6 minute read

When a Spouse and Parent Uses Porn

Last Updated: August 11, 2015

Peter Kleponis

Dr. Peter Kleponis is a Licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, PA.  He holds an M.A. in Clinical-Counseling Psychology from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA, and a Ph.D. in General Psychology from Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. Dr. Kleponis specializes in marriage & family therapy, pastoral counseling, resolving anger, men’s issues, and pornography addiction recovery. He is the author of Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography.

Rich and Christine had been married for fourteen years when she first discovered him viewing Internet pornography. She was shocked and hurt by this. She felt deeply betrayed by him. At first he tried to dismiss it as random pop-ups on his computer. She tried to believe him, but was still very suspicious. By the third time she caught him, Christine knew that they weren’t random pop-ups. Rich was intentionally viewing porn.

Instead of owning up to it, apologizing and ending his pornography use, Rich dismissed Christine’s objections and tried to justify his actions by claiming, “It’s a guy thing. All guys do it occasionally. What’s the big deal?” Christine was shocked. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing! Instead of reacting in anger, she decided to seek professional help to deal with this issue. So she spoke to a therapist who specializes in sexual addiction.

The therapist gave Christine advice on how to address the issue. She became educated on the dangers of pornography, how to protect her family, and how deal with her husband on this issue so that he would become her ally, not her enemy. Christine made it clear to Rich that she was not going to have any pornography in their house. If he wasn’t going to work with her on this she was prepared to give him and ultimatum: it was either her or the porn.

He couldn’t have both. By the tone of her voice, Rich knew she was serious about this.

When a Spouse and Parent Uses Porn

Education is Key

To help Rich understand why Christine was so against pornography, she recommended they educate themselves about the dangers of pornography. Through books, videos, and websites they became more aware of just how damaging pornography can be. Some of the resources they used included:

Books:

  • Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography by Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D.
  • Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned from Porn to Purity by Matt Fradd
  • Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson, M.A. and Gail A. Poyner, Ph.D.
  • @Sophie Takes A #Selfie: Rules and Etiquette for Taking Good Care Before You Share by J. J. Cannon.

DVD:

  • Unfiltered: Equipping Parents for an Ongoing Conversation about Internet Pornography by Covenant Eyes

Websites:

Rich and Christine first focused on how pornography affects individuals. Rich never realized how addictive pornography could be. To him it was just “harmless adult entertainment.” While Rich didn’t qualify as one who is addicted to pornography, based on what he learned about it, he knew some of his friends were probably addicted. Rich had limited his pornography use to occasionally viewing it online and only for a few minutes. However, he knew some friends who were viewing it every day, and also frequenting strip clubs. Because such activity seemed “normal” to Rich, he didn’t realize it could be a sign of a severe addiction. One friend had even lost his job because he was caught viewing Internet porn at work. Rich thought this was simply an isolated incident. However, now he knew this was probably the behavior of a porn addict. Knowing how harmful pornography can be to an individual, Rich was determined not to become an addict.

Rich and Christine also learned how pornography use affects marriages. It was important to Christine that Rich really understand how hurt and betrayed she felt. To him pornography was just images on a computer screen. However, to Christine they weren’t just images, they were other women. To Christine, Rich’s pornography use was as serious as an extramarital affair. It was adultery. Rich didn’t realize how devastating his pornography use was to Christine. He was also surprised to learn that the Church also considers pornography use adultery. It deeply saddened Rich to know how much he had hurt his wife. This strengthened his resolve to end all pornography use and to work on healing their relationship.

In addition to protecting their marriage, Rich and Christine wanted to protect their three young children. Through their research, Rich and Christine learned how damaging pornography is to young developing minds. The learned that exposing their children to pornography could increase the odds that they would become addicted to it as teens or young adults. Rich also learned that to protect his children, he would need to be a good role model not only for avoiding pornography, but also in living a strong, virtuous life. Rich committed to becoming a strong leader, provider and protector for his wife and children.

