12 minute read

10 Ways You Can Help Your Husband Leave Porn Behind

Last Updated: September 14, 2020

Ella Hutchinson

Ella Hutchinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) who is passionate about advocating for partners of sex addicts by helping them to find their voice. She served for three years as a founding board member of the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). Today, she proudly serves on the board of directors for the organization, Certified Sex Addiction Specialists-International (CSASI). Ella and her husband, Jeff, work together helping couples whose marriages have been invaded by sexual addiction.

I often have wives ask me what they can do to help their husband recover from porn or sexual addiction. Every time I hear this question my heart sinks a little because I fear if she is asking this question her priorities might be off base.

It isn’t that there aren’t things a wife can do to give her husband some added motivation to recover. But…

  • If she is asking this question, chances are she is more concerned with her husband than herself.
  • If she’s asking this question, chances are that she is believing the lie that his porn use has something to do with her and that if she just does the right thing she can make him stop.
  • If she is asking this question, chances are she is willing to neglect her own needs in order to meet his.

The problem with this is that if the wife’s focus is on how she can help her husband, she is most likely already hurting his recovery more than anything else.

Let me start by saying, if your desire is to help your husband with his porn struggle, your heart is probably in the right place. I love to see wives who can find compassion for their husband’s battle with lust.

But the mistake I see too many women in this situation is that she cushions his fall. This is how she hurts his recovery. If a wife prevents her husband from “hitting rock bottom” his chances of real recovery are diminished.

I will outline ten steps below that will hopefully help you and your husband find healing from the damage porn has caused in your lives.

1. Recognize his recovery is his responsibility, not yours.

Your number one job is to take care of yourself. You cannot and should not be his support system or cheerleader through this.

If you do everything right he still may fail. If an addict does not want to stop, he won’t succeed. The pull an addiction has over a person is unfathomable to a person who has not dealt with a real addiction.

Many say that porn is the most powerful addiction and the most difficult to overcome. I am inclined to agree.

Your husband may place blame on you by saying he doesn’t get enough sex, you aren’t adventurous enough in bed, you need to lose weight or any other number of excuses. Don’t fall for it.

How do I know this? Because if you do all those things he says he needs, he still won’t stop. He’ll come up with new excuses. The problem was there before he ever met you. By blaming yourself, you are putting a burden upon yourself that is too great to carry.

2. Educate yourself about sex addiction and recovery.

Knowledge really can be power, but be careful about what you read online. A good start is Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers.

Learning about porn can help you see how it is not about you and can help you make sense of a lot of things in your marriage. Learning about what recovery should look like can help you develop a list of boundaries for your husband. The cornerstones of recovery are counseling, group support (such as a 12-step program like Sexaholics Anonymous), and accountability.

Again, none of this matters if your husband doesn’t want it and is just checking the boxes without putting his heart in it.

3. Communicate your needs clearly.

Tell your husband in advance you have something important to talk to him about and ask him when would be a good time. Give him two or three choices such as, “When would be best for you, today or tomorrow?” This may be done with a counselor present. In fact, I suggest you sit down with a counselor to prepare for this discussion.

I also encourage you to write your needs down so you don’t leave anything out. Be prepared to stay calm and stand firm (you have probably already learned that nagging, begging, pleading, and raging don’t work). List your needs from your husband in terms of his addictive behaviors.

Then turn these needs into boundaries with consequences. Get straight to the point and use as few words as possible. You do not need to go into long explanations for why you have these needs. By now, you’ve probably already talked until you are blue in the face about how upset you are and why. This conversation is different and he should be able to tell that.

After you have created your list of boundaries, then create consequences you will implement if boundaries are not followed. Your boundaries should include the following, at a minimum:

  • Porn use must cease immediately.
  • Filters such as Covenant Eyes should be installed on all devices (by you or a trusted accountability partner).
  • Weekly counseling must begin as well as weekly support groups for people struggling with porn/sexual compulsions.
  • Some spouses also insist that a couple’s intensive with disclosure and polygraph be done to help her feel sure there are no more secrets and that they both have the tools needed to move forward in the right direction.
  • Create a time frame for your boundaries, giving a date by which each need must be met.

Then list the consequence that will occur if the time passes. If you take nothing else away from this article, please don’t forget this: Boundaries must have consequences and consequences must be followed through with. So, do not set boundaries you are not prepared to enforce. Your husband will likely try to push the limits by testing you. Assume that you will have to act on your consequences. Consequences can include…

  • Sleeping in separate rooms.
  • Complete in-house separation.
  • Out-of-house separation.

Consequences should be related to the behavior and should not create a mother/son dynamic in the marriage.

While most wives don’t do this, it can be easy for some to get a little proud here and begin to see themselves as holier or more worthy than their husband. We are all sinners.

Your consequences should be based on your needs for physical and emotional safety, not on punishment. If your husband looks up porn on his phone after agreeing not to, an appropriate consequence would be that all Internet is blocked on his phone (this is usually possible) or that he downgrades to a “dumb phone.” An inappropriate consequence would be that he must sell his new golf clubs.

A caveat: While it is not healthy to withhold sex as a punishment in marriage, it is also unhealthy to force yourself to have sex with your husband if he doesn’t feel like a safe person. A good rule of thumb: Listen to your body. Don’t give in to sex with your husband if you are not relaxed and comfortable with him.

4. Don’t isolate yourself.

When you are going through the feelings of betrayal and lack of self-worth that come with your husband’s porn use it can be tempting to shut out the rest of the world. This can be because of your shame related to his behavior or because of a lack of motivation that accompanies depression. It can be because you feel no one will understand what you are going through.

