Shocked by Sexual Addiction
About the Guest
She thought she had the perfect life - a solid marriage, two wonderful daughters, a middle class lifestyle. But what she would later find out would rock her world like never before. Meg Wilson remembers the day when her husband called to tell her that he was stepping down from his job because of his addiction to internet porn. Hear how Meg responded to this devastating news and how they put their marriage back together step by step.
Meg Wilson remembers the day her husband told her about his addiction to internet porn.
Shocked by Sexual Addiction
Bob: It was a number of years ago when Meg Wilson’s husband came to her and confessed that, for years, he had been looking at pornography. That put Meg on a very difficult and very dark path. What would she say to a woman who finds herself on that same path today? Here's Meg Wilson.
Meg: Number one, it's not her fault. It's not about anything that is lacking in her—whatsoever. And second, it is a huge opportunity—not that it is not painful, not that it's not grueling, not that it won't take everything you have and more—but it's an opportunity to really look into the face of suffering and find out who Christ really is—and all those promises that we write about and we put in our head—we get to live them out and find out that they’re true.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today. Our host if the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We offer help today for the many women who are finding themselves on the same path that Meg Wilson found herself on years ago. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was thinking back to last fall when all of the news was reporting on the swine flu, and the vaccinations that were coming out, and the fact that people needed to be on the alert because of the spread of the swine flu. I was thinking, “I am not sure how many people have to get sick with something before we say we have an epidemic going on; but the issue we are going to be talking about today is maybe the hidden spiritual epidemic—maybe it's a pandemic, as opposed to an epidemic. It is under the waterline in marriages and relationships, all around the country; and it's got to be addressed.”
Dennis: And interestingly, Bob, what we are about to talk about is typically thought of as being a male problem. But that is changing. We might just say—at the outset, just by way of a disclaimer—if there are young listeners, we are going to be talking about a matter today that perhaps it would be wise for you, as a parent, to remove little ears from listening. We're going to be talking about the subject of sexual addiction.
With us, to do that, is the author of a new book, Hope After Betrayal, Meg Wilson. Meg, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Meg: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: Meg is a writer. She has been married for 27 years, has two adult children, and lives in suburban Portland, Oregon. We appreciate you making the journey down here to Arkansas. It is in the United States, Meg. You were probably wondering if you were going to a foreign country—leaving the Northwest, though.
Meg: Yes, there were moments. [Laughter]
Dennis: I appreciate you coming down. This really is a story—of not just one storm cloud rolling into your marriage—but two major hurricanes that really hit you within a short period of time—all more than a decade ago in your marriage; right?
Dennis: Tell us what happened.
Meg: Well, I would describe them more as earthquakes because there were fault lines that were in my marriage—that we both brought to the marriage. So they were unseen; but there were things, underneath, that caused the storms, as you said, to come about. Let me just kind of paint a picture. We had been married 17 years—had two beautiful daughters—and we lived in the American Dream—middle-class home, the car, no white picket fence, but—
Dennis: You went to church.
Meg: We went to church; that’s right.
Dennis: You would have been known as upstanding, upright couple in the community. Everything was going okay.
Meg: Yes. My husband was actually moderator of a church and a successful salesman. From the outside, everything looked really good. I worked very hard to keep it looking very good. Then, we received a phone call from good friends of ours, who had moved out of the state. The husband called and told us that he was stepping down as a deacon of his own church because of internet pornography. That was the first I had ever heard of it. I was shocked because I knew this man. I knew he was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. It just blew me away.
Dennis: Why did he call you?
Meg: Because we’re good friends. You know, that's a good question. I should go back and ask him if he had seen signs in my husband. I just thought of that, as you asked that question. But for my husband—it was time for him to realize that he also had that issue—and he needed to come clean—and that it really was a problem.
Bob: So, did that phone call that you got that night from a friend—did that trigger something that took place in your own marriage that day—a week later—what was it?
Meg: It was about a month later. He came back from a business trip. I'm assuming he had been on some site or something while he was away. He came home, and he confessed to me that when he traveled that this was an issue. It was devastating. For me, it came out of the blue because of all those things that we said. Every other part of his life was squeaky clean. I mean, our accountant would say, “Your husband is as honest as the day is long.” So, it was very shocking. Some women have an indication, and they kind of know, but for me it really was out of the blue.
