About the author, Kay Bruner

Kay Bruner has been married to Andy for over 25 years. For 20 of those years she served with him at Wycliffe Bible Translators, working in the Solomon Islands preparing a New Testament translation into the Arosi language. They have four children and two poodly rescue dogs. They live in the Dallas area where Andy works for SIL International, Wycliffe’s sister organization. Kay is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Rapha Christian Counseling. She is the author of As Soon As I Fell: A Memoir. You can read more of her articles at kaybruner.com.

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Hope After Porn

Parenting the Internet Generation Ebook Cover

Porn use (and even adultery) doesn't always mean that a marriage is over. Get this free e-book to read how four betrayed wives found healing for themselves and for their marriages.

31 thoughts on “Building Trust Despite His Relapses: Hope for Wives of Porn Addicts

  1. “Andy puts it this way: “It’s just different now. Before, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, couldn’t stop looking at it. Now, even if I see porn for a few minutes, I can say, ‘This is not what I want,’ and stop.””

    That’s what a heart change looks like.

    • When you FULLY realize that, according to the Bible, as I read it, a slave to sin will end up in Hell, then you will get serious about repenting. Whether your theology allows for loss of salvation, or you are more Calvinistic– then you never truly had it; EITHER way you’re not saved in the end. In Romans, it says, live according to the flesh, then you will die. In Galatians it shows we reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and reap destruction. This could apply to even more “acceptable” idolatry or sin, like loving TV or sports more than God. Satan wants to deceive us all to think that as long as we have some change in our life, we should assure ourselves that we are saved or being saved. That is not the Biblical test of assurance. Even unbelievers can have some positive, permanent changes in their lives. Think about it, and search the scriptures for yourselves with fresh eyes.

  2. I have been addicted to porn since I was 15, I am now 59. Have tried counselling several times, involved my wife who herself is sexually withdrawn so it is very hard to stop. Edward

    • Edward, try http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com. It is a very, very good study. Don’t let anything distract you from finishing it. If you FULLY do everything it says, you will get free. Don’t give up. Many men have been in it that long like you, but finally got free. You will too. Also, I have found that so much psychology and man made approaches often confuse and make things too complex. We have to get very broken before God, and just stick to what the Bible says and Jesus can and will do it through us. Also, visit http://www.illbehonest.com and watch their series on the battle with sin.

    • Your wife has nothing to do with your addiction. In order to have a heart change you have to not ‘try counseling several times’ ~ you got to give 100% into stopping, begging God for mercy and be willing to do WHATEVER He says in HIs word to stop….begin to worship GOD instead of yourself.

  3. Kay,

    Thank you for your work. This is a very complex and difficult subject. I commend you for your humility and patience with your husband, and for your openness to try to help others. My concern however, is that there is no mention of gospel motives in your article, positive or negative. We are not just a mash-up of psychological theories, trying to find the right formula to set things aright. We are fallen creatures that desperately need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to begin to set things aright. Only in Christ do we have the Holy Spirit who can help us put off the old and put on the new for God’s glory.

    Apart from Christ I can understand your statement regarding your success as compared to others, “it seemed like pure dumb luck to me.” I thought the video that brought you some answer would point us to Christ in some way. It does not. It simply emphasizes rearranging the marriage relationship without reference to the presence of God in our lives. The principles of selflessness and concern for your partner in marriage are biblical and good, but without each partner putting God first, we are just exchanging one sinful idol for another. Granted the latter is far better, but in this life only, without Christ. Even in Christ the road out of porn addiction and masturbation is very difficult, but Christ must be the Rock, the foundation. Perhaps you are assuming we all have a Christian perspective, so there is no need to mention it?

    Again, I commend your efforts and desires to help people with this horrible problem and pray for God’s grace and blessing upon you and all at Covenant Eyes.

    In Christ our Hope,
    Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      I think God does the healing, and I think He often works through our most intimate relationships.

      So often, people ask, “how do we get the trust back?” And this is what the research shows: turn toward.

      I feel confident in saying that, because Dr. John Gottman is the finest marriage researcher on earth today. He may be Jewish, but the man knows what he’s talking about. And it doesn’t surprise me one bit when Dr. Gottman finds stuff that goes right along with Scripture. He’s telling you what it looks like to love your wife the way Christ loved the church!

