The Freedom Of Forgiveness
About the Guest
Meg Miller wasn't sure her marriage would survive after she discovered porn on their home computer. The pain she felt after her husband's betrayal consumed her. She felt she had been a good wife, only correcting her husband here and there when she had a better way of doing things. Miller remembers her desperation as she begged God for healing, even telling God to change her if that's what it would take. Hear how God answered her prayers and gave her insight on how to better relate to her husband.
Meg Miller wasn’t sure her marriage would survive after she discovered porn at home. The pain she felt after her husband’s betrayal consumed her. Hear how God showed her how to better relate to her husband.
The Freedom Of Forgiveness
Bob: Looking back, Meg Miller says there were signs she should have paid attention to that maybe her husband was visiting places, online, where no husband ought to be.
Meg: I knew that he was staying up late, playing video games, and I knew that that’s when most of these things happen—that’s when we’re tired—and that’s when he’s loneliest—that’s when a whole day’s worth of my talking is fresh on his ears.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 13th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When Meg Miller learned that her husband was looking at pornography, she wondered if her marriage could survive. What she didn’t expect was that the discovery was the beginning of a season when her marriage started to thrive. We’ll talk more about it today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. If the statistics we read are right, there is an epidemic—maybe a pandemic—of marital betrayal going on in our country. I use that word without reservation; because guys looking at pornography—Jesus said, “If you look on a woman to lust, it’s committing adultery,”—that’s marital betrayal.
Dennis: And that’s what a woman feels when she finds out her husband is participating in—looking at, visiting, or making a habit of going to pornographic sites.
We have, in our studio today, a guest who wrote a book called Benefit of the Debt. Its subtitle—listen to this subtitle—this may bother some of our listeners; in fact, I predict it will bother more than a few:
How My Husband’s Porn Problem Ruined—and that word, Ruined, is slashed out; and instead it says—How My Husband’s Porn Problem Saved Our Marriage.
Meg Miller joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today. That’s a pretty provocative subtitle to your book; don’t you think, Meg?
Meg: It is. I once knew someone, who had a cancer diagnosis; and after that—after he beat cancer, he became the healthiest person he knows. [Laughter] We all know someone, who had a heart attack and quit smoking, or a stroke and started exercising. This was a wake-up call for me.
Dennis: There are a lot of people, who can live a lifetime together, and never truly begin to experience marriage at a true, intimate level like you and your husband Joe do now. You were married back in 2007. You live near Washington, DC, and—organic farmers—chicken farmers, there, in the DC area.
Your book talks about how you found out your husband was viewing pornography, late at night; and then, you got on a bus—you left. You were intending to keep on going for a while. He called you; you got back together. You went to a Weekend to Remember®; but you said to us, earlier, that the Weekend to Remember was not the “Aha” moment that you needed in your life to, ultimately, forgive your husband, Joe. Explain what you mean by that.
Meg: The Weekend to Remember getaway was a gift to us—one of our concerned friends gave us tickets—they said, “They need this!—soon!” We went; and there was a moment there, where I did not think our marriage was going to survive, as we sat in those seats and listened. But there was one exercise, where we were to write a letter to our spouse. That was where I was able to talk with the Lord and be honest with Him about everything I had just heard in the Weekend to Remember getaway.
I was convinced, then, just to keep searching for healing. I was not convinced to save the marriage—I did not receive that “Aha” moment—but I did make the decision to, at least, try.
Dennis: One of the things you talk about in your book is how a wife has a high need for loyalty from her husband, and that’s why this betrayal so strikes at the core of what a relationship is all about. Unpack what that loyalty looks like—that a wife needs from a husband—and why is pornography such a threat at that point?
Meg: Sex is the most intimate and self-fulfilling form of expression of love that, physically, you can engage in.
It’s almost representative of what else is going on in the home. I’ve heard a chef once said, “Sex starts in the kitchen.” That’s because what’s happening outside of the bedroom greatly affects what’s going on inside the bedroom. If things are not good in the living room and in the kitchen, then things won’t be good in the bedroom.
Everything I’ve seen from society—all the way to my friends, to my own family members, and in my own marriage is that—that’s a pretty basic need of men and women—is sexual intimacy and emotional connection.
Bob: So, did you think things were good in the living room for the three years before you discovered your husband was looking at pornography?
Meg: I thought they were good enough; and I thought, with more training of my husband, I could make them even better.
Bob: Explain what you mean by that.
Meg: I was pretty controlling in my administration of the household tasks.
