Shortly after midnight, I awoke from sleep to discover that my husband had not yet come to bed. This had happened before, but on that fateful night something prodded me to get up.
I found him in another room, viewing Internet pornography on his laptop. I was horrified. Never in our twenty-five years of marriage had I thought that my spouse would break his wedding vows to me. Yet here he was, in essence inviting other women to enter into the sacred space meant for only the two of us.
I kept hoping that the scene was a nightmare. But no, this was for real. My life was shattered.
In the awful hours that followed, I felt that God was the only one I had to rely on. I have wonderful family and friends, but they could not fix this. And since my husband and I had always agreed to keep problems between us—not to “air our dirty laundry,” so to speak—I could only keep silent and cling to God. Looking back, I can only describe what happened over the next few weeks as the providence of God.
The very next day, my husband and I had to travel out of state to attend a wedding. This brought me the first sign of God’s providence: the gift of an entire day in the company of the bride’s parents, who were close friends of ours. What good people! At one point while we were talking, I broke down and started to cry. They kindly inquired what was wrong. Though I could not tell them, I felt loved and supported when they assured me that they were there for me.
When we returned to our hotel, my husband and I began to talk. We talked for hours, with me doing a great deal of sobbing and going through a mountain of tissues. But something amazing happened that night: I was able to forgive my husband. I can attribute this only to God’s power at work in the Sacrament of Marriage, for I am not a person who usually forgives easily. I know I could not have extended forgiveness on my own. Clearly, God, the third Person in our marriage, was at work!
For his part, my husband made three important decisions that night. First, he vowed to always come to bed when I did. Second, to avoid temptation, he decided to keep his computer in the dining room rather than in more private rooms. Third, we resumed our practice of repeating our wedding vows to one another before bedtime, as we had done in the early years of our marriage. We also began praying together every night and, eventually, every morning. We took St. Joseph, the protector of families and model for husbands, as our special patron and have felt his strong intercession ever since.
Helps for Healing.
That night marked the beginning of great change and healing for our marriage, but we still had a lot to work on. For me, even though my forgiveness was genuine, I needed a great deal of personal healing. I also had to start from the ground up to rebuild trust in my husband. Whenever the memory of finding him engrossed in those images came into my head, I refused to think about it. I knew I would have to deal with it, but I was not ready yet.
Again, God’s providence was at work. The morning after we returned home from our trip, I opened my copy of The Word Among Us to read the day’s meditation. It was entirely devoted to Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest who had a powerful healing ministry. I had never heard of him. A few days later I saw an announcement in our local Catholic newspaper: it was for a healing service in the manner of Solanus Casey. Here he was again! This was more than coincidence, I was sure. First, St. Joseph and now Venerable Solanus Casey—it felt like the heavenly hosts were coming down to help heal and strengthen us.
I went to that healing service, and a month later my husband and I attended one together. A few weeks after that, we went on a weekend marriage retreat. Then one day, after listening to a Catholic radio program on pornography addiction, I knew it was time to deal with everything I had been repressing for three months. Difficult as this might be, I realized there was no other way for me or my marriage to be fully healed.
Meanwhile my husband, too, was on a journey of healing. Over those same months, I saw a major change in his attitude toward pornography.
At first, it was for my sake that he promised never to view porn again—he could see how terribly he had hurt me. But he seemed to downplay the seriousness of the behavior itself and kept resisting my encouragement to go to Confession. “It’s just a formality,” he’d say. It was only after finally going to Confession that he came to see his pornography habit as gravely sinful in and of itself.
The confessor told my husband it was “God’s providence” that I had caught him in the act that night. Otherwise, he said, my husband’s porn use would probably have spiraled downward into a full-blown addiction. Those words—God’s providence—were very meaningful for my husband. They helped him to see God’s saving hand in his life.
For both of us, another source of help was a book I ordered after hearing its author interviewed on Catholic radio: Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle against Pornography, by Dr. Peter Kleponis. First, I read portions of it by myself. Much of it spoke strongly to me, describing my thoughts and feelings so accurately that I felt I had written the words myself! Then my husband and I read parts of the book together and did some of the counseling exercises on disclosure and honesty.
It was eye-opening for my husband to learn that the trauma I experienced—the shock of betrayal and erosion of trust—was a normal response and not an overreaction. As he read the book and realized how damaging porn use turns out to be, he was filled with remorse for what he had done. This only strengthened his resolve to abandon his dark double life and to live in the light of Christ.
Walking in the Light.
My husband has put his past behind him, but we continue to pray, communicate, and exercise vigilance against this weakness. His efforts and honesty have been a great support and are helping me to rebuild my trust in him.
I still have flashbacks sometimes, and a few days have been very difficult, but I trust in the Lord, who is providing what we need for the transformation of our marriage. Relying on his grace and on our heavenly intercessors, my husband and I are journeying forward hand in hand, helping each other grow closer to God.
The author has asked to remain anonymous. For resources mentioned in this article, visit www.integrityrestored.com