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4 Tips for Your Mental Health While Your Spouse Quits Porn

Last Updated: March 10, 2021

Jen Ferguson

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy. She’s also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

The fact that your spouse has committed to kicking his/her porn habit is huge. Even admitting that porn is a problem is a big deal—one can’t attempt to heal from a sickness s/he won’t acknowledge is there.

This step, while it can look seemingly small, is actually the catalyst for life-long freedom, and it is something to be celebrated. With this first step begins the road to recovery from addiction. For most people, it’s a long one, marked with twists and turns instead of steady, linear progression. And for someone who is watching this recovery and has a vested interest in their partner’s healing, it can often times feel as though they’re walking “one step forward, two steps back.”

If your spouse is quitting porn in the midst of COVID-19, recovery may be even harder. In life, we crave things like reliability, consistency, and truth; when the whole state of the world lacks these things, you may feel like you’re nearing the edge of sanity.

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I want to give you some helpful tips that may be a needed reminder of how to keep yourself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy during these stressful times.

1. Remember who is in control (hint: it’s not you).

For a longer time than I would like to admit, I thought I was in control of my husband’s recovery from porn addiction. I mistakenly believed that if I created rules and a safe environment (where I could continually check his computer), his limited access to porn would naturally lend itself to the end of his use.

As time rolled on, however, I realized that this addiction was far more than a behavior issue—it was a heart issue. The more futile my attempts were, the more hopeless I became, until, that is, the day when Jesus had a “come-to-Jesus” meeting with me. In those moments, He showed me that I would never be able to control Craig’s addiction, because I could never control Craig. That’s not how He designed a marriage to work!

It’s not my responsibility, nor have I been given the ability to heal Craig of deep heart wounds. Only God and Craig can control those levels of surrender, freedom, and healing. Releasing my need to control Craig freed up so much time, effort, and energy within me and allowed me to pursue healthier uses of my time.

2. Take ownership of your own behaviors.

God graciously allows me to control my own behavior. It usually goes better when I ask Him for the gift of self-control, but with or without that, He gives me free will to do and say what I choose.

The truth is, my need for Craig to stop looking at porn was deeply rooted in fears of abandonment, negligible self-worth, and rejection. When I spoke to him regarding his addiction, my words were motivated by trying to find security in my relationship. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting and needing monogamy and security in a relationship. However, in the process of Craig’s recovery, I realized I sought out Craig to be my sole source of security. Furthermore, I took his betrayals as a direct reflection on my own lack of ability to satisfy him as a wife.

As I began to let go of control of Craig, God also showed me where I was operating out of hurt, confusion, and childhood wounds. This allowed me to surrender my own junk and invite God to heal my own heart.

3. Keep your eyes fixed on what you know to be true.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This doesn’t mean deny all that is wrong or ugly in your life. It doesn’t mean you stuff your problems in a shoe box and put it on a shelf. But it does mean that you must watch out for the lies that Satan will try to tell you about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. When a thought pops up and you wonder if it’s completely true, ask God about it and then respond in a way that is noble and pure. The way we know what is true, pure, right, etc., is by bringing it to Jesus—the only perfect example of these things.

For the longest time, I believed that if I was prettier, sexier, and thinner, Craig would have no reason to look at porn. Eventually, after years of letting his porn use take a huge toll on my self-esteem, I began to ask God if this was true. Over time, He showed me that Craig’s addiction was about Craig—not Jen—and that He had created me with beauty and purpose. As I got clarity around who God says I am, I was able to respond to Craig’s highs and lows of addiction from a foundation of truth instead of a place of brokenness, which in turn means I’m responding admirably and lovingly.

4. Be aware of how anxiety disrupts your peace.

Sometimes anxiety becomes such a way of life for us that we don’t even recognize there’s a different way to live. The feelings of panic, the slow burn in our stomach, the dull roar of competing thoughts feel like we’re slipping on an old sweater. It’s ugly and holey, but since we’ve had it around for so long, we just keep wearing it. For years during Craig’s recover, I felt like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop (i.e. when I would find out he was using again).

But so many times in God’s word, it tells us there is another option: we don’t have to live in a state of anxiety! If we can clearly label what is causing our anxiety and where it’s attacking our faith, we can take those specifics to God and ask Him for help. In a devotional called Finding Peace, Charles Stanley identifies five things that interfere with our peace: sudden fear, sin, Satan, us giving up our peace, and losing focus.

Are you prone to going to the worst-case scenario? Do you let sin continually go unconfessed to God? Do you routinely listen to the enemy instead of God’s word? Do you willing let worry consume your peace to the point where you think it’s never possible to receive? Do you lose your focus on the sovereignty of God because you’ll pulled away by worldly distractions?

Once you identify how anxiety has gotten hold over you, you can bring it before God, without fear of being judged and allow Him to help you through it. It may take time for you to feel the grip of anxiety loosen, but continual growth and investment into your relationship with God will not only help your mental state, but it will also improve your relationship with your spouse.

