10 Ways to Prepare Before You Confess Porn

I have never had to hear my husband confess a porn habit, but I have sat with plenty of wives who did. Though I am encouraged by the ministries pouring into men to help them gain freedom, I wish they did more to prepare husbands for the moment of disclosure with their wife. What advice could help a husband so he could support his wife as she begins her journey into healing?

If a husband was ready to take the next big step of repentance and disclosure with his wife, I would say?

I want to affirm you for the work you have been doing and your desire to break the bondage of pornography. I understand that telling your wife the truth, the whole truth, will take courage and strength. Though it may feel like one of the worst days of your marriage, I pray that one day you both will look back and thank God for this day. Until you allow yourself to be known to your wife, you will never have the intimacy you desire and God created you for.

Confessing and repenting shows that you are becoming a man of integrity and honesty. You cannot change your past, but you can change your future. Though confessing might feel gut wrenching, stay steady. Take ownership for your brokenness and extend grace to your wife as she begins her journey.

Below are some 10 steps to think through before your conversation.

1. Confess Dishonesty

Start by confessing that you have not been honest and ask you wife’s forgiveness. Don’t minimize the impact of a breach of trust. Own it, affirm your commitment to change and tell her you don’t want to pretend anymore, so you have something to share.

2. Be Prepared and Committed to Full Disclosure

Without sharing details that will cause her to visualize what you have seen, confess everything. Let her know if she needs a break or time to process, you can stop at any time, and readdress the topic later. There is nothing worse than receiving part of the story and finding out later you still don’t know the whole truth. Offer that from now on she can ask you any question, and you will answer truthfully. Again, details that cause her to imagine what you viewed don’t typically help but cause more pain. If she pushes for details, assure that you are committed to full disclosure but ask to check with her support system to determine if it will be helpful.

3. Start at the Beginning

How did it start? How old were you? What role did it play while you were single? What happened when you got married? When did you realize it was a real problem? How have you been battling it? When was the last time you looked? How often do you view? Where do you view?

4. Expect Her to be Upset

Though disclosure may feel like a huge relief to you, your wife is at the beginning of her journey.  She may cry, get angry, go numb, or call you names. She may act like it’s the end of the world, or she may pretend like it is no big deal. Her behavior may subtly change as she battles her own insecurities. She might start changing her clothes in the closet or turning the lights out during sex. Everything about sex may remind her of you watching porn and increase her insecurities. Regardless of how she treats you, treat her with love, tenderness and compassion. The world that she once imagined just disappeared.

5. Take Ownership for Your Recovery

Don’t insinuate that frequent sex will prevent you from viewing porn. You are responsible for your own actions. Make sure that she knows you are committed to get free no matter what she does. Don’t use your struggle with porn as a way to guilt her or manipulate her to have sex. Treat sex as a way to love her.

6. Create a Safe Place For Honesty

Your wife needs to know she can be honest about her own feelings and insecurities. If she thinks you will spin back into porn because she shares how much she hurts, then you still have not created intimacy. Have the strength to hold your wife in your arms as she grieves. Have the courage to keep gently approaching her even when she pushes you away.

7. Treat Her With Compassion

Your struggle with porn will cause her to question her beauty and whether you find her desirable. Affirm her and speak tenderly to her often. Give her quiet time alone to process or connect with friends. Take her out on dates to go and have fun and laugh together. Take care of her.

8. Give Her Permission to Seek Help

While you have accountability partners to encourage you in this journey, your wife will feel absolutely isolated. Encourage her to seek out a couple of Godly women that she can process with and give her permission to disclose everything. Encourage her to see a counselor if she wants to. Offer resources like Shattered Vows by Debra Laaser.

9. Rebuild Trust

For years you lied to your wife, withheld the truth, or slanted the truth. After your confession, she may question what she can believe about a lot of things. As a repentant husband, ask her for input on how you can rebuild trust. Show your commitment to work on your deeper issues, maintain consistent accountability and choose practical lifestyle choices to reduce temptation.

10. Change Takes Time

Think about how long you struggled with porn, how long you hid it and how long it took for you to gain the courage to tell you wife. Your wife will need time. Though you feel your porn struggle has nothing to do with her, you’re wrong. Porn created hiddeness and division between the two of you, and it will take time to rebuild trust.

Final Thoughts

Be encouraged. God can heal your marriage and create something better than you ever imagined. Honesty is a huge step towards freedom. When you can share your brokenness with your wife and she can share hers with you, well, that is real intimacy. When you feel shame welling up, chase after God. He loves you so much and He can set you free.

Comments 24

  1. Very good advice given!

    Most of the men I talk with I give them similar advice, especially allowing their wife to find a support system to help her heal while he is recovering.

