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5 Horrible Ways to Tell Your Wife About Your Porn Addiction

Last Updated: July 31, 2019

Brad Hambrick
Brad Hambrick

Brad Hambrick serves as the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in  Durham, NC. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, has authored several books including God’s Attributes: Rest for Life’s Struggles, and served as general editor for the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused (churchcares.com) project.

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably wrestled with this question many times before: “How do I tell my wife?” When you couldn’t come up with a good answer, you waited. She still doesn’t know. Your attachment to porn is getting worse. When she finds out, it will only hurt her more because you waited longer to be honest.

There is not a “good” way to tell your wife–if by “good” you mean she won’t feel hurt. But there are ways to tell your wife that are “bad”–meaning they exacerbate the damage of your sin by how you communicate the information. The purpose of this post is help you avoid five common mistakes in talking to your wife.

1. Silently

This is the #1 mistake. Disclosure–voluntarily acknowledging your sin–communicates integrity and that you value your marriage more than your reputation. Discovery–waiting until your wife finds out–communicates selfishness and cowardice. I do not mean these two words as insults. But to prolong your pleasure at the expense of your wife’s emotional pain is the epitome of selfishness, and to delay a disclosure that would allow your marriage to be marked by honor because of fear is cowardly.

The fact that you’re reading this means you want to take this important step of selfless courage.

2. Partially

This is the #1B mistake.  If you tell the truth, but only part of the truth, you destroy more trust than you built in the initial step of disclosure. Marriages that are destroyed by pornography usually die “the death of a thousand confessions.” When you leave out important aspects of your sin, you are teaching your wife that “good news” only means “there is more to the story.” You are training her to mistrust and will be tempted to use her mistrust as reason to under-disclose in the future.

This raises many questions about the extent to which it is beneficial to detail your sin, which I address in another post.

3. One-And-Done

Do not dump your burden on your wife. You know the weight of this information; don’t transfer it from your back to hers. When you disclose your pornography usage you are starting a conversation, not making a one-time statement. She will need time to assimilate this new information into her understanding of the marriage. Your struggle is part of her story, as your wife, too. Allow her to ask questions and be patient as she takes this important pre-forgiveness step (understanding the offense is vital to healthy forgiveness).

If the two of you need guidance on this, consult Steps 1-3 of the False Love (for you) and True Betrayal (for her) seminars on how to give and receive a full disclosure.

4. Blame-Shifting

In your disclosure, you are telling your wife what you have done and the nature of your struggle–not what you need from her or what you believe she should be doing better. If you struggled with pornography before marriage (which is the vast majority of instances), there is no logical way you can blame your wife for your current struggle. Furthermore, taking ownership for your actions is a vital part of maintaining purity. Do not undermine this aspect of recovery in your initial step towards purity.

If you struggle with thinking a better sex life would resolve your pornography struggle, it won’t.

Related: Will a Better Sex Life Keep Porn at Bay? 

5. Crudely

Crude language reveals that you are still treating something precious (God’s gift of sex) casually. This is the equivalent of giving your children an expensive game system for Christmas and seeing them use the console as a stepping box to steal cookies from the pantry. They are damaging a good gift to obtain a much lesser pleasure while lying and stealing in the process. Crude language reveals this kind of heart attitude towards sex. Honor for sex does not have to be prudish. Allow your disclosure and follow up conversations with your wife to be a time when you begin to redeem the language with which you speak about sex.

If you are uncertain what wholesome, conversational language about sex sounds like, sections 4 and 5 of the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy Seminar provides an example of a clear discussion of sex that builds excitement, allows for humor, and honors both spouses.

  • Comments on: 5 Horrible Ways to Tell Your Wife About Your Porn Addiction
    1. Bev Sterk on

      really appreciated the article, until the “equivalent to… gaming system”… not even a close analogy…
      let’s see, it’s like you giving your children an incredible, beautiful vineyard as a gift, as their inheritance, that will sustain them and make amazing wine along with grape juice, jam, etc., but instead of caring for the vineyard, and treasuring it as part of their inheritance, they let toxic waste in, they let strangers leave their filth behind and defile this vineyard. This vineyard is meant for you all to enjoy, and an inheritance for your children. But what the contempt with how it is treated will kill the vineyard. (well, that’s a start anyway)…

      and again, I do appreciate most this article and the encouragement for men to tell their wives… in the recent porn phenomenon survey, I was appalled that almost half of pastors would not tell their wives, and guess what then? they will not counsel other men to tell either… so the lying spirit, the spirit of deception continues to grow in the lives of these men, and by allowing that, the demonic spirits that they have opened the door to, are running rampant in the life of their families and the life of the Church =( I do not believe God will heal porn, if we will not come clean on the deception as well… it’s time for the Church to confess and address the deception that goes hand in hand with any addiction, but especially with porn. I think this (lying/deception) is part of the reason the stats tell us the Church is not making headway in reversing the direction of the stats, and instead the stats are growing rapidly for the young (12-30) and women. I hope that makes some sense!

      Reply
    2. Dan on

      I have been reading the book “Worthy of Her Trust” by Jason B. Martinkus. In that book, Martinkus uses the line “I would rather risk losing you than to lie to you.” He encourages complete honesty and disclosure to a man’s wife, even to the point of saying it’s 3:14 instead of a quarter after three. His premise is to let no hint of deception enter the wife’s mind as you are on the journey of recovery. Granted, some might look as this as extreme or ridiculous, but think of how small and subtle the ways of Satan can get into a relationship. It is risky spilling every failure out to your wife, but complete openness can be healing, removing every trace of the cancer for the intent of restoration.

      Reply
    3. Gai Myer on

      I am the former wife of a man addicted to porn. Notice I said former. I gave this man 29 of my years and I forgave him of this countless times. The last he told me I shouldn’t be upset, it’s the way men are. I feel it’s difficult for these guys to change. Please do not think I am bitter. I have forgiven him and moved on to a much happier life. I feel this addiction is as bad as heroin. Difficult to kick.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        This just makes me sad! This is NOT how men are! There’s so much MORE to life than the fakeness of porn! There’s real life, real freedom, real relationship. I’m glad you were able to forgive him and move on. Blessings, Kay

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