Do We Want to Know, Even About Pornography?

I had just finished talking about pornography in class when I thought to pause and simply ask, “Does anyone have something to add?” Some of the best teaching in class comes from other women sharing their own experiences.

Just as I was ready to move on, Emily quietly filled the silence.

“We went through this…”

She said, “My husband told me just a couple of weeks before we got married that he struggled with pornography. I didn’t really think much about it because I figured all single guys looked at porn. I thought that once we were married it would just go away. But about three years into our marriage, my husband came to me and said he couldn’t stand it anymore. Pretending like everything was okay while secretly viewing porn was killing him. He wanted to be honest with me.”

“I was crushed and hurt. I couldn’t believe he had been doing this behind my back. How could I trust him again?”

But she went on to share,

“I am now helping my husband battle porn.”

“He has other accountability partners that are guys, but I am also his accountability partner. He doesn’t want any secrets between us. Without sharing graphic details that would create more damage, he shares  enough that I know he is serious about change. Even though it is hard to hear, I am trying to be a safe place for my husband to be honest.”

She explained, “My husband saw my devastation when he disclosed his  porn habit and he never wants to hurt me like that again.  He wants to stay clean for me more than any other person. Since my husband first broke the silence years ago it has not all been easy, but his struggle with porn has gradually decreased.”

With tears in her eyes she said, “Even though I have no reason to suspect otherwise, I sometimes still wonder, if my husband is being totally honest.  The battle with porn is not just my husband’s battle. I have my own insecurities that put up walls to prevent intimacy. We have chosen to create a safe place to be honest with each other and to battle together.  Rather than pretending like things are ok, I would rather know.”

For a moment the room was silent, until one woman voiced what many wrestled with….

“I don’t know if I want to know…”

What a profound statement.

What if we don’t want to know?

Will we ever create true intimacy if we don’t know our husband?

Would we rather  just pretend he is the perfect husband, or do we really want to know him? Even his brokeness? Can we share our own brokenness and insecurities? How do we create an intimate marriage without knowing each other?

Satan knows that if he can just drive us towards shame and hiding then we will never experience true intimacy. If we hide the sexual abuse, the pornography, the insecurities, the lust – then it gains a greater hold in our life. The further we fall from being known the more he divides us from relationships. Whether that relationship is with God, our spouse, family or friends. Satan seeks to create division while Jesus came to restore relationships.

Discovering God’s Grace

The best thing that we can do for our marriage is to discover how much God loves us, regardless of what we have or haven’t done. When we realize how much we have been forgiven, then we can forgive others. Our worth comes not from our spouse or our accomplishments. He loved us while we were still sinners. Allow yourself to be fully known to the Father and ask Him to help you be fully known to others. Feel the depth of His love and ask Him to help you love others like He loves you.

Until we have the courage to know and be known in marriage, Satan will continue to wreak havoc. We cannot start the hard work of creating intimacy without creating a safe place to be known.

How can you create a safe place to be known?

Disclaimer – The post was not written about one particular woman in class but based on several conversations and experiences in class. For more ideas on battling pornography read Creating a Safe Place and Helping your Husband Battle Pornography

Comments 23

  1. I came out of hiding from my wife about my porn use 11 1/2 months ago. Doing so was the most difficult and most wonderful thing I’ve ever done in my life. We had been married 37 years and I had used porn the whole time. The pain and work that ensued has been intense. It has also been a huge blessing – to both of us. We now have the most intimate marriage we’ve ever had by far. I am fully known, accepted and loved. And vice versa. My porn use was wrong and harmful. And it was the thing that the Lord used to get our attention and to bring healing to both of us. Our intimacy now is based in wholeness and love.
    Thank you Ruth for your role in bringing me to the point of beginning recovery.

    • Hopeful,
      Praise God for breakthrough and the hard journeys He brings us through. Praying for continued healing and revelation of His goodness.
      Blessings, Ruth

      • Thank you Ruth. Let me add that I have the most awesome and beautiful wife! She has worked so incredibly hard and was in so much pain. We have grown individually and we have grown together. Praise God.

