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How to deal with an unrepentant spouse

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Jay Dee

How to deal with an unrepentant spouse

Jul 13, 2016

I received this question about a week ago in the comments of our survey on period sex (which is still open for entries by the way): How do I get over the hurt of my husband cheating on me and constantly on chat sites and

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Anonymous QuestionI received this question about a week ago in the comments of our survey on period sex (which is still open for entries by the way):

How do I get over the hurt of my husband cheating on me and constantly on chat sites and porn also changing all his pass words. We are in church leadership I’ve gone to pastoral counseling ( he went once) . Hrs always saying I turn him off because of my insecurities yet he’s the reason I have them …cheating, porn, and telling me we need to workout more ( which I agree even though I’m on the gym 5 days a week and 32 years old 120 lbs and 5’2″) any suggestions

So, the question is, “How do I get over the hurt”, but I think the question is misguided.

I’m not sure you can get over the hurt of a spouse who is still actively betraying you and shows no remorse, regret, or takes any personal responsibility for it.  Rather, I think the issue that needs to be dealt with is the present, active, lifestyle of sin.  Now, I would say this about any couple, but since he’s in church leadership, it’s even more imperative to get this sorted out.

Leaders are held to a higher standard

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. – James 3:1

Leaders need to be held to a higher standard for a couple reasons:

  1. A church leader that is actively trapped in a sin is less likely to preach about it.  So, if he’s engaging in online affairs and watching porn, his preaching about those topics will be less effective, if not non-existent.
  2. If he does preach on it, and his affair comes to light, then it not only throws those lessons into question, it taints the image of the church, Christianity, and ultimately God.  We are His face in the world, and when we are caught in hypocrisy, it reflects badly on our Lord and Master.

All Christians need to be held accountable by other believers

But, regardless of whether he is a leader in the church or not, the fact still remains that he’s a Christian who needs to be held accountable.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2

We need to keep our brothers and sisters in Christ on the straight and narrow, including our husbands and wives.  Perhaps even more importantly so in those relationships, because we have a deeper insight into their lives and we will be able to recognize sin earlier on.  Also, hopefully, we can confront them in a more gentle way.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20

In marriages we can not only “save their soul from death”, but also perhaps save the marriage from destruction.  Better yet, it might lead to a thriving marriage through the process of confrontation, confession, repentance and forgiveness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16

How do you hold someone accountable with a spirit of gentleness?

Well, thankfully, Jesus gave us a protocol to follow:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. – Matthew 5:15-17

The process is straightforward:
  1. Approach them alone, if they won’t listen, then
  2. Approach them with someone else, or a couple of people, if they still won’t listen
  3. Bring it to the church

I’ll be honest, I have yet to see anyone implement this between spouses.  I’ve heard of some trying, and then, unfortunately, the church tends to drop the ball.  But, I wish more would use this process.  Not because I want to see the sin paraded out, but because I want to see it dug out of marriages, brought into the light and healed.  Sadly, the fact that it isn’t done is a symptom of a much larger issue in our churches of not holding each other accountable. This is especially true of spouses.

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. – 1 Timothy 5:20

Now, this wife seems to have gone through part of the process already.  She’s approached her husband directly.  She’s gone to counseling, which one could say is approaching them with another witness.  If this was one of my church members, I would tell them to bring it to the elders ask ask them to go with her to confront her husband.  If he still won’t listen, then, frankly, it needs to be brought to the ruling body of the church.  In my opinion, he needs to repent, or be removed from leadership.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? – 1 Corinthians 5:12

Now, this is hard for a number of reasons.  If church leadership is his job, it might mean their source of income being at risk.  Even if it’s a volunteer position, it’s his pride on the line, and our self doesn’t like to die easily.  But, as I wrote yesterday, the risk is worth it.  In this case, I don’t think there’s really a choice.  Or rather, the choice is to follow God, or to hide your husband’s sin, becoming an accomplice in it.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17
Not only that, but this is the loving approach to take.  Secret sins are a cancer that will destroy his life, and his relationship with God.  To bring them out into the open might just be saving him.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. – Proverbs 28:13

