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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
272 pages
Nov 2004
WaterBrook Press

Every Heart Restored: A Wife's Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband's Sexual Sin

by Fred and Brenda Stoeker, & S. Arterburn

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt



(by Brenda Stoeker)

I’ll never forget the time I received my first shocking taste of male sexuality.

It began the day Fred Stoeker’s forceful father, anxious to get “Freddie” settled into marriage and more focused in his budding sales career, set up a blind date between his son and me.

“It’ll be a quick lunch at Jumer’s after church gets out so that you and Fred can get to know each other,” Fred’s dad promised.

Those words made my heart leap. Could this be God’s hand at work? I wondered. I’d not met this Fred Stoeker, and except for a quick glimpse at an old high school graduation picture a family friend had shown me, I knew nothing about him. Still, something inside whispered that he was “the one” I’d been waiting for.

When I first laid eyes on Fred at church that Sunday, my heart leaped again. He’s a lot better looking in person. Then, when he stood up to greet me, I squealed inside: He’s taller than I am! Okay, call me shallow, but I’d always prayed for someone taller than me. This was a great sign.

When we arrived at Jumer’s, I was thrilled by Fred’s gentlemanly manners as he held doors and chairs out for me. He really seemed to value who I was. He was so fun and interesting to talk to, and it wasn’t long before he felt relaxed enough to tease me. Of course, in my nervousness I made it easy for him, repeatedly knocking croutons and lettuce leaves out of my salad and onto the table.

After lunch we headed to his dad’s house. As his father and stepmother settled into the family room to watch a ball game, Fred and I slipped out to the kitchen to talk. I was glad he had already begun to impress me, because it softened the shock of his stories about his former girlfriends. I was learning quickly that Fred was a very open person. In fact, he mentioned that one of the old girlfriends was flying in from California the next week. He assured me he was not looking forward to seeing her, because now that he was a Christian, he wasn’t sure how to respond to her.

While that first afternoon he didn’t share any intimate details about his previous loves, it seemed disturbingly inappropriate to share so openly about his past relationships on a first date. Such peculiar behavior didn’t exactly inspire hope in me.

But that was nothing compared to the revolting letter I received two weeks later. There Fred outlined all the girls he’d ever had and what he’d done with them sexually. Maybe Fred wanted to get something off his chest, but I was flabbergasted and horrified. I exclaimed inside, What woman wants to hear all this? I didn’t, and I was astounded that Fred was so peculiar and weird.

Fred probably thought that I wanted to know all about his life so we could get to know each other quickly. Maybe in some bizarre way he even thought I would be attracted by his exploits. All I know is that this was another eye-opening glimpse of how differently males view their sexuality and their relationships.

Looking back now, I’m amazed that we progressed anywhere as a couple. I still can’t imagine why I didn’t shut things down with Fred the day I read that shocking letter (and when he got to know me better, Fred couldn’t believe it either). I imagine that either God kept me from flipping out, or that I was naive enough to believe that all of Fred’s sexual issues were ancient history now that he was a Christian and none could affect our future. I’d bet on naive!

As the years passed, I learned more lessons on male sexuality. Sex seemed to live in a totally separate spot in Fred’s life, unfazed by anything else. I learned that men want sex even if they’re sick. Or even if they’ve just had knee surgery. Or even if they’ve just had the biggest, blackest knockdown fight with a wife. Making love seemed almost disconnected from relational intimacy.

Yet I eventually learned that sex was the crucial avenue by which Fred expressed and received intimacy with me. In fact, I learned that sex was vastly more important to men in building marital oneness and intimacy than it was for women.

What’s this mean to us women? Male sexuality can be downright befuddling, and the concept of “becoming one” sexually can often seem patently absurd. But true, beautiful oneness is possible. Fred has helped me immeasurably to understand male sexuality, and that is why I’m excited that he’ll handle that portion of the book. Male sexuality is something you need to understand, especially if you’ve been hurt by your husband’s sexual sin. (For the sake of simplicity, Fred and I will be writing this book as if all readers are married. If you are single, please read the book with the knowledge that you could one day be married or remarried.)

