Tag Archives: porn and marriage

Q&A with J: “What Should We Call Persistent Porn Use?”

Usually on Thursdays, I answer a reader’s question. Today, I want y’all to answer my question. Here it is:

What should we call ongoing and persistent porn use? If you read various marriage blogs, you might have seen some recent discussion about porn “habit” vs. “addiction.” (You can see my post here.) Some say it’s a habit and calling it an addiction makes it harder to fight because that connotes that it’s outside their control. For others, it feels well beyond habit and calling it an addiction prods them to getting the help they need to overcome. 

While I understand that “addiction” isn’t quite the right word, “habit” doesn’t seem enough. At this point, I’m thinking maybe we need a better label. What alternative words could we use to refer to a porn addiction/habit?

Title with text over black hole graphic background

I’ve honestly believed this argument over semantics isn’t nearly as important as just fighting off this evil. But after reading various comments on the subject, I’ve decided it matters to some to use the right words.

Calling it a habit gives some porn users the empowerment they need to gain victory, because then they feel like it’s a behavior they control. For others who have tried to quit, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, labeling it an addiction encourages them to seek the outside help they need to break free.

Honestly, I don’t want to cause problems for either group. I’d hate to think that my word choice inadvertently hindered anyone’s ultimate victory over this terrible temptation.

But what is persistent use of pornography?

Is porn use an addiction?

Substance addictions and persistent porn use have these similarities:

  • Someone else often offers you the first “hit”
  • You try it out of curiosity or intrigue
  • Your body delivers a natural chemical reward
  • You might seek out stronger forms of the substance to receive the same or a more intense effect
  • You experience a mix of good feelings and bad consequences
  • If you try to quit, you may experience resistance or a sense of loss

Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife wrote an excellent post on Is Porn Use an Addiction (and Does It Even Matter)? In that article, she also points out:

For a person who is trying to medicate emotional pain, the “high” they feel after using a substance is a respite from their pain. When the effects go away, they often feel worse emotionally—but they don’t know how else to address the pain, so they continue using, again and again.

I also believe many porn producers are like drug dealers, in the way they entice users, offer increasingly intense experiences, and ignore the damage they do users and those around them.

However, recent research studies have shown that persistent porn use doesn’t behave physiologically like an addiction. For instance, in one much-touted study, “subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images” (The Daily Beast: “Your Porn Addiction Isn’t Real”; Journal of Biological Psychology: “Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with ‘porn addiction'”). Rather, some experts propose it’s more analogous to a compulsion (see American Psychological Association: “Is Pornography Addictive?”).

Moreover, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — the manual used by psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors to diagnose and treat clients — does not recognize a hypersexual disorder or porn addiction. The experts determined there was insufficient evidence to support these labels and the treatments that would follow.

Is porn use a habit?

Habits and persistent porn use share these similarities:

  • You form them through a system of cue/trigger, routine, and reward (see ABC News: “Science of habits: Understanding why we do what we do”)
  • You reinforce the habit through repetition
  • In anticipating the reward, you create a craving to engage in the routine
  • You link the habit to other environmental triggers (e.g., a certain room in your house or time of the day)
  • Even when the habit is clearly hurting you (or people you love), it’s an entrenched routine you tend to fall back on

According to researcher Dr. Wendy Wood, as you repeat behaviors in the same context, thus forming a habit, your brain shifts from processing in the decision-making center to a sensory motor loop that no longer retains information on the goal or outcome. The result, according to Wood, is “our minds don’t always integrate in the best way possible. Even when you know the right answer, you can’t make yourself change the habitual behavior” (Science Daily: “How we form habits, change existing ones”).

For example, in one interesting study on habits, 98 people watched movie trailers and were given popcorn to munch on, some of it fresh and some of it one week old. Those used to eating popcorn at movies ate the same amount of stale popcorn as fresh, because — even though stale popcorn is yuck — they had an entrenched habit triggered by the environment (LA Times: “People eat out of habit, a study finds, even when food is stale”). That sounds like the persistent porn user who — regardless of how yuck the porn is — feels compelled to watch, because it’s a triggered routine.

The habit argument is laid out well in “Does Your Spouse Have a Porn Addiction or Just a Bad Habit? The Difference Matters!” on Sheila Gregoire’s To Love Honor and Vacuum blog.

