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If you’ve been constantly betrayed in your marriage, how can you ever have sexual confidence again?

We’re in a sexual confidence series for October and November, where we’ve been talking about what sexual confidence looks like–and how to develop it.  

I was going to talk about menopause today, and sexual confidence at different times in your life, but I keep getting emails this week asking the same question, so I thought we should tackle that first. 

The question is similar to this woman who asked me on Instagram:

I’ve been married for seven years, and I found out two years ago that my husband has used porn the entire time and lied to me when we were engaged.

He says he’ll stop, but I can tell when he’s been using again. I’m afraid to ask him outright because I almost don’t want to know. 

He rarely wants sex now, and if he does it takes forever for him to finish. I think I”m attractive. I keep myself well and other men look at me. But not my husband. My friends tell me I’m a shell of what I used to be. How can I develop confidence again?

Okay, the first thing I want to say is that the porn use has to be dealt with.

She needs to be able to say that this is a deal breaker. He needs to be getting help; he needs to be owning the problem. I’d encourage you to read my post on 4 things to do if your husband watches porn. Read Michael John Cusick’s book Surfing for God, or Andrew J. Bauman’s book The Sexually Healthy Man. Search for Sarah McDugal or Leslie Vernick on Facebook, and follow their pages and interact on them. Seek help from a licensed therapist to work through betrayal trauma and learn how to set boundaries. This isn’t going to get better on its own.

In other words, this isn’t really a sexual confidence issue as much as it is a porn issue that needs to be addressed.

But let’s assume that this has been addressed, and he is seeking help (or he’s not seeking help and you’re trying to figure out what to do). Then part of healing actually is developing confidence again, because confidence is simply realizing what you’re worth, and only allowing people to treat you in the way you deserve to be treated. 

Now, I recognize that “allow” is a tricky word there, because it’s not your fault if your husband treats you badly. But I do mean that, if he does treat you in a way that you do not deserve to be treated, you start drawing boundaries and you start learning to respond so that it doesn’t impact you as much and so that it becomes less likely.

So let’s work through what that may look like:

Get help dealing with the betrayal you feel

If you are struggling, and you’re unable to draw boundaries, and you’re feeling despondent and desperate, and you’re afraid to know the truth, as this woman is, then you likely need help.

Many (even the majority) of spouses of porn addicts experience betrayal trauma, which is just like post traumatic stress disorder. Don’t minimize this or downplay this. If you need help, please get help from a licensed therapist who is trained in sexual addiction recovery and betrayal trauma recovery. This isn’t a couple’s issue that needs to be dealt with; this is something you need to work through so that you can breathe again, think clearly again, and smile again.

Now, I was going to write the rest of this post as action steps–things you need to realize. But that sounds too heavy. And if you’re in the midst of this, that’s too much to take in.

So instead, I’d like to write the rest of this post as just pronouncements over you. I just want to speak words of truth into your life.

If you’re in counseling, you’ll hear these things. But I want you to hear them today, even if you can’t internalize them yet.

Your worth is not based on how others treat you

You deserved to be loved. When you married, and he vowed that you would be his only and always, he should have meant it. Instead, he lied to you. He betrayed you. He married you without telling you that there were many, many more. And he led a secret life. You could sense something was wrong, but you didn’t know what it was. And you felt crazy.

But that was not on you. That was something he did; not you.

You couldn’t have been expected to have seen the signs. You were in love! You believed what he told you. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean you’re stupid, or gullible, or naive. It just means you’re human, and you truly loved him, and you wanted a life with him.

That was a good thing to want. 

That was a godly thing to want. God put inside of us the desire to be connected to another person.

But he, for many reasons, didn’t treat you as God wanted him to. This is a failure on his part, not on yours.

He is the one who torpedoed your relationship, not you. And you deserved those wedding vows to be upheld. You are right to be angry and grieving.

You are not to blame for his porn use

He would still have watched porn if you had bigger breasts. If you were skinnier; if you were prettier; if you were built differently, he would still have watched porn.

His porn use is not a reflection on your body or desirability; it is a reflection on his inner wounding and inner character. That’s all.

If you had been more adventurous, he would still have watched porn. You cannot compete with pornography, because it’s ultimately not about you. Porn users crave different–different bodies, different activities.

Porn and sex are actually polar opposites. Porn says, “I want to use you for my own gratification.” Sex says, “I want to know you deeply and experience something with you.” You cannot have enough sex to cure someone’s pornographic style of relating. They have to do that for themselves. This is not on you.

If your church or pastor or friends or family have told  you that you could stop his porn use by having more sex, and that God has put you in his life to help him quit porn–that was spiritually abusive. That was them betraying you as well. I am sorry that you endured that. It was wrong.

If you feel as if you hate sex, it could be because you’ve never had it.

Sure, you may have technically had intercourse. But if you never felt intimate during sex, or if it always felt like his mind was elsewhere or that he was using you, it could be because he was. It could be because sex was never the “deep knowing” that it was supposed to be.

If he has been using porn his whole adult life and hidden that from you, and if he now has delayed ejaculation (more common for porn users), it could be that you’ve never had real sex.

You deserved real sex. He deprived you of that. You did not deprive him or “hot sex”; he deprived you of real sex. He stole something beautiful from you that he promised to experience with you.

Please realize that it is not sex you hate; it is being treated like an object to use that you hate–and you are right to feel that way. You are recoiling at being treated in a way you were never meant to be treated.

It’s okay to say, “I will no longer be an object.”

I hope you can one day get to the point where you realize, deep in your bones, that you were not meant to be an object to use but a woman to love, as Leslie Vernick has said. I hope that you can walk forward in that, saying that from now on, he can treat you like a woman to love, or he doesn’t get to treat you any way at all.

It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to grieve what you have lost. That period may take some time. But then, dear one, stand tall.

You are of infinite worth in Jesus’ eyes. You are a person who is precious, who is exciting, who has so much to offer. If he doesn’t see that, that is not a reflection on you, but a reflection on him.

For you, sexual confidence will look like refusing to be an object anymore.

The only way to refuse that is to realize that you are worth more. So please hear these words today. Let them wash over you. You are not to blame. This was a terrible thing that was done to you. You deserved more. It’s okay to feel that something was taken from you.

But I hope one day you can walk forward knowing you are worth more. It may take some time with a counselor to truly feel it. But please know this is how God sees you. And I am so, so sorry that you have walked through this betrayal. Please know that on the other side there is freedom, hope, and, yes, confidence.

 

Confidence if Married to a Porn User - SEXUAL CONFIDENCE: How to Feel Confident When You're Married to a Porn User

Have you ever been in this situation? How did it make you feel? Or can you give some words of encouragement to other people in this situation today? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila has been married to Keith for 28 years, and happily married for 25! (It took a while to adjust). She’s also an award-winning author of 8 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage to line up with kingdom principles. ENTJ, straight 8

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