Sexual Dysfunction in Marriage: Dealing with Premature Ejaculation and Delayed Ejaculation

Sexual Dysfunction in Marriage: When things just aren't working for him

We’re in the middle of a 3-part series on sexual dysfunction in marriage, and today we’re going to tackle two thorny problems: premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation.

In movies everything always works so well! He’s attracted to her, she’s attracted to him, and they fall into bed together and everything goes like clockwork. But what if the CLOCK is part of the problem? Either he seems like he’s playing “beat the clock”, and he ejaculates too quickly to make sex satisfying for her (or even really for him), or he the clock goes on–and on–and on. And it never seems to end!

Both these problems can make sex so stressful, and we’re never warned about that. We’re told sex is going to be this great thing that is natural, and easy, and it doesn’t take much to get it right. But what if, for you as a married couple, it does?

Yesterday we looked at some of the issues with erectile dysfunction, and while they’re related, premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation are a little bit different. So let’s turn to those today.

Good Girls Guide My SiteSexual Dysfunction #1: Premature Ejaculation

In The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, when I was writing about the problems in the bedroom that guys can have, I said that premature ejaculation is a really unfortunate term. Because how do we define it? The most basic definition is a husband who ejaculates before his wife has a chance to experience pleasure. But by that definition a guy who lasts fifteen minutes could be labelled having a problem if his wife lasts 30 minutes!

Other definitions have focused on the time it takes to reach orgasm. If it’s under two minutes, for instance, many people call that premature ejaculation. But most men can reach orgasm in that short an amount of time–if they’re not trying to wait for longer. So let’s for the sake of our discussion today define premature ejaculation as a man who reaches climax very early during intercourse–say in the first three minutes–and is unable to last any longer.

Sexual Dysfunction in Marriage

Who Has Premature Ejaculation?

Some men, from their first sexual encounter, have premature ejaculation. Indeed, it’s not that uncommon for a guy’s first encounter to be awfully short. Most men, after that initial episode, though, can start stretching out the encounters. Some men, however, never really are able to do that.

Men who have used porn, or who have masturbated extensively in the formative years, also often suffer from premature ejaculation. Not all cases of PE are caused by porn; but many porn users do report experiencing PE. Because they have trained the brain to respond to stimulus very quickly, rather than enjoying the experience of arousal, they have a difficult time lasting.

How Can We Cure PE?

If porn use is the root cause:

Like I said yesterday, quit the porn. If your husband is using porn, nothing else you do will help with the problem. You have to deal with the root first, and that means quitting porn and masturbation. Many men once they quit find that their brains reset and that the problem starts to fix itself.

If this is a longstanding problem not due to porn:

His body needs to learn to enjoy the sensation of arousal, and learn to delay ejaculation. Several techniques can help with this:

1. Play the Stop and Start Game

Start making love, but have him keep track of his arousal levels, on a scale of 1-10. Men who suffer from premature ejaculation often will go from a 6 to a 10 almost immediately. Once he reaches a 6, for instance, stop for a few minutes and have him stimulate you, and you alone. Then start again. Spend a lot of time on foreplay and not as much on intercourse as you start to use this technique, because starting and stopping intercourse can be a little frustrating for both of you. Once you’re able to drag out arousal using other kinds of stimulation, then begin introducing intercourse to the mix.  A good idea is to do the stop-and-start by using different positions, so that you’re moving from one to the other and the stimulation isn’t regular.

It can take quite a bit of time to master this technique, and it doesn’t work for all. But it is a good thing to try, and many people just find it fun anyway (and it often is more satisfying for her if he’s spending more time making her feel good!)

2. Start and Stop Just with Stimulating Him

Similar to above, but this time just stimulate him. When he starts to get really aroused, stop and make him control his breathing. Do this once or twice a week and drag out the experience for longer each time.

3. Bring him to Orgasm Earlier in the Day

Sometimes men have an easier time lasting if they’ve already reached orgasm. So a “quickie” earlier in the day can help him last later.

4. Try an External Aid

I was contacted by The Prolong Climax Control Programme to get the word out about a treatment program that is discreet, inexpensive, and easy to use at home. It’s a device that is used on the penis 3 times a week to practice the start and stop technique. It’s available through internet ordering in Europe and Canada, and it can be used outside of intercourse. He can use it by himself, but I’d recommend using it with him during foreplay so as to help you feel more intimate and to not solidify any masturbation habits.

For those who have had a lot of trouble overcoming PE, the Prolong Climax Control has had great results for many couples from what I’ve seen.

Prolong Climax Control for Premature Ejaculation


A reader also recommends the book Coping with Premature Ejaculation: How to Overcome PE, Please your Partner and Have Great Sex. It isn’t a Christian book, but it has been one of the few things that has helped in her marriage. So you can look at that as well!

Sexual Dysfunction #2: Delayed Ejaculation

If you’ve been making love for quite a while, and your husband just can’t seem to reach climax, or you often stop before he’s finished, then he could have delayed ejaculation. The causes of delayed ejaculation are quite similar to those of erectile dysfunction: there’s a problem in that not enough blood goes to the penis to make it hard enough, and then not enough arousal is present to achieve climax.

When Delayed Ejaculation Has Physical Causes

In some cases, like in erectile dysfunction, it could be a sign of physical issues: circulation problems; heart problems; obesity; diabetes; medication side effects; or excessive alcohol or tobacco use.

It’s always a good idea to have your husband see a doctor if this is a persistent problem to rule out any kind of health problem.

To help with delayed ejaculation, your husband needs to learn to concentrate on his own arousal, because he isn’t able to experience it as arousing enough to send him over the edge. So spend some time just touching him and pleasuring him without actual intercourse. Once he’s able to reach orgasm that way, get him very excited and only then start intercourse. Help him to close his eyes and just think about the sensation–not about anything else.

When Delayed Ejaculation Has Relationship Causes

If you have had your own share of sexual problems early in your marriage, your husband may feel guilty about enjoying sex, or may feel guilty about finishing. Sex is such a complex thing; a guy can start a marriage being completely excited about sex, but if he feels as if you don’t want it, or you feel uncomfortable or painful during sex, then that can affect his own ability to feel pleasure, even if you’ve overcome your own issues.

Allowing him to experience real pleasure and to concentrate on himself can jumpstart this and help you reboot.

Taking the initiative to start sex, too, can show him “I want this. This isn’t something I’m doing just for you.” That can change the dynamic and can help him feel free to enjoy it, and not guilty, thinking “she doesn’t really want to be doing this.” So take a deep breath, try to put the past behind you, and just enjoy being together. Show him that this is something you want, and that you do love being with him.

When Delayed Ejaculation is Caused by an Arousal Addiction–like Porn or Video Games

In other cases, though, it could be a problem not with the circulation system, or with the relationship, but with the arousal process in the brain.

Philip Zimbardo is a Ph.D. psychologist studying men, and in his TED Talk, The Demise of Guys (and I’m paraphrasing because he was talking really fast), he said this:
Arousal Addictions
We’ve become so desensitized because of porn use that what is “normal” is no longer arousing, and people need more and weirder and different to achieve the same level of stimulation.

This is why erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation are often two sides of the same coin; with erectile dysfunction the man isn’t able to stay stimulated; with delayed ejaculation the man isn’t able to get stimulated enough. In both cases they need something MORE, and that more was fed to them by porn when the arousal mechanisms in the brain went haywire.