Yet, habits run the gamut in whether they’re good, neutral, or bad. Thus, when some hear the word “habit,” they’re more likely to think about how their kid puts his dirty shoes on the couch or their husband leaves the Worcestershire sauce on the wrong refrigerator shelf than someone taking up smoking or losing himself in hours and hours of porn. And calling it merely a habit sounds to some like you’re putting what is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:28) on the same level as consuming more coffee than you know you should.

Moreover, the suggested way to kick a habit is to change the trigger. But what if the craving is the trigger? Or what if the trigger is something you can’t control, like having a computer (that you need for work, home tasks, etc.) or being sexually refused by your spouse? (This is not blaming the spouse for porn use! That spouse is not responsible, but that action could be something the porn user has in his habit loop.)

Is porn use something else?

I asked on my Facebook page for alternative words, and here are some of the answers:

  • struggle
  • affair
  • sin
  • betrayal
  • self-control problem
  • virtual adultery
  • compulsion
  • bondage
  • trap
  • spiritual stronghold

Let me clarify one more thing. I’m not a licensed counselor, but I went through a graduate program that prepared me to become a counselor, including making diagnoses. I do not contend that porn use can be classified for medical treatment or insurance reimbursement as an addiction, because that is a specific definition in that context.

However, if someone writes me a question or a comment that refers to the person or spouse being “addicted to porn,” I’m not going to argue with them. When your co-worker says, “I’m addicted to coffee,” or your best friend says, “I’m addicted to superhero movies,” or Robert Palmer says, “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to love,” we understand that they’re using “addicted” colloquially. I hope to use more precise language from now on, but quibbling over their terminology still seems far less important to me than providing insight, encouragement, answers, and hope.

Now I hope you’ll chime in! What alternative words could we use to refer to a porn addiction/habit?

Q&A with J: How Can I View Sex as “Hot and Holy”?

If you’re like me, today’s question will make your heart crack a little and/or bring moisture to your eyes:

I am a trauma counselor who works with children who have been sexually abused. I hear so many awful stories about abuse and the images are so vivid, I carry them with me and can’t seem to get them out of my head… especially when I am being intimate with my husband. I can’t get excited about sex and I have a hard time viewing sex as “hot and holy.” Never mind the fact that I am already very self conscious about my body, and I know my husband struggles with pornography. I can’t seem to shake my thoughts when trying to “get in the mood” for sex. I have discussed my concerns with my husband, but I’m not sure what he can do, if anything, to help. What do you suggest?

Q&A with J: How Can I View Sex as "Hot and Holy"?

Just that phrase — children who have been sexually abused — presses down on my chest and makes me weep for these precious, innocent victims. It also makes me want to rail against the evil in this world that would do such a thing to those among us who most need our protection.

And this wife hears these stories, in detail, day-in and day-out. That must take its toll. Yet, I’m grateful for trauma counselors who help these children come out of the shadows and find healing on the other side. May God bless their efforts over and over again.

Let me walk through the three issues here: the trauma she hears, the self-consciousness she feels, and the pornography struggle her husband experiences. Each is an obstacle to sexual intimacy in marriage.

Sexual trauma stories. As clearly as I can possibly say it: What those children experienced was not the sex God created. We almost need another word that indicates how it’s sexual in nature, but not at all the same thing as sex itself. It’s abuse, plain and simple. And in the most heinous way — preying upon the vulnerable in the most vulnerable parts of their body.

That “sex” is absolutely not hot or holy. It’s opposed to anything and everything sexual intimacy in marriage was intended to be. I pray that all victims, and those who work with them, hear what I’m saying — that sexual abuse wasn’t in any way the victim’s fault and it doesn’t resemble in any way what God created sex to be.

This may be something that you have to rehearse your head again and again: that is not sex, that is not sex, that is not sex. It could be that the wording makes a huge difference to you for distinguishing the two. So that you even get rid of the word sex when referring to what happens in the marriage bed, and call it marital or physical intimacy. Because that’s what God intends for marriage — a deep relational connection that is voluntarily expressed in a physical way.

