Dealing with the effects of a spouse’s sexual addiction

As we’ve discussed previously, there are many consequences of sexual sin. As the spouse of a sex addict, you’ve undoubtedly been affected by those consequences in one way or another.  Spouses often mention having a crosscurrent of conflicting emotions such as anger, betrayal, rejection and grief.  These can be overwhelming, and there is a real danger that the Enemy will use any one of these emotions as a foothold to oppress you.  God has given you the power to choose between the Enemy’s plan of destruction and death, or God’s plan of healing and life.  He has given you his very powerful word of truth, which can steady you in the midst of the storm and lead you through to safety.  

In this section we’ll address the issues you’re likely facing and help you begin to deal with them using God’s word and spiritual authority that is yours in Christ.  We’ll look at two primary areas:  attitudes toward yourself and toward your spouse. 

Attitudes toward yourself

Rejection & Low self-esteem
You may or may not realize this, but you have an Enemy and his goal is to destroy you, your husband and your marriage.  He and his minions often use rejection and low-self esteem as tools of that destruction process.  For example, a wife can easily interpret a husband’s addiction to pornography as rejection of herself, especially when the husband prefers porn and masturbation as opposed to real sex.  Its all too easy for a wife to blame her own failures in appearance and sexual performance for her husband’s addiction problems. Granted, those could be factors, but there’s usually much much more involved with a person’s descent into sexual addiction.   

In response to such rejection, some women try to compete with the porn models in attempt to win back their husbands.  With timeless, computer-enhanced bodies and artificially high sexual appetites, the porn models will always have the advantage.  These days, such porn models may not even be real persons.  With the help of cutting edge graphics, porn characters are being continually improved to provide the ultimate gratification for the viewer.   

Even so, the enemy will try to persuade wives to play the game of trying to be the solution to their husband’s struggle with thoughts such as:

These are all lies that are designed to weaken your self-esteem and to entice you to try to solve your spouse’s problem.  If your spouse has been feeding on porn or other sexual entertainment, it’s probably going to be impossible for you to satisfy his or her inflated expectations and ravenous sexual appetite.  Remember that sex addiction is substantially based on lust, which by nature is not content.  It constantly drives its victims forward in pursuit of something new to lust after. Lust is not as interested in something it can already have (such as marital sex), but instead it will look for a forbidden (by God) thrill.     

In trying to fulfill your spouse’s lusts you’ll risk polluting your own mind with the sexual immorality he or she is pursuing.  For example, I’ve corresponded with women who have agreed to watch porn, participate in “swingers” groups (spouse-swapping) or perform sex acts they felt were wrong, only to discover in the end that they became infected by sexual sin and their spouse’s addiction only strengthened.  Ultimately, they felt degraded and used.  Please stand by your convictions and refuse to be lured into trying to be the solution for your spouse’s addiction. 

Instead of trying to fight the battle of rejection and/or low self-esteem with performance, it’s better to use the truth that counters the lies behind the feelings.  Let’s start with Genesis 1:26-27:

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV) 

In whose image and likeness have you been made? God’s, and there is nothing more beautiful in all Creation than God!  The Psalmist described the quality of God’s workmanship in making us: 

  13For You formed my inward parts;
         You wove me in my mother's womb.
    14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
        Wonderful are Your works,
         And my soul knows it very well.
    15My frame was not hidden from You,
         When I was made in secret,
         And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth    
                                                    Psalm 139:13-15 NASB

You are fearfully, wonderfully and skillfully made by God.  He loved you so much that he sent his own son to die for your sin, so that you could be reconciled with him and have eternal life with him.  You are loved!

 While the porn world evaluates beauty on the basis of physical appearance and sexual performance, God has a totally different paradigm. Peter wrote, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV).  It’s the beauty of the inner self that is most important and of great worth, not the fading external body that we temporarily live in.  As King Lemuel’s Mother wisely said, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NKJV).  Basing our self esteem on our physical appearance will be a losing game, as death is at work in our mortal bodies.  Those over 30 (or so) will likely agree with me on that!  Our society, led by the Media, places so much emphasis on the body, yet the body exists for a mere flicker of time compared to eternity.  When we value the qualities of the inner self that God values, we’ll be best aligned to enjoy life on earth and in heaven for eternity.   

