5 minute read

A Letter to Porn-Loving Men: 3 Essential Ways to Help Your Wife Trust You Again

Last Updated: June 30, 2015

Dann Aungst

Dann Aungst is a recovering sex addict and the author of the book From One Addict to Another. Dann is passionately involved in educating and helping others become free from porn and sex addiction in faith-based recovery. Dann has spoken at men’s conferences and is the president of Road to Purity, a non-profit organization that educates men on authentic godly relationships and understanding true purity, providing tools for recovery in live workshops as well. Dann also does addiction recovery coaching and is in the process of becoming certified through the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapists. Dann lives in Colorado and is a member of a local Catholic church. Like him on Facebook!

You’re probably thinking, “Is it ever possible to earn her trust again?” Especially after she said, “How can I ever trust you again?! ”

Well, I’ll tell you it is possible. But—and it is a big but—it depends greatly on you. It’s not easy and it’s not going to happen overnight. As men we must understand the wounds we caused run deep. Statistics show that over 70% of wives of porn addict suffer from PTSD (post dramatic stress disorder). Your wife may show signs of depression, behavior disorders (eating, drinking, etc.), and in many cases I’ve seen physical symptoms such as migraine headaches, ulcers, digestive issues and other physical ailments.

A Letter to Porn-Loving Men

I tell you this only because I want you to understand the severity of the damage caused. In marriage, we are joined as one flesh under God, and when one part of this union is not true to its original purpose and design (purity), it hurts the whole union. You can’t smash your arm in an accident without excessive trauma to the rest of the body.

You want to change as a man right? You want a better marriage right? When these questions are unwaveringly in undoubtedly “Yes,” then it’s possible.

There are three mandatory life changes that facilitate this trust.

They are:

1. Transparency
2. Actions
3. Gift of self.

Let’s dive into each of these.

1. Transparency

Porn is secret. Your life cannot be—at least to your spouse. Here are some non-negotiable practices that you must make available to your wife.

A. Come clean. You got caught once, maybe twice. You have to reveal with humility and honesty all sexually related history and practices: porn (including all mediums: Internet, DVDs, etc.), strip clubs, massage parlors, prostitution, affairs, etc.

This could get ugly, but trust me, it will come out eventually. Keeping “some secrets” will actually cause more damage than coming completely clean. If anything is kept secret it will have power over you and your ability to become free. If you confess “most” of your activity, then something—even something small—dribbles out later, it will destroy all trust you have established thus far and severely inhibit and possibly prevent any future trust. Also, keeping secrets, even if not related to inappropriate sexual behavior, will prevent you from being a man of integrity. I will advise, however, that you may want to confess this in the presence of a qualified counselor, especially if you get into areas of adultery or matters concerning other women directly.

B. Do not delete computer browser history and e-mails. Do not, under any circumstances delete your browser history and do not empty your deleted e-mails. Make sure your wife knows this. This way, when she is feeling down (and it will happen a lot), she can inspect your browser history on your computer and check deleted e-mails. This is a big transparency step and is a good start in beginning to build trust.

C. Intimacy. I’m not talking about sex here. It is important to learn about the building blocks of intimacy: physical (non-sexual), proximal, emotional, intellectual, professional, recreational, spiritual, and finally sexual. The practice of these will not only allow your wife to know your heart, it will improve your marriage and significantly help your recovery. You can learn more about the building blocks of intimacy.

Understanding what true authentic intimacy is is paramount in your marriage, your recovery and your relationship with God and other people.

2. Actions

A. Make your computer in the house public. If at all possible, put your computer in public or open areas of your home, or at a minimum leave the door open to the office or den, and most importantly arrange the office so the computers monitor is visible from the door. This way all of your activity is open and transparent.

B. Always reveal your whereabouts. This is a big one. You can easily do this by installing an app like “find friends” on your iPhone® or similar apps for Android™ phones. With this app on both your and your wife’s phone, she can always see your location. Using the app is transparent to you, so don’t worry about it bothering you. This will generate comfort for her knowing that you are not engaged in any inappropriate activity because she can tell where you are.

Yes, this may seem intrusive and a violation of your privacy. However, your actions in your marriage were a much bigger violation to your wife and your relationship with God. Besides, a good marriage is all about transparency and trust. Allowing your wife to have this access will definitely help rebuild that trust. Personally, I have been in recovery for over 8 years and my wife and I still have the apps on our phones. It just gives her a peace of mind and I’m good with that.