A Final Word of Advice

There are no quick fixes to addiction, and when you’re married to an addict, this can feel increasingly frustrating some days. My final word of advice? Don’t keep the frustration locked in. Tell a trusted friend, an Al-Anon group, and Jesus. The bitterness and resentment that will build if you don’t rely on a support group can do just as much damage as addiction can, and this is not what God wants for you. I am praying that you are able to step into His abundant love for you!

  • Comments on: 4 Tips for Your Mental Health While Your Spouse Quits Porn
    1. Ansie Badenhorst on

      I am still strugling with my husbands porn addiction, although he has been in recovery two years ago. When I ask him to work or read for us the 12 steps of recovery he gets very upset and explains that he is done with that crap in his life and wants me to stop talking about it. I think he is still doing it and gets upset because I cannot let go . . .

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        He’s definitely having a defensive response, which is not reassuring.

        There are two types of trust that need to be rebuilt: behavioral trust (he’s not looking at porn) and emotional trust (he turns toward you emotionally, cares about how you are feeling). Even if someone accomplishes the first one, without the second, you still don’t have a relationship. In recovery terms, the person is known as a “dry drunk.” They don’t drink, but they can’t relate in healthy ways. Here’s an article I wrote about that a while back that might be helpful.

        If he is truly not looking at porn, perhaps couples counseling could be helpful to set new relationship patterns in place.

        I’d also recommend that you look at the resources at Bloom for Women, for your own recovery and support. At Bloom, they recognize that women are traumatized by these circumstances and need recovery in that area.

        Peace,
        Kay

    2. Karen on

      This article promotes the outdated codependency model for wives. I feel like it also advocates for patiently waiting while a husband has relapses. I don’t think the same advice would be given for a wife in a physically abusive marriage, yet it’s given to one in an emotionally abusive relationship due to porn use. True recovery does take time because the addict has to learn new healthy coping skills, but years of relapses or slips should not be normalized. Recovery only takes place after the addict stops acting out. Once we have discovered their porn use, we should not be encouraged to wait years for them to stop. It is possible for them to stop immediately, even if “white-knuckling“ it
      at first and start therapy so they don’t need it any more. Discovery of our husband’s porn addiction is traumatizing. Of course it makes us angry, anxious, hyper-vigilant, and destroys our self esteem. We don’t need to just surrender those feelings, we need therapy for the trauma that caused them. Eventually we can get to the work of our own childhood wounds, but the wounds our husbands caused must be addressed first. My husband has been learning about betrayal trauma and empathy so he can help me with my healing. Part of God’s design for marriage is for us to meet each other’s needs.

      Reply
    3. Lilie on

      “There are two types of trust that need to be rebuilt: behavioral trust (he’s not looking at porn) and emotional trust (he turns toward you emotionally, cares about how you are feeling). Even if someone accomplishes the first one, without the second, you still don’t have a relationship.” Kay, those words are just exactly the words of what I am going through, since I discovered that my beloved man is using porn, one year ago. He allowed me something like 4 hours, over one year, when he listened to me and what I feel about the topic. Two hours one year ago, and two hours a few months ago, thanks to the coronavirus crisis.

      That is far from what I needed.

      I don’t say that my husband must be my therapist, absolutely not. But I needed to know and see that he cares about me feeling hurt. I needed him to be interested in what happens inside me. I needed him to care about what I feel.

      I have been patient, I stopped trying to talk to him about my feelings, of course I forgave his use of porn. But I can’t forget, because he did not care about what I feel. How can I forgive my husband for not giving a damn about what I feel?

      Reply
    4. CJ on

      30 years married , learned he was talking to sex lines(no internet back then), putting calls on our credit, then the internet, then chatting and now defeat. I have no sense of security, I’ve always been afraid to leave him, of not being able to provide for our kids. I have PTSD from an abusive childhood and from our marriage. I’ve had 2 nervous breakdowns. The last one I went off all my antidepressants and acted like him and had extramarital affairs. I hate myself, I hate myself for being with other men just to see if he would care. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve been in counseling for 7 years. Every time I find out he’s back at it. A part of me continues to drown till I’m sure one day I will never see the light again. So many times I have told him to leave. Never has he asked to stay, it’s me who changes. Always me.
      I pray that covenant eyes works. It has to for I am truly lost with no where to go but down

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        CJ,

        There is definitely a way up and out of this, I know for sure. One of the most basic tenets of trauma-informed therapeutic care is that we must get the victim to safety before healing can begin.

        It sounds to me like you have never, ever been safe, which means you can never really heal.

        I do understand how difficult it is to consider how you would support yourself and your children. This is the most common reason that women stay in abusive marriages, in fact.

        At this point, however, I wonder if it’s really worth your life to remain in this marriage? I mean, it sounds like the trauma of this is about to literally take your life.

        I wonder if this article will be helpful at all: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce.

        You are not required to be abused for one more day.

        Peace to you,
        Kay

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