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Does your spouse truly have a porn addiction–or does he just have a bad habit?

I’ve written a TON about porn use on this blog. It’s so destructive, and it wrecks marriages, and it changes your sexual response, and it’s just plain awful. It hurts the spouse of the porn user; it’s linked to human trafficking; and it objectifies and degrades both the user and the porn star.

In fact, I’ve written so much about it that I didn’t think there was much that was new to say.

Then my blogging friend Leah Grey sent me two posts that were just awesome. Leah is an unwitting and unwilling expert in addictions because of what she’s been through with her husband, and I think her perspective here is really worth listening to–and very freeing.

So today and tomorrow I’m going to run this series on how to handle a husband’s porn use. I think it fits well this week as we’re talking about how churches can support marriages, because this is such a big issue that hurts marriages. I’m so glad Leah shared these posts with us, and here she is:

Does your spouse have a porn addiction or a bad habit? Let's stop calling all porn use addictions. Most aren't! And habits can be unlearned.

Before anyone gets upset with me for being insensitive, let me preempt this post by saying I know how much it hurts to have your spouse “cheat on you” with porn. It’s beyond awful. It makes us feel like dirt. We can’t stop thinking about it. We unwillingly compare ourselves to their internet history, “Large chest and big butt?! But I have a TINY chest and NO derriere… He must not like me” or, if you’re a man it may go more like, “I don’t have abs! Obviously, she thinks I’m fat too. No wonder she’s looking at porn. She’s probably having an affair too”.

I know. I know how it feels. I’ve been there before and in ways, I wouldn’t dare tell you. For the record, the porn-perusing web history is not an indication of whether they like our bodies. In my opinion, it doesn’t look like us because if it did, our loved ones would be riddled with guilt.

“Porn addiction” is a term that gets thrown around often. Especially in the Christian community.

I’m in the “business of addiction”, I talk about it daily and there’s a question I think it’s time we ask: Is porn addiction on the rise or are we using the term “addiction” too loosely?

What Is an Addiction?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, addiction is defined as a:

“Compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”

Interestingly enough, the word “addiction” doesn’t actually have one, agreed upon definition. If you look it up, you’ll find a hundred different definitions for the same thing. Why? Because let’s be honest, nobody really knows where habit ends and addiction begins until they realize they’re physically unable to stop.

What’s a Habit?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says a habit is:

“A behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance, an acquired mode of behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary, an addiction.”

So, wait. By that definition, a habit is an addiction? Obviously, even Merriam-Webster is confused. If even the dictionary is confused, who really knows the difference between an addiction and a bad habit?

Addicts, that’s who.

In search of answers and to clear up confusion in the church community for Christians every-where, I went to the only place I could think of to get clarity on all things addiction-related, my husband. [Want to read my story? Check out my new series, “The Grey Diaries”. Excerpts from my personal journals showing my journey from small-town girl to the city of dreams only to find myself in a New York City nightmare!

My husband has been to both Christian and secular treatment centers for a long battle with addiction. Spending that much time around other people struggling with addiction brings a lot of clarity on misconstrued definitions. According to his educated-first-hand-experience with all things addiction and recovery, he estimates ninety percent of the people in treatment had a habit and not an addiction.

Ninety percent! Which means, there’s a lot of good people out there feeling defeated because they have an “addiction”.

When we call all porn use a porn addiction, we make people feel helpless. It's a bad habit!Click To Tweet

Please don’t misunderstand me, a “bad habit” using pornography is still destructive to the individual and their relationship.

Regular pornography use contributes to sexual dysfunction, unhealthy views about sex, only climaxing by masturbation (That’s not good for a relationship!) not to mention the effect on the spouse and those are only a few of the negative effects of porn use!

All that said, I want to make a case of why it’s important to define whether your loved one has a true sex addiction or a destructive pornography habit because the way each is treated is different.

Your loved one may be believing they have a disease when really, they need to stop passing blame and exercise self-control

(Yep. I said it.). Satan is a deceiver and wants you and your spouse to believe the problem is bigger than it really is. Because he’s a liar. And wants to de-stroy your marriage. And hurt you in the process.

“…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” -John 8:44 (ESV)

What could be more devastating to a marriage than a sex addiction? I talk to spouses of addicts every day and can say without hesitation, the most hurtful thing in any marriage is sexual unfaithfulness, whether lust or infidelity. Spouses stay through alcoholism, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin addiction but infidelity? That’s the one that will, “Break the camel’s back”. In fact, pornography has become so rampant and so destructive, even the liberated secular community is taking a stand against it.

With how destructive sexual infidelity is to a relationship, isn’t it possible Satan convinced you your spouse has an addiction, convinced them they have an addiction, and it’s all a lie intended to destroy your marriage?