C. Block private settings. On your phone there is a way to password protect the private mode for iPhones or incognito mode for Android devices. Tell your wife that it is there and allow her to set the password to it. Yeah, I just took the wind out of your sails didn’t I? But if you’re serious about recovery and earning her trust, you gotta do it.

D. Covenant Eyes. You need to put Covenant Eyes on all devices, and if possible even on your computers at work (maybe even tell your HR director that it is a statistic that two thirds of HR professionals have found pornography on employees computers and encourage them to put Covenant Eyes on all company computers).

E. Accountability. This is a big one. You must join a sexual integrity or accountability group like sexaholics anonymous, Romans Six, etc. Also join an Internet accountability program. This gives you more frequent access to help as well.

Accountability is an absolute must. You cannot, I repeat cannot do this alone if you try you will fail. I have worked with many clients on this and I know this to be an absolute fact, don’t try to take a shortcut. Satan wants this in the dark, so don’t let him do it!

E. Pray together. Praying together should be a foundation within your marriage. After you read the part about intimacy in roadtopurity.com you will see that spiritual intimacy can be a foundation of your relationship. This intimacy and transparency you will discover will actually feed the core of what you’ve been looking for and substituting pornography for. It is not easy, it’s risky, and even scary, but that’s where the reward comes in and even the power of grace. Seek true authentic intimacy rather than false intimacy.

3. Gift of self.

Man is created in the image of God: love, mercy and sacrifice (1 John 4:8, Ephesians 2:4-5, Romans 5:8).

As a man in the image of God we must practice being a gift of self rather than a gift to self. We must practice selflessness rather than selfishness. Porn is a gift to self; it is self-centered; it is about us. The bottom line is pride. Our goal as much as possible is to eliminate pride in our lives. Here are several foundational behavioral rules that we can practice:

  • Practice openness instead of defensiveness.
  • Practice forgiveness instead of vengeance.
  • Practice apology instead of blame.
  • Practice vulnerability instead of strength.

This behavior change may not be something necessarily noticed by your wife, but practicing this behavior will change focus and desires in your life. If you are focused outward, it is much more difficult to be focused inward. Remember the scripture, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (Mark 3:24).

You cannot be selfless and selfish at the same time. You will destroy yourself—porn will destroy you.

This type of selfless behavior must infiltrate your marriage. Behavior such as

  • Give her a back rub or foot rub, even when you’re tired.
  • When eating out at restaurants let her have the steak while you have the hamburger.
  • She gets the new iPhone first, and you wait.
  • When she screws up you show her mercy and forgiveness. Whether she doesn’t do your laundry, wrecks the car, or has an affair—you show mercy and forgiveness.

When this behavior becomes “natural” rather than a “I should do this” mindset, you will be making progress.

I promise you, if you practice these three essential steps, changes in your life will happen. You won’t be earning her trust because you worked at it, you will earn her trust because you changed as a man.

  • Comments on: A Letter to Porn-Loving Men: 3 Essential Ways to Help Your Wife Trust You Again
    1. Sheila on

      I love what you post. I almost always wish that when people write about porn, that they would include, physical masturbating lust where the man is literally entranced and seeking His fix in nearly every female being in his promixity. He claims it is not about porn and magazines and from what I see, it may very well be true. He is trying very hard to overcome, but He needs different told and he will refuse so much that could help because simply of the wording. There it’s more sexual addiction out there that Oren. There it’s the men that are abused as young men at an early age that have intimacy disorder and fear real encounters and fear even as much as buying a magazine, but their addiction it’s as bad or worse because it faces them any time they leave their home. I would love of you could help my husband. He literally needs blinders. Then when he is feeling invincible, He removes all blinders and becomes rageful that He should need them. Yet, He still shows no intimacy but expects me to trust that He is the changed man he claims he is. I am fighting the evil ptsd that is taking my health trying to support him. Thank you for listening.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Sheila. It sounds like your husband has a pretty serious problem. No doubt it will take time and a lot of commitment on his part to make recovery a reality. From your description of his rageful emotions, it sounds to me like he is not in a good place at this point.

        Trust is something that can only be restored over time, as he exhibits trustworthy behavior. Trust is not something he can demand from you. It’s something you can only choose to give to him when he is trustworthy. Being trustworthy means far more than not looking at porn. Being trustworthy in the relationship means that he cares about how you feel; he listens and pays attention; he’s not demanding of you, but rather respectful of your need for recovery in the relationship. Here’s an article that talks about what it looks like when a man is emotionally trustworthy. You are right to keep that emotional intimacy as the real measure of his recovery.