Finding others who have been through something similar is priceless and I encourage you to seek this out. But a person doesn’t have to understand in order to offer support and be a shoulder to cry on. As long as this person is trustworthy and will respect your communicated need not to offer advice unless you ask, set down your pride, and take a risk by reaching out.

A combination of personal, pastoral, and professional support is ideal. Listen to your gut. If you feel your pain or your concerns are being minimized, or if you feel you are being pressured to hurry up and get over it, that person might not be the right support for you. Move on to someone else.

5. Don’t put your husband in the place of God.

This is very easy to do and I think all of us are guilty of it. Who are we looking to first for comfort? People will let us down, especially our spouse, and especially when he might also be going through the most difficult time in his life. If we allow our mood to be based solely on our husband’s actions and moods, we’ll be a wreck.

I get that this is much easier said than done. Of course, we are influenced by our spouse’s moods and choices. They are our partner in life, the person we vowed to share the rest of our life with. Life coach Kathy Reynolds states, “How the partner of a sex addict responds to her husband is a direct reflection of what he is doing in recovery.” I also observe this to be the case a lot, if not most, of the time. Sometimes our reactions can feel out of our control.

But by making a daily choice to put God first, by starting our day in His Word and with prayer, we are placing our faith in a much more reliable source and will find healing occurring more quickly.

By not isolating from other people or from God, and by not expecting our husband to be our sole support system, we take some of the burden off him. This leaves him more space for his personal recovery. This does not change the fact that you will still need continued patience and care from your husband. He just shouldn’t be your only source of support.

6. Let him see your pain.

While it’s important to reach out to others for support, it’s equally important that you not hide your grief from your husband. He needs to see and hear how he has hurt you. You should be able to express your feelings to your husband and receive validation and support in response.

As the cause of your pain, he should be patient, humble, and empathetic toward you. Sadly, this may not be something your husband is willing or able to offer. In fact, his counselor or accountability partners may be actively discouraging him from offering you support. If this is happening discuss how to handle it with your own counselor. Hopefully, this will improve in time, and he will develop more empathy through recovery.

The book Worthy of Her Trust by Jason Martinkus is a phenomenal resource for men in this situation and can be very validating for you as well. If you find you feel worse instead of better when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with your husband, then “detaching” (as discussed in Your Sexually Addicted Spouse by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means) can be your best option.

7. Give yourself grace.

You will screw up, over and over. You may lose your temper. You may rage. You may behave in ways that are completely out of character for you. You may neglect responsibilities, your kids, your friends. Every time, take a deep breath, say a prayer, forgive yourself, and start over. You’ll also probably cry a lot, feel tired more often, forget things, lose things, have less patience, and have a general feeling of living in a fog. This is normal. This is not your fault.

When you are tired, sleep. When you need to cry, go to your room, shut the door, and let it all out. Cry out to God. Take opportunities when no one is home, or in your car, to really let your emotions go. It feels good and it’s healthy, no matter how crazy you may feel.

Take long baths. Get a pedicure. Take time off work if you can. Have your parents take the kids for an evening or a week. Go to lunch with girlfriends.

Give yourself extra time to get things done. And who cares if your house is clean. If you can afford it, hire someone to help you clean your house or keep up with the lawn. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about this. If not, take family or friends up on offers to help out.

Go to your church. They may have programs where people volunteer to clean someone’s house or prepare meals for people who are sick, grieving, or have just had a baby. Ask if you qualify for this kind of assistance. You don’t have to share details of what is going on. If you are finding yourself dealing with out of control violence, an inability to carry out day to day responsibilities, or are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, visit your doctor. There is no shame in taking medication to help you through this time if you need it.

8. Allow your husband time for recovery activities.

Once he has committed to counseling, 12 step meetings, accountability, etc. you will both learn how time-consuming recovery can be. Many wives become frustrated by this. You have a right to feel upset as you did nothing to cause this and are in so many ways having to suffer the consequences.

However, discouraging your husband to do these things could hurt his recovery success. Take these opportunities, when your husband is away or doing recovery work at home, to do things for yourself if you can.

If you both are becoming overwhelmed see what you can remove from your plate and again, ask for help from others. It can help for you and your husband to work through creating a schedule and plan with a counselor, so you know when he’ll be gone (and where he’ll be) and he’ll know what you need from him when he is at home. It is fair and reasonable for you to expect your husband to be a fully contributing member of the household. Don’t forget you both need downtime though.

9. Set realistic expectations.

It is fair and rational to expect no pornography (make sure you are both on the same page as to what constitutes pornography), no inappropriate conversations with others, and no inappropriate touch with others, at a minimum.

But recognize that he will struggle. Don’t demand that he never have another lustful thought or feel physical attraction toward someone other than you. While it is hurtful that your husband struggles with lust toward other people, it is unrealistic to expect this to never happen.

Don’t demand that he share with you every single thought he has.

Accept that he will make mistakes (although some mistakes may be deal-breakers).

Do expect to be informed of what he is doing for recovery and how he is doing in recovery. Do expect to be informed of any slips or relapses. Read this article I wrote for more information on what is realistic to expect in terms of your husband’s recovery.

10. Be willing to walk.

Perhaps most important of all, your husband must believe you will leave. If you cushion his fall with reassurances such as, “It will be okay,” or “I’ll always be here for you,” you make his acting out so much easier. None of this should be easy for him.