Rejection is something that most everyone experiences to some degree in life, but when it comes from your spouse, it is especially painful. God can help you in dealing with this rejection because he understands rejection very well.  Isaiah prophesied about what Jesus would endure: 

 3He was despised and forsaken of men,
         A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
         And like one from whom men hide their face
         He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
         And our sorrows He carried;
         Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
         Smitten of God, and afflicted.
                                                    Isaiah 53:3-4 NASB   

Jesus experienced the deepest dimensions of rejection – perhaps as much as anyone who has ever lived.  Having “been there,” Jesus now bears and carries our grief and sorrows.  Even so, many people do not release such burdens to the Lord and continue to try to carry them alone.   The Lord would say, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).   

If you’ve felt rejection from your spouse, I invite you to take the rejection and give it to Jesus.  He wants to take the sting out of those wounds and help you heal from the damage that may have been done to your self-esteem.  Here’s an example prayer: 

Lord Jesus, Thank you for enduring the rejection and suffering of the Cross for my sake.  Thank you for bearing my grief and sorrows.  Lord I surrender this rejection to you.  I release it to you right now. (Pause for silent prayer)  Please heal me and restore a healthy self-esteem in me.  (Pause for silent prayer) Thank you, Jesus. In your name I pray, Amen. 

Guilt, self-blame and marital duty
Some sex addicts try to blame their spouses for their addictions.  Even if your actions contributed to your spouse’s addiction, it would be wrong to assign all the blame to yourself.  It’s important to remember that each of us bears the responsibility for the choices we make, regardless of whether or not someone else influenced those decisions. 

The area that frequently comes up in this “blame game” is the concept of “marital duty.”  Let’s look at the scriptures for guidance on this duty: 

2But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.  3The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband. 4The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife. 5So do not deprive each other of sexual relations. The only exception to this rule would be the agreement of both husband and wife to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time, so they can give themselves more completely to prayer. Afterward they should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt them because of their lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 NLT. 

Each person’s marital duty is to make themselves available sexually for their spouse.  As you consider your marriage, have you made yourself sexually available to your spouse on a regular basis throughout the marriage?   If you answered “No,” what factors contributed to the lack of availability? 

 

 

Men and women may have different ideas of what constitutes a regular basis for sex.  I believe that men generally desire sex more frequently than women.  This difference can be enhanced by a husband’s involvement in sex addiction, creating a sexual imbalance in the relationship.  Paul warned about the danger of not having regular sexual relations in the above passage from 1 Corinthians 7:  falling victim to temptations of sexual immorality.   I think it is significant that Paul specifically mentioned Satan’s role in tempting people through their lack of sexual self control.  This indicates that there is often more involved than simply a person’s desire for sex.  There is an intelligent, evil being seeking to entice people to sin.   

Now I’m not a sex expert, but from my own marital experience I would suggest that “regular” sexual relations should occur at least weekly.  I’m guessing that even that periodicity will challenge many people, especially those who have been giving little or no priority to their marriage sex life.  I remember receiving an email from a woman who mentioned that she and her husband had sex 2 or 3 times over the past 2 years.  I suspect that the lack of sex in their relationship had been a major contributor to her husband’s decision to seek sexual fulfillment elsewhere.   

Sex addiction obviously can complicate marital sexual relations. When a person has been unfaithful via porn or other sexual entertainment, his or her spouse may “shut down” sexually, refusing any sexual interaction.  This is certainly to be expected, as the infidelity cuts to the heart a marriage and causes wounds that are slow to heal.  If that is your situation, I encourage you to be patient with yourself and to seek the Lord for healing of the sexual relationship with your spouse.   

