Create a safe place for your husband to share about Porn

I know this is a crazy idea, but in marriage I think we are supposed to battle pornography together.What we have been doing does not work – men shuffling off to their secret accountability group. Pornography impacts the marriage, whether both spouses know about it or not. When we get married, we vow, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” If my husband is battling something, then I want to battle with him. I want to hold him up, encourage him, speak truth to him, and be there even when he slides backward. The idea that a husband protects his wife by not telling her the truth is a lie. A strong husband has the courage to share everything with his wife – even his brokenness – and he has the courage to help both of them go after their own healing and wholeness.

The couples that I know making real progress battling pornography are battling side by side.

Most men hate struggling with porn and the last thing they want to do is hurt their wife. Men usually test the waters to find out if it is safe to share. If disclosure to a wife is met with disgust, or “how could you do this to me?”communication comes to a screeching halt. As hard as this sounds, the more we can offer grace to our husband, the more likely we are to get the whole story.

One of the reasons porn holds so much power is because shame has kept it hidden.The best thing a wife can do to help her husband begin to heal is to create a safe environment for him to be honest. This is super hard! It takes us becoming healthy enough to realize that our husband’s brokenness is not a reflection of whether he loves us or who we are. Our worth must be dependent on God and no one else.

So how do wives create a safe place for a husband to share….

Educate yourself about Porn and cultivate compassion 

Most people started viewing porn as kids or young adults when a friend introduced them or they fell into it by accident. Porn grabbed their attention and held them captive. They figured when they got married, they wouldn’t need it anymore and for a while that was true. But when the kids came along, or stress filled their life or they just never felt like they measured up – porn was the easiest place to turn.

I think reaching for porn must be a little like reaching for that piece of chocolate. When I am stressed, frustrated, bored, don’t know what to do, or I just need something – that chocolate calls out to me. And for a moment it makes life better – but my problem has not gone away – and now I am filled with shame.

Porn is not about whether your husband finds you sexy, or beautiful or whether he loves you – it is a coping mechanism. Porn is the opposite of intimacy, it is what you do when you don’t know how to connect or let someone know you. Viewing porn never satisfies and it always leaves you feeling emptier than you started.

I would encourage you to read some books about porn like Clean, Surfing for God, Healing Wounds of Sexual Addiction or Shattered Vows. Regardless of whether porn impacts you or your husband, it will most likely impact someone that you know. We need to understand more about porn, become equipped and cultivate compassion for those that struggle.

Bring up discussions that share your understanding of porn

As strange as this sounds, talking about porn needs to become part of normal conversations with our husband, our kids and even our friends. We need to communicate about porn to normalize it, remove the power of shame, and communicate compassion. People that struggle with porn are not the enemy. The enemy is Satan.

You could say something like,

“I didn’t know so many people struggle with porn, both men and women – even Christians… it must be hard, feeling like you can’t talk to anybody about it.”

“You know when I was a kid, my friend showed me her dad’s Playboy magazines. It must be so much harder now with internet porn available on every phone or computer.”

“I feel really bad for Bob and his wife. They are going thru a lot, but at least now they know what they are battling.”

I have had women in Awaken-Love classes share what they are learning about porn and more than one husband has jumped at the chance to come clean with his wife.

Don’t go fishing for information, but don’t avoid talking about porn either. Get educated, share what you are learning, and clothe yourself with compassion.

Communicate that you want to know all of your spouse

If you want to create intimacy with your spouse, then you have to know all of them – even their muck. Do you have the courage to create a safe place or would you rather just keep pretending? Our husband is not perfect and neither are we. We must gently affirm to our spouse that we really want to know all of them – even if it is hard, and even if it hurts.

Do we share our own brokenness with our husband or are we still pretending like we have it all together? Does pride control how much we share? Do we have a critical spirit that easily picks apart all the things someone else does wrong? Do we judge others when we have no idea what they have been through? We cannot expect our husband to share if we are not being honest with him about our own brokenness.

Are you ready to commit to that kind of intimacy? I know women that say it is the hardest thing they have ever done, and yet it was the beginning of freedom. No more pretending or hiding. They grieved, clung to God, healed, forgave and discovered what grace is really about.

Affirm your husband for sharing

We need to get in the habit of affirming our husband whenever he shares something from the heart, especially a struggle. Sharing words and insecurities can be so easy for me that I can almost belittle my husband for the things he talks about. I have a hard time remembering how hard it is for him to speak about struggles  I need to get in the habit of affirming him with things like,

“Thank you for being brave enough to share that with me. I know that must have been hard.”

“Thank you for being honest with me. This is hard for me, but I’m glad you trust me.”

