The Unglamorous Life of a Porn Star–and Why We Don’t Have to Compete

PureEyesCleanHeartIt’s Wednesday, that day that we always talk marriage! Today’s guest post is from Jennifer Ferguson, whose husband, Craig, battled through and recovered from a pornography addiction. Together they’ve written the book Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. Today she tells part of her story and how she had an attitude shift, regarding the unglamorous life of a porn star.

I used to think the voluptuous girls with the sleek bodies, cascading hair, and pouty lips were the enemies.

I would think horrid thoughts about them, judging them as they flaunted their goods in front of a camera to be broadcast for the entire world to see. I judged them the first time I saw them by accident on my husband’s computer screen and every time the incident replayed itself in my mind.

Unglamorous Life of a Porn Star

I couldn’t ask him, “What do they have that I don’t?” because the answer was obvious to me: Everything.

And it seemed that everything I had was detrimental to my ability to even try to get close to achieving what they had:

  • Baby fat…from 2 babies
  • An “A” cup
  • Stretch marks
  • Cellulite

The only time my lips were pouty was when I was complaining about lack of sleep. Not sure that jives with the sex appeal I was going for.

Even though I knew I could never look like them (at least, not on my budget), I tried to do what I could. I lost weight. I became a runner. I started trying to look better generally (a.k.a. taking five minutes to throw on some mascara).

But a shrinking me didn’t equate to less porn use by my husband. Trying to become more like them did not draw him more towards me. And the bitterness and rage building in my heart towards these porn stars started making me a jealous fool regarding any woman.

I gave anyone the power to make me feel less-than without the utterance of one single word. All they had to do was walk by. Wear a low-cut shirt. Breathe.

As Craig started his journey to freedom from porn addiction, God pointed out I had been ensnared by images of fantasy, too. Where he had been trapped by lust, I had been trapped by comparison.

Somehow, while working on our book, a miracle happened. I found myself filled with compassion for these women who had paraded across the screen and in my husband’s mind. Those whom I perceived as home-wreckers, I now viewed as women with wrecked hearts. Those whom I thought had it all, I realized had very little: safety, self-worth, family who cared. Those I thought were the definition of sexy were actually sex slaves.

Instead of spending so much time pitying myself, I found myself weeping for them.

And repenting. I had judged deeply and wrongly. I had let hate obscure my vision, not only of them, but also of myself. I thought I knew their world, but the truth is, I knew nothing. I started to turn my harsh language into compassionate prayers, that the women in the industry would find freedom, hope, and Jesus.

Because no one should think this is the way to live. No one should think they are worth nothing more than what the porn industry has to offer. The grass is definitely not greener. Consider these facts:
• One male pornographic performer, Rocco (600 films and 3,000 women), said: “Every professional in the porn-world has herpes, male or female.” (www.covenanteyes.com)
• The average life expectancy of a porn performer is only 37.43 years. The average American lives to be 78.1 years old. (www.shelleylubben.com/porn-industry)
• The US adult film industry earns between $9-13 billion annually. Performers make $400-$1000 per shoot and are not compensated based on distribution or sales. (www.shelleylubben.com/porn-industry)
• “Nobody really wants to date a porn star, stripper or escort. Also the whole family thing and having kids, I’m like ‘who’s gonna have kids with an ex-porn star,’” Belmond said, according to the Christian Post. “And even when I’m 60 I’m still gonna have this porn on the Internet. It’s like having a virus or something that never goes away.” Vanessa Belmond, former porn star (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/24/ex-porn-star-reveals-the-horrors-of-working-in-the-sex-industry/)

Ladies, these women, or any woman, you deem as prettier, sexier, whatever-ier, is not your enemy. As Paul writes in Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

When you feel the need to compare, pray.

Pray for yourself that God might show you how intricately you were made.

Pray for the woman you feel you’re up against, that she might know the same – that there is a God who loves her passionately.

Pray thanksgiving for beauty – that which is in you and every other sister – the beauty that is worn on the outside as well as the beauty that blooms on the inside.

Pray against the forces of darkness that belittle, that lie, that damage – those things within the porn industry and all the other dark places in this world.

And pray there would be no room for bitterness or rage to take root, for there is little beauty in those things at all.

JenniferFergusonPure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from PornographyJennifer Ferguson and her husband Craig are the authors of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn to be part of Wifey Wednesday! What advice do you have for us today? Leave the link to your marriage post in the linky below.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility

Myth of Sexual IncompatibilityI’m a columnist for Canada’s Faith Today magazine, the magazine for the evangelical Christian community. And in this month’s issue I’m talking about the myth of sexual incompatibility! I’ve written before about how Christians can’t be sexually incompatible, but I thought I’d sum it up in this column.

The evangelical church has found sex.

After years of being rightfully accused of prudery, many Christians have done a 180, deciding that the best form of evangelism is showing the world just how much we get it on. In July 2013, Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee started a firestorm when, in his opening prayer at a NASCAR race, he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife”. Disgraced megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was renowned for riddling his sermons with sexual innuendos. Closer to home, Christians are hosting “Passion Parties“, just like Tupperware parties, except without as much plastic, where women can shop for lingerie, sex toys, and lubricants in their own homes, with friends.

The message: sex in marriage is awesome!

But is it? This sexual evangelism caused Rachel Pietka to pen an opinion post for Relevant Magazine saying that “Christians Aren’t Called to Have Amazing Sex.” After all, if we aren’t supposed to have sex until we’re married, there’s no way to find out if you’re sexually incompatible. Obviously, then, God never meant for amazing sex to be a staple of a good Christian marriage.

And so here I find myself in this messy middle, wondering when the church will get our act together to properly evangelize about healthy sexuality.

