Q&A with J: “My Husband Is Addicted to Porn”

Today’s question is an important one. And it’s very straightforward. Here’s what the wife asks:

My husband is addicted to porn. I have no one to talk to — where do I go?

Q&A with J- My Husband Is Addicted to Porn - sad woman with hands over face

Even in this short question, I can sense the pain, urgency, and despair. When it comes to pornography, let’s be clear about two things:

  1. Too many men battle this temptation and feel trapped by a horrible habit that they don’t want to continue, yet feel insufficient to overcome.
  2. It’s cheating on your marriage. What was supposed to remain entirely within marriage — sexual pleasure and satisfaction — is being met elsewhere.

As much as I feel for the addicted porn viewer and their struggle, it’s no wonder that wives who discover their husband’s porn use feel betrayed. According to Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

...it's no wonder that wives who discover their husband's porn use feel betrayed. Click To Tweet

Porn isn’t the stray glance or public temptation of scantily dressed women; it’s the intentional consumption of sexually charged materials for the purpose of lusting and receiving sexual pleasure.

Yet for some, many perhaps, it is also like an addiction. As I said, they know it’s bad, often they want to quit, but the temptation is so strong. If you’ve ever been addicted to anything — drugs, smoking, coffee, soda, etc. — you understand how the head knowledge and the heart desire to quit something are constantly battling with the baser need you have to feed the hungry beast. You’ve experienced the longing, followed by the dopamine and adrenaline rush, and your body tells you to keep that loop going.

The point is that when one spouse is habitually using porn, both of you are suffering. Your marriage is suffering. It’s easy to feel like you’re on opposite sides. So one major goal you need to have is to get on the same sideIt will take both of you working together on this issue and your marriage. He needs to do his part, and you need to support him.

To the question: I have no one to talk to — where do I go? The best response I think I can give is to point you to resources. Following are a few great posts addressing the issue of a husband’s use of porn.

First Steps in Battling Pornography from OysterBed7

Discovering Your Husband’s Porn Use from To Love Honor and Vacuum (guest post from Hopeful Wife Today)

What Should You Do If Your Husband Looks at Porn? from Authentic Intimacy

Pornography Destroys These Things In A Wife from Unveiled Wife

Unveiled Wife also has a list of Resources to Educate Yourself on Pornography

Q&A with J: When Your Husband Falls Off the Porn Wagon here on my blog

You should also look into filtering software, such as Covenant Eyes. By the way, Covenant Eyes has a blog with helpful articles as well.

As far as talking to someone and getting real help as the wife of a porn-addicted husband, XXXchurch provides many resources for overcoming porn addiction and walking through that experience with your spouse. They have small groups you can participate in online, as well as an entire program for wives called Recover. (If someone has been through this program, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.)

Some of the churches in your area might also offer programs for porn recovery, including outreach to spouses. Check around and see what’s available; you might be surprised to discover useful resources in your own neck-of-the-woods.

I don’t know whether your husband confessed the porn addiction or you simply discovered it, whether he is remorseful or recalcitrant, and whether he wants to seek help or you feel alone in this matter. Of course, this will all be easier if he is repentant and willing to reach out for help.

If he is not cooperative, you need to be willing to bring it up to someone in your church congregation. Of course this is difficult, and scary, but you cannot allow your marriage to disintegrate. Nor is it any favor to your husband to allow him to continue in sin. Likely he recognizes that his porn habit is taking a toll on himself and his marriage, even if he doesn’t admit it right away.

Many Christians steeped in pornography have a hard time getting help because they feel such shame even admitting their problem. It’s hard to bring out in the open the worst parts of ourselves and ask for help and healing.

But Luke 8:17 says: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

God already sees and knows. As long as you hide, however, you cannot be healed. Consider it like this: Would you want a life-saving operation to be conducted by your surgeon in the dark? We have to step into the light so that all our struggles can be seen and our Healer can make us, and our marriage, whole again.

Be wise about whom you bring into your confidence. But consider that this may be a step you need to take.

I pray that the resources I provided will point you in the right direction. And may God bring you strength, comfort, and hope.

