About the author, Ella Hutchinson

Ella Hutchinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Sexual Addiction Specialist, Certified Clinical Partner Specialist, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Ella served three years on the board of the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She helped write the curriculum used by APSATS that trains clinicians in the Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model developed by Barbara Steffens. She is currently a board member of the International Association for Certified Clinical Sex Addiction Specialists. Ella and her husband, Jeff, work together helping couples find healing from sexual addiction.

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Porn and Your Husband

Parenting the Internet Generation Ebook Cover

Did you catch your husband watching porn? Learn the answers to common questions, tips to productive conversations, steps to setting boundaries, and how to determine the next steps for your marriage.

33 thoughts on “10 Ways You Can Help Your Husband Leave Porn Behind

  1. Hi Ella,

    I’m very confused about you are advocating in #9: “Make sure you are both on the same page as to what constitutes pornography”.

    Are you saying that what constitutes pornography is entirely subjective?

    • Ed, I’m so glad you asked this question. I should have clarified. No, I absolutely do not think it’s subjective. As I was writing that I was thinking about the multiple men I’ve heard argue that looking at celebrity sites, even certain newcasters, nude photography etc. and of course things along the line of Sports Illustrated or Maxim, are not porn. Basically I meant women need to clarify what they mean when they say, no porn. Anything at all that is, has been, or could be, used for visual sexual arousal is pornography.

  2. Thank you very much for your response Ella.

    So, what if a husband considers the movies “50 Shades of Grey”, “Magic Mike” and “Magic Mike XXL” (which are all movies marketed predominantly to women) is porn and the wife disagrees and adamantly believes that it is not porn. Whose right — the husband or the wife?

    • Those movies are just as sexually impure and damaging as what we traditionally have seen as porn. It is a tragedy to me that this has become mainstream and seems to be seen as acceptable by so many.

  3. You’re saying that those movies are just as sexually impure and damaging as what we traditionally have seen as porn but you’re declining to classify it as porn. My question is: why don’t you consider those movies to actually “be” porn — rather than just be “like” porn?

    Also, if the husband believes that those movies are actually porn, then what steps should he take with his wife if she watches them against his wishes?

    • Hey Ed, I’m not going to address the “porn or like porn” question, but let me jump in on your second question here: what do you do when your spouse does something you don’t agree with? I think that is a boundary question. Usually we get those from women here at CE, so I’m going to give you a link to an article I wrote for wives, but I think you’ll get the idea. Also, I’d recommend Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s excellent book, Boundaries in Marriage. The bottom line is this: we can’t control other people, only ourselves. And we all have to choose for ourselves what is healthy and right for us, even when our spouses make choices we don’t like. Anyway, have a read and let me know what you think. Blessings, Kay

    • Hey Ed,

      I’ll address the “like porn” question. Many could classify them as porn, but the word is notoriously difficult to define since it is a fairly charged word. For my own purposes, I tend to define pornography as textual or visual materials containing explicit displays or descriptions of sexual organs and sexual activities, with the intention of removing these images and acts from the intimacy of partners, in order to stimulate erotic (rather than aesthetic) sensations in consumers. While there is much that could be said about sexual themes in mainstream movies, advertising, and television, and while there is much debate around the differences between nude art and pornography, I tend to define pornography as that which is designed by its creators to be consumed in order facilitate sexual arousal, without any emphasis on any other artistic or entertainment value. I think this definition is pretty faithful to the term as it was used throughout the first hundred years of its existence or so.

      I think it is easy to get hung up with words. If we feel the urge to make the definition of porn very broad to encompass many, many types of media, are we merely doing it in order to help people see the lustful nature of that material? If so, then perhaps we need to just get more creative with our terms. In other words, if our definition of porn needs to be so large because “not porn” is okay, then maybe we need do a better job at articulating why porn is not the only sinful kind of media in existence.

    • I have a background as an actress in theatre and film, and the “business” answer to what is or isn’t porn is this–pornography depicts individuals actually participating in the act of sex, whereas actors for a feature film aren’t actually having sex, just implying that they are. However, I agree with the other answer posted–it all looks like sex on camera in the end. I am always very surprised when people feel like sex scenes in movies/on tv are “safe” and not porn bc the reaction we have to it as humans is essentially the same. Additionally, I try to compare it to being a “peeping Tom.” The latter would be arrested for committing such an act, the reason being that they did not have permission to view the act by the parties involved. But aren’t tv screens essentially windows allowing us to watch others? Did God give us permission to view such things. No–He did not. Why does watching it on a screen not carry the same weight as sneaking up to someone’s window? My answer is that it should carry the same weight bc the consequences are equally burdensome.

