2 minute read

“My Husband Watches Porn”: 3 Stages to Your Recovery

Last Updated: April 1, 2015

Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

The following is an excerpt from Porn and Your Husband: A Recovery Guide for Wives.

Anger. Mistrust. Loneliness. When your husband watches porn he has betrayed your trust.

Maybe this is the first time you’ve caught him using pornography. Maybe you’ve caught him many times and have finally reached the breaking point. Maybe he’s even gone so far as acting out and having an affair. Maybe he’s belligerent, insisting, “It’s no big deal” or “It’s your fault I need it.” Or maybe he claims to be repentant but doesn’t seem to be taking steps to stop.

Right now, your emotions are probably dominated by alternating feelings of anger and helplessness and numbness, and your thoughts are dominated by his use of pornography. Recovery may seem impossible.

Because of that, you need a general roadmap to understand what recovery will look like. On the bad days, remind yourself that there is an end; you just may not be able to see it yet.

Just as there are five stages to the grieving process, researchers Kristina Coop Gordon and Donald H. Baucom have identified three distinct stages in the recovery process for a marriage broken by betrayal.

Impact Stage

  • In this first stage, you will search for an understanding of why this happened.
  • Your feelings may be constantly in flux. They may include fear, hurt, anger, numbness, and disbelief.
  • You may second-guess your husband’s motive on every behavior, even habitual ones (like checking e-mail first thing in the morning).
  • Your husband may not be able to distinguish between appropriate shame for wrongdoing and his pathological sense of toxic shame.
  • Your interactions with your husband may be chaotic or intensely negative, leading to more frustration and anger with each other rather than resolution.
  • You may begin to re-establish barriers and boundaries (such as sleeping in a different room).
  • You both may feel like the balance of power has shifted. You may feel like your husband has proven his power by ruining your relationship, and may lash out destructively against him to regain a sense of control. Your husband may feel like he has no negotiating power.

Meaning Stage

  • You will begin to search for a more thorough understanding of why the betrayal occurred, such as whether this was a habit from childhood, or whether a traumatic event in the past makes him fear intimacy with you.
  • You will look for the necessary information to determine the next steps for your marriage.
  • You will begin searching for ways to rebuild trust and intimacy.

Moving On Stage

  • You will begin moving forward with a new set of beliefs about your relationship, and start putting the event behind you.
  • You will come to terms with what forgiveness means for you, and how it is connected to reconciliation with your husband.
  • You may be required to make changes to your relationship with your husband so that it can continue (or end it, if necessary).
  • You may still get flashbacks, but they will be less severe and disruptive, and you will recover more rapidly from them.

Porn and Your Husband: Free E-Book

DOWNLOAD “PORN AND YOUR HUSBAND”
  • Comments on: “My Husband Watches Porn”: 3 Stages to Your Recovery
    1. Adios Porn on

      I wonder the percentage of women that end the marriage because of the husband’s porn use.

      It can be really difficult for men to quit porn as the majority began their complication with porn in their teen years. Often by the time of adulthood men have resigned and given up on the possibility of quitting porn.

      Hopefully men will begin to find help!

      Reply
      • Patricia Piccioni on

        I knew my husband watched porn before me, which I said whatever you weren’t with me. He told me I’ll stop if you don’t like it. I believed him. Well a year later I asked him , when was the last time you jerked off? He says back in February when we fought. He then says “I don’t look at her face, I just watch the in an out motion”. After that. I’ll tell you what ,I lost my fucking shit. I told him to get his shit and get out of my house. If you need to look at another vagina to get off. You don’t need a wife. Then he claims I didn’t know you didn’t like it like that. Every excuse. … I went on and said how about I go watch a guy beat off in a parking lot? Remember it’s only visual. He gets pissed. I told him all them people you look at are wife’s, sisters an neighbors degrading themselves. It even says it on the website so you don’t disclose the information. He begged me to work it out. I’m telling you I’m so hurt right now. Thousands of thoughts are rolling in my brain. He said if I’ll end a marriage over it , he didn’t understand the seriousness of it. I have boundaries and to me it’s disrespectful to your wife and degrades her.

      • Kay Bruner on

        You have the right to your boundaries, to define what is okay and what is not okay within your relationship. You decide.

        Peace to you, Kay

    2. Ashley on

      I am currently in process of divorcing my husband due to his excessive porn watching. Even on our 2nd wedding anniversary night he was watching porn behind me. So, it was about my respect and pride that I decided to walk away from that marriage.

