80/20 Rule

There are several consistent themes among men struggling with sexual integrity issues. One of those is the 80/20 rule. It’s probably not the 80/20 rule you’re familiar with though.

In order to save face, self preserve and hold on to some semblance of integrity or merit we’ll acknowledge 80% of our wrong and die on the hill of the other 20%. As if 80% depravity isn’t enough.

Let me explain how this shows up. A husband will acknowledge his sexual sin and how this issue has devastated his life. He’ll confirm that it’s killed intimacy in his marriage and concede that it has hurt his relationships. Then when we start to talk about how this issue permeates every area of life, he’ll begin to push back. “Well, my sin has affected a lot of my life, but I’ve NEVER let it impact my work/business/kids/finances/ministry/etc.” In other words, it has impacted 80% of my life, but not this little 20% over here.

Here’s another one: A wife, after her husband’s disclosure, will talk about how hurt she is and how it feels like the entire marriage is a sham. In her pain, it feels as if there has never been a good day, never anything worth recounting, and that everything is a lie. A husband, trying to reserve some sense of righteousness or morality will agree with his wife, and follow his agreement with a “but”. It usually sounds like this: “I agree with what she’s saying, but,we just don’t see things from the same perspective. It wasn’t all bad. I didn’t do everything she’s saying I did. Most of it, but not all of it”.

Seriously?  It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! You hit an iceberg by acting out sexually and violating your marriage vows, the marital ship is sinking, but you can sure be proud of that deck!

I want to say 3 things about this and wrap up.

1 – Most men do this out of shame. They already feel like an unlovable monster on the inside, so surrendering to the notion that it’s all bad, that everything is tainted, that there truly is no good left in them is scary. It feels like a loss of identity (even though the identity is dysfunctional) and losing ourselves is incredibly painful. It’s also required for change. We cannot continue to be who we’ve been, but instead must become who God is calling us to be. That requires that we surrender who we think we are.

2 – This 80/20 rule is very, very hurtful to wives. It minimizes their pain, belittles their emotions and negates their sharing. If you hold on to the 20%, it feels to a wife as if you’ve rejected the other 80. Wives begin to feel like anything they say will be met with your stubborn resistance and they start to wall off. This is the worst thing that can happen for healing. A wife needs to be able to express her pain without fear of rejection and without feeling like her husband is going to find some loophole in what she’s saying where he can interject his pride. Which leads to number three.

3 – It’s just plain selfish, arrogant, pride. It reeks of entitlement.

If you aren’t willing to surrender yourself and own 100% rather than 80,  it’s going to be a long, cold swim while you watch the stern go under. But, hey, at least you’ll always have the image of that pretty deck to hold on to.



9 thoughts on “80/20 Rule

  1. This is so true! This goes for all men. I keep trying to compartmentalize my sin by saying “well, no, my porn viewing has not affected this area or that relationship”. It is ducking and dodging the issue. I must admit to myself that yes, it has affected every relationship and caused pain in every area of my life. It is like a hurricane has cut a swath of destruction through my life. I recognize this and submit my self and all my failures to The Lord so that He can begin the rebuilding process. I own 100% of what my sin has caused in my life.

  2. Thank you for this! It’s where my husband and I have been the last two months since he attended EMB in Aug of this year. After the first month of being very humble and honest with me, the 80/20 started to kick in for him. I’ve felt “everything” you just described since then!! Yep–reality was dodged, but that deck sure is magnificent! He wanted me to feel bad for the painful things I needed to talk about and would tell me that “I” have issues I need to look at… and I walled-off, to the point of telling him I wanted a divorce.
    That was just last weekend. Again, he has humbled himself, did some thinking, and asked if I would give him a date that I would work with him to make it right. We have a meeting with a new marriage counselor in two weeks. I agreed to give it until Feb 1–to continue with counseling until then…and re-evaluate.

    This is so difficult, stressful, and too much at times. But for the glory of God, I will do this for Him and for the respect of my marriage. I can only hope and pray that my husband will appreciate and use this time, wisely.

    • My marriage of 31 years is coming to an end because of my husband’s sexual addiction. After the doctor told me I had a std and then I found a sex journal that he had been keeping that contained information about himself and a younger married co-worker and how they had been going to truckstops and clubs to pick up prostitues. My mind and body went into shock but I feel like God allowed me to find this out before it was to late for me. She is now divorcing her husband and moved in with my husband. Please pray for me and my two children as we try to find way through something so dark and evil

    • Sandy,
      I’m confident Jason will have much more impactful words for you but after reading your post, I felt compelled to reply to you. I myself attended the EMB conference in Dallas back in July and since that time have been experiencing the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. I hope and pray that your husband is doing the same.

      Similar to your husband, I came back dedicated and committed to humbling myself to my wife and family in repentance and with conviction to be honest and humble and ask for forgiveness. My wife showed tremendous strength in forgiving me of everything I disclosed to her and it felt as if a new foundation was being built.

      Around a month in, we had a big fight over something I can’t even recall and that’s when she was honest with me about how angry she truly was and how it was affecting our relationship even now. She admitted to me that she had been close to separating a few times in our marriage and was disconnecting from me the further I got into my sin. I of course thought that our marriage was great even up until going to EMB and while I knew we didn’t have any type of mutual relationship with God, I at least felt that we had a decent marriage.

      I, like your husband it sounds like, immediately rebelled against the idea that our marriage was really not as great as I thought and that there were other areas of my life that had been corrupted by my sexual sin. It’s a tough thing when you realize that the entire life you have been living is fake and based on lies, deceit, and sin and can cause some men to fall backwards rather than forwards.

