4 Methods That Won’t Help Your Spouse Overcome Porn

It took my husband about ten years to finally be fully free from the grips of porn addiction. As such, I found plenty of methods and tactics that did nothing to help and did much to hinder my husband’s progress towards kicking his addiction.

Before I tell you all the things I did wrong, I want you to know there is so much grace. When your spouse suffers and struggles though any addiction, it makes life hard. There will be times when you know that the very words you are hearing yourself say should not, in fact, be said, but you find yourself saying them anyway. There will be other times when you will be tempted to control, demean, and rage and you find yourself giving into all of them at various times. Why? Because you, my friend, are just as human as your porn-addicted spouse.

If you see yourself in the methods described below, take them in not with shame, but with awareness. I was guilty of engaging with almost all of these, but with a lot of grace, love, and conversation with Craig, we made it through to the other side. Freedom awaits.

The “I’m going to control your every move” Method

For so long in our marriage, I thought that if I could just remove all the possible temptations, porn would no longer be an issue for Craig. I set up strict rules by which he promised to abide. For example:

  • The door to the study where the computer lived could never be closed.
  • He was not allowed to delete the history for the web browser.
  • He couldn’t use programs that would allow you to download pirated material (a.k.a. “Napster).

Some of you don’t even know what Napster is and that’s the point: If controlling Craig’s behavior by eliminating temptation was impossible seventeen years ago, how much more impossible is it now in the age of smartphones, the ever-expanding dark web, and streaming?

But this is only one reason why this method doesn’t work. Let’s unpack some others.

1. The only person you can truly control is yourself.

2. Most people who know they’re trying to be controlled become more secretive and withdraw from the relationship, which is exactly the opposite of what you want from someone who’s struggling with addiction.

3. Your spouse doesn’t need another parental figure. What s/he needs is a partner.

Many of us who have been betrayed so desperately want freedom for our spouses that we grab onto whatever we think will bring about the fastest results. We don’t want to have to continually reel from the pain this addiction inflicts on us, so we try to tamp it down with whatever tools we have out our disposal.

But quick fixes like trying to control external behaviors only seek to drive more wedges into your relationship and do not help one iota with the heart matters that have led to their addiction.

(Instead of trying to control your spouse, try setting boundaries.)

The “I’m going to be sexier than any porn star” Method

1. Really, who has the time?

2. Really, who has the money?

3. It’s not about how you look anyway.

Porn is about pursuing fantasy and escaping from reality. Does their addiction impact how they see the real world? Given enough exposure and interaction with porn, definitely. But the point is not to make their fantasy a reality. Their need for continual escape signifies a deeper problem.

Rearranging your priorities and lifestyle to compete with porn only serves to enable the addicted. You don’t want your relationship or even just your sex life to look like a porn film. Sex between two people in a married relationship is more than the release of hormones and sexual pleasure. It’s a physical manifestation of your emotional and spiritual connection. It’s a reaffirmation of how God has joined two people into one.

The “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” Method

Deciding to engage with pornography with your spouse is dangerous for your relationship and your very own brain. The first reason this method doesn’t work mirrors the reasoning behind method #2—using porn to get physically “primed” for sex does absolutely nothing for your emotional and spiritual connection.

Related: Should porn be used to spice up the bedroom?

The second reason is blatantly obvious, but worth stating: Porn is addicting. Whenever we engage with an addictive substance, we run the risk of becoming addicted ourselves.

Thirdly, when we have sex with our partners, the point is to focus on each other. If you’re watching porn, your focus isn’t on him/her. It’s most likely focused on the porn and your own level of sexual satisfaction. Using porn is inherently selfish. You’re using something/somebody else to please yourself. This is the opposite of how God calls us to love each other.

The “I’m pretending this isn’t happening” Method

Denial is a powerful tool that only delays the inevitable and causes more damage than it prevents. If we keep our heads in the sand, there is the possibility for several things to happen.

1. We will become bitter and resentful. Just because you pretend in your mind that something isn’t happening, your heart is still very much aware.

2. We send the message to our partner that we don’t really care what s/he is doing. It’s a very real possibility that they will take the denial as permission to continue to engage in their addictive behavior.

3. You both miss out on the help available to you. As with any addiction, the sooner you can start the process of freedom and healing, the less the addiction will ultimately have a hold on your life.

Remember, even if you see yourself in these methods, there is nothing stopping you from breaking out of these habits. Years ago, when Craig and I hit bottom in our relationship, I cried out to God (after using a few choice words about why He ever thought this was something I was willing to deal with in my marriage). I carefully explained all that I had done to try to help Craig get over this addiction. After He listened to me, He asked me one simple question:

“Do you want try things My way?”

God truly does have a plan and it’s far better than anything of which you and I could dream. His way is the best way, but we often have to get still and listen to what that is for us and for our spouse.

Related: How to Tell If Your Husband Is Really in Recovery