Right now, I think the scales are so tipped toward sex being attached to the abuse stories that it’s hard to tease that out. Besides making a clear-cut, black-and-white distinction between sexual abuse and marital intimacy, you also need some experiences that reflect the better side of sexual touch and activity. That’s one of the reasons I believe healthy marital intimacy can combat some of the bad messaging kicking around in our heads: It readjusts the balance so that we identify with a new script that involves God’s design for sex in marriage.

Self-consciousness. I don’t know any woman who isn’t at some time self-conscious about her body. Maybe those women exist, but I don’t know them. We may be more confident or less confident, but body image continues to be a struggle for many wives. It’s why I launched my Feel Beautiful goal last year with the hope and prayer that we ladies would learn to embrace our inner and outer beauty.

I highly suggest you read the myriad of posts from myself and other Christian wives about how to feel beautiful. But ultimately, my confidence in the marital bedroom to bare my body is simply about courage. And, being a Texan, I like this definition of courage from western actor John Wayne: “Courage is being scared…but saddling up anyway.” Funny thing is, once you “saddle up” and go for it with your husband, you often end up feeling better about your body. Because your body is a truly remarkable masterpiece.

Your softness and curves, your sensitive places and pleasure spots, your ability to affect his body — it’s all rather amazing. And none of that is changed by sporting a few extra pounds or not having the breast size you want or wondering if your thunder thighs should be registered as a lethal weapon. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and if your husband wants to see you naked, it’s because he likes to see you naked. He recognizes that your feminine form is exciting. Talk yourself into owning that, with a dose of courage that you can reveal the beauty that is you.

Pornography struggle. That said, having your hubby looking at porn is not helping your body image. And it’s certainly hurting his view of sex and your marriage as a whole. He’s unlikely to white-knuckle his way out of this habit, so take steps to fight against the temptation of pornography. Be his supporter and his advocate, but yes, be his boundary too, if needed.

You should make clear that you don’t want pornography coloring your marital intimacy. It needs to stop. Rather, you two need to foster the kind of physical intimacy God wants you to exclusively have in the proper bounds of covenant marriage.

The sex displayed in pornography is at the least unrealistic and quite often abusive of women on the screen. So it’s no wonder wives often object to that representation of sexual contact. I recently read a well-researched description of the adult video industry (in Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by journalist Chris Hedges), and the amount of physical abuse displayed and perpetrated against porn actresses is staggering. It utterly breaks my heart.

But regardless of how tame some porn might be in comparison to the hardest core stuff, it all objectifies people and focuses purely on the physical. Yet again, this is so far from the gift that God bestowed on marriages when He created sexual intimacy. It’s incredibly important that your husband move away from this depiction of sex, and that you both embrace the far better version of sexuality God described in His Word.

When someone asks what that looks like, I often refer them to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Of course we don’t perfectly measure up to this ideal, but if the intimacy in your marriage doesn’t look like that description at all, it’s not what God wants you to have.

It will take intentionality and time on your part to adjust how you’ve seen sex up to now. I encourage you to read up on God’s plan for physical intimacy. My own book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design covers both attitudes and tips for creating that “hot and holy” experience in your marriage bed. I also encourage you both to read Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage by Julie Sibert and Jeffrey Murphy, which is a great overall treatment of physical intimacy for husbands and wives.

Read quality marriage blogs. Study what God’s Word has to say about sex; for example, the Song of Songs. Communicate with your husband about your concerns and your hopes. Pray for your heart to heal and your mind to focus on what God wants for your marriage. But you can get there. And I pray that God blesses your marriage with intimacy that truly is hot and holy.

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When Should You Stop Battling Porn?

Sometimes my aha moments come when I’m in conversation with someone about godly sexuality. Recently, I was discussing with a friend men’s struggle against visual temptation, easily found these days in rampant pornography that you must intentionally avoid, and I said something like this:

Maybe we’ve talked too much about porn being a struggle. A man can think that it’s okay to struggle for the rest of his life, that it’s just part of being male to fight against porn but never really win.

When Should You Stop Battling Porn? via @HotHolyHumorousAs a writer, I’m well aware of the power of words. While I don’t like honing in on one particular word rather than taking a person’s message as a whole, sometimes our word choice can convey an erroneous message. Or rather it’s truth, but not the whole truth.

