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Marriage After Porn: Milestones of Healing

Last Updated: June 14, 2021

James Cordrey
James Cordrey

James Cordrey is an author, blogger, and speaker who trains men how to fight for purity and freedom so they can escape the snare of pornography. He leads men on a journey of becoming the warriors they were designed to be in order that they may influence the world and their relationships for good. He loves the arts, the outdoors, sports, a good cup of tea, and stimulating conversation. James live near Philadelphia with his wife and three children. He more of his stuff at intentionalwarriors.com.

There was a day in my marriage now known as The Confession—that moment when the reality of my pornography addiction came to light. For about six months, one day to the next there was plenty of fluctuation with regard to how my wife, Carolyn, and I were getting along.

Some days were better than others. Some days were downright horrible. Carolyn’s pain was intense, and rightly so. She had discovered that the first nine and half years of our marriage had been dominated by my acting out with pornography.

My sin was compounded by deception as I not only denied that I looked at anything even as “safe” as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, but I also taught in our church, calling men to purity as I held myself up as an example.

Things were tense in the house in those days. I was seeing a biblical counselor and attending a small group dedicated to helping men with pornography addiction, but despite doing those things, Carolyn wanted very little to do with me. Hope was in short supply, as our marriage swung like a pendulum between despair and, well, even deeper despair.

And then, a surprising moment.

The Dance

One night after dinner, as we were clearing dishes from the table, Carolyn reached for my hand, pulled me toward her and invited me to slow dance as a worship song played on the CD player. That was a moment in which, despite the pain, the unresolved issues and the long road of healing that was still ahead of us, I saw a softening of Carolyn’s heart toward me.

And it gave me hope.

Carolyn had just earlier that day referred to our marriage as “a mockery,” and suddenly I was cheek-to-cheek with her. We were interrupted rather quickly—before the song had ended—by our two very young children. But it was still a lifeline to my heart and a sign that maybe, just maybe, our marriage was going to make it.

My Ally

It was four months later when a significant shift happened in our marriage. It was the moment Carolyn became my ally.

We were returning from attending a one-day marriage conference about two hours away from our home, and we were talking about the things we had heard. As we talked about our marriage it became obvious to me that Carolyn had changed her posture toward me. She was now with me in my fight for purity and freedom.

In the months following The Confession, Carolyn’s anger and pain had made her, at times, my adversary, and at other times, a very skeptical observer of my attempts to get free from the addiction. Carolyn once told me that if I made it out of the addiction, it “would be a miracle,” implying that she really didn’t know if I could do it.

At one point in our marriage she would leave a room the moment I walked in. She turned all of the pictures in the house face down because she didn’t want to see my face.

All of that had changed. Carolyn was clearly on my side. That moment came as a result of God’s work in Carolyn’s life, together with what she saw in me over the first 10 months following The Confession.

Changes in Me. Changes in Her.

Unbeknownst to me, God had been telling Carolyn how she needed to extend grace to me by showing her how much God had extended grace to her. A series of events had transpired in her life in which she saw her helplessness and her dependency on God.

She also said that she noticed the seriousness and determination I demonstrated as I decided to do whatever it took to deal with my addiction. All of those hours in counseling; attending a small group Bible study dealing specifically with sexual addiction; and submitting to real accountability with trusted men was making a difference. I was changing, and it was obvious to her.

That car ride home was the moment that I knew our marriage was going to make it. There had been glimmers of hope along the way, but there had been very dark valleys as well.

That night I knew we would make it.

Getting Honest

There have been plenty of moments of honest and, at times, painful conversation since that car ride. I have made sure that I tell her what I am learning in counseling and in my small group. It makes a huge difference to her that I share what I am processing as I walk toward greater freedom.

In the early years of the journey I had to learn to live with transparency. There were many moments in which I opened my heart to her and she needed that. So did I. We both still need that.

Every addict, whatever the specific addiction, is not only an addict—he is also a liar. Deception is a big part of what allows an addiction to deepen in a person’s heart.

So it takes practice to be real with other people and reverse the pattern of deceit. Each time I chose to be real or honest, or simply not fake anything, Carolyn—and others—saw that.

One time I actually felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to confess to Carolyn that I had lied about ordering a pizza. Seriously. As weird as that is, I needed to practice telling the truth.

The good news was that even though it was strange for Carolyn when I confessed, she was comforted to know that I was committed to honesty to that degree.

The core issue is that along the journey, my moments of choosing integrity and living transparently have been moments of strength in our marriage because those moments were also a big part of Carolyn’s healing, not just mine.

After all, a marriage is a one-flesh relationship; therefore, the healing of one always influences the healing of the other.

