Rebuild Your Marriage
Rebuild Your Marriage 4 minute read

How Do I Keep My Husband from Looking at Pornography?

Last Updated: June 17, 2015

My wife runs a ministry at our church called Hearts Restored.  It ministers to women who have suffered sexual betrayal.  In almost every case the husband struggles with or is addicted to porn.

The reaction of their wives is multifaceted.  They are angry.  They feel betrayed. They feel the need to take control. There is confusion and the destruction of trust, and it  has been extremely traumatic.  Some suffer silently and hope their marriage does not end.  The reactions of many wives are the same as those suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder – see book recommendation below).

There are all kinds of ways wives can respond.  Some are helpful and some can do more harm than good. My wife and I have worked on this together because her advice in this area comes from one who has walked it out.  I think you will value what she has to say.

Here are some basic principles we have learned.

First – some things you should NOT do:

1. It is not your job to stop him from looking at porn.

If he is going to recover he must own his own recovery.  Resist the reaction of creating for him a list of what he needs to do or stop doing.  This creates a false idea of what recovery is. He is the one who has to make the list and the two of you should discuss it.

2. Do not become his porn police.

His recovery demands accountability.  However, he needs accountability to people other than you. 

Early on Mona and I had a clear understanding of my boundaries.  If I crossed certain boundaries I needed to be truthful and tell her. However, if I told her every time I struggled or was feeling tempted it would have been damaging to her.  I had a counselor, a group of men I met with weekly, and two other men who were available to me on a daily basis.  If Mona had been in this role then every time I struggled or failed she would have been re-traumatized.

3. It’s not your job to provide sex as a deterrent to porn and masturbation.

I have had men tell their wives that if they would have sex with them more often then they would not be tempted as much to look at porn and masturbate.  This sounds reasonable, but it does not work and is actually a trap.

More sex is not the solution for a sex addict.  Those who demand this are simply substituting their wives for their porn, which will never help them heal.  Also, your sexual relationship has already had problems.  Having more of the same, with both of you even more wounded, will compound the issues. You are feeling wounded and angry and the last thing you want to do is have sex with him.

Second – some things you SHOULD do:

1. Help him set good boundaries.

Part of that will be limiting access to the computer.  He needs software that blocks pornography and sends a report of all the websites he visits to his accountability partners. He should not be the administrator or know the password. Cell phone, iPods and tablets need to be limited and protected as well. Covenant Eyes provides these features.

2. Encourage him to seek counseling and join a recovery ministry.

I am not talking with meeting with his pastor once a week for coffee.  He needs to meet with a professional Christian counselor who has a background in working with sexual addiction.

Also, find recovery ministries and sexual addiction recovery groups in your area. Twelve Step programs like Sex Addicts, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous should be listed online.  Make it a priority to have him attend meetings weekly. A timeframe of a year would be a good start.  (No, I am not kidding.)

3. Begin working on the two of you experiencing true intimacy.

Having sex on a regular basis is not what I am talking about.  Developing emotional and spiritual intimacy is what needs to happen.  Just having more sex is not the answer and can actually make his problem worse.  He craves to be loved and accepted.  There are wounds that he has been medicating with sex and it only deepens the wound and increases guilt and shame – which reinforces the cycle.

Sexual intimacy is a powerful bond and intended by God to be a healthy part of your marriage.  If it has become something to get done so porn is not as tempting it has lost its true value.  Sexual intimacy needs to flow from there being emotional and spiritual intimacy together.  It should be something that is a celebration of the oneness you are experiencing as a couple because you are spending quality time together being open and honest with each other.

Mona and I are coming up on the seventh year of our recovery.  It has been hard work every step of the way.  We realize that the things we have shared are difficult.  However, there are no easy answers.  Both of you are broken and both of you will need to work on your own issues before you will be able to experience the marriage God has for you.

