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It’s easy to fall in love, but to rebuild it after one spouse sexually sins has unique difficulties and challenges. Ellen interviews one couple who worked through the challenges and discovered how God knit them back together.

Click here to read Ellen’s complete interview with Drew and Tilina. And click here to read the full version of our latest harvestusa magazine.

 

After Drew’s admission of years of secret pornography usage, he and Tilina got involved with Harvest USA’s biblical support groups. Ellen Dykas, Harvest USA’s Woman’s Coordinator, asked them to share their story on what helped them reconnect and rebuild intimacy back into their marriage.

Ellen: Can you share briefly what happened in your marriage?

Tilina: Two years into our marriage, Drew confessed to years of pornography addiction. Our sexual intimacy had grown distant and infrequent, as his sexual sin caused him to experience arousal only through images and not a real human being: me, his wife! When his years of deceit came to light, my trust broke to pieces.

Ellen: What was most difficult—and most helpful—in rebuilding trust?

Tilina: Rebuilding trust certainly required effort from both of us. I needed honesty from Drew at all costs, no matter how minor the situation, because I had no gauge of what was true anymore. Hiding or omitting anything would be detrimental to me emotionally. I also needed answers to many questions, even those to which I feared the answers. I started with trusting God, knowing he had my best interest at heart and would help me to trust Drew again.

Drew: It was difficult to disclose and then handle the harsh results of my sin. I had to trust that God could redeem and heal the relationship by shedding my pride and selfishness, learning that the two of us couldn’t rebuild the intimacy of our marriage on our own. The most helpful thing for me was learning how to depend on God by being on my knees and crying out to him. Only the gospel and prayer allowed Tilina and me to grow into a restored marriage.

Ellen: How did Drew’s sexual betrayal impact your sexual relationship?

Tilina: I was stunned when I found out why Drew was so lacking in sexual desire and response to me. After discovering that, I not only lacked any desire to be intimate with him, I felt unattractive, unloved, and, most of all, not good enough as a woman. I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t feel safe around him. But I also desperately wanted to be enough for him. I felt trapped. I didn’t want to share myself sexually, but I would force myself in an attempt to keep him from viewing pornography, and he feared me thinking he was going back if he wasn’t petitioning me for sex. A year after Drew’s confession we were having sex often but not exactly for the right reasons. Our sexual relationship was driven by fear.

A year after Drew’s confession we were having sex often but not exactly for the right reasons. Our sexual relationship was driven by fear.

Ellen: So if you realized that your sexual relationship at that point was unhealthy, what did you do then?

Tilina: In order for us to reconnect inside the bedroom, we first had to develop a strong connection outside the bedroom. The most important thing was being vulnerable. We wanted our sexual relationship to be the “icing on top” of our increasing emotional and spiritual intimacy. After much prayer and discussion, we decided to fast from sex for 90 days.

Our purpose was to grow emotionally and spiritually, and also for Drew to attempt to rewire his brain from the damage caused by years of pornography. This trying and grueling task showed us how God knit us more closely together even when sex wasn’t an active part of our relationship. During that time we daily prayed and read devotions together. We also practiced extended cuddling and uninterrupted listening, both of which allowed us to grow closer. All this helped us to put our sexual relationship in a much better place.

Ellen: How would you encourage a hurting spouse who is fearful about moving forward sexually, post-betrayal?

 Tilina: Rebuilding sexual intimacy is tough, because you’ll both feel so far apart. You may find that what cannot be said can instead be felt through touch. Other times, you may be able to talk but still be unable to let yourself be vulnerable enough to touch each other intimately or make love like you used to. Talk to each other directly about your feelings. Be honest if you don’t want to have sex. If you’re open to being physical, but not sexual, tell your spouse what those things are. If you both feel safe, this can move toward sexual intercourse, but it doesn’t have to. Touching, hugging, snuggling, or even showering together may be the goal for the first few weeks or months. Try to be patient with one another and take your time.

Let me encourage you that there is beauty in the struggle. I heard a pastor once say, “Whatever we seek to cover, God will expose it. Whatever we expose God will cover.” Through all this our desperate need for grace becomes illuminated by a perfect loving Savior who grips us into his arms. 

Drew: I would encourage a husband who was the betrayer that moving forward is going to burn. I cannot sugarcoat this. But it’s not a furnace of annihilation; rather it’s the grace of refinement. Your pride and self-worship will be chiseled away. Though at first fear and uncertainty may set in, don’t give up; when you realize that God is working all things for your good, you can be more vulnerable to expose your weaknesses and disclose the warfare in your heart. You’ll see your spouse as a helpmate, a friend who truly loves and cares for you, rather than feeling like she’s a drill sergeant or CSI detective.

During this time take steps to build your relationship with your wife vertically; that is, reintroduce God. Pray together, read the Bible together. Horizontally, set up date nights, sleep naked with each other, and fast from sex to rebuild intimacy as you learn to love each other once again without the mask.

