Is Looking At Porn Cheating?

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

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

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

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

Is looking at porn cheating

Is looking at porn really cheating?

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

Harsh, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wifey Wednesday: 4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

4 Things You Must do if Your Husband Uses Porn

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.

'Sunbeams' photo (c) 2008, Floris Oosterveld - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/2. You Must Live in the Light

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.

'fence' photo (c) 2010, marc falardeau - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/4. You Must Set Boundaries

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.

Christian Marriage Advice

Do you have a marriage post you’d like to share? Just leave the URL in the linky below!



Discovering Your Husband’s Porn Addiction

When Your Husband Uses Porn--what to do

This blog focuses on marriage, and so, tragically, it’s only natural for the subject of pornography to come up. So many of you send me hurting emails about discovering your husband’s porn use. I received an email just yesterday from a woman who has just left her marriage after three years without sex because her husband spent hours on porn every night. This is a horrible evil that is rampaging so many families. We need to take it seriously.

And so I’ve asked Vicki Tiede to join us for a few days, because I thought it’s time we delve into this topic in a bit more detail. Vicki is the author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, and I’ve read her devotional book, and sent her questions that I know you readers have. Today and tomorrow we’re going to go through those questions, and then on Wifey Wednesday I’m going to do a wrap up myself.

So let’s jump in!

Has your house ever been infested by termites? You don’t notice at first. They gnaw away at the insides, and on the outside everything can look perfect. But it’s not. There’s rot deep within, and eventually that rot is going to become apparent. It can’t hide forever.

Vicki says that’s what porn is like. He may keep it secret, but it rots away at your marriage. It rots at your relationship, it rots at his relationship with God, it rots at your intimacy, and it rots at your sex life.

And so she’s written a book for women who discover their husband’s porn use. She says, “It’s not a handbook for fixing your husband.”Instead, she walks you through Scripture to help you deal with this on an emotional and spiritual level first, and then to help you get in the right frame of mind to take the practical steps that are necessary to protect yourself and your marriage (if possible), and to seek help.

I sent her these questions:

1. When a woman finds out that her husband is using porn, it feels like such a betrayal. Can you talk to our readers and help them understand the nature of this addiction–and that it honestly has nothing to do with their bodies, or their sexual ability in bed?

Let me preface my answer by telling you that my book is about helping the woman experience healing through Christ and I don’t promote myself as an expert on pornography. However, I’ve spoken with many who are experts on this issue and they have explained that pornography is an intimacy issue for both the man who is using pornography and (don’t shoot me) for his wife. Often the husband experienced emotional detachment from one or both parents. As a result, sex addicts have four mistaken core beliefs according to Dr. Patrick Carnes:

1. I am unlovable
2. If someone really knew me they wouldn’t love me
3. No one can meet my needs so I must meet them on my own
4. Sex is my greatest need. (this can come in the form of not wanting sex too–that would be an avoidant attachment style).

The acting out is not about the wife. That means she is not in competition with digitally enhanced images of other women. This is not about her appearance, her sexual availability, or her competence in the bedroom. She does not need to be a size 8, get a tummy tuck, or engage in sexual acts that make her uncomfortable.

Though the acting out is not about the wife, how they share intimacy (emotional connection) is. There is a reason she was attracted to an addict. This reason is different for everyone, so it’s important for a woman to seek counseling to understand what this is for her. Carnes believes wives carry the same mistaken core beliefs as the addict (listed above). They are more neatly packaged though–harder to crack and convince to the wife as she has been majorly betrayed and is wounded deeply/to her core by her spouse. She can always pull the ‘you hurt me’ card, which in reality holds a lot power.

2. You said, “remember that YOU did nothing to drive your husband to pornography.” Is that really true? Because we’ve had a ton of men on this blog commenting that they started using porn because their wives wouldn’t have sex. Is that a cop out?

The sexual availability question is trickier than you might first think. In an extremely small number of cases, I hear a woman admit that she almost never has sex with her husband, so he turns to porn because he’s frustrated. Note: It’s still wrong, so to answer your questions, yes, it’s a cop out. However, Scripture is pretty clear on this one. In such a situation it would appear that both of them have sin issues that need to be addressed. Counseling is probably in order. Answering this question requires me to walk a fine line as those who want her to share the blame for the pornography are going to read this differently than those who want to understand what might be contributing to her choice to withhold intimacy. This is not the subject of my book and therefore I do not spend a great deal of time on the issue. Again, this scenario is very rare. Having said that, on more than one occasion I let my reader know that it’s not biblical to get into a pattern of withholding intimacy from her husband or using the gift God has given her as a means of wreaking vengeance on her husband.

