6 minute read

Help me save my marriage! My husband watches porn

Last Updated: September 9, 2015

Ella Hutchinson

Ella Hutchinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) who is passionate about advocating for partners of sex addicts by helping them to find their voice. She served for three years as a founding board member of the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). Today, she proudly serves on the board of directors for the organization, Certified Sex Addiction Specialists-International (CSASI). Ella and her husband, Jeff, work together helping couples whose marriages have been invaded by sexual addiction.

When sexual addiction has not progressed beyond pornography, this may be even more dangerous and damaging to a marriage than when acting-out behaviors include sex acts with other people.

This may not seem to make sense. Surely, after doing research on sex addiction, many wives of porn addicts are relieved that their husband hasn’t done some of the extreme behaviors they have read about. They may even question if they are overreacting to his use of porn. It doesn’t help if friends and even counselors tell them this is “normal” behavior, and they should accept it and stop making mountains out of molehills. In reality this act that is seen as harmless by so many and perpetuated by society as completely acceptable. It is indeed extremely common, and well over half of men (including Christian men) look at porn, whether occasionally or daily.

Most people do not recognize the damage that is being done to a man’s brain when he exposes himself to this obscenity, whether sporadically or compulsively.

While my focus here will be on porn addiction, any women whose husband uses porn will find some helpful information here. Even when pornography use has not become an addiction, it is damaging and a wife has every right to insist her husband stop using porn. If he is unable to stop, this is a sign the problem could be more serious than it seems.

Meet Leah and John

Leah came to me after twenty years of marriage. She had recently learned about her husband’s pornography use. She had caught him a few times before, but was too focused on caring for three children, including one with serious health problems, to make too much of an issue of it. She didn’t like it, but like so many, she assumed there was nothing she could do about it.

However, by the time I met Leah, she had come to realize the issue was much bigger than she could have imagined. John was looking at porn at home, at work, and on business trips. Leah had found bills from pay-per-view movies in hotels, charges to porn sites on their credit card statement, and finally John admitted to using porn on his work laptop.

Leah knew John’s career was at risk, as was their financial stability, and of course their marriage. As she was consumed with caring for their children she hadn’t paid much attention to the fact that John’s sexual attraction to her had all but disappeared. She even pushed aside comments that she was not attractive enough or exciting enough in bed. Although these statements were incredibly hurtful, she just didn’t have the time to allow herself to dwell on it.

Leah’s Growing Conviction

As Leah’s children grew older she began to notice more distance on the part of her husband. She began to recognize how he had abandoned her when their daughter was sick and immersed himself in work and the Internet. The things Leah stumbled across on their home computer could just have easily have been discovered by one of their kids. When Leah confronted John all she got was comments about how all men look at porn, that she was overreacting, and that if she satisfied him then he wouldn’t have to turn to porn.

Finally, after researching sex and porn addiction Leah persuaded John to attend a twelve step meeting for sex addicts. John came back relieved at how much worse off so many of these guys were than he was. After all, he had not physically stepped outside the marriage. But Leah’s sense of betrayal was very real and only increased as John tried to justify and rationalize his behavior.

She tried reaching out to a friend who told her that her husband also looked at porn and that Leah should just ignore it. “All men do it.” Her pastor simply told her to have more sex with her husband and spend more time on her wardrobe, hair and make-up. A counselor told Leah to be more open-minded and try watching porn with her husband. Leah did try once, but it was uncomfortable for her and didn’t feel right. She never did it again. Still Leah went back and forth, questioning whether she was overreacting.

Will John Ever Change?

When Leah came to me I explained how porn affects a person’s brain and increases his lack of ability to experience intimacy. I explained how so often porn causes a man to prefer masturbation and images on the computer to his wife, no matter how objectively attractive he may find her. Healthy, monogamous sex is often no longer exciting or fulfilling. Even if there is still an active sex life within the marriage, a woman is likely to experience a lack of emotional connection and feel like her husband is not fully present with her. He may try to get her to parade around in lingerie or pressure her to participate in sex acts that she is uncomfortable with. Sometimes a wife refuses to join in on these activities. Other times she feels it is her duty as a wife to satisfy her husband in whatever way he wishes or that if she cooperates she will be able to keep him from straying. Unfortunately, this simply does not work and in fact, she in unaware that by accommodating her husband’s unhealthy desires she is participating in his acting out and could be fueling his addiction.

Over time, with Leah’s persistence, and by attending the group meetings, John was willing to admit he had an addiction. Leah insisted on an intensive for couples dealing with sex addiction and John agreed. During the disclosure and polygraph it came out that John had been looking at porn habitually since before they even met. This debunked John’s argument that his porn use had anything to do with Leah. Leah felt empowered by this, but during the intensive John admitted he was not confident he was even a sex addict. Leah was devastated.

