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How can a wife give her husband accountability?

How can a wife give her husband accountability in the area of sexual purity or pornography? Here are five recommendations and one encouragement.

During a Facebook Live video a woman asked: “How can a wife give her husband accountability in the area of sexual purity?” I interpreted this to be a question about pornography, which I see causing terrible problems in the home and the church. It robs men of their dignity, makes them passive, and destroys initiative and motivation. It stops men from being the leaders they should be in the home and the church. When men look at pornography they won’t feel comfortable praying, reading the Word, or leading in their home or church.

As a result of these consequences, I was glad to answer the woman’s question. Although, since I didn’t have time to prepare my response, I wasn’t as thorough as I would’ve liked. Here’s the video containing my answer, and below that is the post that’s more thorough.

1. Pray for his salvation if he’s unsaved

A pattern of unbroken sin is evidence of being unsaved (1 John 3:4-9). There’s a good chance that a husband who habitually looks at pornography isn’t saved. Pray for his salvation. As an unregenerate man there’s little chance he’ll develop victory over his addiction in his own effort. He needs the indwelling Holy Spirit helping him.

2. Communicate how difficult it is to respect him when he looks at pornography

When our children are only a few months old we don’t punish them, because they don’t know better and they lack self-control. Growing up means knowing better and developing self-control. When men look at things they shouldn’t it’s not masculine. Instead, they’re showing they’re like babies who have no self-control. Pornography turns men into boys (or babies). This is why few (if any) things destroy a wife’s respect for her husband faster than pornography. A wife should pray for the opportunity to share with her husband respectfully, but honestly, how difficult his sin makes it for her to respect him.

3. Encourage him to find an accountability partner

When I counsel a man struggling with pornography, I do not send him back to his wife for accountability:

  1. She will understandably be speaking more out of her personal hurt. This prevents her from giving him the objective, honest counsel he needs. It’s beneficial when another man can look him in the eyes and tell him the problems he’s causing himself and his wife.
  2. Women have different struggles with men. She will not be able to relate to her husband the way another man can. Men tend to struggle with purity visually. Women tend to struggle with purity emotionally, thinking of how much better another man would treat her.
  3. A husband will not want to share his failure with his wife, because of shame, but also because of the pain he knows it will cause her.

For these reasons it’s best if men receive accountability from other men. Perhaps a godly friend or elder in the church who can correct him.

 4. Strive for brokenness over anger

Understandably wives are angry when their husbands look at pornography, but James 1:20 says, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Often the anger produces fighting and arguments. A wife’s brokenness over her husband’s sin will encourage him to feel terrible about what he’s doing.

5. Set an example that convicts him

1 Peter 3:1 and 2 says, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” If a wife wants her husband to a godly man, she should be a godly woman. No husband with a spiritual wife can sit at home being unspiritual and lame without feeling ashamed. The wife’s Christ-like example will convict him to change, and this is one of the best ways for a her to be her husband’s helper.

Be encouraged that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would convict

In John 16:8 Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin.” A husband might pretend that he is not convicted, and his wife might not be able to tell by looking at him that he feels convicted, but he does. In contrast, when a wife is unsubmissive, angry, and nagging, the husband does not see God through her and as a result avoids feeling convicted at all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other ways can a wife help her husband with accountability?
  2. Do you see some other encouragements for wives when their husbands struggle with pornography?

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12 thoughts on “How can a wife give her husband accountability?

  1. Thank you for this graet article. I think i’m gonna have to have a good concersation with my husband about it.

    1. Hi Sophie,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad the post will create some discussion between you and your husband!

  2. We can hold our husbands accountable on some level, but I think it’s really important to pray for there to be other men in their lives that will hold our husbands accountable too. Over accountability with our husbands can turn into nagging if we aren’t careful. Having another man to hold him accountable is helpful on many levels.

    1. Hi Tara,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you also recognize the need for men to have accountability in their lives from besides just their wives, not because it agreed with the post, but because I’m glad to hear that from a wife! Also, yes, great point that it can turn into nagging!

  3. These are important topics… Wives need to know where the hang-ups are for their husbands in this area. I have a great mentor, a woman further down her walk with God, in marriage and motherhood… and she also makes sure to get to the mail first and removes any pieces of advertising that have women dressed less than modestly because that is a hang up for her husband. He doesn’t know she does it she doesn’t tell him… she just does it to keep snares from her husband’s path… little things like that are important.