Dennis: So you were the one who was going to train him?
Meg: Yes; I believed that. It didn’t manifest very vocally, but he could tell my disapproval in my manner and my moods.
And then, there was this other thing—where, sometimes, I wasn’t criticizing him; but after a day, full of criticism, he would hear that as criticism too—for example: “Did you feed the dog? I just need to know if the dog’s been fed; I’m not trying to criticize you.” But he sees it as, if I criticize him for the first part of the day, then, “This is probably another chance she’s going to do that.” So he thinks there’s a right or wrong answer to feeding the dog. There’s not a right or wrong answer; but unfortunately, I had trained him to be a little wary of my questions and my comments.
Bob: Well, if a wife says, “Did you feed the dog?” and he says, “No; I didn’t get a chance to,” and she goes [Sighing sound]—
Bob: —he’s got the message: “You have disappointed me. You’ve let me down. You’re not the man I can depend on, and trust, and rely on.”
We’re about to wander into some dangerous territory—
—let’s just say it, right up front here—because we’re about to talk about how God used this whole revelation of your husband looking at porn to begin to confront you about patterns in your marriage, that were not healthy, that were a part of the journey.
This can be—it’s kind of a trigger warning you have to go here; because some people can hear: “Now, we’re starting to say that it’s the wife who’s the problem and the husband’s off the hook.” That’s not what you’re saying in this book; but at the same time, you’re saying, “We can’t just ignore the fact that there are two of us in this equation, and both of us are bringing issues to the table.”
Meg: It can be a gift of a revelation.
I was on the bus, and on the train, and in my seat at the Weekend to Remember getaway—bitter, bitter, bitter; just angry; hurt; resentful; repulsed. Over the next few weeks and months, I said, “I’ll go to Christian counseling; sure,” but, boy, I just never felt like I was getting better! It went on for a year, where I asked God, “You’ve got to help me get better!”
I really started feeling frantic when that hurt began to turn into resentment—a more permanent stone feeling as opposed to wounded. I could look around in my life and see a lot of hurt, angry women—who were hurt a long time ago, but never seemed to work through it—and are now angry. It’s written all over their faces. I knew I did not want to become like that—for my husband or me—for anybody; for the world. I wanted to be wounded or healed—not resentful/not bitter.
When I felt that start to happen—where I started losing hope for my own healing—I really cried out to God. I doubled my prayer—I really begged Him: “Change me!” I stopped asking Him to change my husband, and I started asking Him to change me.
Dennis: That’s a great prayer!
It took a moment on the beltway that runs around DC—a year later, after you’d found out your husband’s struggle with pornography—where you had your “Aha” moment.
Meg: Yes; I was asking God to change me: “Change me! Change me! Even if that means to make me more self-sufficient, so his behavior wouldn’t hurt me.” I didn’t unleash the blessings of heaven with that prayer either; but I said: “Okay; change me any way—change me any way you want to, God. I won’t tell You how to change me; just do it! I’m not saying just ‘Heal me,’ I’m saying: ‘Change my perspective. Give me that piece of information I’m missing. There’s got to be something.’”
I was curious enough to say, “There has to be something here that I’m missing,” and there was! And in a rush of insight—it’s the most beautiful moment! If you’ve ever heard from God, personally, it doesn’t matter what He’s saying—it doesn’t matter what He’s saying, you just want to hear more!
I know, as an adopted child of God, through the cross of Jesus, that whatever God says to me is going to be for my own good; so I was open. I had been hurting for so long that it didn’t matter what the message was.
It almost took those ingredients for me to be ready for what He showed me. What He showed me was my husband’s heart was just as hurt as mine, which didn’t make sense—that sounded like a change of subject. “Okay; so my husband’s hurt. Now, I have some compassion for my husband. Is that what you’re going at, Lord? Is that what You’re showing me?—is trying to give me compassion?”
But then, the Lord showed me the rest of the picture, which is me hurting my husband just as much as his pornography use had hurt me. The measure of my hurt was now applied to my husband’s heart—the very measure—only the source was my words and my demeanor, not pornography use.
Bob: Now, there had to be some—because here’s what I hear you saying—I hear you saying God showed you insight into the reality that how you had related to your husband—your controlling and, sometimes, critical nature had hurt his heart in the same way that his looking at pornography had hurt your heart.
But you know that there are some women, listening to this and going: “These are not the same, sister!
“I mean, what he did! Sure, you may have been controlling and critical, but come on! He’s looking at porn on the internet! That’s not the same as a wife who needs to control her tongue a little more.”
