Dealing with Pornography in Marriage (Part 1)

The Ultimate Question: What Do You Do?

 (For purposes of this article on pornography in marriage the assumption is that it is the husband struggling with the addiction, but pornography addiction is growing rapidly among women as well.)

 When you discover your spouse has been involved with pornography it can be traumatic, to say the least. Fortunately, you’re not alone. There are many, many people across the globe that have partners with sex addictions, which is why there are numerous resources and support groups to help.

LIFE Marriage Retreats does not treat addictions, but we are very experienced and effective in helping couples struggling with addiction to communicate in healthy ways and to rebuild trust which is essential for the recovery process. Here are some tips to help you find comfort and peace amidst the betrayal trauma you’re experiencing.

When you’re ready, talk to your spouse.

 While you don’t need to know the minute details, it is important for you to know how often your spouse is viewing pornography. Is it every day? Once or twice a week? A few times a month? Knowing this will help you know how compulsive the addiction is and how much help your spouse needs to recover from this addiction. Talking frankly will help you both get on the path to healing and restored trust.

It can be so easy to let yourself wonder—what exactly was he viewing? What did the women look like? What’s the exact website he goes too? If you dwell on these questions and insist your spouse answer them, you’re only going to bring yourself more hurt. Don’t let yourself go down the “wondering” path of needing every detail. Not only are those details not necessary, they won’t help you heal.  Ask the questions, such as the following, that will help you discover the root of the problem and why he’s going to pornography:

  • What was your day like leading up to viewing the pornography?
  • How were you feeling and why do you think you felt that way?
  • When you’re upset, stressed, bored, depressed, etc., how do you best cope with those emotions?
  • Do you notice when you’re the most tempted to view pornography?

 Go to a support group.

 Support groups aren’t just for those who have an addiction. There are actually support groups out there for the spouses affected by the addiction. Meeting with and connecting with people who have been where you can be healing, and it can help you know what to do in a situation that’s so difficult to navigate. Plus, these support groups are based on confidentiality and anonymity, which means you can feel safe and protected while you’re there.

Encourage your spouse to go to a sex addiction support group and/or to a qualified counselor experienced in addiction counseling. Regarding the support group, he will not only find strength and support from many others who have been where he’s been, he will also learn skills and gain tools he needs to help him deal with the emotions and behaviors that lead to viewing pornography. He may not want to or be willing to go these support groups, and you can’t force him to. All you can do is work on yourself and hope that your spouse, over time, will see that his behavior is hurting you and will then want to change. (End of part 1)

Addictions in Marriage

These are a few of the addiction-related issues we have seen couples struggling with just in the past few Marriage Retreats we have hosted:

  • A wife is tired of her husband’s drinking leading him to become the embarrassing “life of the party”at social gatherings.
  • A husband is frustrated that month after month their budget is destroyed by his wife’s spending patterns that she tries to hide from him.
  •  Husbands and wives complain of emptiness and betrayal in their relationship as their partner spends more and more time on the Internet behind closed doors.
  • A wife can’t figure out why she can’t make her husband become a better husband, as hard as she tries to force him to change. (be careful as you consider this one–the husband might or might not have an addiction, but the wife almost certainly does–that of codependency.)

All humans have legitimate needs that, if we are to remain healthy and happy, must be met. The problem is that when those needs are not met in an honorable fashion, we will, sometimes subconsciously, try to meet them in unhealthy dishonorable ways. That is largely why we have prisons, rehab centers, sanatoriums, psychiatric couches and, to a significant extent, unhappy Addictionfamilies and marriages.

Whether we try to fill our needs and the holes in our inner selves with drugs and alcohol, uncontrolled spending, inappropriate sex and pornography, co-dependence, or any other potentially addictive substance or behavior, it is impossible to do so without direct or collateral damage to our most important relationships.

In a relationship where addiction, damaging negative habits, or destructive character defects are present everything will be out of balance. The addiction occupies the center of the addict and everything they say and do is processed through the addiction, not through the appropriate principles of life and relationships.

Addiction is a progressive condition (or disease if you prefer) and, if not addressed and treated, will always lead to the further dissolution of one’s life and relationships. While addiction often springs from deep and unmet needs with which we can sympathize, the addict ends up living in a world of deep selfishness and isolation that tends to alienate others.

A couple dealing with addiction in their relationship must first and foremost come to a place of honesty about it. Once the problem is recognized and admitted there is room for hope of recovery for both the individual and the relationship to grow.

While recovery will always be enhanced in a loving and supportive environment, often the sense of guilt and betrayal in the relationship will have to be overcome to find that love and support. And even in a loving relationship a spouse trying to “help” their partner through addiction recovery can easily slip into unhealthy codependency and derail the recovery and further damage the marriage.

Through our Retreats couples dealing with addiction as part of their marital challenges can come to recognize the addiction, develop a sense of hope for recovery, join together as a united team, and begin to formulate a plan of recovery. That plan of recovery might include therapy with a competent professional or involvement in a 12-Step support group, or a combination of both.

The wonderful news is that even the first step together into recovery will bring enormous rewards of growing trust and peace and the couple can fully expect not only the recovery from addiction, but the recovery of all that is best about their relationship.