Wifey Wednesday: Rewiring Your Brain after a Porn Addiction

Rewiring your brain after a porn addiction: learning how to reboot the arousal process.Is it possible to rewire your brain–to get back to normal sexual arousal–after a porn addiction?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the link below.

Today I want to tackle an all-too-common problem. Here’s an email that a young man sent me after reading my post on the top 10 effects of porn:

I think it’s likely I’m suffering from a porn addiction. It started off when I was 12 due to classmates and my desires would get worse through the years due to things getting boring. I was wondering wether you have any tips applying to an 18 year old college guy on how to re-rewire myself to feel normal arousal patterns again and start having normal relationships?

So many things to deal with here! Our letter writer isn’t married, but it’s still an important question. So I’m going to answer his question, and then give some specific advice to porn users who are married. Since 30% of porn users are female, I’m not just addressing this to guys, either. So let’s dive in.

First: Two Things to Understand About a Porn Addiction

Most people get started with porn early.

This young man was shown porn by classmates when he was 12–and that started an addiction to internet pornography.

This is NORMAL. Most porn users report something similar. Women: if you’re married to a guy who uses porn, please understand that he’s likely been battling this since before he even knew you. I know it hurts; I really do. But fight the porn WITH him; try not to fight him. Here’s a post that explains what to do when you discover your husband uses porn.

And please–protect your sons and daughters! Get something like Covenant Eyes installed on your computer and devices when your kids are young, so they can’t seek out porn without you knowing. It’s important to stop it before the addiction cements.

Porn Changes the Sexual Arousal Process

We’re created so that as we become emotionally intimate with someone, desire kicks in. Desire is supposed to flow out of relationship (and, of course, out of physical attraction). But it’s built on attraction and it’s focused on one person.

Porn directs the arousal process internally. It’s not about a person; it’s about your own sexual gratification regardless of relationship. And because porn is usually accompanied by masturbation (and thus sexual release), your hormones cement this. Now you get aroused by the porn rather than a person, and it becomes more and more difficult to get aroused by a person.

Here’s a free ebook from Covenant Eyes that explains what porn does to the brain:

Second: How to Reverse the Process

Pray a Ton

Willpower alone cannot help you quit porn. Only God can truly transform your heart.

So pray constantly. Don’t always pray about the porn, either; just keep a running conversation with God going all day. Tell Him what you’re doing. Talk to Him about decisions you have to make. Practice riding in the car without the radio on so that you can talk to God. The more you talk to God, the more you think about God, and the more God can start to work on your heart, even without you realizing it.

Look for the Root of Porn

Why do you turn to porn? When do you turn to porn?

If you can answer those two questions you’re a lot further ahead at quitting.

Most people turn to porn for one of two reasons: they’re stressed or they’re bored. When someone feels stressed, especially if you feel as if your choices are limited, people aren’t listening to you, or you’re failing at what you’ve set your mind to, porn can be intoxicating. Porn is all about satisfying you. It makes you feel like a king. It gets rid of those feelings of inadequacy.

But it’s all fake.

If you can instead name your issue: “I feel out of control”, “I feel inadequate”, “I feel like a failure”, and then you try to deal with that issue instead, you’ll be so much further ahead. And if you can understand the role that porn plays in your life, then it’s easier to leave it behind.

Find Something to Replace Porn with

I tried to quit Diet Pepsi many times–I knew the aspartame was bad for me. But it only stuck when I decided beforehand what I was going to replace the Diet Pepsi with, and filled my house with it (I chose looseleaf teas).

You won’t be able to fully quit porn until you figure out what you’re going to replace it with. If you’ve been using porn when you’re bored, then you need something else right at hand for you to grab when you’re bored. Maybe it’s a gripping novel. Maybe it’s a friend you call. Maybe it’s an exercise bike. But decide beforehand that when you get the urge to watch porn, you will turn to X instead.

Realize You Likely Will Relapse

Not everyone does; but many people quit successfully for a few weeks or months, but then during a particularly stressful period they go on a binge again.

