Rebuild Your Marriage
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Save My Marriage: Counseling the Wife of a Porn Addict (Part 1 of 3)

Last Updated: July 27, 2021

For 25 years, Pure Life Ministries (PLM) has been ministering to Christian men who are enslaved to all kinds of sexual sin. Invariably when a married man comes to us for help, there is a hurting wife left behind in a lonely struggle, trying to cope with both the emotional aftermath and external consequences of her husband’s choices. I was one of those wives; and although it was 16 years ago now, I vividly remember feeling completely devastated by the discovery that my husband was using pornography and visiting prostitutes. After three years of marriage, I felt my whole world had come crashing down. I had no idea how or why such a thing could happen to me.

Naturally, when a wife first learns of her husband’s sin, the deep hurt she experiences gives rise to many different emotions. At times she might be shocked or even in denial. She may have feelings of betrayal, a sense of being rejected or used by her spouse, or even a feeling of inadequacy. Many times there is confusion as to how her husband can say he loves both God and her, yet still do the things he is doing. Sooner or later most wives will struggle with anger, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, and even a self-righteous attitude toward their spouse. Moreover, these feelings may be present all at the same time, fluctuate in intensity, and may seem to overtake the wife out of the blue. In my experience, these overwhelming emotions were like a spider web that I simply could not extract myself from without help.

Caught up in her emotions, many times a wife doesn’t know what to do. She is often looking for explanations, desperately seeking answers to explain why and how this could have happened to her “wonderful” marriage and her “Christian” husband.

Frequently when a wife contacts us for counseling, she has read book after book on the subject and listened to hours of radio and TV talk shows—all without finding any real answers.

Counseling Wives with the Word

Because of the extreme emotions involved, the counselor needs to proceed with caution. If we’re going to help the hurting wife, we need to be very careful of our own emotions. It is very easy to become biased in our counsel and/or focus too much on the emotional pain. Focusing on her pain or emotions will not benefit the wife at all—it will only cause her to become bitter and fall into the deadly trap of self-pity. Adhering to what God’s Word has to say about the problem will help the counselor to avoid this tendency.

In fact, a correct biblical perspective will bring comfort and hope to hurting wives. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Further, it is my personal testimony that the Word of God is sufficient to deal with all of the emotions and heart issues as they come up in counseling. “All scripture,” we are told, “is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, RSV).In fact, God has given us everything we need in His Word to “escapethe corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). I can remember how much hope these words gave me when I first heard them as I realized that my situation was not too hard for God to handle.

Ancient Words: Relevant to Our Modern Struggle

In truth, when we study the Scriptures we soon see that God has been dealing with the consequences of sexual sin ever since Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden. As a result of Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and offering it to her husband, an appetite for the forbidden can be seen in the lives of many people in the Bible—people whose stories readily relate to our lives in today’s sexualized culture.

A brief look at the Old Testament reveals the prevalence of sexual sin among our biblical forefathers. Even after being rescued out of Sodom’s perversion and sensuality, Lot’s daughters committed fornication with their father. Among Jacob’s family, his daughter Dinah was violated by Shechem; his son Judah impregnated his daughter-in-law after she posed as a prostitute; and Joseph was accused, albeit falsely, of raping Potiphar’s wife. The Old Testament also includes the infamous account of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba, as well as the record of his daughter Tamar being raped by his son Amnon. In addition, the wisdom writings of Solomon deal extensively with the dangers of committing adultery, while the incessant cry of the prophets is for Israel to abandon her (spiritual) harlotry.

Not surprisingly, the New Testament has much to say about this issue as well. John’s gospel includes the account of the Samaritan woman who had been involved in numerous relationships with men, as well as Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees concerning the woman caught in the very act of adultery. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached against adultery and warned of the eternal ramifications of continuing in it. In addition to warning the Galatians against the deeds of the flesh, including several forms of sexual sin, Paul explicitly addressed sexual sin in his epistles to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. Unquestionably, sexual sin is a prevalent issue in both the Old and the New Testaments.

Consequently, we can be assured that God knows how to deal with this issue. But it is extremely important that sexual sin is seen—and dealt with—for what it is: an issue of the heart. Regardless of what theories may be popularized by treatment or recovery programs today, Jesus made it quite clear that sexual sin emanates from the heart: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23). Because sexual sin is an issue of the heart, we can have great hope—Jesus changes hearts!