      I the video, Dr. Gottman doesn’t really want to deal with his wife’s feelings in that moment, but he does it anyway. Because he loves her, and he’s willing to sacrifice what he wants for what she needs. I don’t see it getting much more Biblical than that! I’m sure you know the verses that fit here.

      When men look at porn, they turn away, over and over and over, into whatever they want.

      When they learn to turn toward, they’re laying down their lives and loving sacrificially.

      The back story on us is that we were missionaries and my husband was doing a translation of the New Testament while looking at porn. And unfortunately, that is not an uncommon story. As he struggled with his addiction, he prayed for deliverance, and obviously he was “in the Word” about as much as it is possible to be. I think he probably went through the entire New Testament verse-by-verse at least 10 times. He couldn’t stop looking at porn.

      For us, “turning toward” has been the great, practical outworking of what Jesus prays, that we would be One, like He and the Father are One. And I can just tell you that it’s been incredibly healing for both Andy and myself.

      I’m telling you, every time my husband turns toward me, it looks just like Jesus to me.

  4. Because Jesus said that Satan is the “father of lies,” and Jesus also described Himself as coming to “SUFFER, die and rise again” (not just die and rise again), and He “SUFFERED being tempted so He could help us” (Heb. 2:17-18), one of the best ways to turn towards Christ first, and then our spouses, is to ask God to reveal the negative thoughts or “roots” behind our behavior of pornography (or any other behavior). As long as we continue to confess our “bad fruit” without dealing with the roots, the roots will continue to produce negative feelings that lead to negative behaviors/bad fruit. So we can end up receiving a lot of forgiveness, without receiving a lot of freedom, and thus we relapse. As we see where Jesus, our Suffering Messiah was tempted to believe He was rejected, not good enough, unwanted etc. and tempted to believe that He needed to provide love for Himself, on His own, apart from God, (like His time in the wilderness, His time when He struggled to surrender His will to His Father, in the garden of Gethsemane, His time on the cross feeling forsaken and tempted to numb His pain etc.), we can begin to connect HIS-story with our story…and as we pray through these powerful principles, praying Jesus’ story into our story, so we are also receiving HIS forgiveness, HIS acceptance, HIS peace, HIS purity (the opposite of impurity/pornography), we can begin to count the days of RECEIVING Jesus’ purity, as opposed to counting the days of sobriety/not looking at pornography (which inadvertently has us focus on the behavior we are wanting to stop), we can move forward in the journey with more hope, more healing and more freedom, because we are applying and experiencing more of the gospel, including Jesus’ emphasis on SUFFERING, dying and rising again. It is still a PROCESS. it still takes time. And it takes less time, because we are focused on the solution IN Christ, in practical ways. As we receive more freedom from the behavior, from the guilt and shame, and all the ways pornography robs us of our masculinity/having to hide from ourselves and others, we are more and more free to connect with our loves ones.

    With prayers that we can connect heart-to-heart with our Suffering Messiah, in a way that allows us to connect with those we love in a way that is heart-to-heart, receiving HIS purity, and HIS peace, leading to the truest, deepest intimacy possible.

    • Thanks, Paul. I would agree and I also think that we learn to connect with Jesus by connecting deeply with one another. We have a very independent view of our relationship to God, but instead it’s “I am the vine, and you ALL are the branches.” I think being able to connect deeply with one another is part of being deeply connected to God as well.

  5. Isn’t the “sliding door moment” an illustration of dying to self. Paul said, “I die daily.” Scripture declares that Christ gave Himself for the church. May we learn to love our wives as Christ loved the church (His bride).

    • I think so, Thomas. That’s what it is to me, as the wife. I know he’s doing something for me that is challenging, and that requires him to NOT do whatever he might otherwise do. It’s a beautiful little sacrifice of time and attention. I like that it’s a really specific example of something you can do, practically speaking, that puts feet onto those high-flown scriptural theories.

  6. Kay,

    Thank you so much for this warm reply. I am a Biblical Counseling student, retooling for a second career, at age 62, after a career in international sales and management in the chemical and mineral industry. I am almost done with class work and ready for practicum. So, I am a sponge, and very interested to learn from experienced counselors like you. I also see the value in exposure to a variety of research and training methods.

