If you are the wife of a (hopefully recovering) pornography addict, I have a heart-felt message I want to share with you. But first, I want you to pray that God would open your heart and mind in such a way that you’d be able to fully receive it with the spirit in which it is intended, to be a blessing, not a burden . . . to encourage you and inspire you rather than require things from you that you’re simply not ready to give. My goal is to help you become a sexually confident wife again, in spite of the past poor choices your husband has made.
Before I just throw these principles at you, I want to tell you about a few conversations I’ve had recently with women who are still sorting through the multiple layers of immense pain that their husbands’ addictions have caused them.
Cathy explained, “I refuse to buy or wear any sort of sexy lingerie.” Very attractive with a petite, proportionate, curvaceous frame, I couldn’t imagine that body image was the reason for Cathy’s aversion. As I inquired further why she felt this way, she responded, “That’s the kind of stuff they wear in pornographic films! I don’t want to awaken the urge in my husband to look at that stuff again!”
Okay, let’s pause here for a bit of girl-talk amongst ourselves. So . . . I’m guessing Cathy wears cotton nightgowns, fuzzy robes, or frumpy pajamas instead of sexy lingerie? And this is supposed to keep her husband’s sexual appetites from being “awakened?” Sorry, but I can’t agree, nor can I imagine her husband agreeing with this philosophy. A well-fed man doesn’t feel the need to steal a steak dinner from his neighbor. Only the starving man is tempted to reach out for something that doesn’t belong to him to satisfy his hunger. I think the same principle applies here. If a husband can’t drink his wife’s beautiful body in through his eyes and enjoy the sexual freedoms that the marriage bed is meant to offer, how can he not be tempted to look elsewhere for that visual gratification? I’m certainly not trying to justify a man’s use of pornography, but simply trying to help wives understand the natural cause-and-effect.
And granted, many wives do all they can to dress sexy for their husbands in the bedroom, and they still surf for porn. In response, I say that I’m so sorry that your husband doesn’t recognize the value of honoring you by looking to you exclusively as the sole source of his sexual and visual gratification. He’s got some growing up to do before becoming the sensitive lover that you deserve.
But back to the woman who refuses to dress sexy for fear of awakening his desires for pornography . . . I’m just not sure that equation adds up. How sad that she’s let pornography rob her of any sort of sexy lingerie wardrobe.
Another example is Rhonda, who lambasted me for even suggesting that wives gratify their husbands by doing an occasional striptease for him in the privacy of their own bedroom. “That’s pornographic!” she exclaimed. Hello!!! Really??? Further conversation revealed that Rhonda thought it best to leave the lights off to make love because she doesn’t want to be “compared” to pornographic models. I guess she thinks that if he can’t see her, he can’t compare her and think of all the ways she doesn’t measure up to those airbrushed beauties. How sad that she’s let pornography rob her of her own healthy body image.
Yet another example is Tonya, who refuses to consider any other position than the missionary position because “all those other wild-n-crazy positions are what pornographic actors do, and I don’t want to emulate them!” How sad that she’s let pornography rob her of the carefree, adventurous side of her sexuality (not to mention her husband’s adventurous side as well).
I can understand that a woman’s knee-jerk reaction to her husband’s pornography issue is to try and starve his desires until they match her own more-inhibited, less-frequent desires, but does that strategy have any hope of real success given how men are such sexually-oriented, visually stimulated creatures? And remember: this is their divine design by God, not a result of some sickness or brokenness or pornography addiction. Sexuality was God’s gift to man and woman before the fall of man, so there’s nothing inherently sinful about his natural, healthy sexual desires.
I also understand that a woman might, as a result of her own brokenness and insecurities, be tempted to withdraw completely from anything that even remotely resembles pornography, but consider these things:
- Pornography wasn’t readily available to the public until the creation of Playboy Magazine in 1953. I can’t imagine that women weren’t dressing sexy, stripping, or enjoying various sexual positions with their husbands prior to that time period. So why would we not feel the freedom to do these things now?
