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For Men Addicted to Porn: 8 Ways to Rebuild Trust with Your Wife

Last Updated: March 10, 2021

Matt Fradd

Matt Fradd is the author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Woman Who Turned from Porn to Purity. After experiencing a profound conversion at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, Matt has worked through full-time lay ministry in Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Texas. He has served as an apologist for Catholic Answers and has traveled all over the world, speaking to tens of thousands of teens and young adults. He and his wife Cameron have four children and live in North Georgia.

This post has been updated as of August, 2020.

When a woman discovers her husband has been watching porn behind her back, it can feel absolutely devastating. It is a traumatic discovery in the truest sense of the word—the wife undergoes terrible trauma. These women often begin to doubt themselves, caught in the immense insecurity of feeling the need to compete with her husband’s secret world of fantasy. She feels trapped in a relationship where her husband professes commitment to her yet seems incapable or unwilling to put porn behind him.

Women in this situation are, not surprisingly, angry, lonely, exhausted, and despairing.

Men, if this describes your wife, what can you do to reassure her of your love and devotion, despite the fact that you haven’t gotten to the bottom of your pornographic obsession yet?

I want to give you eight real, concrete ideas about what to do and what not to do.

Keep in mind: building trust takes time. These aren’t quick fixes, but they are steps in the right direction.

1. Drop your excuses.

There might be many factors that play into your porn habits. Perhaps you were exposed to porn when you were very young. Perhaps you received very little sexual education from your parents and explored porn as a way to learn. Perhaps you believe your habits have escalated to something like an addiction, and you feel hopelessly out of control.

Your wife should hear these things, but she should also know that you don’t for a minute treat them as excuses. Regardless of how outside forces or biological factors have played a role in your life, you are responsible for your own actions. Tell your wife you take full responsibility for your actions and for your recovery.

2. Acknowledge that you know but don’t fully know your sin’s impact.

Your wife should hear you say—out loud with words—that you know your actions have impacted her and your marriage. Tell her, “I know I have crippled your trust in me. I know you probably won’t believe what I say, at least for a while, and I don’t blame you. I know you may not feel like being nice to me, and you may not even feel safe with me, and again, I don’t blame you.” She needs to know that you get that she is in pain.

At the same time, she should also hear you say that you can’t really comprehend her pain. Say to her, “I won’t pretend to really understand how difficult this is for you, but I want to understand it better.” Promise her that you will listen to her—uninterrupted—and let her vent her unfiltered shock, fear, confusion, and anger. Then really listen to her and resist the urge to be defensive.

3. Remind your wife she is not to blame.

It is common for women to feel as if your problem at least partially rests with them. If they had only been more _____, you wouldn’t have gone down this path of fantasy. You must remind your wife that this is a lie.

4. Purge all access points to porn

Make sure you do everything in your power to close the doors of temptation and let your wife know what you are doing.

This is important for two reasons. First, it is an important way to check your pride. It is easy to feel like you are treating yourself like a child, like all the safeguards you could put in place are a bit overboard. But remember, the exact opposite is true. It takes a mature man to acknowledge where he is weak. By purging your life of potential access points, you are taking responsibility for yourself and your marriage.

Second, it shows your wife exactly what she needs to see: that you are taking this seriously—that you love her more than your iPhone, more than unmonitored time online, more than your route to work that passes the adult book store, more than your private e-mail account, more than your secluded life where no one knows the real you or the real temptations you face.

5. Find man-to-man accountability

Your habit of pornography has thrived in the darkness of secrecy, and it will be killed in the light of accountability.

Here’s what I mean by accountability: an accountability relationship is one where you not only discuss how you are struggling, but also give someone permission to remind you of the kind of person you want to be. Accountability is not so much someone else calling you out on your faults, but someone else calling you up to the kind of man and husband you want to become.

Please, don’t put all of this on your wife. Of course, your wife might want to be supportive of you, and that is wonderful, and of course you should be honest with her, but you need other men to support you. Another man will be more likely to understand the nuances of your struggle. He will be more likely to see past your pretenses and excuses and give you the kind of advice you really need.

The last thing you wife really needs, in addition to being your wife, is being your mother, your counselor, and your Ally.

Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability can help facilitate these open and honest conversations with your trusted friend.

6. Don’t have a secret recovery life.

It is easy for men who have been in the habit of secrecy with porn to develop a habit of secrecy when it comes to their recovery from porn. Don’t do this to your wife.

How can your wife ever trust you again if she doesn’t know what you’re doing to change? Tell her what your triggers have been in the past and how you plan to deal with them in the future. Tell her about the books you are reading. Tell her about the advice your counselors or mentors are telling you, and tell her how you are living out that advice.