    I love your point about your experience with the “turning toward” method and how God used it to bring unity in your marriage like the unity between Father and Son. Coupling that thought with your statement that it is God that heals gets at my point. God heals through relationships in conjunction with His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, if you see an overlay between secular research and biblical principles, why not use the biblical principles as the foundation of the counsel? I am not suggesting we throw a couple of Bible verses at people and expect miracles, nor am I suggesting there is no value in Dr. Gottman’s work; but I believe our counsel must be saturated with the love of Christ who is the Word, and then pray fervently that God will work through the relationships to bring progress in sanctification, and thereby healing in His wings.

    Of course, if there has been no regeneration and justification, then there can be no sanctification. We can only take a person’s profession of faith at face value, but as counselors we know that continuous obstinate resistance to and rejection of the Word should cause us to reevaluate our approach and pray that God will take care of the greatest need before we can deal with a specific problem. In all these matters we are utterly dependent upon our gracious God.

    Kay, for me, I want to bring the Word as much as possible to bear on any given problem. It is sufficient, sharp, and powerful. I praise God for the healing and progress that He has brought to you and your husband. I praise God for good research that we can use in our ministries. And I pray that God continues to use you to bring healing to the depths of people’s souls.

    Brian

    • Well, I hope I do use Biblical principles as the foundation. It’s just that when the finest marriage research on earth coincides with Biblical principles, it’s like a party in heaven as far as I’m concerned! (The Gottman Institute, by the way, is coming out with a Biblical guide that goes along with their research, which I think is just fabulous.) I know my husband was so incredibly frustrated by the more “purely Biblical” approaches that just seemed to have no practical application, no real ideas for what makes a difference in daily life. This “turning toward” to me is the exact counterpoint to porn, which is all about turning away from the marriage.

      My other motivation for writing this piece was the numerous conversations I have with Christian women whose husbands have been in the cycle of porn addiction for years and years and years, in therapy, in groups, praying for deliverance, and just being sucked back into it over and over. I wrote this after yet another conversation, driving home and thinking, “Why is my marriage healing, and hers isn’t?” To all intents and purposes, those people have tried just as hard, prayed just as much? And it just struck me that this “turning toward” is what makes the real difference for us. It’s like making scripture real, making sacrifice real, one moment at a time.

  7. I agree with you. We were created with intimacy. And if we can just learn from Gottman (who has a lot of experience, and good information), then all we need to do is focus on the behavior of turning towards each other. Then there is no need for the cross, and it is a matter of ‘luck.” When God’s Word shares that Satan is the father of lies, and we know that Adam and Eve (not just Eve) were deceived by lies (different lies, but lies that led both of them to choose something else over God, and in Adam’s case, it was choosing Eve over God), and that Jesus was tempted like us in every way (no exceptions allowed in the phrase “every way” [Heb. 2:17]; and “all points” [Heb. 4:15], and we fail to bring Christ into the process at each and every step, then we have behaviorism. I was listening to a counselor years ago who was talking about the importance of intimacy and sharing between the couple at a Christian university, with no mention of Christ. When someone asked where Christ was in the equation, his only answer was that Christ is in the intimacy the two people have using active listening skills…so 1. All we need is the behavior of active listening skills, which does not create any need for Christ, His Cross and His power to overcome, His victory over temptation, or His purity. 2. All those who are single are thus left out, because they have no one.

    So again, I really appreciate Gottman’s work, and I’m seeing more and more focus on behaviors based on human research, sans any mention of how Christ can bring us victory in practical ways. I see lists and lists of things to do, but nothing about the power of prayer, nothing about the power of Jesus’ suffering being tempted, so He could help us. And I say this with over 10,000 hours of teaching, training and counseling as a Christian Marriage and Family Therapist who has done training around this country and many other countries. I see people going to sex addiction groups, learning how to count the days of not looking at pornography/sobriety, when we could be counting the days of RECEIVING Jesus’ purity and His victory, which lifts the mind to Christ. God’s Word tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” so all active listening skills have their foundation in the Bible, even as God and His Word are rarely mentioned as a power source. Genesis, Jesus, the apostle Paul and modern science all share how sexual activity creates bonding (chemical reactions in our brains that are scientifically proven to take place, to create neural pathways that change the brain chemistry)… so I want to also ask the Lord to break those bonds so the person can receive the purity of Christ, bonding that person to Christ. As we bond to Christ first, we can then bond to each other, with freedom, with no shame, no secrets because we are applying much more of God’s Word and HIS gospel, that are in perfect alignment with all the latest findings via research on how our minds work.

