Owning My Sexual Compulsion
One of the great gifts to me in my journey has been my wife.
At the point in my life when my addiction finally came to light she did something crucial: she held my feet to the fire and did not withhold her anger.
She was furious, and rightly so.
In my experience, men whose wives shield them from the anger that arises when the reality of porn addiction is revealed miss out on something crucial.
They miss the opportunity to reckon with the brutal truth that what they have been a part of in acting on their sexual compulsions has truly brought death into their marriages.
The Biblical teaching that my sin affects the body of Christ was driven home to me when i saw — in unvarnished terms — how it affected my wife.
William Paul Young, author of The Shack, once said in an interview that when his wife learned of his compulsive sexual behavior he was thankful that God had not given him “a submissive wife.”
She confronted him and pressed him. And it was good for him.
As painful as it was for me, i have to say that my wife’s fury — and i do not use that word lightly — was a true blessing.
When i tried to make excuses for my behabior, she wouldn’t have it. When i tried to blame others, she called me on it.
Her rage helped me get it. Her rage demanded something of me. Her rage treated me as an adult at a time when i was very much in the habit of acting like a boy.
i was, in classic Eldredge-esque terms, an uninitiated man. My wife’s unfiltered ire was an essential part of my initiation — a baptism by fire, so to speak.
This many years later i can say in full agreement with William Paul Young that i too am very grateful God has not given me a “submissive wife.”
To be clear: her fury was not permission to withhold mercy, grace, and forgiveness. As we walked together through healing, she got to the place where she truly forgave me. But in the immediate aftermath of everything coming to light, the intensity of her anger was palpable.
It was also fully appropriate.
Eventually i understood that her anger was one way that God was calling me into authentic masculinity. My wife was calling me to be the man i was designed to be: a true one.
She still calls me to be a true man, which is important as i live with my compulsive tendencies.
If a man is going to be true, with a legitimate strength, he must have others who will call “bull” when he’s blowing smoke — even when he is so deceived that he actually believes the lie he is selling to the world.
During the months immediately following The Confession, as we call it in our marriage, i was forced to take ownership of my choices. i was forced to accept responsibility and stop finding excuses.
One way i took ownership was to finally stop blaming women for my addictive pattern with lust and pornography. When i was living based on my sexual compulsions, i gave myself freedom to lust on grounds it was normal for a man to sexually objectify a woman.
i was just appreciating feminine beauty, i would say to myself.
Or i would blame women by saying that i couldn’t help lusting after them because they invited it with the way they dressed. Or they invited it by being playful. Or they invited it by doing something that i considered flirtatious.
i was very creative at finding ways to absolve myself of any responsibility for my actions. It’s a practice which is very common to many men, which is shameful.
Sometimes it even gets spiritualized and turned into an instruction which is given to women in religious circles, which is especially shameful because it puts the burden of men’s lust on women under the guise of religious truth.
There is a place for a healthy conversation about styles of dress in our current age that involves good thinking on how Christians engage post-modern culture with regard to things such as fashion and the interactions between men and women, but that’s very different from men in spiritual leadership roles telling women what to wear and linking that to what it means for those women to display true, inner, feminine beauty.
The former has the potential of deepening our love for God and each other as we grow in maturity and holiness, the latter simply places on women the unbearable — and false — demand that they are the ones who must keep men pure.
3 Responses to “Owning My Sexual Compulsion”
Great insight, James. I, too, was “blessed” with a strong wife who didn’t hesitate to give me the full brunt of her anger. All I could really do was, like you, to stand and take it, because it was deserved. I will always carry the scar of feeling her anger and hurt, and I wouldn’t change this.
We’ve had friends whose wives ignored or didn’t really address their husband’s infidelity. And even now, years later, there is a depth and maturity missing from their marriages, precisely because these wives refused to fully address it.
Thanks, Chris. One of the men who spoke into my life very powerfully in those early days was my brother who told me – about my wife’s anger – to “take it on the chin” and press on. That remains a good word to me.
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