19 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “My Husband Is Addicted to Porn”

  1. John

    Take your pain to God and your sincere love to your husband.
    Consider what he would do if he caught you in the same sin .
    We have to be loving to the offender and harsh on the offense.
    First quietly seek understanding how he got there and let
    him lead the conversation to its end.
    The addicted has to see that sex in this case is packed with nothing but lies covering
    up what real love can and should be like. This stuff does not make you smarter stronger
    better looking more alluring ,hot just distracted and fooled into thinking this is the best place to live. He needs to know what the real stuff is like and know that God is the greatest partner you have . Just like Hezekiah took his problem and prayed about his enemy in the temple . You can to and see the victory in the same way he did.

    Reply
  2. AC

    This is so sad, and so many are in the same boat. My husband has had a problem with porn as well.

    J, everything you said is good, about finding resources online and help in person. Some of my biggest help has been what I’ve read online. The “in person” stuff has been a bit more hit and miss, sadly. One pastor was extremely helpful, and told hubby some pretty straight stuff he needed to hear, with the love of God shining through. Another pastor jumped to the conclusion that I’m withholding sex, and that’s why hubby cheated. That’s not how it was at all. Hubby was involved in porn years before we even met. That conversation was very much like being kicked while I was already down.

    There is help out there. But sometimes you have to ignore the voice of “Job’s friends” and cling to right advice, and the truth of God’s word.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      From the research I’ve seen, the jury is still out on how to label porn habits/obsession. I tend to agree with this characterization: “Dr. Saltz points out that porn addition is a behavioral (or psychological) addiction, which isn’t the same as a physiological addiction to drugs or alcohol.” (See Can you really be addicted to porn?) I don’t believe the narrow definition of physiological addiction is the only one we can use. And honestly, I’m in favor of calling it whatever will get people to battle it properly. For many, when they see it as an addiction, they no longer feel like they just have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it — they actually seek help and overcome this destructive behavior.

      Reply
      1. anon

        Recently, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), founded in 1967, released a historic statement about sex addiction asserting that it:

        1) Does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and

        2) Does not find the sexual addiction training, treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          Yes, I understand. There is a continuing conversation about how to characterize pornography use. Is it a hobby? A habit? An addiction? A compulsion? The research has shown a bit of support for each, although perhaps “compulsion” is a clearer way to think about it for some (see http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/pornography.aspx).

          Look, I’m not in private therapy practice diagnosing anyone with a porn addiction and providing treatment accordingly. I strongly suggest those dealing with this problem go find the experts in this field and get real help. But I do wonder why some are so narrowly focused on whether we call it “addiction” or “compulsion” or just “stupid behavior that must be stopped yesterday.” I believe the science is incomplete, but the message is still clear: Do whatever it takes to stop this habit/addiction/compulsion/sin. Hopefully, on that…we agree.

          Reply
          1. Anon

            If the concept of “porn” is not universally definable or identifiable and clinical consensus on how to define addiction itself is still evolving, then how can the amorphous phrase “porn addiction” be useful for understanding anything about human behavior? Or the even more fractured concept of “sexual addiction” for that matter?

            The frequent conflation of addiction with compulsion is even more problematic — seems like there is no problem mixing up these two concepts and there should be.

            Many Christian counselors and therapists, routinely treat “chronic masturbation” as a manifestation of sexual addiction. However, the problem is that they have no salient definition as to how much masturbation has to occur in order for it to be diagnosed as “chronic” and thus “addictive”.

            With all of these abstractions, how do we even know what we are all talking about? Are we just going off of our feelings?

          2. J Post author

            Okay, let me break this down the way I think of it. Addiction is a word that gets used a lot. And what one really means might depend a bit on context. Let’s look at the following situations:

            1. I’m on Facebook, and someone posts a meme about being addicted to coffee. Well, of course strictly speaking, they are not. They just like to drink coffee in the morning to get going. Do I argue that they’re not addicted to coffee? No, because we understand the colloquial use of the word addiction in this situation. That’s also how you’ll sometimes see “porn addiction” used, meaning that it’s an activity someone does a lot…that they know they shouldn’t be doing so much or even at all (in the case of porn).