    If all I need to do is turn towards my wife, without Christ’s power, then I don’t need Christ. This is NOT minimizing my need to connect with my wife in any way, shape for form. And in fact, connecting with Christ in a way that I am receiving His purity, His victory, His forgiveness actually allows me to turn towards my wife in a healthier way, with deeper love, deeper intimacy. So I pray that anyone reading your article and other articles on this site will see the importance of Christ coming into the equation first, and at every step in the process, in practical ways, not just theological or theoretical ways (our Christian cliches do not work, so I’m not into head knowledge). Because I live life on the front lines of people struggling with addictions, abuse etc. I cannot afford to offer Christian cliches, nor can I afford to just offer behaviors, because I would be teaching them to trust in their own behaviors/self-will. And the sad part is this…to the degree that “self-help” techniques, methods or processes work, often, to that same degree, it teaches us to trust in our own self-will, our own will power, which can and often does move us away from a deeper dependence on Christ.

    For me, freedom is a continuum. To the degree I am depending on Christ, to that degree I have freedom. To the degree I am depending on my own self-efforts, I am losing freedom, because I am moving away from the only source of freedom in the universe. I have clients who go to Christian counselors who never pray with them, even when their clients are Christian. They leave Christ out of the counseling sessions, using methods they have learned in counseling class. This is sad, very sad… and again, I’m against Christian cliche’s that can be devastating to our faith (If you just had more faith, if you just prayed more, God helps those who help themselves etc. etc.)….

    With thanks for the way you and your husband are turning towards each other, and with prayers that we turn to Christ first, like it says in Ephesians 5, where we submit to Christ first, and then we submit or turn towards each other….connecting at the deepest level possible because we have already connected with “The Christ who MUST SUFFER” (Acts 3:18)., who is also the One who created us for connection with each other….

  8. I would be happy to share with you a story from my book “The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How HIS Suffering Can Heal Yours,” with a man who experienced freedom from a 20 year addiction to porn, and how it helped him to connect more with his wife. In fact, I had him talk with his wife about the impact his addiction had on her, and ways to connect. So connecting with each other is critical to a healthy, Christian marriage. It includes one chapter on his struggle and lies from the ‘father of lies.’ It includes one chapter on the prophecies Jesus’ fulfilled when He was “made like us in EVERY way… and tempted like us in ALL points…” (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15), so He can identify with us, because He “suffered being tempted.” And then there is a third chapter, sharing how healing and freedom took place when His story connected with Jesus’ story, and we prayed Jesus’ story into his story, leading him to connect heart to heart with God, leading to him being able to connect heart to heart with his wife, in Christ’s power, with Christ’s purity. My e-mail address is: paul@straight2theheart.com. My book is available at: http://www.hiddenhalf.org. The first three words in my book are “Life is messy.” And every story shares Biblical theology in the context of real life stories, with real struggles, the prophecies Jesus’ fulfilled so He could suffer being tempted, so He could overcome by trusting in His Father…or as He said, He does nothing apart from His Father, we can do nothing apart from Him, and our flesh (self-will apart from him) counts for nothings (John 6:63; 15:5 etc.). For me, it is more than a matter of linguistics. I want Christ to be seen as the source at every step of the way, so that when I’m working with people, they know it is not just a matter of this behavior or that behavior, or trying to stop doing bad behaviors, which is all a focus on our own performance…this is how Christ is the Vine, and we are the branches, receiving His life, His victory, His purity, His intimacy with us so we can have intimacy with others. I’m not taking away from the blessings you and your husband have received from turning towards each other and Gottman. And I want to offer individuals and couples the fullness of freedom Christ is offering us, as we become more and more dependent on Him. Blessings on your ministry, Paul Coneff

  9. I find myself online affairs. Married for 27 years he’s unbeliever an struggle with alcohol addiction. I love the Lord and repents on numerous occasions yet it does not last. I do not have the courage to confess to my husband. I’ve failed him before by having an affair and thought I’ve overcame this sexual sin. But find myself now struggling to become holy due to online affairs. I know what to do but does the opposite. At times I even become over spiritual….to run away from my secret life. How I long for the Lord to heal me and set me free. To become pure unto Him again.

