06/25/14

Let the Marriage Bed Be Undefiled

One woman told me that she didn’t think she could even tell her closest female friend some of the things her husband had forced her to do sexually. Another woman spent about two months in counseling accompanied by her best friend before she trusted enough to meet with me alone. A woman went with a friend of hers to a conference on abuse to be supportive of the friend. She left the conference with an awareness of how her husband had sinned against her sexually. All three of these marriages were between professing Christians. All three husbands used pornography at some point in their lives.

I first heard about When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography by Vickie Tiede from a pastor as we talked about individuals and couples who struggle with porn addiction. Then someone I was counseling said reading it had really helped her. Then I heard that Harvest USA endorsed it, and finally read it. I was using another Harvest recommendation, Closing the Window by Tim Chester, when counseling men with sexual addiction problems. Now When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography and Closing the Window are my one-two punch in reading assignments when I counsel couples struggling with porn addiction.

From the very beginning, Tiede reaches out to minister to women hurting because of their husband’s pornography addiction. “If you are reading this introduction, it’s most likely because God had unveiled your husband’s secret addiction to lust, masturbation, and pornography. Perhaps I am the first to say this to you: I’m so sorry.” Her gentle, personal tone is evident even in the midst of honestly telling it like it is. She frequently shares from her own experience and those of other women to illustrate her various topics.

As she said in a YouTube video (available on her website, vickitiede.com): “I wrote this book because it’s my story.” Her first husband was addicted to pornography. She clearly tells her readers that the book is not a handbook to fix their husband. “It is for and about you, not your husband.”

The chapters of her book are structured as six “weeks” of themes, with five “days” of reading and contemplation around each theme: hope, surrender, trust, identity, brokenness, and forgiveness. The discussion themes are carefully grounded in Scripture. Vickie’s discussion of forgiveness is one of the best-reasoned and balanced ones I’ve ever read.

Discussion, testimony, bible study and assignments that apply to the material are throughout the book. She also lists several helpful resources, including internet filters, support groups and workshops, Christian ministry websites and professional counseling resources. As Vickie suggests, keep this resource handy to give out when there is an unexpected conversation with a neighbor or friend (or someone you counsel) whose husband struggles with porn addiction.

There is no biblical justification for using pornography. And whether a husband uses porn to feed his own lust or spice up his marital sex life, he abuses his wife and defiles his marriage. Let marriage be honored by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral (Hebrews 13:4). Unfortunately, there is a crucial need for Vickie Tiede’s book. Fortunately she had the courage to write it.

What other resources do you know of for women whose husbands are addicted to porn? 

06/18/14

Sometimes I Hate Marital Counseling

There are times when I really hate doing marital counseling. Sometimes it feels like I am watching a gun fight. Other times I feel like a dentist, trying to pull impacted wisdom teeth. Then there is the couple that waits until their marriage is on life support before seeking help.

A female friend once told me about a twenty-something niece of hers who was undecided about accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. They were both Christians. They loved each other and the woman did want to marry him, but she was afraid. She was afraid their marriage would turn out like her parents.

Every Sunday her family would go to church together. When they returned home, her parents resumed living separate lives under the same roof. Whatever were the problems in the relationship, her parents had long ago stopped trying to resolve them, stopped trying to nourish and cherish each other.

Too few Christian couples in trouble seek to become an Ephesians five example of Christ and the church.  Once a woman asked me,“ What does that look like?” I told her to study what Paul said in Ephesians four and the first part of chapter five about how Christians are to live as one body. An Ephesians five marriage looks like a husband and wife trying to jointly “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Eph 4:1) Often when counseling Christian couples I see exactly the opposite of this.

For several years now I’ve used Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Relationship when working with couples in crisis. She has a copy of the “Emotionally Destructive Relationship Test” from the book available on her website that I’ve found very helpful. This test is designed to look at multiple relationships—marriages, parent-child, siblings, friends.

She has also written The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, specifically for wives in controlling, destructive, abusive marriages. As she said in her Introduction, there are many good books about how to be godly wife or how to build a successful and happy marriage. “There aren’t many books written on how to wisely deal with a destructive and abusive marriage.” In my opinion, this is the best.

There is an Emotionally Destructive Marriage Test to help the reader evaluate whether or not she is in an emotionally destructive marriage. She helps wives see their marriage clearly. She challenges them to accept that change begins with them. Building four CORE strengths is the heart of that change, “with God at the center and with his help.” Another helpful assessment tool is “Sixteen Traits of a Healthy Marriage” to see whether a marriage is relatively healthy, even if it is disappointing.

Leslie also suggested to her readers how to initiate change in their marriages. In this section she gave advice on how to Learn to Speak up in Love, to Stand Up Against the Destruction; what to do When There is No Obvious Change. She then described some Necessary Changes for a Marriage to Heal and gave counsel on Restoring the Destructive Marriage. Each of these topics had it’s own chapter.

Her website also has a blog where she gives practical, Biblical advice for women in destructive marriages. There is an active blogging community where these women can “receive prayer, support, encouragement and wisdom” in the midst of their relationship struggles.

There are increasingly times that I really enjoy doing marriage counseling. Sometimes it feels like I am a coach to a dancing couple striving to get their routine just right. These are couples that truly want to become the husband and wife that God has called them to be. Here it is a privilege and a joy to be part of the process. I find that Leslie Vernick’s books and material are an integral part of that process.

Do you know someone who may be in an emotionally destructive marriage?