- There are also very natural things portrayed in pornography such as kissing, body massage . . . and intercourse. Does that mean married couples should abandon those activities all together too? Sorry, but I refuse to let pornography rob me of that much of my sexuality! Just because something has been featured in some pornographic film doesn’t automatically make that thing “dirty” or “bad.”
- I’m not convinced that it’s all bare skin and hot sex men are after when they gaze upon pornography. I believe the “You’re absolutely irresistible . . . I want you badly . . . Come and get me” looks on their faces are really what these men are craving. They want (and need) to feel sexually desirable in a woman’s eyes in order to feel like a real man. What power we hold as wives to provide that which their mind, body, heart, and soul long for most!
All this to say, Ladies, please don’t hold out sexually on your husband as some sort of “punishment” for his bad behavior, because you’re ultimately robbing yourself.
As just one example of how this is so, sexual intimacy causes a wonderful hormone to be released in the human body called oxytocin (what I call the “Big O” hormone!). Oxytocin causes a woman especially to experience peaceful, calm, and even euphoric feelings when she is tenderly touched, and this feeling bonds her like glue to the person who touches her and creates these hormonal surges. Therefore, the more sex she has, the more she’ll want to have with her lover.
However, oxytocin can also work against you if it’s not produced regularly in your system. The less you’re touched, the less you’ll want to be touched. The less sex you have, the less you’ll want to have, all the while growing more and more “frigid” as the years go by. No woman aspires to be a frigid wife, and no husband desires to have one, so while I’d never be so cold as to say to a woman, “Get over it and get naked!” I’ll let you do the math. One naked, oxytocin-producing man plus one naked, oxytocin producing woman equals one intimately connected couple!
There are too many emotional, physical, and spiritual health benefits to sexual intimacy for you to allow anyone or anything to rob you of it. If you give in and let pornography rob you of your sexual confidence, or your healthy body image, or your playful adventurous side, then pornography wins (again!). But if you can draw the line in the sand and refuse to let pornography rob you of anything more than it already has, then you win . . . your husband wins . . . your marriage wins . . . your family wins. In light of all that’s at stake, isn’t your sexual confidence worth fighting for?
If you answered yes to that question, you can learn more strategies for victory in my newest book, The Sexually Confident Wife. You’re also welcome to join us at SexuallyConfidentWife.com for other blogs to inspire your sexual confidence!
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This is a guest post from Shannon Ethridge. Shannon holds a master’s degree in counseling and human relations from Liberty University. She is an internationally sought-after conference speaker and million-copy best-selling author of numerous books including the Every Woman’s Battle series, the female corollary to Stephen Arterburn & Fred Stoeker’s Every Man’s Battle series. Learn more about her books and ministry at ShannonEthridge.com or the website for her newest book: SexuallyConfidentWife.com.
This is an awesome post. As a man I wanted to affirm some things you said and give some further insights from my perspective.
First off, I was addicted to pornagraphy and other illicit sexual activities before marriage 23 years ago, and from time to time have stumbled since then and still feel the temptations.
Refusing to do something/wear something solely because it was in pornagraphy really compounds thing for a man because it adds to his shame. Shame at least for some men is one trigger to use pornagraphy.
To say it another way- if I learn to be afraid to share what I would like, for fear of being refused because it was in pornagraphy- then I become afraid and ashamed to share those desires, which increases my desire for them and lessens my desire to resist the temptation.
What I have found is that if my wife can find some things she likes to wear or do and can do them whole heartedly and regularly- the appeal of some things that maybe aren’t her cup of tea is less, especially if I feel safe admitting my desires to her.
The line about “A well fed man doesn’t need to steal a steak from his neighbor” is a good summary.
This statement ” I’m not convinced that it’s all bare skin and hot sex men are after when they gaze upon pornography. I believe the “You’re absolutely irresistible… I want you badly… Come and get me” looks on their faces are really what these men are craving. They want (and need) to feel sexually desirable in a woman’s eyes in order to feel like a real man. What power we hold as wives to provide that which their mind, body, heart, and soul longs for most! ” is so true for me and I don’t know if I could have said it better.
I really like the way you are making the point that you are not going to let pornagraphy steal more of your God given sexual pleasure. I wish more women had that attitude.
One thing that I do try to remember is that “Pornagraphy is pixels on a page.” I so much more enjoy my wife.