    1. Hi Marissa,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Your mentor sounds like a wise woman. I appreciate what she does for her husband. That’s a good piece of advice for wives, that I’m glad is included on the post now. She might tell him that she does it though, instead of keeping it from him; if he’s a godly man he’ll probably appreciate her efforts for him!

  4. Hey Scott, I think I enjoyed this post more than any others you’ve done. (And I like them all.) It was clear, biblical and ended with a note of hope in Christ.

    With regard to #1 above, in my experience, nearly all of the young men I counsel are both Christians and struggling in some way with pornography. It’s a fine line. On the one hand, as you say, ‘no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him’ (1 John 3:6). But on the other hand, even Paul could say ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.’ (Romans 7:19). So, while a pattern of unbroken sin can certainly indicate someone isn’t saved, I’m equally concerned to see that someone is fighting sin, even if they’re losing more than I’d like. The fighting shows the Spirit is at work (Galatians 5).

    Finally, with regard to your first discussion question, a wife can go to her church leadership if necessary. Hopefully, it won’t need to escalate to formal discipline, but this process can be the stimulus a husband needs to change.

    Thanks again for a fantastic post, Scott!

    1. Hi Bryan,
      Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and disagreeing with me :). I mean that! I appreciate your question/clarification, and I agree with you. Romans 7 is the safe haven, not for the unbeliever, but for the believer who is struggling against sin. And I think the key word is “struggling.” You said you’re counseling Christian young me who are “struggling.” You definitely see the “struggle” in Paul in those verses. 1 John, and other places, describe people who are not struggling against sin, and that serves as evidence of being unregenerate. With that said, I think that could’ve been clearer in my post.

      The word that contrasts struggling is “practicing. For example, in Galatians 5:21 Paul said:

      envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

      Probably the clearest place is 1 John 3:4-10:

      4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

      These verses describe individuals practicing sin versus struggling against it, and that’s evidence of being unregenerate. Again, that could’ve been clearer in the post. Good contribution about the church elders too.

    2. Sure, and thanks for receiving my feedback so well. I figured we’re on the same page with the distinction between ‘practicing’ and ‘struggling with’ sin. Great verses to consider, by the way.

      I’ve seen a lot of younger Christian guys panic when the struggle becomes intense, and start to question their salvation and God’s presence even though they’re fighting hard. They need to be encouraged.

      At the same time, guys who aren’t fighting need to be warned strongly in love.

      So, this is a distinction that’s really important on many levels: for us personally, for guys faced with sexual sin and temptation, their wives, and, church leaders who are trying to shepherd all of the above.

      Thanks again, brother!

    3. Hi Bryan,
      Hmmm, when you wrote this it really created some pity in me for these guys, and I don’t mean “pity” in the condescending way, I mean genuine sympathy:

      I’ve seen a lot of younger Christian guys panic when the struggle becomes intense, and start to question their salvation and God’s presence even though they’re fighting hard.

      I think we project ourselves on others, and because this isn’t a particularly difficult struggle for me, or you could say by God’s grace He’s given me victory in that area, I lack sympathy for those who are dealing with it in the way you describe. I’m sorry for the previous sentence in that I don’t want you (or others) to “think more of me than you ought” (Romans 12:3), but I didn’t know how else to explain why I’ve – regrettably – lacked compassion that I should feel. The sin (pornography) seems so evil to me that when I think of men engaging in it, at least married men, I have trouble not thinking of them being unsaved. But I know I have my own sins and struggles, and someone could easily look at my failings, the evil of them, and think the same.

      One other thing I’ll add. It seems, at least in some circles, that pornography is sort of an acceptable sin. It’s almost like people are resigned to thinking, “Well, men are men, so they’re just going to struggle with it. The percentage of men looking at porn is so high, it must just be something all guys are into.” That could contribute to a desensitizing to the seriousness of it, and I think I’ve seen that too.

      At any rate, I think you have a very healthy balance, and I’m glad these young men have you in their lives. I mean that. God bless you Brother!

  5. This is a subject that we just don’t discuss enough. All of your examples are great. I really cannot think of anything else I would add to this one.

    1. Hi Stacy,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m especially glad to hear from a woman who can provide her perspective.

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!