Rather than berating yourself and feeling like a total loser, “turn a bad day into good data.” Analyze this particular relapse. What happened? Did you let yourself get bored? Did you not have anything to replace porn with handy? Had you just had a fight with your girlfriend/wife? If you can figure out what was different about this incident, you can prevent it happening again.

Flee from Everything that Reels You In to Porn

You’ll be battling not just the pull towards porn, but also the pull to objectify the opposite sex. If something else pulls you in the same direction–say, watching Game of Thrones or reading a magazine or going to a bar–then stop that, too. It isn’t about porn per se; it’s about the whole way you think about sex and relationships. It’s better to detoxify all at once then to just get rid of one part of the equation.

Third: Special Ideas for Married Readers

Make intimacy sexy again!

But how is that possible? You have to retrain your brain to feel aroused not by an image but by your spouse.

And you can do that by increasing the intimacy and vulnerability in your marriage.

I’ve written a longer post about rebuilding your sex life after a porn addiction, but here a few quick thoughts:

1. Pray together a ton–and even pray naked!

It’s very vulnerable to go before God together. Experience that kind of intimacy. Just revel in it.

2. Talk again

Most spouses of porn addicts will say that they could never put their finger on what it was, but they never felt like they truly “knew” their spouse while that spouse was using porn.

That’s because porn stops intimacy of all kinds. In many marriages, the couple doesn’t really share on an emotionally intimate level either. Porn trains you to think of your spouse as an object, as a means to an end, rather than a living, breathing person.

So start talking again and really getting to know each other. Get some conversation starters and use them every night. Go for a walk after dinner. Get to know each other!

3. Practice holding and touching each other while naked–without anything else

Hold off on intercourse. Just take turns touching each other. Let yourself feel your spouse touching you. Don’t try to rush it (porn users have a difficult time being “in the moment” because the focus is on the end result).

4. Learn how to be a good lover

Porn users tend to be self-focused during sex because they’ve trained themselves that sexy is about what happens to you, not what you do for others.

Take a few weeks where the goal of the sexual encounter is to make your spouse hit the moon. You can do this any way you want–you don’t even need intercourse (especially if you’re having issues with performance due to porn use). Watch the effect you can have on your spouse. Learn how much fun foreplay can be.

5. Schedule sex

If you’re going to get good at something you need to practice! I know many couples where the husband (or wife) has successfully quit porn, but they’ve also quit sex entirely because they never figured out how to make sex work any other way.

It’s going to take time and patience and lots of practice. Don’t flee from sex. Don’t be afraid that you’ll fail. It’s okay to finish other ways. But make sure that at least twice a week you’re connecting and trying. You’ll find that the more you get intimate, the more your body will start to respond. You’re reawakening real desire, and that’s a good thing. Scheduling sex may feel fake–but it’s actually a good habit when you’re trying to reawaken real desire.

31 Days to Great SexIf you’re having a hard time with this one, my book, 31 Days to Great Sex, is filled with ideas and conversation starters that let you start slow and build up to a great sex life–maybe even for the first time in your marriage! Check it out.

Rewiring your sexual response will take time. You have to quit entirely; you have to be so vigilant in what you think about; you have to do things that feel unnatural (learning to talk again; learning proper foreplay).

It isn’t easy.

But it is so healing. And God is in the transformation and healing business! He wants to help you–but you have to decide to be part of the solution, too. Fight hard. It’s really worth it!

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post to share with us? Leave the URL of your post in the Linky below. And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts, too!

Reader Question: I Caught My Dad Watching Porn

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to post a Reader Question and try to take a stab at answering it. With the Christmas holidays approaching and extended family being more on our minds, I thought this sad one would be an important one to answer. What do you do if you catch your dad watching porn (or another married relative)?

