Cynthia interviews Vicki Tiede, author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography.
Cynthia: This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter podcast for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world. Pornography, it’s
so easy to find these days. And many men, and a few women, are actually getting very addicted. What steps can you take if your husband is one of those people?
Or what about a friend, a friend’s husband? I have invited today Vicki Tiede to share with us. Vicki has written a book called When Your Husband is Addicted to
Pornography. Welcome, Vicki!
Vicki: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
Cynthia: Vicki, what is going on? Do you know what the statistics are for this?
Vicki: The numbers are staggering. The latest is that 60% of Christian homes are dealing with this issue. I’ve heard as high as 70% of
Christian men are struggling with pornography. And the crazy thing is 56% of all divorces, not just Christian divorces but all divorces, involve at least one of the partners being involved in pornography. So it is having a tremendous impact on marriages.
Cynthia: You had this experience yourself. Tell me what happened when you found out.
Vicki: It was very early in my first marriage when I discovered that my husband was struggling with pornography. I take that back. He was not struggling, he was just engaging in pornography. I actually tell women they can count themselves lucky if their husband is struggling with this because it’s an indication that the Holy Spirit’s at work. But in my case my husband was engaging in pornography, he wasn’t coming to bed at night. Many
nights I’d wake up and he would have gotten up and was on the computer in the middle of the night. Computer history was erased, and it was impacting our
relationship in huge ways.
At first I blamed myself. I thought there’s something wrong with me. I was a newlywed, he didn’t want to be intimate, and he was choosing
the computer over me. And I just felt so betrayed, and I tried to fix things myself. Fixing myself, what do I need to do. I went into counseling thinking there’s something terribly wrong with me. In the long run we persisted through this and the behavior escalated. There was never a turning from the behavior or even an acknowledgment that this was wrong or detrimental to our relationship. It escalated until he took a trip with someone else, he had a post office box and was getting correspondence with people he’d meet online. It became a dangerous situation.
In the end my pastor and my Christian counselor, in collaboration with me, we recognized that now it wasn’t just relationally, but we were going to be experiencing some physical ramifications if we didn’t end the marriage. And so that was the decision I had to make, and it was certainly the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do.
Cynthia: The interesting thing is that our society tolerates an awful lot of this, and they look at certain of these things, particularly the early stages of pornography,
as just a victimless crime. As an adult they can do what they want, right? But that doesn’t seem like what you’re saying. You’re saying that as a wife you really suffered.
Vicki: Oh, without question. You’re absolutely right. People will say oh, boys will be boys and they’re going to do this and everybody’s doing it. And certainly you can hardly watch prime time sitcoms without even seeing references to pornography. Without question there are victims of this. Women, wives, are significantly impacted beyond what their husband can even imagine.
I think for many Christian men there’s a tremendous amount of shame that they have for the behavior. They do sense and feel that conviction of the Holy Spirit, and know that it’s wrong. And where they feel shame the women turn that around and they feel rejected. So they’re dealing with that. And very often, a third of the men who are struggling with pornography, lose their jobs. So then you have financial ramifications that don’t just impact your wife or yourself, but your children as well. As soon as pornography is in the home you are subjecting your little ones to the possibility of encountering pornography, and also inheriting a lifelong struggle with this
Cynthia: Sin destroys everything it touches, and I think that’s what we have a hard time wrapping our arms around. Because sexual sins, people say well it’s no worse
than telling a lie, it’s no big deal, it is a big deal. Because the consequences are so much greater than other areas of your life. And you’re describing feeling badly about yourself, as perhaps you were not good enough, and that is so sad. Because we know from Scripture that we’re so valuable to Jesus Christ.
Vicki: Absolutely. And you know what? He chooses us and He sees us as beautiful. All of the things that we struggle with when our husband is addicted to pornography, the sense of betrayal, and we know that God will never leave us and He will never abandon us, and we feel like our husband is saying I’m not beautiful enough. I need to
be a smaller size, I need to be more available. And God doesn’t see us that way. And so it sends just a huge number of false messages to a woman.
And what’s interesting is it’s so critical that she take the time to heal herself. Because what happens is I talk to hundreds of women in this situation as a result of the book and sharing my experience, I often hear women tell me you know what? My husband did struggle with pornography, but he got help and he has an accountability group, he meets with the pastor, he has filtering software, we’re completely on the up and up now. I really know he is
porn free, and yet I still don’t want him to touch me and I don’t want to be intimate with him, and I certainly don’t want him to see me without clothes on.