    • Every man’s battle and every woman’s battle articulates these two subjects very well. Things like 50 shades of grey is the emotional equal to what we are calling porn. It’s equally as damaging and possibly more dangerous because it doesn’t carry the stigma that porn does. I highly recommend reading every man’s battle and every woman’s battle.

  4. “It will be okay,” or “I’ll always be here for you,”….if you don’t use phrases like these, there is always a fear that he will lie to you. If a cushion is available, won’t he feel encouraged to speak out the truth without hiding feelings. This just helps you to understand how the dopamine levels are changing, if they are.

    • Maddie, most of the time he will lie to you no matter what. Reassurances that you won’t leave are rarely enough to motivate an unfaithful husband to be honest. And even if it did, you’ve now made him feel much safer to continue acting out. Some wives will agree to a one time agreement not to divorce no matter what comes out for a set period of time (often a year) in exchange for a full clinical disclosure (the kind with a therapist present that includes a full and detailed, though not graphic, account of a person’s entire sexual history). I do not encourage or discourage a wife to make this kind of guarantee. It is up to her. I have found that the majority of the time the full truth will still not come out, even with this guarantee, without the use of a polygraph. That is why I use polygraph with all my disclosures.

  5. The article is very good and I’ve read Henry Cloud for years. He’s excellent at explaining how to take responsibility for one’s self no matter what their spouse does.

    But I’m still a little confused about your approach. In your posting here, you advocate:

    Porn use must cease immediately.
    Filters such as Covenant Eyes should be installed on all devices (by you or a trusted accountability partner).
    Weekly counseling must begin as well as weekly support groups for people struggling with porn/sexual compulsions.
    Some spouses also insist that a couple’s intensive with disclosure and polygraph be done to help her feel sure there are no more secrets and that they both have the tools needed to move forward in the right direction.
    Create a time frame for your boundaries, giving a date by which each need must be met.
    Sleeping in separate rooms.
    Complete in-house separation.
    Out-of-house separation.

    Are you saying that the husband should have the wife agree to the exact same type of conditions if she keeps on renting movies like 50 Shades of Grey or goes out with her friends to watch Magic Mike at the movie theater?

    • I’d say those are boundary issues you need to discuss as a couple. Are you comfortable and happy with those choices she’s making? If not, choose your boundaries.

    • Not if she isn’t the partner with the addiction or the partner that has created the consequences with their behaviors (dishonesty, infidelity, betrayal). This would be akin to an alcoholic husband not allowing his non-alcoholic wife to drink. She may choose to abstain in the name of support, of course but I see a difference.

  6. Just a pointed question as to whether or not this is all biblical, or are you mixing worldly thought into things here? I have some concerns about some of the language. Addiction is a serious issue, and I think that temporary but long-term separation until the addict repents is probably more biblical than the language about ‘get a lawyer, get a job, save money’, etc. My wife and I are separated now and she has taken the stance of saying, ‘you won’t come back into the house until you are well along the road to recovery from porn use’. But your article here leaves some wide open interpretations as to what a woman should do when confronted with porn usage. If God hates divorce equally as much as he hates porn and adultery, shouldn’t we be telling spouses that they should look toward reconciliation first, even while they demand repentance?

    • As a side note, I’m 90 days clean from porn and taking my recovery seriously as a result of my wife’s hardline stance and talk about how she was “researching divorce” if I could not repent, but even moreso my recovery is successful because of the positive influence of men in the local chapter of Celebrate Recovery, as well as the reading I can do on such sites as this. But above all, it is devotion to God’s word and His love and grace that is lifting me up more than all things, and the ideal (the mark) is to restore marriage and family, and glorify Him all that much more. I just think we need to be careful with the rhetoric and ammunition that we hand ladies that are emotionally unstable in an understandably volatile situation, and might even be suffering from “emotional anorexia”, the inability to reconcile with their spouses and a desire to end the marriage because of their frustrations in the first place. May be adding fuel to the fire with some of this language.