My reader writes:

I’m in my mid-twenties and still living at home while I finish up graduate school. I’m very blessed to have parents who are willing to support me financially while I pursue my career goals. But I have a HUGE problem: two years ago I walked in on my dad watching porn while my mom was at her weekly women’s bible study. In the two years since, I have walked in on or came close to walking in on him watching porn several times so I know this is a regular occurrence. I believe that God has allowed me to discover this about him. My dad has acted like nothing has changed between us, and I think that is because he has convinced himself that I did not actually see anything. There are times that he is colder towards me or dismissive and angry. He has verbally abused me on a few occasions and yelled at me for being a “petulant child” then the next minute swings back into his normal temperate state like nothing was even said. He has never treated me like this when my mom is around, and no one else in my family knows what he is like behind closed doors. Either my mom has no idea that he watches porn or has convinced herself that there is nothing that she can do about it. She has counseled me that porn use is an automatic no in a dating relationship (my dad was in the room when she said this-awkward few minutes for me).

I do not want to see my dad in sinful bondage like this, but I am fearful because I am financially dependent on my parents allowing me to stay at home. I have debated and prayed and asked for advice on whether or not to confront my dad. I want him to get help, I want my parents to have a real, healthy marriage. But I have no idea how to go about that as an adult daughter still at home. There are lines that I am afraid to even toe for fear of retribution. I’ll be honest, I am very uncomfortable living in my own home and spend most of my time shut up in my room. I need advice on something, anything I can do to try and help make this situation bearable. Keeping my dad’s secret is exhausting, not just the porn use, but his verbal treatment of me at times.

This is a really hard situation, and I want to raise just a few issues which could help people make decisions about what to do in a case like this.

Do you keep the secret if you catch your dad--or another married relative--watching porn? Some thoughts on how to stop the cycle of lies in families.

You Are Not Responsible for Keeping Someone’s Marriage Together

No one is responsible for anyone’s marriage other than our own. Yes, we need to support our friends’ marriages, but that doesn’t mean that if we rock the boat and the marriage falls apart we are somehow to blame.

If something falls apart because of truth, then that something wasn’t really together in the first place. Look, what you want is for your parents (or other relatives in other cases) to have a good marriage. A good marriage is one that honors God. And Jesus said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the Truth, and Jesus is in the Truth. We should never flee from the truth.

And if you really are the thing holding a marriage together (like if you telling a secret would break up a marriage) then that marriage wasn’t really together in the first place. Our aim should be for truth and God. God works when things are brought to light, not when things are hidden and when people refuse to address issues and work on them. Hiding things is lying. Often family tries to suck us in to agree with a big “family lie”, but that isn’t your role and it isn’t right. The Truth is what is right, and don’t ever let someone else convince you otherwise.

Secrets Eat at a Family

Secrets get replicated. What happens in one generation often gets passed on to the next, even if it’s never explicitly talked about. A woman marries a man who cheats, and even though the kids never specifically know that he cheats, somehow they all pick similar people to marry. These patterns repeat.

Secrets are dangerous.

Confront the Person Who is Being Wronged

So who needs to be told?

I once discovered something about a young man at our church that I knew the parents would want to know. I went through a crisis of conscience. Is it honestly my business? But it came back to this: If someone knew something like that about my child, I would want to be told. And so how could I not tell his parents? They had the chance to do something about it if they knew; by not sharing the secret I wasn’t helping him or helping my friends (his parents). I was just allowing him to engage in really damaging behaviour under the radar.

I did not have to talk to the young man; he had very little to do with me. But his parents were being directly affected, and they needed to be told. In this case, the person most being affected is the mother, and she deserves to know.

In this case, her father is engaged in really dangerous behaviour. That sinful porn addiction is also likely responsible for the verbal abuse and the cavalier attitude about other things. Porn affects all aspects of our lives. I believe she must divulge the secret, either to just her mom or to a pastor as well, but it is absolutely not fair that she be put in a position where she feels like she has to keep a secret.

What about confronting her father?

She may need to tell her dad to get it out in the open. It is not her role to get him to stop, because this sin is not about her. But she could say,

I know you use porn. I have seen you. And I believe that the porn is causing you to treat me badly when we are alone. I hope and pray for your sake that you stop, but I need to tell you that I will be telling my mother, because she has a right to know, and I cannot be put in the situation where I need to keep a secret that is not mine.