Let’s go back to first principles. God made sex to unite us in three ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yes, we feel a physical rush, but sex is also designed to make us feel like one–the mystery of “knowing” each other, as the Hebrew word used for the sexual union suggests. This spiritual intimacy then feeds the physical side. That’s why many studies–including my own that I conducted for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–show that married Christians enjoy sex more. Commitment is a powerful aphrodisiac!

But our culture doesn’t understand that because it has divorced sex from marriage, and then all that’s left is genitalia. It becomes crude and ugly.

And yet the “sexually incompatible” camp pigeonholes sex as well.

If we’re capable of being sexually incompatible, then our sexuality must be something static. She by herself is a static sexual being, and he by himself is a static sexual being, and the two may not match. Not true. God designed sex to be a relational thing. And because sex is far more than physical, as we open up to each other by becoming more vulnerable, more giving, and more trusting, sex will change.

That’s why I hate the phrase “sexually incompatible”. You’re not incompatible; you just have things you need to work out. If one spouse wants to make love much more than another, and this causes hurt, it’s sin, because one (or both) are not loving each other as Christ did. If one is being selfish in bed, demanding unreasonable things, or refusing to learn how to pleasure the other, it’s sin. When physical problems come, and one spouse doesn’t make allowance, it’s sin. If the spouse experiencing difficulties won’t get help, it’s sin, too. If one is using porn or erotica to get aroused, it’s sin. If one is feeling ashamed of sex, that, too, is sin, though it may not be theirs. Perhaps they grew up in a house where their parents made them feel ashamed of the fact that they were sexual, and now they need healing. Or perhaps they were abused (someone else’s sin) and that, too, has impacted their ability to enjoy sex.

Just like in every other area of our lives, our problems with sex stem from either from our own sin (selfishness) or from being
sinned against (brokenness). And so we need to go to God for healing and restoration.

God promised that we could have amazing sex; He never promised that we would.

In the same way that we can’t live a holy life without surrendering more and more to God, we can’t have great sex without surrendering more and more of ourselves to God and to each other. Sex isn’t something that’s static; sex is a journey that married people take as we grow closer to each other and closer to our Maker.

So it’s time to stop seeing sex like the world does–as something only physical–and start remembering that real passion and intimacy come from a true spiritual connection. As we grow more and more like Christ, we’ll feel that passion more and more, and we will have amazing sex. But I still don’t think we should announce that at NASCAR races.

The newest issue of Faith Today has tons of great articles, including an expose on missing aboriginal women; a Q&A with the director of International Justice Mission, which frees child sex slaves (a ministry near and dear to my heart, that our family has recently started supporting); an in-depth examination of the euthanasia debate; and a look at how churches can agree to disagree–graciously. Plus tons of news about Kingdom Matters in Canada!

Check it out here.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Christian Sex Toy Parties: Are They a Good Idea?

Christian Sex Toy Parties: Are they a good idea?

What do you do if you’re invited to one of those “fun” sex toy parties?

Reader Question of the WeekIt’s Monday, the day when I post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I want to tackle these sex toy parties–especially the “Christian” sex toy parties. Here’s a reader’s question:

I love to read your blog and when I was wrestling with this in my head I was curious what you would do. A good friend of mine has a direct sales business with “girls’ nights in” to explore sex toys, lubes, lingerie, other “fun” things for couples that her company sells. She’s asked me to do parties for her before and I’m skeptical only b/c we don’t like toys, and I just feel like this area of my life is more private (like I don’t share w/ anyone except for my BFF, not a room full of guests in my home). So what are your thoughts on this? Am I too uptight? Thanks!

Great question, and I’ve got a bit of a multifaceted answer. So here we go!

There’s a Difference Between Sex Aids and Sex Replacements

I’m all for using lube–It’s indispensable when you’re just married and you’re nervous about sex, and it becomes indispensable again when you’re in perimenopause/menopause and you aren’t quite as well lubricated as you used to be. It makes quickies easier, and it often makes arousal easier.

Similarly, I’m a big fan of lingerie. I think most women feel a lot more confident with a little bit of material on, and most men really appreciate us in lingerie! It also shows that we’re making an effort.

Massage candles, massage oil, even feathers–awesome! Some of the things that you use to make intercourse easier or more pleasurable–I’m fine with that. Really (though I’m not going to spell them all out). But there is a difference between something that makes enhances sex and something that basically replaces a partner during sex. For instance, I know there are times when vibrators are important–I’ve talked to some readers with health issues who have found that a husband using a vibrator on his wife is one of the only ways that he can give her pleasure, and I do understand that.

It’s just that, in general, the more you use a vibrator, the less likely you are to orgasm during intercourse because the feeling is so much more intense. No guy can vibrate like that. And I could say similar things about some other sex toys.

And the problem is that most of these parties don’t distinguish between the two, and that makes me uncomfortable. Many of them ask to advertise on this site, and I always say no. It’s not that I think sex toys are a sin–I don’t. It’s just that I think that many fall into the category of “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” that we read in 1 Corinthians 10:23.

You don’t want to stress the physical aspect of sex over the spiritual/emotional aspect

Good Girls Guide My SiteHere’s an argument I’ve made before, so I won’t dwell on it much here. But those who tend to enjoy sex the most are also those who are the most intimate–who have been married for about a decade and a half, and who rate their spiritual intimacy as quite high. In the surveys that I did for my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, where I explained this point in great detail, I said that the best way to make sex better was to feel more intimate already. In fact, prayer actually makes a woman more orgasmic (which I know seems weird, but it’s true!)

I firmly believe that you can be both hot and holy–and indeed, the two tend to go hand in hand (as the holy-meter increases, so does the hot-meter!) But because of that, if we ignore the holy part entirely and simply look at the mechanics of sex, we often lose out on the beauty.

Those who feel closer will also feel more vulnerable and will be able to explore more. Sex will be awesome. But if you only look at the increasing the physical aspect without the other, then you often lose something. And especially in this culture where I’ve found the biggest sexual problem most couples have is that they’ve made sex completely physical–because of porn, or the way they were brought up, etc–then doing something else which reinforces that doesn’t end up helping sex.