Dennis: He just came home from a trip and had evidently been on a porn site and felt the need to come clean. How did he share that with you? Did he say, “After the kids are in bed, we need to go back here and have a conversation”? What happened?
Meg: Yes; we were alone. It was in the evening and he sat me down. He said, “You know, there’s something—” The Holy Spirit is powerful. The weight of conviction, I'm sure, had been on him, all the way home. He's coming home to his wife, who prays for him and loves him. Here, your two girls look up to you and meet you at the door. That's pretty weighty.
I think having a friend who had the courage to confess was the impetus for him being able to come to me, at that point. Unfortunately, he did what so many do. He did a guarded confession. He told me 90 percent of the information. I believe he sincerely wanted to be clean, at that point; but, unfortunately, if you leave even a small amount of information, it's a foothold for the enemy. I can say that with every fiber of my being because I have seen it.
Bob: I want to take you back to that moment of confession. Do you remember how you felt and did you respond well to what your husband told you?
Meg: That's a really good question. The definition of “well” has changed over the years. I responded gracefully in the moment. Looking back, I was a very good co-dependent wife. I was thankful that my husband had come clean and put a lot of weight on that. I praised God for that. I praised God that it was only pornography, at the time, because I thought that was the case. I did what I did in my life with difficult situations. I put a high-gloss spiritual finish on it, and I moved forward.
Dennis: So you weren’t really honest about it?
Meg: No. I struggled when he travelled. I would have to wrestle with fears. Suffice it to say that he did go outside the marriage. That was an important fact to understand because it was why I could—in the beginning, after the second confession—say to myself, "Well, I have biblical grounds to divorce him.” We can talk more about that later.
Bob: When he made his 90 percent confession, was the part he left out that he had been with other women?
Meg: Yes. Actually, ironically at that point, there hadn’t been physical touch; but because he left that out, the enemy waited a couple of years and then pulled him down hard and fast. He crossed that line.
Dennis: You know, we're really taking two events that occurred in your marriage and kind of going back and forth between them; but as you write about them in your book, the first event occurred out of the clear blue.
Dennis: You said, earlier, you would have counseled yourself to have asked more questions and put up boundaries. What kind of questions would you have counseled yourself to have asked him, at that point—the first time?
Meg: I guess I would have tried to get more at the root. The acting out—the sexual aspect—is really a small portion. Ironically, sexual addiction is not about sex. It is about medicating pain. It's important for people—whether you are struggling or being betrayed, either way—to understand this is a deeper issue. If you don't get at the root causes of what that pain is and where that originated, then it's just like pulling the top off of a weed.
So, there are some deeper issues in terms of: “How are you feeling when that happens? What are you going to put in place to ensure that you get the healing that you need for those deeper issues?”—and then, for me, being able to identify healthy verses unhealthy behavior.
There were unhealthy behaviors in our family, but I was not aware of it. So now, eight years later, after much counseling and many resources—we grabbed onto everything—spiritual care team, every book we could find. After all of that information and after walking with 100-plus other women, I recognize: "Wow! There are real patterns that you can look for.” Now, that I have a husband, who is growing spiritually—who has a personal relationship with God and doesn't just go through the motions—it looks very different.
Dennis: You know, as I listen to your story, and as I hear you, in a way, kind of being hard on yourself—that you didn't ask those difficult questions—I'm going to give you a little more grace in the situation. I'm going to say, you know, for a woman—who has had this atomic bomb go off in her marriage, where she realizes there’s been this secret life occurring—more than likely, it's going to take a third party coming in to ask those questions and to allow the wife to absorb, and to listen, and maybe ask some questions of her own. But I think it's expecting a little too much of a wife to know what those questions ought to be and to start drilling down, asking questions of a man, when, as a woman, you may not understand what the problem is for a guy.
Meg: Right. And actually that's the impetus for writing the book—is to, hopefully, be that third voice and to be able to identify what true healing looks like so that you won't spend as much time in that place. Nothing is wasted. God has been throughout the process. So, if I am beating myself up, I don't feel that way, at all.
