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.
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.