      Reply
    3. axt113 on

      Its not the men who need to change their porn habits, its women who need to come to terms with their own issues, their insecurities, and inhibitions.

      On average men have higher sex drives than women, so we need it more, its not fair to ask the woman to give more than she desires and its not fair to ask the man to reduce his needs.

      This is where porn fills the gap, and if used in this manner its harmless. Certainly better than having the guy go out looking for other women.

      Yes it can become a problem if it interferes with the rest of your life, but for most men that’s not an issue.

      I was honest with my wife about my porn watching before we got married, even showed her some, she’s okay with it. Given the choice, I’d gladly rather have sex with her, but she’s not always available or interested, so porn is a way for me to satisfy my needs without harming our relationship.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I think you’ve got some poor advice here. Porn is far from harmless. First, by using (clicking on or purchasing) porn, you are endorsing an industry that is harmful to the image of women broadly and harmful to porn actresses specifically.

        Second, the fact remains that pornography isn’t doing your image of women any favors. It only reinforces a man’s desire to objectify women.

      • nonono on

        well what if the wife of the husband prefers porn. wife neglected while porn takes over. the marriage is broken. it is a myth that men desire sex and intimacy more than women. there r so many wives that have high libidos

      • Lisa Eldred on

        The same stages to recovery hold true if it’s a husband who has discovered his wife’s porn use. We most frequently address wives of porn-using husbands because it tends to be the most common scenario.

      • CLH on

        What happened to your bow of keeping yourself into her? You are lusting and orgasming to another woman, lots of them. Disgusting. Do you have kids? If you do and porn is not a big deal, go tell your kids what you do, shouldn’t be a problem, right?

      • Sammy on

        Axt113 . I’m a nurse and sex drives all depend on people. Maaturbating is a normal thing. However it’s not normal to use porn while in a relationship. It takes away from the relationship. However how would you feel your wife watched a dude jerk off infront of her but she ain’t touching him. Just watching. That is the exact equivalent and it’s sad that people are actually trying to normalize it. It degrades your wife in different ways.

    4. axt113 on

      @Luke

      You are mistaking correlation for causation

      People who objectify women are going to do so without porn being a factor.

      Saying that porn leads to objectifying women is like saying video games lead to violence, neither is true.

      Most people can differentiate between reality and fiction.

      As for harmful to porn actresses, I doubt that, many porn actresses make six figures a year and some make millions.

      Legal porn does not involve women being exploited, they do a job and get paid for it, you may consider it an unsavory profession, but they may not.

      Reply
    5. axt113 on

      Ah, but how long does it last, if it lasts only a few minutes then its not really a big deal.

      Heck watching a scary movie can make someone’s heart race and certain chemicals be released, but the effects are temporary.

      There would need to be evidence that porn makes men objectify women over the long term and not just briefly after exposure

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I’m sorry: since you mentioned “porn habits,” I thought we were talking about habitual porn use, not momentary exposures. No, there’s no evidence that momentary exposures, in that instance, cause objectification. They can and do cause as desire to see more porn, which of course can be habit forming.

        So are you not talking about a man’s porn habits? I’m confused. That’s where you started this whole discussion.

    6. axt113 on

      I’m merely saying that if you state that watching porn causes men to objectify women (which personally I can say is untrue), you need to establish that watching it actually results in long term changes in how men view women.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I’m not sure about all the nuances behind the word “objectification,” but I think the research bears this out.

        In a meta-analysis of 46 studies published from 1962 to 1995, comprising a total sample of 12,323 people, researchers concluded pornographic material puts one at increased risk of accepting rape myths (31% increase in risk). In another meta-analysis of 24 studies conducted between 1980 and 1993, with a total of 4,268 participants, researchers positively correlated rape myth acceptance to exposure to nonviolence or violent pornography. Rap myth acceptance most definitely has something to do with one’s view of women.

        Another example: in the early 1980s, two university professors tested to see if the exposure to video pornography had any impact on people’s sexual beliefs and their attitudes towards women. For their experiment, 80 male and 80 female college-age participants were divided into three subgroups, and each group was shown 4 hours and 48 minutes of media. The first group, called the “Massive Exposure Group,” was shown 36 non-violent pornographic films over a six-week period. The second group, called the “Intermediate Exposure Group,” was exposed to 18 pornographic films and 18 regular films over a six-week period. The third (control) group, called the “No Exposure Group,” was shown 36 non-pornographic movies over a six-week period. Later, these groups were asked a variety of questions ranging from their personal preferences to social issues.