You can read more about this in the Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, or in my post on Christians and sex toys.

Bondage is a slippery slope

Here’s another issue–many, if not most, of today’s sex toys are bondage oriented, especially after the success of books like 50 Shades of Grey. And bondage humiliates and degrades, and treats a woman as if she were an impersonal object.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartLook–tying someone up playfully can definitely enhance sensation. When you can’t move, you feel everything more. Tying them up with the intention of hurting them in some way (like spanking and whipping) or humiliating them is an entirely different thing. And as I wrote before, I just don’t see how that correlates with treating someone in a loving way.

For more about this argument, see the book Pulling Back the Shades.

Remember the “weaker brother” argument when it comes to sex toy parties

In Romans 14, Paul makes a long argument about how we have to be careful not to put a stumbling block in another person’s way. We may not have an issue with something, but if another Christian does, and we pursue it anyway, it could cause them to stumble.

The classic example here is alcohol: you and your husband may enjoy a glass of wine, but if you serve alcohol to someone who is a former alcoholic, you’re causing them to stumble. Better to leave the wine somewhere else and serve orange juice.

So let’s say that you have a friend whose marriage has been under strain because of porn issues, or because her husband wants her to do things she doesn’t want to do, or because she’s wanted to push some boundaries a little too far. And then you invite her to one of these parties, thinking it’s just a “fun” way to spice up your life.

Her conscience may have been working on her lately: I need to confront my husband and tell him we’re not watching porn together anymore. I need to confront my husband and tell him that I want our marriage bed to be pure.

You then invite her to a party, and she thinks, “Maybe I’ve been hearing God wrong! Maybe I’ve just been too uptight. I mean, here’s my friend who is an awesome Christian and she’s advertising dildos and vibrators and lots of things, so obviously I’ve been wrong thinking that our sex life has become too impersonal. Anything goes, because there’s freedom in marriage!”

And she’s now silenced the Holy Spirit who has been working on her in this area.

Look, for some people using all of these things may not affect their intimacy or marriage in the slightest. But for some it really might. And in the same way that you wouldn’t host a wine tasting or shots party for the College & Career group in your church–even if you drink wine or the occasional mixer–why would you host a sex toy party for people when you really don’t know their back story?

Spread the word about how great sex is

The church has been really sex-negative in the past, and we do need to become more sex-positive and start talking about sex more. We need to tell our friends, “I enjoy sex, and if you’re not having sex in your marriage, that’s bad and I want to help you”. We need to stop making this a secret.

I totally agree.

I just don’t think that these sex toy parties are the way to do that. So I’d love to know in the comments: How can we become more vocal and sex positive WITHOUT going to the extreme? And if you think I’m wrong about the sex toy parties, leave a comment, too! Let’s start a discussion.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

 

 

 

Pulling Back the Shades on Fifty Shades of Grey

Why 50 Shades of Grey will hurt your sex life and your marriage

Erotica has become mainstream. And that scares me.

Today I’d like to share with you about a great book I read recently: Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart by Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery.

They’re talking about how the book series Fifty Shades of Grey and other erotica can wreck your sex drive, your marriage, and your spiritual life. And they’re so right. We can’t ignore this stuff.

I write a lot about pornography on this blog: I write about the effects of porn, how to deal with a husband’s addiction to porn, and more. But while porn is a major problem for men (and increasingly for women, since 30% of porn users are women), that does not mean that women are immune from these types of struggles. They just take different forms–and erotica is one of the main forms.

And so I’d like to share with you some quotes from the book, and some of my own thoughts. They write:

We believe that the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey series was a transforming moment that fueled the erotica craze, normalizing its use. The series has done for women and erotica what the advent of the Internet did for men and porn.

Fifty Shades of Grey made erotica become mainstream–and acceptable.

My family and I were on a cruise shortly after the craze, and my girls were gobsmacked by how many women were reading it on their Kindles on the pool deck–with their husbands sitting beside them, where everyone could see. It’s socially acceptable now, because it’s seen as empowering! It just boosts a woman’s libido, and what can be the harm in that?

Well, Dannah and Juli show how it boosts that libido in a very significant way, by appealing to a woman’s five major longings:

  1. To escape reality
  2. To be cherished by a man
  3. To be protected by a strong man
  4. To rescue a man
  5. To be sexually alive

Think about how a book that’s about a strong, rich, multibillionaire who is troubled getting a young, naive girl involved in bondage will answer each of those 5 needs. The woman reading it escapes reality. She enters a story where this man who has everything is nonetheless obsessed and enthralled with this normal girl. He showers her with gifts, yet at the same time he is very strong–he totally dominates her. But he has these demons that only she can get rid of for him by her love. And in the midst of all that she has amazing sex (and as you read them you get aroused, too.

Erotica feeds right into our essential desires, but it does it in a counterfeit way.

“Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for.”

Then Juli Slattery says this:

Having read the Fifty Shades trilogy, I will say with great confidence that these books are not merely fiction—a story that could be true but is not—but are actually fantasy— something that could not possibly be true.

Sure, they may meet our needs, but it’s completely not true. If you look at the plot, it can’t possibly be true. And that makes it a fantasy. The Narnia series is a fantasy–it breaks the laws of physics and nature by creating an alternate world you can travel to. Lord of the Rings is fantasy because it breaks other laws of nature to create a magical world that can’t exist. But those fantasy worlds are good ones, because they do not break moral laws. The erotic novels, on the other hand, actually change the laws–moral and relational laws. That’s why it’s called shades of grey–there aren’t black and white anymore. And the author says so explicitly in the book.

Breaking down moral rules is part of what she sets out to do in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Her main character is even called Christian. And look at what passes for love–dominating, humiliating, being abusive and making someone else complete you.