What if your spouse's porn addiction is really just a bad habit? Habits can be unlearned!Click To Tweet

How Do I Know If My Spouse Has a Porn Addiction or a Destructive Habit?

When I asked my husband what the difference was between a porn habit and a true sex addiction he said from his experience, a pornography habit is formed when a man (or woman) needs motivation for self-stimulation, they may feel a void in their relationship so they turn to porn, they lack excitement in some area of their life (Not necessarily in the bedroom), or it’s simply an old, bad habit they started when they were young and were not convicted on until later on in life.

On the other hand, he said when someone has a true porn addiction they cannot live without it. It’s all they care about, all they can think about and they won’t feel “normal” until they get it. He also pointed out a true addiction is progressive. Don’t forget that part, it’s very important! If someone is struggling with sex addiction they can’t watch the same thing over and over because it will no longer satisfy and they’ll need more stimulation. True sex addiction rarely stops with pornography, it’s simply not enough stimulation to satisfy an increasing need.

Do you know the difference between porn addiction and a bad porn habit? Click To Tweet

This is not meant to be condemning, it’s intended to be freeing! Your spouse doesn’t need to keep living with overwhelming shame, thinking there’s something very wrong with them.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:32

A destructive habit is not the same thing as having a mental illness or medical disorder, it’s a learned behaviour and the good news is, learned behaviours can be unlearned.

God is in the business of fixing bad behaviour. Is it easy? No. Is your marriage hopeless? Absolutely not!

Love your spouse, encourage them to go to counseling and get to the root of the real, underlying issue. I also suggest they find an accountability person (Who isn’t you!) while you work on re-building intimacy. Christian marriage counseling is a great way to work on restoring closeness. When you’re ready, and it could take some time, teach them what healthy sex looks and feels like. This is a pro-active job. Being involved in the “healing” and “recovery” is more effective than nagging. Take the appropriate steps to remedy the problem and you can be happier, healthier and closer than ever.

“And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” -Mark 10:7-8 (NIV)

You will bless your spouse by refusing to shame them knowing what you’re really up against is a big, fat, destructive, lie from Satan.

I Wish That Was True for Me, but My Spouse Does Have a Sex Addiction!

Addiction is not hopeless. I personally believe part of the reason people give into addiction is because of the messages we hear in the news and media.

  • “Relapse is part of recovery.”
  • “Once an addict, always an addict!”
  • “Addiction is a disease, there is no cure.”

Baloney.

Not one of those statements line up with the Word of God. God says, He gave us a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV), if anyone is in Christ they’re a new person and who they were be-fore is totally gone (2 Corinthians 5:16-18 TLB), He lifts us out of our pit of despair, heals our diseases, forgives our sins and crowns us with love and compassion (Psalm 103:3-4 NIV). If you’d like to read more about God’s truth about addiction I wrote a great, big post about it called, “The Biggest Lie About Addiction (And why it’s so dangerous!)” Spoiler alert! The lie has to do with it being a disease. I know. Prepare yourself.

For more addiction-related support sign up for my free resource, “The Scaredy Cat Faith Guide for Crisis Situations” and get a three-part email series on overcoming fear.

Faith Guide Inline Photo - Does Your Spouse Have a Porn Addiction or Just a Bad Habit? The Difference Matters!

If you need help with substance abuse, addiction, mental health or recovery from pornography (Habits OR addiction!) here’s a list of my favourite resources for support:

Online Support for Pornography Recovery:
XXX Church
No Fap

Christian Treatment Centers:
Teen Challenge USA
Teen Challenge Canada
The Lighthouse Network (Help finding affordable Christian Treatment Centers- USA)

For Women Struggling with Pornography:
Dirty Girl Ministries

Support for Christian Wives of Addicts:
The “Live, Love, Hope” Community

leahgrey 150x150 - Does Your Spouse Have a Porn Addiction or Just a Bad Habit? The Difference Matters!Leah Grey moved to New York City full of hopeful aspirations until her husband went into long-term treatment for addiction. Unable to afford to stay, she picked up her childhood dreams and moved back to her rural, Canadian beach town with her two young children. From rooftop city skyline views to her parent’s basement, in the darkest time of her life, she created Grey Minis-tries to support, encourage and empower women with loved ones who struggle with addiction. With a practical faith-based approach, she challenges popular beliefs about addiction while teaching women in crisis how to find God’s peace within the storms of life. In March 2016, she launched her website, leahgrey.com and popular peer support community, “Live, Love, Hope”.

CE AddictWives 772x178 7 29 14 - Does Your Spouse Have a Porn Addiction or Just a Bad Habit? The Difference Matters!
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