One note: it may be smarter to tell her mother first, so that he doesn’t try to convince her not to tell.

If you’re the one dealing with this, though, beware: you may tell your mom and she may choose to do nothing. That is her choice. But you have now given her a choice, and that’s important, in and of itself.

We All Need a Support System

Find some mentors that you can tell these things to–not a whole lot of people, but some, who can pray for you before you disclose the secret and who can pray for you as you try to live in this environment. You can’t carry this all by yourself anymore.

We Need a Safe Place to Live

Here’s another thing that’s so important to realize: we all need a safe place to live. So many studies have been written about the effects of living in a toxic environment. If you are putting up with verbal abuse and lies because you need to save money, you still are likely paying too high a cost.

Toxic people hurt you. They give you a negative outlook on life. They wreck your self-esteem. They make you pessimistic and sad. That’s not a good combination.

Sometimes Life Involves Risk

Disclosing your dad’s porn use is risky; you may not be able to live at your parents’ house anymore. But often doing the right thing is also doing the risky thing. The reason so many of us live miserable lives is because we choose to live with the secrets rather than rocking the boat. And when we do that we limit what God can do.

God really can do amazing things, but He tends to do those things when we open ourselves up, make ourselves vulnerable, and stop trying to protect ourselves.

And that may mean not just disclosing a secret, but also moving out.

And it doesn’t have to be that expensive! A female grad student who stays in her room on wifi? Do you know how great a tenant that is? My mom rented out a room to a college student a few  years ago really inexpensively. If you’re prepared to just take a room in someone’s home, you can often find an older woman or an older couple who just needs a little more income and who has a spare room. Sometimes someone in your church, if you let the need be known, may do it for free to help you get on your feet.

The unknown is scary, but when we step there, God opens doors.

One More Thing: Porn is Not Inevitable

Whatever you tolerate will continue.

Whatever you tolerate will continue. #marriagetip

Most teens will be exposed to porn (which is why it’s so important to protect the gadgets in your home!).  But while many teens will be tempted (including girls) not all will become habitual users. And if they are habitual porn users, that needs to be dealt with before an engagement or marriage–but it absolutely CAN be defeated.

People say porn is inevitable because it gives them an “out”–if their significant other uses porn, and they haven’t wanted to rock the boat for fear of losing that person, they likely justified it to themselves by saying, “everyone uses it”. But it’s not true.

If, in your circle of friends, everybody uses it and no one is struggling to stop, then you need a new circle of friends. Porn isn’t inevitable, porn can be defeated, and many, many people are fighting for pure marriages.

So those are my thoughts for this poor woman, but I know that there are many of you in the same position–people who caught their brother-in-law using porn, or their married brother, or an uncle, or whoever.

Let me leave you with one last thought: what if your sister-in-law (or whoever the spouse is) has been struggling under this burden of her husband’s porn use? What if she has thought it was hopeless? What if she has convinced herself there is nothing she can do, and she feels so alone and so dirty? And then you come to her and say, “no, this is not acceptable. You’re right to be upset.” You actually free her from the trap that she’s built for herself! You’ve spoken truth into a web of lies, and it’s amazing how one word of truth can often turn a situation around. Maybe she’s hurting, and she needs the strength to do something about it. Maybe you’re the kick in the pants, the reality check, the support she needs.

Now, I’d love to know: have you ever been in a situation where you caught a relative using porn? Or did you have secrets in your family? What did you do? Let’s talk in the comments and encourage each other!


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!

Wifey Wednesday: Do You Need Controls/Filters on Your Computer?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then you all can comment or link up your own marriage post in the linky at the bottom.

Today I want to talk about internet accountability.

Do You Need Internet Controls or Filters on Your Computer?

When I was a little girl, about 9 years old, I was staying at a sleepover at a friend’s house. The friend belonged to a good family. Yet while there, she showed me the stack of porn magazines of her dad’s that were back there in that shed. I found the pictures fascinating (and hard to get out of my mind).

