Hope for Spouses
If you are the wife or husband of a pornography user/addict, I understand the pain you’re experiencing. Discovering your spouse’s pornography use has deeply hurt you. It’s as serious as an extramarital affair. You feel betrayed. Marital trust has been broken. You may feel you don’t even know your spouse because of the dark, secret life they have kept. You might even feel like a fool for ever trusting your spouse. Some people even feel their marriages have been damaged beyond repair.
If you feel this way, please know that this is normal and healthy. It is okay to feel angry, hurt, betrayed, sad and hopeless. However, there is hope for healing. God has a special plan to bring healing and wholeness to wounded spouses and marriages. With proper help, the deep wounds that you and your marriage have sustained can be healed.
First, I urge you to seek help for yourself. Many wives and husbands are deeply traumatized by their spouse’s pornography use. Along with feeling betrayed, you may feel rejected by your spouse, believing they would rather be with the people in pornography than with you. Many feel that their lives have become unmanageable. Some react by trying to control every aspect of their spouse’s lives to prevent future porn use. This can include checking internet use, emails, text messages, phone/credit card bills, calling them at any moment of the day to check on them, etc. Some believe they must be hypersexual with their spouse to prevent future porn use. However, all of this only leads to more helplessness and despair.
For your healing, I recommend individual counseling and attending a support group. The therapist must understand the deep wounds spouses sustain and be able to treat them. There are several good support groups, such as S-Anon and COSA. These are groups for spouses and family members of sex addicts. There you will learn that you are not alone. You will meet other people who have been through what you are going through now. You will learn how they have been able to find healing for themselves and their marriages. Having a group of people who care about you and want to help you is extremely healing.
I also recommend marital therapy. This provides an environment where your husband/wife can come to truly understand how their pornography use has hurt you. It is also a safe place where they can disclose all of their online sexual activity and answer any questions you might have. You will then be able to process this information with the therapist. Although learning all about your spouse’s online activity may be difficult at first, most couples are relieved when it is all done. Addicted spouses are relieved because there are no more secrets in their lives. They can be totally open and honest about their addiction. Their wives/husbands are relieved because they are no longer guessing about their spouse’s online activity.
In marital therapy forgiveness and trust are also worked on. It’s important to note that it may take a long time to be able to forgive and trust again. However, therapy can provide the tools to begin the process.
It’s important to remember that your husband/wife’s pornography use has nothing to do with wanting the other people instead of you. It has nothing to do with your attractiveness or sexual desirability. I realize this may be hard to believe, but it’s true. Pornography is an addictive substance, like drugs or alcohol. It is used to deal with deep emotional pain. It’s the drug many people use to self-medicate. It’s important to view pornography addiction as a disease, and like alcoholism, it must treat as such.
The Role of Faith
Faith plays a key role in the recovery process. God understands your pain and wants to heal you, your spouse and your marriage. Prayer is important for grace and strength. Every day offer your pain to the Lord for healing. The sacraments are extremely helpful, especially the Eucharist. Many wounded spouses also find weekly confession helpful in reducing their anger. Spiritual direction can be very helpful in growing closer to the Lord. I have found that couples that pray together experience healing faster. Even saying just one decade of the rosary together daily for your marriage can be powerful.
Here are some tips that can help you and your addicted spouse in the recovery process:
- Daily turn to the Lord in prayer for your own healing.
- Ask the Lord for help in trusting Him with your healing.
- Daily ask the Lord for compassion toward your spouse and the ability to forgive him/her.
- Provide moral support. Encourage your spouse in recovery.
- Insist on total honesty and transparency.
- Don’t try to be your spouse’s accountability partner. They should have other people for that.
- Don’t remind them when their counseling sessions or support group meetings are. They need to be responsible for their own recovery.
- Develop your own support system of loving friends and relatives.
- Work on your own recovery through counseling and support group attendance.
- Insist on marital therapy to heal the marital relationship.
- Pray with your addicted spouse for individual and marital healing.
- Read books on pornography/sex addiction together and discuss them.
- Take time to care for yourself.
- Be patient; healing takes time.
- Be committed to personal and marital healing.
Although things may seem hopeless right now, please don’t despair. Healing is possible. Just remember that healing doesn’t mean going back to the way your marriage was before you discovered the pornography use. That was not a healthy marriage. Through the recovery process, you and your husband/wife will be creating a new marriage that is healthy. With God in the process, you can have a marriage that is better than you ever dreamed of!
For more information on healing for spouses and marriages, I encourage you to read my new book, Restoring Trust: A Couple’s Guide to Getting Past Porn (2018, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing). A link for this book can be found under the “Books” tab on this website.
If you are deeply hurt by your spouse’s pornography use and are ready to get help, please click here for more information. The healing process can begin today!