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What should you do if your husband watches porn?

This month our theme is pornography use–how to understand the effects of porn; how to defeat porn and recover from porn; how to help the future generation not get hooked.

We’ve also already talked about how women can use porn as well.

One of my biggest posts in the past, that I point to all the time, was one on what to do if your husband uses porn. I wanted to revamp it and rerun it, since it’s 6 years since I last wrote it, because it is probably one of the most important posts on this blog. So many of you have arrived here because of this problem. So let’s get real about what porn does to marriage.

1. You Must Grieve Your Husband’s Porn Use

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 their husband watching porn, and they find posts talking about pornography use 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 might mean.

But we need to admit brokenness. Rushing forgiveness isn’t wise. 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 of your heart and your relationship, 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 the effects of porn on 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.

Now, this only applies if your husband honestly wants to put the porn in the past as well. There’s a huge difference between a husband who admits he has used porn and wants to stop, and a husband who was caught using porn and is just trying to get away with it. We’ll deal with the second scenario in a minute.

But if your husband honestly wants to stop, then just remember that you have the same goal. Don’t let porn come between you; instead, decide to fight together to defeat your husband’s porn addiction.

Most Christian husbands desperately want to stop watching porn. They don’t want to be doing this. It enslaves them. If you can be an ally, you both will move forward so much more easily.


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2. You Must Live in the Light and Not Keep His Porn Use a Secret

Porn thrives on secrecy. In her book, When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography, Vicki Tiede 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. 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. Your husband needs help, but so do you. Many wives of porn addicted husbands actually show symptoms of PTSD.

So if, when you discover your husband’s porn use, he apologizes profusely but then refuses to tell anyone, or if he doesn’t even apologize and tell you that it’s none of your business, you do not have to remain silent. PLEASE do not remain silent.

I have seen so many people say “cute” things on Facebook about never saying anything bad about your husband to anyone else, but that doesn’t apply in a situation with a husband and porn. Your husband is hurting himself. He is hurting you. He is participating in sex trafficking (for that is what you do when you use porn). For his own good, and for yours, he needs to stop. If he is not willing to stop, then you need to seek help so that others can influence him as well and say, “porn use is not acceptable.”

Your problem is not bigger than God; and if you are honest before God, His strength is more than sufficient to see you through.

3. You Must Get Help and Accountability for Your Husband’s Porn Recovery

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 pornography 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 watches 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. He’s not sorry he used porn; he’s only sorry he got caught using porn.

True repentance is always accompanied by true humility, and that means that someone will seek help.

Encourage him to join an accountability group or recovery group. Encourage him to seek out a friend that he will meet with regularly, who will ask him the hard questions about whether he’s looked at porn (and whom he can ask those questions of, too). And you need to get help for yourself as well! This is a huge burden to bear and a huge thing to process. Don’t try to do it alone.

I’m not saying tell everyone you know. I’m saying you should do this:

  1. Each of you find your “one person”. Your husband needs one person he can call to take him out for coffee periodically and look him in the eyes and challenge him on whether he’s been watching porn or not. Pray with him and for him about who that one person should be, but it’s okay to make it a condition of recovering your marriage that he has such a person. 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.
  2. Require him to join a recovery group.
  3. Consider seeing a licensed counselor, both individually, and together. (I HIGHLY recommend this). I know it’s expensive. But in the end it is much cheaper to deal with this well, now, then to have this fester for years of unhealed wounds.

Find freedom from porn!

Live porn free - 4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

4. You Must Set Boundaries around the Porn Use

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 to filter pornography, 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. 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 after porn 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 her husband watching porn 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.

God loves to rebuild, and He loves to reconcile. He doesn’t force anyone, though. People can still choose to do the wrong thing. But God also loves to work in people’s hearts, and I pray that, as  you and your husband deal with this, God will help your husband see the destruction porn does through Jesus’ eyes, and I pray that He can help you rebuild.

Later this month, I’ll be sharing more about what recovery looks like long-term. But today I just wanted to share these first four steps that I believe every couple must take when a husband’s porn use is disclosed. Deal with it fully. Don’t rush forgiveness. Don’t keep it a secret. Get help. And build boundaries. 

Once all that is in place, then, and only then, will we start to see healing!

Husband uses Porn - 4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

If you’ve ever discovered your husband using porn, or if your spouse has ever learned of your porn use, leave a comment (anonymously if you have to) and let us know your story. 

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - 4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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