What I usually hear (and research supports this) is that women are more than willing to be intimate with their husbands, but their husband isn’t interested because of the porn. You see, when men regularly engage in porn use, their interest in real relationships decreases and their appetite for more porn increases. In fact, more than 50% of people involved in cybersex eventually lost interest in intimacy with a loved one.

I’m not interested in playing the blame game in my book, so you won’t find me ever pointing fingers at the wife and suggesting that she is equally responsible for the sin. How would that promote healing in the name of Christ? In the end, we are all responsible for our own choices. Whether or not she was as sexually available as she would have liked, he still had a choice.

With that said, I want to share this thought with you and I’m going to quote directly from my book (p. 67) on this one. Before you read this, I want you to know that this comes directly from the chapter that addresses surrendering guilt. When you read this out of context, it may sound like I’m shaming the wife. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I hate to break it to you, but you have not been the perfect wife. The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Before you let this revelation get you all worked up, I want you to know that it was unrealistic to assume that you always had to be the perfect wife. There. That feels better, right? However, it doesn’t let you off the hook. You still need to do some constructive self-examination to determine if you have done things to contribute to your husband’s addiction. (Remember, he is still ultimately responsible for the choices he makes. You are not.) If you are being honest with yourself, there are certainly things you may have done that contributed to the problem you are dealing with today. Every time you make a decision to act or react to your husband’s addiction, you are choosing to feed the problem (pornography addiction) or feed the solution (actions that promote healing).”

Sheila says: I so agree with Vicki here! Honestly, I have scads of women who write to me in agony because their husbands never want sex, but they’re into porn all the time. As I said in a comment on a Reader Question post recently, in general, I have found far more marriages are sexless because the husband uses porn, rather than the husband uses porn because the marriage is sexless. This is especially true for younger women. So many women marry guys who have used porn all throughout their childhood. For a few weeks of the marriage they have sex a lot, and then it suddenly comes to a stop, because the guy turns back to porn.

I do believe that a woman can feed a habit (in Vicki’s words) by withholding sex, though this isn’t an excuse for her husband using porn. But I think far more marriages find that sex comes to a standstill because of the husband’s porn use, rather than the sex comes to a standstill so the husband uses porn. Neither are right; but let’s not assume that when the husband uses porn, the wife drove him to it.

Tomorrow: Dealing with Your Husband’s Porn Addiction

Vicki Tiede is the author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, a step-by-step road to healing for you as well as a game plan for what to do.

She writes: I am an author and speaker who has a passion for opening the Scriptures and pointing women to their true source of grace and faithfulness. For the past ten years, I have been honored to speak for numerous women at conferences, retreats, and women’s events. I am the author of three books including When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography (2012), Plug Me In and Let Me Charge Overnight (2009), and Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years (coming January 2013). I live in Rochester, Minnesota, with my husband Mike, daughter, and two sons. Visit her on the web.

 Sheila says: ladies, this is a HUGE problem in so many marriages, and the women don’t know what to do about it. Can you share this post on Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter? Do it like this: “I know porn is a huge problem in many marriages, and here’s a post that deals with it.” That way it doesn’t look like you’re announcing “my husband uses porn!” You’re just saying, here’s a resource many people need. Thank you!

Marriage VLog: My Husband Used to be Addicted to Porn

I thought every week I’d post a video of me answering a reader question. So here’s one that came through recently, from a new bride with a dilemma:

I need to keep the videos to under 3 1/2 minutes, so it’s hard to give a topic a thorough answer. What would you all add? I know she’ll be reading, so if you can think of some other great advice, please comment!

If you have a problem with a husband who is involved in porn, see my series here. Or if you have a problem feeling that sex is positive, reread Monday’s post! And, of course, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex deals with both these issues in detail.