    • Hey Heidi. Thanks for sharing with us here. It sounds to me like you’d really benefit from a group that’s focused on sexual addiction. Maybe Sex Addicts Anonymous or Pure Desire has a group in your area? xxxChurch has online groups you can join, as well. I think it’s just so helpful to get yourself into a place where it’s safe to tell the truth, where people can hold you accountable, and where you can learn to make healthy choices. This is an article we often pass along to men–just some basic ideas on overcoming addiction. You might find some of the ideas helpful, too. Let me know what you think! Kay

    • Hi Heidi, I really appreciate your sharing and your desire for purity…. I would be glad to share with you how to receive Jesus’ purity…. I appreciate Kay sharing resources with you.

      My concern with sex addiction groups is that you will be encouraged to say “Hi, I’m Heidi, I’m a sex addict.” These words will go out of your mouth, and into your ears. Even more, everyone else in the group is will say the same thing, so you will be hearing them identify themselves by their behaviors, their sinful behaviors, their addictions. This is in direct opposition to God’s Word telling us that our truest, deepest identities are “saints” in Christ.

      I would be glad to share more about this with you, along with multiple scriptures to support this. These kinds of support groups offer a sense of community that many churches fail to offer, because many churches are not safe places to share struggles, so I am not saying they are all bad. I share with you, based on 10,000+ hours of clinical and pastoral counseling, most of it in the area of addictions and abuse. So I know what it is to work on the front lines of ministry, with people who are struggling, who are deep into addiction. I speak at Conferences as well…but more importantly that all my thousands of hours of counseling, praying and speaking, I can share with you real-life stories of brokenness that have moved into healing, and freedom, through the practical power of Jesus Christ.

      I do NOT offer theoretical knowledge. I do NOT tell people to try harder, believe more/have more faith, etc. etc. I have a “Rubber-Meets-the-Road-Savior” who can help you, who can really help you. And I have women who can pray with you, over the phone, at the cost of your time… so there is NO financial cost to this offer to pray with another lady and see what happens. The only cost is your time, with a willingness to reach out and read one story, with scriptural, Biblical principles THAT CAN BE APPLIED in our lives, in real time, in the midst of temptations. I’m not supportive of an intellectual assent to God’s Word, that is in our head, that does not work into our hearts and lives, especially when the New Covenant in Heb. 10:8 and 10:16, tells us that God wants to write His law of love on our minds AND ON OUR HEARTS… Our hearts are the source of our beliefs. I can tell you as a Christian, and as a counselor that BEHIND your behaviors are FALSE BELIEFS, or to quote Jesus, they are lies from Satan, the ‘father of lies,’ just like Eve was deceived by a lie in the garden. So again, I really appreciate you sharing your struggle, sharing your heart’s desire for purity. Our goal is to have you learn how to receive Jesus’ purity in the context of Jesus healing you and setting you free from the false beliefs behind your struggles. My e-mail address is: paul@straight2theheart.com. And again, there is no money involved in this offer, and I work to connect women with women… With prayers that you will receive the healing and freedom you are asking for, in Christ, as you take the next step of faith to receive resources that gives you options to consider, that include practical, personal, and meaningful ways to experience victory in Christ, moving you from information ABOUT the gospel, to application OF the gospel, so you can be transformed BY the gospel, that moves you into ministry, with a testimony, just like the woman at the well (John 4), when Jesus spoke into her pattern of brokenness and sexual sin of living with a man who was not her husband. And then she moved into ministry, with a testimony.