            2. I’m a professional Christian psychologist, and I’m determining the proper treatment of a client. A husband presents with “porn addiction,” but I don’t have sufficient science to back up the addiction claim, nor a subsequent treatment that will effectively deal with the issue. Instead, I discuss his proclivity for this behavior, its origins, fallacies of his approach, and practical steps to take so that he can overcome his habit and find healing.

            3. A husband goes to his wife and says, “I’m addicted to porn. I want to stop watching, but I can’t seem to do it.” Is he actually addicted? Perhaps not, but it certainly feels like an addiction to him. Should the wife argue the term addiction, saying that it’s really his choice…or at most something like a compulsion? Let’s hope she doesn’t, because haggling over terms is less important than his realization that he’s way in over his head and needs help.

            I really do think the science is not sufficiently conclusive at this point. However, I have seen some people recently arguing ad infinitum about what we call this constant porn use. And, while it matters in some ways, in other ways I think the important thing is a husband just admitting he has a problem.

  3. K

    What a difficult thing to discover. Know you are not alone. Many of us have walked in your shoes, and it is possible to make it to the other side of this pain. It will take a lot of time and won’t be easy, but it is possible. Once again, J, you have given solid advice and resources. Here’s what I would add.

    Grieve. Don’t let anyone encourage you to glaze over your grief and pretend you don’t need time to grieve. Realize you have lost a lot that you can never get back. This type of loss requires you grieve in order to heal. Also, know that the grieving process will take time. Don’t rush it. And know that things will pop up years later that you’ll need to grieve. You can’t fully know all of your losses right now. This is normal and you and your husband need to be know to expect it. I’m not advocating that you live in your grief indefinitely. That’s not healthy for either. Just know you can’t fully heal without grieving your losses.

    Get Counseling for Yourself. Find a Christian counselor just for you. Even if your husband is going and/or you go together, get help for yourself. This is a safe person for you to share your thoughts and help you get some perspective. My counselor has never been married, yet she has helped me tremendously. She has pointed me to some amazing resources, she gives me a safe place to grieve, she allows me to vent anger that isn’t healthy to direct towards my husband and much more. Most of all, she is a safe person with whom I can share my story and not feel the same shame I would if I were telling a friend. Also, I’m not violating my husband’s trust when I talk to her as he would not want me telling family and friends.

    Know This is a Traumatic Event. Make sure anyone you seek out for help views treats this as trauma and not codependency. It took me a while to believe it, but this is/was a traumatic event and your responses stem from the trauma. This is also one of the best things my counselor did for me. She helped me realize it was trauma and understand it. This understanding has also helped my husband know how to help me by the way he interprets and responds to things I do and say.

    Educate Yourself. Educate yourself about porn use and about trauma. The more you understand what your husband is dealing with and what is happening with you, the more prepared you can be to handle things.

    Know You Did Not Cause This. Know this is his issue. Especially know it has nothing to do with your looks, how you are in bed, etc. He would have turned to porn no matter who he married.

    Be Discerning. I agree 100% with AC. Be discerning when you seek out help and resources. There are many people in the business of helping marriages that I respect, but would not take their advice regarding this issue. Make sure anyone you seek out for help understands how this affects the wife, not just the husband. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to put the blame on you or hold you responsible for your husbands recovery.

    Know Forgiveness is Process and Takes Time. I’ve learned Christians often have wrong beliefs about forgiveness. We tend to suggest people forgive things right away and are told if you don’t you’re not being Christ-like. This simply isn’t true. Do some research on what forgiveness really is. Forgiveness means you are letting the person off the hook for the debt they owe you. Releasing someone from a debt this big takes time and doesn’t mean you push things under the rug. Sheila at ToLoveHonorandVacuum has a couple of excellent posts on forgiveness and porn use. Know forgiveness takes time. It is a process much like grief. And, like grief, forgiving porn use will be an ongoing thing. A couple of years later, and I’m still finding things I need to forgive my husband for that relate to his porn use. Things like not being able to be authentic with people you are close to because it would break your husband’s confidence.

