4 Tips for Your Mental Health While Your Spouse Quits Porn

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!