When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, Vicki Tiede (New Growth Press, 2012)
Talk about a loaded title! Perhaps it is a bit of an uncomfortable subject, but I was looking forward to having this resource for my church library. While I’m glad to see more and more resources available for men who struggle with sexual sin, their suffering wives have not had much available to them. And I have had more friends than I’d like to number who have been in this painful struggle–When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography. Of course, the gospel can minister to even this tragedy, but I was eager to have a resource to share.
First I want to say that I really appreciated the clarity in the introduction. The book is not a manual on how to fix your husband. It is also more specifically geared for encountering the first level of sexual addiction, which is pornography (and acts associated with it). While Tiede does address affairs and other forms of sexual perversion in the book, her main aim is to minister specifically to the women of her title.
This was an emotional read for me. I seriously had a bit of a breakdown about 25% of the way through the book because Tiede really touches on the pain that these women go through. She can identify with them because she went through it herself. In addition, the book is peppered with quotes from numerous women that she has interviewed. Their words reveal the raw anguish a woman goes through in this trial, along with true hope in Christ. The loss of trust, the fear, lies, wrestling with constant suspicion, and rejection are but a few of the topics addressed in this book. It is pretty heavy. But someone experiencing these very heartaches in their marriage will be comforted to have other voices that have been through similar experiences, and can point them to the One Comfort that they will always have—Christ is with us in our joy and in our pain. He is sufficient. By pointing the reader to their greater need, Vickie Teide is able to show that this trial can produce a good kind of suffering:
Good suffering…reduces you to a point of being completely ineffective in your own efforts and old patterns of coping and requires dependence on God (29). When the thing you desire more than anything else is to be close to God, you won’t place demands on your husband to meet your needs (30).
She reminds the reader over and over that her husband’s choices do not affect God’s ability to meet her needs. God is the one that we place our trust in above all, and he is faithful.
Tiede also delivers some hard words in love. Dealing with a husband caught in such a serious sin can cause a wife to become self-righteous. I loved her illustration of trials being like a magnified mirror into our own hearts. Often our own sinful hearts are revealed when we are sinned against. The reader is gently nudged:
It might be very difficult to admit this, but if your husband has taken responsibility for his addiction and has shown sincere remorse, he may be better able to walk in freedom from his pornography addiction than from your disapproval and judgment. I’m just asking you to think about it (193-194).
So in many ways, I found this book helpful for a friend or a counselor who would want to better understand what their suffering friend may be going through. It also would be beneficial for husbands to really see the consequences of this sin.
I can’t imagine how difficult this book was to write. Tiede does a great job relating to the reader, while not demonizing or even demeaning offending men. Her tone is more like a friend helping you grieve and grow through the journey, rather than give you all the answers. These are all great strengths. But I did find myself having some imaginary conversations with the author while reading. I don’t want to come off as a theological curmudgeon, because I appreciate the intent and passion of this author and the labor of love that is evident in her book. But I want to be honest with some caveats.
While The Message may be helpful as a commentary for some, I cringe when it is actually used as a Bible translation. It’s used at least four times in the book. Here is one example where I think it clearly effects the meaning of the passage:
Matthew 5:1–4 in The Message paints a beautiful picture of Jesus’ message to you as you grieve your losses: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (23).
The beatitudes are not about Jesus’ message to me as I grieve my losses, but rather the beatific vision of Christ himself. While the above “translation” may have a good message, I think it takes away the power of Christ being the One who was truly poor in Spirit and in mourning on the count of our sin.
There were some more instances where I felt like the focus was more subjective and inward rather than focusing on Christ’s work on our behalf. Sometimes the reader is asked to listen to God in prayer and record the truths that he brings to her heart. While the Holy Spirit surely leads us, I would want to teach from what we can objectively say from the authority of God’s Word in Scripture. The heart can be deceitful, especially in a time of suffering like this. It can trick us into thinking we are hearing something from God that may really be our own sinful desires. God’s Word in Scripture is sufficient to thoroughly equip us for our sanctification.
I struggle with the whole admonition to “surrender” things to the Lord. While I know that it is important not to try to control things on our own, which is what I think most mean when they say this, it can sound like another subjective area of obedience. How do we know when we’ve really surrendered enough? If I say that I surrender my anger to the Lord, and tomorrow I get angry again, what did I surrender before? You see, this language is placing me as the giver instead of the receiver. And in the covenant of grace, I am the receiver. So in her chapter on surrender, Tiede encourages the reader to surrender their guilt, control, fear, and anger to the Lord—to “release” it and “let go.” That’s the prayer we are encouraged to make. But I wished she would have emphasized more (because she does at different points in the book) here about how God dealt with these through Christ on the cross. We need the indicatives before the imperatives. The balloon analogy she gives of letting go and not holding onto the string to pull it back gives the picture of our fears and anger just floating away. But I know from other parts of the book that Tiede would agree that Christ took them to the cross, and our holding onto any control is an illusion in the first place.
I also was nodding and shaking my head at the same time while I was reading the chapter on forgiveness. For example, I was saying “right on” when I read lines like “Trust is earned by a man’s character, but forgiveness is given because of God’s character” (224). But then I didn’t quite align with her warning not to forgive too quickly. In Scripture we are told to forgive, period (Luke 17:3-4). Jesus didn’t tell us to sleep on it, but to forgive seven times in one day if that’s the case. Tiede goes into making sure that your husband is sincere in his repentance, but how can we really know this? Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there are no consequences, but it is recognizing that the offender does not personally owe us justice. God is the avenger. She urges the reader to ask Jesus to tell us when to forgive, but he already did in Scripture. Yet Tiede ends that whole section with a great question, “Would you rather remember this season of suffering and renewal as one marked by all the great things you have done or all the great things God has done?” (258). So I was nodding and questioning throughout that chapter.
The book ends with two appendixes. The first is a fantastic list of resources from the internet, counseling and support groups, workshops, and internet filters. The second addresses the subject of when your church is not behind you. It stinks this even has to be addressed, but I’m glad that she does. What I would really like to see is the church stepping in and stepping up here. Tiede gives statics of one survey showing 50% of professing Christian men and 20% of professing Christian women having an addiction to pornography. I did look up that source and found it to only be a survey of 1,000 people. While it may not be a credible indicator of the church as a whole, it does show a real problem. This could be a whole other book, because I would like to see women mostly encouraged to be under the means of grace and Christian family which Christ has ordained to sanctify his people. As a church, we need to be better equipped to not only counsel families in this situation, but present the picture of Christ and his church that marriage is to point. After all, it isn’t the wife or the children who a cheating husband has offended most, but Christ himself, who he is supposed to represent. That is why divorce is so violent (Malachi 2:16).
I am thankful that Vickie Teide has added much to this conversation, and pray that her book will be a blessing to those who are suffering. I also am encouraged and equipped to be a better friend to those who are.
*Vicki Tiede has answered your questions very well and I will be posting her interview on Wednesday, Oct. 24th. The publisher asked me to send five questions, but I think I summarized all the submissions well in the five I submitted.
**New Growth Press is giving away two copies of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography for Housewife Theologian readers, as I have participated in the blog tour to launch the book. If you are interested in a copy (and I encourage it as a resource for your church) for yourself or a loved one, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email the winners of the drawing! You have until Friday, 10/26.