4 Stages of Porn Recovery: What Porn Recovery in Marriage Looks Like

by | Apr 20, 2020 | Pornography, Uncategorized | 62 comments

What does recovery from porn look like in a marriage?

On Mondays in April we’re talking about porn in marriage, and how to defeat it. We’ve looked at the effects of porn; at four things you must do if your husband uses porn; at women porn users.

This week we’re going to continue our post on how to handle a spouse’s porn use with tackling recovery from porn. So, to start, here’s a typical question that comes in everyday to the blog: 

When I got married I was so excited to explore sex with my husband…to find that he wasn’t. He pushed me away when I would offer myself to him time and time again. I bought the sexy outfits, I planned dates, the sexy coupon books. I tried everything.

Fast forward about a year and a half and a child later…he sits me down and tells me he has a problem with porn and has for a long time.

4 years later and I’m still so hurt…I don’t want to initiate because I hate what being rejected feels like and it seems like if it’s not on his time the point is moot so I just stopped even though before I was fun and vivacious…now I just feel distraught. I have never once turned him away when he wants or needs sex. But, I’m struggling with these feelings. I want our marriage to be more. We have a good sex life but honestly I had no idea he was watching porn to begin with and I looked on his phone from time to time for that kind of stuff and never found it. I love him but it’s hard to trust him. Because this is not ever the person I wanted to be. I also asked him to tell me what it was that he was watching and he refuses to tell me and told me that it’s stupid that I even asked. I really need some sound advice. I feel disregarded, lied to, left out (if that makes sense) and honestly…manipulated. I heard you talk about replacing pornography with something and I feel like he’s done it….but with video games which is honestly just as heartbreaking as the pornography. It still puts me last. I feel like I’ve tried it all…but I want to hear your suggestions. Maybe I haven’t.

He told her about the porn use, but it doesn’t sound as if they’ve put anything in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again or to give her confidence. But more importantly, they’ve never addressed the deep issues that porn use causes.

Unfortunately, many people try to rush recovery, because they’re so desperate to know that their marriage is going to be okay. And so they often avoid the very necessary steps that will actually lead to recovery. Other people just don’t realize what those steps are. 

So I’d like to spell out what I see as the four stages of recovery from porn, and what to look for before you move on to the next stage.

And, again, remembering that not all porn users are male, I’m going to try to use the word “spouse” for porn user, rather than “husband”. In some cases, I’ll be talking specifically about men, but as much as possible, we’ll keep this gender neutral, because women can struggle with porn, too!

Affiliate links below.

Recovery from Porn Stage 1: Confronting the Crisis

My post on 4 things you must do when your husband uses porn addresses this first stage of recovery. For a longer look, please read that post! But to summarize, quickly, here goes:

When an alcoholic decides to get clean, what’s the first thing that has to happen? The house has to be purged of alcohol. And, ideally, the alcoholic joins a recovery group or gets some accountability.

None of this cures the alcoholism. It simply gets the person on an even keel again so that the deeper issues can be dealt with.

In the same way, you can’t start a recovery from porn until you put everything on reset. The porn user need to be in a place where the temptation has been removed as much as possible, and where they have support to quit.

The first stage, then, is dealing with access to porn. Ideally, filters like Covenant Eyes should be put on all computers and devices at home (and you can get Covenant Eyes for 30 days free using my coupon code TLHV!). Covenant Eyes also has a wide variety of really helpful blog posts, online communities, and ebooks that can help in the journey.

Passwords to phones and computers should be shared, so that the spouse does not have to worry about what’s going on behind his or her back.

And then the porn user should identify accountability partners or should seek out recovery groups to join.

Find freedom from porn!

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

What this stage should look like:

Ideally, this does not need to take a lot of time, and can be done immediately.

When to move to the next porn recovery stage:

If the porn user doesn’t want to do these things, then the porn user doesn’t really want to stop the porn. They’re not sorry they used porn; they’re sorry they got caught. Until the porn user is serious about ending the porn use, nothing can be rebuilt. If the porn user resists these steps, then recovery from porn won’t happen, and the marriage will be in serious trouble. Once the porn user does these things, though, you can move immediately to stage 2.

Recovering from Porn Stage 2: Defeating the Strongholds that Porn Brings to a Marriage

Or, really, stage 2 is all about getting your head on straight! Once steps are in place to make porn harder to access and minimize the temptation, you have to deal with harmful beliefs, that I’ll call “strongholds”, that porn use has brought to a marriage.

Stronghold #1: “Porn made me do it”

Porn use teaches the user that the way to deal with tension in their life is to orgasm. And porn teaches the user that others exist to be used and for their own benefit. In order to achieve recovery, we have to break these lies. The porn user must be made to deal with tension, and stress, and loneliness, and rejection, and boredom, and just about any negative human emotion without masturbation or pornography.

They must stop using porn as a crutch for these things. This will ideally be worked out later with a counselor, but right now, during this stage as the porn use is processed, the porn user must understand that porn and masturbation are not an acceptable way to deal with negative emotions.


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Stronghold #2: “Sex will stop the porn use”

Far too many Christian books, organizations, and websites have taught that the way to stop pornography use is for the wife to have more sex.

In Sheet Music, for instance, Kevin Leman wrote this, about a marriage where the husband struggles with porn:

The most difficult time for this man was during his wife’s period, because she was unavailable to him sexually. After about ten years, she finally realized that pleasing her husband with oral sex or a simple “hand job” did wonders to help her husband through that difficult time. She realized that faithfulness is a two-person job. That doesn’t mean a husband can escape the blame for using pornography by pointing to an uncooperative wife–we all make our own choices–but a wife can make it much easier for her husband to maintain a pure mind.

Kevin Leman

Sheet Music

This common but dangerous advice needs to be dismantled before a healthy sex life or marriage can be rebuilt. Even if husbands turned to porn originally because of sexual frustration and rejection (though let’s remember that most porn habits today pre-dated the marriage, and cannot be blamed whatsoever on wives), once you have used porn you have created a whole series of other problems. So even if a woman’s sexual refusal was an issue in the marriage (and it is not in all cases of porn use; in many cases it’s the husband saying no because his libido is being channelled towards pornography), the porn use must be dealt with before the sex life can be rebuilt.

That’s because by using porn and pairing it with masturbation, the porn user has changed the way he (or she) handles stress, and has changed how he (or she) sees sex. Sex is now about getting one’s own needs met. It has become about using and taking rather than serving. It is focused on the physical, rather than a multi-faceted intimacy that involves spiritually and emotionally “knowing” another person as well.

When we tell people that the way to defeat the temptation for porn is simply to have more sex with your wife, we don’t attack the root issue. What we say is, “it’s okay if you treat sex like you’re using someone else; just simply do it in a legal, moral way, within your marriage, rather than with pornography.” That’s not going to fix anything.

Defeating porn necessitates taking responsibility for the porn use. Faithfulness is not a two-person job. Faithfulness requires both people to do a one-person job. You are required to stay faithful, and your spouse is required to stay faithful, regardless of what the other person does. If you are not prepared to stay faithful, then you should separate or divorce. But don’t blame it on your spouse. Deal with the sin of porn use, in and of itself.

Stronghold #3: “You’re over-reacting about porn.”

To recover from porn use means accepting that you have wounded your spouse very deeply. The porn user may feel as if their porn use (or erotica use) had nothing to do with the spouse, but emotionally, the porn use still feels like a huge betrayal.

Recovery from porn use means not minimizing what you have done to your spouse. It means allowing your spouse to express their betrayal and their anger and their hurt, and giving them time to process it.