There’s a community of porn addicts on the internet at Your Brain on Porn, who have congregated together to abstain from porn and masturbation and “reset” their brains. It’s not a Christian site, and so I certainly don’t agree with everything that’s said, but there is a wealth of information there and it’s one of the best resources I’ve found on the internet to “see inside” what these guys go through. And what many of them say is that, when they’re using porn, they stop being able to get aroused naturally. Even when they’re having sex, they can’t climax unless they’re watching porn at the same time. Without the porn, they just aren’t aroused enough.

And here’s what’s interesting about what Zimbardo said: this effect is true not only with porn, but also with other arousal addictions. An addiction to video games, for instance, mimics the effects of porn on the brain, where the dopamine receptors are looking for more and more intense stimulation to reach the same high. And so video games become more graphic and more fast-paced. So even if the arousal addiction is not with pornography it can still affect the arousal processes in the brain.

How Do We Deal with Arousal Addictions?

If a guy is suffering from some sort of arousal addiction he just simply has to stop. The community at Your Brain on Porn finds that 90 days seems to be the amount of time it takes most people to rewire the arousal process.

So 90 days with no sex, no masturbation, no porn–and, if necessary, no video games.

Here’s what I like about that: it allows you to work on your relationship, and it allows the man to start experiencing life again instead of constantly feeling like he has to get back to the computer or video game.

Here’s what I don’t like about it: I don’t believe that true healing can come without a spiritual dimension to the problem. We have to acknowledge that we have sinned against God and against our spouse, and we have to ask God to fill us with His Spirit so that we can have self-control. I don’t think will power alone can fix most people; in fact, Romans 7 is all about Paul showing how will power isn’t enough. We need the Holy Spirit.

I think the 90 day reset if this is a real problem due to some sort of an addiction is a great idea. But I think that 90 days also needs to be filled with some prayer sessions, some counseling with a pastor and mentor, and some accountability. A guy has let some sort of an addiction steal his time and his focus away from his wife–and away from the rest of his life. Think about the emotional and mental energy he has wasted on other pursuits! This needs to be a time of real repentance if real change is going to be made.

Porn is not harmlessI know it sounds like I’m blaming it all on porn…

And I absolutely know that in many cases sexual dysfunction is a physical issue, or it’s something that a guy only realized he suffered from once he was married, and there wasn’t an arousal addiction reason. In those cases, trying some of the techniques here can really help. But sexologists, urologists, and marriage counselors are seeing such a huge spike in sexual dysfunction in the last decade due mostly to porn (and to some extent video games). This can’t be ignored. So spread the word about the Top 10 Effects of Porn, and let’s help people to see that porn is not harmless, and that it really can wreck marriages–and your sex life!

The problem is similar to diabetes, really. We call all diabetes “diabetes”. But it’s really two completely different causes. One usually shows up in childhood, and there’s very little you can do about it. The other usually shows up in adulthood, and is highly correlated with lifestyle issues. We may call them the same thing, and they may have similar symptoms, but they’re really two very distinct causes, and that’s what’s going on here, too. Erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation can all have physical causes, but they can also be caused by porn.

Today I dealt more with the porn side. Tomorrow we’re going to look at how to reboot your sex life when porn is NOT the cause of sexual dysfunction, but your husband has another cause for erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or delayed ejaculation.

This post contains some affiliate links, and was partially sponsored. The opinions in it are entirely my own.



Reader Question: My Husband Doesn’t Think I’m Adventurous Enough in Bed

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I like to post a question that a reader has sent in and try to take a stab at answering it! Here’s one that many of us may deal with: when your husband thinks you’re boring in bed:

We have been married for 3 years. Our sex life has never been very exciting, let’s just say it is almost satisfying. After having a bumpy sex talk tonight my husband told me that on a scale of 1 to 10 his pleasure is at 1…. I find that very discouraging and I don’ t know what to make of it since he always finishes when we have sex and so do I. I may not be very adventurous in bed and I always feel clumsy but I want to change things and this is why I tried talking to him. He says that if it doesn’t come naturally I shouldn’t try anything because he wouldn’t like it. Please give me some advice.

That’s so hard! Our sexuality is really tied up in our identity. It’s in our sexuality that we’re often the most vulnerable–that the “real me” comes out. If your spouse then tells you you’re boring in bed, that’s a big rejection.

So let’s try to work through some of this together.

When you're scared you're boring in bed: figuring out what's really going on.

1. Be Honest with Yourself: Are You Comfortable in the Bedroom?

When you’re the one where sex has short-circuited

Don’t worry; I’m going to deal with his issues in a minute, because I do see several red flags in this email. But it’s always good to begin with ourselves.

She’s admitting here that her sex life hasn’t been that exciting, though she does reach climax and so does he. That’s pretty good! Not a lot of couples can say that, so she’s already doing pretty well.

One of the big reasons that it may not feel super exciting, though, is because we tend to do the same things each time, or we hold ourselves back. Sex becomes stupendous when you stop holding yourself back and you jump in with both feet–and any other body parts you want!

If we’ve grown up a little ashamed of our sexuality, so that it’s hard for us to say what we want, or to try new things, then it could be that “boring in bed” pretty much describes your relationship.

If you want to try to make sex exciting, but you really don’t know where to start, I’ve written a post on spicing up your marriage that you may find quite helpful!

Remember that God created sex, and He really does want us to enjoy it. It isn’t something shameful. There is nothing particularly holy about the missionary position over any other position, and there is nothing wrong with exploring your bodies and feeling good. You may have to ease into that a bit–talking to him if you’re nervous and keeping the lights off. But do try! And see how good you can feel.

2. Be Real: Are You “Boring in Bed” or Is Your Husband Emphasizing the Wrong Things?

When he’s the one where sex has short-circuited

There’s something about this particular letter that is sending off some bad vibes to me. Many men wish that their sex life could be more exciting, and there honestly is nothing wrong with that.

But in this case he’s not looking for sex to be more exciting; he’s looking for her to be transformed into something else. “if it’s not natural, don’t try,” he says. That sounds to me like he isn’t willing to put in any effort; she’s just supposed to live up to some ideal of what he thinks sex should be. That’s not intimate; that’s not a partnership; that’s a distorted view of sexuality.

Also, she’s reaching climax, and he’s reaching climax, and he’s still rating their sex life a “1″. Believe me, many men would be ecstatic if their wives were enjoying sex that much, and for most men, that’s the majority of their pleasure–giving their wives pleasure. He’s not rating it a 5 or 6, though; he’s not even rating it a 4. He’s saying it’s a 1–the worst it can be.

Again, that says to me that there are some issues going on that have nothing to do with her.

He could be fixating on a particular thing he wants to try, and he’s so fixated on that that until he gets it he won’t be satisfied. Or he could be picturing what to him is a “good lover”, and quite often that image lines up with something someone has seen in pornography. Porn wreaks so much havoc with our expectations and with our libido, so that we’re no longer able to take pleasure in being together.

Often when a guy has a genuine sexual issue stemming from unrealistic demands, we women “own” the problem. We start to feel like the issue is with us, as if we aren’t beautiful enough or sexy enough or “nympho” enough. But the problem may not be with you at all. The problem may be that either our society’s warped view of sexuality or past porn use has put images in your husband’s head that make a marriage relationship seem boring.

I don’t know if that’s the case with our letter writer, and I don’t know if that’s the case with you, but I have seen this many times. A husband starts telling his wife she’s awful in bed or that she’s boring or that she’s frigid when really the issue is that he has used porn and robbed himself of the ability to enjoy a regular, healthy sexual relationship in marriage.

