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Having Productive Conversations When Your Husband Watches Porn

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.

Discovering that her husband watches porn can be devastating for a wife. Her emotions may fluctuate wildly from fear to disbelief, from numbness to anger. She may want to lash out in revenge – to hurt him as much as he hurt her.

Having productive conversations when your husband watches porn

The problem with such feelings is that they’re counter-productive. Sure, it’s easier (and natural) to lash out at him, and it may even temporarily make the wife feel better. Unfortunately, rather than help him see how he hurt his wife, this sort of reaction will only build a sense of toxic shame in him.

Toxic Shame

Many men turn to porn in part due to a sense of toxic shame – the belief that there is something horribly broken about them personally. (Normal shame, on the other hand, is the sense that he has done something wrong that has broken your relationship.) He may think he is unlovable, and fear that if he allows you to draw close, you will notice his flaws and lose respect for him.

Rather than run this risk, he may have turned to the always-willing, always-happy girls of porn. Retreating to pornography can then make him feel even more of a failure, feeding into his toxic shame, and causing the cycle to continue.

When a wife lashes out at her husband in anger, this shame cycle will only continue. The good news is, with a little self-control, there are ways that wives can address their husband’s problem and bring healing to their marriage.

Do’s and Don’ts of Productive Conversations

  • Do recognize when he is pushing your buttons (like saying he wouldn’t need porn if you were more attractive) and disconnect from them. This may involve deliberately choosing not to respond when he makes statements like this. You may also find it helpful to repeat reaffirming truths to yourself. (If you are Christian, for example, you may want to memorize Psalm 139:14 and repeat it whenever he attacks your appearance.)
  • Do recognize that it’s his problem to solve. If he claims that he looks at porn because of something you will or will not do, remember that he is trying to justify his problem as a defense mechanism.
  • Do present a positive belief in your husband. Calling him a horrible person will simply reinforce toxic shame. Telling him you believe in his ability to face his addiction, take responsibility for his actions, and then rise above this challenge will give him hope and encourage him break free from it.
  • Do be ready to talk about next steps he should take. You may want to hand him specific resources. Point him toward a counselor or 3-day intensive to help him get to the heart of his pornography use, and suggest Internet accountability software to help him guard his Internet use.
  • Do not promise to keep his secret for the sake of your marriage. While you should be discerning about who you talk to, he will not break free from his struggle if it’s just the two of you.
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Photo credit: yourdon
  • Comments on: Having Productive Conversations When Your Husband Watches Porn
    1. OC on

      Luke,

      I am engaged to a man I highly respected. I just found porn on the internet history of his phone.

      I’m not the type to threaten to leave. If I did confront him, it would be to simply leave him. We are supposed to be married in 5 months. He has organised and paid for our home, our honeymoon, our wedding day and our future. But I do not understand how we can build a marriage on this. I cannot understand why I should stay with him and let him think it is okay to do this. How would I know he wouldn’t continue this into our marriage? We both believe in no sex before marriage. And I do believe that lusting for another woman amounts to adultery, so I don’t know that I can accept this. Is it wise to just leave?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi OC. Given your commitment to him, I would not simply leave him without speaking to him first. I agree with you that you should make a firm stand against this and make it absolutely clear that this is sinful to God and harmful to your (future) marriage. But men are all at different levels of struggle with this sin: some men are deeply entrenched in compulsive porn use, some men give into temptation once in a blue moon. Having seen evidence of this only once, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about how deep his struggle goes.

        I’ve known many men who have quit porn cold turkey after only one serious confrontation about it. Do not call it quits on your engagement until you get more facts about this.

        That said, regardless of the depth of his problem, I would ask him to create a plan of action about how he intends to fight this temptation. Make it clear that this is not a negotiable matter. His plan to fight it needs to be proportional to the depth of the issue. Ask him to be totally honest with you about this. Show grace, but be firm in your commitment to a pure marriage.

        If you have any more questions, let me know.

    2. OC on

      Thank you so much Luke. I have read posts by you about confrontation and will consider those before I speak to him.

      Reply
    3. Lucy Stone on

      My (now) husband told me about his struggle with porn when we first started dating, but he made it sound like something in his past. I asked a few questions, got answers that made sense and went forward with the relationship. We didn’t have premarital counseling and now, several months into the marriage, I’ve discovered that the struggle is very much in the present. He has almost no sexual desire for me, continues to use porn and is hesitant about help.

      Please, please ask more questions than I did and get counseling NOW before you are married. It’s complicated enough when you’re engaged – trust me – it is even worse when you are newlyweds. I feel like I’ve spent the last several months of my life retreating from everyone I love because I don’t want anyone to know what’s going on…I don’t want admit that life as a newlywed is not exactly blissful.

      I do love my husband and I do believe that God can change our story and redeem our marriage. But, I also wish that we had properly dealt with this issue before we tied the knot.

      Reply

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