They do a wonderful job of explaining the black spiritual undertones to the books, but then they show why it is that even with these undertones we gravitate towards them.

Think about this, though: having to call someone Master–it’s a spiritual thing. And Jesus came to proclaim freedom! But they show how the BDSM lifestyle can appeal to women who are desperate to have a man act more like a man. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t enhance intimacy. It replaces it with adventure and danger, which does heighten sexual response because it releases certain hormones which make us feel more alive. But it isn’t intimacy. And the more that sexual response is paired with this kind of thing, the less your sexual response will even work when you’re trying to “make love”–when you’re trying to be intimate.

They share many stories of girls and women who have read the books and have gotten caught up in erotica. Some of you have shared those stories with me, too. I’ve had several women write about how they grew up in very conservative households, and they started with the Beverly Lewis Amish books. They devoured all those from the church library when they were 12 and 13, so then they moved on to the Karen Kingsbury and other romances there. When they had read all the romances, they went to the public library and looked for secular romances. And soon they were reading Nora Roberts and books with explicit sex scenes.

And before you know it they were seeking out erotica online–even as teens in a conservative Christian home.

Now they’re adults and they can’t stop. They count the moments until they can take some time to themselves and read an erotic novel. And they can’t have sx with their husbands without picturing some scene from the novel. It’s invaded everything.

But that kind of “boosting your libido” is fake.

The authors write,

Erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey is aimed at awakening your physical sexual desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality. Even if the main characters are “in love,” you are not! Whatever emotional and sexual response these novels create in you, they are disconnected from your love relationships and your longing to know and honor God.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIt’s not that adventure in bed is wrong–and they do a good job of what’s okay and what’s not okay in the bedroom, and came to EXACTLY the same conclusions I did in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex on EVERYTHING, so I’m glad about that! Adventure is good, and discovery and exploration is good. But when it’s combined with something that isn’t about intimacy but is about humiliation or degradation, there are some serious problems.

Their conclusion:

While erotica might originally heighten sexual feelings, over the long haul it erodes something much more important—intimacy.

I know many of you are struggling with addictions or temptations towards erotica.

I know for many of us it IS a huge temptation. And that is not wrong. We’re all tempted towards something. But if you continue to read this kind of erotica, it will impact your sex life with your husband in a very negative way. You’ll be living your sex life through fantasy, and that is basically the same as cheating. How would you feel if your husband had to picture porn to get aroused? If you have to picture a scene from a book, you’re doing that, too.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartIt changes what we respond to. It changes how our bodies work. It makes us dissatisfied in our marriages and with our husbands. And it just plain is dangerous.

Pulling Back the Shades is a great book. It’s not only about Fifty Shades of Grey–it’s about the whole erotic, BDSM phenomenon that is sweeping through our culture. And I’d encourage you to read it, even if you’re not struggling with this, because we need to understand what’s going on so we can talk to our friends, our sisters, and our daughters about it.

Wifey Wednesday: When your Marriage Is in Crisis

When your marriage is in crisis: how to move forward by setting boundaries

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to tackle a really hard question–one that is left often in the comments. What do I do if my marriage is in crisis, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal and refuses to change?

Here’s a comment, for instance, that was left yesterday when we were talking about the trauma of a husband’s porn use:

If he is unrepentant how do I set boundaries? I have read your article on 4 things a wife needs to do if her husband is looking at Porn… but if he isn’t to the place of wanting to be done how are boundaries set? Technology free hours would never fly with him. His phone took a dive into the fish tank last week and I was praising God. But he mailed it in and got it fixed, and nearly every night he would take his laptop and dissappear. And now the smart phone is back and it travels with him every where he goes. Even to the bathroom! He also deletes history.

I want to say first and foremost that I weep for women in this situation. A man who is throwing away a marriage to indulge in pornography is acting so selfishly and immaturely. Even though it is likely an addiction, it still makes me almost physically ill to think about this.

And I know there are men doing other things which are toxic to a marriage–gambling, overspending, refusing to work. I received an email last week from a woman whose husband, as soon as they were married, announced, “I believe that God will provide work”, and so he refuses to look for work. They now live in his parents’ cramped basement while she tries to hobble together what money she can while caring for the children, while the husband plays video games all day. And then there are the men who write in whose wives have refused to have sex for years.

These are horrible, horrible situations. And if you confront your husband (or your wife), and he does nothing to change or says he won’t change, what do you do?

I recognize that the vast majority of those reading this blog do not have marriages in crisis, and don’t worry–some “regular” marriage thoughts will be coming again soon on this blog! But I do receive so many notes from women in crisis situations that I thought it warranted a post. And because I rank so high on Google for certain search terms for people in crisis in their marriages, I get a lot of people in that situation here. So this post is for those who are in crisis!

Whatever you tolerate will continue.

I wish people could understand this earlier–even when they’re dating. If you tolerate a little bit of porn, it will continue until it’s a lot. Obviously we should never go ballistic over each and every sin, but there are some things which need to be non-negotiables, and I think being sexually pure and being responsible with money are two things that are essential in any marriage. I would not marry someone who did not have a proven track record on these two things.

But what do you do if you marry someone and then these things pop up? Or if you married someone assuming the problems would get better, and then they didn’t (hint: that’s a really bad idea).

You still don’t enable sin–you be a spouse, not an enabler. If you follow that link, I have an in-depth post on when it’s necessary to get some help in your marriage and to stop tolerating certain things, and I’d encourage you to read that first. Then come back here and we’ll call this a part 2.

Read: Are You a Spouse or an Enabler?

Get yourself some support

Something has to change. A man can’t be retreating into the bathroom to look at porn on his computer, all the while his wife knowing what he is doing. A woman can’t keep living in her parent’s basement while her husband refuses to work. These things must stop.