Mona and I would recommend these books for both of you:

  • Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means (Aug 25, 2009)
  • Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage by Tim Alan Gardner and Scott M. Stanley (May 21, 2002)

  1. Jean

    Are you kidding me? Block his computer? My husband’s job is to be at the computer constantly. He is a software designer/guru. A very savvy and well educated man. He can never be rid of the ability to go to sites – not to mention the ordinary come-ons that all of us see everyday, links, etc. I appreciate all the info you have but there are situations where a woman is completely helpless to do anything. If you can’t say anything, how do you get a dialogue? If you can’t check the computer – how do you know its still going on? You can’t drag a man to counseling who doesn’t want to go, not to mention he is not spiritual. Be realistic. I try to speak honestly and earnestly with him and I get a dismissive attitude. I am lost and have no answers.

    • Lisa Eldred

      Hmm, that is a tough position.

      From a software perspective, Internet Accountability may be better for him than filtering. It doesn’t block anything – it simply reports on what sites were accessed. For some, just knowing that someone will see where they go works as well as a filter anyway.

      As for your husband’s attitudes, I’d recommend passing along two e-books. The first is Porn and Your Husband. It’s written for wives, but it will also likely help him understand how his porn use has impacted you. The other is The Porn Circuit, which will help him understand from a scientific perspective how his porn is hurting himself. He may also find The Hardcore Truth insightful – it’s an interview between a former porn addict and a former porn producer, and is pretty revealing. Hopefully these e-books will help him see his problem as a problem.

    • Ani

      How dare porn users and their apologizers tell us that we must help the Porn User OVERCOME! I took the responsibility for his problem on myself, though I was having “it” with him 3 to 4 times a week. Then, every single day (as we had before our child) after I finally proved with my own eyes that he was indeed doing it. After years of suspecting and being LIED to. I bought the lies that I was primarily to blame.
      After years of clench fisted, red-faced “I love you! Honey!” denials, I am finally finished. Ironically, before we married, I told this man that I could not take being with someone who wanted to ogle other women. I am very monogamous minded and faithful in the strictest sense of the word and wanted the same. I wanted only what I was giving. Certainly not more. I wanted a friend and a communion of souls. Lovers’ souls.

      He was told and he knew. He chose to play my God, and deceive for his own purposes. It is all about him and his control and what pleases him. I was an object. A mere tool. A mere convenience who existed for his use. He put himself as the God of my life, with the power to decide what kind of life that I would have. I had no right to the life I wanted, with the kind of man I wanted. No right to a real chance to love and be loved. No right to have a friend and true lover. Nothing. Because he knew how to manipulate everything to his own selfish benefit.

      After 18 years of marriage and a child, it is too late. I’ve been robbed of friendship and love. My child has been robbed of a fully engaged mother because I spent so much time in morbid depression that I could not fully function. Yes, I got up every day and homeschooled and took her to many social activities and lessons. But, so so many days, I was in grief. Agony. I did not get to have the full joy of my child because I was so buried in grief. And my child was robbed of a joyful mother.

      So, this thing robs the woman of her dignity, her chance for love, her chance for deep friendship, her chance at joy. Robbed. Gone. Because that man with the problem is a willing, complicit product of the PORN INDUSTRY.

      They won. They’ve got him. I finally will be his prisoner no more. Well, actually in a great sense I am because no chance at real love for me. Gone. Cannot divorce him because my child would have to be at times left alone with him. So stay I will. But no more physical humiliation. No more sex every day with an entitled, despicable user. No more being told, “There is such a thing as trust!” From the liar of liars. To be told this after all the robbing this man has done.
      I will not carry this anymore and I advise anyone with this type of man or woman for that matter, to get out as if your life depends on it. IT DOES. If you have no children, leave and never look back. If you do have children and have the means to get away and it will not ruin their lives, get out.
      You will find yourself having lived most of your life with not a lot to show, but day after day of grief and fear.
      Your life is not a PORN USER’S for the taking. It isn’t. No matter what anyone tells you. You were not put on this earth to be an object for a PORN USER to objectify, demean and torment.

      I so wish I could leave.

    • Kay Bruner

      Hey Ani, I am so, so sorry for all the pain you’ve suffered in your marriage. I agree with you that the message to wives that they can somehow be responsible for keeping their husbands from looking at porn is not healthy for women or helpful to men. We can’t keep them from looking at porn. Only they can be responsible for their behavior.

