Curtis & Jenny Solomon: Allies in the Fight Against Sex Addiction
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In the fight against porn, could your spouse be an ally? Curtis & Jenny Solomon stood together against sex addiction and renewed their marriage.
Curtis & Jenny Solomon: Allies in the Fight Against Sex Addiction
Shelby: Hey, Shelby Abbott here. Just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today’s conversation on FamilyLife Today covers some sensitive, but important, subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears. So please use discretions when listening to this next broadcast. Alright; now, let’s jump into it.
Jenny: It’s a different kind of trust, you know, when that trust has been broken and has to be repaired—I don’t think it is exactly the same kind of trust that a person would have, whose husband never struggled with pornography—but I think that is also so sweet because, in that suffering and in that difficulty, the work that God has wrought in us—and even just the opportunity to say, like, “This is where we’ve been; now, we get to help other people with this difficulty,”—to see God take that thing that is so hard, and so bad, and use it for good is incredible; I wouldn’t trade it.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: When you first discovered that I struggled with porn—we’re going to start right there—how did it hit you?
Ann: I was shocked/angry. I had feelings of self-doubt/insecurity. I was really mad at you, because we were in ministry. I felt like, “What?! I thought this was other guys, not my husband,”—which then took me directly into—“Well, I’m not that much; and so maybe it’s because of me. I’m not enough.”
Dave: Did you feel like you had anywhere to go to get help?
Ann: Well, it was interesting—no, I felt like I had nowhere to go—but I was amazed that you said, “You can tell everybody. You can tell anybody you want [that] I’m an idiot.” [Laughter] Those were your words, which was shocking, especially being in ministry; and we had just started our church, 30 years ago.
Dave: So you had some wives you could talk to.
Ann: Yes, but it is something that is really hard and scary. It’s embarrassing—and especially back then, hardly, anybody was talking about it—and I was going to bookstores, looking for books—“Somebody help me,”—and I couldn’t find anything.
Dave: And today, we’ve got help; they are sitting in the studio with us. Curtis and Jenny Solomon are back on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, guys.
Jenny: Thanks; so good to be here.
Curtis: It’s good to be with you.
Dave: As our listeners already found out—you’ve not only talked about your struggle yesterday—but you’ve written two books: one for men, one for women. I’m going to read you the titles. The first one, Curtis, you wrote: Redeem Your Marriage: Hope for Husbands Who Have Hurt Through Pornography. Then Jenny wrote: Reclaim Your Marriage: Grace for Wives Who Have Been Hurt by Pornography.
Why the words “hope” and “grace”? I know you chose those specifically; what were you thinking?
Curtis: Well, I think, for guys—especially, when you struggle with this for a long time—you begin to feel hopeless and believe those lies that: “This will never change,” “I can never be different.” Really, it’s pointing to the hope that we have in Christ.
In our books, we wanted people to understand this is His story, not our story. It’s about what He did in our lives—and that there is hope—and you can, by His grace and with His help, and all the other means of grace that He gives us—overcome this struggle.
Dave: This isn’t just a guy struggle—we all know that—but I think, for me, there was a period of hopelessness, thinking, as you said even yesterday, “You win for a period of time,”—you think, “Maybe, I’ve won,”—and then you slip. If you do that several times, or 30 times, you are like, “It’s never going to go away.” You felt that?
Curtis: Oh, absolutely.
Dave: And Jenny, you felt that about him.
Jenny: I did; yes.
Dave: So how do you get to a word, “grace”?
Jenny: Well, I think a few things: one is just recognizing that any strength we have, as wives, to stand up against our husband’s sin—to do the right thing; to keep following Christ, even when the situation feels bleak—requires the grace of God; right? He gives us His Spirit/that power at work within us is that same power that raised Christ from the dead.
When I think of grace, I think of strength—and I also think of forgiveness, which, if a marriage is going to work after pornography—there has to be repentance; there has to be reconciliation; and there has to be forgiveness. So I think, just thinking, “I’ve got God’s strength within me,”—and then—“The power that forgiveness brings, together in that one word, is what I want wives to think of when they see my cover.”
