When I started writing Secure in Heart-Overcoming Insecurity in a Woman’s Life, I knew that I wanted to pull together a resource that would help lift the shame off of my longtime battle with insecurity. What I didn’t realize is that with God’s help (and the courageous go-ahead from my husband Dave) that it would contain our most vulnerable struggles-including our longtime battle with sexual addiction.
Now women often ask me, “What should I do if I discover my husband is involved in pornography or other sexual activities outside of marriage?” To answer, I start by explaining why that question has been so central in my own journey.
A Twenty-Year Dance of Addiction
Dave’s struggle with pornography began well before Internet use became popular. As a preteen, he first experienced pornography through a stash of pornographic magazines at a friend’s house, introducing a false sense of intimacy early in life. My own love addiction sprouted as I grew up in an alcoholic home and endured sexual abuse as a young girl.
The pain and losses my husband and I both brought into our marriage created an unhealthy “dance” with well-memorized steps on both of our parts. He would relapse and look at pornography. I would run to him and seek desperately to win back his affection. The cycle repeated more times than I can remember.
There were times where Dave didn’t share his falls with me-trying instead to will his way out of his longtime struggle. He reasoned that he was protecting me. Part of the reason he didn’t share was my propensity to huge overreactions. My insecurity simply didn’t allow for that kind of openness.
But as it became obvious that this struggle wasn’t going to magically disappear overnight, God began to work on my heart. I began to see that it would take both of us working together to heal our marriage from pornography. Part of that took the form of me being willing to participate in counseling, recovery groups and reading. I slowly began to understand that my own losses were just as deep as Dave’s.
Yet another big change was needed in my approach to Dave’s sexual sin. I needed to learn to talk with him about the most sensitive of struggles in a way that was real, but that was also gracious. I needed to learn to express my hurt and set good boundaries without heaping shame on my partner.
So, now we’re back to our original question – what can you do if you suspect (or discover) that your husband uses pornography? Here are three healthy starting places.
1) Remove Shame — My first bit of advice is always, “Don’t panic.” Just as Satan seeks to shame women about our insecurities, Satan seeks to shame men about their battles with purity. While it’s often the natural tendency, unloading your fears on your husband in a fit of hysteria won’t help. In fact, most ongoing users of pornography are trying to medicate emotional pain. Shame is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Instead, after you’ve taken a little time to get past the initial shock, set up a time for a conversation.
2) Establish Open Communication — Pray over your conversation and give your husband some control over when you talk. “Honey, I need to talk about with you about something. When would be a good time?” Then, when you sit down together, initiate a conversation that goes something like this:
“Honey, I want to talk to you about something that’s difficult to talk about, but really important for us discuss. Please hear me out. Here’s what I’ve discovered and how I discovered it. Or even, here’s what I suspect and here’s why.”
Then, after he’s had a chance to respond, you might gently probe: “When was the last time you looked at pornography? How often do you masturbate? Have you ever called a dating line? Do you visit adult bookstores?” Are you having an affair?
Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of initial defensiveness. Stay calm. And, regardless of what answers you get, try not to over-react. This is just a starting point.
3) Seek Outside Counsel — If your fears are confirmed, it’s time to get some help from those with experience in dealing with these kinds of issues. Many churches have recovery programs (like Celebrate Recovery) where you can get specific help. Outside counsel and attending recovery groups will help you establish healthy boundaries. You’ll also gain relationships with others who have gone through similar struggles and are a little farther down the road.
Ultimately, healing comes as needs (formerly medicated by pornography) are met through the true intimacy found in godly, nurturing relationships. By helping your husband to break out of the isolation of hiding sexual sin, you are giving him a great gift.
Hope for the Future
Confronting impurity in a marriage can be a conduit of God’s grace for both partners. God continues to bring much good in my own life through my husband’s battles. If Dave’s battles hadn’t come into the forefront, I don’t know if I would have ever dealt with my own codependency coming from my father’s alcoholism. I certainly wouldn’t have written Secure in Heart.
With time, God has done an amazing work of restoration. In fact, Dave and I would say that one of the strengths of our relationship is our intimacy. And now we’re grateful to be at a place where we’re helping other couples find hope after impurity. My hope is that my story can help many other wives get on the path to healing much quicker than I did. Remember, you’re not alone and there is hope.
Learn more about dealing with sexual addiction within your marriage or overcoming other sources of insecurity by visiting http://www.secureinheart.com. Robin Weidner, author of Secure in Heart, regularly speaks to women’s groups and churches about replacing the damaging lies of Satan with the unchanging truths of God. Weidner also provides resources and advice on how to address addiction and codependency within relationships.