by Dr. Dave Currie with Glen Hoos
So, your husband is into pornography and you found out. Well, you're not alone. This battle with the pornographic monster is a growing problem across the entire societal grid. With the proliferation of sex sites on the Internet resulting in growing accessibility with total anonymity, the problem is only going to grow. Statistics tell us that 35% of all Internet usage is pornographic, and that as many as 50% of men have serious struggles in this area.
Of course, none of that makes it any easier for you to accept. You will naturally be devastated by the news of your husband's involvement with pornography. There is a huge sense of betrayal and a breaking down of trust. Whether your spouse has been involved physically with another person, or emotionally and mentally through pornography, the violation feels the same. Your reaction could range from disbelief, to disgust, to anger. You wonder, "How could he do this to me?" You likely have no desire to be with him sexually, and you may want to leave him altogether.
The first thing you need to work through is your immediate response. Your strong feelings are both understandable and justified. At the same time, you need to be very careful that your reaction to your husband does not create more problems than you are already facing. You have both a right and a need to express whatever you are feeling, but you need to do it in a way that will not complicate your recovery. Be honest about your hurts, share openly about your disappointment, but realize that lashing out with damning accusations and attacking, harsh words only makes things worse.
Your initial reaction will likely be impacted by the way in which you found out about the issue. It makes a difference whether your husband openly disclosed his struggle to you, or if you had to discover it and thus he got caught. Obviously there is more credibility indicated in a person who is willing to admit it before he is found out. On the other hand, sometimes God forces the discovery to push a person to deal with their porn problem. Regardless of how you found out, the problem has to be dealt with. As long as your spouse is willing to be totally honest about their battle now, you can work together to overcome it.
How Much Do You Need to Know?
Sometimes wives say they'd rather not know if their husband has pornography issues. Yet the bottom line is you cannot be close as husband and wife if there is a cloak of secrecy around these personal struggles. True intimacy requires complete honesty. Although there is some real hurt that you are going to have to work through, you need to accept that resolving the issue is still the path to closeness. Many couples have successfully worked through pornographic addictions. It is possible to recover something precious between the two of you!
You need to have complete freedom to ask your spouse the questions you need answered to be settled in your heart. If you are doing it to get more data to become vindictive and bitter, then don't ask the questions. But if you desire to understand what he has faced, and you intend to forgive him and find peace in your own heart, feel free to ask the questions. Try to do this in a non-judgmental, non-punishing way. Your husband is likely already feeling plenty of guilt; what he needs now is to know that you are still on his side.
Your Needs, His Needs
As you face this battle together, you and your husband need to be aware of one another's needs. You can help your husband by sharing openly with him what your needs are at this time.
Your biggest need is likely to rebuild the trust in your relationship. There are no shortcuts to this: it just takes time. Complete transparency is critical on his part, whether it's about past indiscretions or subsequent failures. Likewise, you need to be totally open about your feelings. Since the emotional aspect is a woman's highest priority, a reconnection towards friendship and intimacy is paramount. Rebuilding the relationship must happen before you can freely re-engage in the sexual dimension.
Furthermore, with the knowledge of your spouse, it would be wise to have an outside advocate to share your struggles with. This is a private issue that shouldn't be shared with others, but to have a chosen friend, counselor or someone who has faced this with their husband is critical. They can help you work through your feelings and frustrations, validate your emotions, and coach you through the right course of action.
Lastly, you need a commitment from your husband to work through his battle with pornography and do all that it takes to get the help that he needs. He must get help beyond you; he must break the silence and be accountable, whether to a counselor or another Christian friend. They must ask him the tough questions as he faces his lust battle. It is unwise to have the wife be the accountability person. You have a relationship to build. Let someone else be the one that holds his feet to the fire.
Though you may not feel like meeting your husband's needs at a time like this, the fact is he does need your help to conquer this addiction. Above all, he needs your unconditional love, as well as your forgiveness. He needs to know that the slate can be wiped clean, and that you won't hold this against him for years to come. Nothing will strengthen him more to move to freedom than you believing in him and standing with him to fight the battle.
It would be very helpful to understand the complexity of pornography to the male's psyche. Although some women struggle with sexual addictions (even in seemingly milder forms like romance novels and soap operas), it is predominantly a male issue. Listen to your husband and try hard to understand. Read at least one of these excellent resources: Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn, Pure Desire by Ted Roberts, and Men's Secret Wars by Patrick A. Means.
Finally, while you are working with him to overcome his problem with pornography, realize that your husband will still have sexual needs. After an appropriate but limited period of time, you do need to be willing to re-engage in some sexual activity, as a sign of your love and commitment to him. This will help ensure that your husband isn't further tempted to go back to pornography as a substitute for healthy marital sexual relationship.
Why the Void?
In some cases a man's problem with pornography is born out of his own issues. Many men started when they were younger and just never tell their wives about it. Yet, in some cases, pornographic involvement is his response to other problems in the marriage. Honestly assess your relationship and determine whether it is healthy and whole. Are his sexual needs being met? Are your sexual encounters as a couple satisfying and frequent? A husband's pornographic addiction cannot be blamed on the wife, because he still has to make choices himself. However, a husband is also made very vulnerable to temptations when there isn't regular sexual intimacy in a healthy, secure relationship. So it may be that there is a void that he is looking to fill with pornography because of the struggles of your relationship. You may need to make some adjustments as a couple so that you have a healthy relational balance and good marital sex.
I would urge you to go for help as a couple to make sure that you're headed in the right direction. This might be the best time for you and your husband to recommit your lives and marriage to the Lord. Conquering the lure of pornography is very difficult, and you will both need to have a surrendered life, asking God to help you through this. Being assured of forgiveness from both God and spouse is a wonderful source of stability for your relationship. I would suggest that you pray together about it and work out your relationship with a God-centered focus.
Many couples have succeeded in overcoming pornography and have found a healthy balance in their marriage again: a marriage that they love being part of. Instead of being the end of your relationship, let this be a doorway to a new level of intimacy that you never thought possible.
Used by permission of FamilyLife Canada. Copyright 2003.