    • Jeremiah, I hear your concern. One important thing I have to point out is that my audience plays a crucial role in how I write. My intended audience, being wives (mostly Christian) of compulsive porn users, is a population I have worked with closely for several years. Encouraging some of them to prepare themselves for a worst case scenario may be “adding fuel to the fire” if I had ever observed the existence of that particular fire. I do not see women, especially Christian women, jumping to leave their husbands over porn/sex addiction. They may threaten this in anger, but I do not see them acting on it. In the rare instances that I see women divorce their husbands over his porn use it is after years, usually decades, of desperate attempts to save their marriage with a husband who is unwilling to fight along side her. I see women suffering health issues, chronic pain, debilitating anxiety, and overwhelming sadness as a direct result of their husband’s porn use. You ask if we shouldn’t tell spouses to “lean toward reconciliation first”. I see this as being human nature and in my experience, with rare exception, not something women need to be reminded of. The powerful attachment bond that is marriage makes walking away much harder than staying in the short term, in most cases. And it should be that way. Divorce shouldn’t be easy. Jeremiah, it sounds to me like your story is a perfect example of how what I am trying to teach in my article, really does work! Your wife’s boundaries really helped get you on the right track. I have no qualms about my stance not being biblical. I have spent some time researching God’s views on divorce, not nearly as much time as Luke Gilkerson did before his most recent article on porn and divorce which I think I saw you commented on, and I’m comfortable with my views. I hope that after reading this response, in addition to Luke’s phenomenal article with which I agree wholeheartedly, you are comfortable with my views as well.

  7. How does this look when the roles are reversed? What do consequences look like then? Should a husband leave/separate from his wife if she is not willing to pursue recovery? If you have any material on this topic (with roles reversed) please let me know! I have spent countless hours searching the internet with no avail. Thank you so much for your help.

    • Hey Brian, I think it would look exactly the same, regardless of gender. Here at Covenant Eyes, the story we hear most often is the husband’s unrepentant porn use, so that’s the way this post was written. Blessings, Kay

  8. Hi Kay, do you believe that particular medium is “porn” only if the husband and wife are in agreement about it but it is not “porn” if they don’t see eye to eye on the subject?

    How can couples agree on boundaries if they don’t agree about the nature of the subject matter?

    Also, I’d still like to ask you the question that you said that didn’t want to address:

    Are the “50 Shades of Grey” and the “Magic Mike” movies “porn”?

    • I don’t think we have to be in agreement to create healthy boundaries for ourselves. In fact, I think boundaries are particularly important in the areas where we do not agree. We decide for ourselves what is healthy for us, and we decide for ourselves what we will do when confronted with issues that are not healthy for us.

      The point of boundaries is not to make someone else do what we want. The point of boundaries is that we take responsibility for ourselves and decide what is healthy for us, regardless of the choices others make.

      Often in marriage, we can compromise and learn to live with things that wouldn’t be our first choice. However, when our partner makes choices that are unhealthy, impact the relationship negatively, and refuses to acknowledge the damage or work toward solutions–then we have to think seriously about what our boundaries need to be in that situation. If you didn’t read my article on boundaries previously, here is the link.

      I’m not especially interested in defining particular movies as porn or not-porn, because I think you are asking my opinion so that you can add weight to your own argument against your wife, hoping to change her mind.

      You don’t need my opinion on this. You are an adult. You can decide for yourself if those are healthy choices to watch or not watch. You can choose your boundaries.

      In the case of the two movies you’re asking about, I haven’t seen them, so I couldn’t make the judgement even if I wanted to.

      Blessings, Kay

  9. Hi Luke, according to your quite expansive definition of what porn is, now it’s time to put it to the test:

    Are the “50 Shades of Grey” and the “Magic Mike” movies porn?

    • Under that definition, I would say it is debatable. On one hand, those movies those movies do have an emphasis on other artistic or entertainment elements beyond the portrayal of sex. On the other hand, the movies have a fairly clear motive to facilitate sexual arousal.

      I don’t personally get hung up on the definitions, because there will always be debate around what qualifies as anything under any definition of any term.

      I guess I’m not sure what is to be gained or lost by defining those movies as pornography. We don’t need to box ourselves into using one term that becomes our junk drawer for everything we find sexually immoral—especially if by doing so we cause confusion or do an injustice to the way terms are used historically. I would not hesitate to call Fifty Shades of Grey “pornographic” (which is an adjective) or “sexually abusive.” I’ve not read much about Magic Mike, so I’ll decline comment there, but my guess is I would probably say “pornographic” is a good term for that as well.

    • Kay, great response, especially this…”I’m not especially interested in defining particular movies as porn or not-porn, because I think you are asking my opinion so that you can add weight to your own argument against your wife”. My feeling, that there is nothing more than a desire to stir the pot here with a motive that doesn’t seem pure of heart, is the reason I have purposely stayed out of this discussion.

