’s destructive will. If we’re married, our beloved in this life is singular, not plural; a unique individual we’ve entered into covenant with. Part of that covenant is to care for each other sexually, in an exclusive, tender, beautifully unique bond we create and sustain together. May we never think so little of it, nor of the Creator who formed and defined it, that we poison that bond with corrosive elements like porn. The stuff may feel great, as does heroin. But only a fool justifies a poison by its taste.
Ten steps Necessary to HEALING a Marriage after Infidelity by Leslie Vernick
Leslie: Do you have a book on what steps need to take place after sexual infidelity in order for the marriage to truly heal? My husband says he’s sorry but I’ve heard that before. If I didn’t know about the affair, I’d think we had a fairly good marriage but now I don’t know what to think. I want to forgive him but I don’t know how to forget what he’s done. It hurts so bad. Help if you can.
Answer: I am so sorry. Sexual infidelity is betrayal of the deepest kind and tough to truly recover from. I think that’s why Jesus said it was one of the few grounds for biblically divorcing a spouse. For a marriage to truly heal from this devastating breach in trust, hard work must be done by both persons in the marriage. I haven’t written a book that specifically deals with adultery as a stand alone issue, but in between my two books How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong – The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. & The Emotionally Destructive Marriage you will find the crucial stepping stones that will help you and your husband rebuild your marriage.
You may also want to look at Dave Carder’s book Torn Asunder. Dave talks about three different kinds of affairs – the one night stand, the emotionally attached, and the chronic yet meaningless affair. He gives specific steps couples need to take to address each type.
However, couples often need additional help when there is infidelity. Without outside accountability and support, most couples do not do the work needed to deeply heal the damage even if they choose to stay married.
Adultery is always evidence of a deeper and more sinister problem at work in the heart and mind of at least one of the individuals in the marriage. Before a marriage can be rebuilt, that issue needs to be identified, owned and worked on.
Let me give you an example. Many years ago the city of Allentown, PA was held spellbound by the drama surrounding a giant sinkhole that threatened to topple an entire office structure called Corporate Office Plaza. The sinkhole had developed in the middle of the night and quickly spread over 50 feet wide and 18 feet deep.
The first clue that something was wrong came when operators of the city’s reservoirs noticed a 2 foot drop in water levels in the middle of the night. Crews were sent out to search for the leak and discovered a widening sinkhole which was swallowing up the water. Very early, before any business life entered the city, the menacing sinkhole began its destruction in the street. Corporate office plaza began to sink and crumble. Huge shards of glass and bricks tumbled to the pavement below as the building began to buckle and crack, teetering on the verge of collapse.
“Can this building be stabilized?” people cried. “Can we at least go in to salvage our things?” This happened in February and many of the offices were used by accounting firms in the middle of tax season.
But no, Corporate Plaza was ruined. It was destroyed from deep within by a force that was unobserved and unknown until too late. The damage was subtle at first and then without warning, dramatic.
When adultery is revealed, what looked like a good marriage on the outside suddenly and dramatically begins to crumble. The marriage no longer is standing erect and the very foundation, upon which that structure has been built, is questioned. Where was the love, trust, commitment and loyalty? What has happened? What has gone wrong? How do we fix this? Is it even fixable?
Just like Corporate Plaza couldn’t be safely rebuilt without addressing the sinkhole problem first, a marriage cannot be rebuilt without addressing the inner issues going on in the heart that led to someone to choose to betray and lie to his or her partner.
Here are ten (10) steps that need to be taken.
1. Is there not only remorse for the sin but repentance? Does the spouse who committed adultery take ownership for his or her choice – no blaming? (That doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious marital issues that need to be addressed that may have contributed to feelings of anger, resentment, and loneliness in the marriage that made the choice to go elsewhere for love feel reasonable and acceptable).
2. Is there a willingness on the part of the spouse who committed adultery to do the work of self-examination to understand better why he/she made that choice so that the triggers and excuses are addressed? Is he willing to look at the deep heart issues that allowed him to make this choice – the sinkholes in his life like pride, entitlement, selfishness, anger, poor impulse control, sexual addiction, family history issues?
3. Is there a genuine sorrow for the pain he/she has caused the spouse? Often times the “caught” spouse is in pain because they’ve been caught, they’ve been humiliated and shamed, they fear the loss of their family or financial security through divorce but there isn’t any real acknowledgment or awareness for the pain they’ve caused their spouse.
4. Is the adulterous spouse willing to sit with their spouse and listen, really listen to their hurt and heartache over this and show compassion, empathy and care no matter how long it takes?
5. Is the injured spouse willing to forgive?
6. Is he/she willing to also take a hard look at ways he/she may have contributed to neglect in the marriage or other unresolved problems that created emotional distancing to develop. What were the sinkholes in the marriage before this happened?
7. Is he/she willing to be honest with her feelings of sadness, hurt, anger and do the hard work to work through them and move past them? So often there is pressure to sweep these under the rug and forgive and move on without doing the hard work.
8. Is he/she willing to acknowledge the positive changes their spouse is making toward building trust and healing the marriage?
9. Is he/she able to understand that this whole thing is a process, it takes time, hard work, and often goes in fits and starts so that it isn’t always a smooth ride?
10. Is the spouse who has committed adultery willing to be patient with the process as his/her spouse isn’t able to let it go, gets retriggered with old memories or current reminders, or can’t immediately feel trust or warm feelings for her spouse? Does he show empathy and compassion or irritation and impatience? Is he willing to do what it takes to rebuild her trust?
If a couple goes through these stages, I believe a marriage that has suffered infidelity can come out stronger and healthier than before. Sadly, too often we want the quick fix and aren’t really willing to do the hard work to repair the damage. But think of it this way. If Corporate Plaza was rebuilt without addressing why the sinkhole was there and how to prevent that from happening in the future, it would be vulnerable to the same problem happening all over again.
Friends, if this has happened in your marriage, what stages did you go through to bring healing or were these short circuited and healing never happened?
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