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Stronghold #4: “Our whole marriage has been one big lie”

Yes, the wounded spouse will feel betrayed, but this does not necessarily mean that your entire marriage is a lie, or that you aren’t really loved.

Humans can be both good and bad at the same time. We can be very loving, and have great intentions, and then still mess up and do something harmful. So just because someone used porn does not mean that they do not love you or that your whole marriage is invalid. It will take some time to process that, yes, but it is important to realize this before you can move on to healing. Granted, this may be true if you’re married to an abusive narcissist who has been using porn. And if that’s the case, you likely can’t recover from the porn use, because it’s based in something far deeper.

What this stage should look like:

You’ll be doing a lot of processing of hurt and taking responsibility for sin. At this stage, the goal is not to rebuild the marriage. The goal is not to restart sex. The goal is to get you on a mental even keel where you are believing the right things about sex and your marriage, so that you can start trying to put the relationship back together. It may be useful to go through this stage with a licensed counselor, both individually and together.

When should you move on to the next porn recovery stage?

When the porn user admits full responsibility for the porn use, without placing the blame on anyone else; when the porn user is not minimizing the emotional effects on the spouse; and when the wounded spouse is able to accept that the porn use does not define the marriage.

If the porn use DOES define the marriage, and if the porn use is part of a pattern of narcissistic behaviour, or if the porn use involves things like child porn, then rebuilding trust or the rebuilding the marriage is likely not on the table.

Recovering from Porn Stage 3: Rebuilding Trust

Once you’ve build accountability and worked through the mental roadblocks for a healthy marriage, it’s time to start rebuilding the marriage.

Emotional connection is the most fundamental thing that has been broken. This must be rebuilt before sex can be addressed, because porn has already distorted how the porn user sees sex. The wounded spouse must feel loved and must feel able to trust before the sex life is restored, or else sex may feel cheap, and may further wound the couple.

Every relationship is different, but at this stage, it will be useful to:

  • Talk about your emotional needs and how each of you feels loved. Practice meeting those emotional needs (and you can sign up for my free emotional needs exercise below!)
  • Make a game plan for how to handle stress and distance in your marriage. Will you plan more times to connect daily? Can you have a weekly at-home date night?
  • Discuss the sources of stress on your marriage. Is one of you working harder than the other and feeling overburdened? Can you even the load?
  • Address emotional issues that may have contributed to the porn use, such as feeling rejected or in a sexual drought (at this stage it’s okay to address this; just don’t do it earlier)

Ideally, too, you should do this with a licensed counselor.

Individual emotional growth is also important for rebuilding trust, and during this stage the porn user ideally will also work through with a counselor or with a group the underlying shame, depression, or other issues that made porn so enticing, and develop a game plan for dealing with those issues outside of using pornography. Often spouses do replace one addiction with another (like our letter writer with regards to video game addiction). This can be dealt with here as well.

The spouse may also benefit from betrayal trauma therapy, depending on the severity of the porn use.

When you’re ready to move to the next stage:

This one’s hard to say! Some couples, if recovery is going well, may be able to rebuild sex almost simultaneously with rebuilding the marriage. Some will need a lot more time for faithfulness to be proven over time, and for healing to occur. But remember that, however long you spend exclusively in this stage, you’ll never be able to rebuild sex properly without solid emotional connection first.

Recovering from Porn Stage 4: Rebuilding Sex

You need to have a foundation of trust, tenderness, and faithfulness for sex to be built, because sex was previously predicated on using someone, rather than on giving and serving mutually. If you’ve rebuilt trust, and you’re starting to feel close again, then it’s time to rebuild your sex life!

I wrote a plan for rebuilding sex in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, but the big key thing is learning to associate sex with intimacy rather than with dominating someone. Sex is about saying, “I want YOU”, not “I want sex.” There’s a big difference!

Channeling the porn user’s desire towards the spouse rather than towards porn can be a long process. Rediscovering intimate sex after porn is often a very difficult and windy road–but you can do it!

First, you have to give your spouse the freedom to be honest with you. If you want to rebuild intimacy, your spouse needs to be free to tell you when sex is not working. Because pornography rewires the brain so that what’s arousing is an image rather than a person, many men actually experience impotence without external stimulation (the images they’re used to seeing). So many men, in order to have sex with their wives, start imagining and fantasizing about those images. Many women, too, often fantasize in order to orgasm, and without running through porn in their head, they can’t get aroused.

Many porn users, then, are scared that they’ll never be able to function properly sexually without the porn.

So make a plan that you want to help your spouse get reacquainted with true intimacy. Spend some time, perhaps a week or so or however long it takes, not actually making love. Lie naked together and get used to touching each other again. Look into each other’s eyes. Let him experience the erotic nature of just being so close to someone he loves. Take baths together. Explore each other, and take things very slowly so that your spouse can slowly become aroused just by being with you. If you try to go too fast, you can push your spouse into fantasy again in order to “complete the deed”. Instead, spend some time letting your spouse discover that he or she can become aroused once again by being with you. But this is much easier if there’s no pressure, and if you spend a lot of time just being together naked, talking, kissing, and exploring.

Usually when wives especially think of rebuilding sex lives we think that we have to somehow compete with pornography. We want to be so arousing that he won’t need it anymore, and so we go the lingerie route, or we decide to try new things. That actually feeds into his addiction, because what he really needs is to experience the sexual high that comes from relational and spiritual intimacy, and not just from visual arousal or fantasy. It’s not that you can never wear lingerie again; it’s just that in the initial recovery period, the aim is not to be “porn lite” in your marriage; it’s to help him channel his sexual energy in a different direction: towards you. If you try to just act out pornography, you actually encourage him to keep those fantasies in his head alive, and you do nothing to retrain his brain.


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So there you go–my four-point plan for recovery from porn.

In reading all of your comments over the last few years, the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen is that people haven’t fully done stage 1 or stage 2, but they rush to the final stages before any kind of foundation has been built. That won’t work.

So work through these stages properly. They’ll take a different amount of time for each couple, depending on the extent of the porn problem, the state of the marriage, and other individual issues. That’s why walking through this with a third party can be so beneficial.

But give it the time it deserves!

I want to end with a story that was left in our survey by a woman working on porn recovery, to give you all some hope:

A friend showed my husband online porn when he was 14. He was hooked. He told his parents, who only said, “Don’t do that,” and it was never brought up again. He struggled secretly for years. 
On our wedding night, I was prepared for the typical virgin male problem–finishing way too soon. It was the opposite. He could not orgasm. For almost 16 years of marriage, sex lasted foreeeeever. This is not actually a good thing. I dreaded sex more and more every time. I had no idea what was actually wrong, and he was in denial. 
Not that long ago, one of our elders mentioned porn during his sermon; it wasn’t even the main subject. Something about the way he talked about it was like lightning had struck. He’d always known it was wrong, but he was convicted that he needed to come clean with me, with our pastor, and take concrete steps to stop. The fact that he confessed voluntarily without excuses or downplaying anything went a long way toward healing. He did everything I asked of him. He meets with the elder who preached the sermon every week. We have become much more intentional about talking to each other. I’m really reserved by nature, so this is difficult for me, but I ask difficult questions I’m not sure I want answered, and he answers them, and it gets a little easier every time. Even now, when I become suspicious, he doesn’t become angry. He accepts that this is the consequence of lying for so long. He has not gone back to it since. 
I believe 100% that his repentance is real. My heart breaks for that 14 year-old boy who never had a chance to learn about sex and sexuality in a healthy way, for how miserably his parents failed him. Yes, he chose to sin and continue sinning, but it is, in my opinion, much different from men who embrace porn as a great thing that wives need to get over, or who only confess when they’re caught. His entire personality has changed for the better as well. He’s become less intensely introverted; he does hard things without being nagged; he spends time with the kids, and not just because he knows he has to. Our sex life is much, much different now. I’m still getting over the knee-jerk dread reaction, and he is still somewhat plagued by anxiety, but we have a lot more fun now. I’m sad for all the wasted time, but I’m so grateful that God convicted him of his sin and has worked such a change in him. 