      Another thing that happens, when we focus all our attention on the man’s problem and everybody tries to fix that, is that the spouse gets neglected in her needs. And it sounds to me like that has happened for you. I want to encourage you to seek out help and support just for YOU right now. Whatever your husband does or doesn’t do, YOU find help for YOU. Personal counseling can be a huge help. Support groups can be great, too: Celebrate Recovery, Pure Desire, S Anon, Al Anon, xxxChurch. There are lots of options out there. Find a group that feels safe and supportive to you, and let yourself be cared for there.

      Also, you might appreciate this recent article that talks about steps women can take to care for themselves. Blessings, Kay

  2. Anonymous 7

    Is this something i should encourage my husband to watch! I am currently sleeping in a separate room, I kind of feel like i need to keep a distance from him, but at the same time I feel that by watching and educating myself with this videos, he is not getting all this material that is important, he has only spoken to our co-pastor and had one meeting since I found out (a month ago). I’m torn, a part of me wants to help him and part of me says he should find his own solutions, find his way, to see how much he really wants to change. I don’t feel he’s doing enough. I’m just so confused and don’t know for sure if I want this marriage to work. It’s like 50% of me wants to get away, and 50% wants it to work. I’ve watched the first and second part of the videos, and I guess I am willing to stay in the house, without the need to make a too quick of a decision, I want want to regret reacting while I’m still hurt, at least for the sake of the kids.

    • I think your husband could benefit greatly from these videos, as long as he approaches them with an open mind. The companion videos, False Intimacy, is specifically for men who are like him.

      As far as your involvement is concerned, you’ll need to play it by ear. He may be very open to receiving help from you. He may not. You might approach the situation this way. Say, “I’m going to be watching these videos called ‘True Betrayal.’ I hope it will really help me to understand what I need to do right now. If you want to watch these just so you know what advice I’m receiving, you can. If you want, there is also a companion series by the same individual called ‘False Love.’ I understand if you don’t want to watch these. There are a lot of resources out there to help men overcome these habits. This is one of them. I’m not telling you you should watch this, but you can, knowing it will compliment what I’m watching.”

  3. Anonymous 7

    Thank you for the wise advice. I feel like I’m in a roller coaster ride, some days I can love him, and days like today where i feel like a hypocrite, and really question if I really do love him or do I just say it so I won’t hurt him? I am numb to feelings, at least to love. I can for sure say I do feel anger, betrayed, devalued, sad, mad, and so many more it overshadows the good feelings. I feel like something is always questioning me if I really do love him, every time I say “I love you.” and sometimes I feel like I say it but not mean it. I feel like a punching bag, receiving all the punches. Why should I give him a chance, that chance could be the one chance to get hurt again. We have tried, but those days like today that I just feel overwhelmed and I begin to cry because im hurt and honestly wonder why I’m still in this relationship, he just tells me how he now feels down, and I’m left with all the responsibilities (3 kids) and he just buries his face and goes to sleep. I feel like on the good days he is up and willing to help, but when we have those bad days, he just wants to hide and come back when things are better. It’s heart breaking, when I never resort to other images or even friends when I felt alone, and he did, and now I have to suck it up,and move on. Extremely sad and disappointed, he was not the man I thought I married.

    • Hello again, Anonymous. That hypocritical feeling (“do I love him or not”) is also very common for women in your position. Who can blame you? Your heart has been ripped apart by what he’s done. It isn’t just about the porn. It is about the overall patterns of his life.

      Please watch those videos I linked to and let me know what you think about them.

