In a previous article, I made the point that women need to respect men for who they are and not wait until they “earn it”.
A question posed to me in reply is a good one and worthy of consideration. How do you respect a man who, by his own actions, or serious omissions, has lost your respect, or worse, earned your disrespect?
How do women deal with that?
Now, there are a number of actions or omissions that could result in a wife’s losing respect for her husband, but one of the most common today is when a man is addicted, especially to pornography. Although some men may debate it, the use of pornography is a form of adultery and every woman knows it in her heart. A woman is left feeling deeply betrayed, and for good reason. The intimacy he is supposed to share only with her is being shared with fantasy images on the screen. And competing with an airbrushed fantasy woman who doesn’t truly exist is nearly impossible.
But, it goes deeper than that. Because of the addictive nature of pornography, a man is rendered powerless and out of control. Addictions also tend to turn men into liars, as they try to cover their tracks and rationalize their behavior. Now, if there is one thing that challenges a woman’s ability to respect a man it is that kind of weakness and dishonesty.
We also need to understand that pornography use may cause a literal chemical addiction
that alters a man’s brain chemistry in a way similar to the use of street drugs.
Simply begging him to stop is usually not enough to beat it.
Think of the God ordained roles of men: leader, provider and protector. All of these imply strength. So when a man is failing in these roles, or is helpless against pornography, like Superman with Kryptonite, it’s a recipe for disaster.
This is an intensely painful situation for a woman and it’s easy to yield to anger and bitterness. But, it’s important in such cases to keep a realistic perspective on your man. First, we need to understand the visual nature of men’s sexuality. Unlike women, an emotional connection is not the first aphrodisiac. For men, it is visual images. Sexual temptations are everywhere and it’s often hard for a man to avoid or escape them. From a spiritual perspective, it’s a well orchestrated ploy of the enemy to neutralize men and destroy families. With that in mind, it’s important for women to not take the bait and play into his hands.
We also need to understand that pornography use may cause a literal chemical addiction that alters a man’s brain chemistry in a way similar to the use of street drugs. Simply begging him to stop is usually not enough to beat it.
In a great many cases, many men who get caught up in pornography use or other addictions already suffer from some emotional deprivation or wounds. Many men may seek escape in this fantasy world where women so willingly comply when feeling powerless in other areas of his life – like work, finances or relationships. I’m not excusing their behavior. Far from it. But, seeking to understand that there are underlying issues that need to be understood and resolved is the first step toward healing. As much as this behavior may deserve disrespect and even disdain, fueling a greater sense of powerlessness and impotence for a man through disrespectful comments and attitudes may tend to entrench the very behavior you want to discontinue.
I imagine St. John the Apostle, as he saw Jesus weak and seemingly impotent on the cross,
had kept the image in mind of when he had previously seen Jesus transfigured in glory.
In the same way, you need to keep the real man in your view and pray fervently for your husband.
For wives struggling to respect their husbands in these and similar circumstances, I would recommend that you take a full inventory of your husband. What are his good qualities and strengths? I know it may be hard to see them, so overshadowed as they are by this enormous weakness, but they are there. You married him for a reason, so think back to what qualities you saw to begin with. Write them down. Keep those qualities before you as you pray for your husband. I imagine St. John the Apostle, as he saw Jesus weak and seemingly impotent on the cross, had kept the image in mind of when he had previously seen Jesus transfigured in glory. In the same way, you need to keep the real man in your view and pray fervently for your husband. See him as the hostage he is, held captive beneath the brutality of addiction. Think of this, if he were a prisoner held in the Middle East, weak and debilitated by torture and abuse, would you see past that weakness and remember the real man inside? Don’t let the devil set your agenda. This is a battle: for his soul, for your marriage and for your family. It’s ugly. But you decide what you will focus on.
Communicate what you still see that’s good in your husband. He needs to hear these positive things from you. That doesn’t mean you stuff your own feelings. It’s a struggle and you’re entitled to the many emotions you’re experiencing. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to let your husband know his behavior is hurting you. But get help. I can’t emphasize that enough. There’s no one size fits all answer or approach. For some a “tough love stand” is the ticket, for others it’s not. Don’t go it alone. Obtain information and resources. You can also talk to an experienced therapist who values marriage and your Catholic values. Remember, those values are more than just a list of rights and wrongs. They’re a commitment to battle against the world, the flesh and the devil – to seek and save the lost.
Remember this: God never allows a trial unless He will bring a greater good from it. Believe that and put on your battle gear:
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power.
Put on the whole armor of God,
so that you may be able to stand against the wiles and temptations of the devil.
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh,
but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness,
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God,
so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to
quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
*For more information and help coping with pornography addiction: Integrityrestored.com
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