If your spouse’s sex addiction was linked to a lack of desire or availability on your part, you need not go on blaming yourself for his or her decision to sin.  You can now move forward and:

Here is a suggested prayer: 

Dear Lord God, I understand that sex is an important part of a healthy marriage. I bring all my issues concerning my marriage’s sex life and lay them down at your feet.  Please give me a supernatural ability to forgive my spouse for their wrongs toward me and to resist any urges for malice or vengeance.  Please heal me in all the damaged areas that affect our sexual relationship.  I pray for a revival of the romance in our relationship and of my own sexual desire if it has waned.  Lord, I thank you that with you all things are possible!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen. 

Defilement and violation

Since Jesus equated lust with adultery in Matthew 5:28, it is possible that the many of the activities associated with sex addiction could be considered adultery. With that in mind, feelings of defilement or violation are to be expected for a sex addict’s spouse.  If you are having such feelings, hopefully it will comfort you to know that God cares greatly about you and the sanctity of your marriage.  His desire from the beginning has been that people will remain faithful to their spouses:   “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV).  Notice the special judgment that adulterers incur.  We don’t know exactly what that judgment entails, but it does show that God considers marital fidelity very important and sacred.  In Malachi 2:13-15 we find another confirmation of God’s concern for marriages: 

13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.   Malachi 2:13-15 NIV 

Here the Lord acted as a witness against the unfaithful husband and rejected the unfaithful husband’s offerings.  We also see at the end of the passage that God regards a husband and wife as his, in flesh and spirit.  This union is not to be broken.   

Please know that God is with you in your situation.  He serves as a witness on your behalf to what has happened, or is happening in your marriage.  I believe God would say to you, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” You can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”( Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV).  God will help you and your family recover from the damage of sex addiction.   

Another issue involved with defilement is the natural desire we have to cleanse what was befouled.  Sexual infidelity is not something that you can physically wash away, yet the wounds and emotional residue of the sin are very real.  Thankfully we have a Helper who can wash away the filth of infidelity and heal the wounds.  John wrote about the cleansing that is available to us:

 5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  1 John 1:5-7 NIV 

When we live in fellowship with God each day the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.  The blood’s cleansing power is mentioned again in Hebrews 9:13-14

13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (NIV) 

The blood of Jesus cleanses our conscience from the dead works of sin in order that we can live for God.  I believe that the “dead works of sin” include the damaging effects that other people’s sins have had on us.  This could be thought of as a form of healing, which is part of the benefits we have through our faith in Christ.  With that in mind, I invite you to pray for the cleansing of yourself and your marriage.  Here’s a prayer to that end: 

Lord Jesus, Thank you for being my Comforter and Helper in this time of trouble.  Thank you for caring so much about me and my marriage.  I pray for the cleansing of myself, my spouse and my marriage from the dead works of sin. Thank you for your blood that accomplishes this cleansing.  Please heal and restore all that was damaged, stolen or destroyed, so that my spouse and I can walk in unity with you once again. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.    

Attitudes toward your spouse

Broken heart/ Broken Trust /Betrayal

Nobody likes being deceived, and especially when it’s by a loved one.  Whether it is through pornography or a physical act, sexual infidelity breaks the heart and breaks our trust.  As a form of betrayal, it is a taking of sexuality meant to be sacred within a marriage and sharing it elsewhere. It destroys the intimacy that was (or should have been) a major part of the marriage’s foundation.   

Jesus experienced betrayal from one of his closest companions.  After all the time Jesus spent with the disciples and all the perfect love that he showed to them, Judas sold out to the Pharisees and helped their police find Jesus for arrest.  Leading up to the arrest, Jesus was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21 NIV).  Though Jesus knew what Judas was about to do, he retained his composure and astonishingly told Judas to quickly do what he was about to do.  Jesus’ treatment of Judas during those moments showed the strength of true love.  Instead of throttling Judas, Jesus respected Judas’ free will, even when it meant there would be great person injury to himself.  He wasn’t going to force Judas to love him nor would he try to restrain him from choosing evil.   

Interestingly enough, Jesus gave his disciples a new command just after Judas left the room.  It was to love one another as Jesus had loved them (John 13:34).  Finding the path of true love amidst the pain of betrayal and a broken heart is likely one of the most challenging things a person can face.  It may well be impossible in our humanity, but with God’s Spirit living in us, it becomes possible.   