Unfortunately, some men won’t ever stop long term if he doesn’t think you’ll ever really leave. This is so unfair to you, but it is true. If your husband is being resistant to recovery, begin to prepare for the worst-case scenario by saving money (you may need to get a job), talking to a lawyer, and getting used to the idea that you may have to be on your own. This is called tough love. Anything less than being willing to leave if he doesn’t take recovery seriously is enabling (helping, assisting) your husband to continue in a miserable life of sin. The most unloving thing you can do is help your husband continue to act out by not setting firm boundaries and following through on them.

Again, let me reiterate, do not make empty threats. If you are not in a place to leave then don’t threaten it. Prepare yourself first. Your husband may become defensive at this boundary and accuse you of setting an ultimatum. If he questions whether that is what you are doing be clear by calmly telling him, “Yes, that is exactly what I am doing.” This may be short term separation to give him an opportunity to prove himself to you, or it may ultimately end in divorce.

Steven Gola, author of Divorce: God’s Will?, states,

When we are faced with the decision of either saving the institution or saving the people in the institution, the institution must go. And when we are faced with the decision of saving a marriage, or the people of the marriage, the marriage must go.

The hope, of course, is for the fear of losing you to be enough to motivate your husband to do what it takes to stop acting out and get help. In time, if he didn’t already realize it, he’ll learn how much his sin was hurting him personally and will no longer do recovery for you, but for himself.

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  • Comments on: 10 Ways You Can Help Your Husband Leave Porn Behind
    1. Ed on

      Hi Ella,

      I’m very confused about you are advocating in #9: “Make sure you are both on the same page as to what constitutes pornography”.

      Are you saying that what constitutes pornography is entirely subjective?

      Reply
      • Ella Hutchinson on

        Ed, I’m so glad you asked this question. I should have clarified. No, I absolutely do not think it’s subjective. As I was writing that I was thinking about the multiple men I’ve heard argue that looking at celebrity sites, even certain newcasters, nude photography etc. and of course things along the line of Sports Illustrated or Maxim, are not porn. Basically I meant women need to clarify what they mean when they say, no porn. Anything at all that is, has been, or could be, used for visual sexual arousal is pornography.

    2. kim on

      This is very helpful. Thanks.

      Reply
    3. Ed on

      Thank you very much for your response Ella.

      So, what if a husband considers the movies “50 Shades of Grey”, “Magic Mike” and “Magic Mike XXL” (which are all movies marketed predominantly to women) is porn and the wife disagrees and adamantly believes that it is not porn. Whose right — the husband or the wife?

      Reply
      • Ella Hutchinson on

        Those movies are just as sexually impure and damaging as what we traditionally have seen as porn. It is a tragedy to me that this has become mainstream and seems to be seen as acceptable by so many.

      • Anewanon on

        Even if a G-rated movie such as Princess Diaries IS used in one’s head for self-gratification, then it too is porn. The issue is not “what constitutes porn”, the issue is “lust for anyone else” defiles the marriage bed”, Period.

    4. Ed on

      You’re saying that those movies are just as sexually impure and damaging as what we traditionally have seen as porn but you’re declining to classify it as porn. My question is: why don’t you consider those movies to actually “be” porn — rather than just be “like” porn?

      Also, if the husband believes that those movies are actually porn, then what steps should he take with his wife if she watches them against his wishes?

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Ed, I’m not going to address the “porn or like porn” question, but let me jump in on your second question here: what do you do when your spouse does something you don’t agree with? I think that is a boundary question. Usually we get those from women here at CE, so I’m going to give you a link to an article I wrote for wives, but I think you’ll get the idea. Also, I’d recommend Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s excellent book, Boundaries in Marriage. The bottom line is this: we can’t control other people, only ourselves. And we all have to choose for ourselves what is healthy and right for us, even when our spouses make choices we don’t like. Anyway, have a read and let me know what you think. Blessings, Kay

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hey Ed,

        I’ll address the “like porn” question. Many could classify them as porn, but the word is notoriously difficult to define since it is a fairly charged word. For my own purposes, I tend to define pornography as textual or visual materials containing explicit displays or descriptions of sexual organs and sexual activities, with the intention of removing these images and acts from the intimacy of partners, in order to stimulate erotic (rather than aesthetic) sensations in consumers. While there is much that could be said about sexual themes in mainstream movies, advertising, and television, and while there is much debate around the differences between nude art and pornography, I tend to define pornography as that which is designed by its creators to be consumed in order facilitate sexual arousal, without any emphasis on any other artistic or entertainment value. I think this definition is pretty faithful to the term as it was used throughout the first hundred years of its existence or so.

        I think it is easy to get hung up with words. If we feel the urge to make the definition of porn very broad to encompass many, many types of media, are we merely doing it in order to help people see the lustful nature of that material? If so, then perhaps we need to just get more creative with our terms. In other words, if our definition of porn needs to be so large because “not porn” is okay, then maybe we need do a better job at articulating why porn is not the only sinful kind of media in existence.

      • Laura on

        I have a background as an actress in theatre and film, and the “business” answer to what is or isn’t porn is this–pornography depicts individuals actually participating in the act of sex, whereas actors for a feature film aren’t actually having sex, just implying that they are. However, I agree with the other answer posted–it all looks like sex on camera in the end. I am always very surprised when people feel like sex scenes in movies/on tv are “safe” and not porn bc the reaction we have to it as humans is essentially the same. Additionally, I try to compare it to being a “peeping Tom.” The latter would be arrested for committing such an act, the reason being that they did not have permission to view the act by the parties involved. But aren’t tv screens essentially windows allowing us to watch others? Did God give us permission to view such things. No–He did not. Why does watching it on a screen not carry the same weight as sneaking up to someone’s window? My answer is that it should carry the same weight bc the consequences are equally burdensome.