        A direct correlation was noticed between the amount of pornography one viewed and one’s overall sexual satisfaction. Participants from the Massive Exposure Group reported less satisfaction with their intimate partner, such as their partner’s physical appearance, affection, and sexual performance.

        Those exposed to more pornography attached more value to casual sex (i.e. sex without emotional involvement).

        When asked if minors should be protecting from seeing pornography, 84% of the No Exposure Group, 54% of the Intermediate Exposure Group, and 37% of the Massive Exposure Group said yes.

        Those exposed to more pornography showed a greater acceptance of premarital sex and adultery.

        More porn exposure decreased the value one placed on the institution of marriage, one’s desire for children, and the need for faithfulness in a relationship.

        Porn seemed to condition participants to trivialize rape. Participants were asked to read about a legal case where a man raped a female hitchhiker and then recommend a length for the rapist’s prison sentence. Males in the No Exposure Group said 94 months; the Massive Exposure Group said 50 months (nearly half that of the No Exposure Group).

        Participants were asked to rate their overall support for women’s rights. Both men and women who were in the Massive Exposure Group showed significant drops in support compared to the No Exposure Group. There was 71% male support in the No Exposure Group compared to 25% in the Massive Exposure Group and 82% female support in the No Exposure Group compared to 52% in the Massive Exposure Group.

        The Massive Exposure Group was far more likely to believe women fit the stereotype of the women they see in pornographic films — that is, “socially non-discriminating, as hysterically euphoric in response to just about any sexual or pseudosexual stimulation, and as eager to accommodate seemingly any and every sexual request.”

    7. ashly on

      I just found out my husband has been watching porn, told me loved me right after over the phone while I was visiting my mother and then when I got home proceeded to try to have sex with me! That to me is disrespectful and disgusting! He knew my feelings about porn and still proceeded to watch, that to me is wrong, and I honestly don’t know how I can get past the feeling of being disrespected and hurt.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        I can’t give you a hug over the Internet, but I can give you a starting point and some hope.

        First, understand that your husband probably does love you. Men tend to be better at compartmentalization than women; he may believe that the part of him that loves you and the part of him that likes porn don’t need to intersect. (This blog post goes into more detail.) This doesn’t excuse his behavior, of course, but it’s something to remember as you both work to recovery.

        Next, download “Porn and Your Husband” if you haven’t already. It will help you determine your next steps.

        Finally, download “Hope After Porn” for four stories of marriages that were saved in spite of porn use…and even adultery.

        There is hope. It will take time, and it will hurt, but there is hope.

    8. Kate on

      I too am devastated. Just learnt two months ago that my husband is an avid porn watcher. A man who is so gentle, I thought he should’ve been a pastor or doctor! I CANNOT BELIEVE IT!
      It’s been the worst 2 months of my life apart from when my dad died years ago. The deceit!
      I’m more about the fact that he masqueraded as this meek and mild ‘innocent’ and ‘awkward’ guy who would always speak out when there were vivid sexual acts on tv, to this devious sexual person!
      I get the fact that men need more sexual release than women, blah blah blah.. No issue at all. But THIS!
      The acting that has gone on for years, pretending to be something he isn’t. The loss of the man I THOUGHT he was! DEVASTATING!
      And men do not get it. They do not understand that we feel betrayed when they have sexual pleasure from other women’s bodies.

      Porn is such an umbrella word! Porn is looking at and jacking off to other peoples bodies! It’s betrayal.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        You are correct, Kate. “Porn” can be such a tame word in our culture. What your husband is doing is betrayal of your wedding vows “to forsake all others.” He needs to own up to his betrayal, the hypocrisy, and the deceit.

        Have you been able to talk to others face to face about this problem? The important thing right now is that you get support for what you are facing. No one should face what you are facing alone.

        Your husband needs to face his own habits as well. As morally deplorable as it is, he needs to recognize that there are often deeper things going on that drive compulsion to view pornography. There’s a reason many therapists today call it an “addiction”: obviously not to excuse the behavior (no more than an alcoholic is excused), but to help men like your husband understand the gravity of the problem.

        Does your husband sound like he wants to change? Does he show any remorse? Has he made any changes?

      • angie on

        I knew my husband was looking at porn, but I asked him not to. he ranted and raved telling me to get out and he started taking about a deviorce. I didn’t leave. but still feel betrayed and cheated on. I get angery when I check the computer. he has no self control at all….things run through my head of why? and me gaining weight I know he hates it. I wonder if he will ever get over this? and me too!