With book titles like Every Man’s Battle and my own statement in a recent post that men often struggle in this area, maybe we’ve unwittingly conveyed the message that it’s okay to simply battle the pull of porn for the rest of your life. As such, you expect some wins and some losses, some advances and some retreats, some good days and some bad days. Maybe that’s all you’re truly aiming for.

But the subtitle of Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s popular Every Man book is “Every Man’s Guide to Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time.” Did you see that? Winning the War!

And I’m fully convinced that, in Christ, we can have victory.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

“For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4).

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

“With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies” (Psalm 60:2).

“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:3-5).

Of course, fighting against intense temptation is a hard road. It is a battle, but it’s a battle that can lead to true victory.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me” (Psalm 129:2).

Here’s the reality: I struggled in my promiscuous past and took on plenty of sexual baggage. I was an easy target for Satan and didn’t anticipate that I could ever be good enough to satisfy God. I battled, but deep down in my heart, I didn’t expect victory.

When I finally fell in humility before God and begged for His victorious hand to lift me up, that’s when the real battle began. That’s when I was no longer fighting with an ice pick but a sword. Did Satan get in some jabs? Oh yeah, he did. I still struggled, but I could see progress.

I was no longer having some wins and some losses, but more wins and fewer losses. And my wins became more frequent and my losses less frequent, until one day I realized that the things that used to be a temptation . . . simply weren’t anymore. That old life held no appeal for me.

Porn was not my issue, but it’s the issue many men and some women are dealing with today. Please struggle against it, but with God’s covering and with hope that someday you’ll stop battling porn. Because you will have won.

I’m not discounting the belief that an addict is always in recovery. I get that. You have to remember your history, as Paul often did, and make conscious decisions to guard against that temptation rising against you again. But I also believe this verse:

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Don’t wallow in the belief that this is something that will always be a struggle, even giving yourself an “out” for bad behavior. Expect more of yourself and of God! Strap on your armor and get to fighting. Fight harder and smarter.

You don’t need to struggle alone. Invite God into your battle. Be honest with your spouse. Find mentors, counselors, confidants, and friends who will fight with you. Seek resources that will keep you on the right path and help you get back on the path if you stray. Believe in the possibility of victory.

So when should you stop battling porn? Not until, with God’s glorious help, you’ve won.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

* * *

I recently learned about an online small group ministry hosted by the XXXChurch, a Christian-based porn recovery ministry. If porn is your struggle, you might check out X3Groups. They also host groups specifically for pastors and for spouses.

It’s True: Porn Can Kill Your Sex Life

I’ve been reading about porn lately, not because that’s my favorite subject, but because I saw two excellent articles about the problems with porn — from secular sources.

Time Magazine’s April 11, 2016 edition had a feature article on Porn: Why young men who grew up with Internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off.* The author, Belinda Luscombe, did a fair job of reporting what’s happening in science and society as people discover what the Bible has said all along: Sexual intimacy isn’t about using others for your own pleasure. That approach messes with your ability to enjoy what God intended you to have.

Sexual intimacy isn't about using others for your own pleasure. God has a better plan. Click To Tweet

The focus of that article is previous porn users who discovered how their heavy porn diet impaired their ability to perform and connect with a real woman. It’s called Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED), and more doctors are seeing erectile problems with younger men. The theory is that the men are desensitized to normal sexual stimuli and require a level of imagery, intensity, and novelty that isn’t real-life. Thankfully, some of these men are speaking up against the very activity they used to frequently pursue, warning of the dangers and consequences of consuming pornography.

It's True: Porn Can Kill Your Sex Life

Then there are Drs. John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute, famous for their marriage and relationship research. Although previously proponents of using porn to increase intimacy in relationships, they have changed their minds. I encourage you to read An Open Letter on Porn. They lay out several reasons why pornography is detrimental to the user and to their significant other, including sexual arousal difficulties and mistreatment of women in porn.

Based on various studies, they conclude that “use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.”

Now I’ve heard the arguments that it goes the other way — for instance, a husband not having sex and experiencing low relationship satisfaction then seeks out porn to fill in the gap. But as much as I feel for those in a sexless marriage, that’s not helping!

