2 minute read

Am I to blame for my husband’s porn problem?

Last Updated: April 16, 2015

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

We talk to many women who are going through the heart-break of watching their husbands sink into the mire of porn addiction. This sensitive subject is only compounded when we hear how husbands actually blame their wives for their habit.

I had a conversation last year with Cindy Beall about this. Her husband (who is also a pastor) was entrenched in porn and eventually started flirting online with other women, leading to multiple affairs. Today, by God’s grace, their marriage has been restored and they have helped many other couples in crisis.

This is what Cindy said in our interview:

As I talk to more men and women who’ve gone through similar struggles, I would find men with these full-blown addictions who were working through it, and maybe even recovering, who had the most drop-dead gorgeous wives. And you know, you’d hear people say, ‘Well, if she was taking care of him in the bedroom, then he wouldn’t be out there looking.’ That is the biggest crock I’ve every heard. Because I was available to my husband, and I’ve talked to more women who say they were available to their husband, and they still do it.” (Listen to the interview here)

Even if a man is married to an attentive, caring, vibrant woman, porn can still tug at his heart. Why? Because pornography is not about “sex,” broadly speaking. It’s about fantasy. It’s about lusting after what you cannot have.

The Sins of Fantasy

The Bible actually addresses this subject very specifically. Read Paul’s thoughts on this:

“[I]f it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” (Romans 7:7-11)

Follow Paul’s logic here. First, Paul speaks about this principle of sin in the members of his body: a drive in him to disobey God. He then speaks of God’s law. He specifically mentions the tenth commandment: You shall not covet. The word translated “covet” is translated “lust” in many other places in the New Testament, because that is one of the primary forms of this sin: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…” (Deuteronomy 5:21, emphasis added).

Paul’s sinful drive within him combined with this revelation about coveting produced in him an even greater lust, or as he says, “all kinds of covetousness.” It was as if covetous desire was laying dormant in Paul—asleep, dead. Then the command not to covet brought his sin to life, arousing the sleeping giant. The command, of course, promises life (“You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live,” Deuteronomy 5:33), but our sinful drives use the command to stir up more lust within us.

This is the hot stove principle. Tell a kid not to touch the stove, and he wants to touch it all the more.

This is why “the other woman,” whether she is flesh and blood or pixels on the screen, pulls at a man’s heart. It isn’t because he has an inattentive wife. However obedient or disobedient she may be (look it up in 1 Corinthians 7:3), the man is responsible for his own covetous desires. No matter how much he may be sexually drawn to his wife, the sinful drive within pulls his thoughts toward the women he can’t have.

So what is the solution? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.

  • Comments on: Am I to blame for my husband’s porn problem?
    1. Noelle Dunnan on

      So what do we women do? My husband keeps telling me it is not my fault and that I am beautiful, but I don’t look anything like the women he was looking at. I am falling apart and am sinking into deep depression. I do not know what to do. He tells me one thing, but does the other (saying that I am beautiful, but looking everywhere else). I do not understand, and need some help. Where can I turn for comfort (aside from God’s Word)?

      Noelle Dunnan

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @Noelle – I’m so sorry to hear about how your husband has brought pornography into his mind and into your marriage. I am reminded of stories of supermodels like Elin Nordegren or Christie Brinkley, who, by any of our cultural standards, measure up as “beautiful” women, but still their husbands run after other women or porn. Why is this? It is because it is the nature of lust: it always wants more.

        That being said, many women feel their husband’s fixation directly reflects on them as a wife. If you visit our “Struggling?” page you’ll find some great links for women who need encouragement. Hope this gives you a step in the right direction.

      • a man on

        as a man…its not also always about beautuful women, or just lust or porn, pictures maybe helping him cope, ease ptsd or help make him feel loved maybe he was raped, molested or struggles with same sex attraction, etc if occurred b4 25yr old as child rewired his brain to receive chemical reward maybe opened him to chemical high oxytocin from masterbating. maybe he feels emasculated too high expectation at work, maybe severly insecure, had like me lesbian female boss that hates men and intimidates him or disrespects him in public? this is coping mechanism to release frustration to see women being hurt in sex acts, etc etc.

        thousands of reasons men look at naked people in sex acts. ultimately to fulfill a void that only God can heak. find cause, then rechange behavior, in meantime stop expecting to be a human holy spirit nor fulfill any of his wants. only his needs. pray hourly for both u.

        keep digging into scripture and keep heart soft to him but pray.
        read word God, get help from godly senior mature married Christian women or if trained professionally ur pastor.

    2. Noelle Dunnan on

      Thanks. I forgot that even the beautiful women have problems like this… I am fighting for healing, but now I feel like if I mess up, even just a little bit, he will be back on the computer again. He told me I was partly responsible for him looking because I have not been giving him enough emotional stimulation. I have not been connecting emotionally because he has been distant (now I know why). How is this my fault?

      A confused, and anxiety filled wife.