So examine yourself and ask, “am I being myself in the bedroom? Am I being vulnerable? Am I letting myself go and having fun?” And if you can say that you are, but he still isn’t satisfied, then perhaps it’s time for a conversation about where this is coming from. What exactly does he want you to be like? Why does he want you to be like that? If he can’t communicate it to you (as this husband seems unable to do), then it’s likely that he’s embarrassed to tell you what’s really going on. And in that case it’s probably good to start asking about past porn use or present porn use.

3. The Most Explosive Sex Happens When We Feel Truly Intimate

When your relationship has short-circuited sex

The best sex isn’t when we try 10 positions in one night, or when we use sex toys, or when we act out a weird scenario. It’s when you feel completely and utterly one, and when you are open and vulnerable with one another. Intimacy is the best aphrodisiac.

So if sex has become boring, maybe what you need to work on is your prayer life together. Or perhaps you need to start being more vulnerable and sharing more of your dreams and passions for your family. Or maybe you need to talk about some of your fears, and have him share some of his fears.

Kiss Me AgainBarbara Wilson wrote an amazing book called Kiss Me Again, where she talks about why sex often isn’t pleasurable, and what we can do to bring our libidos back in line. And she says that this is what often happens: when we date, we start having sex. That gives us this sense that we’re really intimate and close. But the problem is that often we weren’t that close yet. Here’s why:

There are 5 levels of emotional intimacy. With some people we talk about just the facts: it’s cold out today, eh? But with one or two people in our lives we should be able to share our deepest hurts and dreams and fears. We should be able to become completely vulnerable.

If you have sex when you’re only on level 3, where you share opinions and thoughts but not feelings, then sex becomes a substitute for emotional intimacy. And then, when you get married, it’s likely that you may never progress beyond level 3, because your emotional intimacy stalled. You felt close when you really weren’t. And now sex isn’t able to keep that close feeling anymore, so you’re both aware that you’re missing something. You feel like roommates rather than soulmates.

If that resonates with you, I really recommend picking up Kiss Me Again, because she goes through how to heal this in your marriage and get to those deeper levels of intimacy again. And when you do that, sex often starts to become really explosive–often for the first time!

Those, then, are my thoughts on this question. Perhaps you’ve short circuited sex because of shame or guilt; perhaps he has short-circuited sex because of porn; or perhaps you both need to delve into more intimacy. Ask God to show you where you need to concentrate, and then work through this together!

Let me know: have you ever had disagreements because you’re “boring in bed”? How did you handle it?



Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Brain, Your Marriage, and Your Sex Life

The Effects of Porn--a Must Read!

Pornography is ravaging marriages. In our culture porn is treated as if it’s harmless, but it’s not. Porn will wreck the arousal process in your brain and end up wrecking your sex life in marriage. The effects of porn are devastating.

I receive emails everyday from women who are desperate to fix their marriages, but they don’t know what to do. They married men who never seem to want sex. Or their husbands are never satisfied. Or their husbands call them boring or unattractive. And the root of many of these problems is porn.

Here’s the really devastating part: Because so much of what porn does to you happens chemically in the brain, the porn use doesn’t have to be going on NOW to have these effects. A boy who grew up on porn in his teens, and then managed to stop watching it in his twenties (with occasional relapses) will still suffer from many of these things.

The good news: There is healing! You can rebuild those chemical pathways to arousal. But first we have to understand 10 ways that porn affects the brain, and thus wrecks many couples’ sex lives. And so today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share:

Top Ten TuesdayThe Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Sex Life

And remember–women use porn, too! While some of these apply just to men, many of them apply to both genders.

1. Porn Means You Can’t Get Aroused by “Just” Your Spouse

Do you remember reading about Pavlov and his dog in Psychology? Pavlov would give the dog a nice juicy steak, but right before he did he would ring a bell. He conditioned the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting great food. Eventually Pavlov took the food away, but kept ringing the bell. The dog kept salivating at the bell, even though there was no steak, because the dog associated the bell with the food.

The same thing happens when we see porn. Porn stimulates the arousal centers in the brain. When it’s accompanied by orgasm (sexual release through masturbation), then a chemical reaction happens and hormones are released. In effect, our brains start to associate arousal with an image, an idea, or a video, rather than a person.

When you don’t watch porn and save yourself until marriage, then all of those chemicals and hormones are released for the first time when you’re with your spouse, and it causes you to bond intensely (and sexually) to your spouse. But when you spend a ton of time teaching your brain to associate arousal and release with pornography, your brain can’t associate arousal and release with a person anymore. Either you have to fantasize about the porn, and get those images there, or you have to watch porn first. Often people can “complete the act”, but it’s not intense for them the way porn is. You’ve rewired your brain, and now you’re salivating at the wrong thing.

2. Porn Wrecks Your Libido

It’s only natural, then, that many people who use porn in the past, or who use porn in the present, have virtually no libido when it comes to making love to their spouse. The spouse is not what turns them on, and so the natural drive that we have for sex is transferred somewhere else. I get so many emails from young women in their twenties who say, “my husband and I were both virgins when we married, and I thought he’d want sex all the time. But after our honeymoon sex went to maybe twice a month, and that’s only if I pressure him. He says he just isn’t interested.” With so many men growing up on porn, this is just to be expected.

3. Porn Makes You Sexually Lazy

In porn, everyone is turned on all the time. You don’t have to make any effort to arouse someone; it’s automatic. There is no foreplay in porn. And so if your spouse isn’t aroused  you start to think that it’s somehow their fault. There’s no expectation that we will have to “woo” someone or be affectionate and help jumpstart that arousal process. It’s almost as if we approach sex as two different beings and we’re just using each other, rather than thinking of each other. And thus we never learn how to please the other or become a good lover because we’re always thinking that the other is somehow “frigid”. Sex is about getting my needs met; it isn’t about meeting someone else’s needs or experiencing something wonderful together.

4. Porn Turns “Making Love” into a Foreign Concept

Those arousal centers and pleasure centers in our brain are supposed to associate sex with physical pleasure and a real sense of intimacy. But the intimacy doesn’t happen with porn, and so the pleasure is all that registers. Thus, sex becomes about the body, and not about intimacy. In fact, the idea of being intimate isn’t even sexy anymore; anonymous is what’s sexy. We may call “having sex” “making love”, but in reality they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Someone who has used porn extensively often has a difficult time experiencing any intimacy during sex, because those arousal and pleasure centers zero in only on the body.

God made sex to actually unite us and draw us together; He even gave us a bonding hormone that’s released at orgasm so that we’d feel closer. But if that hormone is released when no one is present, it stops having its effects. Sex no longer bonds you together.

Making love and having sex are not necessarily the same thing.

5. Porn Makes Regular Intercourse Seem Boring

An alcoholic drinks alcohol for the “buzz”. But after a while your body begins to tolerate it. To get the same buzz, you need more alcohol. And so the alcoholic begins to drink harder liquor, or drink larger quantities.

The same thing happens with porn. Because porn teaches us that sex is all about the body, and not about intimacy, then the only way to get a greater “high” or that same buzz is to watch weirder and weirder porn. I think most of us would be horrified if we saw what most porn today really is. It isn’t just pictures of naked women like there used to be in Playboy; most is very violent, extremely degrading, and very ugly.

“Regular” intercourse is actually not depicted that often in porn, and so quite frequently the person who watches porn starts to get a warped view of what sex really is. And often they start to want weirder and weirder things.

Now, I’m not against spicing things up, and I do think lots of things can be fun! But when we’re wanting “more” because we’ve programmed ourselves to think “the weirder the sexier”, there’s a problem.

6. Porn Makes it Hard to Be Tender When You Have Sex

It’s no wonder, then, that people who use porn often  have a hard time being tender when they have sex. Sex tends to be impersonal, rushed, and “forced”. I’m absolutely not saying that all porn users rape their wives, but porn itself is often violent. There’s no foreplay. There’s no waiting to arouse someone. It’s just taking what you want.