  4. Anonymous 7

    I caught my husband watching YouTube videos of women in very provocative positions and clothing while he was taking a shower, I confronted him and told him to tell me the truth and not what he thought I wanted to hear, so he lied to me about how it started, then I found out he was watching it longer, so I confronted him, he told me another lie, I told him I wanted to know the truth, and he told me that he had been watching those videos, and that he had also been watching pornography since February or march (when we bought a new computer) of this year. I remember scanning our old computer and finding pictures of women, it turns out he had been watching those YouTube videos since June of 2012. He says he doesn’t remember the date he started looking for video or Pictures but that he would stop and try to get straight with God, but sometimes months will pass, and he would fall back. I so lost and confused, I feel like there is something I’m looking, i need to find something maybe the details of when it started, ow, where, when..etc I don’t know if he is an addict?? sometimes I love him, some days I hate him. He said that he would never do it again, he would never hurt me, we got intimate from the day I found out, but I don’t know if I should be getting intimate. Since those days that I found out he has been trying to help me around the house, he bought me flowers and asked for my forgiveness, he arrange for a day just the two of us no kids, he tells me that its good that we are intimate because he needs me, and he wants to feel closer to me. But I’m just so long, I still need to scan our old computer to see if I can get anymore info as to when this started. I just don’t know where to head. I don’t trust him, anything he says, how he feels. I see him talking to the neighbor and I think the worst. He is going to talk to the co-pastor of our church, who said he will help him and us, but I don’t know if he’s doing enough,is he an addict? Does he need to make more action. I’m so lost. He is my first boyfriend, high school sweet heart, my only love, my husband, the father of my kids, this is so hard for me, I still cry and have nightmares almos everyday, about finding more stuff on the computer. Please any advice will be appreciated!!!

    • Hi Anonymous 7,

      I’m so sorry to hear about what your husband has been doing. Your “need to know” is a very common feeling after trust has been broken. You desperately want to get back to a place of trust, before all this came to light, and the only way to do that is for you to see a track record of trustworthy behavior. You need to see him making changes that protect his life from viewing porn and protect his heart from straying into fantasy.

      You are right to want to look on the computer for more pornography. For one, you need to protect your children, and you don’t want them to stumble on anything recorded on the computer or a history log that could lead them into porn. As part of your protecting computers in your home, make sure you take an inventory of things so nothing more is accessed. You don’t have to hide from your husband that you are doing this. Be open about it. Install protective software to block and monitor how the computer is used. Make sure anything on the computer is erased. In the mean time, get a feel for how big this problem has been, how long it has been going on.

      If you husband protests, just tell him, “I want to trust you again. By monitoring the computer you are giving me information to build my trust.”

      Intimacy is important to your marriage right now. If you feel this is a full-blown addiction, then wait for a counselor or pastor to tell you otherwise about your sex life. You can forge a strong bond with your husband through sex, and this helps him to channel is desire for intimacy toward you and not toward fantasy women.

      You do need more of a step-by-step guide to know what to do, so I recommend you watch this video series by Brad Hambrick about this very issue.

  5. marcy hutmacher

    I’m not sure were to begin. my husband and i have been married 8 yrs , a lot of ups and downs . but this one ,well i new he had( past tense) had a problem looking up stuff online and for years he did not, but sense the job change i find it everywhere, our laptop, his Facebook, our phones. i have tried many thing in our bedroom to help but it did not seam to so i stopped trying. now its become this taboo . i am not to talk to him about, or talk to anyone about, not friend ,are pastier. and well i don’t.. i think this is safe here,sense you don’t know him. i just don’t know what to do anymore. i love him so much. but this man this is destroying me inside.. i feel not good enough. he don’t touch me unless i come on to him now.. i just don’t know.. please help.

    • Marcy – Thanks for reaching out. It sounds like you are in a very painful place. The first step for any man’s recovery is that he has to want to break free from using pornography. If he is a believer then he will be under the conviction of the Spirit. But if he does not want to stop then there is little you can do except create some consequences if his behavior continues.

      You have to set some boundaries for yourself and get support for yourself. Many women draw a line and tell their husbands that if they do not change they will have to move out and separate for a period of time. If they refuse then they move out themselves and take their children. Tell him that you cannot go on like this and make an appointment with a counselor or your pastor.

      If you would like you can send an email to me at doyel53@gmail.com and I will forward it to my wife. She works with many women who are in your position and will help you develop a plan.

  6. Lee

    The Christian culture continues to miss the mark and exasperate the problem, Case in point- You say don’t 3. It’s not your job to provide sex as a deterrent to porn and masturbation. Then you say do 3. Begin working on the two of you experiencing true intimacy.

    It would seen contrary to 1 Corinthians 7:5 your assumption is that He is 100% guilty because she is clearly not failing to fulfill her vows. Paul says if that were the case she would be giving her husband over to Satan to tempt. Imagine a cat playing with a mouse and you have an idea of the defrauded husband’s plight. But you say to wives don’t save your husband from such, after all it is all him.