Yet back then it was hard to see porn unless someone actually went to a store and bought it. So it was relatively easy to avoid. You had to make the decision to get in your car, drive to the store, ask for the magazine, and fork over the money. At any one of those points you could have changed your mind. It wasn’t such a temptation because it wasn’t easily accessible.

Today the most common emails I get from women are from those who have caught their husbands using porn, or soliciting women for online sex (which only happens after they’ve already indulged in lots of porn). These women are devastated, and they don’t know what to do.

One recent study found that 86% of Christian men will seek out porn if they know they won’t get caught. We as women need to recognize what a HUGE temptation this is to men (and to many women as well).

And what about our kids? When they’re starting to get sexual feelings, it’s asking an awful lot of them to refrain from checking things out on the internet.

Do we understand how huge a problem porn is? I don’t think we do, or we would take more steps to stop it. Porn use is not all caused by women withholding sex in marriage; porn is a separate temptation, and can happen even in marriages where she wants sex very much (and, in fact, in many marriages the wife wants sex, but the husband doesn’t because he’s getting sexual release elsewhere). Porn use also often predates marriage, and many men find it difficult to stop.

And now women are increasingly using it, too, thinking that porn is somehow empowering our sex drives.

Yet why is porn harmful?


  • Porn can make it difficult for you to become aroused by your spouse, since your arousal is now focused on media, not relationship.
  • Porn makes sex into something that is purely physical, not something that is intimate. Then it becomes very difficult to experience sex as intimate.
  • Porn makes fantasy during sex necessary to “complete the deed”, since you can’t focus on your spouse. Sex becomes selfish.
  • For young people, porn sets them up to entirely unrealistic expectations and unhealthy arousal patterns.

Porn will not stop just because we want it to.

  • Studies have found that porn is even more addictive than crack. It triggers chemical reactions in the brain that are intense and hard to resist. Just because someone wants to stop does not mean that they easily can.
  • In other addictions, the only thing that has consistently worked is accountability. We need others to help us; it’s not a matter of just “praying harder” or “believing more”. It’s a matter of being there for each other.
  • Porn is too easily accessible, and too easy to access anonymously, to think that teenagers and adults will always be able to resist temptation, even if they have not used porn in the past.


Stop Temptation Before It Starts with Covenant Eyes

You install the program, and then someone you trust receives a report of all the websites you visit. Voila! Temptation gone.

Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability tracks every site you visit, rates each one for its content using six age-based ratings, (such as T for Teen or M for Mature) and delivers a regular report to the friend you choose.

The best part about this? You do not have to be your husband’s accountability partner! If he slips up, he knows he’ll be talking to another guy about it. But you can let it go and trust that this guy will follow up so that you don’t have to.

It’s not healthy to serve as his accountability partner, anyway, so this way someone who doesn’t even live in the same house can still help your husband avoid temptation.

But you can make sure that YOU avoid temptation, too! And you can watch what your kids are watching as well. Don’t assume that just because you have daughters, not sons, that this won’t be a problem. The fastest growing demographic for viewing porn right now are teenage girls. We all need accountability–even females.


Customizable reports

The easy-to-read reports can be customized so your accountability partner isn’t overwhelmed having to scroll through mountains of data. It can report only when you visit sites ranked Highly Mature, for instance.

Covenant Eyes also rates and reports web searches, such those done in Google, Bing, and other search engines, and keeps track of YouTube videos (and other videos) watched, too.

Mobile accountability

Covenant Eyes can also be installed on iPads, iPhones, iPods (great for teens!), and even Android devices. And these apps are free when you subscribe to Internet Accountability on your computer. Learn more about Accountability for mobile devices.

Optional filtering

For $1.50 more, add Internet filtering to your Windows computers for added protection.

Try it today for one month free!

Covenant Eyes Accountability starts at $8.99/month, but Covenant Eyes is offering it to readers of To Love, Honor and Vacuum free for the first 30 days when you sign up using the promocode tlhv.

Learn more about Covenant Eyes’ pricing.

Seriously, this isn’t something we should just let be. I’ve heard people say things like, “you have to trust people. And everyone needs to learn to withstand temptation.” Or “one day your kids will move out and they’ll have to stand on their own two feet, so don’t shelter them too much now.” I do understand that line of thinking. But we wouldn’t lead a teenage boy into a strip club and say, “remember, you’re only here for the chicken wings. Just don’t look at anything.” I think we forget how strong a temptation this can honestly be. And if there’s a tool that will help people avoid temptation–when the ramifications of not doing so are so great–why would you not take it?

Talk to your husband about this. Talk to your kids about this. Maybe it’s time ALL of you got accountable. Not just the men, but we women, too. I think it’s a great tool, and as a wife and the mother of teenagers, I endorse it wholeheartedly.

I get so many heartbreaking emails, and I want the problem to stop. I think this is one tool we have in our arsenal, and I hope that many of you will take me up on it!

Now, what do you have to share with us today about marriage? Link up a marriage post in the linky below, and be sure to share the link back here so other people can read great marriage posts, too. And you can copy my button code from the sidebar!

Wifey Wednesday: Is Porn Cheating?

wifey wednesday

 Is Porn Cheating? If your husband watches porn, is he breaking a marriage vow?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Today I’m going to deal with a question I get a lot: Is porn use the same as adultery?

Is Porn Cheating? A look at why it is--and what we should do about it.One of the most common problems that I hear about from women is that their husbands use porn. Men start turning to porn, and then they stop turning to their wives. It’s really so, so sad, because so many men are trapped in it. I get so many emails just like this one:

My husband watches porn and I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve told him I don’t like it but I caught him again. What do I do?

Now porn users aren’t necessarily male. About 30% of porn users are now female, so let’s not assume it’s always the guy. Nevertheless, it is a problem that many males battle.  But regardless of the gender of the user, how serious a problem is porn?

Well, Jesus said in Matthew 5:28:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Now some blogs, primarily in the “manosphere” (the blogs that talk to men about how marriage law and society is tilted towards women and away from men) have given me grief because I’ve come out so hard against pornography, but haven’t seemed to take a similar stand against romance novels. And besides, porn isn’t necessarily cheating, they say. Men aren’t necessarily lusting after those women; they’re merely using porn to get excited, in the same way that women use romance novels to get excited.

But using something else to get excited, instead of your partner, is lust. You are using something other than your spouse for sexual gratification and arousal. And that is wrong.

And let’s be perfectly blunt and a little bit gross: porn and masturbation go hand in hand, if you’ll excuse the pun. Rarely do you have one without the other.

Can romance novels inspire lust and fantasy? Yes, but they don’t necessarily do it. Romance novels can fuel dissatisfaction with one’s spouse, but they don’t always. Porn, on the other hand, was created primarily to arouse, and that is what it does, so much so that porn users often come to the point that they require porn to get aroused.

So while romance novels CAN be bad, by setting up unrealistic romantic fantasies, porn ALWAYS is.

Do you see the difference? Watching porn is lust. It distorts our sexuality, making sex about merely the physical, and not the relational and spiritual connection. It makes it harder to become aroused by a person. To compare Jane Austen to Hustler magazine is ridiculous. My 11-year-old read Jane Austen’s books. But I’d never let her touch Hustler. With romance novels, some of us may take them too far, but many will not. With porn, the intention is that it be taken that way.

But is porn cheating?

When I asked my my Facebook fans “is watching porn cheating?” the overwhelming response was “yes”. So here’s the thing for men to understand: to women, watching porn is cheating, even if you say the porn has nothing to do with your wife.

But I’m not sure the answer is as clear-cut as this, because there are really two aspects to the question: the spiritual and the practical. Spiritually, Jesus said it was the same. But the practical question is really the more important one: adultery is grounds for divorce. Is porn grounds for divorce? Jesus also said, in that same passage, that whoever hates his brother is guilty of murder. Yet we don’t lock up people for bearing a grudge. So I think we have to tread carefully.

I do believe pornography is a sin.

It’s a sin against one’s own body, it’s a sin against God, and it’s a sin against one’s spouse. It wrecks the sexual relationship, and wrecks one’s spiritual intimacy both with God and one’s spouse. It is bad in every way.

But that does not mean that the marriage cannot be redeemed, and nor does it necessarily mean that the spouse (normally the wife, but it could go the other way) has grounds for divorce. I have known many women whose husbands have cheated on them with actual women, and I think to compare a guy who occasionally looks at porn to a guy who has an affair is unfair. The hurt is far greater.

However, I have known other women who are married to compulsive masturbators who use porn everyday, and occasionally even when children are running around. In many ways this is worse than a one night stand.

Thus, it’s hard to make a definitive rule. It depends on the situation, and because divorce is so devastating for all involved, I would err on the side of patience and grace for as long as is possible. So with that in mind, let’s look at what to do if your husband watches porn (and I’ll talk about it in those terms now since it is primarily women who read this blog.)

1. Confront Your Husband About His Porn Use

If you suspect he’s using porn, often because he has no sexual interest in you, ask him point blank. If he says no, ask him to see his computer and his phone. If he refuses, you likely have a problem. That’s a major marriage red flag.

Have a serious talk with him and tell him that you will not put up with this. This is endangering the marriage, is sinning against you, against him, and against God, and endangers the children. It must stop.

2. Install Filters

Install filters on your computer that eliminate porn, or that send emails so you can see what he’s watching on the computer. Some men actually are relieved to be discovered, and find this freeing, because most men who use porn don’t actually want to. It’s become a compulsion.

When porn is cheating--how to confront him.You can also install an accountability program like Covenant Eyes, which will send an email to an accountability partner of your choice whenever you access a site you shouldn’t. It’s a great deterrent! Find out more here. And use the code TLHV to get your first month free!

If he refuses, then you really need some more help. Talk to a mentor at church, or your pastor, and get some outside counsel as to what to do.

3. Ask Your Pastor for an Accountability Partner

Ask your husband to request an accountability partner at church–another man that he can talk to. You should not be his accountability partner, because he can’t be honest with you if he slips up. You’ll be very upset. He needs someone with distance whom he can confess his struggles to without dealing with fallout in the relationship.

4. Rebuild Your Sex Life

You can’t compete by buying lingerie, or by being extra kinky, because the problem is not with you. It’s that he’s become aroused by outside images. So rebuild your sex life slowly, helping him to learn to be present in the moment and to be aroused just by both of you making love again. That can take some time, and let him be free to stop in the middle of things if he finds his mind wandering and returning to images. You want him to be able to be honest.

And if he won’t stop using porn, do not feed the habit by agreeing to act out what he sees, or by making love right after he’s used porn. In that case, you’ve become a sex toy, and not a wife. Be available and open to him, but only when the sex reflects real love and a relationship, not when it’s fed by something else.

5. When Can Porn Use Be Grounds for Separation? 

I would view porn as somewhere on the continuum between alcoholism and adultery. Porn can become an addiction, and when it is a compulsion that is hard to break, there is often little you can do about it. But someone who is addicted to alcohol and drinks everyday is in a different category than someone who binge drinks occasionally. Both are bad, but one will destroy your life; the other is wrong, but not deadly to a marriage. So while any porn use is wrong, I don’t believe it is necessarily grounds for leaving the marriage. In fact, in most cases I would say that it is not.

Nevertheless, if he refuses to address the problem, and you know that he is a compulsive porn user, there may come a time when you have little choice but to separate.

I would see this in a similar way to someone who is married to an alcoholic who refuses to change. When the alcoholism starts to endanger your finances, his work, your marriage, and the kids, you need to get out. Similarly, if he is watching porn all the time, and it’s endangering his marriage, his kids, and other aspects of his life, then it may be necessary to do something drastic. I wouldn’t do this if he wants to change, and is struggling, or if the porn use is only occasional. Separation is only for the destructive, compulsive porn user. When the porn use has become a porn addiction, you’ve got a serious problem.

And in this case, I would start with a separation, not a divorce. Divorce is really only a last resort, because even if you are justified, your children will be hurt by it, and the far better outcome is reconciliation. Nevertheless, as James Dobson says in his book Love Must be Tough, sometimes the only route to a healthy marriage is to have the offending spouse feel the consequences of his actions.

So this must be a last resort, taken only when you have asked a mentor for good counsel, and only after a lot of prayer.

This isn’t something you do the night that you discover he’s been using porn.

I hope it never comes to that in your marriage. I hope that, instead, you can rebuild your marriage slowly by focusing on building a friendship, on cementing the goodwill, so that you can deal with these difficult issues. Spend time together just laughing and having fun. Do things together. And then, as he tries to stop, and as you try to forgive and move forward, it’s much easier.

I know this is such a heartbreaking issue for so many women. They’re desperate for their husbands to stop using porn, and nothing seems to be getting better. They’re lonely, they’re angry, they’re rejected, they’re hurt. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I pray that your husband will be able to see porn for the evil that it is, and that he will turn back to you. But just know, as you’re going through this difficult time, that most men who are involved in porn really don’t do so because their wives lack something. It truly isn’t a reflection on you; it’s just a temptation that men are especially prone to. Keep that in mind, and try to maintain an emotional distance, as much as you can, from the anger you’re bound to feel. God can change your husband, He can bring healing, and He can help you forgive. Walk down that road, and don’t give in to anger.

UPDATE: I changed the wording a little because I thought of a better way to say something, but the jist is the same! And here’s the follow up post, including a long comment from a man who has found healing!

Will Porn Be the New Smoking?

'smoke' photo (c) 2010, Dean McCoy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I read a really interesting article yesterday (it’s darn long, but it was good) by Mary Eberstadt on the similarities between porn and smoking.

Think about it: in the 1950s, most people smoked. They didn’t really moralize against it. They didn’t think it caused much harm.

But slowly but surely people began to realize there was something fishy about all these smokers getting lung cancer. And study after study showed that it was indeed hazardous.

So people stopped smoking, and our society is now so anti-smoking that we really do moralize against it. People think smoking is evil. In my home province of Ontario parents are no longer allowed to smoke with their kids in the car. Smoking is now reserved almost for the fringes in society: the poor, the young, the addicts.

What about porn? Back in the 1950s, when people would have been smoking, they would have felt that porn was morally wrong. That’s changed now. It’s everywhere. And most people think it’s pretty harmless. Indeed, my husband, when he was in med school, was taught that if you’re ever counseling a couple with sexual difficulties, you should recommend they watch porn together. Yeah, like that’s going to help their marriage.

Anyway, it’s now so easy to get that it’s widespread. Almost everybody does it (thankfully not everybody, but it really has infiltrated a lot of our culture). It’s mainstream. But what if we start to realize the harm it really does? What if the studies that show that pornography wrecks a couple’s sex life actually become widespread and well-known? What if divorces increase so much that we need to start actually getting to the root cause?

I pray that porn will become the next smoking. What the smoking campaign showed us is that if people are committed to stamping something dangerous out, it will get stamped out. So what can we do to get people committed to stamping out pornography?

We need to talk about it. We need to tell our friends the truth: pornography causes impotence. Because it does. The more you get aroused by what you see on a screen, the less you will get aroused in a relationship. It destroys sex in the relationship. It is the same as an affair. And it is highly, highly addictive.

Also, making love in the proper context between two people has several aspects: physical union; emotional union; spiritual union. But with porn it’s all about the body. It’s not about the relationship or the spiritual side at all. So the only way to get the next biggest high is to try something even more outrageous. It’s to push the envelope.

When you’re in a committed relationship, the real high doesn’t necessarily come from the physical. It’s from that amazing feeling when you’re totally drawn into one another. It’s a spiritual and relational thing. And you don’t need to do strange things to achieve that. You don’t need to keep pushing the envelope.

I’m not saying we can’t have physical fun when we’re married; I’m just saying that there’s something far deeper and more meaningful. And porn can’t provide that. I pray that our attitudes will change, and the truth will come out. Porn is not harmless. It wrecks marriages and it wrecks souls, let alone wrecking the lives of those involved in the business. We need to fight against it.