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.
(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.