Being tender means to be loving. It’s to give and to express affection. Because these things aren’t paired with sex in the porn users brain, tenderness and sex no longer go together.

7. Porn Trains You to Have Immediate Gratification and Have a Difficult Time Lasting Long

With porn, when you’re aroused you reach orgasm very quickly, because porn users tend to masturbate at the same time. Thus, orgasm tends to be very fast. The porn user hasn’t trained his body to draw out sex so that his spouse can get pleasure; his body is programmed to orgasm quickly. Many porn users, then, suffer from premature ejaculation.

Some porn users go to the other extreme when they start suffering from erectile dysfunction. They have a difficult time remaining “hard” enough during sex because the stimulation isn’t enough. In their case, orgasm can take an eternity, if it’s possible at all.

8. Porn Gives You a Warped View of what Attractive Is

Sex is supposed to bond you physically, emotionally and spiritually with your spouse. But if porn has made the chemical pathways in your brain go haywire, then sex becomes only about the body. And porn shows you that only certain body types are attractive. It’s not about the whole person; it’s just a certain type of person.

If a woman gains even ten pounds, then, she’s no longer attractive, and the porn user has an honest to goodness difficult time getting aroused, because he associates only a certain body type with arousal.

9. Porn Makes Sex Seem Like Too Much Work

All of this combines to often make sex with your spouse too much work. You’re not aroused; you find your spouse not attractive; sex is blah; and sex requires you to make an effort for your spouse, while you’re used to immediate gratification.

Thus, many people who use porn retreat into a life of masturbation. Even if the porn use stops, they often find it easier to “relieve” themselves in the shower than to have to work at sex.

10. Porn Causes Selfishness

All of this causes a spiral of selfishness where the person ignores his spouse’s needs and is focused only on getting what he wants, and getting it instantly. Often this manifests itself in other areas of the relationship as well, where the spouse becomes annoyed if they have to wait for something, or if they don’t get what they want. Porn has sold them the message: you deserve pleasure when you want it. You shouldn’t have to work to get what you want. Your needs are paramount.

It’s no wonder that shows up in other areas of your relationship.

People who think that porn is harmless and simply helps people “get in the mood”, or “relieves frustration”, are kidding themselves. The chemical processes in our brains are really complicated, and when you start messing with them, it’s really difficult to develop a healthy sexuality again.

However, it absolutely can be done! Later this year I’ll be working on an ebook about it, but for now, this post may help:

Marriage Recovery after a Pornography Addiction

Dayspring My Chains are Gone

Also, let’s remember: too often we tell teenagers not to use porn because it’s a sin, and they’re not supposed to lust. I think we need to start telling them these ten things. If you want amazing sex when you’re older, don’t use porn now. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Ask teenagers, “who wants amazing sex when you’re married?”, and pretty much everyone will put up their hand. Then tell them: Use porn now, and you’ll make that almost impossible, without a major work of God in your life. Tell them the truth.

Covenant EyesAnd make sure that in your house everyone–girls, boys, women, and men–are protected from temptation. I’m a big supporter of Covenant Eyes. No, we can’t rely on it alone, and yes, we need a work in the heart. But if we need to reduce the temptation so that God has time to work, I think that’s worth doing. Covenant Eyes sends emails to people of your choice to tell you when someone has accessed an inappropriate site. If kids know their parents will get an email if they try to find porn, or if men and women know their accountability partners will get emails, they’ll be less likely to surf inappropriate stuff.

Show Grace

One last word–please show grace to those who have been ravaged by porn. Especially if the associations in the brain happened when they were young, these people often want to change the most, but it seems really helpless. Rather than pointing the finger in blame, join together to fight the problem together!

Porn is serious. It wrecks people’s sex lives, it makes people selfish, and it ultimately wrecks marriages. Let’s spread the word, and fight against it!

UPDATE: I’ve been asked in the comments and on Facebook to provide citations, so I’ve created this infographic with a few. There’s tons more research at Fight the New Drug, and many other sites.

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Marriage and Sex Life: Click through for tons more information and explanations.

On Sin, Brokenness, and What We Should Do About It

On Sin, Judgmentalism of Christians, and Brokenness

Judgment.

That’s become a really dirty word in Christian circles lately.

A whole rash of books (like Jefferson Bethke’s great Jesus>Religion) have been published in the last few years stating that Christians are too judgmental, and this makes us irrelevant in the wider culture. But even worse, we’re hypocritical, because God judges all sins the same.

Frequently the sin that is brought up in these books is homosexuality: Fundamentalists rail loudly against homosexuality, these authors point out, but they ignore the gluttony in the pews. They rail against sexual sin, yet do nothing about gossip and pride. And as such, we turn ourselves into huge hypocrites and become the butt of jokes. A better way to approach our culture, say these authors, is to say that we are ALL sinners and ALL in need of grace.

I have noticed this preoccupation with homosexuality and shoddy doctrine myself. For instance, here’s an article about the new “Trail Life USA”, an alternative to the Boy Scouts, that is launching with tremendous fanfare. They want to return to traditional values, and I certainly support that. But in the article, one Trail Life leader said,

As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin…

No, BEING a homosexual is NOT a sin.

Participating in homosexual behaviour or entertaining lustful thoughts are sinful, as is ANY sexual activity outside of marriage. But simply BEING a homosexual is not a sin. God does not punish us for temptations but for our misdeeds. To say that being a homosexual is a sin is so hurtful to those who are trying to get right with God. We’re saying that “even if you do the right things, you will still be condemned because of your temptations.” That’s not Christian doctrine, and it is very unfortunate that in so many Christian circles we talk this way. Language matters, and we must be careful with how we portray Christ.

So I agree with 90% of what Jefferson Bethke and others in this line of thought write, because I have seen it, too.

But I worry sometimes that we’re leaving out something important, and that’s sin’s effects on people. And so I’d like to share today my train of thought when it comes to judgment and brokenness.

1. We Are All Equally Deserving of Death–All Sin Makes Us Guilty

I completely agree that any sin makes us deserving of death and deserving of judgment. James 2:10 says:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

No matter what we have done, even if it is only “little” in our eyes, we are guilty of breaking the whole law.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. None of us can stand before God and say, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as THAT guy.” Christians shouldn’t be judgmental towards others, as if we are good and they are not. We are all guilty, and we all need Jesus.

2. Some Sins Contribute More to Brokenness

I once heard a very wise man say this:

The cost of lying is that you become a liar.

Sin changes us. The price that we pay is that we are no longer the same person. We are now identified with that sin. And here’s the rub: there are some sins that change us more than others. This is where I think some of the Christian authors today run the risk of trivializing the results of some sins. Yes, all sin makes us equally guilty before GOD, but some sins have more of an effect on US than other sins do.

1 Corinthians 6:18 says:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

There is something about sexual sin that has a profound effect on us. I think it’s because sexuality and our ability to experience true intimacy with others and with God are so intimately connected. God created us with all kinds of chemical reactions and hormonal reactions to sex that would, in turn, bond us to our spouse. When those chemical reactions start to be paired with sexual activity that isn’t within marriage, we start literally “rewiring the brain” so that what becomes arousing is not intimacy with a spouse but anonymous encounters, pornography, or something else. And soon we lose the ability to experience true intimacy, let alone the fullness of sexuality that God designed us for.

This impacts not just our sexuality but also our relationships with others. When sexuality becomes disordered, it affects how we view other people and how we view ourselves.

