How can I support my husband’s recovery?
When a husband decides to get serious about dealing with his sexual addiction in recovery, many wives struggle with how to support him in that process. Some wives wonder if real change is possible. Others hope recovery is a quick fix so that they can move on with their lives. The truth is that change is possible, but it is going to be a long, bumpy road. And, it is going to require a commitment to do whatever it takes to get healthy. No time commitment is too great, no issue too small. The alternative is spiritual and emotional death. Think of this as cancer. The treatment is very tough, but not doing the treatment is worse. If the man is truly working his recovery, which must include sobriety, here are some of the actions and mindsets that will best support him.
Focus on My Side of the Street
First and foremost, I must focus on changing the only person I can change: myself. Many wives struggle to see that they also have powerful issues that need to be dealt with, but I have seen it to be true over and over again. I have come to the conclusion that unhealthy people marry unhealthy people. I have not seen an exception, but even if a wife was healthy when they first married, if they have been married for any length of time, she has developed many unhealthy patterns by virtue of being married to an addict. And, as a couple, they have developed very unhealthy relational dances. These dances require a lot of work on both the husband’s side of the street and the wife’s side of the street to change.
Serious recovery should involve addressing many different issues for both the husband and wife. The husband should be working on much more than just his sexual addiction. His addiction is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many unhealthy issues that will be addressed, and this will be similar for the wife in her recovery.
None of this is to say that a wife is in any way responsible for her husband’s behaviors. I am never responsible for someone else’s choices. I must focus on changing myself, regardless of what my husband chooses. That is the best thing I can do both for myself and for my husband. As we both grow individually, we can come together and grow as a couple. As we both grow, we can encourage each other in that pursuit instead of becoming a hindrance to that pursuit.
Galatians 6:4 ~ But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.
Pray and Forgive
Prayer is one of the best things I can do for my husband. This helps me grow in love and care for him as I lift him up before our Father. But, this also requires that I also be constantly working towards forgiving him. I believe forgiveness is a process, not a one-time choice. I have to make the decision over and over again that I am going to forgive. Only God can require that I forgive others, for He has forgiven me. Walking through my own recovery helped me fully appreciate God’s amazing grace in my own life, which softened me towards others I needed to forgive.
Ephesians 4:32 ~ Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Recovery is very time consuming. And, in the process, changes will likely be made to the way we live, depending on the issues and needs that come up. So, it is vital that I become willing to make adjustments for the sake of health, for my husband, myself, and our children. We encourage focusing on three priorities: my relationship with God, my personal health, and the family living in my home. It is not that other things cannot happen. It is that other things should not conflict with these priorities.
At first, many wives are completely onboard with their husband doing whatever he needs to do to get healthy. But, as time goes on, it is not uncommon for the wife to feel resentful towards his recovery. There are many different reasons for this, but some common ones are: the time commitment, the expectations she had about what health would look like, and the constant push out of their comfort zone.
Both the husband and wife must be willing to adjust to the commitments required in recovery, even though it will require sacrifices. Recovery is just for a short time: a short time to commit to growth and then go on to live in fullness and health. It is worth every sacrifice. The alternative is so, so much worse. What would I not give up for health? One of the best things we can do for each other is support the other’s efforts in recovery. Recovery is tough.
God asks us to live fully for Him no matter the cost, so this should be the start of a new way of thinking and living.
Luke 9:23 – And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Let Go of Control
It can be very difficult to let go of control. After being lied to for years, wives often believe that keeping close tabs on their husband and holding him accountable will bring peace. But, it never truly does. More control is not the solution. He needs to be accountable to strong men who have long-term sobriety and health and can guide him towards that same end. That being said, the wife does need to be able to know how he is doing in recovery. In our program, the wife is able to ask how her husband is doing in his recovery so that she can make wise decisions and have confidence that he is telling her the truth.
And, it saddens me that I even have to say this: the wife should never have sex with her husband for the purpose of helping him in his recovery. First, men do not need sex. Many single men have recovered from sexual addiction and gone for many years without sex, and they remained sober. Second, having sex for this reason is very unhealthy and puts the focus on stopping the husband from sinning rather than what sex should be about: uniting the marriage relationship.
I cannot take responsibility for my husband’s recovery. He has to make the choice to be serious about it himself.
Proverbs 3:5-6 ~ Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.