Having experienced deception and betrayal from his closest friends, Jesus is knows what you might be feeling in the situation with your spouse.  Consider this passage concerning Jesus: 

14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
 16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
                                                       
Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB 

Jesus can sympathize with us in whatever trial we are going through. He had been tempted in “all things” yet did not sin.   He offers mercy and grace to help us in the time of need when we draw near to him.   

What kinds of attitudes are you tempted to have toward your spouse related to his or her sexual sin / addiction?   

 

 

 

According to the above passage from Hebrews 4, what can you do for help?

 

David was another person who experienced betrayal. In Psalm 55:12-23, David describes the betrayal of a close friend.  Rather than seeking vengeance, David resolved to call upon and trust in the Lord for help.  David believed that God would save him, redeem his soul from the battle and fight against his enemies for him.  David’s advice to others in similar circumstances was to “Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never allow you to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22 NASB).   

Not only will God sustain you through this time, but he will also help you deal with the wounds of your heart.  Healing the brokenhearted was and is a key part of Jesus’ mission on earth.  Consider this passage: 

18“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
       Because He has anointed Me
      To preach the gospel to the poor;
      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
      To proclaim liberty to the captives
      And recovery of sight to the blind,
      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
  19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
                                                           Luke 4:18-19 NKJV 

Jesus loves to heal the brokenhearted.  He loves to set captives free and he loves to free those who are oppressed.  With that in mind, I invite you to pray now concerning the issues of a broken heart, broken trust and betrayal.  Here is a suggested prayer: 

Lord God, I draw near to your throne of grace in confidence through the blood of Jesus.  I cast my burdens of _________________(fill in) to you and believe that you will sustain me and not allow me to be shaken.   You know the pain of my wounds.  Please heal me, redeem my soul in peace from the battle and fight against my enemies.  In Jesus’ name I stand against the forces of evil that are trying to destroy me, my spouse, marriage and family.  Lord, please fill me with your perfect love and help me to show that love in this difficult situation.  I believe that with you the impossible is possible.  Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.  

Anger
Anger is a God-given emotion; one that God Himself experiences. God described himself as “slow to anger,” as well as being compassionate, gracious, merciful and abounding in love in Exodus 34:6 NIV.  While he is slow to anger, his anger can burn like a fire when stirred up (Numbers 12:9).  The Israelites tested God’s patience many times both during their exodus from Egypt and then in their occupation of Canaan.  Though the people were unfaithful, God showed amazing restraint of his anger:

       Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.
       Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
                                                               
Psalm 78:38 NIV

Wrath is further extension of God’s anger, which includes the aspect of retribution and/or punishment for offenses.  Thankfully, Jesus Christ bore the brunt of God’s wrath toward sin, and those who place faith in Christ are saved from that wrath (Romans 5:9-10).   

One additional aspect of God’s anger that we should consider is mentioned in Psalm 78:50 NIV: 

He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them         over to the plague. 

God prepared a path for his anger to be expressed.  In this case, the people were given over to die by the plague.  Since God is perfect in righteousness, we can know with certainty that his actions are perfectly just, even when he is angry.  He alone is able to deliver the appropriate punishment for the transgression without exaggeration.  Humans, on the other hand, are subject to the conditions of the fall. We have been corrupted by sin, and are prone to exaggeration when responding to anger.  Very often the path that we choose to express our anger involves sin.  The scripture warns us, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV).   

Anger is often linked with the desire for vengeance.  Accordingly, we find important instruction in scripture regarding how vengeance is to be handled.  Paul wrote: 

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.  Romans 12:19 NIV

When someone has wronged us, it can feel “good” to take revenge.  This is perhaps because we have been made in God’s image and have an innate desire for justice.  Even though the revenge might be justified in our own minds, we are under God’s authority and must yield that desire to him.  This involves trusting and believing that 1) God knows how to perfectly carry out justice, and 2) that he will repay the wrong that was done.  Furthermore, God considers it his right to avenge evil that happens to his followers.  When we infringe on God’s rights due to our own desire for revenge, we are guilty of both disobedience and pride! Leaving room for his wrath can be a very difficult thing to do, especially when a great injustice has been done.  This can test the very limits of our faith. 

