Finding out that your spouse has been compulsively viewing porn in secret can be devastating.
Whether or not you come from a religious background and object to porn on moral grounds, the pain can be paralyzing.
Now you’re wondering what to do next: ignore it and hope it goes away? Confront them and demand change?
The questions may seem endless and the situation hopeless.
You may even be worried that your marriage is in jeopardy, but don’t give up hope.
Your marriage can survive this challenge, as long as you and your spouse both work together to establish good communication, regain trust, and seek help if the pornography consumption has reached the point of an addiction.
Step 1: Don’t Blame Yourself
The first step is to understand that you aren’t the cause of this problem.
Just because your spouse is viewing pornography does NOT mean they no longer view you as attractive or sexually desirable.
Most of the time, spouses have been dealing with this problem since long before the wedding day.
It has persisted into the marriage not because of any deficit or failing on your part, but because the issue was not properly resolved by the one dealing with it. So don’t blame yourself—you are not at fault.
Step 2: Understand the Danger
Regardless of your personal feelings towards porn, viewing this type of content comes with a host of potential dangers.
First and foremost, it’s addictive in the same way substance abuse is, and may damage the brain.
It causes emotional distance between the user and their intimate relationships. It leads to broader sexual addictions, and often results in increasingly severe infidelity.
In other words, it’s not something you want to encourage, or participate in. It’s a problem that requires a definitive solution.
Step 3: Understand the Addict
Next, understand that your spouse is still a human being, one who was probably exposed when young, and didn’t know how dangerous porn could be.
In many cases, they are incapable of stopping on their own and will need significant support from friends, family, support groups, and (potentially) licensed professionals in order to quit.
Be aware as well that not every addict is prepared yet to do what it takes to change.
Some believe that there’s no problem with what they’re doing, or think of themselves as casual users who can stop anytime.
Some may want to change, but don’t know how to deal with addiction.
Regardless of their disposition, they are trapped by behavior that has become compulsive, trapping them in a painful and unpleasant life.
Step 4: Confronting the Problem
At some point, you’ll have to have the talk.
Try to stay calm, and don’t play prosecutor. Likely, their conscience has already been suffering under the weight of their actions, and they feel a powerful amount of guilt and shame.
Pay attention to how they respond to your evidence.
Do they become angry?
Do they deny using?
Do they become remorseful and apologetic?
Do they understand how much it hurts you?
Make it clear the damage their addiction is inflicting upon you, and your desire to see them overcome the problem. If they try to start an argument, distance yourself from the conversation.
Step 5: Don’t Make Any Rash Decisions
The journey to recovery is a long one, and it’s not typically a smooth ride.
Some addicts are not yet willing to make a change, having rationalized their behavior to themselves.
Even those who are motivated to change often struggle with relapses and hurtful behavior plaguing them for years.
Supporting a loved one who is an addict is not easy, and some decide it’s best to get some distance.
The decision to stay or leave is one that should be made carefully. Don’t make any rash choices in the heat of the moment.
Give yourself time—preferably several months—to thoroughly think it over, so you can do what’s best for everyone involved.
However, if there is abuse, then put your safety and the safety of your children first and leave.
Step 6: Supporting Your Spouse During Recovery
If you chose to support your spouse’s recovery, remember you are their ally in fighting their addiction, not their judge or prison warden.
Here are some tips to make your support more effective:
● Be patient—it takes time to heal the damage addiction does to the brain
● Encourage them to set rules and safeguards to limit access, and help them keep them
● Try to spend quality time together to rekindle your romance
● Try to be non-judgemental when your spouse confesses relapses—it encourages honesty
● Help them find healthy hobbies to fill their time
● Let them come to you in moments of crisis
● Encourage them to seek support groups and professional help, if necessary
Step 7: Supporting Yourself During Recovery
Supporting a recovering addict is very taxing, so remember to take time to engage in self-care on a regular basis.
You will stronger emotionally and a better help to your spouse if you recharge frequently. So whether you’re busy with work, school, or kids, take some time to pursue personal interests, to exercise, to keep a journal, or other self-focused activities. Confide your struggles in a trusted friend, family member, or therapist, and any time you need space find a way to get it.
Recovery for the addict, the spouse, and the relationship is possible.
Your marriage will never be the same, but it can heal and become stronger. If they are willing to change and you are willing to stand beside them, you will discover a deeper love even than before you learned of the addiction.
About the author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.