Ann: That’s really good.
Curtis, you had this great analogy about the leaves in the neighbor’s yard. I thought that was a good way to describe what happens in a marriage with pornography.
Curtis: Well, I stole that from Jenny—because she came up with it first—but it did make such a great image—it’s actually the cover of my book—has leaves falling in it. It came to mind because we live in a place with trees, which growing up in the desert, was very new to me; but we would go out, rake up all of our leaves. Then, after a while, I started noticing all of these leaves coming into our yard; I’m like, “I thought we handled this! I thought this was done.”
Lo and behold, these leaves looked an awful lot like the trees in my neighbor’s yard. Jenny actually pointed out/she is like, “This is how I feel with your pornography thing. It’s like I’ve done everything right—in a sense, I’ve taken care—I’ve guarded my heart; I’ve taken care of myself. I haven’t done this; but now, your pornography/your sin is pouring over consequences into my life. And just like our yard—there is no boundary—when you sin, it affects your other relationships.” She shared that analogy with me; I was like, “That is so true.”
Dave: Yes, and I think, as I listen, I wonder what—if you agree, Curtis—Ann is my ally, and she is my partner; she helps me win. You probably feel the same way about Jenny. But at the same time, if I struggled, I didn’t want to tell her; because it would hurt her; she’s my soul mate.
I felt more comfortable telling a buddy, who is going to hold me accountable, and just sort of keeping it a secret from Ann; because it’s like, “Why hurt her again? I’m just going to win this one alone.” It never worked that way; I thought it would work that way. It was like, “I really needed to bring it into the light with Ann and let her into the battle”; but often, it hurt her; and she either really got hurt or mad. So then, I lied. I mean, we got to a point, where she’d say, “Did you struggle on that trip?” and I’m like, “No.” I was lying because it’s going to hurt her, and she is going to get mad. So then, you’ve got this double-whammy, like, “Now, I’m living a lie in my own marriage, and I said I would never do that.” Did any of that happen with you guys?
Curtis: Yes; absolutely. I mean, if either person in the marriage is struggling with pornography, it is not the other person’s fault; it is 100 percent that person, who is struggling. That other person can be a support and a help in the fight to overcome—or they can exacerbate the problem—but they are not the source of the problem. But, yes, I definitely felt that way.
Jenny would testify that she did not always respond well, which then makes it harder for you, as a husband, to respond—because not only do we see it as: “I’m going to hurt her,”—but we, sometimes, see our spouse in this struggle as an adversary: somebody who is opposed to us; somebody who is against us; who is like hunting and trying to uncover; and a detective, and find out all of our problems, and then jump on us, and accuse us, and attack us.
In the book, I really try to help husbands understand that: “You need to see your wife as your second greatest ally in this fight. She is for you, and nobody has a greater vested interest in your growth in this area than her, besides Jesus.” So Jesus is our number-one ally; your spouse is your number-two ally. Then you have three to five guys who are your other allies, who are helping you in this fight.
But until she is on board—it doesn’t mean, if she is not on board, you can’t continue that fight—but you’re not going to have all the resources at your ready to fight this battle as well when you see her attempts to help you overcome sin as acts of love for you, not aggression or attacks against you. I mean, that was a really big shift for us as well.
Dave: What would you say, Curtis, to a wife that would be helpful for her to understand to help her husband?
Curtis: Yes, I would say: “Help her understand, like, ‘Don’t give up on him, but lean into the problem. While his sin is not your fault, it is your problem together; and you will be his greatest ally. It’s not just as a sex object; there is so much more to the relationship that you are going to help him.’”
Jenny points, really wisely, to Abigail in her counsel to David when David is going to go crazy and kill Nabal—that Abigail is an example of a wife, who stands in the gap for her family, even to the point of—and I think Jenny actually got a little pushback against the book when they released the first chapter of her book online. A lot of hurt women were saying, “Hey, your book is called Reclaim Your Marriage. How can you reclaim your marriage when you are the only one fighting?” And she was like: “These are the women I am trying to write to because I want to encourage them, and give them boldness to fight for their marriage, and to stand up.”
