Breaking Old Cycles
About the Guest
All of us bring some baggage into our marriage. It's when we unpack it later that it causes harm to our unsuspecting spouse. Authors Craig and Jen Ferguson talk about their early years of marriage. Jen shares what it was that first began to alert her to a problem with her husband, like his absence in the middle of the night, or random pay per view charges on their cable bill. It was the lack of intimacy, however, that alarmed her the most. Find out what Jen uncovered about Craig that left her stunned and heartbroken.
Craig and Jen FergusonCraig & Jen Ferguson have been married since 2000. They love spending their time with their lovely daughters and two (rather high maintenance) dogs in Austin, Texas.
Craig and Jen Ferguson talk about their early years of marriage. Jen shares what it was that first began to alert her to a problem with her husband. Find out what Jen uncovered about Craig that left her stunned and heartbroken.
Breaking Old Cycles
Bob: You had probably heard all your life: “This is just how guys are. Guys just—they think about sex all the time.” So after you’re married, you have desire; your husband doesn’t.
You had to be thinking, like a lot of wives today are thinking, “What’s wrong with me?”
Jen: Oh, for sure. I thought I was too fat, or I wasn’t pretty enough, or I didn’t have what it took. I think I couldn’t adequately help him in the beginning because I thought the porn was about me / I thought that porn was about sex.
It wasn’t until God showed me that it’s about escape and about not being able to deal with real life that I could separate myself from the addiction. I think we have society and media always telling us, as women, what we need to look like, and how it’s our fault, and “If we just did this…” or “If we were more adventurous in bed…” or “If we got boob jobs…” or “…facelift…” or whatever—then—“…then our husbands would want us.” It’s just the biggest lie.
Bob: You know, Dennis, we talk regularly to couples at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. In the last decade, more and more women have come up and said, “My husband’s not interested.”
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: You do have to wonder—how many of those situations—there’s a hidden porn issue going on in their marriage.
Dennis: Right because it’s really siphoning off some of the desire or the majority of the desire that would drive a husband and a wife to merge together.
I’ve asked many a wife: “Tell me about your husband’s past pornographic behavior: How much has he been involved? What’s taking place there?” In many cases, the wife has a suspicion but nothing in terms of hard data or anything she’s found.
It took an experience with you on Mother’s Day to ultimately catch him and find out the truth about what was taking place in his life?
Jen: Right. He said, “For Mother’s Day, I want you to go treat yourself to a haircut.” That was just like: “Okay; yes. I’m going to get in the car, and go to the salon, and I’m going to spend 30 minutes in peace.” [Laughter] I drove to the salon. There was a “Closed” sign on the door. I thought: “Oh, she’s a new mom. Of course, she’s going to shut down for Mother’s Day.”
I got back in the car, disappointed, and drove up to the house. I opened the front door, and Elmo is just blaring on the TV. My two-year-old daughter is doing her two-year-old thing—dancing and singing to Sesame Street. I can hear my other daughter, in our bedroom, crying. She was about six months old. I was like, “Oh, Craig must be changing her diaper, or something like that.”
I come out of the bedroom, and I see the study door closed. That was like Rule #1 in our house of how to not be tempted to look at porn—was, “Don’t ever be in the room with the door closed.” So when I saw that closed door, I knew that he was looking at porn. Here I am, just shaking in front of the door; and I have Hannah in my arms.
I just opened it so fast because I want to catch him because I am so mad. I want to prove, “You have betrayed me again!”—so “There it is, and I see it,”—I just lost it.
I gave him the baby, and I went into the bathroom of our—furthest I could get away from everyone. I just threw myself on the floor and I said: “Why? You knew from, when I was a little kid, I wanted to have a husband who loved me and who took care of me. Why did You think this was a good idea?”