      Noelle

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @Noelle – This can be very frustrating because it is a cycle: he retreats to porn, becomes distant, you react with a similar emotional distance, he feels neglected, he turns more to porn. The only thing that really can break this sort of cycle is developing a pattern of honest conversation before things become emotionally difficult, at the first signs of distance or difficulty. At first this may seem nit-picky, but if you both agree to attacking the cycle itself over the long-haul, this will attack some of the root problems.

        Of course, there must be a willingness to fully own what is yours and he to own what is his (in terms of sin), and for both of you to refuse to blame-shift. No matter how poorly someone has been treated, this does not give license to sin against them. As you sit down to talk with your husband, this is one of the “rule of engagement” that needs to be established: I will take responsibility for my own sin.

        I am so sorry to hear about your situation. Feel free to peruse our blog for more articles and resources for wives.

    3. Noelle Dunnan on

      Thanks Luke,

      My husband and I have been talking and Christ is taking over the situation. I have forgiven my husband, he has forgiven me, and we have chosen to engage one another in our marriage rather than let the marriage die. We love each other. I don’t know if this could help anyone, but Jesus told us to Love each other as He loved us (not as we love ourselves, or how we think we should love them). I married an imperfect man, and my standards were too high. I am imperfect, yet Christ died to save me…I have to forgive and love my husband, no matter what may happen. I am not in denial, I still hurt and we move through and talk to each other freely when these feelings arise. We have a lot of healing to do. My main thanks to God is that my husband is seeking him again and that he wants to do do right by me. Thanks for all of the support.

      “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

      He is God and he uses all things for good. Amen!

      Noelle

      Reply
    4. Katherine on

      I may be forgiving, but I would NOT be a pushover. There is a line you must walk for yourself and for your children.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @Katherine – I totally agree with you. Forgiveness does not equal trust. One of our authors, Mark Gaither, wrote an excellent post, “When Love Has to Get Tough,” which is all about not letting yourself be walked on. You might really like to read Laura Booz’s story on our blog. She has some great things to say about how God helped her and her husband through the most difficult time in their marriage.

    5. Julie on

      Hi, I am really struggling with this situation. I have been married for 4 years now. My husband is wonderful in many regards, but he does ignore me. He ignores me emotionally because he would rather watch tv, play on facebook etc. then talk to me. He ignores me sexually too. I used to think he just wasnt into sex, and that was fine with me, but come to find out, he loves watching porn….so he DOES like sex…just not with me. I dont know if he has an affair going on too, there is no way to tell as he has a great poker face. He blamed me for him watching the porn because I was too inhibited in sex…and he prefers the uninhibited girls of youporn and uporn. I am wondering now why he chose to marry me, as I was a virgin, and perhaps he should have married someone a little less “inhibited” then if that is what he really wanted. I feel very used. I am kind of “over” it though, I guess I just have a thick skin from him ignoring me for 50 % of our married life. We do NOT have children. It is for this reason I am thinking of divorcing him. I am quite young and would like to have a family and a normal married life with a normal man with a healthy sexuality who respects marital boundaries or else, doesn’t take a vow he cant keep. I am a Christian and I have forgiven my husband. But I feel I am “done”, but a divorce would devastate my mom and me and my husband and his family, our nieces and nephews etc etc.

      I can not imagine building a family with a man who I cant trust and who does not desire me sexually, even though, I know I am beautiful, desirable and slender. (his problem not mine, I know) I dont think I can have a baby with him, knowing that if he prefers porn to me now, how much will this increase if I do gain weight in pregnancy??

      On the other hand, divorce is against God’s Law, and would be really really, devastating to our families

      Reply
    6. Alison on

      Julie, I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. God’s word specifically addresses “lusting with your eyes…you have committed adultery in your heart”. Adultery is one reason a man or woman may divorce their spouse. I hope your husband has or will seek guidance from a trusting source, who has the wisdom regarding pornography, internet sex, etc. I hope for your marriage that he will choose to end all pornography use and flee from temptation. I also hope that the both of you can learn to be intimate, not just physically but emotionally. There is a great workbook by Laser regarding ways to heal broken marriages and what to do if you are looking to get into a healthy relationship.

      I am not sure how you both are doing now, but I commend you for reaching out. And trust your intuition. You are a very wise young lady and I hope and pray that you can find the answers you need to move forward towards healing and happiness.

      Alison

      Reply
    7. James on

      I find this a partial remedy, as in incomplete. The first thing that sticks out to me is the uncanny ability Cindy Beall and Luke Gilkerson have in full knowledge of what is happening in everyone’s marriage. I have not found painting large swaths of people with a broad stroke very helpful in the trenches, in the details of love, attraction, reverence and passion within a marriage.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Not following you, James. Where am I or where is Cindy claiming to know what is going on in everyone’s marriage?