I have seen God restore so many marriages of porn.
There is hope!

And now I’d love to hear your stories of recovery from porn. What did it look like? Or if you’re still walking through it, what does it look like now? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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62 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    In the throes of this right now.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I am so sorry. So sorry. I’ll say a prayer for you now, and for others reading this post in your position.

      Reply
  2. Jane Eyre

    “After about ten years, she finally realized that pleasing her husband with oral sex or a simple “hand job” did wonders to help her husband through that difficult time. ”
    That difficult time??? I honestly feel like a lot of men want only the positive aspects of our bodies (i.e. the parts that make them climax), without any of the drawbacks. Those drawbacks are everything from normal ageing to menstruation to the difficulties of childbirth and the effects that has our on bodies and psyches. Being hot, young, and not on your period or not pregnant is an incredibly short time in a woman’s life, and I have no idea why young men contemplating marriage are not told on the most blunt of terms that being ready for marriage and sex means accepting all of those changes.
    Of course, one of the many evil things about porn is that it presents hot, young, not menstruating, not pregnant woman as the norm, not the exception.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very, very true, Jane. Very true.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Hi Jane – I love your pen name and to comments.
      I would agree, there is constant pressure for women’s bodies to ONLY serve men, and any time it is serving the woman herself or her children there is some shame associated with that. I thought Sheila’s post on the cure for lust being “not objectifying women” was so on point. Our bodies are BODIES, not ornaments. They were made for us specifically by God primarily for OUR USE to navigate the world we live in. It’s so frustrating to constantly battle the messaging that we manage them in order to be most pleasing to other people.

      Reply
      • Sage

        That’s a good wayypu articulated this. Many of us have been programmed tbat our bodies were made for man pleasing servitude and nothing else whatsoever because taking a break, getting enough sleep, even sitting down for a meal were all selfish and against God amd men.

        Reply
    • Twala Biscala

      Magnificent comment!

      Reply
  3. betrayal survivor

    The story of the couple restored is a beautiful one. There is something that I believe is key to their story. He was convicted of his sin, confessed freely, and repented fully. From all my reading and research into the subject, this is a small percentage of people. Most are found out and then not fully repentant. It’s a great story and lovely to think about. But many are stuck at one of the first two stages waiting for spouses to own their sin.
    In my situation, spouse confessed on his own but to a far less extent than was actually happening and followed by the “if you were more available then I wouldn’t need to” argument. Today the porn use may be fully confessed (when you live with lies so long it’s hard to know what to believe). But my process of dealing with the betrayal trauma exposed other destructive behaviors that are not being owned. In the spouses support group, we are told to expect at least 3-5 years in order to be at a fully restored or new relationship. This is a very long process.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It really is. I’m so sorry that you’re walking through this. And the “if you were more available then I wouldn’t need to” is a terrible lie. That’s why I believe that it has to be completely and thoroughly rejected before you even look at restoring the relationship. I’m glad that more is being brought to the light, even if it feels awful and overwhelming. What can’t be named can’t be addressed or healed. I pray that God will reveal the depth of your husband’s betrayal and pain to your husband himself, and that he will want to get better.

      Reply
    • Daughterofmyabba

      This is what I’m dealing with too. Confession that he used porn, then immediate “well if you were more willing and available” you know what hurts more than your husband using porn? Using porn then trying to blame you for it…

      Reply
  4. Pete

    Speaking as an unmarried man who has struggled with this issue since I was 12/13 years old and only recently brought it ‘into the light’ regarding genuine accountability, etc, I wanted to thank you very much indeed for raising this issue, which has long been, at best, glossed over, in church circles certainly here in the UK. I just hope pray I haven’t made a ship-wreck of any future marriage before it even starts, given that it’s effectively been a sin against any future spouse.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Pete, the fact that you are being open about this and dealing with it now is wonderful! Please do not despair. This is not bigger than Jesus. This is not bigger than the work of the Holy Spirit. He can do so much to help you and heal you, and He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Hold on to that, and hold on to God. I’ll be sharing a great video on Wednesday which will hopefully help as well, but if you want a preview, check out Greg Boyd on the Battlefield of the Mind (and click forward to about minute 34 for when he starts talking about porn).

      Reply
  5. Anonymousus

    We are in year 5. These steps are very well laid out – I would just caution that the progress here is not always a straight line. For example, my husband had one relapse two years in during a very stressful time. While he was honest about it, it did send us back down the staircase for a good while. On my side, I still have days where I get emotionally triggered even when my husband has done nothing wrong, which sends me back I to hyper vigilance and closing off emotionally and sexually.
    We are in a good place and I am proud of my husband, however we do have more healing that needs to be done. we’re on a bit of a plateau since things are stable and there’s so much else going on in our family.
    The thing I would say is the most difficult is all the advice to get counseling. The advice is very good, but the problem is quality counseling is very hard for many people to access time-wise and financially. We were very blessed in the initial trauma phase to have a LICENSED Christian counselor in our pastor, who also did not charge directly for his services. “It is wrong for me to profiteer from my ministry. If you feel so inclined, you are welcome to give a love gift to the church.” He was AMAZING. We simply could not have afforded counseling at that time for both of us individually plus as a couple. We also really struggled with time as we both worked 50+ hour weeks with 20 hour a week commutes and an infant in the house.
    For users who are still “in the closet”, here’s some advice that may help:
    1) Coming clean rather than getting caught will go a LONG way towards rebuilding trust and will save you some steps. Unfortunately, I “discovered” my husband’s use, and it completely blind-sided me. I had no idea or suspicion, especially since we had discussed the issue several times. This continues to be a huge hurtle, because I now know my spouse is totally capable of hiding even big things and I wouldn’t notice anything at all.
    However, if you choose to disclose you need to be ready to heal from it. The reader’s spouse clearly had a conflict of conscience in order to tell his wife, but he did not let that lead to a desire to change. So he gets to feel better about being “honest” but does not care about her pain at all.
    2) DO NOT DEFEND PORNOGRAPHY. Whether you disclose or get discovered, if you take the stance that “porn is not that bad” Or even worse “porn is fine and normal, get over it.” you are doing a HUGE disservice to healing. If porn is not a big deal, then the primary problem becomes your partner’s feelings about the porn, not the porn itself. Whether you say so directly or not, that is what your spouse will hear. It heaps a millstone on a person who has just been seriously injured. Don’t do it. Porn is just exactly that bad.
    There is hope for most marriages who have this problem, take heart.
    If your marriage is n out one that survives, understand you are also not alone.
    And to expand on Sheila’s point – if the issue is child porn that is a separate and dangerous issue. Call the cops and leave, especially if you have children of your own. I know it’s easier said and done, but it does need to be done.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Really good. Thank you. I pray that God will continue to work in your marriage, and help you arrive at real healing.
      And DITTO what you said about a licensed counselor. So many pastors/counselors aren’t properly trained in this. I mean, for pity’s sake, almost all the marriage books and sex books we reviewed told wives to just have more sex to cure him of the porn! (And this is what Focus on the Family said too in that broadcast I talked about). If THAT’S what’s passing for expert advice in the Christian world, no wonder so many pastors and counselors give dangerous advice! I wish there was more accessible counseling. But hopefully with more healthy information being available online, and more support groups popping up that are healthy, there will be alternatives.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Thanks Sheila. I will also say that my husband was exposed at 10 years old by finding his dad’s stash. His parents fully tolerated porn use throughout their marriage (to this day). My husband was never proud of it but what chance did he have? He never defended it after discovery and has always felt ashamed.
        About six months before our wedding, he tried to quit on his own (this was before I knew anything about it). He had just converted to Christianity and knew porn was wrong. He also knew I had a very strong negative opinion of it, whether inside marriage or not. He was really hopeful he could tackle on his own and not bring it into the marriage and I’d never have to know. He was able to white-knuckle it for about a year-and-a-half, but then new baby stress, post-partum period where my libido just stopped, plus long hours at work threw him back over the edge. Again, none of these things were the cause. He just hadn’t gone through the process of understanding why he used it when it made him feel so bad in the first place. He was back in full-blown addiction when I discovered it six months later, 12/4/2015.
        My husband is a good man and a kind and gentle father. While I am and have always been outspoken about porn, I have so much sympathy for him at the same time. How is a 10 year old boy supposed to tell his father that he’s doing something wrong and bad, especially when the mom is aware and on board? And in the meantime, my in-laws are kind to me and have done a lot for us. They have always known I’m Christian so the topic hasn’t come up. It’s become an elephant in the relationship and lots to work through there, but the kids don’t get to go to their house unsupervised. Right now they are very small, but at some point my husband will have to tell them why and set a formal boundary. How awful for him for be in that situation! Really neither of us had any choice any porn being part of our lives, and it’s a heavy burden. I hope people will consider that if they are using and have kids in the house.
        If anyone is in the boat where formal counseling is not accessible, there are certainly loads of helpful websites and even online groups and forums that are available and helpful for free. These and books were helpful for me once we moved away and no longer had counseling.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, I feel so much for that 10-year-old boy, too! That’s great that you’ve set those boundaries. And you’re right–he didn’t have a chance. How wonderful that God plucked him out of that, though, and is working on his life. That is great.

