Sex Isn’t the Solution to Your Husband’s Porn Problem

In the first few moments after I found my husband Craig’s digital footprints that led me to his favorite porn sites, all I could see, feel, and speak revolved around rage. I was embarrassed (because clearly, I was not satisfying), angry (did we not just speak wedding vows to forsake all others?), and oddly vindicated, because (finally!) I had proof of something I had suspected for some time.

The truth is, after our first confrontation about this, I thought we would be done with that. He apologized. He saw my anger and my pain. He said he’d never do it again.

I believed him.

Why? Because that was eighteen years ago. I was twenty-three years old. I didn’t know anything about porn addiction, and honestly, very few other people—psychologists, doctors, researchers, pastors—did either. At the very least, if you Googled “porn addiction” back then, you wouldn’t see the myriad of articles and resources you see today.

I thought the threat of my impending wrath would be enough of a deterrent.

I was wrong.

Why Changing Your Sexual Behavior Won’t Help

As you may have guessed, the first time was not the last time my husband ventured into the world of porn, and it was not the end of our confrontations on the subject. Once I realized that this was clearly not going away on its own, I began to think of ways to keep him from it.

It seemed logical that if it was sexy girls he wanted, I would try to become whatever he desired. I lost weight. I tried to be more adventurous in the bedroom. At one point, I even bought a camera, but we are just going to leave that right there and not go into further explanation.

The truth is, none of it worked. The door to being treated like a porn actress (or actor, if your wife is addicted) is a door that must remain firmly closed. Aside from the fact that it’s simply dehumanizing, it’s also dangerous.

Porn Affects the Wiring of Your Brain

You may think, “Oh, my spouse would never ask me to do _________,” but it’s worth remembering that this is something that affects the very wiring of our brains.

Fight the New Drug reports that “in a survey of 1,500 young adult men, 56% said their tastes in porn had become ‘increasingly extreme or deviant.’ Once users start watching extreme and dangerous sex acts, things that were disgusting or morally shameful can start to seem normal, acceptable, and more common than they really are. One study found that people exposed to significant amounts of porn thought things like sex with animals and violent sex were twice as common as what those not exposed to porn believed. And when people believe a behavior is normal, they’re more likely to try it.”

I am extremely grateful that my husband’s porn addiction did not bring abuse into our marriage, though it had plenty of other ill-effects. When he was using, our sex life became lifeless because he was self-servicing and taking care of his own needs. In reality, it didn’t really matter what I did or didn’t do in the bedroom. I couldn’t compete with porn.

Related: 4 Ways Porn Warps the Male Brain

If More Sex Isn’t the Answer, What Is?

It was quite some time before Craig and I realized that his porn addiction had very little to do with sex. It had almost everything to do with a need to escape into fantasy. While the act of masturbation elicited sexual release and a flood of all the feel-good hormones, his primary motivation wasn’t because he wanted sex. It was because he wanted to engage in a world where the stresses and fears of his real life were regulated to the recesses of his mind.

Porn became a sort of respite from rejection, the pain of his past, and his fears of not having what it takes to be a man. He wanted the sensation of intimacy and connection without the risk that comes with developing that with another human being.

Once we recognized what drove him to porn, we began to work toward cultivating a true intimacy in our marriage. Because of the betrayal and hurt porn caused, it was a slow process, but one of the most reassuring things for Craig was knowing I was hurt, but I still loved him. I was betrayed, but I was still committed. My desire wasn’t for him to only modify his behavior (i.e. stop looking at porn), but to show me his true self.

Conversation and Communication Are Essential

It can be difficult to create safe spaces for vulnerability, but it is imperative for recovery for the addicted and for the betrayed person’s healing. Setting some ground rules for conversations can be abundantly helpful, especially when you know that emotions can easily become inflamed.

Here are some examples of some boundaries you may want to discuss before having intense conversations either about your childhood past, current behaviors, or feelings surrounding the addictive behaviors:

  • Appropriate/wanted physical contact during/after the conversations
  • Code word you can both use when you need a break from the conversation. At the mention of this word, the conversation ceases and you agree to come back together when you’ve both cooled down or processed what you need to process.
  • It’s okay to bring up a topic at any time, just as it is okay to say, “This is not a good time.” The person who declines the conversation must take responsibility for restarting the conversation within 24 hours.
  • Refrain from passive-aggressive comments and interrupting your spouse.
  • Freedom to ask any questions of each other. Freedom, also, to take time to answer, especially hard questions.

It’s important to recognize that most addictions are the result of a “hole in one’s heart” that s/he is using porn to fill. Understanding how the hole was created, why it still exists, and what is appropriate to use to fill it, takes introspection, conversation, and a willingness to push past the surface-level questions. You may feel you can do this on your own, but it might be necessary to engage a Certified Sex Addiction (CSAT) therapist as well.

Related—Called to Rise: Overcoming Sexual Addiction

Recovery Will Be Worth It

When Craig and I began to have these conversations, it was almost like we were meeting again for the first time. And, in some ways, we were. It was through engaging in his recovery process together that I began to understand the real him.

He began to see the real me—the reasons behind my fears, my controlling nature, and my dedication to him. And we learned how to love each other, just as we were in that moment, with the hope that God would continue His good work in us as individuals and as a couple.

This can be true for you, too. Though it is hard to have these types of conversations, it is truly worth discovering both the hard and beautiful parts of each other.

Sex won’t solve your husband’s porn problem. But that doesn’t mean you should just give up.