Why is in-depth knowledge of a man’s sexuality so important? It’s because we have learned from our own experience—and through the stories of hundreds of others—that rebuilding love and sexual intimacy together can’t happen without that foundation of understanding.

You will come to understand—as I have—that his sexual sin has far less to do with you or your relationship than you could possibly imagine. As startling as it may seem, your husband truly can be in love with you and still be stuck in uncontrolled sexual sin.

You may be thinking, But he’s betrayed me!

Yes, he has. But that betrayal, as ugly as it is, does not have the same meaning regarding his love for you as it might from the perspective of female sexuality.

Does it make a man’s sin any less wrong? Heavens no! The sexual sin must stop because it crushes us. It crushes our prayer lives together as couples. It weakens the spiritual protection our husbands are called to provide for our homes through their spiritual leadership.

But at the same time, if we are to really understand what this sexual sin means for our marriage, it’s vital that we understand the roots of such sin in the male psyche and from the perspective of male sexuality. When we know more about those key areas, then we can begin to align our emotions with the truth underlying the sin, helping God to build or restore the relationship He desires—the one we’ve always dreamed of.

But even if I understand him better, how can I ever forgive him?

That’s the key question, isn’t it? I write with no illusions, because I understand that forgiving a deep sexual betrayal comes with great difficulty—especially when you aren’t sure what repentance ought to look like and there is no guarantee that your husband won’t commit the same sins again. He’s been lying and hiding. How can you be sure this nightmare is over?

Unforgiveness is a huge issue, and you’ll have to face it head on. I’ve had to do that with several issues in my marriage. Facing the flaws in our husbands (and ourselves) is never easy work. Offering a man forgiveness for sexual betrayal may be the most gut-wrenching process of all. But what I am so thrilled to tell you is that there is hope. Although life has presented you with a real challenge, don’t be discouraged. God is on your side, and He will see you through. Hearts can be restored.

I can assure you that in this book you will find a rough blueprint for rebuilding any marriage that lies in shambles. Fred reduced our marriage to rubble by his harsh temper, and the principles I learned from rebuilding our broken marriage will be very useful in your rebuilding efforts. There is life on the other side.

And as for a blueprint for rebuilding your wavering marriage, I’ve witnessed my husband’s true and lasting repentance from sexual sin, so I can explain what it looks like. I know what you can and can’t expect from your husband in the short term and the long term. I’ve seen a rebirth of normal sexuality grow out of the corruption of sexual sin. I’m very eager to share all of this with you.

My husband has been awesome in his battle, and I’ve longed to be as awesome as his helper and cobuilder. We’ve both found that holiness is the answer to this whole mess—his holiness as well as mine. Jesus said that “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), but those words alone hold no magic. Obviously, the truth only can set you free if you choose to walk in it. Fred and I will lay out the truth as God has revealed it to us. Our hope is that you will choose to walk in God’s truth and that you’ll find the same loving freedom in your marriage that we enjoy today.

What Lies Ahead

The road map for this book is pretty simple. We’ll start with where you are and how you feel today, and then we’ll have Fred explain male sexuality in greater detail. From there, we’ll move on to explore God’s call to us as helpmates in marriage and how we might walk alongside our husband in his battle.

But while our road map is simple, your rebuilding efforts may not be. The reason is plain: the beauty of your marriage is not entirely up to you. Your husband’s responses will play a role too.

In light of that, we’ll endeavor to address all three of a man’s common responses to God’s call to purity. For instance, your husband may have be a true zealot for purity, growing so quickly in his intimacy with God that it looks like he may leave you in the dust. On the other hand, he may be dawdling between right and wrong—and has been for years. Or he may be refusing to repent altogether, forming a mushy foundation in your marriage upon which nothing can be built. Each husband’s response presents its own set of issues.

While the first four parts of this book apply to every reader, the fifth part specifically addresses each of these three male responses so that, regardless of your situation, you’ll have the principles you’ll need to forge ahead. Please be aware, though, that you may find a moment or two during the first four parts where you think, That won’t work for me… My husband hasn’t repented yet. We understand that reality but simply suggest that you keep reading to the end of each part.

One final note: We’ve discovered through hundreds of e-mails that many women view pornography and masturbation as entirely different issues. In reality, they nearly always occur together—he’s looking at porn with masturbation in mind, either right then or later on. So whenever we refer to “your husband’s porn habit,” we might just as well have written “your husband’s porn and masturbation habits.”