    Surprised I haven’t written on this topic yet

  2. Viewing porn is sin. No one but the person who viewed it is responsible (not your spouse). Now, having said that, it isn’t the sin of all sins as some people make it out to be. It isn’t “more” of a sin than the sin of withholding sex from your spouse. Some compare it to adultry. Yes, Jesus said if you look at a person with lust, you have committed adultry in your heart. Jesus also said if you have ever hated someone you have committed murder in your heart. Jesus’ point wasn’t that lust is equal to adultry, or hate is equal to murder, but that sin begins in the heart. So, porn isn’t equal to adultry and not a justification for ending your marriage as some make it out to be. Again, IMHO, porn is not a greater sin than withholding sex from your spouse, which many are guilty of while wanting to condemn the spouse who is viewing porn. Again, I’m not excusing it, just trying to bring a little “balance” to a very volitile subject.

    • I don’t disagree with you. With either situation, we need to bring a sense of compassion, not judgement. The point of my article is simply to provide as much support for the wife as possible so that healing comes.

      • THANK YOU Ruth for caring enough to write this article. After reading all of the comments that appear to be coming from husbands who are not satisfied with their sexual intimacy with their wives, here’s my comment to them… As a Christian husband, my command from our Lord is to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (He sacrificed his life for us). No man is driven to porn (coming from a man who has viewed porn). Whatever the (outward) cause, we choose to find our pleasure through the temporary (and unsatisfying) pleasure of porn instead of Christ (notice I didn’t say our wife). As a loving husband, if my wife is refusing sexual intimacy, it is my place to LOVINGLY help her see her sin and find the joys of sexual intimacy that God created for her. First of all, that means looking for any sin in my own heart in how I am treating my bride. Am I loving her as Christ loves the Church? Am I laying down my life continually for her? Am I looking for ways I can sacrificially serve her? I know it is hard. I know it takes time. I know there may be many, many days and nights of frustration. But she is your bride! Love her into change. It is worth it.

  3. Thank you Ruth for your thoughtful advice which is right on from my personal experience.
    For the benefit of those that might be considering taking such a step, I will add my encouragement because I took this step 16 months ago. For me, it was important to focus on the goals which were: freedom and intimacy. I came to realize that I was not going to experience freedom from the power that porn had over me without coming out of the hiding that I was doing. As long as I had this secret, I was powerless to control it, it controlled me. Equally important for me was the realization that the intimacy that I longed for with my wife was never, never going to be experienced while I was hiding. I wasn’t just hiding the truth about me, I was hiding my self. While it was true that our struggle with experiencing intimacy had several roots, none of the other roots mattered as long as I was in hiding and the only way out of hiding was to confess what was going on in total including my dishonesty.
    I had been hearing the Lord tell me for many years that I needed to tell my wife the truth about me. I wrestled intensely with the Lord for several months prior to telling her. I kept telling him that I had no trust that the outcome of this step would be positive, that I might lose my marriage. He gently reminded me over and over that he was not asking me to trust the outcome or my wife, he was asking me to trust him.
    Now, after 16 months of very hard work, I am so grateful to him for never giving up on me. i am grateful for freedom and for the growth that I have experienced that is far more than I anticipated. I am grateful for my wife’s acceptance, grace, humility, and hard work for her own growth which has also been very significant and more than I imagined. We continue to work hard, it is not easy even yet still. We have moments of sheet delight with each other. And we have moments of despair and pain. And I would make the same decision all over again. Not taking the first step would have been a choice for death over the possibility of life. We are experiencing life and I believe are moving toward the experience of even more life. The Lord is trustworthy and faithful. And he is good.

  4. So if your wife is a refuser and gatekeeper, with sex only happening 2-3 times per year, and you eventually turn to porn, would your advice be the same? How about some you reap what you sow?

      • Yes, my advice would be the same. I completely agree with Ruth. When I was using porn, the person I was hurting the most was my Self.
        After several decades I finally realized that my true desire was for intimacy. Yes, sex is an important component of intimacy. And I was never going to experience intimacy while hiding. I refer you to Genesis 3.
        It is quite simple really. Porn Leads to shame. Shame leads to hiding. Hiding blocks intimacy.
        I also desired intimacy with the Lord. The same formula was at work there as well.

  5. John – I feel very sad to hear about the gate keeping and refusal because it is not the heart of Jesus for that to Be a part of marriage. And yes, my advice would be the same. I completely agree with Ruth.
    When I was using porn, the person I was hurting the most was my Self.
    After several decades I finally realized that my true desire was for intimacy. Yes, sex is an important component of intimacy. And I was never going to experience intimacy while hiding. I refer you to Genesis 3.
    It is quite simple really. Porn Leads to shame. Shame leads to hiding. Hiding blocks intimacy.
    I also desired intimacy with the Lord. The same formula was at work there as well.