That’s just where I laid it all out—spent, I don’t know, a good ten minutes, just crying. Finally, I didn’t have any more tears left. God just said, “Are you ready to do this My way?” I was like, “Well, clearly, all of my ways have failed,” because I had tried to control his every move and tried my best to keep him safe from pornography. I failed to do that, but it’s because I wasn’t meant to do that—I wasn’t meant to save him / I wasn’t meant to tempt him away from porn—that’s not why God created me and not why I was his wife. God had to do that job.
I had a role in helping, but I wasn’t the savior. That day, I recognized who was really going to be the savior in the situation—it wasn’t me.
Dennis: God hadn’t made you to compete with pornography.
Dennis: He made you to be a helpmate—
Jen: —and not a parent.
Jen: —to him.
Dennis: —to a real man.
Dennis: Take us to that room—that closed door—when the door burst open. What happened?
Bob: You thought you had 30 minutes all to yourself; didn’t you?
Craig: Yes; yes. It never gets any easier listening to that. I was obviously shocked and, of course, ashamed. I mean, that shame—it’s still lingering there because I know the hurt that it caused. But God redeems all things, you know, and has done wonderful things through this experience we’ve had with one another. But at that time, that was really a knife in the heart.
Each time I got caught, it was like: “Okay do I really have a handle on this? Do I not have a handle on this? What do I do? How do I fix me?” because I always saw—at that point, it was really—it was an issue—right?—it was a major, major issue.
Dennis: What were you thinking—holding your daughter / six-month-old daughter, standing in that room—you’re hearing your wife yell and scream at God, slam the bathroom door, and just cry out? What—what—
Craig: I felt so helpless. I really felt just so helpless and actually hopeless. I did not feel adequately prepared—I didn’t feel adequate enough at all for her or for the family, and I didn’t really have an answer. I didn’t have an answer to why I was that way and what I should do. I just felt really—I remember feeling really empty.
Jen: Because, at that point—I just remembered—there had been two times he had been caught. He had already been to counseling when that Mother’s Day rolled around.
He’d already been to the therapist.
It really was—when I was on the floor, I felt like I had truly exhausted all of my options. It just kind of goes to show that therapy isn’t your savior, your wife isn’t your savior, your willpower isn’t your savior. Your only savior is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can really free you from addiction.
Dennis: There’s something—you write about it in your book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart, that I really want to underscore here. You have described two situations where he got caught—where he had not come clean.
Really, the turning point in the relationship came when he came clean, when he repented, when he asked for forgiveness for hurting you deeply. Share that story with our listeners.
I mean—I guess the Mother’s Day event was—something broke inside of me. Like Jen—where she was at the end of her rope—I was at the end of mine. The next time it happened—you know the definition of madness is doing the same thing over, and over, and over again, expecting a different result. I really felt like God saying to me: “You need to talk to her about this. You need to tell her what’s going on.”
Dennis: Now, in this particular case, you didn’t get caught.
Dennis: You just failed.
Craig: Yes. It was going on. I’m sure Jen had her suspicions; but she’d never really, at that point, voiced them to me and said, “Hey, what’s going on?”—right.
Bob: You’d been married three or four years at this point—five years?
Craig: It’s probably six years, I think.
Jen: That actually happened while we were writing the book.
Jen: I had—he was in the kitchen, getting his lunch ready for work. I would always ask him periodically: “So, how are you doing with the porn thing? Is there anything I can help you with? Are you…” because one of the triggers is that he would go internal. So if he would ever stop talking or if I saw him playing more video games, it was like red flags: “Something is happening.
“He’s not sharing with me, and he’s caving, and he wants to escape and not stick with reality.”
While we were writing the book, I was writing a chapter—I asked him, “So what was the last time that you actually looked at porn?” He got really quiet and he said, “A couple of months ago when I was on a business trip, and it was in the hotel room, and I slipped.” In that moment—I mean, God is so good; right?—because I had two choices. I could become stark raving mad again—
Jen: —and here we are in this book process; right? Satan was right there—like, “Who do you think you are, writing a book about freedom from porn when your husband is still slipping up?” or whatever. I wanted to be hurt, and I was hurt—I wanted to be able to express my anger.