Is your anger legitimate?
When Jonah was seething in anger over God’s decision to spare the Ninevites, God asked him if he had a good reason to be angry (Jonah 4:4).  The implied answer was “No.”  As you consider your situation, you can ask yourself, “Do I have a good reason to be angry?”   

If you are wrestling with a spouse’s sex addiction, it may be helpful to know that your anger is justified.  This may seem obvious to some, but not to others.  For example, a husband’s repeated denials of his addiction can cause his wife to begin questioning her own convictions, especially when her self esteem has been shattered.  She may have thoughts like, “Am I over-reacting?” or “Perhaps it isn’t as bad as I was thinking” or “Maybe I’m being too rigid and judgmental.” The temptation for her is then to back down and be silent while her husband descends further into his addiction.   

An addict’s boldness in defending their sin is probably a survival tactic. They may feel compelled to defend the stronghold.  If they can persuade others that their habits are justified and silence voices of opposition, they can continue feeding their sin and feel “OK” about themselves.  To admit that their habits are wrong would require them to face the truth and take corrective action.  The truth can be painful to face!   

You may recall that sex addiction is a spiritual stronghold to which your spouse is captive.  You may not be able to convince your spouse of their sin, no matter how persuasive your argument is.  Thankfully, God has appointed someone else to help us in this dilemma.  According to John 16:7-11, Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin.  While you may play an important part in the conviction process by obeying the Spirit, you are not responsible for the choices your spouse makes concerning the truth. 

Dealing with your anger
Anger is not a sin, but it can find expressions through sin if we’re not careful.  God has given us a number of ways to deal with anger.  Since he has experienced anger, he understands what we are facing and will help us find constructive ways to deal with it.  Let’s consider some of these ways in this section. 

Refrain from it and don’t hold on to it
The Psalmist wrote, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8 NIV).   We have a choice about how we will react to the circumstances we’re facing.  We entertain the anger or we can turn from it.  Consider the story of Cain and Abel, as written in Genesis 4:1-8: 

 1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
(NIV)

If Cain continued in his anger, sin was waiting for an opportunity to rule over him.  God’s desire for Cain was that he would choose to “do well” by resisting sin and thereby ruling over it.  Unfortunately, Cain refused to heed God’s advice and in his stubborn jealousy killed his brother.   

As with Cain, God offers each of us the opportunity to refrain from our anger, choose the path of righteousness and rule over sin.  Refraining from anger does not mean that we should pretend the source of our anger doesn’t exist or didn’t happen.  It means that we should take whatever steps necessary to deal with the anger and then move forward, no longer dwelling on it.   

Paul took the concept of refraining from anger a step further in Ephesians 4:30-32: 

30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (NIV) 

We are to “get rid of” all anger and rage, along with bitterness, brawling, slander and malice.  Interestingly enough, Paul was tying those together under a common theme of unforgiveness, which is frequently involved with anger.  We will discuss unforgiveness again in a moment.  The attitude we are to have toward one another is one of kindness, compassion and forgiveness.   

Refraining from and ridding ourselves of anger may not be a quick and/or easy task, especially when an offense is recurring.  Even more challenging may be having an attitude of kindness, compassion and forgiveness toward the offender.  These tasks, like others in living for Christ, will require our dependence on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.   

There are, however, additional things we can do to mitigate anger.   

Communicate
Communication is a tool that can help constructively express anger.  Communication may help uncover the sources of our anger and in some cases may even resolve it.  Paul wrote: 

26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV 

The implied action we should take concerning our anger without delay is to deal with the anger instead of putting it off.  Failure to deal with it could provide a foothold for the devil to influence our lives and open up some sinful path of expressing the anger.  In the story of Jacob and Esau, Jacob stole Esau’s blessing from his father Isaac.  Esau “consoled” himself by thinking up a plan to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41-42).  Instead of dealing with the anger, Esau dwelt on the idea of fulfilling his anger vengefully murdering his brother.  Though thoughts of revenge can have a medicating effect, this medication can have deadly results.   