We are all broken, but some brokenness is just harder to have healed, and sexual sin seems to have tentacles that worm their way into all kinds of areas of our lives.

Acting on homosexual impulses is not the only sin, of course, that does this. It is one of the most serious, in terms of its effects, but a porn and masturbation addiction can do pretty much the same thing, and is far more rampant.

My fear is that by saying so loudly, “we are all equally guilty,” we risk diminishing the seriousness of the effects of some sins.

Here’s how I would say it:

All sins make us equally guilty before God, but some sins create more brokenness. Those who have sinned in those ways are even more in need of the support, love, and accountability that a church can offer.

People who are broken don’t need our condemnation; of that the authors are perfectly correct. But let’s still remember that there is brokenness, and if we stop acknowledging that, then we also stop offering hope for healing.

3. Not All Sins are Judged Equally

I do believe that we are equally guilty before God, and equally deserving of judgment. Absolutely. However, I don’t see evidence in Scripture that we will be judged in the same way. On the contrary, there are plenty of stories in Scripture that show that some will be judged most harshly. Here’s Matthew 11:23-24:

And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

Those who reject Christ, when they have an amazing opportunity to accept Him, will be judged more harshly. Interestingly, they will even be judged more harshly than those who are best known for homosexual sins, showing again that God does not judge homosexuality as the worst sin at all.

Here’s another example that further illustrates what I’m saying about brokenness, from Luke 17:2:

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

God really doesn’t like it when people cause children, or young Christians, to stumble. Why? Quite often it’s in these moments that we cause real brokenness. Those who abuse children; those who introduce a young teen to pornography; those who divorce without good grounds and cause their kids to look elsewhere for their identity and for love and affection; these people need to be very wary on the day of judgment.

God cares about our brokenness. God knows that some things hurt and wound us deeply. Sin has horrible effects on us, and the only way to find true healing is through Christ. I do believe that we as Christians have been too quick to label certain things as horribly sinful, while also ignoring the sins that we ourselves practice. But please, in our efforts to right that wrong, let’s not forget about brokenness.

Brokenness is not God’s judgment on us; brokenness is simply the natural consequence of sin.

And brokenness is so sad, and so damaging, and often so intractable.

Brokenness should cause us to run to Jesus all the more, and if we as a church present the picture that God hates those who sin sexually, people are far less likely to achieve real healing. But if we also present a picture that all sin is equal and thus we are all equally broken, we also fail to give people a proper picture of what healing is.

We need both messages: we are all equally guilty, but some people desperately need major healing, and Jesus wants to give you that healing. That, I think, is the Christian approach to sin, and I hope that my attempt to flesh it out makes sense.



Pornography is a Cancer on our Society

Pornography is a Cancer on our Society

Not a long post today, but an important one.

Please watch this video. It’s deeply disturbing, but he’s exactly right on. The two key things that had me really scared: porn is almost entirely about violence today; and most porn watchers are between the ages of 13 and 18.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Reader Question: Is It Okay to Take Sexy Photos of Myself for My Husband?

Reader Question: Is it okay to take pics for my husband?On Mondays I like to try to answer a Reader Question, and today’s is one I get asked a lot, even in person, but often in whispers: Is it okay to take sexy photos for my husband?

After all, he’s allowed to see you naked, so there’s nothing actually wrong with it, right? And there are even “classy” places that will do boudoir photo shoots, with you in lingerie. That would be a good gift, wouldn’t it? Especially if he were going away for a time (like a military deployment)?

Well, let’s think this one through, because I don’t think it has a black and white answer. Like many things in marriage, I’m inclined to say, “it depends”. So here are just a few thoughts that I have, and then you can work it through in your own marriage.

The Practical: Private Photos Don’t Tend to Stay Private

We all know this; we see it all the time with celebrities. But it’s true for “real life”, as well. Photos that you intend to stay private often don’t. Kids may come across them (and who wants their kids seeing this?). If they’re on a phone, someone else may see it.

I’m reminded of this old Motorola ad (It showed on TV so it really doesn’t get that racy):

Seriously. You don’t want that happening!

If you’re going to take pictures, personally, I’d make sure they were erased right away. Let them be something to tease him with, not something he keeps with him.

Now, at the same time, I’m not a military person, and so I’ve never had that six month or a year separation. But I’m not sure sexy photos would make that year easier. It would be great if some military wives could chime in on this one, because I really do feel out of my depth on that one, and especially with the date–November 11–I’m reminded again of the gratitude I have for those in the service. So I’ll let someone with more experience in that area make a more definitive statement.

The Worry: Are You Recreating Porn?

Men are visual, and we like to be thought of as “the beauty”, as the Eldredge’s say in their books. I think appreciating a woman’s beauty, and seeing her revealed, is something that is innate in us, and isn’t necessarily bad.

However, we live in an extremely pornographic society, and so many men are really struggling with porn.

I do not think that you defeat porn by becoming porn.

You don't defeat porn by taking sexy photos for your husband.

The problem with porn is not ONLY that you’re looking at someone other than your wife; the problem with porn is that it makes sex into something which is entirely about the physical and not about a relationship. It makes sex into “I’m going to lust and get my needs met”, rather than “we’re going to experience this together.” And that is a very, very difficult thing to break. In fact, in many ways that’s harder than the porn. A guy may find that he’s able to give up porn, but he may not find that his sex drive for his wife comes back. It may stay dormant. It doesn’t mean she’s not attractive; it’s just that he’s trained his body to respond to anonymous images, and not to a relationship. And that takes time to deal with (and I talk about how to recover from porn here).

It’s like this: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a glass of wine. But for an alcoholic, that’s a tremendously bad idea. Even just being at a place where people are drinking is hard. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with an Oreo cookie. But if you’re trying to change your eating habits and get your body to start craving food that’s real, then giving in all the time to that Oreo won’t complete that retraining process, and could disrupt it.

I received an email yesterday by a woman who is sick of having to initiate sex. I couldn’t really figure out what the problem is, but then she made a throw away comment in the middle of the email that sometimes she’s too cold to do a striptease. So I think tomorrow I’ll write about what initiating sex is (and it certainly does NOT have to involve a striptease or be that elaborate! Not that there’s anything wrong with elaborate). But it became that her husband wanted to put her in certain positions and do certain things that he liked watching in porn.

That’s not healthy. There’s nothing wrong with spicing things up in the bedroom and having fun.

But if you’re recreating porn, you end up objectifying yourself and pushing him back into this fantasy mode, not into relationship mode.

You’re not ever making love; you’re just using each other (or he’s using you). That’s not good.

This struggle pops up in a lot of ways and in a lot of questions I get, and not just about taking pictures. If your husband has used porn, recreating it will not ease his addiction to the porn and bring him back to you. Wearing more lingerie and acting sexier will not get rid of the porn; in some ways it just solidifies it. You become just what’s on the screen. Sure, it’s good that it’s you and not her, but the fundamental problem remains: you’ve warped what sex is supposed to be.

31 Days to Great SexIf you want to figure out a way to talk this through with your husband, that’s what 31 Days to Great Sex is for. I have a number of days when I talk about the dangers of depersonalizing sex, and how pornography can do this to us. And then we work through how to make sex intimate again. If you’ve tried to have this conversation with your husband, and it isn’t working, the book may really help.

And if you just don’t understand what I’m saying–like why can’t sex just be about being sexy?–then I’d really recommend working through The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, which explains how sex was supposed to be intimate and fun physically, of course, but it was also supposed to be a spiritual and emotional experience. If you don’t have those last two components, you’re really missing something! After all, it’s the spiritual, the feeling like one, that makes the physical even more intense.

