It’s been said, ‘‘You cannot give what you do not have.”
Here’s an example. If someone asks me for ten thousand dollars, I could write that person a check for the ten thousand bucks, but in time (not long) they will find out that it was a promise unable to be kept. The check looked legit, it has my signature on it and is from my bank, a bank with real money in it. However, my account couldn’t back up the offering of the money as promised by my signature. The funds are not in my account to give.
I could not give what I did not have.
And for me to expect that same person to trust me enough to write them another check that day or anytime soon would be just foolish. I wouldn’t deserve that trust or respect. Yet, for many addicts they expect to be trusted within just a few weeks or even months as they begin recovery. That is not a realistic expectation to have.
Ask yourself this honest question: “How quickly would I trust & respect that person if the shoe was on the other foot?”
I’m going to speak to you today from two perspectives: the porn abuser and the wounded spouse. Notice I didn’t say husband and wounded wife. The reality of porn being primarily, or only, a ‘man’s’ problem is no longer true.
More women than ever are finding themselves caught up in the use of pornography. And, it’s just as painful and damaging to her, her relationships, and her marriage.
These women are our wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and church family members. Today, I pray you ladies find the courage to speak up. Ask for help and trust that others will walk alongside you, love you, and not shame you.
Trust and Respect
As pornography damages and destroys trust and respect, the task of rebuilding trust is a must for the marriage to survive. Respect grows in the light of trust. If there is no healthy, daily exchange of trust and respect in your marriage, it will suffocate.
The rebuilding process is much like a human being put on a respirator when incredibly ill until the person is strong enough to support himself or herself.
For the spouse of the porn user, it’s very common for he or she to feel as though they cannot trust themselves. These thoughts and beliefs develop over time as they extend trust and respect and then it’s broken (over & over in many cases). They begin to question whether they can even trust themselves and lose self-respect.
This was very true for my wife in our recovery. She couldn’t give me trust and respect until she once again had for herself. I see it often in the marriages I mentor and minister to.
One more time: You cannot give what you do not have.
Truths About Rebuilding Trust & Respect
When you blow it, and we all do during recovery, tell your wife or husband. If lying, hiding and minimizing undermine trust and respect, honesty and truth-telling rebuild. Secrets are the fuse to the dynamite strapped to trust.
Don’t expect instant gratification or praise from doing what’s right.
Expecting instant praise for doing what should be expected in the first place is self-centered thinking. This thinking minimizes the fact that your spouse is grieving.
Defensiveness is a clear sign of expecting instant gratification, and it’s not helpful. When getting encouragement during recovery, receive it as the grace that it is. Be thankful. Thankfulness displaces the anger that is an underlying element of sexual strongholds.
Listen more–talk less
Men, listen to your wife. Listen for the meaning behind her words. If your wife is speaking to you, she is revealing something about herself to you. Men, hear me: BE HONEST. Secrets and dishonesty destroy trust.
Ladies, listen for sincerity. Most men, when being honest, say what they mean. There’s not usually any hidden meaning behind our words.
Self-condemning thoughts are destructive.
The depth of the wounds we carry affect at what level this interferes with someone’s recovery. I’ve seen it manifest itself with the addict turning compliments and encouragement into criticism in their mind. Romans 12:2 instructs us how to battle this problem, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It takes intentionality.
Restoring trust and respect doesn’t happen by osmosis or wishful thinking. Many enter recovery expecting it to be pain-free. The deepest wounds our bodies receive have pain as part of the healing process. Intentionally pushing through the pain, doing what must be done in order for long lasting healing to take root, is the prescription. Expect it.
It takes time.
You cannot microwave trust and respect back into your marriage. This is akin to instant gratification. How did you build that trust & respect in the beginning of you relationship? You earned it. Guess what, you have to earn it again. This time, however, you have jumping hurdles that weren’t there the first time–hurdles we placed on the path with our lies and deceptions in the midst of the porn addiction.
As the porn addict who destroyed sacred trusts, we gave up our privilege to be trusted and respected. Do we deserve to be trusted again? Honestly, no. Can we earn back the respect and trust of our spouse and others? Yes, but it’s hard work, takes time, and will be difficult.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! The growth and the closeness my wife and I now have are beyond what I could have imaged.
Will you stumble and fall along the way? Yes. Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep pressing on.
There is help for both men and women battling a porn addiction.
Beggarsdaughter.com is a great place for the ladies to begin. Jessica Harris has a wonderful ministry to help guide you in the first steps.
Gateway to Freedom is a 3-day intensive for men dealing with pornography and other sexual struggles. They also have a follow-up program for the men who attend the workshop.
Remember, recovery is a process and it’s about direction and not perfection. Take that first step today in the right direction toward freedom and healing.