My layman’s understanding of not letting the sun go down on anger is to go to the offender and attempt to make amends as best as possible that day.  This might involve communicating why we are angry and apologizing (if appropriate) to the offender.  It also might involve telling God about the situation, repenting for any sinful attitudes we’ve harbored and surrendering the case to him.    

Keep yourself under control
One of the notable aspects of anger is that it is often characterized by the frustration of being out of control:  when our will isn’t carried out and somebody else’s is.  As a parent of three young children, I see this at work all the time!  Child B wants toy A, which child A is playing with.  When Child B steals the toy, a fight erupts and possibly a high speed chase ending in weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Much of our sense of well-being is tied in with being in control of the events of our lives.  When we’re not in control, it can be unnerving to say the least.  (The truth is, even when we think we’re in control, we’re not!☺)  Though the situation we’re facing with our spouse may be out of our control, the one thing we can control is our own actions.  This does not mean we should bottle up or “stuff” our anger, but it does mean we should take care in how we express it. 

Proverbs 29:11 NIV says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”  The wise person does not give “full vent” to the anger, but rather, keeps themselves under control.  This again is something that the Holy Spirit can help us do.  One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  We might need to walk away from a situation temporarily or leave the room until we can regain composure.  We might need to spend some time talking to God about the situation before we face those who we’re angry with.  We might even need to go find a punching bag and vent the anger on it! 

Sometimes the devil may try to provoke us to anger by pushing our “hot buttons” through orchestrated circumstances and other people.  This “stirring up” of anger is often intended to destroy the peace in our lives and families.  The “stirring up of anger produces strife,” as Agur wrote in Proverbs 30:33 NIV.  If you sense somebody is trying to stir your anger, you can bind any evil spirits that are behind it and perhaps leave the premises in order to cool down before responding. Left unchecked, anger can be stirred up into rage, which is “violent and uncontrolled anger”[1], which often finds its pathway through violence and murder.       

Surrender the situation to God
As previously stated, anger is often linked to the feeling of being out of control of a situation.  Indeed, the act of trusting God when a spouse is apparently destroying the marriage and family through sex sin is very hard to do.  It’s not in our nature to sit still and trust God while our spouse leads the marriage and family into destruction.  Granted there are some actions that are warranted, but we should be careful to remember that anger itself is limited in what it can do.   

James wrote, “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20 NIV).  Our anger may be able to punish people, but it is not able to truly change them into the people God made them to be.  He is the One who can change people’s hearts and persuade them to pursue true repentance.  Our prayers to that end can be instrumental and also will benefit ourselves.  Paul wrote: 

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 NIV 

When we take our issues to God in prayer, what can we expect the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  This is a much-needed buffer for those who have lost their peace amidst the destruction caused by sex addiction in the home.   

Sometimes people have difficulty admitting that they are angry.  For whatever reason, they tend to shift the ownership of the anger to someone else or to a situation in general.  Perhaps this is due to a social stigma against anger…as if people who are angry are less credible or weaker than the rest of humanity who “have it all together.”  An important step in dealing with anger is being honest with yourself and with God.  It’s OK to be angry! You can tell God exactly how you feel about a situation, the people involved and what happened or is happening that makes you angry.  For example, many of the Psalms are dialogues between angry people (David, primarily) and God!  (eg. Psalm 3, 140 and 141). 

An important step in surrendering the situation to God is identifying any hidden fears that the anger may be tied to.  For example, a person angry about her spouse’s sex addiction may fear the future of the marriage, the children’s safety, the extent of her husband’s secret activities, or contraction of a sexually transmitted disease.   

As you consider your own situation, ask God to reveal the fears that you are experiencing.  Please write them down here:

 

 

Take some time now to express your fears to God and ask for his help in dealing with them.  Please be sure to leave time to pray in the Spirit and listen for any words the Lord may give you. 

What were the results of your time with God?  Did you receive any special insight on how to deal with the situation you are facing?

