Everyone has a past. EVERYONE! And we all bring that baggage into our marriage relationships, whether we want to or not.
I have become absolutely convinced that brutal, gut-level honesty within marriage relationships is vital. I use the words “have become” because I have not always been a strong supporter of telling the truth to my wife, Heather. There were almost 10 years of our marriage that I told her lies, sometimes on a daily basis. I tried to justify my actions for the sake of protecting Heather and our marriage. You see, for 10 years I struggled with pornography. My kids would tell you that I was a great dad. My wife would tell you that I was a loving husband. And my friends thought that I was a model Christian. But I knew better. I was living a double life.
According to the latest research, nearly 95% of men were introduced to porn before the age of 18. For women, the numbers are rising upwards of 60%. The stats are telling us that this is not just a man’s issue anymore. Pornography has become the huge elephant in the room. Let’s talk about it.
A dear friend of mine called me the other day saying that he was having some relationship issues. He told me that he just confessed to his girlfriend about an affair that he had during his first marriage. At the tender beginnings of their relationship, not wanting to create unnecessary waves, he didn’t want to tell her about his past. He had received the advice from a friend to just bury it, that she would never find out. Well, when he told her later, she felt as though she had been stabbed in the back!
I gave him two pieces of advice, which I rarely do:
First, I told him to never ask his friend for relationship advice again. Secondly, I told him that he needed to come clean with her about everything. Yes, EVERYTHING!
Some of you reading this right now might be thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to tell him/her about THAT!” Whatever ‘that’ might be. And here’s what I’ll share with you…
A trusted colleague, Dr. Mark Laaser (www.faithfulandtrueministries.com), is a researcher and counselor who has worked in the field of addiction for the past 30 years. He has seen every kind of betrayal known to man. He has worked with couples who have had long-term affairs. He’s walked with men struggling with pornography addictions. He’s counseled those who have hit bottom. Dr. Laaser found that in the couples he has worked with where there was complete transparency, 100% of them stayed together. You read that right, 100%!
That means that those couples who tried to keep something from one another or who were honest only to a point, most of them broke up or divorced because of what they withheld from one another.
Numbers 32:23 says,
…your sin will find you out.”
Even when you think that you’ve buried your sin so deep that no one will find it; God is faithful to use your spouse to bring it to light. I can’t tell you how many times that the Lord revealed my sin to Heather. There were many times that she felt compelled to confront me or ask me questions about things that she had no prior knowledge of, and my sins were revealed.
To say that there was something in my life that was missing was an understatement. My pornography addiction was controlling every aspect of my life! I hadn’t ever experienced the freedom that many Christians talk about. It was always just out of reach. Some battles I won, but most days I felt defeated and completely consumed.
This all came to a head at the lowest point in my life. I was at the end of myself and I couldn’t hide anymore. In the middle of the most hellish time of our marriage, Heather had the courage to reach out by texting some friends. She simply said, “We are in crisis.” Within the next few hours, sitting in the midst of two trusted couples, with my wife by my side, everything I had ever done was laid out on the table for all to see. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t pretty. But I couldn’t bear this burden by myself any longer. I was broken! And in the midst of my pain and shame, I was comforted by these words. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you will be healed” (James 5:16). I had been unwilling to confess my sins, out of pride, arrogance and shame. I didn’t realize that I had a part to play in my own healing. It was my job simply to confess, and for others to pray for me…so that I might be healed! You can’t have one without the other.
Now I ask you, what do you need to confess? I can almost guarantee that a lump rose in some of your throats just now at the thought that you need to come clean of something. Confess it to one another. Not for the sake of saving your marriage, but to save your soul.
I can hear many of you saying, “But Ryan, what if I tell her and she leaves me? What if I confess this sin and he never forgives me?” I understand and obviously have been there! It’s gonna be messy. Life always is. In fact, it will likely be the most difficult conversation you’ll ever have. It was for me. But know this; it will be the most rewarding as well, because freedom and healing are waiting on the other side!
Scripture calls us to carry our cross and follow Him. And following him means being willing to die to ourselves. “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).” It starts with you. How much is your freedom worth?