Wives and Porn: What Not to Say after She Knows – Part 1

Another wife, another victim of her husband’s porn problem. Another marriage reeling in pain and shame. I kept listening to her reading her journal.

“God, I come to you very weak and broken, grieved over my husband’s sin. I feel shocked, betrayed, angry, distrustful, and sad at sin’s corrupting power – very aware of my own desperate need for grace as I confront him.”

I wrote these words in a journal entry when I discovered that my husband had been viewing porn. Although I knew of his struggle prior to our marriage, I naively assumed that he was finished battling porn and that our marital bliss would provide the antidote he needed against temptation. I felt my dream of a happy, secure marriage in which I felt compellingly beautiful to my husband were instantly shattered that afternoon.”

In the ache of her raw emotions and pain, what would you say to this woman if she reached out to you?? I’ve sat with hundreds of women over the years who’ve faced the trauma of a husband’s sexual unfaithfulness. As if being betrayed wasn’t enough, many people tell these women unhelpful things that heap more confusion and pain onto their situation.

Here are five things never to say immediately to a wife after she learns her husband has been unfaithful sexually through sins like pornography, adultery, and sexual fantasy.

  1. “Well, you do realize don’t you, that most men, including Christians, struggle with these things?”

This kind of response minimizes both the ugliness of sin and the real pain a wife experiences. Yes, reports keep coming in with staggering and sobering statistics regarding how many men (and increasing numbers of women) are struggling with pornography addiction. However, as well meaning as it may be to attempt to normalize sin, these words will wound rather than help a wife just after she has learned that her husband is also a struggler.

  1. “I know it seems impossible now, but God is going to make something so beautiful out of this! Before you know it, you’ll be looking back on this with praise and thanksgiving!”

Those who want to truly offer comfort and help to a wife need to avoid spiritualizing her pain, which is something so easy for us to do when we feel uncomfortable.

A time will come when we will need to challenge and exhort this hurting woman with God’s redemptive purposes through trials. Often however, a wife first needs to be comforted and known by someone, to be able to hear and comprehend what God’s bigger picture may be. It’s always a good idea to encourage someone to look to Christ; it’s just as important, however, to discern what a traumatized person is ready to hear and receive.

  1. “Wow, if you think that’s bad…listen to what so and so’s husband did! At least what your husband did isn’t ___________________.”

One-upping someone’s difficult circumstances rarely leads to Christ-centered encouragement. Furthermore, minimizing a woman’s specific situation and pain attached to it can be devastating. Comparing stories so as to make a wife’s own not seem so bad will actually communicate that she shouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

  1. “I know you’re hurting right now, but I have to ask you, how often are you having sex with him? Have you asked him recently if there were ways you needed to change your appearance to please him?”

Oh, the anger that boils up in my heart when women tell me this is what friends and spiritual leaders have said to them in the vulnerable minutes after they reveal their anguish! Sex shared in love between a husband and wife is important. However, a lack of sex is never the cause of another’s sinful choices. Never place blame on a wife for what her husband has pursued and done. Two people contribute to every broken marriage in one way or another, but God holds each of us responsible for our own sinful choices.

  1. “What?! Are you kidding me? Men are all the same…and we all know they’re after one thing: satisfying their own selfish lusts. Time for you to get OUT of this marriage.”

Sexual sin is a grievous breaking of the marriage covenant between a husband and wife. There are many marriages which do not survive the anguish of this form of betrayal. However, there are many marriages which not only survive but thrive in a rich new flourishing after a long season of healing, hard work, forgiveness, and restored trust. You don’t know what can happen, so never make definitive pronouncements to a wife whose world has been rocked.

Now that we’ve covered some of the don’ts, next week I’ll share several do’s that can guide you in offering both truth and mercy to hurting wives.


Ellen talks more about this on her accompanying video: What should I NOT say to a hurting wife. These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
Ellen Mary Dykas
About The Author
Ellen oversees the Philadelphia office’s ministry to women. Her ministry is focused on discipleship with women who are struggling with sexual and relational sins in their own lives, as well as women who are impacted by the sexual sins of their spouses or others. Ellen is available to teach, equip and encourage others (churches, organizations) to become more effective in ministering the gospel of Christ into the midst of all aspects of sexual brokenness.

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