        Meanwhile, I think you will need to carefully consider what boundaries are healthy for you. If you are experiencing symptoms of ptsd (and lots of women do in this kind of situation) then make sure you get help for yourself, either through personal counseling or a group of some kind. S Anon, Celebrate Recovery, Pure Desire, and xxxChurch all offer various kinds of support for spouses. A Family Advocacy Center is another place to look for help in a local community.

      • Jeanie on

        Sheila, I think I know what you are talking about. In my husband’s case it wasn’t just porn but just about every good looking woman that walked by & he used them as objects of his fantasy for masturbation. Practically my husband’s whole world was consummed with women, lust, fantasy & masturbation, and it came essentially from all corners of the Earth. I understand what you mean about blinders too because everywhere my husband looked there was a woman to be aroused over. I get it and I hate it. I am heart broken beyond words, and have had one serious illness after another, and nearly died not long ago. The truth is, I wish I had because I know in my heart that I will never be happy again. I’ve been married over 30 yrs & I think the longer you’ve been married when full disclosure comes out, the harder it is to heal. I feel like I was completely deceived by the man who I loved with all of my heart. All he did was make a fool of me for over 30 yrs. I’m old now & all I want is peace, quiet & rest…even eternal rest.

      • Kay Bruner on

        Jeanie, I am so sorry for the pain you’ve suffered for so long. I want to encourage you to reach out for support for yourself, a safe place to process this load of grief you’ve been bearing all alone. A personal counselor might be one place to start. Also, there are groups like Celebrate Recovery, Pure Desire, S Anon, and even Al Anon that offer support for family members of addicts. I’ve found that group support makes a huge difference for women, regardless of what the husband chooses to do. Blessings, Kay

    2. TJ on

      No, actually what I am thinking is how male centric all the guilt over porn is. As a male, I am tired to catering to women. Amazing how men are held to the standards of the bible, but go ahead and just try to hold women to the standards of the bible. You will be slapped down in a second if you try.

      I also don’t want to hear the fake made up statistics of porn related PTSD. Nice try but that is not supported by ANYTHING. But hey, nowadays everyone has PTSD. The sad thing is so few people — especially clueless churchgoers in America — know what true suffering is. If they did, they wouldn’t act like porn viewing is the worst thing in the world. Go be homeless. Go lock yourself in a prison. Go live with a felony for your entire life in America. Go be starving. Go to a country where bombs fall on your head. Now that is suffering and worthy of PTSD.

      One last thing — these saintly wives who can do now wrong — do not exist I assure you. And even when they do wrong, they sure as heck wouldn’t do what you listed above to make amends to you.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I’m inclined to disagree with you on a number of issues here, TJ. Perhaps you can clarify some things.

        1. While I understand why you think guilt over porn is male-centric, this completely overlooks all the women who are hooked on porn and don’t want to be. We have a lot of female readers who deeply struggle with this holding themselves to biblical standards (just as we have men trying to hold themselves to biblical standards). Perhaps you think because we target certain articles to men we don’t also think this is a woman’s issue.

        2. If you want the research on PTSD for spouses of addicts, I recommend reading Dr. Barb Steffens’ book Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal.

        3. I’m a bit thrown by your last comment. Are you saying WE believe there are saintly wives who can do no wrong? What on Earth would give you that impression?

        If you aren’t interested in responding to these questions, I understand. Perhaps you’re just here to rant and leave—you sound deeply frustrated. But I’d love to hear what you think.

    3. Kirk Elliott on

      Challenge accepted! I want to be the husband my wife deserves. Not because she is perfect, but because she trusted me enough to enter into marriage with me. Also because she is a gift to me from God for the purpose of helping me grow in holiness and effectiveness in spreading the gospel.