Dennis: Well, you are on the other side, looking back.
Meg: Yes, hindsight.
Dennis: You now know what you wish you would have asked, at that point. But to the wife who may be about to face this, we're really talking about an earthquake that's going to turn her world upside down. Emotionally, she may not be able to recover for several weeks.
Meg: Can I talk to that woman for a minute? I would like to talk to that woman—who either has recently found out or is about to find out—I would like to tell her some of the things I needed to hear.
Number one, it's not her fault. It's not about anything that's lacking in her, whatsoever. And that is a really big lie that the enemy uses. And, second, it is a huge opportunity—not that it's not painful, not that it's not grueling, not that it won't take everything you have and more—because it will take, obviously, the help of Christ, and His grace, and the Holy Spirit. But it's an opportunity to really look into the face of God, the face of suffering, and find out who Christ really is—and all those promises that we write about and we put in our head—we get to live them out and find out that they are true for them, specifically.
Bob: So, in the days following your husband's first confession, I'm presuming that you said: "I love you. I forgive you. I'm hurt, but we’ll get through this;” and life went on.
Meg: Pretty much.
Bob: Were you doing anything to provide regular checkups—accountability? Were you asking him questions, on a regular basis, to see if what had happened was more than just confession and was actually repentance?
Meg: I did ask some questions, but it's really important for the wife not to be the detective. It was more important to see him getting resources, reading books, making sure that he had an accountability partner; and that couldn't be me. It's much too painful for the wife to have to be the accountability partner.
Bob: Was he reading books? Did he have an accountability partner?
Meg: Yes, he was. Then, we moved. We were in Phoenix, and we moved to Washington. He was going to a for-men-only group that our church had. He was seeing a counselor, and he was lying in both places.
Meg: Yes, unbeknownst to all of us.
Bob: So when and how did the second bomb go off?
Meg: Fast-forward. We've moved on, literally. We are in a new place. My girls were in high school, at this point. There was a message on the answering machine. My husband said, “I'm coming home early.”
He had been away for a week on a business trip—home on the weekend—and he was supposed to be gone the following week. So now, it's Tuesday. He says, "I'm coming home early. I need you to be home alone. I have to talk to you." And something about his boss being supportive—so, I knew that he hadn’t lost his job; and I knew it was bad. I knew it was serious.
Dennis: Did you know it was about this area?
Meg: I don't know what I knew. I just remember the sick feeling—just waiting, waiting, waiting for whatever it was. I probably knew it was about this, but I couldn't even imagine what was coming. He walked in the house, and I remember he had a rolled up journal in his hand. He sat me down. I just remember him pulling out his journal and saying: “I have got to tell you something that's really hard. I don't know if we will be married when we’re done.”
And he went through—when it started, at age ten. He did kind of a timeline and the places. Some of it, I knew—and the places where he had lied—and then, he had just recently fallen, when he was gone the week prior. I just remember, sitting in the chair, with my knees shaking—kind of an out-of-body—watching myself, thinking: “I can't feel anything! I am just sitting here, looking at my legs shake.” It had been two hours, and I don't know if I said a word, and my daughter was coming home. My husband, in a panic, said: “What do you want me to do? Do you want me to leave?”
Meg: I just said, "No, I don't want you to leave. I don't want you to do anything until I hear from God. That's all I know, at this point, is that I have to hear from God.” And so, over the course of the next two days, everything was wiped off our calendar except I had a meeting with a friend who is a little older—to be a mentor. We met, and she went with me to the hospital to be tested for STDs. She listened and never once condemned my husband. That was the first piece for me—that was like: "Wow! She can hear this and she cannot condemn my husband.”
God sent just the right person at the right time. We continued to cry and talk for three days. Then, it was the third day—when he was sharing the last bit of information that, for him, was the most shameful. For me, it felt like just another thing. For him, it was that one thing that probably he didn't think he could tell anyone. He shared that. I remember looking at him—and I remember he was weeping, and he was on the ground—and I looked at him; and I saw a little boy, in that moment. I had been crying out for those three days to God: “Why? Why? I have been a faithful wife! I gave up my career to raise my kids,”—like God didn't know these things.