  

 

 

Unforgiveness and vengeance
Though we previously discussed unforgiveness, I’d like to explore it some more.  As already said, unforgiveness is something that can block our healing and keep us from moving forward with God.  When our spouse is the one who has deeply hurt us, it is natural for us to resist forgiving him or her and even to retaliate.  In such situations, we will need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to forgive the person and release the desire for vengeance to God.  If that is the case for you, I encourage you to pray this suggested prayer:   

Lord God, thank you for forgiving me of my sins.  I realize that I was your enemy before I trusted in you for salvation. Father, I need your strength and desire to forgive my spouse for his or her offenses.  Please help me to forgive my spouse for: __________ (list the offenses).  You know my pain, Lord. Please comfort and heal me. Please empower me now to forgive my spouse and release all bitterness and resentment toward him or her.  (Pause for time of silent prayer) Thank you, Father! With your help, I am ready to move forward.   

If you are ready to genuinely forgive your spouse, I encourage you to pray the below prayer.  If you are not ready to do so, there is no sense in faking the prayer.  Simply mark this section for later work when you feel you are ready to forgive.   

 Lord God, as you have forgiven me of all of my sins, so I now forgive my spouse for his offenses against me, our family and anyone else involved.  I specifically forgive him or her for: ________________(list the offenses).  I release these offenses to you, Father and defer to your administration of justice.  I will no longer harbor bitterness, resentment, malice or hatred toward my spouse for these offenses.   

Lord, please continue to heal all the wounds that I’ve received in conjunction with my spouse’s sin.  Help me to walk the road of love and forgiveness every day (pause for time of silent prayer). Thank you for promising to never leave me nor forsake me, Lord.  I love you and will continue to live for you.  In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.   

We discussed marital duty earlier in this section.  1 Corinthians 7:4-6 instructs us not to deprive one another sexually except by mutual consent and for a time of prayer.  Paul warned that sexual deprivation could give Satan an opportunity to tempt through people’s lack of self control.  I bring this up again here because sometimes sexual deprivation can be used a retaliatory weapon against the offending spouse.  Doing so may seem justified, but I suggest that this is a form of malice, and is therefore not pleasing to God. 

Please understand that I am not suggesting that a person should consent to his or her spouse’s perverted desires or abuse.  I am simply encouraging spouses to be sexually available to their spouse if at all possible.   

If you have been depriving your spouse of sex in retaliation for what they’ve done to you, please take a moment to confess that and ask God’s forgiveness.  Here is a prayer for this: 

Heavenly Father, I confess that I’ve been depriving my spouse of sex in retaliation for the hurt he or she has caused me.  I repent from that and ask for your forgiveness.  I release that desire for revenge to you and ask for healing of my emotions, especially as related to having sexual relations with my spouse.  Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen. 

Words as weapons
Words are often the path of choice for anger to be expressed. When we’ve been wounded we will naturally want to defend ourselves and fight back.  Words can be potent weapons and can deeply wound a person. Solomon wrote, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).  Nothing can be as satisfying as landing a few choice words that cut to the heart of the person who hurt us, right?  While this is a natural desire, it can easily bring about more destruction than the initial offense.   Our mouths must be brought under God’s authority!☺.  Accordingly, God gives us plenty of guidance regarding words.  

Solomon wrote, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NASB).  Our unrestrained words will almost certainly lead to more trouble. They will also bring us under judgment with God, who will hold us accountable for our words.  Jesus spoke of this day of reckoning:   

 34"You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.
 35"The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.
 36"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.
 37"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."                                                         
Matthew 12:34-37 NASB

The inspiration for words is often whatever is in our hearts.  Jesus referred to the good or evil “treasure” in the heart.  Our words give power to this treasure – power to do good or evil.  The potential of this power is significant.  Consider this passage: 

    20With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.  21Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.  Proverbs 18:20-21 NASB

Our words can have the power of life and death, and can affect the person we are speaking to, but also ourselves!  

Take a moment to evaluate the words you have directed toward your spouse recently.  Have you tried to wound him or her through words?  If so, take a moment to confess that to God and ask him to cancel out the damage that your words may have caused.   Additionally, though your words may have been well-deserved, I encourage you to apologize to your spouse.   

