Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Grappling the Tough Questions

Healing is a funny thing. 

Sometimes the Lord heals instantaneously.  Other times, it’s gradual.  And sometimes, it’s veeeeeery gradual—too much for comfort.  And still other times, we may not realize our healing until heaven.  But in all instances, God does heal, one way or another.

Obviously, I would love to see everyone who is struggling with Internet sex be healed instantaneously—for their sake and for the sake of their family.  But what does a family do when that healing is gradual?  How should a spouse of a newly repentant mate interact with him or her over the weeks, months, and years?

Another important question is, If I am involved on the Internet, should I tell my wife (or husband)?  Or will I hurt them too much, causing a huge issue and threaten our marriage when I’m sure I can handle this on my own with God?

What about this?—Do I make my spouse an accountability partner in this?

Phew!  I need to take a breath.  These are very difficult things to grapple with.  And trust me, there is no easy answer.  The fact is that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to any of these.

From stories I’ve heard from those who struggle with the Internet, I can tell you that all of these things depend on your relationship with your particular husband or wife.

Obviously, the first place to start with an addict is to repent.  Whether or not your spouse knows about your addiction, it is critical for you to repent of your sin.

All sin is an offense against God, first and foremost.  Sure, that sin hurts spouses, children, other family and friends, but God is the object of any sin we commit.  It says, “I don’t care about you right now, God.  This is more important to me than doing what you want me to do.  You’re way is too hard for me at this time.”

Spouses need to understand that someone can be very sincere in their repentance of Internet sex, but because there is a difference between repentance and healing.  I believe the former paves the way for the latter.  But regarding an addiction as vicious as this one, it may take time for your loved one to grasp how deep he or she must go to reach profound repentance.

What can you do to help him? 

First of all, communicate with him.  Don’t let this be a secret between you anymore.  Ask him often how he’s doing in this area.  He may get sick of it and even get angry with you, but he needs to be reminded of how critical this topic is in your marriage.  But you must communicate this in love.

And love is a second way you can help him.  Love, love, love!  Shower your spouse with affection.  There is something amiss in your husband, true, but also in your relationship with him.  If there are needs that aren’t being met (and you know what I mean), talk about them during a neutral time.  Go out to dinner, just the two of you, and share hearts (but quietly, lest your neighbor get an earful).  Or arrange a time while you’re both in bed before lights out and talk.  But apart from this, love in the form of encouragement and affirmation is SO crucial to your relationship.

Now I realize that if your spouse has been involved in Internet sex, the last thing you will want to do is look at him, let alone, touch him!  But allow time to heal.  And, don’t let this sit for months or even years!  If you are serious about your marriage, you will do whatever it takes to get your spouse back whole.

Men and women, if you’re involved in the addiction, you need accountability.  Do not think that you can go this alone.  It just doesn’t work that way.  And, by the way, that’s exactly what satan wants.  You need to find a pastor, a counselor, a good friend, or even a group of friends or a support group.  Choose a person or group who you can trust.  Pray that the Lord will bring such people to cross your path.  Remember, the Lord wants you healed as much as you do!  Romans 15:1 states: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”  Find “strong” brothers or sisters to enter your life.

Now, should you tell your spouse?  This is a very, very tough call.  I have to leave this up to you.  Every spouse is different.  One spouse may completely fall apart and throw themselves into depression.  Another may pick up a hammer and whack you.  And many are somewhere in-between.

Ideally, I believe a spouse needs to know.  Besides, it’s only a matter of time before the Lord reveals it to him or her.  So how do you want them to find out—from you or from the Lord?  I know a man that has chosen his wife to be the accountability partner.  But you may find that some spouses don’t want to know what’s going on!  Pray that the Lord gives you wisdom here.  I know that many readers may feel strongly one way or the other.  And that’s okay.  I am open to other opinions and yes, I can (and often am) wrong!  But please, please, please remember…if your spouse does not know, someone else MUST know, someone who cares about you and your marriage, who is wise in the Lord, and who will pray for you.

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