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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.

When Your Husband is Addicted COVER flatAnd 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

vicki1Vicki 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.

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