And with that, may God bless you as you read Every Heart Restored!

Part I

In the Wake of Betrayal

In this part you’ll observe that your feelings regarding his sexual sin are natural and normal—and that you aren’t alone. You’ll also discover the first step necessary in dispersing the pain as well as how your perspective on male sexuality must evolve if you’re to approach this problem effectively.

When Solomon consecrated the temple, he prayed, “Oh LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way” (1 Kings 8:23).

There is no God like Him above or below us, and He knows exactly who you are and what you’re dealing with. As we begin part 1, give your situation over to Him and continue wholeheartedly in His ways. He loves you immeasurably and calls your heart to His.


Brenda’s Story

After our first blind date at Jumer’s restaurant, I looked at Fred like he was my knight in shining armor. He was easily the most handsome guy I’d dated. A blondish, muscular, and one-time athlete of the year in high school, he swept me off my feet in no time.

From a very young age I’d been praying for my future spouse and carefully defending my purity and virginity for this special person. Still, little did I dream how wonderful Fred would seem to me when he finally came into my life, and I could barely believe it when he said he felt the same about me! When he proposed, I willingly replied yes without hesitation. We looked forward to our honeymoon with all our hearts, and when it came, we were not disappointed. I especially loved snuggling into the strong, warm chest of my best friend and drifting off to sleep with him.

A couple of years down the line, we had settled into a comfortable niche of making love about three times a week. I appreciated how Fred wasn’t always pushing me toward the bedroom. He seemed to love a romantic walk down silent wintry streets as much as our intimate times, which was nice. We had found a pleasant balance for the both of us—until that seismic shift flipped us over about four years into our marriage. Practically overnight he couldn’t keep his hands off me, forever squeezing me or patting my behind. It didn’t matter if I was frying burgers, sorting clothes, or drying my hair after a shower.

It wasn’t long before he was really getting on my nerves. Questions came screaming into my head—questions that seemed harsh and unfair. In my darker moments, I wondered, Is he having an affair and coving his tracks with all this new attention? I couldn’t imagine Fred doing something like that, however. Then the nurse in me wondered if he had a physical problem. Had some gland gone haywire? Was this some sort of hormonal jag? Of course, it wouldn’t have surprised me if he was simply experiencing some weird “guy thing”—something I’d never understand in a million years.

The Eyes Have It

Weird guy things were certainly aplenty, and I was finding out more about them all the time. For instance, around the same time that Fred was acting, well, a little strange, we happened to read together James Dobson’s book, What Wives Wish Their Husband’s Knew About Women. I was miffed by Dr. Dobson’s description of the visual nature of male sexuality. He said that men’s eyes could draw sexual gratification at any time, because guys were turned on by female nudity in any way, shape, or form.

While I enjoyed our sex life, some strange aspects of male sexuality began to bug me. It seemed shallow and dirty somehow, but I didn’t really say much about it until a month later when an evangelist visited our church. He mentioned the same visual differences that Dr. Dobson had described, even suggesting that women must understand these differences if they expected to please their husbands sexually. Regarding the “vision factor,” the evangelist said that wives could use that to their advantage in the bedroom. His remark was disdained by at least a few female listeners that night, including me.

Fred and I discussed the message afterward while we were preparing for bed. My irritation finally bubbled over, and my patience snapped. “So I suppose I have to buy one of those cheap teddies and prance around like some saloon girl!” I exclaimed with my hands on my hips.

Fred laughed pretty hard at that one, probably because he knew I was picturing myself in some flimsy thing from Victoria’s Secret. Gratefully, Fred always likes me best when I get snippish. He found my remark thoroughly amusing, and it’s a good thing, because he was about to get another taste of it regarding this new sex jag that he seemed to be on.

Or at least I hoped it was a jag. It seemed like every night my “shadow” followed me to bed, ready and willing for some fun. Meanwhile, all I could do was sigh and wait anxiously for this little fever to break. But after about three weeks of this, an unsettling foreboding pushed into my consciousness. What if this is permanent?