Normalizing Behavior

See, a man who has acted out with prostitutes, has had multiple affairs, sex with random women he met online, when he has to write down all his sexual behavior in his lifetime, can no longer live in denial. He is more likely to quickly recognize the extent of his actions and the damage he has caused to himself and those around him, especially his wife. Men like John have an easier time normalizing their behavior. Reading books about sex addiction can be comforting as they learn stories of men getting arrested for using prostitutes, blowing their life savings on acting out, and participate in activities such as group sex. I recommend starting out with the book, Every Man’s Battle, for men struggling with porn addiction alone.

It is important to note that sex addiction is progressive, and men who compulsively use pornography are likely to eventually act out with another person if they have not already. Some red flags are e-mails and chatting with women online, posting or responding to ads on Craigslist, and unaccounted for time and money. While e-mails with plans to meet up with another woman or texts about sexual escapades may seem like obvious evidence that he has been physically unfaithful, it is shocking to me how many men are able to convince their wives that they did not follow through on these things and never planned to. He was just curious, just found the flirting exciting, doesn’t know why he did it but would never go outside the marriage. Perhaps, but probably not. What’s the expression about a smoking gun? Listen to your intuition, ladies.

Leah Sets Boundaries

So what did Leah do? She joined a therapist-led support group for wives of sex addicts and continued individual counseling for herself. She learned how to set boundaries. She insisted John sleep in the guest room and gave him a firm time frame of when he had to turn around his behavior or would have to move out. She made it clear what her expectations were of John. Some of these were individual counseling, regular twelve step meetings, regular polygraph tests, intensive aftercare, and eventually marriage counseling. She stopped checking up on John and sat back and watched to see if he would follow through with his commitments, as she turned more of her focus to finding healing from her own trauma.

Leah not only made it clear that the pornography must stop, but that John must also change the way he treated her and become more patient and humble in his dealings with her. When John did not treat her with the respect she knew she deserved, she calmly told him she would not engage in his manipulation or verbal abuse and that he could talk to her when he was ready to apologize and treat her properly. Then she walked away.

Most importantly, Leah learned about and implemented great self-care. In addition to her support group and counseling, she began taking daily walks that turned into jogs. She discovered that journaling was an excellent way to get out her feelings and when she was angry or sad she would write until she got it all out. Leah also learned that if she did not start her day with prayer and Bible study, she would not have the strength to handle her situation, but that these practices made it possible for her to get through anything, knowing her Heavenly Father was by her side.

John has not acted out sexually since the couple’s intensive six months ago. He just passed his last polygraph test. He is still struggling with expressing intimacy and empathy, but Leah holds out hope that with continued counseling, which he has embraced with open arms, he will get where he needs to be. She recognizes that this is a process and that while she is not obligated to stay, she has decided at this point it is what is best for her and her children. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but trusts God to lead her where she needs to be.

  • Comments on: Help me save my marriage! My husband watches porn
    1. Matt Riley on

      The views expressed in the blog might lose credibility with people that see infidelity as much more problematic than pornography addiction.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @Matt – There are probably many views expressed on this blog that lose credibility with others for wide variety of reasons, but your point is well taken. I hope it was clear why Mrs. Hutchinson made such a provocative and controversial opening statement (aside from grabbing the reader’s attention). Her point is that the problematic nature of porn addiction is a kind of infidelity that does real and lasting hurt to a marriage, but is also subtler and more accepted than physical adultery and thus can be knowingly continued and tolerated for far longer, thus doing powerful emotional damage over years of time. Plus, because of its wider acceptance, the typical wife is also not met with the same level of community support that is invoked by the discovery of an affair, but rather she is often stereotyped as pathological, overreacting, and frigid. Ella is not the only marriage counselor who has come to these conclusions. When Dr. Jill Manning gave her presentation at the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton, she commented, “The discovery of this problem in a marriage is uniquely devastating, evoking an intense range of emotions. In fact, research supports that this is just as painful, if not more so, than a traditional affair. Hence it’s not surprising that we are seeing an increase in divorces relating to this issue.”

        I do believe you are right: there might very well be a loss of credibility among those who think she is overstating her case, but she also isn’t saying anything definitively. She is really only trying to say what may in fact be the case, thus trying to overcome the societal impression that pornography addictions could not possibly be as damaging as something like adultery.

      • Kathy on

        Pornography addiction IS infidelity!