There were a lot of people, who would say, “Wives, you should never confront your husband”; and she really wisely lays out in there: “No, you actually need to. If he is your brother in Christ, you are responsible to confront him—even to the point of, if he is refusing to get help/refusing to confess his sin—you are going to need to do that for him and get him the help that he needs.” She is just a courageous woman and offers a lot of courage to women to do that.
Ann: And when you use that word, “confront,” we’re not talking about angrily going after him.
Dave: I mean, Jenny, did you confront him, and how did you do it?
Jenny: I did. My counselor and I developed what we thought was the start of a good accountability plan. We sat down with him, and said, “These are the things that are going to happen.” I think it’s important, when we talk about that, we talk about accountability—and then, coupled with that—we think of: “What does appropriate vigilance look like in day-to-day life?”
It’s/a few things are important: first of all, if you are trying harder than he is to maintain his purity, you are going to end up being a babysitter, or the porn cop—or just a nightmare—really, a nanny.
Ann: Well, this was one of your number-one lies for women in your book. You say: “My vigilance and discernment can fix his porn problem”; that is a lie.
Ann: That is what you’re talking about.
Jenny: Right; and that is absolutely a lie. The Holy Spirit is the One who is going, ultimately, to change a husband. I tried to make a delineation between babysitting and helicopter hovering over your husband’s purity, and saying, “If he is cooperating with the Spirit, there is an appropriate vigilance that says, ‘You know what? I love you, and I understand that this porn industry is ruthlessly coming after people with smart technology. They are targeting you in the same way that the swimsuit company targets me every spring, because they know I’m going to be looking for a new swimsuit. So they are throwing ads at me.’” The porn industry does the same thing.
So for me to say to you, “That’s a really heavy burden to bear, especially when I know this is an area that you are tempted. What can I do to make this burden a little lighter?” Then you begin to be able to work together, to say, “This is a team effort. I want our home to be as safe as possible for you. I know you go out into the world every day, and you work hard, and you provide for our family. So when you come home, what can we do to make this a place, where you can rest?—and you don’t have to worry, as much as possible, don’t have to worry about porn coming into this space and attacking you.”
So that is what I’ve tried to delineate in the book—is to say, “Obviously, no; you can’t reclaim a marriage with a husband, who is hard and fast: ‘This is what I want. I’m going after porn,’”—that’s a different situation. But if you are married to a believer, and he is struggling and feels that pull of the Spirit—like he is falling, but he is also getting back up—there is so much that can be done by a godly wife in that situation.
Ann: That’s so encouraging to hear, I think, for a lot of women/a lot of listeners, like, “Okay, there is hope.”
Dave: How do you discern: “He is fighting,” and “He is not giving up”? As a wife, when did you realize, “Okay, he’s a good man, who wants to win this battle. He is just struggling”?
Jenny: Yes, I think humility is the marker to look for. I think, for us, it was seeing Curtis come clean about loopholes that he had been using, to say, “These are kind of there, and I could look at them; but I really won’t.” For him to be strong enough to say, “That’s a weakness to me; we need to shut that down,” that humility—
Ann: Can you be specific about that? What’s a loophole?
Curtis: Yes, I think, for a lot of people, Covenant Eyes or some other kind of accountability software—is really prevalent now—and now, they are constantly catching up with things. But at the time, if you had Covenant Eyes on your device—especially on mobile devices—it was a browser-only accountability. If you had an app, outside of your web browser, where you could access illicit images—nowadays, like social media, it’s just so easy to go—so having apps on a mobile device that couldn’t actually track your activity.
Now, with certain phones, they have a screen shot accountability. It just randomly takes screen shots of whatever you are looking at so there is an added level of accountability there; but that’s not available, even, on all devices. Like for me, on my phone, she has the—I can’t add apps to my phone; she has the password for that—and we just take off all the apps that can access any kind of internet. If I want to update apps, I have to go to her. She has to unlock the phone; we update the apps; lock it back down; that’s done—stuff like that.