I was just crying out the “Why?” question. In that moment, looking at my husband, I saw 30 years of pain. I heard God, as clearly as you can hear Him in your mind, say, “If you don't extend My grace to him now, he may never know it.” I knew why I was there. All I could do was put my arm on his shoulder; and something broke, spiritually.
If there were chains, they would have been on the ground for both of us. I really believe that was the beginning when healing could start—not the beginning of “Happy, happy,”—but just the beginning when true healing could start because everything was out on the table.
Dennis: What you’re describing, I think, is a picture of what a Christian marriage is, at its core.
Dennis: I'm not trying to be glib or trite as I say that. It really is two broken people. You may be broken in different areas—some seen and some unseen. But the passage of Scripture that came to my mind is not an optional passage of Scripture: First Peter, Chapter 4, verse 8, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins."
Barbara and I have been married 37 years. We have not had a situation like you've described; but I promise you, we've had moments when there has had to be a love expressed by one of us toward the other that was a love that covers and forgives a multitude of sins and grants mercy and grace. And to that wife, right now—or for that matter, to that husband—because this really can go either way—
Dennis: The betrayal can go—not just by men of women—but there can be women, who are betraying their husbands, as well. This is where Christian marriage is totally different than any other kind of marriage. With Jesus Christ as the builder of your home, the builder of your marriage, there can be forgiveness extended. It may not be instant. It may not be right now, but it can occur.
That really is what you talk about in your book, Hope After Betrayal. It really does bring about, I think, a process that, ultimately, does result in hope.
Bob: And, you know—we didn't talk about this at the outset—but I think our listeners understand your husband knows you are here. He knows you wrote the book. You aren't saying anything that he hasn’t given his blessing and his permission. In some ways, he is your partner in this ministry—in the openness about what's gone on in your life. In the process, I think there are a lot of people who are going to benefit by hearing your story, and hearing how you have walked this path, and what God has taught you along the way. In fact, your husband wrote the last chapter in the book. You’ve said that's your favorite chapter in here.
We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It's called Hope After Betrayal. You can go online at FamlyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of Meg's book. Again, it's called Hope After Betrayal. On our website, we've also suggested a number of other resources that are available to deal with this issue. I'll just let you go there and look those over.
If this is something that has emerged in your marriage relationship, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about resources that are available to help you work your way through it; or call, toll-free, 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800, “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, "TODAY". When you get in touch with us, we can answer any questions you have about the resources we have. We can make arrangements to get the ones you need sent to you.
You know, it is always an encouragement for our team when we hear from listeners who write to us or drop us an email and let us know how God’s using the program in your life. In fact, it's especially fun to hear from new listeners—those of you who, for a couple of weeks or months now, have been tuning in to FamilyLife Today. Maybe a friend mentioned it to you; or you were just scanning the dial one day and you found the program, and now you’re listening, somewhat regularly. We would love to hear from you—would love to have you comment on the program with any thoughts that you have about what you've heard. We’d love to hear how you found FamilyLife Today.
In fact, this week, we have a thank-you gift we want to send to any listener who contacts us and requests it. It's a couple of laminated cards that we've put together—one for you and one to pass along to your spouse or to a friend—called the Five Essentials for a Thriving Marriage. Dennis and Barbara Rainey have listed what they see as the key ingredients to keeping a marriage on track—keeping it headed in the right direction.
These five essentials are good to review and reflect on, from time to time. So, you may want to get your card and put it in your Bible. Give your spouse the other one and, again, just from time to time, look it over and say, "How are we doing in these areas?"
The cards are free. All you have to do is call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request it. Again, the toll-free number: 1-800-FL-TODAY. Especially, if you are a new listener, we'd love to hear from you. We'd love to send these cards out to you and let you know about some of the other things that we have, here at FamilyLife, that are designed to help strengthen your marriage relationship and to help you in your family. The toll-free number—one more time—is 1-800, “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, "TODAY". Just ask for the Five Essentials for a Thriving Marriage card, and we'll get them in the mail to you.
And with that, we've got to wrap things up for today. Hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. Meg Wilson will be here again. We’ll continue to explore her story about how her marriage was able to recover after her husband confessed to a repeated pattern of sexual sin. I hope you can tune in for that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?
Copyright © 2013 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.