    The assumption is feminist bias. Of course she should provide enough quality and quantity of sex to satisfy him and keep his heart at home – enough is determined by him. He must do the same for her. If he is deprived, he is defrauded and “true intimacy” is not possible. Further if she has taken control of the bed it is a power play on the relationship and is the antithesis of submission. The proverbs call her a contentious wife and he in the face of such a relationship he would rather sleep on the roof. The fact is God made two one, a porn issue is not just his issue, it is their issue. Her contribution to the problem is not a social stigma like his so he bears more shame. Even if he came to the marriage with a porn issue, they are now one and she has a roll in sanctifying her husband with a meek and quite spirit. (Meaning she put his needs above hers and does not fret and worry) If she judges him and shuts him off , it will drive to hide his shame, and not to cover it in the blood of Jesus. If however, she cares tenderly for him and his love of Christ together they can overcome the temptation. Replacing her sin of controlling for his sin is death. Increasing his shame is poison.

    There is much said about how hurt a wife is when there is porn in the relationship, she is allowed to express it and in some circles considered a heroine for her pain. It may be that he is deeply hurt also, but he is a wimp and a cad if he were to say so. Let’s face it, in the church setting he is blamed and she is a saint. Both are violating vows, one in his mind and with his eyes the other with the destruction of her love, beauty and sex. He is told to crucify himself as did Christ for His bride, yet she is encouraged to rebel against her husband and to use sex for her gain. When have the pulpits spoke of how a man thinks about sex as a communication of love and intimacy; a woman’s respect as essential for his well-being or for the married man sexual release is a need approaching the level of sleep. Rarely, but it is not unusual to hear how women need to be understood, romanced and catered to by their insensitive husbands. The movie Fireproof is typical of the modern christian ethos. A contemptuous wife gets all her demands as a defrauded husband submits to her will. Message: if men will just repent and do what women want they won’t end up in divorce court.

    Christ died for His bride, but He never gives up his headship to her, something that the good-girl feminism of the church has not yet discovered. If a wife is hurt by her husbands “betrayal” the first thing a Christian counselor should do is tell her to look for the log in her eye. Most of the time she has also betrayed her husband. The repentance must keep God’s authority structures for the family firmly in place, any power plays are yet more betrayals.

    • Lee,

      In answering the questions I was asked to write on – “How do I keep my husband from looking at porn?” My wife and I wrote together out of our 7 years of recovering from my porn addiction. Certainly, Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 7 is important for each person in the marriage to follow. However, when there has been sexual betrayal by one spouse there is considerable damage brought into the relationship that needs to be address.

      In the book “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse” one learns that after sexual betrayal the spouse who has been sinned against suffers the same symptoms as those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are devastated by their husbands actions. This cannot be minimized and both of them expect to jump back into sexual intimacy as if nothing has happened. The porn addict will not just stop and return to a godly and pure life just because his spouse is willing to have more sex. She will be betraying her own healing to try and fulfill that role if the issues are not addressed.

      It can take years to rebuild the relationship and re-establish trust so that the couple can begin to develop true intimacy with one another. The intimacy I am talking is not just sexual intimacy … but emotional and spiritual intimacy as well. Without true emotional and spiritual intimacy being re-established then the sex can just be the husband using his wife instead of loving her.

      Sex does not heal the wounds and pain of the train wreck that has happened. Commanding one to give themselves to their spouse for sex so that they do not act out is abusing what God has intended for sex. Men do not need to have sex like they need to have sleep. If that were true then what do you say to a single man?

  7. Ruth

    Thanks John. How long should someone wait before giving up hope? My husband has been seeing a christain chaplin (who had been addicted to porn that now counsels) for almost a year and half and a christain counselor for six mounths(he deals with mens issues). Things seem to be worse, not better.

    • John Doyel

      That is a hard question for me to answer. If he is seeking help by meeting with these counselors that is a good thing. If they are not helping him with his issues then perhaps they are not good at dealing in this area or he is not doing what they want him to do. God knows everything about your situation so I would ask Him to bring into the light anything what needs to be revealed and see how the Lord directs you. Hopefully, also you are getting the support that you need. Do the work you need to to for yourself and place Him in the Lord’s hands.