      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Angie,
        I would say it’s time to consider what healthy boundaries need to look like for yourself in this situation. Here, here, and here are some articles that might be helpful to you. Whatever your husband chooses, you always have the choice to be healthy for yourself.
        Peace to you,
        Kay

    9. Alison on

      I have had a similar experience to Kate. I have been with my husband for 18 years and married for 12.

      We have been having problems for about 5 years now with my husband struggling to achieve an erection. He finally went to the doctors last February and was prescribed viagra. We have a very loving relationship otherwise so I couldnt understand where it had all gone wrong. The doctor said it was probably performance anxiety that was causing the problems (we are only in our forties and no health complications). The experimentation with the viagra didnt go too well at all as it took away the spontiaity and made it all feel a bit wierd. My husband said that he didnt think he had any sex drive at all.

      Over the next few months we just tried to take the pressure off and just feel relaxed with each other. In September last year we booked a holiday cottage and the viagra came along with us.

      On the first night we had a lovely night out together then went back to the cottage and started watching tv. My husband went to the kitchen to make a cuppa and I followed him where I caught him watching tiny little thumbnail porn scenes on his mobile. He said he had been doing this since April to try to rekindle his sex drive, that it hadnt worked but had become a habit.

      We have tried to work at it since he has removed the internet from his phone and our sex life has actually improved. I believe that he loves me very much and I feel the same, but I has lost my trust I dont totally belive his explanation and now I feel betrayed and that he has invited other people into our marital bed.

      I want to get over this but dont know if I can.

      Reply
    10. NMJ on

      I have struggled with my husbands porn use for years. I’ve never had a huge issue with it until the last few years since it has taken away from our marriage. This last year I walked in on him watching porn after we had a argument. He tried to deny it until I grabbed him phone and I watched the porn myself infront of him. I was so upset at the situation that he made a false promise to not look at porn anymore. I have him faith. About 3 months later I caught him watching porn again and once again he tried to lie. My biggest issue are the lies. After this last time he confessed to going to strip clubs behind my back and watching more porn Than I ever could imagine. I feel stunned. Like I don’t know him at all. Worse, he claims he isn’t going to lie about it and is seeking therapy for his issues but how do I ever forgive him for sneaking around behind my back and lying? I understand why a single man would watch porn to take care of needs but when a man is in a committed relationship why not have your needs met by your wife? And further more the people in the porn ARE a part of a industry that saddens me. To find out my husband isn’t on the same page is wrecking our marriage. What can I do?

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey there. I’m really glad you wrote in. I’m also really glad to hear that your husband is going to therapy. I think that when the person with the problem takes responsibility and begins to deal with it, then you’re getting someplace! I hope that his attendance at therapy indicates that he’s willing to do the work to get healthy. That will take time and commitment on his part, for sure.

        The restoration of your trust in him depends on two things, mainly:

        1. His trustworthy behavior over time: he keeps doing what he’s supposed to do. Another aspect of trust, beyond his behavior, is emotional trust: he cares about how you feel, and he’s able to attend to your needs and emotions. Here’s something I wrote about that recently. If you aren’t sure about behavior–or even when there’s a relapse–I think the level of emotional trust is crucial to building back your marriage.

        2. Your emotional healing: you’ve got work to do as well. I’d suggest a group, like a Celebrate Recovery or Pure Desire group. xxxChurch has online groups for spouses. And personal counseling can be really helpful, too. I’d check the American Association of Christian Counselors for someone in your area.

        I think part of your healing will be coming to understand the issue of pornography in general: why do people use it, what needs does it fulfill, why is it so hard to quit. Things like that. So I would encourage you to read up on this, and learn about it outside of your own particular feelings about it. It really does help to understand! Here’s an article Luke wrote recently that catalogs some of our best resources for spouses.

        You might also appreciate our free download, Hope After Porn, in which several women share their stories of recovery.

        Have a look at those things, and let me know if you have more questions. Blessings, Kay

    11. NMJ on

      Thank you very much for responding to me. It feels comforting to have someone truly understand how this makes me feel. Your advice is excellent. A support group is a great idea. Or at least seeing a counselor on my own. He has attended therapy and seems to be helping him in several ways. Hopefully it can help me to. At this moment I feel so alone. It was kind of you to show care and compassion. Bless you!

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        One of the best things for me is seeing how my own experiences and recovery get to contribute to hope for others. I’m so glad he’s going to therapy and you’re seeing improvement. I know it can help you too! Sharing the load is what it’s all about! Let some other people come along and help you walk through this–and thanks for letting us be a part of that, too. Blessings, Kay

    Leave a Reply

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