  2. I was fortunate that I never got exposed to porn until I was in my early 20s and married. That doesn’t mean that I’ve never looked at it since and never struggled with the temptation. At one point I even confessed to my wife that on a few ocassions I had but that I did not want that to be part of my life anymore. I guess I hoped to have a more open relationship about it, to be able to talk about it, to share my struggles and the pattern of when they came about. I truly don’t want this to be a negative comment about her, because she is so dear to me and a wonderful women in so many ways! But I really got the sense that she didn’t want to know all those things and did not want to talk about it. I honestly felt that she did not want to be part of my temptation, “just deal with it and don’t do it anymore”!
    Most Christian men hate the fact that they are so visual and attracted to sexually explicit material. In the battle not to succum to porn (and also not experience rejection in our marriage) I have over the years learned to turn my self off to sexuality for longer periods of time. It helps to win the battle but sucks for our intimacy. I hope and wish that Christian women all over the world would wake up to the fact that ignoring the issue or beating their husbands over the head with it is not gonna make it go away, it’s just gonna make it worse.
    I am by no means addicted to porn and never have been, but I realize that allot of men are, and have been from a very young age. Yet the feeling that my wife and best friend doesn’t really want to know or talk about what tempts me, makes me feel quite lonely in the battle for purity.

    • Thanks for your comment. My guess is that many men and their wife are in the same place that you two are. I can imagine how lonely it must feel but please don’t give up. Rather than making the conversation just about porn, make it about intimacy. For instance, “I really want to be a safe place for you to talk about anything.” or “I want you to really know me, even things that are hard for me.” Your wife has her own baggage and battles around intimacy and sex. Ask her simple questions like, “how did you first learn about sex as a kid?” “What did your parents tell you? or the church?”. Just create a safe place to hear her and imagine how those things might have impacted her. Praying you experience breakthrough in your marriage and a freshness of intimately connecting. May you create a safe place to be known.

      • Thank you for your kind response!
        No, I’m not about to give up and don’t really have any reason to. We have a great marriage but it could be so much better if we spent more time talking about things. I know this is probably strange for you to hear a man say this but I so long to talk about so many things with her and try all the time. (Some times successful) She knows it’s safe for her to talk to me but talking is tiring and stressful to her.
        We spent all weekend together, hardly talked at all, slept way more then I cared to, had zero sexual intimacy yet this morning over coffee she said she was looking forward to being alone for a few hours before the week begins.(????) I probably looked quite puzzled.
        Church, Christianity, kids, they are all fairly easy to talk about but our relationship, intimacy, specially sexuality, not so much. It seems like those are just things we do sometimes but why talk about them? I feel like in her eyes they are not important enough and I shouldn’t try to raise the level of importance that much.
        She would also never be caught reading your blog or anyone else’s like it, even though she knows about most if not all of them from me. Other things in life (and they are not trivial things at all) are so much more important! She is so intelligent and focused on her courier and wanting to make a difference in this world with it and I love that about her! Just wish that our intimacy would be more part of it.

  3. Ruth’s comment about focusing the discussion on intimacy is so right on. As a long term porn user, I eventually realized that my heart’s real desire was for intimacy in all of its dimensions and that any porn use was a block to the intimacy that I was desiring.

    To J-man and the millions of others who, like me, have believed that if only their wife were this or that, then their porn use would go away I say this: it’s a lie. I know it doesn’t feel like a lie but it’s a lie. My wife didn’t cause me to look at porn, I chose that. It was my brokenness that lead me to use porn, not hers. My acceptance of that fact was crucial to my recovery. There was absolutely no chance of finding freedom from porn as long as I placed any blame at all on her. She didn’t cause me to look at porn, she couldn’t control my porn use, and she couldn’t cure my porn use. Further, stopping porn use “for her” or “for our marriage” or even for God didn’t work either, nor has it worked for any of my recovery friends. When I decided to stop looking at porn “for me”, for my benefit and the return of my integrity, and took the necessary steps to understand where my porn use was coming from within me, then porn use stopped and has not returned. Porn was the symptom of my problem, the problem(s) was deeper. This is the common experience of my recovery friends.

    And J-man’s approach of “turning myself off to sexuality” is a very common approach to solving a porn problem. It doesn’t work, it never works. In fact, it actually makes it worse in the long run. Most of us who have struggled with porn have asked God to take away our visual nature and our sexual desire. Thankfully, he never does! Those desires are God given for a good and holy purpose.

    Ruth’s post about encouraging wives to be willing to know about their husband’s porn use is important because if there is hiding in marriage, then there is no intimacy. I have promised my dear wife that if I have a slip of any kind at all, I will tell her within 24 hours. Yet, I don’t refer to my wife as my accountability partner, I have others for that role. I want and need my wife to be my co-equal, my friend, my lover. That is a different role from an accountability partner. And I am committed to complete transparency, no more hiding, so that intimacy can flourish.