I don’t trust him.
Very often it’s because all of the work has been done on his side of the relationship with this issue, but she hasn’t dealt with the damaged emotions that she’s experienced.
Cynthia: That was something else I was going to ask you, because I notice in your book you were talking about intimacy and how that’s supposed to be part of a marriage.
And yet you don’t want to do it, and then you feel guilty when you don’t because you feel like you’re causing the problem. And so you’re caught in kind of a lose-lose situation and you’re sort of stuck. And that’s a serious situation because marriage is so important to God. How did you get past that?
Because obviously you’ve done some healing.
Vicki: You know, I think I did what a lot of women do. I initially tried to fix the situation and I tried to alter circumstances. I lost weight, I did all sorts of things. But I didn’t feel better until I really understood that my healing was going to come at the foot of the cross and that I needed to know who God says
that I am and what He has to say about this situation
All of the damaged emotions that I had, I was angry, I was terribly afraid. Afraid that we would never have a time in our marriage where this wasn’t an issue. I had guilt for how I did handle the different circumstances. I didn’t do this all well. I was not very Christ-like many times. I had to deal with all of those things and deal with them at the foot of the cross, and understand what the wonderful Counselor has to say about those issues. Once I worked through that, through Scripture, I really did have
healing and I didn’t anymore carry this baggage and this need for vengeance with me.
Cynthia: I noticed at one point in the book you talked about the tendency to want to be the porn police. Can you talk about that a little?
Vicki: Absolutely. And you know what? I’m sure you have listeners that as soon as they heard that they said yes, I know exactly what that is. Because you don’t trust, and you know that this pornography issue is always shrouded in lies. Typically there is a sense of guilt and shame on his part, and so he tries to cover it up. What
happens is once you are aware of the situation, as soon as your husband leaves the house or isn’t right there, you’re looking. You’re looking for evidence
that he is engaging in pornography. You’re checking the computer. If you’ve found things in the house, magazine or videotapes or whatever, you start digging, knowing that it’s going to be hidden.
And you’re constantly looking over his shoulder. And you know what? That’s a natural response, so I’m not here to shake my finger at anybody. But it’s not a healthy way to live for the long term. Especially if your desire and your hope is to have restoration in your relationship. But it takes time. It takes time and trust is not something that is recovered easily or quickly. It’s earned based on minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour choices that both you and your husband make.
Cynthia: Now that’s something that I think is important to really highlight, because forgiveness is one issue. Forgiveness means that I’m not going to hold that particular sin against him, I’m going to let the Lord take care of that. But trust is another one entirely because that you have to build a bridge, one brick at a time, and it takes a long time for that bridge to get finished. And that’s something if you try to trust him too quick it’s dangerous.
Vicki: It is. And you know what? I think when we get married we have these huge expectations and dreams of what our married life is going to be. We put 100% of our trust in this person, more than any human being really can handle. We’re all flawed. We all make mistakes. We all have our issues. And that will be another situation too, where we tend to think, oh my husband’s doing pornography and so we start to have black and white thinking that he’s all bad and I’m all good. And that is not the case. We have to address that issue as well.
But there’s a certain degree of trust that we have to withhold, a degree of trust that really can only be given to our heavenly Father. And then there’s this human level of trust that we hope to have in ourmarriages. They’re not the same. We can’t have that sold out 100%. We have to understand that there’s a level of trust and it is earned based on our choices.
Cynthia: Absolutely. And there are some thing that your husband cannot do. So while we want him to be THE knight in shining armor, we have to be careful that the only one that is completely the knight in shining armor is Jesus Christ. Because He can do it. I love your tone in this book, because you’re continually saying I’m sitting across from you and I want to just hold your hand right now because I don’t want you to do this and I want you to do this instead. Can you tell some of those thing that you encourage women to do?
Vicki: I think it’s important for women to know that they’re not alone. When this is happening in your life you feel incredibly alone. There’s a growing sense of safety for men to talk about this issue, especially in the church, and I’m excited about that. That is great news, something to be celebrated. But very often the church doesn’t know what to do with the wife. What do we do, and are they even aware of the fact that she’s been damaged by this?
And so the reasons why I talk about, and as a result women feel very isolated, very alone, if their husband hasn’t talked to anyone about the struggle, they especially feel like they have to protect his reputation so that he doesn’t lose his job or whatever. So as a result a woman feels very alone. So I want women to know that they are not alone. That there are support opportunities, that they need to find someone who is a godly, trustworthy, Christian woman who they can share their struggle with so that they have someone who will walk beside them. Ideally it’s going to be someone who has been in their shoes, who has experienced this. Because no one really understands unless you’ve been there.