But likely if you’re in this position you’ve talked and talked to your husband, and nothing has changed. So what do you do?

First, get some support around you. That doesn’t mean that you confide in everybody under the sun, but find a few people who can pray for you and who can give you some wise advice and counsel. I’ve shared the story before of one older friend of mine whose husband had used porn for several decades in their marriage. They had gone to counselors, and he had promised to quit, but he never did. So one day she confided in their small group and in her pastor, and the small group came and helped her move out while the pastor had a meeting with the husband saying, “you need to get your life back on track, and if you don’t, we will support your wife.”

You need a church community that takes confronting sin seriously. Unfortunately, not enough do. To many Christians, the highest ideal is a couple that stays married–no matter what. Yet this is a misreading of what God wants. God doesn’t want marriage to be a cover for people having to work on their issues. God’s purpose is that we each look more and more like Christ. Yes, God hates divorce, but you know what He hates more? His children falling farther and farther away from Him and getting more and more sucked into sin. And when we tolerate horrible behaviour, it gets worse. I am not advocating divorce. I know the vow is crucial. But it should never be a cover for people to sin.

So find yourself a Christian community that understands the necessity of wholeness. That may take some time. It may mean switching churches. It may mean that you have to get involved in that church so that you have a natural group of people around you. It takes investment on your part to be part of community. But you need that community! This is a spiritual battle. You need prayer. You need people pointing you in the right direction so you don’t get bitter and vindictive. Search those people out!

Get yourself a counselor

Likely you will need a trained person to walk through this with you, too. Most churches have a list of counselors they can give you. Some churches even have them on staff so that people in crisis don’t have to pay.

Own your boundary

Now that you have support and you know that something must be done, the question remains: what should you do to make him stop?

Right?

Wrong. That’s not the question. You can’t make him stop. You can’t pressure him to do anything. The only thing you can do is enforce your own boundaries, not his. And that means that you have to come to terms with the fact that he may not choose to change. Things may stay exactly the same, no matter what you do. Grieve that. Feel that. That is really hard to live with. This is why you need people around you, so that you know that you are never alone, and so that they can point you to Jesus.

So what is the real question? It’s this:

What is the limit to what I will tolerate? And what should be my response if that limit is crossed?

For instance, you may say, “If he is not actively looking for work, providing an income, or caring for our children so I can work, then I will not work to support him. I will work to support our children and myself, but not him.” Or you may say, “I will not be intimate with someone who is turning to porn for release. I will be the sole object of sexual attention, or I will not be the object of sexual attention at all.”

Let the law of sowing and reaping play itself out

The best vehicle that God gave us to learn to listen to him was the law of sowing and reaping–we reap what we sow. You see this throughout the Old Testament, when Moses, for instance, warns the Israelites: if you follow what God says, you will be blessed. If you don’t, you will be cursed. And this cycle continues throughout the prophets.

Boundaries in MarriageWe see it in Galatians 6:7:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

We should reap what we sow. Too often in marriage, though, we disrupt the law of sowing and reaping, as Cloud and Townsend explain in their book Boundaries in Marriage. A man sows destruction by using porn, and the wife reaps the rejection and sorrow.

If he is doing something to jeopardize the marriage, then he must feel the full weight of that. That is God’s tool to move him towards repentance.

Please note, I am not talking about everyday sins, like being short with you, or not always helping clean up the house, or buying too many gadgets. I’m talking about fundamental things that are toxic to a marriage. (If you’re not sure that your issue is that fundamental, then talk to someone else and get their perspective!)

My friend Anna caught her husband Paul with porn, and her response was to gather her brothers and her father to confront her husband. They disconnected the internet, carted off all the equipment, and told him in no uncertain terms that he was getting help or else. They even made sure he went and saw the pastor and got in an accountability group.

Having an intervention from people close to you is a great first step, and for many people, this works.

But what if it doesn’t work? This may mean that you have to separate for a time. That’s a scary, scary thing. But not all separations lead to divorce, and I have seen many people reconcile after a separation. This does not necessarily mean that the marriage is over. But you have to be prepared for the marriage to be over. You’re not doing this to manipulate him; you’re doing this to preserve truth. There was no truth in a marriage where you tolerate the intolerable; you’re running back to God and relying on Him, and you’re putting your relationships right.

Please: do not separate unless you have first talked to some Christian mentors or a Christian counselor and pursued other options. Don’t take this option on your own, as the first step. This is HUGE. You owe it to yourself, your husband, and your kids to consult with others and get their support. If you do something without getting help, you’re likely to let emotions take over and do something really drastic from the start. And then you won’t have help! Let people offer you advice, prayer support, and emotional support. And then they can be there for your husband, too.

If I separate, can I move on with my life?

Quite frankly, no. You are still married. If those around you agreed that separation was the best option after other things had been tried, and you have separated, I hope you have done so not with the intention of leaving him permanently. I hope that this is to provide breathing space. Space for him to be confronted by God, and space for you to find healing. Rushing into another relationship cuts off the chance of healing of your marriage, and especially if you have children, you owe your marriage some time.

Again, this is where wise counselors around you can help you navigate.

(Note: There are exceptions–I talked to a woman recently who finally left her abusive husband after finding out he had sexually abused their teenage daughter. He went to jail. She remarried. He ended their marriage by abusing their daughter. Some things should signal the end, I believe.)

Be gracious–It’s the direction that matters

If someone has been addicted to gambling, they won’t lose that pull overnight. If someone has used porn habitually for years, successfully giving it up cold turkey is really hard. Focus on the direction: is he getting better and trying to get better with occasional lapses? Then take those lapses for what they are. They are temporary failings, but they do not mean that he is not committed to the relationship and that he’ll never get better. For most people it takes years for the lapses to stop entirely and for the pull to go away, but they can start going in the right direction almost immediately.