In the long run, you’re making it harder for both of you to engage in satisfying sexual intimacy if and when the opportunity rises. You’re messing with your view of how your wife should be behave (she is not your sex toy) and how sex itself works. And you’re not satisfying yourself anyway, because you have to get more frequent and stronger stimuli to get the same “high.” Your body responds sexually, but it doesn’t respond with the satisfactory bonding you get when you make love to your wife.

Another thing that always crops up when I address porn is: What about women?! Aren’t they looking at porn? Or reading steamy romance? Yes, they are. The percentage of women viewing porn is increasing, and it’s a real concern. If any woman reading this is struggling with pornography, the one ministry I know designed to help is Dirty Girls Ministries. Check it out.

And I’ve written plenty about the problems with romance novels and erotic novels that promote terrible ideas about sexuality. Look, this is a case of “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). Anything opposed to God’s design for sex is a problem we Christians need to address.

Anything opposed to God's design for sex is a problem we Christians need to address. Click To Tweet

I’m glad that secular research is catching up to what God has said all along. The momentary pleasure of viewing pornography is too high a price and robs you of what God intended when He created sex.

If you’re in this struggle right now — either yourself or your spouse — get help. No more dithering: Today is the day. Talk to your spouse. Confess to a godly confidant. Make an appointment with a counselor. Join an accountability group. Get on your knees before God.

Don’t let this ruin your sex life. Here are a few Christian-based sites you might want to visit:

XXX Church (porn recovery for men)
Covenant Eyes (internet accountability)
Dirty Girls Ministries (for women)

Also, don’t be naive about your kids. I’ve talked with my sons about this temptation, and they’ve estimated that 70-80% of guys in their high school watch porn regularly. They’re probably right, and I bet their parents have no idea. Speak regularly with your teenagers about what God desires for their lives, including their someday sex life — which starts with making right and wise decisions now. An anti-porn site aimed specifically at youth is Fight the New Drug (not Christian, but has good overall information).

As Christians and Churches, we need to stay well-informed and outspoken against anything so against God’s design for His children and for sex in marriage. This isn’t simply a cause for us to take up and pat ourselves for doing the right thing. Our denunciation of pornography and erotica is about saving individuals, marriages, and souls.

*The Time article is available online only to subscribers. I read the article by accessing the magazine at my local library.

Q&A with J: “He’s Going Into His ‘Spank Bank’ “

Today’s question is a frustrating one. Yet another example of the terrible effects pornography can have on how we view sex and our ability to enjoy it in marriage the way God intended. Please say a prayer for this wife today. Here’s her question:

I get incredibly shy in bed with my husband. When I am on top, unless I have had like a bottle of wine, I get so much anxiety. I forget how to even be on top and it feels awkward.

I know I don’t have to feel embarrassed to tell you this. My husband has had a past with porn and we are still in the process of dealing with it. Because of the porn, he can’t stay hard sometimes, and I can see him closing his eyes and going into his ‘spank bank’ to try and get hard again. This is traumatizing to me and makes getting on top even more anxiety ridden. Do you have any advice for me?

 

Q&A with J: "He's Going into His 'Spank Bank' "

I see four issues in this short question.

1. Anxiety about being on top. I don’t know exactly why this wife feels shy about the on-top position. Maybe it’s the full view her husband’s getting of her, and she struggles with body issues. Maybe it’s the feeling that she’s in the dominant sexual position, and she feels uncomfortable being “in charge.” Maybe it’s a lack of experience and not feeling like she knows what she’s doing. Maybe it’s just physically hard to make things happen (it can wear on a gal’s knees).

Whatever the issue, some things are awkward when you first do them in the marriage bed. The first time, the second time . . . even the fifth time. But if you continue doing something with positive results, it gets easier and easier. Your comfort level increases.

To relax about any position, just pay attention to your breathing, making sure it’s steady and soothing. Lean into the pleasure you feel in that moment. Ask for feedback from your husband about what he enjoys of what he’s seeing and experiencing.

Remember that all sex is a little awkward. You never just suddenly find yourself in that position with your legs apart and hiked up or sprawling over your husband’s lap. You’re aiming for the pleasure that you get from pushing a little outside that comfort zone and connecting with one another in a way you don’t with anyone else, ever. But over time, that intimacy can become the most comfortable thing in the world.