      • Jason on

        Every man’s battle and every woman’s battle articulates these two subjects very well. Things like 50 shades of grey is the emotional equal to what we are calling porn. It’s equally as damaging and possibly more dangerous because it doesn’t carry the stigma that porn does. I highly recommend reading every man’s battle and every woman’s battle.

    5. maddie on

      “It will be okay,” or “I’ll always be here for you,”….if you don’t use phrases like these, there is always a fear that he will lie to you. If a cushion is available, won’t he feel encouraged to speak out the truth without hiding feelings. This just helps you to understand how the dopamine levels are changing, if they are.

      Reply
      • Ella Hutchinson on

        Maddie, most of the time he will lie to you no matter what. Reassurances that you won’t leave are rarely enough to motivate an unfaithful husband to be honest. And even if it did, you’ve now made him feel much safer to continue acting out. Some wives will agree to a one time agreement not to divorce no matter what comes out for a set period of time (often a year) in exchange for a full clinical disclosure (the kind with a therapist present that includes a full and detailed, though not graphic, account of a person’s entire sexual history). I do not encourage or discourage a wife to make this kind of guarantee. It is up to her. I have found that the majority of the time the full truth will still not come out, even with this guarantee, without the use of a polygraph. That is why I use polygraph with all my disclosures.

    6. Ed on

      The article is very good and I’ve read Henry Cloud for years. He’s excellent at explaining how to take responsibility for one’s self no matter what their spouse does.

      But I’m still a little confused about your approach. In your posting here, you advocate:

      Porn use must cease immediately.
      Filters such as Covenant Eyes should be installed on all devices (by you or a trusted accountability partner).
      Weekly counseling must begin as well as weekly support groups for people struggling with porn/sexual compulsions.
      Some spouses also insist that a couple’s intensive with disclosure and polygraph be done to help her feel sure there are no more secrets and that they both have the tools needed to move forward in the right direction.
      Create a time frame for your boundaries, giving a date by which each need must be met.
      Sleeping in separate rooms.
      Complete in-house separation.
      Out-of-house separation.

      Are you saying that the husband should have the wife agree to the exact same type of conditions if she keeps on renting movies like 50 Shades of Grey or goes out with her friends to watch Magic Mike at the movie theater?

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I’d say those are boundary issues you need to discuss as a couple. Are you comfortable and happy with those choices she’s making? If not, choose your boundaries.

      • Sarah on

        Not if she isn’t the partner with the addiction or the partner that has created the consequences with their behaviors (dishonesty, infidelity, betrayal). This would be akin to an alcoholic husband not allowing his non-alcoholic wife to drink. She may choose to abstain in the name of support, of course but I see a difference.

    7. Jeremiah on

      Just a pointed question as to whether or not this is all biblical, or are you mixing worldly thought into things here? I have some concerns about some of the language. Addiction is a serious issue, and I think that temporary but long-term separation until the addict repents is probably more biblical than the language about ‘get a lawyer, get a job, save money’, etc. My wife and I are separated now and she has taken the stance of saying, ‘you won’t come back into the house until you are well along the road to recovery from porn use’. But your article here leaves some wide open interpretations as to what a woman should do when confronted with porn usage. If God hates divorce equally as much as he hates porn and adultery, shouldn’t we be telling spouses that they should look toward reconciliation first, even while they demand repentance?

      Reply
      • Jeremiah on

        As a side note, I’m 90 days clean from porn and taking my recovery seriously as a result of my wife’s hardline stance and talk about how she was “researching divorce” if I could not repent, but even moreso my recovery is successful because of the positive influence of men in the local chapter of Celebrate Recovery, as well as the reading I can do on such sites as this. But above all, it is devotion to God’s word and His love and grace that is lifting me up more than all things, and the ideal (the mark) is to restore marriage and family, and glorify Him all that much more. I just think we need to be careful with the rhetoric and ammunition that we hand ladies that are emotionally unstable in an understandably volatile situation, and might even be suffering from “emotional anorexia”, the inability to reconcile with their spouses and a desire to end the marriage because of their frustrations in the first place. May be adding fuel to the fire with some of this language.

      • Ella Hutchinson on

        Jeremiah, I hear your concern. One important thing I have to point out is that my audience plays a crucial role in how I write. My intended audience, being wives (mostly Christian) of compulsive porn users, is a population I have worked with closely for several years. Encouraging some of them to prepare themselves for a worst case scenario may be “adding fuel to the fire” if I had ever observed the existence of that particular fire. I do not see women, especially Christian women, jumping to leave their husbands over porn/sex addiction. They may threaten this in anger, but I do not see them acting on it. In the rare instances that I see women divorce their husbands over his porn use it is after years, usually decades, of desperate attempts to save their marriage with a husband who is unwilling to fight along side her. I see women suffering health issues, chronic pain, debilitating anxiety, and overwhelming sadness as a direct result of their husband’s porn use. You ask if we shouldn’t tell spouses to “lean toward reconciliation first”. I see this as being human nature and in my experience, with rare exception, not something women need to be reminded of. The powerful attachment bond that is marriage makes walking away much harder than staying in the short term, in most cases. And it should be that way. Divorce shouldn’t be easy. Jeremiah, it sounds to me like your story is a perfect example of how what I am trying to teach in my article, really does work! Your wife’s boundaries really helped get you on the right track. I have no qualms about my stance not being biblical. I have spent some time researching God’s views on divorce, not nearly as much time as Luke Gilkerson did before his most recent article on porn and divorce which I think I saw you commented on, and I’m comfortable with my views. I hope that after reading this response, in addition to Luke’s phenomenal article with which I agree wholeheartedly, you are comfortable with my views as well.