If the issue has been sexual refusal, and she (or he) is starting to try to have sex again, if they don’t seem into it, that’s not a reason to give up or get mad. Look at the direction. If they are trying and if they are humble, then give grace.

Final thoughts

I wish I had some magic answer: If you do this, he will change (or she will change). But life isn’t like that. I don’t know why some spouses get to the point that they don’t care what the other thinks.

But, please, no matter what you are going through, know that God sees and God knows. Know that God wants to help you through this. Know that you are not alone. And know that God’s desire is for two people who love and follow Him, not people who cover up sin and hide it.

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up the URL of a post in today’s Wifey Wednesday link up party!



The Trauma of Your Husband’s Porn Use: 8 Steps to Dealing with It

Getting Over the Trauma of Your Husband's Porn UseThe most common email I receive and comment I get on this blog is about pornography. So many of my readers are struggling with their husbands’ porn use. I’ve asked several experts to write some guest posts for me over the next few days to help us deal with the trauma of porn use and point our way to recovery. Today Dorothy Maryon, a clinical therapist, shares with us about the effects of discovering your husband uses porn–and how to get through it.

Most women are blindsided when they discover their husband has a pornography or sex addiction.

Many wives struggle to deal with that realization while their world comes crashing down and the bottom falls out of the marital basket they were trusting in. It can be a devastating and disorienting experience and it takes a big toll on their self-esteem.

It’s not uncommon for a wife to wonder why she wasn’t enough to keep her husband from straying outside of the marriage. That “enough” takes in almost everything from feeling not interesting enough, not loving enough, not thin enough, not sexy enough, and so on. In addition to those feelings is the compounded emotions of feeling disconnected from him and for some time now. Unfortunately, and mistakenly, many women fear they are the problem and spend a lot of time and effort trying to be the ideal spouse.

In reality the situation is very different than what many women think. His looking at porn is not about you. His interest, desire and connection should be all about his wife, not about a counterfeit. Pornography robs a wife of playing a central role in his life and she feels demeaned and replaced by an air-brushed picture on a screen.

His turning away from you to pornography exposes a lack on his part, not yours.

Most people underestimate the addictive quality of porn and by the time they recognize its compulsive and addictive underbelly it’s too late and they are trapped in a repetitive cycle of shame, compulsivity, and often betrayal.

So what can a wife do?

How does she recover a foundation for her own self-esteem and a roadmap to go forward?

Honestly, there are no easy answers but there are a few things we know about the trauma this causes wives–and how to help.

First, recognize that it is trauma.

The closer you are to someone who betrays you the more profound the trauma. Therapists call this “relational trauma” and it ranks right up there with all the other traumas. Because as human beings we are wired to connect and it is a brutal experience to have that connection betrayed. Women often report that they feel “crazy” or “not themselves” after such a discovery.

Some of the more common symptoms of relational trauma include:

• Fear and/or anxiety
• Outbursts of anger or rage
• Intrusive thoughts of the trauma
• Feelings of self-blame or responsibility
• Feelings of panic or feeling out of control
• Sadness or depression
• Feelings of detachment
• Feelings of worthlessness or being broken
• Preoccupation with body image
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Hyper-vigilance
• Feelings of helplessness

It’s normal after a betrayal to feel and act this way.

Second, don’t isolate.

Find a way to reach out. This can be a tricky place for women. Who do you tell? Many women don’t want to “expose their husbands” and so carry the burden of “the secret” as well as their own trauma. Find someone. Tell a spiritual leader, a therapist, or a 12-step group. This experience is too difficult to navigate alone.

Third, get educated.

Learn about compulsive or addictive behavior. It will help to learn about it as a disease, as a lack, as a method of self-medicating. It will help to understand how it impacts the brain. This knowledge will also help because over time you will learn that it isn’t a lack on your part. In fact your husband can still be in love with you despite the ugly issue in his life that he has kept secret and has prevented him from being fully in the relationship.

Fourth, get help.

Find a good therapist who specializes in relational trauma and compulsivity/addiction. They can help you create a roadmap for healing. Find a friend to pray with and encourage you.

Fifth, learn how to take care of yourself.

Be self-compassionate. Do things that help you feel stronger or more grounded. Exercise. Pray. Find a pilates class. And above all be patient with your own process.

Sixth, learn about trauma and triggers that reactivate the trauma.

Understanding will help you be less reactive and more forgiving when you are. Many women describe the experience of being “triggered” as being on a roller coaster. One day you feel fine and somewhat normal and the next something small can trigger feelings of anger, grief, fear, and loss.

Seventh, don’t give up and don’t give in.

Healing is a journey and in this case requires the deep soul work that takes time and great compassion. Insist that he get help. In the case of sexual compulsivity or addiction being sorry is not enough. Work and help is required.

(Sheila says: I totally agree with this! I’ve always said that a man who says he is sorry but who refuses to admit his fault to anyone else is not really sorry. Real repentance is accompanied by confession and accountability. James 5:16–Confess your faults one to another, and pray one to another, that you may be healed!)

Lastly, take heart!

You may be familiar with the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but not as familiar with the term post traumatic growth. Post traumatic growth are positive changes that can occur as a result of coping with a traumatic event. Women get through this. Post traumatic growth can lead you to a stronger sense of yourself as well as a deeper and richer life that comes from moving through a difficult and deepening experience.

Porn reveals a lack on his part--not on yours.

Dorothy Maryon, CMHC, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor who specializes in partners’ issues associated with sexual addiction in marriage. She has worked as a counselor in the LifeStar program for 15 years, focusing on addiction and relationship issues. She is in private practice and has presented at several conferences on addiction, codependency, creating safety for partners, and grief and trauma issues.

Some Weekend Links

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada, and I’m getting ready for two turkey dinners! One at my aunt’s, and then a small one at my daughter’s in Ottawa with her boyfriend and her best friend. Just the four of us–three university students who crave a good meal, and me!