7. Encourage her to seek advice and help.

Encourage your wife to talk to someone else about her feelings of hurt, betrayal, and confusion. You might have this gut instinct to guard your precious reputation and dissuade your wife from talking to anyone about how she feels. The opposite should be true: you should be your wife’s biggest supporter when it comes to her getting outside help.

Often women don’t want or feel they need any help—after all, you’re the one with the problem, right? Wrong. Your problem has spilled over into her life and caused her great trauma, and no one should have to face that kind of trauma alone.

8. Be ridiculously patient with her.

You might easily get frustrated with how slow it seems the trust building is going. You might be thinking: “I don’t get it. I told her I was sorry. I am making changes. Why doesn’t she trust me yet?” From your perspective, your longtime secret is out and your life is different now, but you need to stand in your wife’s shoes. For some men, they’ve spent years hiding from their wife. For some men, they’ve spent years consuming countless hours of porn. One decision to change or a short track record of changed behavior doesn’t easily erase that. Forgiveness can be given in a moment, but trust takes time.

Be patient with her. Don’t expect her to “be over this” because the secret is out. Your behavior over time will be your wife’s trust barometer.

If you want help really understanding your wife’s perspective, download the free book, Porn and Your Husband. It will give you and your spouse proactive ideas about how to move forward.

  • Comments on: For Men Addicted to Porn: 8 Ways to Rebuild Trust with Your Wife
    1. Bev Sterk on

      under #2, I think part of the reason people can’t get free is because several aspects of this sin are not being recognized…

      one, often it is not even named as a sin, which you name, thank you…
      two, that it breeds deception, lies, manipulation and coverup… it seems once an addict starts lying, this becomes as big of an issue as the sexual immorality… so I really appreciate your #6… a transparent recovery is something some Christian recovery programs do not often encourage, and I don’t think this is helpful to anyone, except the enemy…

      three, porn is a justice issue for those trapped in human trafficking…this is not being addressed in recovery programs…

      and four, a significant part of the damage is the objectification of and desensitization to those made in God’s image. I believe this is a very serious piece that is not being addressed in the recovery programs very well either…

      and with #1… often the excuses include, I’ve been “wounded”, and I’m “self-medicating”… and that type of “confession” seems to be encouraged from the professional counselors… maybe it’s how they handle their own issues, but it’s not owning up to any responsibility of any of the bad fruit of porn or recognizing self-control.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Let me just speak up for professional counselors here and say that while being wounded and self-medicating may in fact be part of what drives the problem, the solution will come in taking responsibility for ones own behavior and choices, and not in making excuses or placing blame on others. Addicts are real experts when it comes to taking therapeutic information and twisting it around to fit into their excuse-and-blame way of thinking.

    2. tj on

      If my wife was pointing her finger at me like that and berating me, I would have no problems looking at porn. Also, please tell me where it says that I must cater to a woman for my entire life once I marry her. This whole article is about pleasing your wife. It is all about her. That is the issue we aren’t talking about. Marriage in America has morphed into it being all about the woman. This is why men are deciding not to marry now. It simply is not worth it. By the way, when a man looks at porn, yes, sometimes the woman is at fault. Ever been with a woman where the sex stopped in the relationship due to her own issues? I have. Trust me, you will look at porn then or get a divorce, which wrecks a man’s life.

      Reply
      • Rene on

        Brother, Im sorry but marriage is about what you give not what you receive.

        “Also, please tell me where it says that I must cater to a woman for my entire life once I marry her.”

        For Christians you have Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus gave his life up for his bride. He surrendered his life to her.

        By all means that may not be the moral basis you hold to – and I apologize if this annoys you. But ultimately men are a different kettle of fish from woman. We are mean to be strong and loving – edifying and encouraging – long lasting in our commitment and consistent in our principles. We are meant to be able to take a punch. And respond without punching back. Problem is we dont know how to be men any more.

      • @Rene on

        That is a cop out. The reality is the double standards in America are killing marriage. You also are conveniently ignoring the responsibilities of the woman towards the man which so few women are doing. Stop holding men biblically accountable and not holding women biblically accountable.

        Also, no. Men are not whipping boys for women. Sorry.

        Lastly, men most certainly know how to be men. The problem is women want to be men. That is the real problem. Holding just males accountable solves nothing. Nothing at all. It is just BS nonsense some sunday school teacher who doesnt live in the real world says. Kind of like those who quote generic verses from the bible and extrapolate them out to complex issues.