So those would be my concerns. If you’ve read through those, and you don’t think they apply to you (because your sex life is both intimate and fun, and porn isn’t an issue), and you don’t intend to store the pictures, then I really don’t think there’s anything wrong. But please, heed the red flags, and really think it through first. If you feel like it’s wrong, then it very well may be for you, and that may be God’s way of prompting you to tread carefully!

Now, I’d love to hear what you think. Ever been in an awkward situation where you wish you hadn’t taken some pictures? Or, if you’re a  military spouse, I’d love to hear your unique take on this question!

Reader Question: Help! I Caught My Son Watching Porn

Help! I Caught My Son Watching Porn

Every week I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s a scenario that all too many parents deal with: what do you do when you catch your son watching porn (or your daughter watching porn)?

Here’s an email I received:

This morning, I had to be out of the house for a little while and my 15 year old son babysat my 6 year old son. We let our 6-year-old get on the computer because he is a music FANATIC and spends hours on youtube watching videos, especially classic rock. Today my older son walked in and caught him looking at some ugly pictures. A quick look at the history reveals he had typed in “sexy neckit (naked) girls” in the search engine and I am DEVASTATED at what he saw. Images that I didn’t even want to see, much less my SIX year old. I want to handle this correctly…I don’t know what to do. I need to know WHY he even searched for that and I need to know how to punish him. It is making me feel like a miserable failure as a parent (we don’t monitor enough, we don’t go to sunday school enough, etc) I can’t stop crying. Of course I called my husband at work and I’m going to wait until he gets home so we can both talk to him. Our older son asked our younger son why he was looking at that and he said “my mind told me to and I cant control it” Please, do you have any advice how to handle this??

Isn’t that tough? So let’s try to work this through.

Most Children will See Porn Before they are 18

Porn accounts for 25% of the web pages on the net, and chances are your children will see it. Indeed, 43% see it before age 13. Often it’s by accident; I remember one friend telling me about her 11-year-old son doing a school project on nursery rhymes, and while he was at school he typed in something about Little Bo Peep. Guess what came up? The teacher had to hurry over and minimize the screen, because all these kids were staring, mouths agape. I’ve had that experience, too–I’ve been searching for something innocent and you click on a link and it’s porn. So chances are they will see something.

Early Porn Use is Heavily Associated with Later Porn Addiction

I’m not saying, though, that because everybody will see it it therefore means you shouldn’t be worried. On the contrary, almost everyone I’ve talked to who uses porn heavily started when they were teenagers. The root is found back then. And it makes sense. As a teen, your brain is still forming, and indeed it’s going through a lot of changes. If you start to see porn when you’re just starting to develop sexual feelings, the porn images get fused with the arousal sections of your brain, and you start to depend on those images for arousal. The porn also activates the pleasure centers of your brain, in a similar way that drugs do. So you start to form these connections that begin to rely on porn. As an adult, the effects of porn can devastate relationships.

That’s why we absolutely need to protect our kids from porn as much as we can. So here are some strategies to do that.

What to Do If You Catch Your Son Watching Porn

This mom reports being devastated and crying all day, and I totally understand. A little bit of crying isn’t going to hurt your child, and it will cement the idea that you’re sorry FOR your child.

And that’s what I would emphasize:

“I’m sorry you saw that, because it’s dangerous and I want so much more for you.”

Rather than expressing anger, just talk matter of factly about it. You certainly don’t want your child to associate sex with shame, but at the same time you don’t want your son (or daughter) thinking that this is what sex is.

So start explaining to them,

“I know you’re curious about what people look like naked because you probably hear about it everywhere–on movies, and at school. But that’s something that’s just for marriage. When we start looking at people like that then we start thinking about people just about their bodies–and we’re so much more than that.”

You can even start a discussion about what makes a good person, and how it has nothing to do with what they look like.

And then say that bodies are fun and beautiful, but we’re not supposed to share them with everyone, it’s just for marriage.

What about if you catch a child watching porn who is much older?

Then I think the key is to be honest with them fully: one of the reasons I don’t want you watching porn is because I want you to have a great sex life when you’re married, and this will wreck it. Tell them about how it retrains the brain to get aroused by an image, and not a person, so that when you’re married you can’t even really enjoy sex with your wife. If you want to enjoy sex, you have to ignore porn.

I heard this awesome story from a mom at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) conference I was speaking at last week. She went to bed one night (her husband was away at work) at about 11, and when she woke up an hour later she saw that her 14-year-old son’s light was still on. She had thought he was doing homework, but she got up to check, and as soon as she came in the room he minimized the screen. She asked what he was doing; he admitted he had been watching porn.

She immediately pulled up a chair, said, “Cool! Let’s watch it together.” Then she maximized the screen and started clicking through, providing commentary the whole way (that’s not real; she’s obviously had surgery; no one really enjoys that). About 10 minutes in he grabbed the mouse and minimized the screen again, absolutely mortified. And he said, “can we get filters on our computer?” I think she wrecked it for him!

If you want to learn more about how to handle kids and porn, Covenant Eyes has a great FREE ebook out called “Parenting the Internet Generation“.

Covenant Eyes Parenting Ebook

How to Lessen the Chance Your Child Will Watch Porn

How do you lessen the chance they’ll watch porn? Some quick steps:

1. Keep the computer in a central place.

Kids normally watch porn and become addicted if they have a computer in their rooms. Make all internet use happen at the dining room table or the living room, so that you’re doing it as a family.

2. Turn off wifi when you go to bed.

Turning in at 10:30? Turn off the wifi so your child can’t surf late at night. That’s often when they start! And have a central dock in the kitchen for charging all phones/iPads overnight. Make it a rule that devices get left to charge there, so that kids aren’t surfing at night on their phones.

3. Watch whose house your child hangs out at

The most common place to view porn, other than in your house, is at a friend’s house. And often kids see porn without even wanting to because a friend shows them, and it’s awkward to ask the friend to stop. So, in general, have kids hang out at your house when you can supervise. If they go to a friend’s house, check what their computer rules are.

4. Get filters on the computer

Honestly, these really are a great deterrent. Yes, a determined, smart child may be able to find their way around them. But filters stop the chance that searches for “Little Bo Peep” will bring something icky. And they mean that if a child wants to see something, they have to be very determined. A momentary temptation won’t be able to drag them in.

Covenant EyesI really believe that every family should have filters. They can’t stop everything, but think about it this way: 30 years ago if you wanted porn, you had to go to a store and buy it, and it was kept on the top magazine rack. It’s not like you had a shelf full of Playboys in your house, in the living room, and you just said to your kids: I don’t want you looking. But that’s what we’re doing today if we don’t have filters. It’s like we have DVDs and magazines all over the house, and we’re telling kids, “don’t look.” Putting a filter on is like putting those DVDs and magazines back on the top rack of the store, and out of easy access. Isn’t that better?

Covenant Eyes is a great program that lets you restrict access to certain types of sites, and sends a report to the person of your choosing of what sites everybody has chosen to try to access. So it really does work as a great deterrent. And I think this is a service for our teens. Porn is very tempting. If you could partially remove that temptation, isn’t that being kind? And Covenant Eyes is offering a month free to our readers (just click the link and it will know you’re from here).

5. Model Healthy Sexuality

Be affectionate with your spouse in front of the kids. Talk to them about sex and tell them that in marriage it’s good. Let them know that you’re not uptight–you actually want great sex, not a counterfeit.

6. Pray Lots–and Get Your Kids Praying, Too

Finally, there’s no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit in your child’s life. I heard another story from a mom whose 9-year-old son jumped off the computer like it was on fire one day. The mom was startled and asked the child what was going on. He replied, “I wanted to search for naked pictures, so I typed it in, and as I did, I heard God say, “Ethan, Stop It.” Really loudly. So I got off the computer.”