2. Dealing with anxiety by grabbing the wine. I’m personally not opposed to a glass of wine. But I have concerns about dealing with anxiety in the marital bedroom by grabbing alcohol. Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage had an excellent post about this topic called Need a Few Drinks to Get in the Mood for Sex?

By using wine to deal with the anxiety, you’re likely evading the process of getting comfortable with being on top. You’re priming your brain and body to feel okay about it only when alcohol is involved. Remove the alcohol, and the anxiety is back.

Rather, trust that you can find ways to enjoy the experience without relying on alcohol or any other crutch.

3. Her husband’s porn past. Once again, porn rears its ugly head. You can also label this Satan, because he is all too happy to steal healthy intimacy in marriage by tempting people with a twisted version of sexuality. Remember who your real enemy is.

I’m so glad that you’re dealing with this porn past. That should include taking tangible steps to keep the temptation out of your home and off his phone and him getting support from others through accountability partners or ministry groups. Very few people who used porn much in the past simply say, “Not using porn anymore,” and stop altogether. You need a more involved strategy to conquer this evil.

However, it has obviously affected his ability to get aroused. Unfortunately, more young men now struggle with maintaining an erection because of the prevalence of porn. Viewing those images distorts how our brains register arousal and satisfaction. Sex becomes a two-dimensional, self-serving act, rather than the face-to-face, we-focused intimacy God intended.

The way to overcome this challenge is to unlearn bad habits and learn good ones instead. Not only does he need to throw off the porn, but you should both accept that he needs to awaken the arousal that comes from being with a real person — you. It may take some time for his body to change how it views stimulation, but with time and patience you can figure it out. God created his body to respond that way.

4. He’s going into his ‘spank bank.’ For those who don’t know what a “spank bank” is, that’s a colloquialism for a collection of mental images you can access to become sexually stimulated or to heighten arousal. In this case, it’s stored memories of pornographic pictures.

First off, that’s sin. Just to be clear here: There’s no justification for lusting after other people while making love to your spouse. Or at any other time. (See Matthew 5:28, Hebrews 13:4, Job 31:1, Proverbs 6:25.) Your sexual energy should be focused entirely on your covenant mate. It matters what happens not only with our bodies, but in our minds and in our hearts. (See Jeremiah 17:10.) Part of getting over this porn past is your husband retraining his mind. And you can help.

Explain to your husband that those images are another obstacle to your sexual intimacy — that they are prolonging the problems by maintaining that brain connection of two-dimensional images and sexual arousal. I get that it’s frustrating for him to have erection difficulties (not that I know what that’s like, but I can imagine); however, the long-term answer is to establish your one-on-one connection.

Be willing to set some boundaries. You can tell him, “If I see you going into your ‘spank bank,’ I cannot continue making love. It just doesn’t feel like you’re making love to me, but to those images. So if you go there, I’m going to ask you to stop and refocus on me. If you don’t stop, I’ll have to discontinue our sexual encounter until you can pay attention to me.” Reiterate that you’re not trying to punish him, but rather help him. You are on his side. But you also aren’t going to settle when you know that God has loving sexual intimacy awaiting you both for your marriage. You want your husband to be fully involved with you, and you want to be fully involved with him.

You may need to reassure him many times of your support and your love, because this is a difficult struggle. Yet you have every right to expect his respect in the bedroom — meaning he doesn’t get to bring other women in there. In reality or mentally.

[I wanted to add a great point that commenters have called me on. Rightly so. I’m not infallible, and I missed the very real possibility that this husband isn’t recalling past porn images at all. When he closes his eyes and concentrates, he could be regaining his focus on the moment with his wife. Rather than assuming you know what’s going on in your husband’s mind, ask. We should extend grace and believe the best about our spouses, rather than choosing the worst possible assumption. Anyway, I apologize if I got this one wrong. If he accessing past images, my advice stands. But, if not,…]

Your issues aren’t likely going to be settled in a week or even a month. But step-by-step, with intentionality and love, I am confident you two can move toward far more fulfilling sexual experiences. One or two years down the road, you might be amazed by the beauty and pleasure you’ve discovered in the marriage bed.