Ann: Jenny, do you ever feel like his mom, like, “Oh, I have to give him his password”?
Jenny: I really don’t. I think that the fact that he wants me to do that is another marker of his humility, for him to say, “I don’t want to have this temptation in my life; would you help me out in this way?” I feel grateful to the Lord every time he comes to me and says, “Hey, unlock my phone; it’s time to do some updates.” I just thank God and say, “You know what? Father, this is a sign that You are working in him. Thank You that I can be part of it.”
I would say one more: for me, really significant thing that shows me his humility is his tenderness toward me, and his willingness to listen to my sadness. Even in writing this book, there were things that we had to discuss more in-depth that we hadn’t really talked about in the past; and so just for me to be able to bring those up to him, and say, “You know, I’ve forgiven you for so many things, but I am still sad about some things,” and “We haven’t really discussed them. I’d like to tell you some more,”—and just to have him weep with me—and say, “I’m so sorry that I hurt you in those ways; I’m so glad to know those things.”
I think, earlier in our marriage, there wasn’t that tenderness in those moments of confession. There was more/he was a little gruffer and a little more at a distance with me. I think that is something that wives should look for in their husbands is just a desire to say, like, “I understand my sin impacted you. Please tell me more about that. I want to know you in that suffering, and I want those things to become deterrence for me in the future when I think about this temptation—not only am I deterred by my love for Christ—but I want to be deterred by my love for you and ways you’ve been hurt. I don’t want to revisit those, and I don’t want you to have to revisit those things.”
Curtis: Part of it is—I mean, the biggest part is the Holy Spirit repentance—like working repentance because a non-repentant person is defensive. A broken and contrite heart doesn’t try to defend oneself. She would bring up things, and it’s like, “Yes, it hurts”; but just an acknowledgement, like, “I hurt her way worse, and I need to understand how she hurts.” Then also seeing it as just a way of loving her—and fuel for me to fight that battle still—added levels, like she was saying, of motivation to fight that.
One thing I’ll say about her being a parent—it’s a little annoying; it’s a little irritating that I can’t—if somebody tells me about an app, I can’t download it right there; but you know what? That is an opportunity for me to grow in humility and to continue to trust the Lord. Really, the better thing is—guys, you know the pressure you are feeling if you want to fight this; you know that internal pressure of like—“I’ve got my phone in my pocket, and it is a pull. There is a pressure of like, ‘Am I going to give in? Am I going to go look tonight? Am I going to go…’—whatever?” And to just have that removed is such a blessing. I don’t see it at all as her being my parent, but her being my ally in this fight, and her carrying a burden for me or helping build a defense for me that I wouldn’t have.
Now, it’s—like she said—our home kind of is a porn-free fortress; right? [Laughter] “Keep the enemy out!” So I come home and relax because we all—I was in the military, and we talk about going outside the wire; you’ve got to be on alert 100 percent of the time—but you have to have times, where you can come home and rest, and just kind of let that vigilance down. If you don’t have an ally, like a wife, who is going to help you fight those things, it’s really hard.
So you begin to see those things as acts of love, and blessing, and affection, and help rather than adversarial and investigatory. We just celebrated out 19th anniversary, and she said—when we were celebrating—“This has been the best year of our marriage.”
Curtis: I said, “I wouldn’t say the happiest, but I will say best,” because it was just a hard year, with a lot of other things; but hard isn’t necessarily bad.
Dave: Now, why is it the best? Why did you say that, Jenny?
Jenny: I think it’s the best—because of his tenderness toward me/his affection—just our growing friendship over the years that gets sweeter and sweeter. So those things are a treasure to me. I think the other reason it is the best is because I think we are at a place in our marriage, where we are moving toward trust, full throttle. I think, in the past, there has been hesitancy, or there have been not as long season of repentance and growth; and I think just to see this long, sweet season of him walking in faithfulness and me being able to trust him more and more.