He heard God’s voice! And that’s a wonderful thing. So make sure your kids are involved at a great church. Talk to them about God at home. Model prayer to them–pray about everything, just in quick sentences. Let them see you praying to resist temptation to gossip, or to feel proud, or whatever, so they see that they can do this, too.

Now it’s your turn: what have you done to protect your children from porn? What experiences have you had with your children and porn? Let us know in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links.

Is Looking At Porn Cheating?

Today,  please welcome guest post writer from Through the Fire, Lisa Hall-Wilson, as she shares her journey and thoughts about porn and its effects on marriage.

Is looking at porn cheating? You know I’ve got a few opinions on this because this question inevitably leads to – Is it OK to divorce him/her because of the porn? That’s a much bigger question.

I recently interviewed Canada’s Christian Sex Lady – Sheila Wray-Gregoire for an upcoming article. We got chatting briefly about porn and porn addiction. If you’ve been reading Through The Fire for a while, you know about my husband’s multi-year addiction to porn.

I thought there would be value in sharing my journey and thought-process of having lived through it.

Is looking at porn cheating

Is looking at porn really cheating?

I’m not an expert on sex – don’t claim to be. I’m not a biblical scholar either. But I’ve lived this. My husband didn’t go out and find a prostitute, he didn’t commit adultery in the physical sense. The Bible says, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) NASB

Harsh, right.

The Bible calls it adultery, but society doesn’t. Society says looking at porn, assuming those involved in the production of it are consenting adults, is harmless. (I take issue with the ‘harmless’ label: From Men’s Health: “In a Utah State University study, for example, more than half of male users said looking at porn led to problematic outcomes—social, spiritual, psychological, or relational. These negative effects weren’t linked to viewing time—the men who watched porn frequently were just as likely to report problems as those who watched it less often.”)

But let me tell you this, as the spouse, it FEELS like cheating. He chose photo-shopped images and FICTION over me. He poured out his desire on them instead of me. He had no interest in me. The cycle of shame and guilt he lived with caused him to be explosively angry, verbally abusive at times, and distant. Now, I know that his addiction had nothing to do with me. His choice to turn to porn wasn’t because of my lack. Understanding the why of it lessens the sting, but at the end of the day you’re still facing the reality that there’s no trust or respect left for him.

So, if the Bible says it’s cheating, and qualified psychologists acknowledge that to the affected spouse it feels like cheating…

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

As someone who lived through this, I considered it cheating. Would it have been worse if he’d physically gone out and committed adultery? I don’t know. In my case there wasn’t ‘the other woman’ instead I faced ‘hundreds of other women’ embedded in his memory and within easy access – though I never feared any of them would call, show up on the doorstep, or take him in if I kicked him out. Hope I never have to find out. But where does that first question inevitably lead spouses?

If viewing porn is cheating, does that make it grounds for divorce?

This was a question I wrestled with. I mean blood, sweat, tears, guts-on-the-floor wrestled with. The New Testament gives a couple of instances where divorce is allowable: abandonment, adultery, and many tack on abuse of any stripe. Death is the only instance the Bible states is cause for remarriage. (I only bring this up because it factored into my own thinking – this is not a comment on anyone’s decision.)

I felt I had biblical grounds for divorce if I wanted that, but I had to abandon any thought of remarrying. (I realize that not everyone would agree with my thinking, but this is where my conscience led me.)

Was I willing to spend the rest of my life (I was in my early 30′s at the time) alone, or could I maybe work this out? Ummm….. Being alone forever sounded pretty good. I was done with men and with relationships in general. But forever is a loooong time.

The story of Jesus saving the adulteress from stoning came to mind. The Bible gives us these words: “He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) NASB

Could I honestly say I had NEVER entertained a lustful thought about a man who wasn’t my husband? But I’ve never looked at porn – assuming malicious pop-ups don’t count.That’s not the question. Have I ever entertained a lustful thought about another man? Yes, I’m guilty of that. Didn’t that also make me guilty of adultery in the biblical sense?Ummm…..

The other story that came to mind was the story of a king who was owed a large sum of money but he forgave the debt. The forgiven debtor then went to a man who owed him a much smaller sum. The forgiven debtor threw the second man in prison when he couldn’t pay. When the king learned of this he said, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18: 32-33) NASB

The first man had been forgiven of a much bigger debt than the second man, but forgiveness is what was expected from both who held the debt regardless of the amount. How much had God forgiven me of? A LOT. ….Oooh (There are perhaps better examples of this principle, but this is the one that came to mind.)

If I could forgive my husband of this hurt, (and again, my conscience warned me that God would require this of me regardless) would I be willing to still be married to him?

Suddenly my self-righteousness lost its luster, the glitter flaked off, and I was left with the naked truth. When held to the biblical standard, was I any better than him? That didn’t diminish my hurt, or the work he had to do to make it right – not what I’m saying. But when we’re judged by the same stick, did I still have a case? Yes…and no.

That’s the journey my thoughts took which helped me decide to stay and not seek divorce. It was a lot of work to rebuild our relationship. Not a single bit of it was easy. That road was paved with hurt and tears and many sleepless nights. On the other side of it we’ve now got a history together that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

My decision seemed rather black and white because my husband was truly repentant. He earnestly sought professional help, he did the hard work of breaking the addiction and has stayed free of it. If that hadn’t been the case, the other evidence that influenced my decision still remained true, but it would have made my decision a lot more difficult.

It was my conscience, not my heart, that convinced me to stay. My conscience, and my desire to be obedient to the principles and moral code set out in the Bible as I understood them. Not everyone will agree with the path I chose to arrive at my decision, not everyone will make the same decision I did. And that’s OK.

Lisa_hall_wilson FB profileLisa Hall-Wilson has published over 70 articles in the Canadian faith-based market, is a syndicated columnist, and has won national awards for her writing. She blogs at www.lisahallwilson.com but you can find her hanging out on Facebook.



Reader Question: My Husband is Trying to Deal with His Porn Addiction, but He’s Not Getting Better

Will My Husband Get Over His Porn Addiction?Every Monday I post a Reader Question and then attempt to answer it. This week is a question that I get from many women, and in fact I had two versions of it last week. Here’s the first version:

My husband was addicted to porn. I would catch him, and he’d say he was sorry, but then I’d catch him again. Recently he’s gone through a big accountability program, and I think he’s clean. But I’m so worried about him relapsing. I don’t know if I can take much more of this. I’m just so exhausted it would be easier to leave. And what about my sons? How will they grow up to respect women and treat them well when their father watches filth where women are degraded? I don’t know how to get past this.

I’m so, so sorry you’re going through this. Really. I know how betrayed you feel, and how disgusted, and how utterly exhausted and spent you must be. It is a really long haul.

I think I’d say a few things:

1. Go with these facts

Divorce is really hard on kids. Really, really hard on them. Right now you’re the one who is in pain and who is suffering, but if you divorce, in a way you transfer that suffering onto them. And chances are your husband would have shared custody, and then your kids would be with him without you to intervene. That means that they could see what he’s doing on the computer. Right now you’re keeping him from using porn more than he otherwise would; if you separated, that would likely increase.

That doesn’t mean you should necessarily stay in the marriage forever; porn addictions can get so out of hand that sometimes a separation is the only way to jolt him into cleaning up his act. But at the same time, doing anything permanent has some really negative repercussions.

So that means that trying to make it work is likely the best option for right now.