    Be as Compassionate as Possible. Be compassionate to yourself and to your husband. Your first priority should be yourself. Once you are past the initial shock and have gained some stability, try to be as compassionate as you can be to him. There are times your anger will get the best of you and that’s ok. It’s ok for him to know how much he’s hurt you. Just remember, shaming him won’t help and once you say something you can’t unsay it.

    Lastly, the resource I have found most helpful is New Life Ministries/New Life TV (tv.newlife.com) There is a yearly membership fee to view their videos, but for me it has been worth every penny. IMO, they seem to understand the impact on women better than any other resource I’ve found. All of them are licensed counselors and many have experienced the fall out from porn or sexual addiction.

    Reply
    1. K

      When I wrote my prior comment, I was pressed for time and did not do a good job of getting across what I was trying to say. I’m so sorry the person who asked the question is dealing this and is feeling alone. I think most wives who learn their husband is using porn feel isolated and like there is nowhere to turn. On top of everything, we feel shame and feel like people may blame us. So, the 2 points I was trying to make are:

      1. Get help for yourself. You’re probably in shock, are scared to death and don’t know what is real. What you are experiencing is different than what your husband is dealing with. We need help understanding and navigating these feelings.

      2. Many well-meaning people give bad advice to wives because they don’t understand how a husband’s porn use affects their wife. The topics I highlighted previously are some of the major areas where I think this bad advice is given. When we don’t know to watch for this, we can suffer more. My hope was to share what to look for when seeking help so you can heal.

      Reply
  4. Ruth Buezis

    I just want to share a couple of thoughts…
    1. I think it is really important for a wife to have support as she goes through the pain and healing of discovering that her husband struggles with Porn. In addition to counseling, try to find a support group. If you cannot find a support group nearby, let your husband know that it is important for you to have a couple of safe friends that you can talk to, that can speak truth to you and that will pray with you. Many women are going thru this totally alone, and that is not ok.

    2,Pornography has not just impacted your husband but your marriage. It is a scheme of the devil to divide the two of you. I know that the initial shock and breach of trust have deeply wounded you. My prayer is that eventually you can get to a place of health and wholeness again where you and your husband can battle pornography side by side. God’s design is that thru we marriage we are fully known- even our muck and our struggles. The men that I have talked to have shared that they started making real progress in this battle when they knew their wife was by their side. This means different things to different couples – sharing when it is a hard day, knowing triggers, creating intimacy other ways, checking in.

    3. One of my favorite resources for women is Shattered Vows by Debra Laaser

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    She can search her area for sex addiction therapists and shop around to find one. It’s hard to help. If her husband confessed, like my husband did, it’s a shock and you don’t know how to move forward. She could read Your Sexually Addicted Spouse by Barbara Steffens and do the workbook that can partner with it called Journey to Healing and Joy. She can only work on her self right now. Her husband has to get help if he is looking to change. It’s hard when he doesn’t want to stop, it’s a struggle either way. If he wants help, they can get counseling and work together that way as she gets her own counseling. She can speak to a main leader she may trust at her church in the women’s ministry. There may be a ministry there that isn’t publicized. That’s what happened with my church. I talked about it with a trusted women’s minsitry leader and she introduced me to someone who had gone through the same thing who had a group in the church and attended something outside of church. If they are trying to heal together it can take anywhere from 3-7 years to reestablish trust and feelilng true love with one another again. Restoringheartsconference.org is a conference held in our area. She may be able to request recordings from previous years, just to get some help and support. It’s hard, because she probably doesn’t even know who she can trust with this information. She may want to scream and shout, but she doesn’t know who she can trust. My heart breaks for her. We’re a year into this ourselves. We are only just now starting to reconnect, but that is because we both wanted to not divorce and we both wanted to work to see if we could save our marriage. It’s heartbreaking and hard to get through, especially the first few months.
    She needs to know, she was not the reason for his straying. It is his problem, there is nothing of her that is lacking. That’s the hardest thing to believe, but it’s true.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thank you for the candid information and encouragement. I do know couples who have completely healed from the pain of a pornography addiction. So I want to also offer you hope and encouragement. Blessings.

      Reply
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