      • Anon on

        My husband doesnt see why this hurts me and makes me feel less attractive, I am getting to the point of crying every day and sick of initiating sex. He denied it for many years and claimed he ‘shared’ out a designated folder on a torrent site, I said that maybe true but 99% of whats in that folder is porn and quite a huge amount. I also said that denying intimate time with me but choosing to masturbate instead makes me feel like less of an attractive person. Also, I have never denied him sex and always ready to go so its not like I am denying him and he is trying to find another way for a release of sorts, another thing is that I am not exactly a prude in the bedroom, so that isnt another reason for him to look. (trying to remain polite on this forum)

        He confessed to porn use 2-3weeks ago and said that I maybe do it once per month and then said only at 2am or so it the morning when he cant sleep, I said I doubt that, you are just trying to hide it. How did I find out about this? he was ‘accidentally’ caught a few times by our 9yr old daughter.

        I started to spy on him almost a year ago when his attitude changed and rather worrisome behavior started to emerge (it really happened and I am not coming up with an excuse) and he was denying sex more and more often and he told me to just accept that he doesnt have a high sex drive like I do (he use to), then I find mountains and mountains of porn and him confessing to a so called mutual friend that he keeps his porn on a hidden drive so the wife doesnt delete it and upon further investigation he has more than a few terabytes of porn. He also discussed about leaving us as a family and that he is going to be saving up money and how physco I am :( he has also been havinf innapropriate convos with another woman joking about sex and masturbation with another woman and he told me this is normal to joke amoungst friends, this same woman who doesnt know me calls me batshit crazy and even made a light hearted joke that maybe he should knock her up and he can stay with her.

        I told my husband that it devasted me that I found all of this out and he said that I shouldnt of been spying, ‘she’ was being a supportive friend and the talks with that so called mutual friend was when we were arguing, we wernt arguing and he was being mentally abusive and tried to argue, he claims to not remember what he has said but I do, and some of these things is that I am a stupid f*****g c**t and useless wife..

        He is doing ok now and said I should just get over it and learn to trust him, he has been acting like when we first got together and wanting to spend time with me and the kids and wanting to do things to help around the house and recently watched our children so I could go out (we have 3 children and one autistic child) as I look after the kids all the time and have a globally delayed/autisic son. hes been trying really hard and what I am trying to get him to understand is that I have a constant fear that he is leaving and he said that is bs and he was talking bs, but the longevity of the convos and the insults to me as a person which was unjustified has left me a shell of my former self. I feel alone, useless and unloved.

        Hubby has since admitted that he did a test recently and was borderline but not quite over the line testing for aspergers and bi-polar. My fear is that if we saw a councelor that they would condone his porn use that he has now claimed to have stopped, I just cant get over all of the betrayal and fear, the kicker was when he confessed his porn use he said maybe I am mentally unstable and need to seek professional help and build a bridge n get over it, he downplayed my feelings and justified these so called friends and what they said. He now said he realized what he said was wrong but at the time he was dead set for 2days trying to convince me that I am mentally ill,

        Sorry to go on, but its good to come to a forum and speak about this

      • Alicia S on

        I don’t know what I feel right now besides the fact that I feel so betrayed by my husband. Almost married a year and we have been dealing with his porn addiction and just recently like literally this week I found out he has been posting ads on craigslist casual encounters and has been replying to women and men and he made an ad stating he was married and to be discreet when messaging him. I found his chats which are heartbreaking. We’ve definitely been discussing this. I don’t know what to do. I cry all the time cause I don’t understand how he could keep doing these things to me. We have sex more then two times a day. I’ve given him more then I have ever given up to someone. This is so hard :'( the fact that I can’t talk about this with someone is driving me insane. Should I stay or should I go?? Please someone help me :(

      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Alicia. I’m really glad you wrote in. It sounds like your husband’s sexual behavior is escalating as he contacts other people. Ultimately, it will be his responsibility to make healthy changes for himself. He need to do all the things we talk about here: filter his internet, find accountability, work on his underlying issues. It sounds like he’s not willing to do those things, and that leaves you in a sad and difficult place. It’s even more difficult when you feel like you can’t talk about this with anyone. I would encourage you to find a safe person to talk to, someone who can support you as you decide what to do. Hopefully you have close friends or family who can help you through this. I recommend the American Association of Christian Counselors as a good place to look for a counselor in your area. When you think about your options, it’s sometimes helpful to know how others have handled similar situations, so have a look at the free download, Hope After Porn, and the stories of the women there, who had to make hard choices too. As you read these stories, you’ll see that some of the women chose to separate while their husbands worked on their addiction. That’s a big step to take, but sometimes that’s a really powerful choice for the relationship, which can lead to healing and reconciliation, if he chooses to do the work. Have a look at those resources and let me know what you think. Praying for you today, Kay

    2. Jorge on

      A very interesting and TRUE statement. I have sponsored men in recovery that felt their problem “wasn’t that bad” because it “only” involved pornography. I feel those men have the hardest time breaking through their denial. Pornography has been normalized in our culture that I have guys that argue that it is “ok” to view pornography on occasion or that “every man looks at porn.” I even had one sponsee drop out of the program because he felt his acting out was “not as bad” as the other guys in the group.