And I say that carefully because I think we, wives, know it’s a different kind of trust. When that trust has been broken, and has to be repaired—I don’t think it is exactly the same kind of trust that a person would have whose husband had never struggled with pornography—but I think that is also so sweet because, in that suffering and in that difficulty, the work that God has wrought in us—and even just the opportunity to say, “This is where we have been; now, we get to help other people with this difficulty,”—to see God take that thing, that is so hard and so bad, and use it for good is incredible; I wouldn’t trade it.
Ann: For the men, Curtis, what is one next step that they could take to begin this healing journey? And then the same for you, Jenny, as a wife, what is the next best step?
Curtis: I think wherever you are in this struggle, talking to someone about it is going to help, no matter what. I mean, even if you are to the point—where you’ve been open; you’ve been honest; you’re growing—sharing that story, turning around, and using it to minister to somebody else will help. If you haven’t told anybody, you need to tell somebody right away. So no matter where you are in that journey, talking about it more—somebody, I recently heard on a podcast, said, “Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant”; right?—when we get it out in the open.
I think what Jenny was talking about a minute ago—with the increased tenderness, and love, and humility—that is just the Spirit; right? Part of that humility—being willing to write this book, being willing to come on and talk to somebody about it—it takes more trusting in the Lord/more trusting the Spirit—like, “I’m a sinner saved by grace; period.”
Ann: Jenny, what about you?
Jenny: I would say to wives: once you are in a place, where you are getting good care—you are getting counsel from a pastor or a counselor/another wise, godly Christian person, who really understands the value of marriage, really understands what the Bible says about forgiveness—I think that your next step is going to be lament. I think taking your pain before the Lord and telling Him honestly where you’ve been, and how bad it has hurt, I think that’s the next important step for a wife to take.
Shelby: We’ll hear what kept Jenny from divorcing Curtis in just a minute; but first, Curtis and Jenny have two books available. The first is Redeem Your Marriage: Hope for Husbands Who Have Hurt Through Pornography; and secondly, Reclaim Your Marriage: Grace for Wives Who Have Been Hurt by Pornography. You can get your copies at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, podcasts and other resources like these are only made possible because of like-minded dedicated partners like you. You can give and help families all this week at FamilyLifeToday.com, or when you call with your donation, at 800-358-6329; that is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Okay; now, back to Dave and Ann with some parting words for the Solomons.
Ann: Thanks, you guys, for your courage for helping so many others and exposing your lives so that we could all be better and closer to Jesus.
Dave: Yes; I mean, I would just add the courage it takes—because it is so much easier to keep it as a secret—first of all, in your own struggle; but even as a couple, to say, “We’re just going to keep this one.” When we wrote Vertical Marriage, it was like, “Our ten-year anniversary story, nobody is ever going to hear that one.” [Laughter] Now, it’s the start of the book.
Curtis: That’s the start of the book.
Dave: And the porn struggle thing—“Nobody is ever going to hear that one,”—and you said it earlier, it’s almost like God takes our pain and says, “I’m actually, not only going to redeem it and meet you in it, I’m going to use it. I’m going to ask you to share it, because there are others who need to be ministered by it.” You are doing that; thank you for that. This is going to be a gift to the Christian community. We need help; we need couples, honest like you, who are living in a place of hope and grace [in a place] that was a struggle before. That means we can all get there, but it’s a journey; it’s a long one.
Dave: It’s a hard one, but it’s worth it.
Ann: Thanks, you guys.
Curtis: Thank you.
Shelby: Yes; thank you so much, Curtis and Jenny.
Listen, we’ve all been offended before; right? I mean, maybe, you are offended right now that I assumed you’ve been offended before. Well, next week, the Wilsons are joined by Brant Hanson. He is going to talk about not being offended and “How do we not get offended when we feel offended?” We hope you can join us, if you want—no pressure—okay, but some pressure. [Laughter]
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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