9 minute read

“Help! My Wife Is Addicted to Porn!” What Husbands Need to Know

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

Lisa Eldred
Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

If you are a husband who just discovered your wife is addicted to porn, you are likely dealing with feelings of grief, betrayal, and confusion.

Betrayal is one of the most devastating experiences in a marriage. When a person finds out their spouse has been unfaithful, they may spiral into an emotional cycle akin to the grieving process. And in fact, it’s like a death of what you thought your marriage was and who you thought your spouse was.

As the husband of a porn user, you’re likely feeling some extra fallout on top of the normal feelings of grief and betrayal. Much of western civilization has a double-standard for sexuality, expecting men to have a higher sex drive and women to be chaste; you’re likely feeling some level of cultural dissonance that your wife is turning to porn for sexual satisfaction. Moreover, female porn use is rarely discussed; you may feel particularly isolated, then, as a husband of one.

The truth is, you’re not alone. Countless other men have been in your position, and your marriage can recover. This blog post will give you the basics of what you need to know about your wife’s porn use and what you can do to help her, yourself, and your marriage heal.

One Quick Note

This blog post assumes the wife is the only one watching porn in the marriage. However, statistically, that may not be true. If you are personally struggling with porn (or another addictive behavior), you need to seek help for yourself. Some of the information presented here will also map onto your own recovery.

Also, please remember that if you both are struggling with porn use, you also both need to heal from the betrayal, and you will likely heal at different rates. We highly recommend that you both seek counseling through this process.

So, with this, let’s dive into five things you need to know about your wife’s porn addiction.

1. Your wife’s porn use is not about you.

Probably the most fundamental question you’re asking is why she looks at porn in the first place and whether you had anything to do with it. The likely answer to the latter question is no. Chances are very good that your wife was watching porn before she met you, especially if she’s 40 or younger (the first generation with easy access to the internet).

Back in June of 2020, Crystal Renaud Day partnered with Covenant Eyes to conduct a survey of female porn users. We found that 84% of respondents had been first exposed to porn before age 18. About 2/3 were exposed before age 14. There was often a slight delay before they started using it actively; about 58% of women were using it before they turned 18, and a further 29% were actively using it before age 24 (they most likely began using it in college). In other words, even if porn use actively began a bit later in life, the seeds had been planted much earlier, and later porn use may have been a product of peer pressure.

(As a personal example, I remember friends in undergrad trying to convince me to watch one particular porn film because the protagonist in it, a well-known porn star, was portraying a religious character who supposedly never personally performed the sexual act himself. By the grace of God, I never took them up on the offer, which probably prevented my own use of pornographic material from escalating to websites. But, the peer pressure was very real.)

Moreover, researchers are beginning to correlate pornography use and trauma. The obvious example is sexual abuse. In his book Unwanted, Jay Stringer noted that 33% of people dealing with unwanted sexual behavior had been touched inappropriately by a peer in childhood, and 21% had been touched by an adult in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.1 In our survey with Crystal Renaud Day, a full 75% of female porn users reported having experienced some sort of abusive behavior (possibly multiple types), including emotional abuse (55%), verbal abuse (44%), sexual abuse (43%), physical abuse (22%), and spiritual abuse (19%).

What does all of this mean for you?

It means this: her porn use is not about you! It’s a habit she’s been building, likely since middle or high school, and possibly in response to something that happened in her past. She may try to blame-shift onto you and claim it’s in response to something you are or aren’t doing, but the reality is, if the habit weren’t already there, she wouldn’t be turning to it—and because the habit is there, she would turn to it regardless of your actions.

2. She is probably feeling deep shame.

Although female porn use is increasingly common, people rarely talk about it. Instead, people assume that men are the ones with the issue. You’ve probably heard other men joke about porn use in “locker room talk” as a matter of personal virility, for example.

Even if your pursuits tend to be more religious, pastors rarely mention it as anything other than a man’s issue. Our survey found that 88% of participants attended church regularly, but only 7% had ever heard female porn use discussed from the pulpit.

In our culture, which has (falsely) taught that lust is a male issue, female porn users are left feeling isolated and particularly broken.

This shame, ironically enough, is one of the factors that drives people to porn. Porn users are trapped in what is known as the Shame Cycle. This is a simplified version, but basically, when a person uses porn they feel a sense of shame, which leads them to isolate themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to triggers that lead them back to porn. The more you repeat the cycle, the faster you move from step to step and the harder it is to break free.

Circle labeled "The Shame Cycle" with arrows leading from "Viewing porn to feel better" to "feeling shame" to "isolation and secrecy" to "vulnerable to triggers"

Your wife is extra deep in that shame cycle. Not only does she have the shame of watching something that contradicts her values, but she may also be the only woman she knows who is facing this temptation. Our survey found that 38% of women didn’t know any other women who struggled, and a further 20% only knew one.