I think that’s one of the most important things I want women to know. That this isn’t their dirty little secret that has to be kept. This isn’t something you want to broadcast to the world, nor is it something you should keep completely to yourself and just get over it.
And the other thing that I really want women to understand is this is not her fault. That in the end we’re all responsible for ourselves and how we walk in obedience to God’s word, or don’t. And she can’t control her husband’s choices, but she can control her own. I’m not talking about just how she responds to her husband, but also how she chooses to find healing. Even if it’s in the midst of an ongoing struggle that she can still have a whole heart. She can still find a joy and strength in the Lord, despite the fact that her husband’s currently making bad choices. That’s a beautiful thing. But for a woman to understand that this is nothing about her.
And you know what? Perhaps things have changed. Maybe you don’t have the same body you had when you got married because you’ve now had X number of children, and bodies change and you’re getting older, and a variety of things can contribute to that. But that does not give license for a husband to go look at pornography. If nothing else that’s a badge of honor that you wear because of this gift that you’ve given him in children. It should draw you closer and not further apart.
I talk mostly about that physical piece there because so often that’s what women think. If I looked like the women on the screen he wouldn’t be going there. We can’t compete with digitally-enhanced women.
Cynthia: Can you just give a second here. For women like me, I don’t have a husband involved in that. But I would like to be able to love
someone who has been there. What kind of things could I do?
Vicki: You know what? Listen. Listen. And I think especially if you’ve not walked in your friend’s shoes, to not feel like you need to have the answers. Because I think it’s so true. I don’t know what it’s like to be a widow. I have friends who are widows and I would never think that I could tell them how they should be feeling or respond, because I’m not a widow. I think it’s hard to know exactly what it’s like to have cancer unless you’ve had cancer. All these different things
I think it’s important for you to just be there for your friend, and listen. Encourage her with Scripture. Point her toward resources or toward support groups where there is a group of women. When I’m speaking I’ll have my book at the book table and no one will come up to the table. And I know it’s because they’re avoiding the book. The book. It’s a brown paper bag book. No one wants to go up because it’s admitting that my husband has an issue. And yet once I make the announcement that all of you know somebody who is dealing with this, whether you can name them or not, you all know people who have this happening in their life. So you buy the book for your friend, for your neighbor, for your sister, for whomever. And once that happens people start buying the book like crazy, because in fact we do all know somebody. And to
assume that we don’t is really wrong.
Even I, after writing the book and talking to hundreds of women, I’ll sit in a group of women who are perhaps, like for example I homeschool so I can sit in a small group of homeschool moms and I’ll think surely nobody in this room. Surely this is the room that breaks that percentage and is wrong. And then in a short amount of time God will reveal to me, these women talking to me or some other way, that in fact several of them are walking this path.
There are a lot of pastor’s wives who are struggling with this issue, because this is a huge problem for pastors in our country. You know somebody. So be a friend, listen, point them toward resources, don’t judge. And as often well-intended friends and family members who are telling women well maybe if you did lose a little weight, or maybe if you were intimate more often. You know what? That’s almost making her a victim again. Those are things not to say to your friend.
Cynthia: But I believe that you are starting an online support group, is that correct?
Vicki: I am. I’m going to be doing this for small groups, eight to ten women that we will actually meet weekly for six weeks. We’ll work our way through the book and study together, study God’s Word, what is He saying about this, and support each other for six weeks at a time. And women can get information about that on my website, which is www.vickitiede.com If a group is full then we’ll start up another group, or there will be another one that will follow subsequently. But it will be a little video online group so we’ll see each other and meet weekly. But it’s private, because it’s not you going to a group of women who know you in your church, and I think that makes it a safe thing for a lot of women.
Cynthia: Vicki, I am so thankful that you shared your pain and were willing to reach out to other people.
Vicki: I wish I could say it’s my pleasure, but I will tell you that God does use broken experiences in our lives to expand our capacity for Him. I’m so thankful to be able to walk alongside sisters who are walking this path as well.
Cynthia: Thank you for doing that. I’m just really thrilled that you’re sharing your heart. I know it hurt, but you’re using that for God’s glory, and I just want to just really thank you and thank you for your time, and we’ll send people to you.
Vicki: Thank you so much. It was a blessing to be here.