      Ultimately, the use of pornography, given the opportunity, will escalate into adultery.

      Reply
    3. Sandy on

      The last comment is not true! According to the words of Christ in Matthew 5:28 “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a women to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” I am perplexed that we do not just use the scriptures as source of truth, but allow the worlds thoughts and ideas to slip into Christian minds and move us from the truths, and absolutes of His word. It’s scary when Christians mix the worlds view with biblical truths. God help us to stand firm in these perilous times!

      Reply
    4. Adrie Janse van Rensburg on

      I recently found out that my husband chatted with other woman. I was devastated and although I expected that he watched porn I didn’t expect personal conversations on BBM or SMS’s. I went through a very rough patch that I cannot describe in words. This is my second marriage. My first husband was also involved with other women. I really wanted to trust my second husband. It took me many years to recover from the first experience. We are married for 25 years now. In the beginning I didn’t know what to do or where to go to for help. I read Leah’s story, and I know my answer is in the Bible. At my age it is also very difficult because how do you start over? I am working, but I am financially dependent on my husband. For years my husband had a password on his computer. He gave me the password, and obviously I search through all his files to see what is really going on. He was watching porn and chatting to other women.
      I am just wondering, what type of woman would do this to someone. Or even worse what husband would do this to his wife and family. I don’t know what to do and really need some advise.

      Reply
    5. aggie on

      i have been married to my husband for seven years and we have three wonderful children. we have spoken about his pornography addiction many times throughout our marriage but recently i have noticed a spike in his behavior. the history in his work phone is full and everytime i find it, a little more of me dies. i am starting for feel not only hurt, but anger and resentment towards him. i feel that this will eventualy lead to heartbreak. someone please pray for me.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks for sharing, aggie. Have you spoken to your husband about this increase in activity?

    6. Joy on

      Love takes over no matter what you have going on in your life. Marcus proved that to me. My husband had so much going on that he had forgotten what was important. Thank you for saving my marriage, and my family.

      Reply
    7. nikki on

      Hey its nikki here . M’y husband have same problem. Wé Married in mid 2011.i realizedit When i was sevenmonth pregnant .i was.never thought Of it . M’y heart is totally broken now. Hé always Said hé will not do it again but his urged increased day by day. Result is that one weak ago i Cheked his cell n was shocked When i cheked the history . It was written there”sex date”. Wheni stopped him hé slapped me puched me .what should i do now . Im totally broken

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Nikki, I advise your get help from someone professionally, like a counselor. Women in your situation need immediate intervention if you are enduring physical abuse.

    8. Sara on

      This is what I am afraid of…..that my husband will start acting out in more ways outside of the home. I knew he had a problem with porn before I married him. I have known him for little over 3 yrs and married for a little over 2 yrs. I made the mistake of thinking that it would change since I was in his life. He wouldn’t need to do that. I have confronted him several times but I’m actually the one going to counseling. I find it hard to be with him but trying to hang in there using my faith. Don’t know what else to do. It doesn’t seem like he will ever get the help he needs. Until I read this blog, I didn’t think I needed to worry about the Craigslist history I’ve found on his computer. I hate checking up on him all the time and now feel like I’m the one with an addiction. Go figure….

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        If you notice him “shopping around” on Craigslist in the personals section, this is most definitely cause for alarm. If he’s tempting himself with the prospect of meeting a real woman (even if he’s only telling himself it is fantasy), then you should confront him about it.

        What does he say when you confront him?

      • guest on

        I know this is an old comment but I read this and it was like reading my own story :( but we have been together 12 yes. married 8. and I knew before we were married too. He said he would stop. He hasnt…..its only gotten worse and he better at hiding it. I also found him on hookup sites recently. I’m so hurt :( but to him its “just porn” and he “would never act on it” ….just devastated….

    9. long distance Relationships forum on

      Your thoughts and feelings should be openly shared with your partner.
      Due to fast development of the online media which is making the impossible work possible for the desperate single.
      However, this desire to feel this way can be overwhelming, so much so that men will hurtle headlong into it.

      Reply
    10. S Mitra on

      I am married last month and found out that my husband is a porn addict. I need help from you. I am totally confused as in what to do and how to stop him doing this……Please help

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I’m so sorry to hear about this. There’s so much that can be said, but for now, I think it would be best for you to download this book (it’s free) that deals with your problem directly.

    11. Christelle on

      My husband uses street drugs and binges on porn while high. We have a two year old daughter and I am devastated that he now asked me to budget these sprees into our monthly expenses. It feels like this will be like putting my stamp of approval on it if I do so. What do I do? I’m so heartbroken.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Don’t do it. Put your foot down. Giving him money to indulge in porn and street drugs only tells him that you are okay with it.

        Have you spoken to him about your feelings about this?

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *