It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you can comment or link up a marriage post of your own below.
This week I’ve had a mini-series on what to do when you discover your husband is using porn. I’ve been interviewing Vicki Tiede, author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography. We looked at what to do when you discover your husband’s using porn, and how to deal with your husband’s porn use. Today I thought I’d sum up what we’ve discussed and add some of my own thoughts.
So what do you do if your husband uses porn?
1. You Must Grieve
It’s going to come as a major sucker punch. You’ll feel betrayed, and dirty, and angry. That’s natural. Likely you knew something was wrong, and you suspected something, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. Now you know, and very likely the feelings are overwhelming. People often arrive on this blog the night they discover it, and they find posts talking about it and pour out their hurt in the comments. That hurt is raw and very real.
That’s okay. Give yourself some grace to be upset. Give yourself some time to yell at God about it, to wrestle this through, and to cry. You don’t have to fix anything overnight, and sometimes if we try too hard to fix it right now we do more damage. At times, when we first find out something so devastating, we’re tempted to say, “it’s okay, I know you didn’t mean it, let’s just forget it and go back to normal” because we’re afraid to face what this means.
But sometimes we need to admit brokenness. If we don’t admit it, it can’t be fixed. And it could be that what God is going to make out of the pieces will be different from what you started with, but that doesn’t mean it won’t also be beautiful. Grieve, and give God time to work. Don’t deny the gravity of the hurt. And don’t deny the gravity of what porn does to a marriage, either!
At the same time, if I can offer some reassurance, so many marriages have emerged on the other side. And one thing that helps is that, after that initial grief is over, you realize that you are on the same page, fighting an evil together. Don’t let porn come between you; instead, decide to fight together to defeat this. Most Christian men desperately want to stop. They don’t want to be doing this. It enslaves them. If you can be an ally, rather than an attacker, you both will move forward so much more easily.
Porn thrives on secrecy. In her book, Vicki recounts the words of one woman, married 45 years, who discovered her husband’s masturbation habit two years into this marriage. “if it ever got out, I’d kill myself,” he told her. And so she didn’t say a word, and lived with it. For 45 years. Can you imagine?
Vicki doesn’t believe that staying in darkness is the answer. As I’ve said before, you need to bring these things to light.
As a church, we need to bring this to light.
There is so much ignorance around the whole pornography problem. It truly does ensnare people, making it almost impossible for them to function normally sexually with a human being. What becomes arousing is an image, and they become so focused on masturbation and pornography that a relationship isn’t sexy anymore. And it’s too much work! Once you start using porn, too, it rarely stays with the tame stuff. People will seek out more and more hard core stimulation. Eventually, they may even act things out. This isn’t people just looking at something to get their jollies; this is something that can all too easily turn into an addiction.
And that’s why you must bring light to it. You can’t let it stay a secret. He needs help, but so do you. You will likely need someone to walk through this process with you, and that’s okay. More churches need to provide support for couples going through this. And most pastors have dealt with this at length. So talk to your pastor and find out what support your church offers.
3. You Must Get Help
It is not enough for a husband to apologize and promise never to do it again. You wouldn’t accept that of an alcoholic; you would ask him or her to go to AA meetings. The same goes for porn use.
There’s such shame involved with porn because it’s sexual, but the admonition from the Bible doesn’t change. James 5:16 says, “confess your sins one to another”. Confession should be a regular part of the Christian life. If a husband admits he uses porn, apologizes, but then asks that his wife not say anything and is unwilling himself to seek any help, then he hasn’t really repented.
True repentance is always accompanied by true humility, and that means that someone will seek help. I’m not saying tell everyone you know. I’m saying tell one person who can hold you accountable; one person who can call your husband or take him out for coffee periodically and look him in the eyes and challenge him on what he’s doing.
Pray about who that one person should be, but do find that one person for him.
And then find one person for you, too. One person that you can pour your heart out to, and can help guide you as you deal with this, move on to forgiveness, and rebuild.
Finally, if you don’t want this to happen again, you must set boundaries. That isn’t being vengeful; it’s just being smart. If your husband had an affair at work, you’d likely want him to find another job. You’d want something to change so that he won’t fall into it again.
And this should be the same thing. I don’t know what those boundaries will look like for your family; they could involve computer controls, or getting rid of the internet temporarily. They could mean choosing to share computers and cell phones so that there is no longer any secrecy. Perhaps sharing passwords. Maybe it might mean setting “technology free” hours at home, where all screens go off at 9:00 pm, so that it’s relationship time and you know you have his attention.
One warning about boundaries, though. It is must easier to build trust again if you know that there is someone else helping your husband set those boundaries, and someone else holding him accountable. It’s not a good situation to feel as if you have to monitor your husband’s every move. That sets up a very unhealthy dynamic, where you’re constantly on the watch for him to mess up.
But for the men reading this, know that your wife will be able to trust you easier if you have an accountability partner (Covenant Eyes is a great way to organize this; use the code “TLHV” for a free month!). So don’t shy away from finding someone to talk to!
Rebuilding trust and rebuilding your sex life takes time, but it is possible. But it is only possible if you admit the gravity of the problem, get some help, and truly repent and become humble before God. You both need God’s help. You both need outside help. And you both will need some time.
In my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I share the story of Anna and Paul. Anna discovered Paul’s porn use years into their marriage; she was devastated, and he was mortified to be found out. But in the end, it was the best thing to happen to their marriage. Paul had been living in secret shame for so long, and now he was able to deal with the problem. And their marriage has been rebuilt.
Your problem is not bigger than God; and if you are honest before God, His strength is more than sufficient to see you through.
If you’ve ever had this problem, leave a comment (anonymously if you have to) and let us know your story.
Do you have a marriage post you’d like to share? Just leave the URL in the linky below!