      That same weekend, my wife decided to take off to visit her aunt and I in turn took my kids camping for the weekend. I started reading Everyman’s Marriage that weekend and had my eyes opened even further through the words and convictions giving by Fred and Steve. I realized how much I had been trampling my wife and lording over her and that it wasn’t just my sexual sin that was a problem, but anger, rage, greed, selfish conceit, jealousy, lying, and so many other ways that I wasn’t honoring her and loving her. It was a humbling day to say the least.

      I don’t want to spoil the book but the basic premise is that we as husbands are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church and that means in service and humility. I’ve never understood that and was never willing to consider what serving as Christ means. Since that day, I have strived to serve my wife in whatever way I can, including sexually, and am seeing amazing changes in our relationship. I still struggle and fight against my natural selfish desires but the constant reminder to serve her has helped me get rid of the extra 20% that I previously was holding back.

      It’s hard as men to humble ourselves and admit how much we have changed and allowed sin to change us but that is exactly what we need. My prayer since EMB is not that God would simply take away my temptation or desire to sin but that he would make me into a new man, a new creation. I know that I will never change without being transformed by the renewing of my mind and I pray the same for your husband.

      It unfortunately is a longer road than we first realize but one that is totally worth the journey and once in which gets easier and more rewarding the further along we are. I find that my temptation to sin is so much less today than even a month ago and my confidence in Christ and who I am in Him continues to bolden and strengthen each and every day.

      I really will pray for you and your husband and that God would continue the work that he started in August and see it to completion.

  3. Thank you Jon for sharing your story. I understand my husband’s struggles as much as I can. We’ve only been married a year and a half. Two months after we were married, he began an emotional affair with a co-worker–this went on for a year. Of course I didn’t know that’s what it was, but I did realize about 3 months after this woman started working at his job something wasn’t right. He would come home talking about her… things she said, laughing at what she’d said, talking her up. I approached him with this and of course, ” I was being jealous and insecure”. The many months following, I was being yelled at, cussed at, and demeaned and belittled when I would comment on his actions. We had many strong, verbal fights over this. It wasn’t until EMB, the next year, that he admitted to what was going on. This was after the porn was addressed, one month after we were married. Many other things have been issues as well.

    I can certainly relate to your wife and her thoughts and feelings dealing with this. Thank you very much for sharing that with me!

    I thank you for your offer of prayer and I will keep you, your wife, and marriage in prayer as well. I would appreciate my husband reading “Everyman’s Marriage” but he’s not much for reading and has much to do at this time. He is in the Sustained Victory group weekly and counseling with me. I am pleased about that. He does work at this–just not consistently. He still struggles with “unworthiness” and steps away some days. The disconnection occurs during those times for us both.

    Thank you again for taking time to share your words of encouragement. I pray that you will both continue to grow together in your marriage. Always keep God in the front–it won’t work without Him.

    God Bless

  4. Hello Jason,
    Thanks so much for your blog. I read it regularly. I even read it regularly when I was trying to break free from porn.
    The 80 / 20 is so true. Collecting the crap impacted every area of my life. I didn’t excel at work and never did more than the minimum for housework etc. It took a toll on our intimate life as well. The drive to find and collect the crap was the top priority. I’d been trying to escape for years. At times I was sober, even months at a time, with a cache of porn that I knew I had but didn’t look at. Everything gone now. Life is obviously so much better in all areas of my life. The habit/rut is still strong and takes work to resist. Typically when I get the urge to go find some crap, I look for something else instead. Even playing a simple video game work.
    Strangely, I don’t want to collect anymore. The excuses were so lame for collecting. There really is no reason to keep any pictures however tame they may be. Really. Keep pictures for the sake of art? Do I need this? Then out it goes. It’s amazing how much more work you can get done and activities you can enjoy when you don’t collect crap. I still have to work on other issues dealing with intimacy stemming from my past but there is hope. Thanks for listening.

  5. Wow, I so need to keep coming to this board (and all the other places I go for healing and transformation). I am always amazed when someone is able to articulate exactly what’s in my head. I hate what’s in my head, but knowing that I’m known and loved by Jesus and His Father, and His people, breaks the power of sin.

    Many blessings to all that post, as well as to all who read.

  6. I understand completely with the point that sexual impurity effects everything! It sure has in my life. I am a recovering sex addict and will be until the day I die. Just like alcoholism or any other addictive behavior it destroys the lives of the addict as well as anyone that comes in contact with him or her. One of the pathways on my road to recovery tho is to remember that God does not see me for my sin but thru the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross He chooses to see me as blameless (spiritually that is!) I will see Jesus in Heaven and can know that regardless of my struggles… when i fall of the wagon or when I conquer those tempations dad to day God has forgiven me in advance for all my sins (past present and future). I can hold on to that when I stumble and remember that as bad as I am (100% bad) He Loves me and I am saved! Also, God sees all sin equally… sin seperate us from the depth and Love of perfect relationship with Him and others and so I desire to let Him be Lord and Savior and that isnt a reason for pride but for humility for me personally. My prayer for all the men that struggle with this is that our hearts are softened to our women and their hurt so much that we will seek all avenues of healing and to be 100% sold out to Christ and to being humble! I hope all can feel my heart in this area… to all the women out there that love a man in this struggle I beg you to remember that all of us are sinful (man or woman) and although the earthly consequences of sexual sin are worse than other sins we are all sinful and in God’s eyes we all are equal. I pray for humility for you as well and for healing so that you may one day be able to forgive him and reconcile!

    • Hey Joe,
      Thanks for your reply. You are correct; if we’ve accepted Jesus, God sees us as clean. We shed our old, filthy rags to don robes of righteousness.
      Check out these verses:
      Isaiah 64:6 – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags

      Isaiah 61:10 – I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.
      For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
      as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

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