My marriage is in a breakdown because my wife discovered I’m struggling with porn and she’s having a hard time with this – what do we do?
By Jackie Coleman
First and foremost, it’s encouraging that you’ve worded your question, “What do we do?” instead of placing 100 percent of the responsibility on the other person. The fact is, there are things that can be done to overcome the hurdles you are experiencing, but it takes both people being willing to jump together.
For the husband:
Let’s attempt to understand what your wife faces each day. Everywhere she looks, there are unattainable standards of beauty. From the front page of magazines to TV commercials and Victoria’s Secret catalogs, there is tremendous pressure to live up to the world’s definition of “attractive.” Your wife is led to believe she must fit into a certain jean size, have clear skin, perfect make-up, fewer wrinkles and shinier hair. The competition is killer: there will always be someone younger, thinner, and more beautiful. All of these factors feed a constant, nagging insecurity.
Fighting such insecurity is a huge challenge in and of itself. But, as marriage and family therapist Cindy Irwin states, “To discover her husband has participated in pornography places her in the boxing ring with all of her most devastating enemies: self-doubt, negative body image, and relationship worries.” And while you may view your use of pornography as having absolutely nothing to do with how you actually feel about your wife, she interprets it as “I am inadequate.”
Most seriously, of course, most women view consuming porn as a form of adultery – you are lusting after a woman who is not her. And she is right to view it that way, honestly. After all, Jesus described looking lustfully at another woman as actually cheating on the woman you love. So your wife longs to be beautiful to you, and she wants to know she is the only woman in your life. And because of this, what you do (and don’t do) greatly impacts her sense of security. The confirmation you give her can make her feel safe and beautiful, which is what she desires. And while this is important and helpful, all the confirmation in the world will not fix the root problem. You have to find ways to win this struggle with porn.
As you no doubt know, you need to find ways to change your behavior. Not just for now, but for the future as well, because when sex is taken out of its proper context, it will tend to escalate in negative ways— sexual dissatisfaction, escalation of the habit, and even addiction can easily become part of your life if the behavior is not adjusted. To avoid this— and equally importantly, to prove to your wife that you are serious— specialized help may be necessary, depending on the level of addiction.
Michael Leahy, founder of Bravehearts and conqueror of a 30-year struggle with pornography, states, “You need help now before this gets worse. I suggest solid Christian counseling with someone who spends at least half their time working with sex addicts, and a recovery group.” In addition to formal help, please check out the many terrific resources out there for the millions of men who are also working to beat this damaging struggle, such as www.bravehearts.net/help.htm and www.puredesire.org. Using these resources, there are some immediate practical measures that can be taken, such as placing the computer in an open area, setting up Internet accountability tools (i.e. Covenant Eyes—covenanteyes.com), and/or confiding a trusted friend to keep you accountable. Michael Leahy reinforces the benefits of taking steps to conquer the struggle with pornography (rather than ignoring, excusing, and hiding it) when he says, “The good news is by bringing this issue into the light, you will have most likely averted far greater consequences down the road had this issue in his life remained hidden and undealt with. You will also open the door to gaining a deeper level of understanding and intimacy with one another.”
To summarize, these are steps you can take towards overcoming this
· specialized Christian counseling
· recovery group
· internet resources (see more sites below)
· practical measures (computer location, etc.)
· accountability (computerized programs to help automate this include products just as Covenant Eyes and Safe Eyes).
For the wife:
While you find yourself in a world that holds you to impossible standards of beauty, your husband faces a battle all his own. Shaunti states, “In our sex-saturated culture, the very act of living is a minefield of unwanted possible triggers and potential images that could be recalled days or years later.” Our society truly is saturated with sex. Every day, wherever his eyes gaze, there are millions of opportunities for him to be visually tempted in ways he would much rather not be.
The Internet alone is a death pit. The World Wide Web has presented an unfathomable number of sexually explicit web pages for years, and the problem is only getting worse. In 1998, there were 14 million pornographic sites. By the end of 2004, that number had increased to a staggering 420 million pornographic web pages. The temptation is very big and very real. Even though the temptation itself is not sin, the mere fact that temptation exists for him feels like betrayal to you. Regarding this feeling of betrayal, Michael Leahy encourages us women to “understand that this is a very common struggle for most men and to actively try not to take it personally. Difficult as that may be to understand, it’s NEVER about you, how you look or dress or act, your level of physical intimacy or other relational issues.” He urges, “Lean into each other and depend on God to help you both work your way through this as a couple. Definitely continue to seek outside help in the process.” And while it is natural to want to show anger and discouragement, your husband needs an advocate, not a critic. Start by understanding the vast amount of dedication and discipline it takes to overcome this particular temptation, and notice when he is doing something right. Make him feel safe talking to you; listen and encourage. In doing this, you join his team and begin to jump those hurdles…together.
Jackie Feit earned her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling with a concentration in Christian sex therapy at Psychological Studies Institute and the Institute for Sexual Wholeness in Atlanta, GA.