I am the wife of a porn addict. We have been married 23 years. I found out about his porn habit about 5 years into the marriage. We had three very small children at the time. I have discovered his porn use continually throughout our marriage and always received an apology and promise to be better. He has been looking at porn for 40 years. The porn use has devastated me personally and profoundly affected our marriage. Our sex life turned into infrequent occasions, no intercourse, and just mutual masturbation. In January, 2015, I insisted that he seek therapy for his porn addiction. He has been seeing a certified sex addiction therapist ever since. Unfortunately, he continued to view porn and act out. He never confessed his acting out to me once in all these years, except in November 2015. That was the first time. He says he hasn’t acted out since then. We began seeing a marital therapist in January 2016 as the marriage was really in trouble. I have brought up the porn in therapy and how profoundly isolated I feel as his therapy is kept private, just like his secret life he has been leading all of these years. He tells me that he doesn’t trust me to share what he discusses in therapy or what his “program” is because he thinks I will react poorly. He says I need to be patient with him as he wants to have more time under his belt. Meanwhile, he continues to masturbate, just not to porn. When I asked if he told his therapist he is masturbating, he said no. I said that he’s continuing to go outside of our marriage and self satisfy. He said that he has needs and if we are not being physically intimate, I can’t expect him to go without. I don’t trust that he isn’t acting out with or without porn. I don’t know that I will ever be able to be physically intimate with him without wondering who he thinking about. He has always kept his eyes closed when we are together. What suggestions do you have for a wife that is this devastated and not sure I can go on?
I am so, so sorry for all the years of pain you’ve experienced in your marriage.
It sounds to me like your husband still has a lot of the entitled thinking that goes with an addiction; he blames you for his secret-keeping; to say nothing of the fact that he’s lying to his therapist. In the language of alcoholism, there’s a thing called being “a dry drunk.” It means that the person doesn’t drink any more, but they haven’t dealt with any of the emotional/spiritual problems that either drove the addiction or developed during the addiction. They reduce recovery to “not drinking” and ignore the deep relationship issues that are actually much more important!
Unfortunately, since your husband’s addiciton has gone on for so long, this may be where he finds himself now.
And I think you need to trust yourself, know what you’re seeing, and then consider what healthy boundaries will look like for you now.
You mention his therapist and you mention marriage therapy, but I haven’t heard you say anything about trauma-focused recovery for yourself? I find that many, many times the recovery of the spouse is almost totally neglected in the push to stop porn and save the marriage. I wonder if this has happened to you? And if so, I’d encourage you to find a trauma-focused recovery specialist for yourself, who can help you process your emotions and think about healthy boundaries.
Frankly, I think there are times when you are no longer required to go on in a marriage where your spouse is so deeply damaging to you. Here’s an article Luke Gilkerson wrote a while back about when divorce is appropriate in the case of porn addiction.
For myself as a therapist, I am interested in the trauma of the victim more than whether the specific behavior of the addict meets some criteria that allows divorce. When we parse out specific behavoirs as allowable without considering the impact to the victim, we will find abusers who very carefully walk inside the line that protects them from the consequence of divorce, while allowing them to continually abuse their spouses and still be seen as righteous. I think we spend so much time weighing out our dill, cumin, and mint that we completely overlook what is justice and mercy for victims who have suffered for years. (Matthew 23:23)
I don’t know specifically if this is what’s happening for you, but I’d encourage you to trust your own perceptions of what’s happening, determine what boundaries are healthy for you, and find a good counselor who can support you through this difficult situation, whatever you decide.
Peace to you, Kay
My wife demanded that I out Covenant Eyes on my phone. She already installed it on the hoe computer and made herself my accountability partner. She made her own father, her accountability partner. (He is a minister, as well). I said that I would not put it on my phone unless she added me as her accountability partner. Well a month or so went by and she saw sometime on my phone that indicated possible porn. She demanded I put it on there. I told her it was an old history file and sometime “add-ons” and ads pop on computers and phones without the user knowing. So I put C.E. on my phone and put her as my accountability partner. She has still not added me has hers. She says that she does not trust me. I get that, but trust is a 2 way street as well. Now she is obsessed with viewing the C.E. reports and detailed viewing log. and questions me about everything that I do on my phone. I need some advice on what I should do. As yes, I have looked at porn several times over the past 30 years.
David, I would suggest that as a gesture of good faith, you find yourself a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist and attend counseling on a regular basis. I would also suggest that you attend a group, like Pure Desire.
Recovery takes time–5 years is the number I’ve seen. And you’re unlikely to realize how porn has impacted your thoughts and beliefs over the years without some help from people who’ve been down this road before you.
You might appreciate this article I wrote a while back, about how my husband rebuilt trust in our marriage. The research of John Gottman is so helpful, when you’re really wanting to make marriage work.
Peace to you, Kay
Hello David. I agree with Kay on finding a good Christian Counselor. A certified counselor who embraces the biblical truths as a solid foundation for counseling. A good Christian Counselor is worth their weight in gold.
Trust is re-earned and not expected to be re-earned quickly. I generally do not recommend wive’s be CE report receivers as it can be create all kinds of unintended tensions and challenges. Another man, whom your wife should have full permission to speak with, is best to receive that report.
I would also recommend you find an accountability partner you can meet with on a weekly basis. You cannot win this battle alone and your wife should not be your primary accountability partner. She has wounds to heal and being the first to experience any potential stumble you may have is not the best. That said, you need to tell her if you stumble, but having someone else receive the report first, gives you a chance to do what’s right and confess to her.
I’ve walked the path of 30 years of porn use and abuse and the path of rebuilding trust in our marriage. Kay is right on in stating recovery and trust rebuilding takes time. I’m not one to put a number or years on it, as each person and couple are a different, and make room for the grace of God to do what men & women can’t.
We at Be Broken Ministries have a variety of tools available on our website. Much of it is free and you may consider checking out our Gateway to Freedom workshops. Gatewaymen.com
Please let me know how I can be of further help, David. Praying for you and your wife!