Women of my mother’s generation tell me that, back in the days of their young motherhood, no one ever talked about miscarriage. Tens of thousands of women suffered alone, unable to discuss with anyone the grief, frustration, confusion, and pain that accompanies the loss of life. I am sure there are many women today who also have no words to discuss the unspeakable grief of losing a child, but certainly it is discussed much more often and openly.
No, there is a different taboo topic for wives today. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of women silently live with the grief, frustration, confusion, and pain that accompanies their husband’s predilection for pornography.
Oh, we know pornography is wrong. We know it damages marriages and objectifies women. Our parish even has a fantastic priest who will speak out against such activities, challenging the way we use smartphones.
But what about the wives?
What about women whose husbands cheat on them regularly through rendezvous with anonymous women via media? What about the wives who are told “it’s not really cheating” as if their sense of betrayal is attributable only to a sensitive spirit and not to their husband breaking their marriage vows?
I’m thinking about this because my husband happened to mention yesterday that in the first year or two of our marriage he succumbed to temptation three times or so. His main point was that, by the grace of God, he no longer struggles with that temptation anymore. That’s not what I heard. What I heard was that, in the years when I was bearing and nursing his first two children, in the years when I was caring for a mother who was dying, and frankly, in the years when I was giving my body to him as often as he desired out of a sense of sacrificial self-donation, he willingly sought out naked pictures of other women.
I was devastated.
Yes, I get that it was ten years ago. I get that this happened before his conversion. What of it? It happened post-marriage vows. I refuse to explain away this pain like I have done with so many others. By God’s grace, it will not deal our marriage a death blow, but it does send me reeling.
I then — really, for the first time — considered those wives whose husbands are in the thick of pornography addiction. Where, I ask you, in the Church would they turn for support? They can’t share this pain with anyone without outing their husband. They all suffer silently, wondering what’s wrong with them, feeling un-beautiful (even though cheating happens to the absurdly beautiful as well), betrayed, and alone.
Bishops and priests, as we make reparation for the sins of our clergy via our Thursday penances, you must also make reparation for the sins of man against his wife. Good Shepherds, find your flock of wounded ewes and bind up their wounds. Teach us how to forgive. Teach us what forgiveness looks like. Teach us how to bring our wounds to Jesus so that by His wounds we can be healed. Lead us in our next steps. Form support groups. Pray for us. Let us know you pray for us. Offer Masses for us. Preach against pornography not just for concern for the user’s soul but also in compassion for the spouses who suffer. Refuse to ignore our wounds in the way the priest did when passing the man who had been pounced upon by thieves and left half-dead along the roadside (Luke 10:30-31 ). In this case, we were not even attacked by unknown thugs but were stabbed by the very ones who vowed to lay down their lives for us.
Oh, I know that pornography addiction is not really about the flaws and deficiencies of a spouse. I know that we could install Covenant Eyes on our devices. But just for minute, can we stop talking theoretically about the issue and instead minister to those in pain today? Huge swaths of wives (and, to a lesser degree, husbands) suffer silently, confused, frustrated, and alone. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Copyright 2019 Anonymous