      Reply
    4. Kerri on

      I am thankful for these types of articles! At this point our marriage is on the verge of divorce. It’s been twenty years of this junk. There have been many counseling sessions, accountability partners, books (though the books have been for me, as evidenced by his lack of true repentance he “can’t read” them…he falls asleep by page two, go figure). Almost a year and a half ago he lost his job because of porn use showing up on their companies accountability. He had accidentally viewed it when he thought he signed out of the company’s network. We had just had our 8th child when he was let go. Again, another round of counselling. This time he did finally read most of a book, and supposedly for the first time, realized what true repentance was. In the past he would accuse me of judging his repentance, or lack there of. I would tell him if he really wanted my trust back and to rebuild our marriage that he would be doing things that were on his OWN undertaking. He always plays the, “what do you think I should do?” card. After 20 years if you can’t figure that out, you’ve got a serious problem. Anyways I saw he was using incognito mode and was concerned. He assured me that it was for FB use, if I happened to be logged in he could switch over, etc. However after asking him point blank if he was viewing things, he admitted he was, and quickly followed that by saying he was making absolute sure that he wasn’t going to get caught on his company computer. He would see to it that he would never get fired again because of porn. Um, and I’m supposed to take that as a step in the right direction? He has always, always, always chosen his words carefully. So basically he is making sure I have no expectations that he will stop porn, but he is making sure that I know he won’t get fired for it. We have a child on growth hormones that we need insurance for, so the job loss is nothing small (it never is). Anyways, reading articles like this helps me to see that I am not expecting anything ‘over the top’. It also confirms that my pain is real, and not something that I just need to get over ASAP. My husband is fine if I am feeling upset, angry or depressed for one or two weeks after finding out (again) that he is viewing stuff, and then after that I am supposed to get over it and be the godly wife I am supposed to be. After losing his job he changed his tune, and said that he understood I would need whatever time I needed to heal. But it is really hard to heal when you keep ripping off whatever scab was starting to form, again, and again, and again, and again…..

      We just started going to Celebrate Recovery. For now I told him that I am there for myself. My goal at this point is not reconciliation. Of course he plays the whole, ‘what’s the point of trying if we are not going to reconciliate?”. I told him that when I saw a VERY evident TRUE repentance then I would consider reconciliation. Otherwise it is just more of his lies and playing this game that has been played for 20 years. I have opted out of the game. He has time, as it will be hard for a stay at home mom of 8 to make a way to provide a living.

      But for the first time, the FIRST time in all these 20 years, reading these articles on steps to trust, and reconciliation, etc have been what I felt in my heart all this time, but that no one else supported. Not that they didn’t believe he should take steps to be trustworthy, but that it was always made out to be temporary, or that I shouldn’t put so much burden on him, or….So thank you for speaking plainly and to the point on this matter!

      Blessings,
      Kerri

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Kerri, I’m just so sorry for all you’ve been through. Your pain is real. It does matter. You’re not “over the top” in expecting your husband to take responsibility for himself and his recovery.

        Beyond simply “not looking at porn”, there’s a whole world of emotional trust, care, and connection that’s really what marriage is supposed to be about. To me, that’s what you see in true repentance. You’d see him caring about how you feel, being willing to hear you out. No more of the rushing you through so he can get what he wants again. All of that is untrustworthy, self-centered behavior. A while back, I wrote an article about what emotional trust looks like–you might like to look at that.

        I’m glad you’re going to Celebrate Recovery just for you. Receive all the support and care that you need. Draw those boundaries where they need to be, and know that you are beloved, no matter what. Blessings, Kay

    5. Mar on

      Ive been married for less than a year and into the 3erd month of my marriage my husband told me he was addicted to porn. Of course i was crushed.. he didnt want to change, now he does, he’s got an accontability partner and he’s been opened with me, perhaps too much. and i just find myself obsesing over every image, every woman.. every aspect of his life. He said it wont be like this because he’s fighting it with the help of God BUT i do not want to have a 20 yers of struggle in this horrible situation I honestly just rather to be alone, al though I love him and I love the Lord. I feel way over my head.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey there. I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re suffering right now. The good news is, he can get better. Recovery is totally possible! I’m glad he’s gotten an accountability partner. I would also recommend keeping in mind that a personal counselor and/or a group can also be a great support. Celebrate Recovery, SAA, Pure Desire, xxxChurch. If he hasn’t read Surfing for God yet, I’d highly recommend it for him. Also, there are great free resources for men here, like Your Brain on Porn.

        Mainly though, I want to encourage YOU to get the help YOU need. So often, the focus is all on the man’s recovery while the spouse lags behind carrying all the pain. I don’t want to see that happening to you! Look into a personal counselor JUST FOR YOU. Check into groups JUST FOR YOU. In addition to the organizations above, which also have groups for spouses, S Anon is great for spouses, and even Al Anon if that’s all you can find in your area. Those will really help you think through how to care for yourself in all this.

        There are also great resources for YOU here, too. Here’s a post that lists our top articles for spouses. You might also appreciate our free download, Hope After Porn, where several women talk about what recovery looked like for them.

    Leave a Reply

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