Meg: Well, let’s talk about the messages therein. The message of pornography is: “My wife’s not enough. I just need a little extra—just a little extra,” or “I’m tipping the scales back; because I’ve been giving, giving, giving so much for my wife and putting up so much with my wife.”
In the very same way, when I criticize my husband, the message is exactly the same: “I’m not asking for a weekend in Paris; I just want you to pick up your socks!” “I just wish we could get a dog that doesn’t bark at the neighbors!” “I just wish the roof would magically repair itself since you don’t have time.” I’m not even criticizing too badly; but at the end of the day, that’s a lot of criticism. If I’ve said 100 things, cumulatively, that turns into a pretty big message.
Bob: So, if a husband looking at pornography, is a message: “You’re not enough for me,” you’re saying: “Every time a wife says: ‘Why didn’t you do this? Why can’t you be that?’ she’s saying: ‘You’re not enough for me. I need a fantasy man the same way you need a fantasy woman.’”
Meg: I am saying that, if that is true, then a lot of things would come into focus in my house. It would make a lot of sense why he bristles, every once in a while, but not other times. Then, there are a few other things that come into focus. Why have we never seen a women’s accountability group for nagging?—we don’t believe it really hurts too much.
Well, if it’s true that it does, then we would be treating it much more seriously. Men are always holding each other accountable. Just this morning, my husband got the most awesome text from a buddy, who said: “Hey, I’m praying for you in your struggle for sexual purity. I hope you’re praying for me too. Here’s a verse to encourage you…Hey, Jesus is on the throne; don’t forget. Go out there and take every thought captive.”
I thought, “What if women did that in regard to building up our homes with our words as opposed to tearing down our husbands by accident?”
Dennis: Words are powerful! A woman has the ability to bring life or death in how she treats her husband—what she says to him / her attitude that accompanies her words. That’s what God began to show you. How did you repent of what you were facing at that point?
Meg: It’s the best feeling in the world—to be shown that you have a million dollars of debt, but someone else is going to pay it—all in the same five minutes. It’s a terrible revelation; and yet, a wonderful one at the same time. I didn’t realize I was tearing my house down; I didn’t realize I was hurting my husband.
I had heard some tips and tricks from professional—kind of Christian publishers out there before. There are some tips on respecting your husband, and a verse or two here or there.
I thought those would be ways to improve my life. I did not take them as seriously as pornography—as how much damage [a husband’s] pornography [use] could hurt a woman. But now, as soon as I considered it, it brought everything into focus for me. The conviction of having done the same amount of damage—and the instant knowledge that that debt has been paid for on my behalf—filled me with compassion, and love, and a desire to make it right.
Dennis: So did you go home and say the words: “I forgive you. I’ve got my own stuff I’m working on”?
Meg: No! I said, “I’m sorry for my portion of it. I am so sorry!” because I had been saying, “I forgive you,” this whole time—I just never felt it. So, instead, I went home and said: “I have sinned against the Lord. I’ve been addicted to controlling my husband.” I didn’t realize it, but that’s what I wanted to comfort me—is his behavior change: “Shape up, buddy! Just be a good version of yourself.”
When I went home and said, “I’m so sorry!” he didn’t know who was walking through the door; because this person has changed!
And I have thought about this, hourly, since it happened. I am a changed person! I might not be able to explain it, but I was blind and now I see. I was hurt, and now I’m not. I’m full of compassion and love for my husband.
Bob: Now, wait! You said you’ve thought about this hourly since it happened?
Meg: Hourly! I feel like a new convert—like a new believer—because, sure, sin has separated me from God; and Jesus made that right. But after a while, my goodness of Christian living—and projecting that goodness onto my husband—my goodness separated me from God; and Jesus did not have to come and make that right for me, but He did! That was a gift; and now, I get to have a family, where I don’t just cope with a guy that’s weird or a guy that’s gross. Now, I’m gross too! [Laughter] I just have a different version of it, and I’ve done the same amount of damage; and I’m so sorry.
Earlier this week, I just said: “Joe, don’t give up on me. I’m going to keep trying!”
Now, these are the words of an addict. These are the words of someone who struggles with something shameful—not goodness/not self-righteousness. But if we—we, women, took the sin of self-righteousness as seriously as the church treats pornography, we might have some healing on our hands among women—women who are angry or hurt.
Bob: So, I’ve just got to know—when you went to your husband and said: “Sweetheart, I think I’ve got to tell me story. I’ve got to write a book about this. Oh, by the way, that’s going to mean you’re busted,” was there any hesitancy on his part of it?—kind of like, “Um, could we just, you know, keep that between us?”
Meg: Everyone asks about him—“What does he think about all of this?”—and about me telling my story. He knows the change in our house. Look at me! You can tell I’m not who I was!—and he knows that. If he could gift that to every man out there, because men—so many of them—are in the position that he was in—afraid of the reaction that their wife would give them if those men were honest.
He knows, now, not to be afraid of my response; because the Lord is my identity—not my husband’s faithfulness.
Meg: He has said: “If we could just talk about it in our homes—that: ‘You’re hurting me just as much as I’m hurting you,’ then we have—the pressure’s off. There’s no pressure cooker anymore. Pornography loses its allure.”
Does that mean that a nagging wife creates a husband who looks at pornography? Absolutely not! There’s no way you can say that. But, when the pressure does come off of a husband to perform really well, he tends to want to go to his wife for comfort.
Dennis: That’s what I was going to ask you: “How did your repentance and your giving up the caustic tongue—the nagging—how did that manifest itself in the coming days and weeks that rolled out?”
Meg: That’s a good question; because remember, the nagging was a lot of just household administration.
It was just a lot of sighing, and a lot of like [frustrated sighs]. I didn’t realize that that was nagging. So, first of all, I quit criticizing him in overt ways; for example, saying, “You never do that,” or “I wish you were more like this,”—I stopped that; that’s easy! That’s what a lot of listeners can do, easily, today. What’s harder are those [vocal example]. [Laughter]
Bob: Just that!
Meg: You know exactly what I’m saying, and so do the women and men listening. I don’t think we know that much of our communication is received as criticism; so if we get rid of our overt criticism, there’s still some that remains. For that, we need grace in the home.
Bob: And I’ve just got to ask this, because this keeps coming to me—a woman, who is listening and going: “Okay; we’re just coddling men’s stupid, fragile male ego!
“We sigh, and they can’t handle it! They just need to man up and get over it, and quit blaming us because we sighed.”
Meg: Yes; that’s a good question, because that’s what I’m dealing with at home now. Something is disappointing—the brakes on the Jeep go bad—and I [making a clicking sound with tongue]. But now, we can talk about it.
We have a couple of jokes at our house—where, if I do something like that; or I ask my husband to do something—I’m not overtly criticizing, but just piling on the “to do” list—he says, “I’ve done that ten times already.” What that means to me is—even if he hasn’t done it—he’s saying: “Can you back off? You’re hurting me. Even though it might not be logical for me to be hurt right now, this is my sore spot.”
He should be able to have a sore spot; I should be able to recognize it. Now, I need his help to know when I’m doing that. He has to agree not to be afraid of my backlash.
Occasionally, I will freak out and I’ll say: “What do you mean, you’re hurt by that?! Come on! We’re late for church; let’s get out the door!” So he has to man up and face that fear of my backlash; but give me a few minutes, and I’ll come back and say: “I’m so sorry. Please don’t give up on me,” just because we’ve had this pretty big perspective change.
Dennis: We’re not letting men off the hook, but we are—you, especially, are—challenging wives to think about the power they have to call men to step up, and to be God’s man, and not to be critical of them.
We’ve kind of looped all the way back around to the subtitle of your book: How My Husband’s Porn Problem Ruined—that word, Ruined, is slashed through; and instead, it says How My Husband’s Porn Problem Saved Our Marriage. What you’ve just said—what you’ve just illustrated—is how marriage was meant to be—
—two broken people, who never stop repenting and owning their own stuff, and finding a way to live out, in humility, the love of Christ in their marriage. That means you don’t toss the towel in; you don’t trash your covenant, because you’ve failed each other.
Dennis: And it is how two imperfect people can go the distance in a lifetime.
Meg, I want to thank you for allowing us to peer into your relationship and being honest. Tell Joe, “Thanks.” Tell him: “Thanks for caring enough about other guys for them to read this story. Maybe, they’ll just repent; and their wives will as well.”
Bob: Yes. We’ve got copies of Meg’s book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. In fact, our friend, Gary Rosberg, said, “Meg has penned a book that will mess with you, and that’s why I’m cheering her on.” Someone else said, “This book is going to make some women mad, but it may save a lot of marriages.”
Again, we’ve got copies of the book, Benefit of the Debt: How My Husband’s Porn Problem Ruined Saved Our Marriage, by Meg Miller. You can order it from us when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329 to order your copy—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with 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.
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