  10. Thank you for sharing your heart Kay, and for letting us know about Gottman coming out with a Biblical guide. And I want you to know that your husband’s frustrations is one thousands upon thousands of Christians go through. Our Christian cliches are sucking the hope out of Christians. I would also agree with you that the behavior of your husband turning towards you is important, just like Jesus gave the man by the pool an action step to take in John 5. So we are in many ways sharing similar beliefs. Because I live on the front lines of ministry with real brokenness in lives, I cannot afford to have just a ‘theoretical/theological” set of beliefs with no way to apply God’s truth. This is a HUGE WEAKNESS in Christian counseling and Christian ‘fixing’ that often goes on within the church, that is not just NOT helpful, but it is also very hurtful. My passion is moving from the information of scripture, to the application of scripture in ways that leads to transformation in our hearts and minds. Here your husband is translating scripture, immersed in scripture, and still struggling. He is in good company because Jesus’ own disciples had the Perfect Teacher, with Perfect information and Perfect doctrine. But they were not able to receive truth IN their hearts, because of the false beliefs they had in their hearts, where they were looking for a Militant Messiah, instead of a Suffering Messiah. That belief system had to be exposed at the cross, and with the resurrected Savior opening prophecy to them about His suffering in Luke 24:24-27, 44-6 etc…. Information, even Biblical information will leave us high and dry, without application….With appreciation for sharing your story, Paul

  11. The term “relapse in recovery” is contradicting. An addict acting out in his addiction is still lacting out”. A man working TOWARDS recovery may or may not relapse, the frequency may decrease, and their behavior may greatly improve. But how can a man get into Recovery, if he’s not sober and is still participating in the thing that made him so sick in the first place? An addict in the Addiction Cycle is still an addict in the Addiction Cycle. There is no recovery until they are not continually feeding into the Addiction Cycle.

    So your husband sounds like he’s doing REALLY well. I wish more husbands had that behavior change. And I’m happy his frequency in acting out has lessened and its not consuming him allll the time. That truly is great he has found enough self will and self control that he can look at porn now and think “this isn’t what I want”. But the fact he would even look at porn for a few seconds in the first place is a red flag there is something deeper going on and that he’s not being completely honest with himself, God, or others. All relapses are preventable. Intentionally viewing porn (acting out) is preventable. And can an addict be in true Recovery if he’s not being fully honest with himself, God, or others? Trying to self medicate and self soothe by SEEKING out pornography is still feeding into the Addiction Cycle, even if they choose not to continue looking at pornography after already finding it.

    The definition of Recovery has great importance for an addict AND loved ones. And as an addict myself, there should not be any blurred lines regarding this.

    Whats the difference between slips, lapses, & relapses?
    http://makemyburdenlight.blogspot.com/2014/11/what-do-slip-lapses-and-relapses-all.html?m=1

    Is there relapse in Recovery?
    http://makemyburdenlight.blogspot.com/2014/02/is-relapse-part-of-being-in-recovery.html?m=1

    • I may have used a trigger word for you when I said “relapse.” I tend to use 12-step language pretty loosely. I guess I think all of us are in a process toward full honesty and ultimate relationship with God. I know I am not done yet, and I don’t expect my husband to be all done either. I’m just really happy that these days he habitually turns toward me, rather than toward porn. That’s a huge, beautiful change in our lives, and I’m willing to be in the process with him because of that trustworthy behavior, even when things are not 100% perfect at all times.

  12. Afterall, God said “sin no more”. He doesn’t want us looking at porn all, NOT to just be strong enough to look at porn for a few minutes and think “I don’t want this”. Looking at porn even for a few seconds already does so much damage to the brain and withdraws us from God.

    • Ideally, I guess none of us would ever sin in any way, because sin damages us and separates us from God. But, we do it anyway. And thank God, the kindness of God leads us to repentance.

  13. My husband and I have been working through his recovery for three years (with so much help from the Your Sexually Addicted Spouse book and Covenant Eyes). Despite a year long relapse he told me about 13 months ago we are finally in a place where I can feel trust growing again. He is in the military and is leaving in a couple months. He will be away for six weeks and it will be our first time apart since he disclosed his relapse. I am so nervous. Throughout this year we have employed a radical honesty policy and it has worked really well. But I have no idea what steps we should to take to make sure the lines of communication stay open while he is away. I know this could be an opportunity to build trust, and for him to prove to himself that he can maintain him recovery even when he is not in the structured environment of our home. But I know the guys he is going with are planning on going to strip clubs and such. They know he is a christian and have made it their mission to “corrupt him’ is how they put it. My husband does not want to take part in that sort of thing, but I know the pressure is going to be great. In the past him leaving has been a trigger and the beginning of a downward spiral, even though I didn’t know about it and thought that everything was fine. Are there resources available for both men and wives to navigate this type of thing?