          Reply
  6. Nathan

    > > they’ve never addressed the deep issues that porn use causes.
    This is a huge issue. Many times, I’ve read about a situation where the wife finds out her husbands porn use and he dismisses it by saying “fine, if you want me to stop, I’ll stop. End of problem”. He’s basically saying that there’s nothing wrong with porn (and also saying that there are no long term effects on both partners), just that his wife has a problem with it, so he’ll be the noble one and make the sacrifice.
    And, like we’ve discussed before, having an accountability partner helps a great deal going forward, as does a tool like Covenant Eyes. Sheila is correct in that these don’t “cure” the issue, but they can help create a good envornment.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Nathan. I feel like Stage One is just clearing the environment for healing to start. Stage 2 is clearing your mind of hurtful beliefs so healing can start. And then stage 3 and 4 is actually the healing. But we have to clear everything harmful away first before we can heal.

      Reply
      • Greg

        I just want to know what happens if you just enjoy porn and treat it like smoking,you’re like it and you can’t stop.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Greg, smokers stop when they realize that it’s killing them. It’s hurting their bodies. It’s shortening their lives. It’s affecting their daily life.
          I think porn users quit when they realize the same thing–while also realizing the tremendous evil they are participating in by fuelling sex trafficking of women and children.
          Until you allow yourself to see the ugliness and evil that you are participating in, you likely won’t stop. But as we’ve said on other threads, Greg, what you are doing is wrecking your heart, your soul, your relationships, and it’s hurting very real people that you think of as just bodies. It is evil, and you do need to realize that.

          Reply
        • Anonymous

          Maybe you could focus on the “can’t stop” portion of this. All users get some kind of satisfaction out of it, or they wouldn’t do it in the first place.
          But you “can’t stop”? That’s where you should feel concerned. It is making you weak and powerless. It is defining you. It has control over you. And you need to understand – IT IS DESIGNED to do that. It is deliberate.
          At the end of the day, do you really believe your life would be worse if you didn’t have porn? Do you think it makes you the kind of man you want to be? Is it something you’re really proud of?
          Porn is keeping things from you. It provides something easy to keep you from doing things that are worthwhile. It is making you accept mediocrity and go to sleep.
          Go tent coming or something for a month where you can not access it and write down what happens in your heart and mind. Go and pray and see.

          Reply
  7. In recovery

    Do you think that the person who is using porn should tell their spouse about the “why”?
    My wife hasn’t been part of my recovery process. She knows but doesn’t ask and doesn’t seem so interested in getting invested.
    I have thought about what I would say if she asks me why. There is one reason I don’t talk much about. It’s about how we met.
    When we met I wasn’t totally sure I was in love. I liked being with her but I didn’t feel the love dovey feelings. I tried breaking it off but came back to her. To be honest I still don’t know if it was out of love or because she was the only girl around where I lived.
    I had been pornfree for a couple of months when we met and looking back I realize that the stress and anxiety of not knowing how I felt made me turn to porn. This is something I need to learn as you say. Learn how to deal with uncomfortable feelings without running of to porn and masturbation.
    Our relationship continued but was filled with a lot of sexual mistakes. She knew I was insecure. Some told me that it’s ok to feel like this because in marriage you won’t feel in love all the time. When my wife then pushed for marriage I first didn’t want to but was to weak of a man to say no. I didn’t want to hurt her. And I honestly didn’t know what I felt.
    I have struggled with what I think is relationship OCD. It was the same with my ex. The whole 3 year relationship I felt unsure about what I felt. I thought I didn’t feel much for her but when we broke up I was devestated.
    So I went through with the wedding altough I felt unsure. My wife knew this. Apparently I said it in my sleep the first days of our marriage.
    Since then that has been a huge trigger. The feeling that I am not really in love and that I really want something else. Porn has sadly been used to deal with those feelings.
    What’s difficult is that I am happy I married my wife. She is a wonderful person and I really think we fit so well together but the in love without a doubt feeling hasn’t set in. It has come at times but disappears and when that happens porn seems even more tempting. Lately a coworker I felt attracted triggered it all because I felt like I felt this attraction because I secretly am not happy and then I get anxious and then porn becomes even more tempting.
    But how do I tell my wife this? She thinks it’s long gone even if she feels sad for how our relationship started. But I can never tell her that this is a huge trigger for me.
    I want to be a good husband. I love her even if I struggle with this OCD thing. But how do I explain to her that this is the trigger without her getting more hurt.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi there! Great question.
      NO, you definitely don’t tell your wife (in my opinion; others may disagree). That wouldn’t help anything. It would just harm.
      The simple fact is that it really doesn’t matter why you married her. you DID marry her. You made those vows. And you know say that she’s a wonderful woman and you’re glad you’re married to her. So instead of wondering if the “in love” feelings will come, just act them out. Learn to meet each other’s emotional needs. Act love out. That’s far more important right now. And as you do start meeting each other’s needs, in many cases those feelings do come back! (or come at all, since you’re not sure they ever did).
      Thank for your transparency, and it’s so great to hear of another marriage where God is repairing and reconciling.

      Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      Agree with Sheila: do not tell her.
      Consider counseling. You are happily married to a wonderful woman but wondering if there is something missing. A good counselor can compassionately help you to sort out what you feel, what is normal, and how to constructively reframe these issues. A few things also indicate that you might have felt pushed into marriage, and whatever causes that feeling may cause other problems in life.

      Reply
    • Mandy B

      Don’t you dare tell her that! All that would do is shame her and make her feel like she’s to blame for your problem. You are in control of how you respond to triggers not her. That’s not her fault that you don’t feel the lovey dovey feelings. And love is a choice. I don’t think there’s a marriage in the world that feels like they love each other every day!
      It’s good you know the trigger but to put that on her is absolutely not ok. You can work on growing in feeing love for her by doings acts of love and investing in her but this is not her burden to carry.

      Reply
      • in recovery

        Yeah you are right about that. And thats something I dont want her to feel. Thats why when I tell her I feel tempted I just want her to pray for me, not have sex with me for example because I in no way want her to think that she being “unavailable” would be the reason for me being tempted. And I dont want to make her feel like this is her fault.In the end It was my decisions and I need to learn how to cope with uncomfortable feelings. I feel a lot of guilt and shame because of how our relationship and marriage started and its definitely a trigger. I am working on learning how to deal with the strong feelings of guilt and shame when they come. I guess I thought that feeling the “lovey dovey” feelings would have made it easier to say no to porn to begin with.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m sorry you’re going through this, but honestly–you sound like a good guy who honestly wants to do the right thing, and I applaud you for that. Just don’t second guess yourself too much; it sounds like you’re just adding to the shame. Walk forward. Seek Christ. Keep doing the right thing. Love your wife. Don’t ask yourself “should it have been this way or that way?” Just act out love.

          Reply
    • Anonymous

      In recovery, what’s good about your question is that you are expressing a desire to be transparent with your wife, which could be taken to mean you are craving emotional connection – a good sign for recovery!
      Full transparency is a goal for me and my husband in our marriage. I don’t necessarily my think telling your wife your full feelings is off the table, but I would wait, pray, seek guidance and tread very carefully. It will almost certainly break her heart, so you need to get to a place where you can provide hope and encouragement also. She can’t make you feel anything. All the choices you’ve made were yours to make.
      Example: You knew that at the beginning of our marriage I was not sure of my feelings. The truth is I do feel very in love with you sometimes, but I still struggle even today with those uncertainties, and during those times I am more tempted to seek porn. This is not your fault. You are a wonderful woman and you deserve a husband who is all-in, always. That is why I am being totally transparent with you now. Moving forward, I want to become that kind of husband. I have laid porn aside, but I want to go even further so we can build something even better than what we had before. Here are the steps I am taking to make that goal a reality (x,y,z).”
      At the end of the day, you shouldn’t punish your wife for your feelings or choices. You need to own them, identify the root causes, and find healthy coping mechanisms. But I do believe in transparency.

      Reply
  8. Active Mom

    Maybe this will be addressed in future posts and I know many men have deep rooted reasons for turning to porn. However, as the mother of teenagers in an era where porn is everywhere for both boys and girls. Kids now looking at porn seem to start out of boredom. They have free time, hormones running through them, porn helps them get off. I am not saying that is always the case or that it then is not used as a crutch later on but for the young adults who are trying to now deal with this hold porn has on them what do they do if there wasn’t a “reason” they started other than to orgasm because it felt good and they were bored?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, certainly that is often the preliminary reason. But what they find in people who get really hooked is that there is often shame or feelings of insecurity/brokenness at the heart of it. Of course, you could argue which is the chicken and which is the egg? Which came first? But quite often the porn can never be completely gone from someone’s life until that underlying shame/insecurity is also dealt with. Sometimes it’s anxiety, or anger, or something else, too. But often there is something else going on among those who get really sucked in. Not always, but often.

      Reply
      • Active Mom

        That makes sense. I can say that boredom and access to devices seem to be the main problem. Are there any resources for how to talk to teenagers who are still in the early stage? We are pretty open in our house and we talk to them about porn a lot! It’s everywhere so we feel like we need to but everything that I have found addresses the porn after it has taken hold not when the viewers are still young and not yet trapped. We talk about how bad the industry is and that for my kids has seemed to make the biggest impact but tips for parents to help them gain tools so they don’t get trapped would be good. We have the filters, we check devices etc but really these kids get it everywhere. So, I can only do so much.

        Reply
        • Phil

          I disagree that kids find porn out of boredom. I dont have any stats just my own personal background and the men I help with sex addiction. I think most kids find porn by either trama and or introduction by someone else ei a parent that has a stash (when I was a kid is was magazines today it might be a folder or history in the computer). I would place a bet that more kids find porn bu accident than anything else. I am pretty sure Sheila has that as a top on her list if not the top. Maybe we are saying the same thing but I think the discernment is important. I can tell you that a majority of the men I deal with including my self did not sign up to be porn viewers. We were introduced and or found it by accident.

          Reply
          • Active Mom

            Hi Phil,
            I can say with certainty that it can be found by accident. One example, I was helping my daughter with her homework on her district issued computer. She was looking up a topic for health class and I was helping her. She clicked on a link that popped up in her search and it was to a porn site that immediately started playing “previews” she clicked out of it really fast but not before we both got an eyeful. This was on a laptop that was supposed to have some of the best firewalls around. It’s so common, we just had to send out an email to the it department letting them know the name of the site so they could block it. Yet, doing homework it still came up. The porn is everywhere now, a lot of the filters can’t keep up. My younger kids were doing reports on America and needed video clips. Well that was a disaster. Half the YouTube suggestions were porn sites. I think that it probably used to be the case where someone had to be introduced to it but it is everywhere these kids turn online. Their curiosity which is natural can lead them to really disturbing sites really fast. It’s even worse on their social media apps. We have a tight grip but still acknowledge that it’s going to be seen. My son said it best you are playing around online because you are bored, you see something that looks interesting (because you are filled with hormones), you watch it and then it’s hard to get the image out of your head because your brain remembers how it got you off. I hate porn I am not trying to minimize it but the access to porn that I grew up with (I am early 40’s) is not the same now for my kids. Heck we have had to block girls numbers from our sons phone because they will use the school directory to flood the boys with nude pictures. It’s everywhere!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            i think most kids do find it first by accident (or else a friend and/or predator shows them). Often the introduction to porn does cause a type of trauma, and then that’s got a whole raft of other problems with it.
            I think then, later, when kids are bored, they turn to it after the habit has started. So boredom is certainly a factor later. But I don’t think kids initially find it because they’re bored, like you said Phil. I think you’re right.

  9. Mandy B

    Hey Sheila
    It wasn’t addressed in the post the letter where she asked her husband to tell her what kind of porn he was watching and I just want to say: to actually don’t want to know. I made the mistake of asking for too many details in our disclosure and it has damaged me
    The most out of any of the pieces of porn use (and an affair)
    Knowing what he watched likely won’t help you but will make
    You feel you need to compete with that or feel even grosser about yourself because you aren’t that. We’ve come a long way in the 12 years since my husbands disclosure but I only learned last week that he watched videos and it wasn’t just pictures like I had convinced myself (found out because of a porn video pop up. I’d never seen a video before) so now I’m dealing with a whole new level of hurt when we thought I was totally past that.
    Just know more information isn’t always helpful and can actually make things worse. A great course for women going through betrayal is called Betrayal and Beyond by Pure Desire Ministries and it helps you process super well. I highly recommend it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Such a good point! You don’t ever want to put actual pictures in your mind to these things. It doesn’t help anything. Thank you!