God just said, “What you have just been offered is a gift because honesty— in bringing our faults, and our failures, and our sins to light—is always a gift.
“You have a choice—you can reject the gift or you can receive the gift—but know this—if you choose to reject the gift, you will never get it back.”
I knew, at that moment, that how I handled that first confession had repercussions for the rest of our marriage. If I ever wanted him to ever feel I was a safe person, where he could admit his failures, this was the time to do it. It really was a very freeing thing—to be able to receive his confession, and embrace it, and offer forgiveness. Then, I gave all that anger that I was feeling to God and said, “Okay help me process this.”
Bob: Yes, I was going to say you had to push past pain and anger to get to where you got to. It’s not like you were able to just go, “Oh, I’m so glad you shared,” and weren’t feeling anything—you felt betrayed in that moment.
Jen: Right. It brought up all of the past betrayals too. God had to just say: “Stay in the moment. Stay in the moment.”
That’s what I think is so valuable in having an intimate personal relationship with Jesus—is He can interrupt our thought, just like that and say, “Okay; look at My face, look in My eyes, follow Me in this,” so that we don’t give in to our own fleshy desires.
Dennis: I have to tell you—when I read that story in your book, I thought of our listeners—not just one or two either—I thought of our listeners, whether they be wives or husbands, who have a spouse who confesses a sin and how you respond to that. What you demonstrate—I thought: “What a magnificent model of how God responds to us. He does not cast us away when we come to Him, broken, with a contrite heart—one saying: ‘God I’ve done it again. I’ve fouled up,’ but we come repenting / we come offering the fruits of repentance—
—wanting to make things right, knowing you’re not going to do it perfectly, going forward.
Dennis: But your model—I just have to tell you—I just thought—I thought, “What a privilege to feature this story just for that moment,” because I feel like the maturity you exhibited, as a woman, is the kind of maturity—whether you’re a woman or a man—in a marriage relationship, it is needed. It’s needed multiple times. Marriage is between two broken people for goodness sakes!
Dennis: And they’re going to foul up—
Dennis: —multiple times.
Bob: I think the issue is—we’ve got to know what we do when we do foul up because you’re right—we’re going to—we’re going to sin against each other / we are going to mess up in marriage. “Do we know what to do and how to get back on the path toward oneness when that happens?”
That’s really what’s at the heart of what we talk to couples about at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
In fact, this is our 40th anniversary as a ministry. We’re hoping, this spring—that listeners, who have thought about coming to a Weekend to Remember but have just never done it—we’re hoping that you’ll come join us for a fun, relaxing, romantic getaway weekend at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember weekend getaways. We’re going to be hosting these in dozens of cities all across the country this spring.
Right now, this week, if you sign up to attend an upcoming getaway, you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free. Take advantage of the special offer—it expires on Sunday. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and register for an upcoming event. Or call if you have any questions or you’d like to register over the phone—1-800-FL-TODAY is our toll-free number. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com.
Be sure, when you’re online, that you look for information about the book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart, by Craig and Jen Ferguson. It’s a book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Then, speaking of anniversaries: “Congratulations!” to our friends, Wayne and Ginger Farrens. They are FamilyLife Today listeners. They’ve been married for 17 years. They have attended nine Weekend to Remember getaways. In fact, this is one of the couples who make the Weekend to Remember happen in their home city. We want to say, “Congratulations!” to them on their 17th wedding anniversary.
As I’ve mentioned, this is our 40th anniversary as a ministry. Let me just quickly say: “Thank you to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible. Your support of this ministry is part of what makes all these anniversaries happen every year. So thanks for being a part of the FamilyLife Today team.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more with Craig and Jen Ferguson about how you rebuild trust in a marriage once pornography has emerged as an issue.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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