  6. Fantastic advice. My husband finally shared about his post-marriage porn use to me about a year ago, after about 3-4 months of sobriety (the right term?) and accountability. He referenced the struggle so casually in a conversation about spiritual topics that I was taken aback, as I was completely in the dark. It wasn’t truly a “confession” until I asked a lot of direct questions – questions I had avoided asking for years. As you say, he was far along in the healing process but mine had just begun.

    I think some wives might feel like “I knew all along,” and actually feel freedom in hearing those fears confirmed. But for me, I experienced a profound loss of confidence in my own intuition and discernment. I wasn’t so threatened by my husband’s struggle – he had already made a lot of progress with the help of a pastor, and I actually felt a lot more closeness with him after fully knowing his struggles. But the hardest thing for me to recover has been my ability to discern what is an irrational fear and what is correct intuition or maybe the Holy Spirit prompting me to protect my marriage. I had to reevaluate so many memories and felt so, so idiotic for not listening to what I had considered irrational fears or even sinful accusations against my husband. If only I had confronted him earlier! What was I so afraid of?

    So I would add, please be gentle and respectful if your wife experiences something similar.

    On a positive note, our marriage is better than ever and I am so thankful to be free to confess anything with each other. We feel safe, known, and loved, and that gives new life to every area of our marriage – sex, communication, worship, fun, and future plans

    • Thanks you so much for adding to the conversation. Your struggle with trusting your own intuition and discernment is a common hurdle for the spouse’s healing.

  7. I would see the issue of sexual refusal as one where the sin is, by definition, out in the open. Nobody is a secret sex refuser. If it’s happening, both spouses know. Porn is much more able to be hidden for a long time and so the revelation is essentially like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hydrant. It all hits at once and causes a particular level of pain all its own. But is the issue of porn the only issue that warrants this kind of disclosure process? My wife confessed to me that prior to our marriage she had two abortions while in college. These were by other men so I wasn’t involved.

    But I can tell you she did not in anyway expect me to be upset or feel betrayed. In fact, the only reason she told me was that she had already talked about it at her women’s bible study and they urged her to tell me. This was 7 years into our marriage.

    She went to abortion recovery at church and felt much closer to God afterwards. At the time I was happy for her but I remain troubled by the following issues:

    1. Confess Dishonesty – She did not confess it as a matter of dishonesty with me. She only informed me because she had already told others. She did not apologize for not telling me before we got married or during the subsequent seven years of our marriage. And in that time we experienced a lot of problems with emotional and physical intimacy.

    2. Be Prepared and Committed to Full Disclosure – She did not disclose the time and circumstances of either abortion. She did not discuss whether the fathers had been told. She did not discuss any part of the decision making process that went into the abortions. She did not tell me how this may have interfered with our own marriage.

    3. Start at the Beginning – See previous. No full disclosure.

    4. Expect Him to be Upset – She expected me to NOT be upset and it has been obvious from the statements made to me by other women who she befriended in the recovery program that it was not relevant to me.

    5. Take Ownership for Your Recovery – She went to abortion recovery and that was good. I was not a participant and no further couples counseling was part of the recovery process. To this day, there are no ministries targeting the husbands of post-abortive women who are also NOT the fathers of the aborted children.

    6. Create a Safe Place For Honesty – I have not been free to be honest about my feelings on this because she shuts down every time difficult arguments come up. I have to walk on glass when my feelings about our marriage come up. My sexual frustrations are not sympathized with in the least and under no circumstances am I allowed to attribute any of her intimacy barriers as the result of the abortions.

    7. Treat Him With Compassion – She considers the abortions irrelevant to me. Compassion to me is not something she connects with this issue nor did abortion recovery deal at all with the spouse’s feelings.

    8. Give Him Permission to Seek Help – Since I was considered irrelevant then my feelings were unimportant and there was nowhere to seek help other than paid counseling. I sought counseling a couple years later but the counselor acted like it was all my fault.

    9. Rebuild Trust – 10 years later and nothing has happened to rebuild trust. She is even more apathetic about sex and refuses to put any effort into it at all. She sees no connection between the abortions and any loss of trust between us. Most Christian counselors and marriage experts put the onus on husbands for all issues of lost trust.

    10. Change Takes Time – What change? Where is this change?

    I think it is difficult to confess things to spouses but in the case of porn there is a concerted effort to hammer home the idea of a betrayer and a betrayed. This is a very strong word and attacks the husband in an emotional way because men feel very responsible for the care and protection of their wives. To call them “betrayer” is to essentially say, “You have been a failure and a horrible husband. Now just admit just how bad you have been and hope she forgives you.”