Again, great post.
Who Am I
This seamed to be a safe site for my husband. However, this post was pornographic. I am disappointed to say the least. And sadly, we will look for another site to help us.
Where is the discernment? Covenant Eyes, shame on you. I recommend this so-called counselor study “Theology of the Body” by Christopher West.
Take a guess how many men had images after this post. And to those woman (and men) who did see through her erroneous post, BRAVO!
I am sorry to hear that you won’t be returning. I don’t quite see how this post or its links are “pornographic” but I respect your observation if you feel that this site is not safe for your husband. Hope you will find what you are looking for.
Just want to say you are doing a great service for couples, especially Christians. You are absolutely right to point out the terrible losses which are incurred when Christian couples let Satan rob them of the precious gift of sexual joy and freedom within the context of godly covenant marriage.
With great love and respect for your critic, “Patty”, I profoundly disagree and I believe her views, though understandable (I assume she has suffered from the effects of illicit porn), are unhealthy.
As a pastor for nearly thirty years, I have seen first hand the brokenness which comes to relationships through porn addiction, but also because of maladjusted and unbiblical views which Christians have regarding married sex. These extremes are really just two sides of the same coin.
As far getting unholy “images” in our minds is concerned, we will never stop that by hiding in denial. The truth is, all of us get such images from time to time, with or without suggestion from any outside source.
The early church fathers actually had a word to describe this phenomenon (Greek: logismoi, literally “the false or untrue thoughts”); they considered the intrusion of such thoughts to be a normal and unavoidable result of the fall. The remedy they prescribe is not to put blinders or to deny our struggles but rather to train ourselves through prayer and meditation to let these thoughts pass by and not to hold or entertain them. I can tell you from personal experience that this is entirely possible, even though the struggle is a lifetime struggle. The devil flees at the sound of a humble sinner saying “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me”. I guarantee it.
Married Christians who try to suppress sexuality do a great disservice to themselves and their partners and put their relationships at even greater risk.
A final thought: Gk Chesterton once said, “A man is always looking for God – even when he is knocking at the door of a brothel”. This may almost sound blasphemous but Chesterton, a devout Christian, was pointing out a fundamental reality; all of our deepest longings are spiritual in nature, and only God can satisfy them. Sadly, we knock on many wrong “doors” in our quest for satisfaction. This is not to suggest that married folks should just forget sex and pray; it simply means that nothing on earth – even the thrill of sexual oneness with someone you love for life – can ever completely fill us or calm the fever of sinful desire like the Lord Himself. When men and women forget this, they are at high risk of a train wreck, even if they never pursue illicit sex or porn. The only answer is to love the Lord and our marriage partners with all the passion and energy we possess.
A brother in Christ
While I can respect that Patty has a different view of this post, as another female I feel the need to say I could not agree more with the author. The points are maybe a little too real or even too convicting for some but for me they were right on target. As a former wife of a porn addict, I have been the woman who withholds or punishes and I can say that only added to his addiction. Why would men want the woman who rolls her eyes or gives no expressions during a natural, God given act? God made men with testosterone for a reason and to deny it’s power is foolish. Sex is not dirty in nature, humans make it dirty. Sex between a married couple can and SHOULD be an amazing expression of emotions, not a duty or an obligation or part of some sick game where women manipulate men with their sexuality. Healing from the trauma of porn and all the hurts that come with it begins with forgiveness and true forgiveness does not translate into manipulation.
In respose to Patty and “Theology of the Body” and Fr. Christopher West… I too grew up in the Catholic Church. I looked foward to enjoying my sexuality within the confines of marriage. But in the Catholic Church… the only acceptable form of sex is procreative. It is a narrow view of theologians… who are not married, and have no interest in maintaining a marital relationship for themselves… but yet claim to be experts on marital relations. If you feel you are called to the chaste marriage as modeled by the ever virgin Mary and Joseph the most chaste spouse, and feel it neccessary to force your husband to hold the same belief… your marriage needs help from the real Christ… the Christ that rejected religious institutions for the freedom of a RELATIONSHIP! Is your relationship blinded by all the rules of the Catholic Church? My Heart has been there and to a point… still is… The choice is yours… allow the Catholic Church to rule over your sex life with your husband…. OR let Christ rule over your relationship with your husband.
