Stop, Look, Listen – a plan of action for wives who discover their husband’s porn addiction

A casual exploration of the Internet will show how pornography is affecting marriages across the country.

It seems that many people coming from a variety of faith backgrounds are talking about how pornography is hurting relationships in their ranks, everyone from Catholics to Protestants to Jews to Muslims. Even those approaching this issue from a secular perspective acknowledge the negative effects of pornography on male sexuality, and thus on male-female relationships.

Covenant Eyes has a new resource to help wives who have just discovered their husbands’ “secret sin.” Read on to find out more …

At times, it is the secrecy of pornography use that shocks wives the most.

One website I came across, called Her Story Lives, is dedicated to telling the stories of women whose lives have been changed by pornography addiction in their families. One of the contributors, a woman whose husband has fought with a porn addiction for years, writes:

“For the first time in 20 years I find that I don’t want him to touch me anymore. It feels dirty. . . . I realized he has compared me to his fantasy women and I indeed have come up short. He has rejected me but doesn’t have the courage or manhood to tell me that he has chosen paper/ink and t.v. whores over the woman who gave her life for him. The pain I feel is indescribable.”

I also recently read an article, Perturbed By Pornography. In the beginning of the article a woman is quoted saying:

“I just found out that my husband has been looking at pornographic pictures of other women on the internet. He says it’s no big deal, but I don’t feel comfortable with it at all. In fact, I think it’s disgusting. It’s hurting our relationship. Every time he’s with me, I’m wondering if he’s thinking about the other women. It makes me feel ugly. What can I do?”

Stop, Look, Listen

The initial shock of finding out that our significant other has a “secret life” can be emotionally traumatizing. This is why our Ministry Resource Director, Jim Rose, has published a paper called “The Stop, Look and Listen Plan.” I pulled Jim aside today to ask about this paper.

Jim, your “Stop, Look, and Listen” paper starts with a story of a woman who discovers a pornographic DVD under the front seat of her husband’s car and all the ensuing emotions she feels at that moment, feelings of rejection, fear, and anger. You say, “I can guarantee you something similar has been played out hundreds of times in real life.” As Ministry Resource Director for Covenant Eyes do you see this scenario often?

Actually, that was based on a real event I dealt with recently. In that situation, it was the 10-year-old daughter who found it. She was confused and afraid of the cover and so she took it to her mom. “Mom, what is this?” The Mom knew exactly what it was and totally melted down. A long nightmare began for that family. She didn’t know what to do next. Her husband had been living this lie for ten years. She had even asked him periodically if he ever struggled with porn and he would look her straight in the eyes and say, “No.” My heart was broken for her and others like her. In those first moments after they discover a secret life, they need something to help them “stop, look and listen.”

Who are you hoping will read it?

Obviously, the example in the story is a wife. I was thinking about wives who find out about their husband’s secret life. But it can work the other way too. I recently talked to a woman who has been leading a secret life and she has, so far, failed to tell her husband about it. When that husband finds out, he will go through much of the same panic and confusion. The same is true with parents who discover that one of their children is living a lie.

In the paper you describe how the exposure of a husband’s “secret life” breaks down trust, communication, and intimacy in a marriage. If a husband wants to re-establish these foundations after his secret is out, how would you suggest he start that process?

This is the toughest question you could ask me, Luke! Let me give it a try.

Trust is like a “bridge” between two people. I call it the “Trust Bridge.” You can picture it in your mind like an old wood plank foot bridge. I used to walk across one of these when I was a kid. When the secret life is exposed, it’s like planks on that bridge are broken. Now, depending on how many of the planks are broken, it may be virtually impossible to take any steps onto the bridge until repairs are made.

Yet that’s the problem. When trust planks are broken, how can she believe her husband again? He’s been lying to her—possibly for years. If he insists he is now telling the truth, how can she believe him? I deal with people in this situation all the time and, again I say, it’s not easy to rebuild the bridge once it’s broken. I think women have a much harder time rebuilding trust than men, but this is only an opinion.

One thing that can help in rebuilding is to understand the process of how relationships are built and maintained in the first place. Many people don’t think much about it. But in order to have a solid relationship with someone, certain things have to be in place—trust is just one of those. We have another resource on our website that discusses this. It’s a four-part video series called Building Integrity in Relationships. I would encourage everyone to go through the videos and take notes.