    8. Summer on

      When we where first married we had sex all the time. Then my husband decided I needed to watch porn…the first movie of porn was of oral sex.
      I was molested by my brother…oral sex.
      So what a shock to relive the worthless act again..not as a child but a grown woman.
      I tell my husband over and over how I feel about oral sex. How degrading and how it stirs up sad and disturbing feelings. My brother was sick…sad to say…he wrote me love letters over the years. My Mother never addressed what had happened with me as a 1st grader. She just said don’t tell your father he would kill him.
      So here I go again…no understanding on my husband…just what he needs, what he wants.
      No regard, no respect, no nothing…
      I withdrew over the years…and the comments I get..from my husband…you hate sex, don’t have to worry about you cheating on me you hate sex…
      Watching regular movies my husband turns to me saying…oh look she wants him…over and over again…
      I have turned into a slob at home. Can’t keep my home cleaned up…i feel depressed…and so overwhelmed. I work 7 days a week and long hours. I stack the responsibility sky high on myself. And wonder why…
      I drag myself through life feeling guilty, worthless and especially can’t make up my mind how to move on with life.
      I feel guilty for everything…and fret about the mistakes I’ve made and look for ways to make amends.
      I no longer sleep in the same room with my husband because I can’t handle the smell of old booze and suffocating cigarette smoke.
      I give my husband hour long hand jobs to somewhat meet his needs…because I feel sorry.
      Last night I got up at 12:18 am to use the bathroom. I could hear a movie being played out in the bedroom my husband sleeps in. I couldn’t make out what the movie was about but…i just knew.
      In the morning I ask my husband what he was watching…he tells me porn. I know he blames me due to lack of sex between us. By the tone of his voice and expression.
      I’m sorry…is how I feel…I feel like telling him go…i set you free…go find some chick to –ck. We are both close to retirement…its not fair to hold on to him go live the life you want sex, porn, beer and cigarettes. You only live once…go make yourself happy.
      It’s time I find my own happiness and rid this monkey on my back. I’ve lost the luster to fix it or the desire to try.
      Forgot to mention…my husband got caught by his children when they where young and one child had repercussion for many years over a DVD of porn.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Summer, it sounds to me like you need to find a therapist for yourself immediately. Right away. Find someone who can help you process this lifetime of painful emotions, and help you decide what is healthy and right for you. It sounds to me like the demands of others, with terrible boundary crossing and no regard for your needs as a person, have ruled your life. It sounds like your value and worth as God’s precious child have never really been lived out in how others have treated you. You have been set free for freedom. You do not need to live as a slave to the sin of others. You are not a victim, you are a beloved precious image-bearer of God. Shake those graveclothes off, sister. Find a counselor, find a group, get connected with online support. Live according to your true worth and value. Peace to you, Kay

    9. Michele on

      I found porn on our computer when our son was in the 4th grade. My husband blamed our son and our son said it was already on the computer when he looked at it. I found it a few times more from the time our son was in the 4th grade through his senior year. Our son was always blamed for it by my spouse and our son always denied it. Well then our son left for the Air Force after high school graduation and lo and behold I find porn on the computer and this time my husband didn’t have our son to blame. He did lie and deny it though. I was so furious that I made him drive to church with me to talk to a pastor. I was separated from my husband so that the jr. pastor could talk to my husband. There was no on there to give me any comfort. The jr. pastor agreed to counsel my husband so I joined them on the second or third session only to be told by the jr. pastor that in his experience wives drive their husband’s to porn. I told him he was dead wrong and left the session and the church. My husband has continued going to the church. In fact, he was a deacon at the time he was finally caught and they allowed him to continue to be a deacon just gave him some time off to recoup. RECOUP! He went back to church and has been a deacon without having to deal with his issues. I refuse to attend a church where they don’t address the issue, they blame the wife, and they allow the man to continue to serve without any need for confession or for reconcillation. I struggled with the divorce issue because no one has been able to tell me for a fact that I am free to do so because of the porn issue. My husband has other issues as well some that have put me in danger, some that have put me in a position where I’ve gotten hurt, financial control is maintained by husband, I can’t buy groceries on my own, I’m expected to ask permission before I buy something but he isn’t required to do so when he buys something. There are so many things over the 35 years of marriage that he has had complete control over and when I say something to church leaders I’m basically told that’s life, boys will be boys, you’re to obey at all costs. BOLOGNA! I’ve had it and I need help getting out of this mess. Please provide me with information of someone or someplace to help me out of here. FED UP

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        I am SO PROUD OF YOU for seeing the bologna for what it is! Far too many women will accept the blame that their spouses and then their churches heap on them. You are a LIGHT IN THE WORLD! Thank you for showing up here and sharing your story! May many other women be strengtened in the truth, and set free by your example.

        Here’s an article you will love, called A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce. Read it and be free. Bottom line: you are not required to be a slave to anyone’s sin, including your husband’s. Any church that tells you that you’re required to stay and be abused has lost sight of the heart of God.

        You might want to find a counselor who can help you through the transition to freedom. Groups are a great source of support, and be sure to check the online resources at Bloom for Women. Your local women’s shelter may be a source of counseling for you as well, as the level of control you’re describing fits the profile for domestic abuse. Your women’s shelter should also be able to connect you with legal support and resources.

        Peace and freedom to you,
        Kay

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