How to Deal with a Husband’s Pornography Use: A Man’s Perspective

How to Deal with a Husband's Porn UseYesterday I asked the question, “Is Porn Cheating”? That was an interesting discussion, but one comment that really stood out with me was left by a Christian man who had been addicted to porn and had emerged on the other side. I’d like to post that comment pretty much in its entirety here, because it’s so good and I want to make sure that you all see it. Then I’ll add my own thoughts to the end. So here we go:

I have been a Christian since I was 8 and grew up in a good Christian home but pornography can get to anyone. I am a Christian husband that struggled with pornography. I could have been considered an occasional user. I could go days and even weeks without any issues, but eventually that temptation came back. Let me first say to the wives, this is hurting your husband more than you will ever know, especially if they are trying to be a strong and obedient follower of Christ. Also know, it is NOT your fault for him using. It is their sin and their responsibility. They are defiling themselves and the marriage bed by using it. As a Christian, I was so ashamed and embarrassed by the fact that I was caught up in pornography. I tried to hide it and this was the worst thing that I could have done. I didn’t feel like a good man or a good Christian. I hated the fact that I could not stop and I felt so disgusted with myself that I was using that junk. I have been going through a separation and now divorce for nearly 2 years now and I took over a year to figure out what was wrong with me. I had family, friends, pastors, a good Christian counselors, and an accountability partner by my side. Once this sin was in the open, the desire to use pornography slowly just disappeared.

The biggest thing I learned was that as a man, I had no clue what intimacy was.
As a man, I saw intimacy and sex as the same thing. This is false and a complete lie from Satan. Sex cannot meet the man’s need for intimacy. I can see how there are so many men that were never taught what true intimacy is, and I believe this is the responsibility of a father to teach their sons. My relationship with my father was a huge barrier my entire life until this occurred. I thought getting married and having sex with my wife would resolve all my issues, when in fact, it made it worse. When my expectations were not met, I turned to pornography instead of opening up to my wife. I didn’t know how to open up to her, I didn’t know how to be intimate with her, and I didn’t know how to be her best friend. I thought a man holds things in and deals with it himself, another lie from Satan. That is not a man. More importantly, I didn’t know how to have an intimate relationship with Christ. This is where it all starts.

Before a man can be a good husband and strong man, he has to learn how to be intimate with God. I read dozens of books and studied the bible to figure out what it takes to be a man of God, a Godly husband, and a Godly father. This changed my life forever. Only God can give me strength to be a man and overcome my failures. I am only strong in Him. A man that uses pornography or any addiction is weak and he needs to be broken. He needs to humble himself to God to get back on the path to righteousness.

Women, take this advice. Help your husbands become the man he is called to be. In this situation, love has to be tough. Do not let him become a selfish and immature man that is out for his own desires. If he will not stop using for you, tell someone immediately no matter how upset he may become. Do not think of it as hurting him, believe me, you are helping him more than you will ever know. Tell a close friend of his to confront him, or tell a pastor to confront him. He needs help. Now that I am free from the bondage of pornography, I feel unbelievable. With pornography, I felt like I was a little boy trapped in a cage trying to become a man. Without pornography, I am free to give everything to God. I am free to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. I am free to love others and be the sacrificial man I am called to be. I want to love my wife and sacrifice everything for her more than anything, but I have lost her. I have three children that I can give freely too and love with everything I have. I have not lost them and praise God for that.

I promise you, if your husband is truly a Christian who wants to be obedient, he will thank you down the road for speaking up and stopping the sin that is in his life. Remember, pornography is a purely selfish act to meet his own needs. He is not thinking of your needs, his families needs, or anybody else needs. A man is to sacrifice everything for his wife and family. Pornography is the complete opposite. Pornography destroys a man’s heart and mind. He ends up living in a fantasy world. Wives, save your husbands before they are in to deep and they end up in a world they cannot get out of. Thank God, I never got to that point.

That’s the voice of a Christian man who has truly found healing from porn because He turned to God. I hope that this can give women encouragement that healing for their own situation can also come. But let me highlight a few key things:

1. A Husband’s Porn Use Is Not About You

As I said yesterday, over and over again, when men break the porn habit, they will say that it wasn’t because of their wives that they turned to porn. It’s not because you’re not beautiful enough, or not sexy enough. Of course, if you never have sex with your husband, he may turn to porn because he’s frustrated (though this is still wrong). But that’s the minority of the cases. In most cases, it’s because something was broken inside of him.

So if you find out that your husband is involved in porn, know that you don’t have to compete. You don’t have to try kinkier things, or buy racy lingerie, or become a size 2. Even if you did, that wouldn’t solve the problem. It is something that has sucked him in, and the way out is not by you competing or changing. It’s just by healing from God.

I know you feel so angry, and so used, and so degraded, and so rejected. But, as much as possible, try to transfer your anger onto the porn industry and not on your husband. I’ve known men who have been sucked in as children. They saw it inadvertently, or they were shown it by a friend. And they found the images exciting, so they kept seeking them out. Picture your own son at 9 or 10 being exposed to it. You wouldn’t be angry at him; you would be horrified. And the problem is that once they’re exposed, it’s so hard to stop.

