How can I help my spouse when he/she experiences moral failure? (Part 1)

Since pornography on the Internet continues to be more accessible, this is a frequently asked question by spouses of pastors. It is important to realize that thousands of other spouses may be experiencing the same dilemma you are facing. You are not alone in this perilous journey.


It is important that the pastoral couple be able to face the reality of the sin. Sometimes they can begin to talk openly between themselves, although a trusted friend or counselor may be needed to help a couple communicate about the real situation they are confronting. If healing is ever going to occur, the reality of their situation will have to be fully understood by both partners. Confession is the biblical term for this essential phase of healing.

Since secrecy is such a big part of this sin, it is critical that everything be out in the open between the couple. Trust will only return if honesty is practiced. It is usually a good idea for trusted elders or mentors to be aware of the issue. Otherwise the opportunity for accountability may be lost and with it the hope of restoration.


For real change to occur, the one who has failed morally needs to begin to change patterns that have allowed the sin to creep into his or her life. This type of action is called repentance. Until real repentance occurs, the tears, anger, pleas and even apologies are important but insufficient steps. Repentance must occur. Sometimes the spouse may be able to hold the partner accountable for continued change. However, encouraging action can become equated with nagging. In that case, accountability may need to be with someone other than the spouse.

If repentance does not occur, it may be necessary for the spouse to confront his or her partner and apply "tough love" principles. A counselor may be needed to evaluate if the changes are motivated by a genuine desire to change or if the changes are being done so the spouse will not be upset any longer or to just win back the spouse.