    8. Brian on

      How does this look when the roles are reversed? What do consequences look like then? Should a husband leave/separate from his wife if she is not willing to pursue recovery? If you have any material on this topic (with roles reversed) please let me know! I have spent countless hours searching the internet with no avail. Thank you so much for your help.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Brian, I think it would look exactly the same, regardless of gender. Here at Covenant Eyes, the story we hear most often is the husband’s unrepentant porn use, so that’s the way this post was written. Blessings, Kay

    9. Ed on

      Hi Kay, do you believe that particular medium is “porn” only if the husband and wife are in agreement about it but it is not “porn” if they don’t see eye to eye on the subject?

      How can couples agree on boundaries if they don’t agree about the nature of the subject matter?

      Also, I’d still like to ask you the question that you said that didn’t want to address:

      Are the “50 Shades of Grey” and the “Magic Mike” movies “porn”?

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I don’t think we have to be in agreement to create healthy boundaries for ourselves. In fact, I think boundaries are particularly important in the areas where we do not agree. We decide for ourselves what is healthy for us, and we decide for ourselves what we will do when confronted with issues that are not healthy for us.

        The point of boundaries is not to make someone else do what we want. The point of boundaries is that we take responsibility for ourselves and decide what is healthy for us, regardless of the choices others make.

        Often in marriage, we can compromise and learn to live with things that wouldn’t be our first choice. However, when our partner makes choices that are unhealthy, impact the relationship negatively, and refuses to acknowledge the damage or work toward solutions–then we have to think seriously about what our boundaries need to be in that situation. If you didn’t read my article on boundaries previously, here is the link.

        I’m not especially interested in defining particular movies as porn or not-porn, because I think you are asking my opinion so that you can add weight to your own argument against your wife, hoping to change her mind.

        You don’t need my opinion on this. You are an adult. You can decide for yourself if those are healthy choices to watch or not watch. You can choose your boundaries.

        In the case of the two movies you’re asking about, I haven’t seen them, so I couldn’t make the judgement even if I wanted to.

        Blessings, Kay

    10. Ed on

      Hi Luke, according to your quite expansive definition of what porn is, now it’s time to put it to the test:

      Are the “50 Shades of Grey” and the “Magic Mike” movies porn?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Under that definition, I would say it is debatable. On one hand, those movies those movies do have an emphasis on other artistic or entertainment elements beyond the portrayal of sex. On the other hand, the movies have a fairly clear motive to facilitate sexual arousal.

        I don’t personally get hung up on the definitions, because there will always be debate around what qualifies as anything under any definition of any term.

        I guess I’m not sure what is to be gained or lost by defining those movies as pornography. We don’t need to box ourselves into using one term that becomes our junk drawer for everything we find sexually immoral—especially if by doing so we cause confusion or do an injustice to the way terms are used historically. I would not hesitate to call Fifty Shades of Grey “pornographic” (which is an adjective) or “sexually abusive.” I’ve not read much about Magic Mike, so I’ll decline comment there, but my guess is I would probably say “pornographic” is a good term for that as well.

      • Ella Hutchinson on

        Kay, great response, especially this…”I’m not especially interested in defining particular movies as porn or not-porn, because I think you are asking my opinion so that you can add weight to your own argument against your wife”. My feeling, that there is nothing more than a desire to stir the pot here with a motive that doesn’t seem pure of heart, is the reason I have purposely stayed out of this discussion.

    11. Ed on

      Hi Luke,

      I’m still really not sure why you are splitting hairs with calling 50 Shades of Grey merely “pornographic” rather than calling it porn itself? Why the difference in words and terminology? Is it because when you have declared a particular medium to actually “be” pornography rather than “kinda like pornography”, that it carries a more emotionally negative stigma? Why won’t you call Fifty Shades of Grey, out and out pornography just like you would with a movie like, say “Deep Throat”? (according to your porn definition).

      The female viewership of Fifty Shades on it opening night was 69% female and the fourth highest grossing film of 2015. The movie has earned over $569 million worldwide:

      Now, it looks like two more films are coming out in 2017 and 2018, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

      Question: Did 70% of the female viewership of this film actually watch pornography?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I’m not trying to split hairs here. I’m just trying to do justice to the English language. You seem to think the adjective “pornographic” is somehow less severe than calling something “pornography,” but it really isn’t clear to me why that is.

        Like I said, I don’t see a need to box ourselves into using one noun that becomes our junk drawer for everything we find sexually immoral.

        It’s really not a hill I would die on, however. If someone said to me they think 50 Shades is “pornography” I would understand they are speaking about the same elements in the film (and books) that I also find degrading and immoral. I accept it as common way people would refer to the film. Language is fluid like that.

      • Julie Peavy on

        Let me as the wife of a porn user (daily) explain that I have watched 50 shades of grey ONE TIME and ONE TIME ONLY. I don’t continually go and watch the movie on a daily basis as my addicted porn using husband does. Does that clarify your question? Geez, for the love of God. Women may watch movies like this, but we sure as heck don’t fantasize daily about it. I know this was posted a couple of years ago, but I’m just now learning and some of things men say to justify their actions are quite disturbing. The people here are reaching and searching for answer’s and all you continue to ask the counselors here is about Fifty Shades of Grey. They aren’t answering you because you are looking for a AH HA moment.