In honour of Thanksgiving, let me share this one video that is my favourite of all time (#70skids)

In all seriousness, though, as my girls get older and move on with their lives, I am deeply thankful to God that they both have faith, and that they both have sought out friends who also have faith. And with the chaos in the world today, I am so grateful and thankful for my country as well.

I’ll Be in Colorado This Week!

I’m coming to Colorado Springs this week to film some things for Focus on the Family, and if you’re in Colorado, I’d love to meet you! Here’s how:

Wednesday, 9:15 a.m., Bethany Lutheran Church near Denver (4500 E Hampden Ave, Cherry Hills Village)

I’ll be at their MOPS meting giving my signature Girl Talk! Come on by if you’re in the area. Join the Facebook Event here!

Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Meet-up at In the Moo Self-Service Frozen Yogurt, Colorado 105, Monument.

If you’re in the Colorado Springs/Monument area, I’ll be dropping by In The Moo for some frozen yogurt. Come on by! I’d love to meet you–and have you meet other women who read To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

And Now, for something more serious….

So I’m sure you’ve all heard about those celebrity nude photo hacks. Really sad. Actress Jennifer Lawrence said,

I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.

That made me really sad. It assumes that everyone will look at porn. It ignores the effects of porn. And as I’ve said before, you can’t defeat porn by becoming porn. The problem isn’t porn itself; it’s what porn does to you, and how it messes up your arousal process and your idea of intimacy.

Another thing for all of you women who have ever thought, “if only I were prettier he wouldn’t be tempted to look at porn”. We’re talking about Jennifer Lawrence! So once again, proof that porn use is not about you; it’s about a compulsion, and it needs to stop.

Can You Help Covenant Eyes in their Fight Against Porn (and get paid for it!)?

Covenant EyesCovenant Eyes is a great resource that helps with internet accountability. You can install it on all your devices, and then it sends an email to a person of your choice if someone tries to access a site that isn’t good.

Thy want to improve their service, and so they’re seeking feedback from married women with children. Here are three ways you can participate:

Fill out a survey

  • Incentive: Special e-book bundle from Covenant Eyes
  • Plus, a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card in a raffle!
  • Must be completed by October 24

Test a part of the Covenant Eyes website. This interview should take 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Incentive: a $15 Amazon gift card for completing the interview
  • Plus, free Covenant Eyes software for your family for three months while you participate in the Market Research
  • Must let Covenant Eyes know by October 15th to participate. Email Leigh Seger if you’d like to.

Single question e-mails. Simply respond by e-mail to the question-of the-day for a week. Covenant Eyes will e-mail you the questions.

  • Incentive: a $25 Amazon gift card
  • Takes place from October 20 – 24

Interviews are conducted by the Covenant Eyes User Experience department to:

  • Find out how people use Covenant Eyes software/website.
  • Find problems that users have with the software/website.
  • Give out gift cards from Amazon to thank people for offering their opinions and time (Now that’s fun!).

If you would like to participate in any of these offers, please e-mail Leigh Seger and she will provide you with additional details to participate.

If porn is a struggle in your marriage, don’t forget to follow my “Dealing with Porn in Your Marriage” Pinterest board!

Lizard Instincts: How Sexually We’re Going Backwards

Lizard InstinctsMy lizard is either gay or extremely stupid.

We bought him a few years ago as a birthday present for my daughter, and as my luck would have it, my girls decided it would be fun to have baby Spotty’s. Once he reached sexual maturity (don’t even ask how we figured that out), we dutifully borrowed a female leopard gecko from a friend and put them in the same cage.

It was then that Spotty’s lack of normal lizard instincts became apparent. Lizards don’t have much of a brain, but there are two things they’re supposed to be able to do: catch live crickets and mate. He seemed more interested in hiding. In desperation we consulted a lizard specialist (yes, there is such a thing) who suggested that we borrow another male gecko and put him in the cage, too. If Spotty felt the competition, he would perform. That wasn’t exactly the lesson on reproduction I wanted to teach my daughters, so we just told them that the lizards weren’t in love and left it at that.

It occurred to me afterwards, though, that our society increasingly treats sex as if we’re lizards. The wonderful thing about human beings is that sexual intimacy takes place within relationship. For women, especially, that feeling of closeness is necessary before anything else is attempted.

It’s one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom: the fact that sex is not purely instinctual, but imbued with relational and spiritual components.

Yet on the covers of Cosmopolitan, on reality TV shows, and all over the media women are depicted trying to attract men, with most of their thoughts going towards biceps and other physical traits rather than character or personality. Pornography, of course, takes this to the extreme, but it’s all part of the same continuum. When this is how we frame sex, though, sex becomes something purely physical, rather than relational. We lose out on all the wonder that it can embody. And when our kids get this message, even if it’s inadvertently, it’s even more dangerous.

When we were young, if we wanted to have a glimpse of pornography we had to find our dad’s—or our friend’s dad’s—stash of Playboys. That’s not the case anymore. You just need to know how to use a computer or rent a video. However, to put it mildly, it is not good for a young teen to have his or her first experience with sexuality to be pornographic. It can be very, very harmful. When kids are exposed to pornography at the same time as they are just starting to experience sexual feelings, they’re going to associate those feelings with pornography, rather than with a relationship. They actually can wire their brains to think of the paper image or the computer screen as sexy, rather than relationship, making it more difficult to become attracted later on to your chosen life partner. Relationship isn’t sexy; anonymous stuff is.

As parents, then, we need to keep control of the computer, especially in children’s vulnerable years in their early teens. Put it in the kitchen, rather than a bedroom. Install parental control software. And, perhaps most importantly, be careful where your children hang out. Make your house the preferred hang out by providing lots of snacks and fun, or your kids may gravitate to someone else’s house where the computer is far more accessible.