Photo credit: transp


James-CordreyJames Tarring Cordrey is the author of Intentional Warriors: Fighting For Purity And Freedom In A Sexually Saturated Society. He blogs at IntentionalWarriors.com, a website dedicated to helping men fight for purity and freedom from pornography in the midst of a sexually saturated society. James is a leader of worship at Blue Route Vineyard in Pennsylvania. Listen to the interview with James and his wife Carolyn on Covenant Eyes Radio.

  • Comments on: Marriage After Porn: Milestones of Healing
    1. Janet on

      for 29 years i have always caught my husband on pornagraphy, going to the xxx store and lieing all the time, then denying everything, anyway 2 years ago was the last straw, we separeted and he got help, he went to pure desire and then we got back together, i would go in and out with emotions, then he got into drinking and would hide it and lie,all awhile being free from porn, hed say sorry, then he and my sons kicked me out of the business that was once a family busniess, that was very painful for me and it took a really long time for my husband to reliaze, and only threw me going to his accountabilty partner and telling him, but ive been completly closed off to him, i cant seem to get past something going on in me, i want to think good thoughts and pleasent visions of us, but everytime this man is in the same room as me my heart closes, we are in counseling with the man who heads up pure desire and im in betrayal & beyond healing for broken trust. Its been a long 2 years and im beginning to wonder if this is gonna last, my husband has gotten into prisizon minitry, work all day, music ministry, we barely talk and when we do its as though were on 2 different ships. he tells me hes looking into the future and all i want to do is dig up the past, then he says , when i figure him ill be able to see what a great man he is. all i feel is hate and anger.please help me I love the lord and want to do right by him

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Janet,

        I’m so sorry to hear about these issues with your husband.

        Not knowing more of your story, it is hard to know how to advise you, but it seems clear to me that while you and he have worked through a lot of issues as far as his addiction goes, there needs to be some real attention paid to the healing of your marriage bond. Couples often get stuck in this place: throwing themselves into “recovery” and “ministry” but neglecting the healing of hearts that will result in greater intimacy, trust, and wholeness. I’d love to know what your counselors are talking to you about that.

    2. Ronald on

      Thanks for this post, we are currently on the road described at the moment. Some days are great, some days it is painful.

      I wish I knew how long it would take for each couple to get to the point where things are almost normal but only going into two months thinking of possible more than 10 months feels like an eternity.

      I share this after having a short discussion with my wife which was not pleasant and makes things more difficult. It is heart wrenching to read stories similar to the one from Janet where the husband does not apologize while some of us have apologized and done a 180 to change our ways.

      I hope one day be able to share a similar story as the one James shared above…. one day.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Ronald,

        It is tough, for sure. Are you and your wife seeking out help to facilitate the process of healing?

    3. Ronald on

      Hi Luke,

      Yes, we are getting some sort of help. I don’t have an accountability partner yet, I am still looking for some one that I can trust and that can provide some possitive feedback when possible and help me understsand how to deal with doubt, fear, and how to server my wife better.

      I am going through 40 dares, reading sex begins in the kitchen, journaling, attending a weekly share group, reading blog posts (like this one), praying constantly about our marriage, and I have stayed away from the addiction for a little over 2 months.

      Maybe it is that I am still thinking too much on myself without knowingly which makes me feel things are going very slowly.

      Sorry for the long response.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Have you considered having someone in your share group as your partner? Or how about someone who is a spiritual leader of sorts? I wrote an article about this a while back you might enjoy.

        I encourage you to not rush this time in the wilderness. It is so easy, when your just getting started, to feel like the journey is taking forever. But keep in mind: the journey is exactly where God wants you. He has things to teach you in the wilderness, and His love for you has not diminished at all simply because you’re not to your final destination. We worship a God of the wilderness, a God who goes with us through it all, one who identifies with our weaknesses and is patient with us. He wants you exactly where you are, wrestling through the tough questions—because in the end He’s not just trying to make an ex-porn addict out of you; He’s making You into someone who looks like His Son. To do that, He takes you on a long journey that peels away the layers of your life so that He can do a deeper work than you ever imagined.

    4. Ronald on

      “…because in the end He’s not just trying to make an ex-porn addict out of you; He’s making You into someone who looks like His Son”

      Thank you for your encouraging words and you speak the truth. Also thank you for helping me opening my eyes to what I am describing goes beyond just solving a problem.

      I am pleased to say that last night we had our “The Dance” moment. It was not at dance but it was amazing and my hope was renewed in an instant. It is amazing to see the things God can do even when we are not as patience. As the event was unfolding I remembered this post and I know we still have a long road ahead but having small moments like this help us change the perspective on things.

      Thanks again for your posts (and guest’s posts) they are definitely a great help in time of need. To answer your question, there is some one who I will be reaching out in the next couple of days and I believe it will be a great partner to provide help.

      Reply

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