Help for Couples
It’s no secret that pornography use is damaging millions of marriages. It plays a significant role in over fifty percent of all divorces. Thus, whenever I work with a couple affected by pornography addiction, marital healing is needed in addition to individual healing. Here is a brief overview of some of the steps that must be taken in counseling to restore a marriage.
- Acknowledge Pain and Anger. Wives who have been affected by pornography addiction often feel deeply hurt and betrayed. For them the pornography use is no different than an extramarital affair. To them it is adultery. This is also how the church views it. It’s important for a husband to recognize how deeply he has wounded his wife and apologize for it. He must take responsibility for this and be committed to healing the marriage.
- Alleviate Fears. Some wives feel that they are to blame for their husband’s pornography use. They might believe it is because they were not pretty enough or not sexual enough for their husbands. They need to realize that they are in no way responsible for their husband’s pornography use. Ultimately, pornography use has nothing to do with sex or a wife’s desirability. It is a drug that is used to ease emotional pain.
- Address Trauma. Many wives are so deeply wounded by their husband’s pornography use that they experience symptoms of trauma. We call this betrayal trauma and the symptoms are similar to PTSD – uncontrollable crying, anger, fear, anxiety, insomnia, hypervigilance, constantly checking up on their husband’s behaviors, and trying to control every aspect of their husband’s lives. Because the shock and betrayal are so strong they will do anything to try to reclaim some sense of safety. These women need individual counseling to help them recovery from the trauma. They need to know they are not helpless victims. They also need their husband’s empathy and support.
- Recognize the Addiction as a Disease. As with other addictions, it’s important to view pornography addiction as a disease and not a moral failing. Men who become addicted to pornography are not simply “sick perverts.” They are people who are deeply wounded and have turned to pornography to cope with their deep emotional pain. The substance they turned to in order to control their pain is now controlling them. It also has little to do with sex. Deep down these men are desperately lonely and are craving connection. Unfortunately, their deep dark secret of pornography use, and the shame associated with it, has kept them from ever being able to have healthy relationships. These men need counseling to heal from their wounds so that they no longer need to turn to pornography to self-medicate.
- Offer Forgiveness. It is important for wives to work on forgiving their husbands in order to experience personal and marital healing. Realize that forgiving simply means letting go of the anger. It doesn’t mean that a husband is no longer responsible for the pain he has caused the marriage. He still needs to atone for this. A husband needs to show true remorse for the pain he’s caused and a commitment to recovery and to restoring the marriage. Forgiveness is a process that takes time. Thus, it’s important for both husbands and wives to be patient with this.
- Restore Trust. Broken trust is probably the deepest marital wound caused by pornography use. Many wives claim they can handle the pornography addiction. However, it’s the lies and deceit that accompany the addiction that are the most painful. Trust that is destroyed in an instant may take months to restore. To rebuild trust, a husband must show true remorse for the harm he’s caused and a strong commitment to his recovery and to restoring the marriage. He must apologize and be proactive in finding professional help for himself and the marriage. He must also be totally honest and transparent in every area of his life. He needs to be able to account for his whereabouts and actions 24/7. Ultimately he needs to prove his trustworthiness.
- Let Go of the Past. Often wives who have been deeply wounded claim they simply want to go back to the way things were before their marriage was damaged by pornography use. However, this is neither healthy nor desirable. The fact is the marriage back then was not healthy. The root causes of the pornography addiction often predate a marriage. Men bring them into the marriage along with the pornography use. What a couple needs to do is forge a new and healthy marital relationship. While this may seem daunting, it’s actually an invitation for greater love and intimacy. The couple can now move forward without any deep dark secrets. They can truly be partners and create the marriage they’ve always wanted.
- Trust God. Ultimately a couple needs to trust God to heal and restore their marriage. They need to believe that God has a wonderful plan for their lives. He wants couples to have happy blessed marriages. While it may take some time to restore a marriage, know that God is with you every step of the way. It’s important for couples to pray together for the healing of their marriage every day. They need to turn to God in their brokenness for healing.
While it can take some time to heal and restore a marriage, don’t be intimidated by the process. With the help of a trained counselor and a loving support system, couples can heal the deep wounds caused by pornography use and any other wounds in the marriage. They can create a new relationship that is honest, loving, and deeply fulfilling. Even the most damaged marriages can be healed if both parties are willing to work together, seek professional help and trust in God.
The first step in recovery is asking for help. This is done by finding a qualified therapist who can work with you to develop an effective recovery program for your marriage. I have worked with hundreds couples whose marriages have been hurt by pornography use and addiction. I invite you to contact my office to schedule an appointment. Healing can begin today!
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