What this means in your marriage depends on your relationship. Minimally, it means she will need reassurance that you don’t think she’s less of a woman or at all unusual for struggling in this very common way. On the more extreme side of things, shame may be playing a factor in how she responds to the situation and to you.

3. It may not only look like traditional porn.

Traditionally, people think of pornography as websites, magazines, and videos, but female porn use, in particular, extends beyond that. In our survey, 78% of respondents said they used pornographic websites, but 62% said they used erotica, 58% used live-action movie or TV scenes, 35% used social media, and 27% used animation (such as hentai).

Additionally, women are more likely to act out online with anonymous partners. A study published in 2000, “Cybersex Users, Abusers, and Compulsives,” found that women tend to be more relational in their internet use and are usually drawn to chat rooms rather than merely viewing pornography. Among their sample of 96 persons whom they termed “cybersex compulsive,” 70% of the 26 women, versus 43% of the 79 men, considered chat rooms their preferred online medium.2

In another article published around the same time, Jennifer Schneider reports that a similar proportion of men (27%) and women (30%) engaged in real-time online sex with another person, but significantly more women than men (80% versus 33.3%) stated that their online sexual activities had led to real-life sexual encounters. In fact, in her book No Stones, Marnie Ferree reported that as many as 81% of fe

\male porn users will see their behaviors shift to in-person encounters.3

While these findings are old, they still track with modern technology away from chat rooms to sexting and other tools like Snapchat. A 2016 study by the Barna Group found that among teens and young adults, more females had both received and sent nude images of themselves than males.4

For recovery, you’ll want to set boundaries to help her take ownership without taking responsibility for her recovery yourself. (This blog post addresses boundaries from the perspective of a husband who struggles, but similar principles apply to you.) You may need to help her identify what type of porn she uses to help her set boundaries appropriately. For example, if she uses erotica, you may want to set the boundary that she can’t use ebooks; it’s easier to hide what she reads when it’s on a screen and not a physically bound copy. If she’s triggered by certain movie or TV scenes, you may need to cancel your HBO Max or Netflix account. And if she’s escalated to sexting someone else or using chat rooms (which do still exist) to act out sexually, you may need to switch phone plans and help her trade in her smartphone for a dumb phone (or no phone at all.

4. She needs accountability (but not just from you).

One of the most important boundaries to set is to use Covenant Eyes to monitor her device use. Our service takes periodic screenshots, blurs them before they leave her phone or computer, and sends them in a report to her ally. This allows her ally to talk through specifically where she struggled, and what may have led up to it.

It is very important, though, that you do not act as her primary ally. Her recovery is her responsibility, not yours, and holding her accountable puts you in the role of police officer instead of husband, as well as causing more emotional damage to you every time she slips up.

Instead, encourage her to find accountability from a female friend, and join an online support group such as SheRecovery by our partner, Crystal Renaud Day. This is key. Marnie Ferree notes in her book No Stones that female sex addicts often struggle to form non-sexual relationships; while your wife may not be at that point, having her choose another woman as an ally may be a good opportunity to practice true, genuine friendship.

If she is seeking counseling—which is often wise, especially if she experienced trauma or abuse in her past—she may want to send her reports to her counselor. This is a very wise and reasonable decision, but it still does not negate the need for an ally. She needs someone who can be available for friendly, personal conversations about life and struggles and provide encouragement in the moment without being personally hurt by failures.

5. You may need help too.

About that counseling, though—you may also need to seek counseling for recovery from your own betrayal trauma. Discovering your wife’s porn use likely caused deep confusion and pain—even more so if there has been any escalation.

Do a search in your local area for sex addicts anonymous programs. Even if your wife doesn’t participate, you can contact the leaders to see if there are any programs for the husbands of female addicts for your own support.

Don’t underestimate the need for this! Modern American society tends to cast an image of manhood where the only emotion they are allowed to experience is righteous anger. Needless to say, this is absolutely unhealthy. You too are a human, designed to experience a full range of emotions. If you need help to feel them, then get it. Your marriage will be better if you are both healthy and whole.

One Final Resource for Wives’ Addicted to Porn

Crystal Renaud Day and I partnered to write New Fruit, a free ebook that dives deep into female porn use and recovery. It will be particularly helpful for your wife, but you may wish to read it together with her to talk through what it says and how it relates to her own journey.


1 Jay Stringer, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2018), 66.

2 Al Cooper, David L. Delmonico, and Ron Burg, “Cybersex users, abusers, and compulsives: New findings and implications,” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity,7:1-2, 5-29 (2000).

3 Marnie Ferree, No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2010), 63.

4 The Barna Group, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography
in the Digital Age
(Ventura, CA: Josh McDowell Ministry, 2016).

5 No Stones, 160.