Until you accept Christ as you saviour as opposed to the Catholic Church…. you will not have the freedom that only Christ can give… I’ve been there.
I appologize if this sounds harsh… but it is the Truth.
It is so hard to want to continue working at pleasuring him when you are hurt over and over and feel like you cannot compete. It is a wet blanket on my sexual desire. I feel like I try so hard and it doesn’t matter. Why should I bother–it would hurt less if I wasn’t trying. We’ve talked about getting Covenant Eyes but I think he will just find a new way to fulfill his lusts. Am I letting it rob me? Where do I draw the line and say enough? I used to be angry and bitter. The first time I found out 9 years ago it was to me as if he had committed adultery. It seemed that he was doing well the last couple years. Somehow when he confessed to me this time I wasn’t angry or bitter. I had a love and desire for him different than before and the last few months we have been very close physically and intimately. Every time he fails my emotions are different and I struggle to seek God’s thoughts. I try to talk about it and he gets defensive. I feel my options are to just ignore it and give up–let him wallow in his sin and quit putting forth effort so that it won’t hurt or push the issue and be miserable because of the conflict that will occur. My husband tells me he finds me beautiful, and sexy and I am so much better than pornography but it is hard to believer when he keeps returning to it. I have never refused my husband and love sex just as much as he does (I’ve enjoyed the Christian Nymphos website). My husband can have steak any time he wants it but he still steals it from his neighbor.
Am I missing something here? Is this meant to suggest that even if our husbands are “doing” porn, we should be okay with it and just keep having sex and try to enjoy it as if the porn isn’t happening? That’s like having someone else in the bed while you’re having sex. Perhaps I missed something here. I’m sure most husbands wouldn’t be too thrilled if their wives were screaming out another man’s name during lovemaking….
You have my deepest sympathy. Is your husband a believer? It’s not clear to me that he has really reached a place of repentance. What are his triggers? What makes him turn to porn? I don’t think it’s anything you’re doing or failing to do. Has he read “Every Man’s Battle”? If his issue is visual in nature, he may be robbing you long before he starts looking at porn and that book will give him some strategies to break the cycle. Blessings to you.
I agree with What?
Someone is not on planet earth. I guess if you block out that hurt you can’t feel the pain.
I say kick a man when he’s down, if he’s a man he’ll get back up
Dear Wives and Husbands,
I found out on Monday 19th January 2009 that my husband is addicted to pornography. I hurt really deep inside but my inner strength carries me at times. I never knew about this addiction until now. I’m a very confident person and reached a point in my marriage where I was truly happy. I have been with my husband for 12yrs ,been married for 3yrs and we have a 9yr old son. I am only 26yrs old and have given my all to my husband, I carried him for yrs, lost trust in his desire to be the husband I wanted him to be. Then my husband got his calling on 25th February 2008 and became a faithful Christain whilst I wasn’t and still not. But his faith made him a better person and I started to trust again and then his addiction came to light.
I cried and fought and got lost in despair, but I know my husband is even more lost and needs help. He suffers inside, as a result of being sexualy abused as a child. I will be there for him, yes he had choices and made wrong ones but I can’t change that I can only contribute to the future.
This post has given me the strength to continue to be the wife I have always wanted to be to my husband. To open up myself fully to him, because that is what I am asking him to do. I will be his friend, his lover and his supporter because I believe only he without sin should cast the first stone. I will continue to try and not hold any judgements on him and just be me. I started to mentally punish myself, didn’t want to look in the mirror, didn’t want him to look at me naked, but I AM WHO I AM, and this is who he needs to see and love.
I forgot to say that even though I found out without him, he straight away asked for help. We got Covenant Eyes on 21st January, he is about to book to see a counsellor after researching and we have met with his pastor and he has confessed all to him.