    My porn problem wasn’t caused by my relationship with my wife and it wasn’t caused by my relationship with sex. My porn problem and my intimacy problem were caused by my relationship with myself. I was incapable of real intimacy because I had no “authentic self” to offer. Once I allowed the Lord to replace the lies I believed about myself with his truth about me, then I was able to develop a healthy relationship with myself. I came to realize that Jesus came to heal my brokenness, my broken heart, and to set this captive free. And he did.

    Today, my dear wife and I enjoy a far more beautiful and intimate relationship than I knew could exist. I regret the fact that I used porn because it got in the way of intimacy for many years. I am so thankful for the journey that we have been on because it has brought us to a spacious place just like he promised it would. He is good.

    • Yes, thank you too from me! You did a great job explaining your situation, even though you did a poor job representing my view on it. Maybe you misunderstood me, or maybe you need to read my comments again. I don’t know where you got the idea from that I blame my wife for any porn I’ve ever seen? Not in the least! I only agreed with Ruth about the importance of being open and interested about how this issue affects men, and you know what: My wife did this week! Out of nowhere she started a conversation about the subject of which she had listened to a podcast about, and we had a wonderful conversation about it. It gave us both great insight into each other’s heart and mind. It brought us so much closer and more intimate with each other, emotionally and physically. Thank you Ruth for praying for us!
      When I spoke off “struggle with temptation of porn” I meant exactly that: struggling with the fact that we as men are tempted by it. That does not mean that we are or need to give in to it but rather resist that temptation daily. But I understand that that struggle looks very different for someone that has had a multi decade addiction to it, compared to someone that has occasionally come across it and longs to be open to his wife about it. The effects are totally different and it should be treated totally different.
      Hopeful, I know that your experience with porn has been VERY different from mine, based on what you’ve told us, and I’m so thankful that you’ve come out of it and your marriage has survived and is now thriving! Praise the Lord!
      I know the pain of a marriage not surviving, because of the effects of sexual child abuse. 10 years of sexual refusal, not just gatekeeping, throughout my 20s, when my sexdrive was through the roof, did a number on me that I couldn’t describe here in a comment box. It was in that desperation, upon my first wife’s suggestion, I saw my first porn. Turning off my sexdrive became a coping mechanism for me during that 10 year sexless marriage. Unfortunately, it is still something I go to when times are tough in our marriage now. It helps me to deal with the feeling and fear of rejection, and a nice byproduct is that I’m not tempted by porn during those times. But for me it’s never been a coping mechanism to avoid porn. When I’m sad and lonely, porn is usually the farthest thing from my mind.
      Much more could be said, but thank you Ruth for facilitating such great discussions and thank you Hopeful for helping others in their struggle!

      • I feel happy about the increased emotional and physical intimacy that you and your dear wife are experiencing! I praise God for this victory. And I feel sad about the pain you endured during your first marriage because it represents the strategy of our enemy and he is too successful.

        As an aside, and just for information purposes, it is not at all clear that I had an addiction to porn. Setting aside the particulars of my or other’s porn use, whether one has a struggle, a compulsion, or an addiction is a distinction without a difference. The solution, the cure, the path to freedom, is the same regardless. And by the way, Jesus’s claim is that he came to bring freedom, he doesn’t claim to bring purity. I pursued purity unsuccessfully because i pursued it as a work. Jesus brought me freedom as a gift. I am grateful to him.

  4. Good strong post and comments – especially on how hurtful porn use is to the wife.

    Ofc I suspect my wife is one of those wives who don’t want to know. I don’t think it would be fair to force this information on her – and where would I stop? I have other desires, fantasies and fetishes in the same ballpark, some of which I think I’ve grown out of.

    It could only be fair to make this kind of declaration if I had a plan for what I should do next. So far it just sounds like making extra demands on my wife.

    David

    • David,
      I am not suggesting that your force any information or demands on her. Or that you share specifics of desires outside of God’s boundaries.
      You don’t need to have a plan, but you do need to be absolutely repentant with your wife. That means, not only do you ask forgiveness but you do whatever it takes to turn the other direction and gain freedom from pornography. Whether your realize it or not, pornography is preventing you from creating intimacy with your wife and with God.
      Ruth

      • Dear Ruth, Thank you for your comment.

        I disagree about the technicalities: telling someone something they don’t want to hear is forcing information on them; asking for forgiveness is making demands. IMHO any act of communication is explicitly or implicitly a demand (or request if you prefer) for a response.

        I agree on the harm that pornography does. I am a relatively recent Christian, and becoming a believer has changed the way I relate to myself and to my sinful habits. With the Lord’s help I have completely eradicated one habit (so far — about 15 months), and broken the habitual nature of my porn use (that is making clearer when and why I turn to porn).

