Dear Dr. Elia,
Just a long comment from a sister who is divorced, after going to six
different marriage counselors and being separated six times, from an
unrepentant pornography user/nudist, angry, lying, spendthrift, abusive
member who held church leadership positions.
The best help for me was the book:
“I The Lord Have Seen Thy Sorrow” by Ruth Davidson
The confusion I faced for years, when I did not understand what was
happening or why, was the worst part of my experience. It was difficult
to find help. That book was an enormous help to me, but I did not find
it until a year after the divorce.
If a person does not repent of their sin, soon more sins and then more
sins are added to the mix. The person you live with is constantly
changing - for the worse - and is not the person you married! Because
this happens a little at a time, it is not a shock to the system of the
wife, as it would be to an outsider just discovering it, because she is
like the frog in pot of water, slowly being warmed up - she is likely
very depressed and confused and her self esteem is being assaulted!
Satan uses people as tools to hurt other people. Who better than a
family member? And Satan knows us well and knows how to hurt us.
And…often the families look terrible and the sinner looks great! But
“by their fruits ye shall know them” …and the condition of your family
is “fruits.”` The guilty party is hiding their sin, but not the
consequences of it.
It is very difficult for anyone in the home trying to live the gospel,
to understand why they are not experiencing the joy of it, or receiving
the blessings. For instance, my spouse lost his job. I feel certain
now that it was because the Lord was trying to humble him, but at the
time the children and I were confident that we would be blessed because
we paid our tithing and kept the Sabbath, and obeyed the other major
commandments - not saying we were perfect! But we had faith! Finally
one day the Lord told me to stop praying for him and to pray for myself.
That was when my eyes opened and I knew he was being dealt with -
though I did not know why.
It was during the final separation that I had my most incredible
spiritual experience, that, eight years later, still sustains me. I
must say that it is important to get away from the environment created
by the sinning spouse. It is killing you and your children. When you
get away, as you seek your Heavenly Father, you will feel the spirit in
a way you could not while your spouse was there. The Lord may be saying
“no” or “not now” to a divorce, but ask Him how He feels about a
separation! In order to save yourself and your family you absolutely
need to have communion with the Lord. While you are with your spouse
you are being so constantly assaulted that it is hard to recover. I
spent days in bed as I became so weak from the constant contention,
personal attacks and confusion.
Fear is a difficult thing to overcome. (How will I feed the kids?) but
we have been immensely blessed, protected and prospered since leaving.
We were greatly supported by kind priesthood leaders and led to a
healing place. We are progressing, although I cannot say we are
completely healed. We have forgiven. One thing I would like others in
my position to know is that it really isn’t personal, as much as it felt
like it was. Your spouse did not INTEND to hurt you. They were trying
to feel better, but they broke the laws of heaven in the attempt.
It must be hard for Heavenly Father also. Here he wants to bless a
spouse and/or children for their faithfulness, but he also needs to
consequence the unrepentant one, in order to bring them to repentance
and save them. The innocent suffer in confusion with the guilty who is
busy lying to themselves about what is happening, if they are not
repenting. When Heavenly Father blesses a family for the righteous
members sakes, the guilty member thinks they are getting away with their
sins. This isn’t good for them either. It is just a difficult
situation all the way around!
Other women soon came to share their experiences with me. I know of men
in leadership who have molested their sons and daughters and also were
willing to force themselves upon an unwilling spouse. People progress
in their sins at different rates. Like alcoholics - some lose control
after the first drink and others take many years before they become
addicted. It really is a plague in our midst. Many do not realize how
far Satan can take them. He can take you from a computer screen to a
prison. But you think not, because you are willing to lie to others,
you become the most deceived of all. It is the law of the harvest.
I would like to see much more done for the victims of this crime. It
takes years and years of hard work to overcome the damages caused by
living with someone who is involved in pornography.
This sin affects everyone the sinner comes in contact with. You can
actually become so informed about the negative fruits of this sin that
you can spot the fruits and know what is happening behind the scenes.
My hope is that you, having a forum that gives you the opportunity to
help people like me, will have many tools to give the victims so that
they can be relieved of much of the burden they carry away with them.
“Why me?” “Did I deserve this?” “Did I do something wrong in the
I am not yet at the point where I could say that I was glad that I had
this experience. I am not glad. It was so awful that if I didn’t have
children to live for, I would have wished for death without reserve. I
still look at the men around me and their families and wonder…and I
certainly wonder about the divorced men. It just isn’t so safe out
there anymore! I am concerned about trying to marry again, because the
suffering is so great that I wonder if I could live through something
that difficult again. So I am not done.
And to you men who justify that you are doing this because it is your
wife’s fault in some way - that you do no love her…well big surprise
that you don’t feel love for her! Love and lust cannot coexist! You
chose lust. Therefore you do not feel love. You will have the lust you
chose until you have had your fill of it. However, there is no
guarantee that your family will still be around when you finally decide.
They have to survive too. And you have starved them from receiving
the affection that is rightfully theirs.
Being single is way easier that being married to someone involved in
this sin. Ruth Davidson admits that there is no hope if repentance does
not occur. If it does occur then there is hope, but it still will be
very difficult. She helps people know what they are in for as they
struggle through the process of rebuilding a marriage as well as offers
good counsel for those who have no choice but to go on alone. Either
way the Lord is with you and he is very patient, generous and kind.
I really appreciate your comments and insights about this serious topic.
Although your comments are long, I decided not to edit them. It is an
opportunity for others to read them and hopefully gain from your
experience and perspective. I had a client once who gave me Ruth
Davidson’s books: I, The Lord, Have Seen Thy Sorrow: An LDS Guide to
Dealing with the Pain of Infidelity and Through Faith They Shall
Overcome: An LDS Guide to Facing the Daunting Challenge of Forgiving
Sexual Sin. Both of these books have been very helpful to many wives who
have been on the receiving end of pornography and other sins of their
spouses due to lust.
As you suggest there’s love and then there’s lust and they cannot
coexist at the same time, just like a person cannot serve two masters at
the same time.`So what exactly is lust and how can someone recognize it
in themselves or those around them? In the Sexaholics Anonymous “white
book” as it is called, we find the following criteria in the chapter
Lust: The Force Behind the Addiction (page 43).
Not being able to say no
Constantly being in dangerous sexual situations
Turning my head as if sex-starved all the time
Attraction only to beautiful people
Use of erotic media
Being addicted to the partner as I would be to a drug
Losing my identity in the partner
Obsession with the romantic: going for the “chemistry”
The desire to make the other person lust
I hope this definition is helpful to anyone reading this. If you or
anyone you know suffers from lust, this is the time to do something
about it. Seek help from you church leaders, seek professional counsel
if need be, but most of all turn your heart, mind and soul to the
Savior. Do not be discouraged, help is available. It takes a LOT of hard
work, but healing is possible.
God bless you and your families!
Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.