Let me encourage you that there is beauty in the struggle. I heard a pastor once say, “Whatever we seek to cover, God will expose it. Whatever we expose God will cover.” Through all this our desperate need for grace becomes illuminated by a perfect loving Savior who grips us into his arms.

Drew and Tilina Chheang have been married for four years. They have a two-year-old son and two daughters, ages 12 and 15, from a previous marriage. Drew works in the housing industry and plans to attend seminary in the near future. Tilina is a stay-at-home mother and intends to continue her education with a Masters in counseling.


Watch Ellen’s interview with Drew and Tilina Chheang here. These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.

For a large majority of men today, the ubiquity of porn on the Internet and its ability to provide unlimited access to it (especially via search engines) means that the issue is no longer, “Have you looked at porn?” but rather, “Are you actively looking at porn?” Many wives may already fear or suspect that their husbands are engaging in pornography.

Looking at porn is not harmless (see the short video of Bob Heywood’s struggle with porn and its impact on his marriage). But the problem is that pornography usage is usually hidden, a closely guarded secret. What if you suspect that porn is impacting your marriage (or your relationship with your boyfriend or fiancé)? Here are some things you can look for, as well as steps you can take to bring healing.

Signs that may indicate usage of porn:

  • Unusual decrease in sexual activity between you and your husband—and increasing relationship distance physically.
  • Mental distance between the two of you. He’s physically present but not mentally there when you seek to engage him.
  • Late-night computer activity, especially a pattern of needing to use the computer after you have gone to bed.
  • He quickly changes the screen when someone comes into the room, and he is spending more and more time on the computer.
  • Secrecy regarding finances, like not letting you see credit card statements.
  • Any gaps in accountability for time and finances.
  • No history on the web browser after he spends time on the computer (keep in mind that private browser windows are pretty standard today, leaving behind zero web history).

What steps can you take?

Viewing pornography is sexual sin and is not “just what men do.” While painful and devastating for any wife to acknowledge, you must honestly face the reality of sexual sin impacting your marriage. Now is not the time to be passive. You have a vital role to play in helping your husband break free.

  1. Know that the Lord has comfort for you! He has not abandoned you or your marriage. Feelings of grief, shock, fear, and despair are normal for the wife who’s just discovered her husband’s porn usage. God is your compassionate Father and source of comfort and strength. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)
  1. See this as a real threat to your marriage. Don’t deny it or hope that it will just go away. Now is the time for you to battle hard for your marriage through prayer, courageous confrontation, and humble reliance upon the Lord.
  1. Talk openly with your husband about your concerns. You may need to acknowledge that this is a common problem for men today, even Christian men, so come alongside him rather than take an oppositional role. Watch for his response to your inquiry. Is there defensiveness, anger, deflection? Check your own heart for self-righteous indignation.
  1. Pray for and seek helpers who can encourage you and pray with you. Seek out godly Christian women or any ministry leader who is a “safe” person for you to talk with (someone who has track record of godly living, is compassionate, and is trustworthy with confidences). Talk with your pastor.
  1. Don’t put yourself in the position of being his “porn police” or primary accountability partner. If he admits he is struggling, tell him to talk to one of his friends or his pastor to set up accountability. If there is a group of men who meet regularly for these issues, encourage him to attend.
  1. Do not think or accept (if your husband suggests) that his porn issue is your fault. He is responsible for his own behavior. His behavior comes from within his own heart (Matthew 15:17-20), and your behavior cannot cause him to look at porn.
  1. Consider marriage counseling with a pastor, counselor, or a trusted couple. This may be a perfect time for both of you to seek assistance to talk through ongoing issues or problems. Couples that do not talk openly about their struggles, needs, and disappointments (especially sexual problems and disappointments) are wounding their marriage. They need to be willing to look deeply at motivations and past events that affect their relationship with each other. Since sexual sin is so dangerous and powerful, it is something which must be dealt with openly—with the help of other Christians. Your marriage will not survive if this is not dealt with and if your husband refuses to seek help.
  1. Run to the Lord as your refuge! Psalm 16:1-2 says that God is your strength, hope, and safe place as you navigate these painful and scary waters in your marriage. You cannot control your husband’s heart or his response to the Lord, but you can bring your own needs, pain, and confusion to him, and you need to!

Christian couples dare not keep sexual sin hidden in the shadows. It will only get worse, and its potential to destroy the marriage is real. The hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we can find restoration, reconciliation, and victory, even over deeply embedded sin patterns. There is hope for deep change and profound healing through the power of Jesus Christ.

We have a great devotional book for wives dealing with this issue in their marriage. It’s called When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart, by Vickie Tiede. You can check it out here.

 

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.

In September we will launch an support group for wives of men struggling with sexual issues. This will be held every other Thursday evening.

This will be a time for sharing, discussion, and prayer for women. We will consider how the hope of the Gospel gives women encouragement and strength when facing a husband’s sexual sin.

Led by Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, we will be reading False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, by Harry Schaumburg.

To participate in this group interested women must set up and meet for an initial interview with Ellen Dykas, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, prior to attending. Ellen’s contact information, email: [email protected] or phone: 215-482-0111, ext. 108.


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