So, I feel like I’ve hit you over the head with enough Bible verses.  Getting over the hurt is going to be hard, but, it’s not time for that yet.  I’m afraid this is likely to hurt more before it gets better, whether or not you work to put a stop to it.  Either way, it’s going to cause pain.  Leaving it alone will be continued pain for the rest of your marriage.  Confronting it will involve being refined in fire for your husband, you will will likely need to go through it, at least in part, with him.  It won’t be fun.  The choice is yours.

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10 thoughts on “How to deal with an unrepentant spouse”

  1. Re' Schlitt says:

    I am a recovered porn addict that has turned my life, and marriage around, and daily work to put that life behind me, and help other men to do the same.

    With that said, my heart aches for what this woman is being put through, as her husband stays stuck in his sin, yet makes her feel as if it’s her fault.

    In my opinion, men like this have no place in church leadership. My advise to her would be for her to tell him that either he confesses his sin to their pastor and removes himself from his position, or she will do it for him. Though some will find this mean and even vengeful, people stuck in addictions of this sort rarely choose to change unless they feel as if they are going to loose all that they value and hold dear. He also needs to commit to treatment and real change.

    To the wife I would say that the power he has over you, is power that you have given him. No wife should put up with porn in their marriage as its effects on their husband are crippling and will cause him to want her to be someone she is not capable of being. She simply can’t compete with the porn or be the wife he will desire her to be when he is being influenced by it.

    Simply put, her problem has no chance of going away so long as he is viewing pornography, and he will not stop viewing the porn while he feels his world is safe.

  2. JaxStyle says:

    I pray for this wife. I pray that God give her divine courage, strength, and faith as she endures this situation. I pray that she has divine courage to trust Jesus with all her heart and that she leans not to her own understanding and that she allows Jesus to direct her in walking through this. I pray against the spirit of fear and that it would be replaced with radical faith, faith to wait upon the Lord and to resist searching for other ways to overcome the situation outside of God’s leading. I pray for the heart of her husband, that it would be softened and humbled by the love of Jesus. I pray that his stony heart would be removed and replaced with a heart of flesh. I pray that he and his wife would be transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they can accomplish the perfect will of God. I pray against the bondage of addiction, that the chains would be broken by the power of Jesus. For therefore if the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed. I pray that the Word of God would be made manifest in the lives of this couple and that their marriage would be transformed and made new and beautiful by the power of Jesus. I pray for the leaders and elders and support ministers at their local church that they would be in tune with the voice and leading of Jesus and that they would have divine wisdom and love to help counsel this couple through healing and reconciliation. I pray all this in Jesus’s name, amen!

  3. Jenny says:

    I think the idea that he may not be a Christian needs to be considered. We deal with non-Christians very differently than we deal with unrepentant Christians.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I had assumed he was a Christian based on the fact that he’s in church leadership. He may not be acting like one…but I’d guess he’s at least a professing member.

  4. libl says:

    I agree with JD, but I am going to comment to the wife.

    You are not one flesh right now. What your husband says to you about this is not healthy, is not truthful, and not in the spirit of one flesh. It is all about his selfishness wrapped in deception. Have pity on him, but do not take his words to heart.

    You are married, but not in a one flesh marriage right now, so you MUST rely on God 100% for your growth, healing, worth, and value because your husband is deceived with a hardened heart and cannot see or perceive straight.

    Check out Leslie Vernick. Build up your CORE strength. Do nothing for your husband except what God directs you to do or what you want to do. If you don’t want to go to the gym, don’t go! If you want to or need to for your health, do it for yourself.

    I have a friend who knew she couldn’t get her husband to stop looking at porn, but she knew she at least had the authority to keep it out of her home and away from her children. Using spouses can be kicked out. Magazines can be burned. Electronics can be smashed. If he wants to look at porn, he has to go elsewhere to do it. Sit in a parking lot, rent a motel room…..