  8. Kathy

    John,
    Thanks for your comments and again your manner. You sound like a nice person and I can picture having tea and scones and talks with you and Mona; maybe someday in heaven along with Jesus to answer all questions :).
    Your comments do raise more questions for me, esp. about penalty, presence, power and escape, as well as my “case” that any true believer cannot be addicted to sin. I don’t believe I’m trying to make a case but that Jesus and the apostles have already made it and we have simply not believed it, not really.
    If it is just me then I am wondering how do you read and how would you speak to such passages as: 1 John 3:1-10, 1 Peter 4:1-3, Titus 2:11-15, James 4:4 (doesn’t sound very gentle), and Rev. 1:5 (now that sounds hopeful)? All these verses seem to be talking about life now, on earth in our mortal bodies not someday when we die and go to heaven.
    We all seem to like the idea of being saved absolutely from the penalty of sin and that someday we’ll be saved from its presence in heaven, but being saved from the power of sin is optional. Have we forgotten that sin comes from Satan and that he desires our total destruction but that Jesus has already conquered (and made us more than conquerors) the devil, the flesh and the world? On “cannot escape”, what does Paul mean by 1 Cor 10:13 “He will provide the way of escape”, and 2 Tim. 2:26 “escape from the snare of the devil”? I’m also wondering what an apostle means when he says, “He has rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son He loves”? About Romans 7 I know there are big debates but mostly it seems to me that we forget that Ch. 7 is sandwiched between Chapters 5, 6 and 8. If Paul was speaking about a sinful Christian life from which we cannot escape till we die, why did he say within 6:12-18, “you have been set free from sin” and in 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”? Are we free or not? Calling a person free who is still a slave just sounds delusional and doesn’t sound like we have much to offer a lost world that has real trouble. If I’m going to witness to lost people I need to know that I’m telling them the truth, that they should turn to a Jesus who can really help and that offers real hope.

    • John Doyel

      Kathy,

      Let’s look at this in another way. All the passages you mentioned and many more in the New Testament are written to believers. All of them are urging these believers to not live in sin and to not give in to the temptations that come from the world, the flesh and the devil. IF what Christ accomplished on the cross has completely set us free from the penalty and power of sin … why are the writers writing these passages?

      I do believe that the power to live in freedom from the power of sin is available to all believers. However, these passages are there because we do not always choose Christ over sin. Romans 6 is the perfect example. Paul is telling them they are free in Christ to choose their master. However the possibility of choosing to sin is always there and when we choose to sin we are in danger of becoming enslaved to sin again.

      When we are tempted God does provide an escape … but the one being tempted must choose to take that escape. We have been transferred from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His Son. Yet we are not fully in heaven yet and in this world and because of our flesh there is a battle going on daily. The Spirit battles against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit. If we are not being filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit we will be defeated and fall back into sin.

      Also, why would Paul command us to put on the full armor of God everyday so that we can stand against the powers of darkness … if there is not a battle because Christ has already defeated Satan?

      The law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. There are eternal never changing repercussions to that fact. However, it does not take away the present struggles with the flesh that still remains in us.

      Witness to people because they can receive forgiveness for all their sins, they can receive eternal life and God will enter into them by the Spirit to help them until we reach heaven.

      Hope this helps

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A picture of Dave and Ashley Willis.

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Porn Counterfeits Naked Marriage: With Dave and Ashley Willis

What is “naked marriage” all about? We sat down with popular podcasters…

What is “naked marriage” all about? We sat down with popular podcasters Dave and Ashley Willis to find out, and we learned an important message about God’s design for sex and how porn counterfeits it.…

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Rebuild Your Marriage

4 Words of Wisdom From Al and Lisa Robertson

What does the famous Duck Dynasty Clan have to say to Covenant…

What does the famous Duck Dynasty Clan have to say to Covenant Eyes? We wanted to know, so our podcast team sat down with Al and Lisa Robertson to talk about their shows and other…

3 minute read

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