Marital Secrets

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If a married man working toward recovery in 423 Men is experiencing marital disharmony, he accepts responsibility to do his part to fix his marriage, or die trying. Does that sound overly dramatic? It shouldn’t, because that’s what the Bible teaches:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

— Ephesians 5.25 NIV

Jesus died for the church and we are to love our wives in the same sacrificial way Christ loved the church; that is, to the death. I used to tell my wife, “I’d take a bullet for you.” My promise to die never seemed to overly impress my her. “I’d rather have you take out the garbage once in a while.” What my wife really wanted was for me to listen better and help more around the house. Not a very dazzling or manly job description. I’d rather get kudos for being a hero than for washing the dishes, but serving my wife unselfishly was God’s way for me to die – die to self.

One day my wife observed in my hearing, “There are clean clothes at the bottom of the stairs.” I knew it was my job to listen to her, so I trotted right over to the steps leading to the second level of our home and confirmed what she told me, “Why yes, dear. There are clean clothes at the bottom of the stairs.” I thought I had fulfilled my husbandly duty. I listened to and even affirmed my wife’s statement. What she actually meant was, “Please find the clean clothes in the laundry basket at the foot of the stairs and take them up to the bedrooms.” My first thought was, “Why didn’t you just say so?” but I somehow understood the folly of that course of action. As dense as I was, I had to admit that even I knew the meaning of her words. In this instance, I deliberately missed an opportunity to love my wife “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I was unwilling (at first) to die to self on her behalf. (I eventually took the laundry basket upstairs.)

It’s occasionally good to revisit your marriage vows:

"I, _______________,
take you, _______________,
to be my wedded wife,
and I do promise before God and these witnesses,
to be your loving and faithful husband,
and to cherish you, in plenty and in want,
in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health,
for better or for worse, as long as we both shall live."

Do you feel differently today than you did on the day you first made this pledge? Visualize your woman whose “worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31.10 NAS) and quietly repeat these vows in your mind to her now. Have you fulfilled them, entirely, partially, or not at all? If you have been in pursuit of porneia at any time since your wedding day, or even since the first day of your engagement, then you have not entirely fulfilled your intended or actual vows to be a “loving and faithful husband.” Unless you have already told her of your infractions, you have something to confess to your wife. Learning to love your marriage companion is a lifelong adventure, and part of the journey includes full disclosure.

Your wife should expect, and certainly deserves, singular and exclusive sexual devotion of the kind described by Solomon:

“Drink water from your own cistern,
And fresh water from your own well.
Should your springs be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be yours alone,
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.”

— Proverbs 5.15-19 NASB

If, instead, you have chosen to “embrace the bosom of a foreigner” (Proverbs 5.20 NAS) bearing the name porneia, don’t you think she deserves to know?

“Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?
For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD,
and He examines all his paths.
The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
His own iniquities will capture the wicked,
the cords of his sin hold him fast.
He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.”

— Proverbs 5.20-23 NIV 1984

Many men with sexually addictive behavior patterns try to keep their wives in the dark. “I can’t tell my wife about my porn use because I don’t want to hurt her” which more likely means, “I can’t tell my wife about my porn use because I don’t want her to hurt me!” You may have good reason to fear. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”[1] As a husband, you have probably learned that your wife has the power to inflict pain, and your failure to disclose may be driven as much by your need for self-preservation than by a sincere desire to keep from causing grief to your “wedded wife.” The charade will not last. Wives will eventually learn the truth for one simple reason… secrets don’t work.

Occasionally, a woman will cooperate with her mate’s misbehavior by choosing not to pry. Perhaps she is afraid to learn of the truth she suspects, but as she willingly closes her eyes to the facts, she involuntarily closes her heart to her “wedded husband.” His dirty little secret is, “I use porn.” Hers is, “I don’t want to know,” or worse, “I know and don’t care.” This unwholesome arrangement undermines their covenant of love to the detriment of both marriage partners.

My wife and I made an agreement early in our union… “No secrets.” My beloved and I always believed this policy was in the best interest of our marital union, so I told her everything. I’m pretty sure she did the same. We kept no secrets.

There are no secrets with God. He sees all, and eventually, so does everyone else. Speaking on behalf of God, the prophet Jeremiah stated, “For I am closely watching you, and I see every sin. You cannot hope to hide from me” (Jeremiah 16.17 TLB). Secrecy is an illusion. To think otherwise is the porn addict’s folly:

“He says to himself, ‘God will never notice;
He covers his face and never sees.’”

— Psalm 10.11 NIV 2011

“The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk;
he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’
and he keeps his face concealed.”

— Job 24.15 NIV

Wouldn’t it be better to proactively inform your wife of improprieties than reactively defend yourself when she learns of them? Jesus said, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8.17 NKJV). Of this you may be assured… the person you are on the inside and the things you do in secret will someday be known by anyone who cares to know, including your wife.

“Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand,
Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man;
But as sure as God made black and white,
What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.”[2]”

Some guys tell me, “My wife is my accountability partner.” Personally, I think that is a bad idea. Allow me to illustrate. Let’s pretend your closest friend is a ‘violence addict’ with a particular affinity for stabbing people with a sharp knife. Periodically, he is overcome with blood-lust and thrusts a blade into your back. When you awake from surgery, your friend is at your bedside and ready to confess. “I’m so sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me. When you get out of the hospital, we will start all over and pretend this never happened. I know I have a problem, but I am trying to get help. I still love you. You are my best friend. Would you be my ‘accountability partner’? Every time I feel the desire to stab you, I will confess and you can hold me accountable. If I stab you when you are not looking, I promise to quickly admit my sin and you can help me not to do that again. Agreed?”

I think you can see the foolishness of such an offer. You may not intend to hurt your wife, but your pursuit of porneia does exactly that. Unlike the members of your 423 Men group, she cannot remain ‘arm’s length’ or objective. Your woman is bleeding emotionally because you betrayed her. She is not sure she can trust you. Her ears are deaf to your hollow assurances. She wants change, not promises. You must confess and fully disclose to your beloved if you intend to properly recover, but do not expect her to make you better. That’s your job, not hers. Find followers of Jesus who, like you, struggle with sexual sin and and are fighting the good fight of purity. Take the recovery plunge with them.

[1] Paraphrase of line by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII of “The Mourning Bride” (1697) by 17th century English playwright, William Congreve. The actual quotation is “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell as fury like a woman scorned.”

[2] Johnny Cash “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” from posthumous album American V: A Hundred Highways, released 2006.

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Dave ScrivenComment