Protecting Families

To protect themselves and their children, Rich and Christine began to carefully monitor all the media they and their children could be exposed to at home. This meant monitoring the television programs they watched. They blocked shows and networks they believed would be harmful.

They also monitored all use of the Internet. Rich and Christine installed Covenant Eyes on all devices that had access to the Internet. These included their computers, cell phones, tablets and e-readers. In addition, they limited their children’s screen time. This included the television, computer, Internet, video games, cell phone, tablet, e-reader, etc. They limited their children to two hours per day total and themselves to three hours a day. When their children were using any media, Rich and Christine were also sure to be there to supervise it.

Rich and Christine’s children are James (age 11), Amanda (age 10) and Melissa (age 8). To protect Melissa, they were vigilant to monitor all media she encountered. For James and Amanda, however, they knew they needed to begin to educate them on the dangers of the pornography. To do this, Rich and Christine watched Unfiltered: Equipping Parents for an Ongoing Conversation about Internet Pornography. They also read Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-proofing Today’s Young Kids with James and Amanda. Rich read it with James and Christine read it with Amanda.

Because their older kids are now in middle school, Rich and Christine also felt it was important to teach them how to use social media responsibly. To do this they read @Sophie Takes A #Selfie: Rules and Etiquette for Taking Good Care Before You Share with James and Amanda. Rich and Christine continue to have regular conversations with their kids about their media use, how it can be helpful and how it can be harmful.

Getting Professional Help

In addition to education and protection, Rich and Christine sought professional help to address their pornography problem. Christine initially contacted a therapist for advice on how to address the issue with Rich. Now it was important for Rich to be evaluated to determine if he was struggling with a pornography addiction. While he was reluctant to do this, he submitted to Christine’s request for the sake of their marriage. He met with a therapist who was certified in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual addiction.

After a thorough evaluation, it was determined that Rich was not addicted to pornography. However, he did have a porn problem that needed to be addressed. Rich was using pornography to deal with various life stressors. With the help of his therapist, Rich was able to identify those stressors and develop healthy ways to resolve them.

Knowing he wasn’t addicted to porn was a relief for both Rich and Christine. However, this did not lessen the severity of the situation for either of them. They both knew they had to completely eliminate pornography from their lives. Together they worked with the therapist to learn the strategies to do this.

Because Rich’s pornography use had wounded Christine so deeply, they participated in several marital therapy sessions. Rich needed to understand how his actions had hurt her. Christine also needed a place to heal from the betrayal trauma she had experienced. She also needed to understand that she was in no way responsible for his pornography use and that it had nothing to do with her beauty and desirability as a woman.

They did have to address some issues in their relationship that were stressors for Rich for which he was self-medicating with pornography. Through marital therapy, Christine was able to forgive Rich and restore her trust in him. Together they addressed problem issues in their relationship and were able to forge a stronger and healthier marriage.

Moving Forward

While it took an ultimatum to get Rich to address the problem of pornography in their lives, he was eventually grateful for it. He came to realize that what he thought was “harmless adult entertainment,” was actually having a devastating effect on his marriage and could seriously harm his children. By educating themselves on the dangers of pornography, Rich and Christine were able to clearly understand how Rich’s pornography use was hurting them and their marriage. They could clearly see the dangers it posed to their children. They were then able to take the steps needed to rid their lives of pornography and protect themselves and their children.

Through counseling, Rich was able to understand and resolve the root causes of his pornography use. In marital counseling, they were able to heal and restore their marriage. Now their marriage is stronger and healthier than ever. Their kids also notice this. There is more peace and harmony in the home.

Confronting a family member who uses pornography is never easy, especially when it’s a spouse and parent. Often an ultimatum is needed to get their attention. However, in my experience, when this is needed it is frequently successful. It does require educating the family member so he understands why you want pornography out of your lives, how to eliminate it, and how protect yourselves and your family from it returning in the future.