Many of these guys have been on that road for that long. They want to stop. They don’t like the dirty feeling they have, either. I know what they’re doing is wrong, but if you can become their ally in helping them stop and in upholding them in prayer, rather than attacking them, I think you’ll find you can get through this together much better.

2. A Husband’s Porn Use Can’t Be Ignored

If your husband is using porn, you cannot ignore it. It won’t just go away.  All the people that I have talked to who have been healed of porn were healed because they sought outside help (or their wives forced it on them). One woman who commented yesterday, and whose story I know, called her brothers who came over, had a stern talking to with the husband, and then announced that they were disconnecting the satellite and the internet. The man had been addicted to porn since he was 8, and this was the beginning of healing. He was a Christian just like this commenter was, and he felt so terrible about it.

So confront your husband about it, and if he won’t stop, seek out a mentor (just one!) who is wise whom you can talk to about next steps. But I firmly believe that in most cases, those next steps likely include asking a good friend of his to confront him, or asking a pastor to confront him. I’d go with the friend first, before the pastor, because you don’t want to endanger his relationship at the church. But as this commenter says, “tell someone immediately no matter how upset he may become.” Do not let the admonition to be submissive keep you from confronting sin, or make you enable sin. It won’t get better on its own.

3. Healing from Porn Use Needs Forgiveness

The other thing that stands out to me in this comment is that this man came to a genuine place of healing and forgiveness, and has found wholeness, and yet his wife has left him anyway. I find that heartbreaking.

I know another couple where something similar happened. The husband had been involved in porn, and had also had some one night stands. But he had been going to counselling, and he had been working at things. But the wife had been walking through these problems for so many years, and she was tired. And one day she met another man who made her feel alive again.

So she left her husband. She claimed she had grounds–he had committed adultery, and he had used porn. The problem, though, was that these things had been in the past. Even the porn use, if he had slipped, was getting better and he was seeking help. So she had stayed with him through the worst, but as he was getting counselling and getting better she chose to leave.

This is actually quite common. During the worst times the wife is so downtrodden and so depressed that she doesn’t have the energy or self-esteem to leave. But as the counselling progresses, and she starts to get healing, and he starts to get better so that she’s not just focused on survival mode anymore, she often leaves.

So let me say very clearly: you cannot claim a past sin that has been dealt with is grounds to leave your husband. If he has confessed his sin and is trying to work towards God, then you can’t just up and leave.

This is a really touchy subject, because I don’t want people to take what I said yesterday that “sometimes you have to separate” to mean that anyone can just divorce because of this. Lots of women want out, and they see this as justification. It’s not. Sometimes you have to separate if life has become unbearable just to protect yourself and the kids and to jolt him into seeking healing. And if that separation doesn’t work, and he chooses to stay away from you, I think there are times divorce may be okay. But this is the vast minority of cases, and this is NEVER the case if the man is seeking healing.

The Christian story is beautiful not because people can be holy in Christ, but because Christ can take vessels that are filthy and dirty and redeem them so that they become the most beautiful and the most useful. It is often those who have gone through the most who are the most anointed by the Spirit. When Christ heals in a big way, there is little else more beautiful in this world. Do you not want to be a part of that?

My commenters’ kids must be hurting so much. When you leave your husband, the kids bear the brunt of it. Please don’t do that to them lightly. And if your husband is seeking healing, support him in that. Do not let your anger at him or your fear or your shame make you break up a family. The most dangerous time for you will be when your husband seeks healing, because up until then God had you and the devil had your husband. The devil isn’t going to be happy, and he’s going to turn to you. You’ve come so far as a couple already. Don’t let the devil win.

So please, when healing is happening, work through your own issues so that you can forgive your husband and rebuild. I know that healing isn’t present for everyone, and my heart aches for those of you who so long for it. But I pray that you will listen to these commenters’ words, shed light on your husband’s problem, and then see what God can do. And even if God never heals your husband, remember that He can still heal you.

The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex has a whole section on how to reclaim your sex life after a porn addiction–and lots of stories of people who have come through to the other side! Check it out here.

Wifey Wednesday: Is Porn Cheating?

wifey wednesday

 

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! Today I’m going to deal with a question I get a lot: Is Porn Cheating?

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 occaisonally looks at porn to that 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 God hates divorce, 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

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.

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.

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 You Separate?

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 wtih 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.