2. Get some help yourself

You are carrying a lot. You’re worried about him. You don’t feel close. You feel lonely. And he can’t help you with those things because he’s an addict. So you need to surround yourself with a support system that you can talk to. And you need to get some outside hobbies or interests that can take your time and energy so that you don’t just worry.

Add some joy to your life, in whatever form you can. Really look for things that you can do to change the dynamic in your own life, even if he stays stuck, so that you do have something to get excited about.

Maybe start working out? Learn to knit? Volunteer at an animal shelter? It could be anything, but something that adds to your life is so important.

3. Release your boys to God

I can feel your fear for your boys, but honestly, what I have found in these situations is that the husband is often so disgusted with himself, and hates his addiction so much, that the last thing he wants is for his sons to get trapped the same way he is. Your husband doesn’t WANT to be like this; but porn has likely become his way of relieving stress and of feeling good about himself (ironically). It gives him that temporary high of feeling powerful, before the shame comes crashing down.

Just keep praying over your boys, and watch what they see on the computer, but I have often found that these kinds of addictions, if they’re being confronted and dealt with, do not often get passed down.

4. Work on your friendship

Perhaps this should have been #1, but really work on your friendship with your husband. Your relationship right now is characterized by a lot of negativity. Find things that you can do to laugh, and to add fun to your lives, so that the porn is not the only thing that your relationship is about. Start biking, or hiking, or playing squash, or gardening, or painting, or anything. But just do things together in a low-stress environment, so that when he’s with you he’s not always feeling like you’re mad at him, and you’re not always supicious.

Will this get better? I don’t know. It depends how serious he is about addressing the root of the issue. The Road to Grace by Mike Genung is really good at walking men through the two stages of healing: addressing the symptoms, and addressing the cause.

Other than that, all I can say is that some women have a LOT to bear in their marriages. It is really hard. There is no magic fix. And each day is a constant trial of trusting God that you may one day be able to build something intimate. And that’s lonely. But there really isn’t a good solution other than trying, as long as he is always being serious about doing the work.

I’d have a serious talk with his accountability partner, and get that partner to agree to be honest with you if your husband has ever given up or is just saying the right thing but doing the opposite. At that point, you may need something more drastic. But if he is trudging along, keep praying, surround yourself with help, and try to bring some fun to your life in other ways.

5. Is It Okay to Just Forgive his Porn Addiction and Move On?

What if the situation is a little different, though–what if he hasn’t relapsed? Here’s another letter:

Shortly after my husband and I were married I found that he had been addicted to porn. He’s stopped, and he lets me see his computer. He quit and he cried about it and he confessed it to me. I forgave him. I want to work on the marriage. But did I let him off the hook too easily? I want him to feel as if there are consequences to his actions. And how do I gain confidence again? I still can’t let him see me naked, and I still stiffen when he puts his arms around me. I think it’s because it all came out right after we were married, and we never had time to get used to each other. What do I do?

That’s a tough one, too. I’d say that forgiving him and moving forward is exactly the right thing to do–if he’s getting accountability and he’s totally open about his phone and computer. If he’s taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that’s wonderful. Don’t punish him for that. (A great accountability program is through Covenant Eyes; use code TLHV for the first month free).

But you still have the issue that you feel betrayed and dirty and not quite sexy enough now. Again, totally understandable. And the only way back from that is to do something that will benefit both of you: reclaim intimacy. Right now, after his porn addiction, he will tend to see sex in mostly physical terms, and not in terms of emotional and spiritual intimacy. And that’s why it’s become dirty to you.

31 Days to Great SexSo work at just being intimate. Try taking a bath together. Hold each other naked. Pray together in bed a lot. Just get used to each other. And practice forgiveness everyday. As you practice forgiveness, work on your friendship, and cling to each other more, you’ll likely find that you can trust him again.

It isn’t right to deny him the chance to see you naked, because that’s part of intimacy to him–and to you. But I know it’s hard. If you want some help to make it more natural, my book 31 Days to Great Sex can walk you through this, step by step, day by day, to help you increase your intimacy slowly. And it deals with this problem, when sex doesn’t seem intimate anymore. If you want help getting past this, I’d really recommend it.

Honestly, I have such sympathy for women dealing with their husband’s porn addiction.  It is so, so tough. And there aren’t often easy answers. It takes a lot of work to rebuild intimacy, and a lot of work to break the addiction which often starts even before the marriage does. But God is bigger, and it is when we are weak that His grace and His strength show up the most, too. Just please, don’t despair. Lean on God. Get some great support around you. Keep praying. And then trust that no matter what happens, God will lead you and guide you and will bring you to a place of peace and joy again.

Is Porn the New Smoking?

Is Porn the New Smoking? A look at how harmful and addictive porn really is.Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about the slippery slope of our culture.

Plane rides as a young child were always filled with trepidation for me. It wasn’t crashing that I was afraid of. It was being assigned the first row in the “no smoking” section–meaning that the row right in front of you was lighting up. In the 1970s half the population smoked.

A few decades earlier King George VI was even told to smoke for his health. It would keep him less stressed, and would help his stuttering problem. Unfortunately, he died in his fifties of complications from smoking.

It wasn’t too long ago, then, that smoking was considered harmless, and even kings did it. It was cool, it was fun, and it helped you relax! Today if you smoke you’re a pariah. Don’t you care about your health?

Smoking was once cool and widespread, but now it’s in disfavour. I wonder if porn will follow the same trajectory, because it has all the same ingredients. People think it’s cool. It’s a way to relax! It’s harmless.

And yet, drip by drip, little by little, researchers are starting to realize how destructive it can actually be, both to relationships and to the person using porn him or herself. Porn rewires the brain so that what becomes arousing isn’t a person; it’s an image. And pretty soon arousal requires that stimulus. Being with a live human being isn’t enough anymore.

In fact, sex and relationship counselor Ian Kerner reports on a new term for this–Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder, or SADD. Consume enough porn, and not only do you find making love with a person boring; often men aren’t even able to function without the external stimulus.

Pornography actually works in the brain very similarly to the way cocaine does–except that it’s more addictive. Using porn releases the naturally occurring “pleasure” hormones dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and serotonin in high levels. The dopamine spike in the brain from porn lasts even longer than regular sex–even longer than cocaine. So you go from craving a real relationship to craving porn, at an even greater intensity than drug users crave drugs.

And unlike other drugs, which do leave the system, those images are imprinted there. Once you see something, it’s hard to get it out. Even if you want to just be romantic and concentrate on your spouse, these pictures flood back.

Those pictures give a dangerous message, too: sex is only about the physical, and never about an emotional connection. I worry that people are losing the ability to make love, and all they’re doing is having sex, with porn videos running through their heads the entire time. That’s not loving someone; that’s using someone.

Porn addiction is like any other addiction: eventually your body becomes accustomed to the stimulus, and you need more and more of it to achieve the same high. What started off as just watching women in bikinis can progress to watching violence, rape, and even child porn. Last month Ontario’s former deputy education minister, Benjamin Levin, who also worked on Premier Wynn’s transition team, was arrested on seven charges related to child pornography. This isn’t something that affects only the “seedy underside” of our society; it’s the well-connected and wealthy, too.

People who use porn are more likely to be unfaithful in marriage; more likely to start up an online “cyber affair”; more likely to lose their jobs; more likely to go bankrupt; and more likely to become severely depressed. And so perhaps it’s no surprise that, as Dr. Jill Manning testified before the U.S. Senate, porn use is now implicated in 56% of divorces.

Maybe you really think porn isn’t that bad. It’s fun, and only uptight people criticize it! Well, that’s what they used to think about smoking. And there’s a reason people stopped.

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