    But when the issue of sexual refusal or gatekeeping comes up, there is no use of the “betrayer/betrayed” dichotomy. When the issue is a wife failing to disclose abortions that happened before marriage, it never occurred to my wife to think of herself as having “betrayed” me. No one even thought of this.

    I am curious to know why this apparent double standard exists. Why is porn a betrayal and other sins committed against spouses not betrayals? Are we trying to elevate the gravity of the porn problem? Are we trying to minimize the gravity of other sins? Both? I have my own theories about this but I am curious about your take. And please address the double standard issue and spare me your advice about what to do about this issue with my wife. I have made a conscious decision to never raise the abortion issue in connection with our marital problems because my wife simply refuses to own it. If she won’t own it, I have no recourse. No pastor or personal friend of hers will ever confront her the way they would confront me if I “betrayed” her.

    • Why the double standard? Sins of commission are easier to see, identify and point the finger at then sins of omission. That doesn’t mean one is worse than the other, just easier to draw attention to. I have been thinking lately about the similarities between someone that struggles with porn and the issue of sexual refusal. I may have to write an article on it. In either case, you cannot make the person change. Sometimes change comes out of their own desperate unhappiness and other times it happens out of fear of losing the person they love most. May God fill you with compassion for a very broken wife and give you the courage to vulnerably share from your heart.

      • “Sometimes change comes out of their own desperate unhappiness and other times it happens out of fear of losing the person they love most.”

        She is quite content in the sexlessness of our marriage. She has a very nice life and I am a good provider. As far as fear of losing me, you can forget that too. Since she was my first girlfriend, she knows I am not going anywhere. I am too afraid of other women to even start an affair. And women are definitely not throwing themselves at me either. She is quite secure and that’s one of the things she says she loves about me.

        But since you said this, maybe I should start hitting on other women. Then she would realize how much she depends on me and decide to change. (sarcasm intentional)

        • I was in no way suggesting an affair or even the threat of an affair.
          “Losing the person they love most” does not always happen because of an affair. It can happen when you give up on life, give up on them, give up on yourself, become bitter, look forward to nothing, hide in work, video games or porn. Who did God create you to be?

          • I know you weren’t suggesting I have an affair but I guess my sarcasm was directed at the idea of the fear of a lost relationship is often a catalyst for change. But this is a Catch-22. How can I motivate change in her if the only way I can do it is to act inconsistently with my own values? I won’t do it because God created me to be act with integrity and bring glory to him.

            I suppose God could be trying to use this issue to force me to depend on him for sexual healing in our marriage. But that also depends on me believing the voices I hear that say God actually cares about my sex life. Contrast that with all the voices that have often told me that my sex life was irrelevant to God unless I commit sexual sin. When that happens, sex goes from unimportant to absolute earth shatteringly important. Or the voice of my former Christian marriage counselor who said I didn’t need sex because I wouldn’t die without it. Or the voice of my late mother who said that sex was not nearly as important as “your generation” makes it out to be. Or the voice of my wife who says that I am making sex way to important by suggesting that 3 times a year is just not enough for a healthy marriage. Or the voices of numerous marriage “experts” who insist that all marriage problems start with the husband. Or the voice of Satan who wants me to believe that the reason I am in this situation is because God hates my sex life.

            For every voice now saying that Christians need to be “sex positive” and God wants us to have a vital and frequent sex life is a voice that says that I am making way too much out of this and I should just be content with what I have.

          • I am sorry for what you are going through. I am not going to pretend that I know the answer for your situation. But I believe there is always hope and that is God is good.

  8. Is this article targeting husbands by telling them how they should confess or targeting wives by telling them what they should expect when their husbands confess? So a wife who’s husband tells her that their non-existent sex life is driving him into the arms of pornography should just ignore his fallacious assertion and continue refusing sex until he stops looking at porn?

    • This article is targeting a loving husband that wants to help his wife handle his confession and get the help that she needs.

  9. I told my wife about my porn struggle and now she wants a divorce. She says she stopped wanting to have sex with me years ago and this just gives her a church-approved excuse to dump me entirely. Now she can tell her family and friends that its all my fault and she won’t have to take any blame. I guess porn has become the wives’ best get-out-of-marriage free card. It makes me wonder if divorce attorneys are behind the drive to get husbands to confess.

    • Sorry for the hard place you are in your marriage. I pray that your wife will have a change of heart and that she will view your honesty as a courageous step of growth. May you continue in your battle to gain freedom and to become the man that God wants you to be.

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