      Reply
  10. Nathan

    > > I just want to know what happens if you just enjoy porn and treat it like smoking,you’re like it and you can’t stop.
    The first step is to realize that even if you enjoy it, it’s harmful. It hurts you emotionally and spiritually. It harms those around you, since it damages relationships (even if nobody else knows about your habit). It also hurts others that you don’t know, since it fuels sex trafficking and fuels the drug industry (many people who act in porn use drugs and alcohol to cope with what they’re doing).
    The next step is to reject the myth that this problem is too big to conquer, and realize that you CAN stop. Maybe you need help from others. Maybe you need to turn to God and Jesus, but we CAN stop doing bad things, even if we enjoy them.
    I know this for a fact. My wife and I helped a good friend overcome his addiction, and he’s almost completely free of it. It was a tough year, and there were some regressions, but he’s nearly gotten to the top of the mountain.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous-D

    My husband discovered masturbation and porn when he was 13. He used it to soothe his anxiety from living with fighting parents. He kept using it through adulthood. But it was just a gateway drug for him. Porn was not enough any longer. He discovered Ashley Madison on the porn sites. He found married woman who gave him the thrill of the hunt and the sex he was looking for. He did this for 12 years after he discovered he wanted more than he could get from prostitutes. During all that time our sex life was great at times and times when we each had problems. I thought his problems resulted just from getting older and now I think my problems resulted from worrying about not being able to satisfy him. Now I know the reason for all the problems.
    I was totally blind-sided when I caught him during his last affair. He confessed that it was his one and only. I only caught him because I was waiting at home for him because it was the 28th anniversary of the day we met. It had always been our Valentine’s day. He didn’t even remember what day it was. Over the past year he finally drip disclosed emotional and/or sexual affairs with 21 women over 15 years. I am devastated! In the last two months he has started going to 12-step recovery groups and we are both seeing therapists. I am also in recovery groups trying to recover from Betrayal Trauma.
    After I thought it was only one short affair we resumed our sex life. I had been recovering from breast cancer, so during his affair I was feeling very low self-esteem and he would barely touch me. Now I feel that half of our marriage was a sham with him constantly on the hunt and meeting with other women. I want to be loved and cuddled, but as far as sex all I can think of when he touches me is what he did with other women. It has ruined intimacy and sex for me.
    I would like you to write about the stages of recovery from the infidelity of a sex addict. He is sorry and says he will never cheat again. How can I just forget all the love and attention he has stolen from me. We attended a 4 month Christian marriage regeneration program and I was told, “that’s in the past, just move on”. They have never been betrayed. It is the deepest hurt you can ever imagine!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear. That’s just terrible. And to think you were told to ignore it all, too, is just awful, especially when your husband was never really honest with you. It would be one thing if he sat down and had confessed this all at once and said, “Now I want to get right with you, no matter how long it takes.” But that’s not what happened.
      You can’t forgive something that you haven’t both named and looked full in the face. You have to know the whole truth, and he has to show that he has stopped covering it up and stopped doing anything like this, and that he completely owns what he did. And then you need a lot of time to heal from that betrayal. I think my post on how you can’t rush forgiveness may help you think through the theology of this, too, because you really can’t rush this stuff! I’m so sorry. I really am.

      Reply
      • Anonymous-D

        About a month ago he sat down for an hour an a half and told me about 7 other women that he had some sort of affair with and finally told me the truth about one woman he had a 4 month affair with meeting once a week after she got off work. He did all this through lies and secrecy. He emailed and texted women for years. He now swears this is everything. He says he will never use porn again, masturbate, or be unfaithful. I really have a hard time believing that is true, he has lied so much He says he has done no acting out for the past year. It just took him this long to have the courage to tell me everything.
        He is in a Christian 12- step program and in SA. My heart is so broken I cannot believe this man I loved so was so deceitful. I am in a 12-step program for betrayal called Infidelity Survivors Anonymous. It is really the best for this type of betrayal, but it is only online. It is a small program only existing in a few areas of the country. But it is the best! ISA doesn’t try to blame the spouse like so many other programs do.
        I just wish I had a friend to talk to who has also been through this. It is hard for anyone else to deal with. It’s like having cancer people don’t know what to say or they wonder what you did to cause your husband to be unfaithful. My family doesn’t know. They think he is the wonderful guy I thought I married. But I am trying to deal with the fact that he is a Sex Addict and that it is a disease. It has changed my whole life. This year is our 25th anniversary. It’s hard to celebrate when you realize you only had a part time husband. I believe God wants me to save this marriage, I want to love him but I am so afraid to trust him. I fear he is just being a conman again.
        Thank you for your columns Sheila. I will keep reading. He reads them too.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, this is so terrible. I’m so glad that your husband confessed it all and didn’t try to hide it but let it all out finally. And I’m so glad that you’re in a good group that does not blame you. Thank you for mentioning that, too. Maybe other women will find that, too.
          I will pray that you can rebuild. That’s so tough. But I’m glad that you’re finding these articles helpful.

          Reply
        • wifeofasexaddict

          Anonymous-D
          I’m so sorry for what you are going through. This is some of the worst pain imaginable. The drip disclosure is so traumatic. It’s even worse than getting it all at once. Much worse.
          Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to trust your husband. You shouldn’t trust someone who has lied to you for years. It would be foolish to trust him. You can’t just forget it. PTSD makes that impossible. The people who told you that were naive and foolish. The painful truth is that it takes 3-5 years for the addict to be considered “recovering”. And THEN the wife can begin to heal and the marriage can begin to heal. Of course, you can work on yourself and heal in that way, but the marriage can’t heal until he has shown himself trustworthy over a period of YEARS.
          Regarding people to talk to, see if there’s a Betrayal and Beyond group in your area. If not, they have online groups. Heart to Heart might also be able to help you. And I am willing to connect with you and do what I can from a distance.
          Blessings
          wifeofasexaddict

          Reply
  12. Becky

    I thought today’s blog post was a focus on a “spouses who use porn” — not “husbands who use porn”. Yes, there is one post this month about women who use porn.
    Why such a heavy skew of posts and reader comments that focuses almost entirely on husbands and their behavior when the subject of “spouses” include both men and women?
    Are men bigger sexual sinners than women? Is that why there is such a hyper focus on men and their errors and sins?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Becky, I did try to make this post apply whether it’s men or women who use porn. And I think pretty much all of the posts on how to break the stronghold of porn apply to both men and women.
      The reason I talk about men’s porn use so much is that likely 50% of the questions we get on the blog are from women whose husbands use porn. But I do try to write as neutral things as possible when it applies to both spouses.

      Reply
  13. Sam

    I believe that I am over my multiple decade habit, praise the Lord. However, after I quit, my libido went away. Any insight?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s actually quite common, because sexual desire & response has been so paired with porn, that without the porn sex seems to stop.
      Keep at it, because for many it returns. Increase physical contact with your wife–like act like you’re 15 and making out again. Go back to the beginning and just learn what it’s like to have intimate physical contact without ejaculation–just touching and kissing. Wait for desire to return.
      And don’t replace porn with something else, like video games. Exercise instead. Get your body moving and become more body focused rather than eye or screen focused. Over time, your brain will learn new ways of interacting with the world and with sex.
      And see a counselor if you can, too, in case there are underlying issues.
      and WAY TO GO for stopping this habit. Seriously. Way to go. That’s amazing.