I couldn’t be more proud of you for your mature response. Separating yourself from this issue enough to EMBRACE your own ability to minister to his sexual desires in a way that only his wife can is the best plan for victory. Withdrawing sexually to punish him will NOT help him with his pornography problems, but I do believe that God’s kindness (as seen through your loving response but desire for accountability) will certainly lead to his genuine repentance. We’re believing for that WITH you, girlfriend!
Shannon Ethridge, M.A.
Author of The Sexually Confident Wife
Mon Frer Christos –
I hope you don’t mind, but I cut & pasted your wise comments to my blog at http://www.sexuallyconfidentwife.com as well. Thank you so much for your kind words of affirmation, and helping dispell the myth that our God-given sexuality is a shameful taboo. It’s unfortunate that some mistakenly believe that God created our heads, arms, legs, etc., but that the DEVIL must have been the one to slap on the genitals. I’m looking so forward to Heaven when we can sit at God’s feet and listen to Him unravel the mysteries of the connection between sexuality & spirituality! Until then, I’m trusting in the fact that ALL things God created are GOOD, including healthy sexual expression between husbands and wives.
The book “The Sexually Confident Wife is amazing! I bought it after reading this blog post. Thank you, thank you, thank you for telling me about it!!!!!
My husband and I had discussions about porn before we were married. I knew that for him it had been teenage curiosity that had transfered into an adult addiction. He had been trying to escape for years and by the time we were engaged was winning the battle.
After two years of me holding him accountable and rebuilding my trust in him (I never got a “yes I looked at porn” during this time) I found inappropriate search results on his computer. I was angry and prayed the entire time before and during my confrontation with him. He told me that he had fallen a handful of times within that last two years and was still tempted weekly. He was so ashamed. He told me that he had wanted to tell me so many times but always had excuses not to and he was scared of my reaction. He didn’t want to hurt me anymore. As I watched the man I love break down, the Spirit enabled true forgiveness. Despite my flesh reaction to push away from him and ask him to leave, I was able to do the exact opposite. It is in these times that our husbands (who are struggling and WANT to change) need us the most! He needed to know that despite his sin I still loved him, just like he loves me despite my many sins and shortcomings. He needed to be touched, not pushed away.
While I still struggle with feeling like I am “enough” for him and long to be the only woman he looks at in that way (which he and I are both confident we will accomplish) I have come to understand God’s heart and relationship with us so much more. Never have the stories of Hosea or the Prodigal Son been more alive!
In the meantime, we are using CE to help us rebuild trust. And I must continue to keep myseld open to him and be the helpmate God created me to be.
Women, you must remember that your husband is not looking at porn because of you– Don’t let yourselves believe the lie that you are not enough. Most men (myself included) started at an early age (early teens) and it is so hard to stop even in marriage. It has nothing to do with you, but us and us letting our flesh and idol of sex get the best of us.
Not until the man is repentant, seeks forgiveness (from God and the wife) and establishes a battle plan, will he ever have victory.
I had a lingerie WARDROBE because of my discount as a lingerie salesperson, and I continued to update after that job. And I am very in shape. When I found the porn. I threw it out. When I found it again, I threw out my dresses, skirts, sexy pantyhose, and several pairs of high heels. I loved that stuff in my naive days. And now maybe my spouse will not find me interesting, but what’s the difference? I couldn’t compete! Now, I have a solid feeling of self respect. Love was great, but real love, love for yourself, is the real thing, and you can count on it! Clothing is to make your body comfortable and good clothes like I wear now make me feel good.
I feel as though the article assumes wives are withholding the wearing of lingerie as a punishment. I disagree with that. Its the feeling of competing with the pornography actresses and thinking who is he really desiring when he see this… making you feel like a piece of meat, that is dehumanizing. A wife needs to heal from that, understand and separate herself from the pornography problem ( I do think most of us cant help but feel its our fault its there), and only then can she embrace the use of lingerie as a harmless act.
Whew. This article is good. The comments are good. I’ve been struggling so much with this and I’ve been praying about it. Kay Arthur actually has an excellent study that I’ve started and I just bought the book. It’s called A Marriage Without Regrets. It has to do with marriage and not porn, but I think it might help other wives so I wanted to share. Keep on praying. Keep on believing God can change your husband because I’ve seen a huge change in mine. Just do your part to be a godly wife.