“Thank you for sharing. It helps me to feel connected to you.”

And even when what he shared feels like it just knocked the breath out of you, remember that it was probably one of the hardest things he ever did, and affirm him.

Just like you need your husband to constantly affirm your beauty, you need to constantly affirm his words. Notice them, hear his heart, and thank him.

Final Thoughts

(Of course, first steps in healing from pornography might be a husband opening up to a counselor, friend or a men’s accountability group, but once he is truly repentant his wife needs to know. He needs to tell her the truth out of a heart of love and encourage her to seek help with a counselor or trusted friend. She will need time to grieve, heal and rebuild trust. But she also needs to equip herself for battle.)

God’s design for marriage is that we be fully know each other – even  our struggles. We need to create a safe place for our husband to share – even about porn. Educate yourself about Porn, cultivate a compassion for those tangled in its web and depend on God for your worth. Begin conversations in your home about porn and remove the power of silence. Commit that you are all in and share your own failures. Affirm your husband every time he shares, and you will create an intimacy that porn can never compete with. 

Join me next week as I write about some specific ways a wife can help her husband in the battle against pornography.

Comments 10

  1. Ruth, this is the single most important spiritual battles of our day. Not only do we need to be talking about it, but we need to be sharing strategies with our children on how to fight against this evil. Thanks so much for starting the conversation!

    • Thanks Kristi. I feel the same way and the scary things is that so many people don’t realize how big a deal it is. Keep talking and sharing what you know.
      Ruth

  2. Ruth – You are speaking the truth in love. I am a man who kept a porn habit secret for 50 years including nearly 40 years of marriage. I lived in a sea of shame and guilt that took a huge toll on me, not to mention the harm I was perpetuating on my wife and family even though they were unaware. I came out of hiding about 6 months ago. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t sure my marriage would survive my deception. But now, I have tremendous hope and am very encouraged. My beautiful and courageous wife is growing in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. And so am I. With the help of counselors and intensive workshops and small groups (yes, plural on each of those), I am learning about myself, learning to have a healthy self, and growing in intimacy with the Lord. The same is true for my wife including the counselors, workshops and small groups. Emotional intimacy with my wife is at an all time high. One day, I believe every aspect of intimacy in our marriage will be so much better than it has ever been.

    • Hopeful,
      Thank you for your testimony of being courageous enough to come clean and go after healing for you and your wife. Be encouraged and hang onto God. He is good and He is faithful. It will not be easy but it is so worth it.
      Ruth

  3. Ruth,
    Such a great approach to the porn problem in Christian marriages. What I have heard in other posts is, “stop all sex until he changes,” or “this is as bad as him going to a hooker,” or “this is lusting after another woman and therefore adultery,” or “now you have reason to divorce him,” etc. I never thought those approaches were good, because it causes more sexual refusal and gate-keeping, and more separation and divorce in the christian community.

    Even though your approach is going to be difficult for the wife (or husband), it is better than what I have heard before, I think you have given some very practical words to say to the husband, and those will probably have to be memorized. I don’t think those words are going to be the first words out of the mouth when the shock takes place.

    I am not sure about porn being part of the normal conversation in the family. I see your point about taking the power out of it, but I am not sure that is the best way. Porn is just so powerful. I still see in my mind the first porn picture shown to me by a friend when I was about 12 years old.

    Maybe you could write a little more about how to make porn part of the family conversation.

    Thanks, Mike

  4. I wish we could refrain from comparing things that are not porn(chocolate) to porn. Chocolate may not be an effective way of coping at times, but chocolate itself is neither good or bad.

    I’m curious where you are going with this. I know a lot of people who have trouble with alcohol. Certainly the healthiest thing for family members of an alcoholic is to be able to share their pain, and have time to heal. In your model is there a place to for the wife(or husband) to voice their own pain and frustration over the revelations, and a way for those affected to have time to heal.

    I’m also curious what you have to say about what wives can do during this process. In reading your blog it seems you seem to often minimize the role of physiology when it comes to women, that if they just got their head in the game, that would be all that matters. Or when you talk about the need for a wife to be “interruptible” and pretend she doesn’t need sleep. Sleep matters to me. I can’t pretend it doesn’t matter.

    My husband was diagnosed with cancer this year. It has affected his ability to be a sexual being, and the abilities he had before may never come back. Physiology matters. Hormones, nerves, blood flow and individual variations in anatomy..they all matter. Whether the effects are expected and obvious as they are with my husband, or perhaps more hidden as they might be for some women.

    If your kid hasn’t seen porn yet, they are probably smart enough to discover it on a phone or a computer that has been used by mom or dad. So there is that to worry about also.