      Reply
      • KC

        Are there ever times when things are never be completely restored after a porn addiction?
        As far as I know my husband has not engaged in porn use/ masturbation in over 10 years. To this day though I feel like we’re still dealing with effects from it. His libido has never totally returned to what it was early on in our marriage. If my libido is down and I’m not initiating or being overly suggestive we will regularly go several weeks or even months between encounters. He’s also usually pretty passive when he does initiate, sometimes even falling asleep before we actually get started. He never acts like ‘I’ specifically turn him on or like he just has to have me. (Which is so hard on my self esteem and sexual confidence- even though I notice other guys checking me out in public occasionally so I don’t actually think I’m terribly undesirable). I always read stuff about how much husbands love their wife’s body and are so turned on by it but he just seems neutral about mine. He tells me often that I’m beautiful but doesn’t really act like he’s that sexually attracted to me. He doesn’t have much interest in trying anything new or making our sex life better, it’s always me that brings up anything like that. For instance he’s grossed out by the idea of doing OS on me and won’t even consider it or try it, though I enjoy unselfishly bringing him pleasure in that way sometimes. He also has intermittent issues with ED, quality of erection, ability to climax, etc.
        Sometimes it feels like when he quit the porn and masturbation it shut down everything in him sexually. I have tried so hard to forgive him and move on from his porn use the first several years of our marriage but I feel like I’m going to be suffering the consequences of his sins for the rest of our marriage. And since he’s become kind of sexually ambivalent, he doesn’t seem bothered by any of this and I’m the only one that seems to be suffering through this. It only affects him every so often when I bring it up again. How do I ever completely move on from this? I thought I forgave him long ago but as more and more of these issues have surfaced or continued it has actually made me even more resentful of what he did, which I know isn’t really fair to him.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          I’m so sorry, KC. If others have additional insight hopefully they will add to this, but my thoughts are (1) he should see a doctor to make sure everything’s good in the hormones department, (2) he should talk to a counsellor about why he’s so passive. Is he passive in other areas of life, too? Many people start pornography addictions due to a lack of coping skills, feelings of incapability, or just boredom and lack of motivation. If any of those apply to your husband, it may be that porn use isn’t the issue anymore as much as a general passivity and lack of motivation is in life in general. (Again, I don’t know your situation, but just a thought).
          Whenever there are issues around sex that seem to not be going away on their own or through what you can do as a couple, please seek professional help such as doctors and licensed counsellors. I hope you find a solution, or at least some answers!

          Reply
  14. AMW

    How does a betrayed spouse heal from things her husband has said? My husband never confesses to using porn I always have to find it. He has been in recovery almost 3 years, however, I still have all the images in my head. He never saw porn as a child he was introduced to it by co workers three years into our marriage. He used porn because he felt he was missing something great by just having sex with me. I would go to bed alone and he would masturbate to porn. He has told me he used porn because my orgasms weren’t good enough for him. My arousal wasn’t enough for him so he used porn to see better aroused women. He told me what he loved about porn women was how beautiful they were and how vulnerable they are. He loved how they “opened themselves” up to him. So how does a wife get over all that?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AMW, I’m so sorry. That’s just awful. Truly terrible.
      I think the question that’s important here is: Has your husband fully apologized for this, understanding the weight of what he did to you? Does he understand what real intimacy is, and what sex is supposed to be, and that porn is a cheap and degrading imitation?
      If he hasn’t properly owned up to what he did, and he still has warped views of sex, then I don’t know that you can really move forward, because there hasn’t been true healing yet. Only once he’s done the necessary steps to regain trust can you try to trust again. So I think it really depends on what his attitude is now.
      Also, for something this deep, seeing a licensed counselor is probably in order, if you’re not already. A counselor may be able to help talk things through and help you express how damaging this is to you, and help him understand it.

      Reply
  15. Anonymous

    I have a question about this part: “ or if the porn use involves things like child porn, then rebuilding trust or the rebuilding the marriage is likely not on the table.”
    My husband and I have been together for 10 years, gave our lives to Christ 6 years in, his porn issue came to the light and he stopped (initially), got baptized together, engaged, and married in 2017.
    Long story short, he recently confessed after 6 months of being porn free, he went back to porn while we were married. It also came out that before we were married, his porn use escalated to underage girls (about 10 times over the course of 5 years). He feels so disgusted with himself, hasn’t looked at anything like that since he relapsed in our marriage. He had very early sexual experiences in childhood that he should not have had, and he’s working with a spiritual mentor from church right now and looking to get into counseling.
    My question is… does God not want me with him because of the child porn issue? He had so much shame, but after confessing to me, he confessed to our spiritual mentors from church. We all prayed together and it really transformed him. But is that something I just shouldn’t get past? I love my husband and see the change in his heart, but I want to honor God above all else.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Anonymous, that’s really tough to deal with! I don’t think it’s a matter of God not wanting you with someone. I think it’s a matter of where their level of healing is at. Child porn is illegal; it is the rape and sexual exploitation of a minor. I’m glad he feels remorse and doesn’t want to do it again; but you just need some very good boundaries and accountability in place to make sure that this honestly is in the past. Since he was a sexual abuse victim himself, I’d recommend trauma counseling with a licensed professional counselor to help him over that and see how the healing goes. I’d also recommend that you meet with a counselor who knows about his progress so that you have someone to walk through this with you. But he definitely needs counseling with a professional, licensed counselor. And if he relapses, I would consider calling in the authorities. This is so serious, and it does contribute to the trafficking of minors. It isn’t a victimless crime. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this! I hope you can get a good counselor who can walk you through this.

      Reply
  16. Sara Balanis

    We’ve been married 10 years this June. My husband wasn’t raised a Christian but he started attending church with me faithfully two years ago. I have seen God working in his heart and life. Monday afternoon I looked at my husband’s Instagram and found he was following fetish accounts. I confronted him and he confessed to it and deleted his Instagram account. This morning I couldn’t shake the thought that I needed to check his tablet. I asked him for his password and to his credit, he gave it to me. I found hard core porn (some kind of violent) in his trash folder. He called me and confessed that he was very sick. He came home from work and cried and told me how ashamed he was and that he’s been struggling with it since before his son was born 20 years ago. He said before we were married, he didn’t think it was a problem, but that he’s tried to stop multiple times and can’t. He went and got a huge stack of CDs on which he’d saved YEARS of porn. He told me he’d had a Dropbox account that he’d saved things on, but he’d deleted in on Monday after our conversation.
    I told him I loved him and that this was an addiction and he recognized that. He agreed the he wants to change and seek help: therapy, pastoral care, couples counseling, porn blockers on his phone, whatever it takes.
    I am devastated. Today I’ve been alternating between hysterical sobbing and staring into space. And praying.
    So we are in step 1.
    But thinking it will be three to five YEARS before we get through this? It’s such an overwhelming thought… it’s Mount Everest. But I have to remember my God moves mountains and excels at b I gong life to dry bones.
    Please pray for me and my husband as we begin to navigate this process.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Sara. That’s so tough! But you’re on a good road. The fact that he confessed and that he’s started to get rid of stuff is really good. Please find a licensed therapist skilled in sexual addiction issues. There is so much that can be done. I will say a prayer for you!