    • You know what, Sarah? It sounds to me like your husband’s time away will be the perfect time for you to do some intense work on your own recovery.

      While he is away, he will have to be responsible for his own choices and behaviors; I hope he makes healthy choices! But you have no control over that. And honestly, I think that’s what you’re most worried about here.

      While he’s with you, and your “radical honesty” policy can be closely monitored, you feel safe. While I understand how that kind of close monitoring can be helpful to your feeling of safety, I don’t think that’s going to be an ultimate solution. Ultimately, he has to take responsibility for himself and his own choices. And you have to take responsibility for yourself: your emotions, and the way you spiral downward when he is away.

      If you don’t both learn to take responsibility for your own recovery and healing, you’ll end up with the “dry drunk” syndrome. He may not look at porn any more, but you’ve got a marriage that’s still obsessed with porn.

      This deployment may actually be an opportunity for each of you to move toward taking responsibility for yourselves, rather than you being in charge of his behavior and him being in charge of your emotions.

      A couple of good resources for you: Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend; Pure Eyes, Clean Heart by Jen and Craig Ferguson.

      I would strongly urge you to find a therapist in your area, get a relationship established with that counselor, and stay in therapy while your husband is away so that you can process your emotions in a healthy way.

  14. “Put together a pattern of those trustworthy behaviors over time, along with a spouse who is able to receive those things, and you’ve got a relationship that can be healthy again.”

    What if your spouse is unable to “receive those things”?

    • Well, a number of possibilities come to mind when you have a wife who’s not able to accept trustworthy behavior.

      1. Maybe there hasn’t been enough trustworthy behavior, and/or enough time. If you’ve been into porn for years and years, don’t be surprised if you have to be into recovery for years and years before trust is a reality for your wife. You keep doing the right thing, taking responsibility for yourself, no matter what she chooses.

      2. Maybe your wife hasn’t had the attention to her healing that she needs. I often find that there’s a great deal of attention to the man’s recovery, to the marriage’s recovery, but often the wife’s recovery is ignored. I’ve had wives come and see me after “successful marriage therapy” where the marriage is saved and the husband is in good recovery, but the wife has significant trauma symptoms that have never been addressed. Many many women in these situations meet the criteria for PTSD. If she hasn’t had good therapy, just for her, then that could be a problem.

      3. Maybe the relationship is so broken that it can’t be repaired. If there’s been a great deal of trauma, that may be the case. Sometimes the behaviors of the past have caused so much harm that the relationship is no longer viable. That’s sad, but a consequence of the truly terrible choices that can be made in porn addiction.

      4. Maybe you’re not really trustworthy yet. I don’t know where you are in recovery, and if you’re able to truly connect with her emotionally or not. Porn deeply damages the capacity to care about your spouse. Porn users click and click and click, and get everything they want, and it that creates the illusion that this is how real relationships work. It takes a long time to undo the damage of entitlement and objectification that comes naturally with porn use. And I can’t know if you’re far enough into recovery to really, truly care about how your wife feels, to turn toward her, to listen to her–or if you’re in the early stages of hanging on to “I’m not looking at porn this minute” by the skin of your teeth, and expecting her to be super excited about your awesome recovery.

      I don’t know exactly what the problem is, but I think your best course of action is to be trustworthy and responsible for yourself (stay in therapy, stay in groups, stay in recovery) and encourage her toward help and healing for herself.

      Blessings, Kay

  15. Is he really serious about quitting his porn when you catch him and he flat out lies about it when the evidence is right in front of him and you and he thinks you dont see it its your imagination?

    • Well, I think you might be seeing a classic defense mechanism called “gaslighting.” I recently created a couple of animations about defense mechanisms and gaslighting that might help you understand the behavior that you’re seeing. Ultimately, trust yourself and the evidence of your eyes, and decide what good boundaries will look like for you in a situation like this.

      I do think that if he’s going to get into recovery, he’s got to be honest with himself first of all. But, if he’s not ready to do that, you can go ahead and be honest and work on your own emotional processing and recovery. There are personal counselors and a number of groups (Celebrate Recovery, Pure Desire, xxxChurch, S Anon) that can give you support and help as you work through all this. Blessings, Kay

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