      • Kay Bruner on

        Marriages are destroyed, one at a time, by people within those marriages who make those choices. Each person is responsible for their own choices. No matter what society says, no matter what the church says, no matter what porn says, each person is responsible for their own choices. No excuses, no blame-shifting. Just personal responsibility.

        If you’re interested in what makes marriage work, the best research is Dr. John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

    3. Anon on

      Goes both ways Matt in case you haven’t read numerous stories all over the web.
      Fightthenewdrug.org
      Xxxchurch.com
      Antiporn.org

      Reply
      • Rene on

        Matt’s not responded as yet, but I know from his lectures he more than aware of this fact.

        Simple point this article / video is for husbands who struggle.
        If you are looking for support for as a wife with this issue then this particular article is not for you.

    4. Jessica on

      Porn is not about you and your wife, it is between you and God. God loves the women in porn as his daughters. He expects His sons to treat them with respect and dignity. Your wife may be sinful and not treating you right but God does not grant the right for you to go elsewhere. You need counseling, a lots of good books and a heart that prays for your wife. Not a heart that runs to sin when your wife isn’t treating you well.
      Btw- I never yelled at or berated my husband. I was the “perfect” wife. Yet I was the one insulted and yelled at. Men do not go to porn because their wife is not nice enough. The go to porn out of greed for more than what God has given them. God gave you your wife for a reason. What you run to when you are angry says a lot about your priorities.
      Run to God, not porn.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Thanks for this, Jessica. We are each responsible before God for our own choices and our own behaviors, no matter how others treat us. Thanks for speaking up. Kay

    5. Steven Locricchio on

      Matt,
      Thank You for the advice regarding the 8 ways to rebuilding trust with our wives. I found I was using most of them, and could always increase in the virtue of patientence as well. Keep up the the much needed work in this area.
      God Bless you and your ministry.
      Steve L.

      Reply
    6. Harry W. Schaumburg on

      I’ve counseled 1000s of couples from across the U.S. grappling with sex sin. The opposite of false intimacy is real intimacy. So the opposite of mistrust must be caring, not trust.

      Reply
    7. Carol on

      It has been exactly 5 months today since I discovered the extent of my “godly” husband’s porn use on our 35th anniversary (Happy Anniversary!). In spite of having pastored 2 churches & ministered to many people, he didn’t feel that it was all that wrong & seems to think that I should be “over it” by now! How can these guys read the Bible & still think that? He says he loves me, but I find that difficult to believe. He hasn’t touched me sexually for years, except for a few times, only when I initiated it & then he couldn’t achieve an erection. He says he’s not attracted to me, but wants to save our marriage. What marriage? I feel like it has been a sham all along. Oh, yeah, he installed Covenant Eyes on our computers & his phone, so that controls his porn use, but he can always fall back on those images in his head, so that’s very little comfort. He promised to spend 1 hour/day reading blogs, etc. (which he does maybe half the time), & we have bought workbooks (that have had very little use), but how does that make up for 35 years of betrayal? I’ve read the e-books & blogs on hope, but feel very little hope. I know there are wives in “worse” situations but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Carol. I think you’re finding what a lot of us experience: there is way more to recovery than just stopping the porn use. The real issue, I think, is the lack of emotional trust between the two of you. Even if his behavior were perfect, you’d be missing that key element. When he says that it wasn’t all that wrong and you should be over it by now, those are clear indications to me that he’s still got that entitled addict mindset, even if he’s let up on some of the behaviors.

        I’ve written about emotional trust here. You could pass that article along to your husband and see what he thinks about it. I think a lot of men aren’t taught to be emotionally open, and then porn keeps them from ever facing up to their emotions much. So it can be a huge emotional learning curve that they aren’t even aware exists. And then we can’t articulate it well–we just know it’s still not right. So I hope that helps to maybe put words to your experience. John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage work is absolutely stellar as well, in showing what a healthy marriage looks like beyond “not looking at porn”.

        Blessings Kay

    8. Cater on

      I have struggled with porn for my entire adult life. It contributed heavily to the failure of multiple first marriage. My wife has learned of it, told me to stop. I tried, but failed to completely stop. I concealed and lied about it, and she found out again, which has traumatized her, destroyed trust, and brought her close to divorcing me. I am committed to completely overcoming it, but to do so I am having to acknoeldge my sin to God and my wife and family, and admit that I have rationalized and minimized my sin, and in fact ignored the words of Jesus that looking on a woman with lust is the same as adultery. I get it now. I only wish I had understood before the pain and destruction I have caused. I ask each person reading this to pray for me that with the help of God, my therapist and caring friends and therapists I will overcome this and be the righteous husband my wife deserves.

      Reply

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