  10. Hi Luke,

    I’m still really not sure why you are splitting hairs with calling 50 Shades of Grey merely “pornographic” rather than calling it porn itself? Why the difference in words and terminology? Is it because when you have declared a particular medium to actually “be” pornography rather than “kinda like pornography”, that it carries a more emotionally negative stigma? Why won’t you call Fifty Shades of Grey, out and out pornography just like you would with a movie like, say “Deep Throat”? (according to your porn definition).

    The female viewership of Fifty Shades on it opening night was 69% female and the fourth highest grossing film of 2015. The movie has earned over $569 million worldwide:

    http://variety.com/2015/film/news/box-office-fifty-shades-of-grey-explodes-with-record-breaking-81-7-million-1201434486/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey_(film)

    Now, it looks like two more films are coming out in 2017 and 2018, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

    Question: Did 70% of the female viewership of this film actually watch pornography?

    • I’m not trying to split hairs here. I’m just trying to do justice to the English language. You seem to think the adjective “pornographic” is somehow less severe than calling something “pornography,” but it really isn’t clear to me why that is.

      Like I said, I don’t see a need to box ourselves into using one noun that becomes our junk drawer for everything we find sexually immoral.

      It’s really not a hill I would die on, however. If someone said to me they think 50 Shades is “pornography” I would understand they are speaking about the same elements in the film (and books) that I also find degrading and immoral. I accept it as common way people would refer to the film. Language is fluid like that.

  11. Please humor me then Luke since you are implying that I’m the one essentially getting hung up on language. I’ll ask the question again:

    Did 70% of the female viewership of the 50 Shades of Grey movie watch pornography?

    A simple yes or no answer would be appreciated.

    • I’ll offer my personal opinion as far as Ella’s application goes. She says, “make sure you are both on the same page as to what constitutes pornography.”

      One of your original questions was if a husband considers the movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and Magic Mike to be porn and the wife disagrees, who’s right?

      1. My wife and I wouldn’t have this disagreement because neither she nor I think those movies are pornography in the classic sense. So my “simple” answer is no, those women did not watch pornography.

      2. What I just said doesn’t even matter as far as Ella’s article is concerned. The point is not whether I, Luke Gilkerson, think something is porn or not, but for a husband and wife to agree what is porn.

      3. Furthermore, if a husband and wife disagree about this, I think its best to get to the question beneath the question. I used a more restricted definition of pornography, not because I think Fifty Shades of Grey is a quality film. Its complete trash—a morally bankrupt film. I just don’t feel a burden to need to use the noun “pornography” for every piece of media in our culture that is sexually immoral. In other words, if my wife wanted to watch Fifty Shades of Grey, I would not oppose her doing it on the grounds that it is pornography. I would oppose it on the grounds that it is demoralizing, misogynistic, abusive, lust-inducing smut.

  12. Thank you for answering the question more clearly Luke. You’ve made a solid case for Ella’s position that pornography is whatever you think that it is. Now I understand the confusion about the term even more.

  13. One question that I have that I can’t find an answer for. My husband of 33 years has been addicted to porn, abusive and unfaithful. He has blamed me and everytime we go to counseling, admits to his sins but turns it back on me and says he’s tired of being the one with the problem. I admit my faults but I feel he is redirecting and not fully accepting responsibility. Now is is mad all the time and life is miserable. Can’t afford long counseling.

    • Hey Marcia.

      Unfortunately, this is often what happens with an addict in counseling, because addiction really isn’t a couples’ problem. Yes, the addiction impacts the couple. But the real problem that needs to be resolved is a one-person issue: if the addict never takes responsibility for himself, you can’t do any work as a couple. You can’t make his choices for him. You can’t be healthy for him. He has to choose that for himself. You’ve invited him to therapy, but he isn’t responding with taking responsibility for himself in the relationship. It’s really sad and hard, but I think that’s the reality you’re faced with right now. What does your counselor have to say about this dynamic of blame and redirection?

      I would say at this stage, you’ll need to take responsibility for yourself by deciding what good boundaries will look like in this relationship. We’ve got a couple of articles on that, here and here. Also, in our free download, Hope After Porn, several women share their stories of boundaries within recovery.

      There are other sources of support for you besides therapy–I do understand that gets expensive quickly! Celebrate Recovery, S Anon, even Al Anon are good community resources for spouses. You can also google “support groups” and see what comes up for your area.

      Hope that helps–Kay

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