    12. Ed on

      Please humor me then Luke since you are implying that I’m the one essentially getting hung up on language. I’ll ask the question again:

      Did 70% of the female viewership of the 50 Shades of Grey movie watch pornography?

      A simple yes or no answer would be appreciated.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I’ll offer my personal opinion as far as Ella’s application goes. She says, “make sure you are both on the same page as to what constitutes pornography.”

        One of your original questions was if a husband considers the movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and Magic Mike to be porn and the wife disagrees, who’s right?

        1. My wife and I wouldn’t have this disagreement because neither she nor I think those movies are pornography in the classic sense. So my “simple” answer is no, those women did not watch pornography.

        2. What I just said doesn’t even matter as far as Ella’s article is concerned. The point is not whether I, Luke Gilkerson, think something is porn or not, but for a husband and wife to agree what is porn.

        3. Furthermore, if a husband and wife disagree about this, I think its best to get to the question beneath the question. I used a more restricted definition of pornography, not because I think Fifty Shades of Grey is a quality film. Its complete trash—a morally bankrupt film. I just don’t feel a burden to need to use the noun “pornography” for every piece of media in our culture that is sexually immoral. In other words, if my wife wanted to watch Fifty Shades of Grey, I would not oppose her doing it on the grounds that it is pornography. I would oppose it on the grounds that it is demoralizing, misogynistic, abusive, lust-inducing smut.

    13. Ed on

      Thank you for answering the question more clearly Luke. You’ve made a solid case for Ella’s position that pornography is whatever you think that it is. Now I understand the confusion about the term even more.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Great. Glad we could clear that up.

    14. Marcia on

      One question that I have that I can’t find an answer for. My husband of 33 years has been addicted to porn, abusive and unfaithful. He has blamed me and everytime we go to counseling, admits to his sins but turns it back on me and says he’s tired of being the one with the problem. I admit my faults but I feel he is redirecting and not fully accepting responsibility. Now is is mad all the time and life is miserable. Can’t afford long counseling.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Marcia.

        Unfortunately, this is often what happens with an addict in counseling, because addiction really isn’t a couples’ problem. Yes, the addiction impacts the couple. But the real problem that needs to be resolved is a one-person issue: if the addict never takes responsibility for himself, you can’t do any work as a couple. You can’t make his choices for him. You can’t be healthy for him. He has to choose that for himself. You’ve invited him to therapy, but he isn’t responding with taking responsibility for himself in the relationship. It’s really sad and hard, but I think that’s the reality you’re faced with right now. What does your counselor have to say about this dynamic of blame and redirection?

        I would say at this stage, you’ll need to take responsibility for yourself by deciding what good boundaries will look like in this relationship. We’ve got a couple of articles on that, here and here. Also, in our free download, Hope After Porn, several women share their stories of boundaries within recovery.

        There are other sources of support for you besides therapy–I do understand that gets expensive quickly! Celebrate Recovery, S Anon, even Al Anon are good community resources for spouses. You can also google “support groups” and see what comes up for your area.

        Hope that helps–Kay

    15. Lynn on

      Thank you for all of this information. I found your site and a most desperate and critical time, thankfully. My husband of 30 years was sexually abused and exposed to porn at a very young age. He knows it caused great damage and struggle with his sexuality and our relationship. Never has he cheated in the “physical” sense but has been hiding this every 2/3 months “slip up” with porn for many years, possibly decades. I found out recently thru checking his phone and you-tube, etc. I was naturally devastated and felt betrayed because this was something I was under the impression that he resolved years before. We have always had an amazing physical connection, this didn’t; appear to effect that …however, I had and have been experiencing all of the PTSD symptoms you listed here. My body has known something was “off” for a while.

      He has been sorry, empathetic and willing to work thru the 40 day challenge. We have had many in depth conversations and I feel good about his willingness. Also, though, I am afraid that the way his mind has been damaged by this and he is now seeing lust as his “normal” way to look at all women who are attractive and claims his mind literally cannot stop from reflexively “going there” even though it’s not God’s way. He works hard at being a kind respectful person in his life and this is so opposite of all he believes in so this has been especially difficult for me.

      Besides this issue, we have a high level of trust in each other and our relationship.

      Knowing that our connection in bed will never be free of these memories and thoughts he has makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t think I will ever be the same and I don’t know how to accept this new reality. I am committed to the marriage and so is he. This damage feels like someone poured acid on my soul. I want so badly to be close and for that to be enough but, I know from reading this that has to be his decision alone.

      We are also not well off financially so even if i eventually had to leave, if this doesn’t stop I dont know where I could go. I am afraid that this physical reality makes him feel like he has leeway and that he can excuse it away maybe because it’s infrequent even though he acknowleges it’s wrong and damaging to me and him. Boundaries are difficult for me to set.I am struggling with the proper ones for our situation. I told him that I will need to add boundaries whether or not he feels they are necessary – the very seemingly “random” nature of this has only served to exacerbate my anxiety on the matter. And since he broke my heart, my respect for him, and my trust he will need to work to earn that back

      Thank you again for all this information. I don’t feel so alone and I am working on my own self worth and care because that’s what I need most right now.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Lynn, it sounds like you’re working through things pretty well, given the circumstances. I wonder if he has had therapy for his childhood trauma? It certainly sounds as though that is a driving force for the dysfunctional behaviors he’s choosing now. And if you’re needing more support, you might check into the online resources at Bloom for Women. Peace to you, Kay