    • Carly,
      So sorry for all that you are going thru with your husband and cancer. I cannot imagine how hard it is must be to face the reality of changes that are not your choice.
      I have been thinking lately about the definition of sex – because I think it can mean a lot of different things and maybe our definition is too narrow. Maybe sex is simply intimately connecting through physical touch that leads to a connecting of the souls. Even though your husband’s body does not operate like it used to, I would encourage you to continue exploring ways to connect intimately. Did you know that men can experience orgasms regardless of whether they have an erection or ejaculate? Did you know that people that are paralyzed can develop new erogenous zones just beyond the area they are paralyzed? The human body is amazing. I am praying that God show the two of you new ways to intimately connect.

      My intent was not to minimize how painful it can be to find out your spouse has been viewing porn, but to recognize that healing will not begin until it is out in the open. The more we understand about porn and create a safe place to share, the more we can be honest and open with each other and then move towards healing. If you think about it in terms of your kids, it might be easier to understand. I want my kids to be able to talk to me about anything – because then I can help them.

      Both husband and wife will need time to grieve – and yes anger is part of grieving – and they will need lots of care and support. There is nothing easy about any of this.
      As far as the importance of our mindset – yes I do believe it is more important then anything else. When I truly understand how sex connects me to my husband and I don’t just assume that he is reaching for me because he just needs a sexual release, then sex becomes a way that I am loved and I love my husband. Yes, it is ok to say no, but there are also times to say, “God, I am going to trust that you can help me get on board.”
      Blessings, Ruth

  5. I love this! I struggled with porn for thirty years until God set me free.

    I agree with you one hundred percent that a husband and wife should tackle this together as a team with openness, love, prayer and forgiveness.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Struggling and longing

    For years I had anger, sadness and confusion about my wife’s refusal to both have sex and not only sex but connected lovemaking.

    I prayed and fasted for decades. I saw a marriage counselor with my wife for years.

    This is going to sound awful but, about 6 months ago I began looking at porn. Since then I am less angered, have an outlet for my sexual feelings and am not full of pressure to figure out what hoop I need to jump through next to ‘get’ the mood right for a possibility of sex not lovemaking.

    Most nights I can not fall asleep after a full sexual rejection or a encounter that very rapidly moved to get me finished.

    Yes I have read the books. Yes I pray with my wife. The checklists anyone can come up with I have done diligently. So please don’t look to me as someone who just needs to try more or trust in God more, or wait on the Lord, or pray with my small group etc.

    A man’s physical sexual hunger is non stop. Man’s confidence about sex with his wife is massive.

    So a question that i wonder is: (prayer and devotions and loyalty continue. Pornographic perversity is not growing darker or dirtier. Others are not involved- no chat rooms, no connection of any sort) is it better to have 20 minutes of looking at porn or to have an entire day of hungering thoughts of sex with most women I would see, and anger at my wife that I love?

    These are the two options that I ask a response of. I already know it is not good and I should…

    Thank you.

    • Struggling and Longing,
      First I want to say, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have a spouse that is not interested in connecting intimately during sex or willing to take steps to seek growth. I also want to encourage you to not give up. God does change people and helps them grow, so keep seeking counsel, praying for revelation of how to love your wife, try to create intimacy with your wife other ways and strive to lovingly communicate your desires.

      As far as your specific question – In order to be a more loving husband that is not angry because of lack of sex, is it better to view porn for 20 minutes or lust after women all day? There are warnings throughout the bible about lust -whether you are talking about porn or women on the street. Lust is selfish, it is using someone for your own gratification. There is no serving, no intimacy and no love. Lust will never satisfy. You said it yourself, you want “connected love making”, and that is not what porn or lust provide.

      God created you to be sexual and gave you a desire to connect with your wife and it is a good thing. Your desire will drive you to keep trying to learn how to love your wife – which is not an easy thing to do.

      As far as how to keep from being so frustrated by your desire so that you are angry or can’t see straight – I have a couple of suggestions…
      1. Don’t feed your drive with images, music, or anything else that might make you think about your wife as just a sexual outlet.
      2. The bible is silent on masturbation. It is a gray area where you need to discern if it is honorable and loving. In a healthy marriage, I would suggest the 2 of you talk about it and decide when it is helpful. In your case, you may need to decide with God. As you are trying to be a Godly husband, could you once in a while, take the edge off by masturbating without porn or lust? Could you just enjoy the sensations God gave you without lusting? Or could you picture the best sex you could ever have with your wife where you are loving and serving each other? You need to disconnect any kind of lust from sex, because that will only set you up for failure with your wife.
      Don’t give up on your wife or on yourself. God is the answer.

      Ruth

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