        I don’t mean to criticise your post, or the comments. Your post is very strong and underlines the importance of dealing with this issue.

        Best wishes

        David

  5. And I will add that in my experience, the hiding and secrecy that I was doing was perpetuating the bondage that porn had on me. I knew and acknowledged to myself and to the Lord that my viewing porn was wrong but was unwilling for many years to deal with the pain that coming out of hiding was undoubtedly going to produce. I wanted a secret solution to my secret problem. Now I realize that I was playing directly into my enemy’s trap. I was experiencing shame and my response to shame was exactly like Adam’s, I hid. I hid from God, I hid from my dear wife, and I was in hiding to some degree with everyone that was dear to me. In a posture of hiding, intimacy wasn’t just elusive, it was impossible. I came to realize that I deeply desired intimacy on all fronts, especially with the Lord and my wife. As I now know, the path to intimacy is through coming out of hiding, becoming vulnerable, taking the risk of rejection or abandonment, and allowing the relationship of intimacy to develop in a posture of complete humility. Authentic vulnerability is the antidote to shame.

    I heard the Lord asking me to tell my wife about my porn use for many, many months. I told him no. I told him that I did not trust my wife to have a healthy response, I told him it might end our relationship and I knew he did not want that. Finally, I heard him say to me, “I’m not asking you to trust her, I’m asking you to trust me.” It still took me awhile to act on that trust. Eventuallly I did and He has proved trustworthy.

    The other thing I’ve experienced along the way is this: as long as I valued my marriage more than I valued my relationship with myself, I was going to be in bondage, in hiding, and would not be able to be intimate. (We had sex, we didn’t have intimacy.) Shame had discolored my relationship with myself so much that I basically had no self at all. Intimacy requires each person to show up with their authentic self intact. That required knowing who I am and being ok with who I am not. It took me a few years to learn who I am in Christ and how he views me. Even though I had been a strong believer for decades, in fact a leader in the church, I did not have an intimate relationship with Jesus and I had not received from him my identity. Once I asked him to tell me how he views me, and sat still long enough to hear his answer, then I began a journey into developing a healthy self. I came to believe that the most selfish thing I could do was to continue along the same path of valuing my marriage more than I valued myself. When I lacked a healthy self, in effect I was asking my wife to validate me as a man. In particular, I asked her to validate me as a man by having sex with me. Now that was selfish and it could not provide the validation I was seeking. Only Jesus could provide that. As I developed a healthy self with the help of the Lord, my integrity demanded that I show up with authenticity and that meant coming out of hiding.

    As painful as it was for many months, my wife and I agree that it was so incredibly worth it. We have each grown in so many ways. Our relationship is nothing like it was before. We have worked and continue to work very, very hard. And we’d do it again. We enjoy a passionately intimate marriage now. And we each enjoy intimacy with the Lord that we didn’t know was possible. We only wish we had started much earlier.

    David – I cannot tell you what to do. I can suggest that you ask the Lord what is the best thing for you to do. I know that he is faithful, trustworthy, powerful, and amazingly good. Far better than I ever imagined.

    • Dear Hopeful, your story is very different to mine. I became a Christian relatively recently (less than 3 years ago). Coming to know Jesus and to see myself differently, through His eyes, is giving me strength and calm to make changes (see my response to Ruth). David

  6. This post has served as a catalyst for catharsis in some porn using men. However, it might be helpful to some of these porn addicted husbands, if there were insights from the wives shared here., Just a thought.

  7. That’s awesome David! I feel optimistic about your growth in the Lord because you are in touch with what triggers your porn use and can take those triggers directly to God in the moment.
    Love to You brother!

    • Thank you! 🙂 “Take those triggers directly to God in the moment”: that is an excellent idea! I shall do that and pray for refuge when I feel temptation. I know the Lord forgives me even as I sin so I am working on confessing (privately, to God) and asking for forgiveness specifically and close to the lapse. Taking this kind of sin to the Lord feels yucky but I know it is important. Thank you for your encouragement!

  8. For all men in the battle with Porn addiction, please consider becoming a Conqueror. http://www.conquerseries.com. I joined an online Conquer Group last July, am now co-leading an online group, started a group in my church in Septermber, and planning a new group to start in my church in March. After years of accountability groups and a Christian 12-step program, the Conquer Series is truly helping me experience freedom. The battle is not about sex, but about healing deep wounds, finding identity in Christ, and renewing the mind (Rom 12:2). Satan has a plan to attack us, but God has a better plan to free us. The Conquer Series really addresses the issues and helps lead to freedom from sexual bondage.

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