    My husband doesn’t look at porn, as far as I know, but likes movies. Any movie he has that features sex/nudity, I have vaulted away in his basement hobby room. They are not allowed upstairs among the children and I. I have found porn a couple of times (stuff people gave him and he took in his immaturity to avoid being teased) and threw it away.

    You can’t change him but you can build yourself up. Counter every lie with a truth.

    “You need to hit the gym.”

    “I am smokin’ hot, and you know it. I am just sorry you are blinded to it.”

    Don’t pick fights, don’t get involved in them. If you catch him using or getting on your case, have a trusted 3rd party on speed dial. My husband used to verbally and even physically threaten me to get me to shut up and avoid dealing with issues until I started reaching for the phone. It wasn’t a threat. It was a simple, let’s get a 3rd party in here to help us sort this out.

    Porn has nothing to do with you, but it affects you greatly. Take that hurt and be proactive with it. Warriors get hurt in battle. Take that hurt and pray fiercely. This is WAR and your husband’s soul is at stake.

    Get out with your gal pals. Don’t hide the truth, but be wise who you tell.

    I’m with you, sister!

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is really painful and I get that. I was challenged by a good friend to confess my porn use to my wife. It was really hard and I saw how much it hurt her. If I had refused to change, she would have been crushed. There is a process defined in Matthew 18: 15 to 20 that I think needs to be followed here. if you have confronted your husband about how his sin is hurting you and he refuses to change, then I think it’s time to bring in a third trusted party. Preferably a godly man whom you both respect. Ideally this would be a pastor or Elder. Ideally this would also be a man who has won more battles than he has lost in his own fight against pornography. If the husband refuses to listen to Pastor or Elder, then it may be appropriate to bring you in multiple elders. If none of this impacts him, then it may be time to treat him like you would an unbeliever. When I confessed my porn use to my wife, we agreed on several women she was allowed to talk about her feelings with. I would urge extreme caution before sharing this with other women without your husband’s knowledge.

  6. Kelli says:

    Thank you for holding the church responsible for what should be its roll in bringing a member back to the family and out of his sin.
    I had a friend who’s husband was in serious sin. I told her to take it to the church because they worked in the children’s ministry. When she spoke to those in charge they said, “well he’s so good with the kids.” She was devastated. Then she went to the lead pastor and he made no offer to help reconciliation only saying he would pray for her. We were both disgusted.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yeah, unfortunately, I hear a lot of stories like this.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Okay, what is this with people addicted to porn blaming it on their spouse. This lady says she 5’2″ tall and 120lbs. That’s a BMI of 21.9, a perfect BMI. She works out 5 days a week. She’s healthy. This guy’s a nut, or gay if his wife doesn’t turn him on. If you are married your spouse is by definition the sexiest, most beautiful person on the planet. They are the definition of physical beauty.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Well, that’s a big question to answer, but I think a large part of it has to do with the desire to not take responsibility for our sin. This desire seems in be inherent in our sinful nature. Look at Adam and Eve. Right off the bat they wouldn’t own up to their sin.

      And the truth is, I think in many (not necessarily all) cases, there is some shared responsibility. 1 Corinthians 7:5 definitely tells us that we are not to deprive our spouse, because if we do, we leave them open to temptation. So, then, if we are depriving our spouse, are we not then guilty of not doing our best not to help our spouse not to stumble? That, of course, in no way justifies their sin, but there are many spouses who will not take responsibility for their part as a refusing spouse either.

      And yes, I think your definition of beauty should be derived from your spouse, however, not everyone does that. It’s hard when you put so much focus on watching other’s have sex. Your brain redefines what is attractive based on where it gets it’s hormone boosts from. If it’s mostly from porn, well, then that’s going to alter you’re perception.

      That doesn’t make him gay or a nut…merely a guy trapped in sin, as we all are.

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