Finally, let’s make sure we, too, don’t rewire our brains inappropriately. One of the best things in life is feeling that closeness to one’s spouse that derives from true intimacy.

If we need to distance ourselves mentally to feel sexy, then it’s as if we’re not interested in our spouse, but just in a body. The whole relationship is threatened, because it’s clear you’re more interested in a paper image than in the person we’re supposed to love. That kind of rejection can devastate a relationship.

The sexual revolution was supposed to free us by allowing us to explore. I think it actually made us go backwards. Don’t throw something precious away with pornography. Love your spouse, the one relationship where you can be yourself, make mistakes, and have years and years to work on intimacy.

Don’t be a lizard. The crickets are gross, and the sex isn’t much better.

How Porn in the House Affects Kids

When dad (or mom) uses porn, what happens to the kids in the house?

Today’s guest poster is going to tell her story today. She’s a frequent reader and a blogger, but she wishes to remain anonymous to protect the family members mentioned in her story. But I know her story could be so many others, too:

How Porn in the House Affects KidsPorn’s version of paying it forward

Their eyes stared back at me each morning.  I tried to avoid looking at them by covering my face with my teddy bear or by looking down at my feet, but there was something strangely hypnotizing about them.  Stacks and stacks of magazines full of half-naked women piled just outside of reach, but not out of sight.  Odd really, considering that racier posters were in plain sight on the wall.

The word on the street that porn is harmless and that pin-up girl pictures never hurt anyone grieves my heart in the deepest way.   Not just because of the damage that porn is doing to marriages, but because of its effects on children.  Porn in the home pays forward dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours, passing on a heritage of sin and brokenness to the next generation.

Porn’s legacy in my life began with me feeling grossly unattractive and inadequate as a girl and eventually as a young woman.  It was the sentiment I experience now looking at a Cosmopolitan magazine in the grocery store multiplied by a thousand.  I didn’t know then that the images were not real.  My father was so captivated by these women, but I didn’t look anything like them.  Would any man ever want me?

The pictures also accelerated my sexual awareness.  I could sense when adults around me were attracted to each other and knew exactly what a locked door meant well before I had the emotional maturity to sort out how I felt about it.  I was confused, but I didn’t feel safe talking to anyone about it.  Sex was blatantly displayed around the house and yet I still felt a sense of shame about it.

Worst of all, these images distorted my view of myself as a woman.  I never saw pictures of men treating women with respect.  The women were always posed in such a way as to be “available for the man’s taking”.  The result in my young and impressionable mind was that the purpose of a woman was to be used by a man.  You’d think that this would be horrifying to a young girl, but it wasn’t.  I was actually petrified that I would never be “used” in that way by anyone.  I didn’t look like the women in the pictures, so I must not be desirable.  In my desperation to prove my own worthiness and desirability, I basically threw my virginity at the first guy I dated (who I didn’t even like!) because at least then I was desirable enough for someone to sleep with.

Hiding porn doesn’t erase its damage

In today’s world, grown-ups can hide their porn behind computer passwords, which I think provides a false sense of security. There’s no porn in the house; there’s only porn on the computer. It’s all tucked away, so it won’t hurt the kids, right?  Not so much.

Kids have a way of finding their parents’ secrets. My dad had movies, too.  They were at the back of the closet on a special shelf with a blanket on top of them.  I found them while looking for my game console, and knew exactly what they were.  I never watched one, but I easily could have.

Porn impaired my father’s parenting judgment.  If we are exposed to something over and over again, it becomes normal for us, and it takes more and more to produce a sense of shock.  While I was thankfully never in the room when the back-of-the-closet movies made their way onto the TV, I did see more than my fair share of inappropriate media content.  I spent countless hours watching shows with violent and sexual themes.  I was also taken to an R-rated movie at the tender age of 8.  Images of naked prostitutes from that film remain crystal clear in my mind more than 25 years later.  Worst of all, they have a habit of popping into my head when I’m making love to my husband.  Perfect.

Porn in the home compromised my stepmother’s parenting judgment.  I think that my stepmother was affected by desensitization as well.  Nudity was no big deal to her.  She would force me to change out of my swimsuit in public places in spite of my protests because she thought my objections were ridiculous.  During a group campout, the girls had to sponge-bathe outside while the boys watched.   This was no big deal for her, but it made me want to puke.  Could she have been so misguided without porn’s influence?  Perhaps.  But I’m guessing it didn’t help matters any.

A better legacy

The issues that I’ve mentioned still affect me to varying degrees today.  They didn’t just disappear when I grew up and got married.  I have many of the symptoms of porn use even though I have never voluntarily looked at it!  By God’s grace I have a wonderful husband who is captivated by me and only me.   Together and by God’s strength, we are building healthy attitudes and behaviours, trying to pass on a heritage of faith and wholeness in God to our children.   Won’t you join us?

Sheila says, Thanks so much for writing this, Anonymous! I appreciate it.

If you are struggling with porn in your house, here are some posts that can help:

The Top 10 Effects of Porn on your Marriage and Your Sex Life

4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

What to do if you Catch Your Child Using Porn

The Science of Internet Porn–And What It Does to Sons and Husbands

Happy Saturday, everyone, and to my American friends–happy long weekend!

It’s my birthday weekend. I turn 44 tomorrow. Wow.

Anyway, I thought I’d leave you with a 16 minute video that is SO IMPORTANT to watch. Seriously, just put it on while you’re doing dishes or something today. But please watch it.

It explains the science behind what happens when men watch porn, and traces how porn causes low libido, erectile dysfunction, addiction, depression, and passivity.

And it offers hope for how our brains can change.

It also explains the impact, especially on young teenagers.

So many of you have husbands who watch porn. I think if those men could watch this video, they may finally understand why it’s a problem. And all parents need to see this:

I know it’s heavy, but I hope that gives you something to think about as you’re gardening and spending some family time this weekend!