I’ll never forget an afternoon when Jasen was napping and Fred and I were putzing around the kitchen. “Honey,” Fred purred, “you are just so beautiful these days.”

That was it! He had pushed the final button. Spinning hard, I fired in furious desperation, “What am I doing to make myself so attractive so I can stop it!” I demanded.

Fred burst out laughing again. But just as suddenly, his merriment faded away, and his mind seemed to go somewhere else. A few minutes later, he told me a whole bunch of thoughts had suddenly come together in that moment. His next words to me were completely unexpected.

“Sweetheart, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve been in sin, and I’m trying to break out of it. Before I was saved, I was really hooked on pornography. I had the dates of the month memorized when my favorite magazines would be delivered to the campus drugstore. I was always there when the store opened so I could be the first one to buy a copy.”

I gulped and wondered what he would say next.

“Then I got saved,” he continued, “and I have to admit, I still struggled, even after I met you. I’m really embarrassed about that, but I want you to know that even though this may sound weird, I’ve never purchased a porn magazine since we’ve been married. I always figure that my money is your money, and I could never justify spending your money on pornography. I couldn’t disrespect you that much.”

“I don’t get it,” I commented. “Then what’s the problem?”

“Well, even though I haven’t been looking at porn, I haven’t really been clean, either. I’ve been looking at other things, like the lingerie ads in the Sunday newspaper. I’ve even been watching certain R-rated movies when I’ve been out of town on business.”

Fred paused for a response, but I had none to give. I was totally confused, and I only managed a nod for him to continue, wondering what was coming next.

“Maybe you’re wondering what’s been going on with me the last few weeks. Well, I think I just figured it out. You see, I’ve been cutting all of these things out of my life and—guess what?—a funny thing has been happening. You have become even more beautiful and sexy to me than ever before. You’ve always looked great to me, but you’re way off the scale now, and I can’t really help my feelings for you. That’s why you’ve noticed me chasing you around so much lately. I guess all my sexual desires are being directed straight at you instead of at those other things.”

“So that’s why…”

“Right. All I know is that things are going really well in my fight, and it won’t be long before this battle is over. And I can promise you this: once this battle is over, I’ll quit hanging onto you so much. But you’ve really got to help me out during this time. I’m just so hungry for you, and I’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.”

I didn’t know whether to be shocked or relieved. I was relieved to know that there was a reason for all the extra attention in the bedroom. What Fred said certainly had some semblance of plausibility, and I was really happy it wouldn’t be permanent. I was also impressed with his courage to tell me about this secret war that he was waging.

At the same time, though, I was shocked that we could have had such a great sex life and close relationship, yet all the while this sin was hidden in the walls of our relationship, eating away at its strength. I was also shocked that things like lingerie ads and beer commercials could have such impact on men. Those things seemed pretty tame compared to actual pornography, and while I was glad he was cleaning up things, I couldn’t make the connection as to how all this was affecting our lives.

But Fred had already made those connections long ago, and he was already in the battle. As his young Christian wife, all I knew was that I loved him and that I wanted to help him break free. So I told him with a wink and a smile, “Honey, I’ll do whatever I can to put up with you until then.” Some might look at my reaction to Fred as kind and gentle and see my character as resplendent with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. What a loving, patient wife and Christian you were! I can assure you, that wasn’t the reason for my patient answer.

Others might say, Of course your reaction was calm! He was at least halfway to victory already. I’m sure this was part of it. After all, I didn’t catch him gazing at glossy centerfolds. Still, that wasn’t even close to the main root of my calm reaction. The real reason? I was naive (again!). I was ignorant of the seriousness of this sin. The Bible says ignorance will cost us dearly:

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)

And Fred’s sin was costing me dearly. I just didn’t understand it at the time. Had I truly understood the cost of his sin, I’m sure my reaction would have been much different. A little later I’ll outline those costs.

Gratefully, my ignorance didn’t hurt our relationship as much as it might have because Fred was attacking the problem with all his heart. He did the right thing by confronting this sin and turning all his sexual energy in my direction.

Not all men are like that, of course, and not all women have experienced the happy ending that I’ve enjoyed. That’s why you have to read Valerie’s story in the next chapter. I’m afraid that many more women will identify with her story rather than mine.