    16. Lynn on

      Hi Kay, thank you for your kind words. He has had counseling in the past. Right now we just cannot afford it. He’s been in and out of work sadly which I believe also feeds his feelings of unworthiness.
      He says nothing besides the images/video has happened. I am finding myself constantly seeking ways to confirm that. But it’s only serving to cause me to obsess about trying to believe him. Bedsides this issue he’s never lied to me before. This has me questioning everything.
      Btw the link I couldn’t use :( it gave me a. Error message. Thanks again,
      Lynn

      Reply
    17. Lori on

      28 years married. 33 years together. My husband is a sex addict. We have been dealing with this for 20 years. It is only in the last 3 years that he has been “diagnosed”. I suffer PTSD, anxiety, low self esteem, depression, physical ailments. We have been in counseling numerous times over the past 15 years for acts of betrayal. I am tired of the lies. He has relapsed. I found porn on our computer. He has masturbated and lied to me about it. Again. I feel emotionless. Spent. Hopeless. I love him. He is back at therapy. Back doing the homework. I am practicing self care. Have always done so. Not sure what my next steps are. Feeling lost in the rabbit hole.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Lori,
        Well, it sounds like you really need support and care. I hope you’ve got a good therapist who’s there just for you. You would probably also appreciate the online resources at Bloom for Women. And, always always always know that you have the right to your own healthy boundaries. You are not required to be subject to anyone’s sin, not even your husband’s. You might appreciate this articles on when divorce is a healthy response. Whatever your husband chooses, you can choose to be healthy and whole.
        Peace to you,
        Kay

    18. Frantic wife on

      Hi Kay,
      This is a great article on how to think about broaching this subject with my husband, and have bookmarked it for reference. I believe our almost 19 year marriage is soon to become another victim of pornography. We are already in separate bedrooms due to unfathomable (to me) emotional abuse and abandonment. We don’t speak except about our children, our elderly parents, and finances. Although I love my husband and would rather avoid divorce by putting in the painful and difficult work needed to restore our marriage with the Lord at it’s center, I’m afraid the marriage may be too far gone. My plan is to go through all these steps, and perhaps combined with David Clarke’s “I don’t want a divorce”, I can communicate effectively to my husband my needs and the boundaries I’m willing to put forth.
      My issues are:
      1. We have three boys 17, 15, 13. I feel time is of the essence because I don’t want my boys to see their mother being treated this way and don’t want them to treat their future wives this way. Ideally, I would like them to see us work this out, and see their father come to his senses, and they can know him as the man I married. I fear if we divorce they will only see pain and destruction. But if I stay they become just like my husband is now: I would rather die first.
      2. I seem to have an unreasonable fear of divorce and am very afraid of falling into financial ruin (even though I work, it is not enough money to sustain mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance etc). Additionally, due to all the years of gaslighting I’m afraid he will try to make me seem crazy and take our children. Do you know of any articles out there on how to protect myself legally?
      3. It has been several months since we went to separate bedrooms. He has made ZERO effort to reconcile or to even have a decent conversation. He has no interest in me at all as a human being, much less his wife. How do I talk about these things with him when he has made me feel as though I don’t have any right to any part of him, or knowledge of him?

      Thanks in advance.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        A marriage only works if both people are willing to do the work. If one person who breaks the marriage covenant and refuses to do the work to repair it, it’s broken. Of course go through whatever steps you’d like, and at the same time be open to the truth that you’re seeing in front of you, in terms of his behavior. I honestly don’t know how you have open, healthy conversations with someone who refuses to be open and healthy. I think you just have to accept the reality of what is going on, and make your choices based on what you know to be true.

        In regards divorce and protecting yourself and your children, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides information for partners which you may find helpful.

        I would suggest that you get legal advice as soon as possible so that you’ve got the help and support you need.

        Peace to you in this difficult season,
        Kay

    19. Lena PonHim on

      A Covenant is a promise between God and a person or between God and a group of people.

      With the word Covenant in mind, along with the topic of the article, while I greatly appreciate your words here—maybe we all need to simplify our understanding—the boundaries both men and women set up when we consider what we are viewing. Because the Word says “Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

      Is what we are putting in front of our eyes building us up in our relationship with God, is it edifying, or is it tearing our relationship with God down?

      If we want to help each other leave porn (or any other sin) behind, it starts at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ—and an intense realization the love He has for us and of what He did out of that love on the cross—the suffering and torment He went through because of each and every one of our sins.

      Praying for each of us to know and live out His perfect love in our lives… and that He gives each of us extra discernment in this area, In Jesus name, Amen. Have a blessed day! :-)

      Reply
      • Jane on

        Finally, we come to the crux ( no pun intended) of the entire issue!
        Thank you!
        Is whatever we watch glorifying our Lord who died for our sins?
        Is what we bring into our living rooms and expose ourselves or our families to something we would sit and watch if Jesus were right beside us? Would we laugh at crude sexual jokes, tolerate scenes of topless pole dancers, ( in PG13 movies) watch a young woman strip out of a bikini and stand naked before us? (oh, yeah, it’s ok if it’s only for one sec and only her backside is showing) .
        Are we really asking the right questions?
        Didn’t the Lord Jesus exhort us to come out from amongst them and be separate and He would receive us?
        Didn’t He raise the bar of holiness when He said it was what is in the “heart” and not the “act itself” that constituted the commission of sin?
        Can’t we just just listen to His voice and know in our hearts that 95% of what the world puts out as entertainment is hopelessly unholy, worldly, and unfit for the consumption of a child of the King?I am sad that after being a Christian for 40 years, toleration for His name being constantly blasphemed, people who are created in his image being used and degraded in their bodies and speech in the media we expose ourselves to has become so acceptable.
        It’s a battle for certain. God has grace and mercy for us all, … we are His!
        Let’s love him with all we are! With every breath and movement! Let’s shed our sin, and press on and say NO to the enemy in every area of our walk.
        Let’s turn it off.