      Reply
  17. Heartbroken

    Is it actually possible for men to not want porn, or to quit it indefinitely and never go back? After suffering spiritual abuse in my teens, and now betrayal from my spouse, I seriously don’t trust men right now. Everything feels like a manipulation or a set up to make me look stupid and let men get away with whatever they want. I’m not even sure I trust God anymore to be honest. I am so angry because every dream I’ve ever had has been consistently killed one by one until the only dream I had left was getting married and now that’s gone too. My life feels like a pendulum now swinging between despair and denial, and I don’t know how much more I can take before I snap. I want to believe healing is possible, but when I start to even think that i immediately feel stupid for even contemplating putting myself in a position of allowing someone to hurt me that deeply again. It feels safer to just stop caring anymore. How can I know if he ever really stops? I’ll never be able to read his mind and I’m sure never going to just blindly take him at his word again and trust him. I don’t know what to do. Half of me wants out, and the other half wants to fall asleep and never wake up. Why am I even here since Im never enough for anyone? Even the idea of healing from this feels like just another way of enabling him to have his cake and eat it too, meanwhile I’m kicked to the gutter and left to starve. All I’ve ever done is work my butt off to have a good marriage and be a good wife, and it didn’t matter. Everything fell apart. He left me. When did I become so leave-able?

    Reply
    • DestroyedbyPo

      I am exactly this. This is me right this minute down to wishing to sleep forever… to feeling like it’s all for him to have his cake and eat it too. I fact I used those very words. I am asking all the same questions… did you get answers? How are you now… this was a year ago.

      Reply
  18. Crazyaboutmyhusband

    My husband came clean a few days ago. It started because I was upset he did nothing to iniaiate sex with me after saying for days he wanted me “so bad”. That has not been an uncommon theme in our marriage. I wish it was. Sexually I’m very open with my husband and eager to satisfy. I enjoy be intimate with him. In a short amount of time, he has confessed everything to me, been patient with my questions, began reading his bible, took the first available appointment with our pastor and is making a sincere effort. He said he never ever wants to go back to prom again, that he is done. And I truly believe him. I’m not naturally a very trusting person, I tend to be skeptical until people can prove themselves trustworthy. But this whole mess started after we hadn’t had sex for over a week; I’m a multiple times per week kind of girl and there is a certain time every month where I am excessively desirous of being intimate with my husband. I want him so bad. Is that completely insane? I feel like I’m losing my mind. Like I’m supposed to hate him and never want him to touch me again. But the truth is I so desperately want him and I just dont know what the proper channel is to deal with that. We have talked and cried and processed so much a few short days but also dont want to do ANYTHING that will jeopardize the process or stunt the healing. Please help.

    Reply
  19. Crazyaboutmyhusband

    A few days ago, my husband and I got into an argument about his lack of pursuing me. He had been telling me for days how badly he wanted me. I let him know how upset and hurt I was (this has been a common theme in our marriage) and he ended up confessing he’s been using porn and satisfying himself.
    What a blow. I have cried and been so filled rage and shared with a trusted friend about this. He has been very patient with me and answered all of my questions. Of his own volition he met with our pastor at the earliest possible opportunity.
    Its frustrating because I have a very strong drive and thoroughly enjoy having sex with my husband. When we are intimate it is so pleasurable. I’m very free with him in the bedroom and eager to satisfy. I truly enjoy it.
    He confessed all this after over a week of not having sex, and I’m a few times a week kind of girl, once a week at the bare minimum.
    Of course I feel hurt and betrayed but I have felt ALL the emotions and we’ve spent a lot of time crying and processing and talking about everything, stuff that would make you blush.
    Hes been very open and honest with me, signed up for a mens group that specifically deals with pornography addiction, met with the pastor, ordered all the material, began watching the corresponding video series, began researching the husbands role biblically. Everything you would hope a husband wanting to beat porn would do.
    Despite his failures, I still want him so bad. I feel like that’s insane, like why should I want him after what he’s done to me and our marriage? But I truly enjoy having sex with him and I don’t have anywhere else I can direct my desire. I have no idea what to do, but it is so hard to abstain. I feel like I’m being punished and I didn’t do anything wrong. How soon is too soon to be intimate with him again?
    I would never want to do ANYTHING to jeopardize this process or enable destructive behavior. We aren’t okay but we are actively working on it and he has really been making a genuine effort, but I don’t want my desiring him to be hindrance or make it seem like everything is okay when it’s not. I shared all this with him and it was awful and hilarious and humiliating.
    We have always been able to talk about everything despite our hardships. For reference we have been married for 12 years and have a strong bond (unless I’m in some sort of denial). We also had a 2nd miscarriage 6 weeks ago. Am I just completely losing my mind? I feel like I shouldn’t want him. Please help.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think everyone’s recovery is different! And every wife experiences this in a different way. I would make sure that he’s seeing someone who is trained in sex addiction recovery, and then follow their lead. And it may be a good idea for you to process with a licensed counselor, too, even just for a few sessions and talk some of this through!

      Reply
      • Crazyaboutmyhusband

        Haha. Thanks Sheila. I’m sure your like “who is this nutjob?!” 😅😅
        Your blog has been a lifeline for me over the past few days. We are speaking with our pastor tomorrow, (it can’t come soon enough). My husband is incredible and I’m willing to stay and work on our marriage if he is willing to choose me and “do the work”. He has made it abundantly clear he absolutely is and will do whatever he needs to do to get right with the Lord and with me.
        I’m grateful for his willingness otherwise I would have been gone already. I know it’s going to be a long hard road, mostly uphill, but I love my husband and I hope one day we can get to the place where he desires me like I desire him.

        Reply
  20. Insecure Husband

    By the grace of God I have been clean for almost 9 months after 2 decades of intermittent porn use and masturbation. Working with a counselor has helped me to see how my insecurities have fed my addiction, and one of my biggest sources of insecurity is sex.
    I was a virgin when I got married, but my wife had been with another partner for several years during high school and college. I was worried about how I would compare on our wedding night, and my performance was underwhelming to say the least. We had one magical simultaneous orgasm on the third day of our honeymoon, but premature ejaculation has haunted me for my entire marriage, and my wife hasn’t orgasmed since then (over 14 years ago)! She had been so passionate while we were dating, we were barely able to wait until our wedding night, but her interest seemed to entirely evaporate after our honeymoon. I thought it was because I was so bad at sex, although I understand now that there were many factors at play. It certainly didn’t help that I got her pregnant within the first month of marriage and she suffered severe morning sickness for the entire 9 months followed by debilitating postpartum depression. I had dabbled with pornography in my teens and early twenties, but within the first year of marriage I returned to it as a coping mechanism.
    Fast forward to the present, and I understand not only why I was susceptible to a pornography addiction but also how much it has damaged my relationship in so many ways. I accept responsibility and will do everything I can to stay clean and repair my marriage. But my wife seems to think that any sexual issues in our marriage are because of my porn use. I acknowledge that my past sins probably play a role in my perpetual struggle with premature ejaculation and maybe even my relatively new problem of erectile dysfunction, but I have never had a problem being turned on by my beautiful wife (seriously, all she has to do is stretch or toss her hair in my field of view and I forget everything else) and never felt the need to fantasize during sex as many porn users experience. Since we started having sex again after my confession (only when she initiates), my problem is that either I lose my erection right before she wants me to penetrate her, or if I maintain it I can only last a minute or two (or less)—classic performance anxiety. And she’s not interested in trying to reach orgasm any other way than through penetration. (When her previous relationship started going bad she learned to fake orgasm because he would just keep going until she climaxed—oh to have that kind of stamina!) She’s asked, “How do you expect me to be interested in sex when there’s nothing in it for me?” More than anything I want to give her the pleasure she deserves, but when I inevitably disappoint her she gets upset and brings up my porn use all over again, so I end up feeling both inadequate and shameful and feeding the cycle of performance anxiety. How can I get her to understand that without seeming like I am trying to minimize the real impact that porn has had?

    Reply

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