It has been said that “talk is cheap,” but the value of pleasant words cannot be understated.  Solomon wrote, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24 NIV).  Pleasant words can affect both the body and soul of a person – even to the point of bringing healing.  Paul touched on this concept when he encouraged the Ephesians to speak good words to edify and encourage People, and put away all evil speech (Ephesians 4:29-31). 

May be its just me, but it seems like there is a vast shortage of encouragers in the world today.  When I’m around an encourager, such as my wife, it is like having a cool glass of water in the middle of a desert.  Encouragement brings life and energy to us.  It revives us and strengthens us to press on and not give up.   

I believe that God’s desire is for all of us to be encouragers and speakers of good words.  No matter how dire a situation might be, God can help us find good things to say that will bring life and light into the situation.  It may take some effort and going a little out of our way to do it, but it will bless God’s heart when we do.  It will also bless us too!  Here is a suggested prayer for help in that regard: 

Heavenly Father, thank you for the powerful gift of speech. Please help me to restrain my lips from speaking evil.   Please help me find positive ways to speak to my spouse in order to edify him or her.  Thank you, Father! I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Manipulation
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines manipulate as, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage.”  In the often difficult circumstances that sex addiction creates in a marriage, a person might resort to manipulation in attempt to get his or her spouse to abstain from their habits.  They might use guilt, nagging or even the sexual deprivation as tools of manipulation.  Though such means may be for a good cause (i.e. preserving the marriage), the fact remains that they are forms of control, which are akin to witchcraft.    

The link between witchcraft and manipulation might seem obscure at first glance.  Consider that God created each of us with a free will with which we can choose to do good or evil. God will never make anyone do something against his or her will.  When someone attempts to make a person do things according to his or her will (i.e. manipulate them), they are violating a person’s free will. Witchcraft operates on the same principle of one's will superseding another's.  Let’s look at an example of witchcraft from the scriptures:  

20 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds. I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls go, the souls you hunt like birds. 21 I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.
22 “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. 23 Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”’”
Ezekiel 13:20-23 NKJV 

False prophets were using witchcraft (magic charms, false visions and divination) to “ensnare” people and influence their behavior.  This evil power was used to dishearten upstanding people and encourage evildoers in sin.   Note that the witchcraft had real power and produced real effects which included death in some cases!  This power was not of God, but rather, it was demonic.  While manipulation is less drastic, it still can be considered a toned down version of witchcraft, as its intent is to influence another person's behavior potentially against their own will.

The temptation to manipulate can be enhanced by the realization that we lack power to change our mate.  In response, we may use whatever control techniques we can to influence our spouse.  Some people may even ask God in prayer to help them manipulate their spouse.  These type of prayers are known as “soulish” prayers, and often people don’t even realize that praying such prayers displeases God.  There is a fine line between a manipulative prayer and a prayer for God to intervene in situation, so we should be careful how we pray!   

Fear is likely at the core of the desire to manipulate, such as the fear of being out of control, the fear of failure, the fear of divorce, the fear of abandonment, etc.. Some may fear that if they don’t do something, nobody, including God, will.   To address such fears we can start by surrendering the situation to God and re-entrusting our spouse to his care.  We should remember that it is not our responsibility to change our spouse, but rather, our spouse is the one who must decide to change and connect with God for the power to do so.   

Have you been using manipulation against your spouse?  If so, in what ways?  

 

 

What are the fears that are behind the manipulation?

 

 

 

If you have been manipulating your spouse, I encourage you to confess it to God and repent from it.  Please also turn over the root fears to God and entrust them to Him.  Here is a prayer to do so: 

Heavenly Father, I confess that I have tried to manipulate my spouse by _________________ (describe the method).  I also recognize the fear(s) that has been linked to this; specifically, the fear of  ______________________ (list).  Please repent from taking things into my own hands and for not believing that you will help me and my spouse.   Lord, I entrust my spouse and his or her struggles to you.  Please help me to stand in faith and not react to fear.  Please help me resist the temptation to manipulate my spouse.  I lift up my spouse to you and ask that you would create in him/her a hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Please change his/her heart and give them a desire to be free of addiction.  I will be patient, yet persistent with my prayers to this end. Thank you, Lord God!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


[1] Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1985), 972.

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