    20. Mary Bost on

      To Lynn – When your husband says he can’t control a sexual response to attractive women, present it this way. It what he says is true, then every father would lust after his daughter, sister and mother endlessly. Yet, most men don’t sexually objectify their mothers, sisters and daughters.

      I just want to say that 50 Shades of Grey is called “erotica”. The person with the porn addiction should avoid it if they are avoiding porn. The person without a porn addiction should watch it if their relationship boundaries allow porn for them.. Or erotica.

      Someone, PLEASE, create open source software for something like Covenant Eyes. I tried a regular net nanny and couldn’t even do basic searches on anything, even health. Also, I have never understood why Orthodox Jews haven’t invented an image-free internet, because they are looking at the same pornographic outfits on models in sidebars that everyone else is, yet images goes against the Commandments. One commandment says no graven images, but the other commandments says no images at all of any sort or of anything at all. Orthodox Jews can’t even have daisies on wrapping paper, because daisies are images. But they sit there on their computers are see models in side bars wearing clothes and padded foundation garments, all of which are too tight, too revealing, too shiny, have words across the breasts, or have rips and holes in them, are too transparent, too sheer, or too loose. Orthodox Jews should help us here. Seems like it would be their duty.

      Reply
    21. KATE TARBILL on

      My husband has struggled with porn since he was a child. We have been married 18 years and separated briefly 3 times over this. He goes to meetings a lot, has been to LOTS of therapy, but every time he gets caught he tells me that he is going to meetings and talking to his guys. I am pretty sure he is doing it again, and dont know what to do next. He has Covenant Eyes and a dumb phone.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Kate,

        I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve been in for so long. I guess I’d ask myself: is this okay with me? Is this what I want? Here, here, and here are some articles that might help as you process these questions. I’d also recommend therapy, just for you, so you can have a safe place to process your emotions and consider your boundaries. You would probably also appreciate the online resources at Bloom for Women, where they take a trauma-informed approach for spouses in marriage betrayal. You can’t control him and his choices, but you can choose your own health and well being.

        Peace,
        Kay

    22. Bertha on

      i found pictures of half-naked girls on my husbands phone two and a half years ago and went into a deep depression for about a year. I confronted him, but he says they are forwards and he deletes them. I lost 40 lbs in 8 months. I started taking anti-depressants but started gaining weight faster than I lost it, so I stopped. Once again I have fallen into my anxiety and depression. I refuse to socialize like I used to. My daughter says that I have come to neglect them (they are older, but they see the change in me. They have gotten to the point where they refuse to talk to me about this subject.
      He constantly hides his phone at the same hours every day and on the weekends. I have confronted him and have even gotten into screaming fights with him. All he says is that I am crazy, sick and I need help. My daughter, too, says that I have an issue (she has never been married) I am tired of feeling neglected and alone. His constant phone time has gotten between our marriage and sometimes I just want to leave! He refuses to admit that he is constantly looking at girls. I have even told him that he has a sexual obsession, but he denies it. I am constantly watching him and hovering over him and he knows it. I don’t know how much longer I can go on….I feel so alone. Other than that, he is the best husband in the world and gives me everything I want, but he does not understand that that does not make me happy. I need a husband present!!

      Reply
    23. Kay on

      I have read your article and appreciate it. However, I would like some guidance on the following… my husband views porn from time to time, not constantly. We have fought over it, cried over it, I’ve explained how it makes me feel devalued, disrespected, etc. He has told me it has nothing to do with me, I’m great, he does it to relieve stress, he does it when I turn him down (middle of the day with kiddo wide awake, or some other inopportune time). Last time we spoke about this subject, he said he couldn’t promise to never look again, be he would try to be better. Fast forward a few months and he’s looking again, ugh! Now he says it’s not infidelity since it’s just himself, he wants me to see it from his side… work stresses, not having as much sex as he would like, etc. I told him there are many ways to relieve stress and nothing is going to happen (like an illness or lose an appendage) if he doesn’t masterbate and waits until we can “come together” in our marriage bed. New thinks that I should look at his phone. He recently said that a marriage doesnt work without trust, and I show that I dont trust him by looking at his phone. He isn’t real repentant bc he doesnt see it as a terribly bad thing “since it’s not with anybody else”. We have two different views. I dont want a divorce over this, but it doesnt seem high on his list of things to change, I cant change it for him, I cant “get over it” and accept it, I dont want to keep having cylindrical conversations about it. I just dont know what MY next steps should be (in either repairing or moving on). I love my husband and what we have together…its so sad to think that something like this can be the potential demise of our family and marriage.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        It is so sad to think that something he claims isn’t a big deal is something he’s willing to sacrifice his relationship for. Really sad. You can’t force someone else to change. You can only make healthy choices for yourself. The truth is, a lot of women meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress in situations like this. If he won’t take responsibility for how his choices impact you, that puts you in a tough spot.

        Here, and here are some more articles on boundaries that might be helpful as you think this through.

        You might also appreciate the online resources at Bloom for Women, which are trauma-informed.

        Peace to you,
        Kay

    24. Tim Davis on

      Very nice article for husbands how to stop them watching porn.

      Reply

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