Read Part 2 and Part 3

. . . .

Rose Colón has been the Director of Women’s Counseling at Pure Life Ministries (PLM) since 1996. A certified biblical counselor, she also serves as mentor to female counselors-in-training for PLM. Originally from New York City, Rose has a Masters of Ministry in Biblical Counseling from Master’s International School of Divinity and holds certification from the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC).

  1. Danielle

    Does marriage counseling help at all with a husband that is addicted to porn and self pleasure? Or is that something that the husband has to do on his own before they can work together on their marriage? If the addiction is the main problem in the marriage?

    • Kay Bruner

      I’m a therapist, and I think men need their own counseling first with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and be well-established in their own recovery first, before attempting marriage counseling. I also think that wives need their own therapist to help them cope with the trauma and build healthy boundaries.

      My experience with marriage counseling that is sometimes counselors care more about the marriage than the people within the marriage. In cases like that, the man’s issues are not adequately addressed and the wife’s trauma is not adequately addressed either. I love this article because I think we have to be prepared to have the ultimate boundary, divorce, when the spouse is unwilling to do his work.

  2. Stephanie

    Hi!!

    I have a friend (no really…haha). Her husband has come clean to her about his porn addiction. She has known for years and they have grown apart over time and his viewing of it creeped into work and he was bringing stuff home and it was on their home computer. It got really bad.

    She asked him to leave when she found it. He is now at a counseling center for 3 months. He desperately wants to make the marriage work and he’s willing to do anything to stop.

    I want to help her through her bitterness and hurt. It’s been years building up and her wall is pretty thick. They have 2 children and I have a huge burden for marriages and want to help any way that I can.

    Her biggest fear is the fact that many of the pornographic images that he had made the women look like young women. The computers have been gone over by a forensic cybercrimes detective and it’s been verified that there is no child pornography in the vast amounts of pornography that they found.

    She’s scared to consider ever taking him back because she has a daughter and she’s worried because these pics were meant to look like they were young.

    She’s in counseling, but I feel like the counselor is making it more about her than their marriage and having her focus on herself rather than forgiveness and working through her fears and restoring her marriage.

    Any advice on how to help her and talk to her would be helpful! (mainly about her fear for her daughter).

    Thanks.

    • Stephanie,

      Thanks for standing with your friend through this trial and desiring to see her marriage restored despite the gravity of his sin. That is a rare combination.

      Her fear is justified in some sense: it would be tragic to see him act out in a way that harmed their daughter. But there are some questions that might help her make some next steps:

      1. Has he ever acted out before (tried to have sex with someone who is not his wife)? If not, breaking the “flesh barrier” (as some counselors call it) is a big step that usually isn’t taken lightly by an addict. The fact that he has found psychological help before taking this step is a good sign.
      2. Does his counselor think he’s making progress? Having his counselor vouch for the changes in his life would be very helpful.

      I’m certainly not saying that she should trust her husband around their daughter, but if she wants to save her marriage then she needs to come up with a way for him to rebuild that trust. That can only mean time around her and their daughter again. It may need to start slow, but that’s okay. It sounds like he’s willing to do what he can to make things right.

      The vast majority of men engaged in porn do not end up engaging in “coercive” forms of sex (prostitution, rape, trafficking, etc.), but if his addiction was deep, this is something his counselor should be looking into.

      Speaking as a former porn addict myself, it is very easy to amass thousands of images of young looking women in just a few days, let alone years. This is the major push within mainstream porn today: younger and younger looking girls. “Youth” or “teen” is the most popular broad category of legal porn today. This trend is deeply disturbing, to be sure, but finding those images on his computers is just as indicative of the world he lives in as it is his own heart. He is both completely responsible for his actions and a victim of a sleazy world willing to serve up thousands of young-looking girls to those who might not even be looking for them.

      This is actually how a lot of “child porn” addicts get started: with a child image mixed into many adult images, and over time, the child images become more prevalent. The vast majority of men who watch child porn are actually not pedophilic. Pedophilia involves being drawn to prepubescent girls, whereas many child porn consumers are drawn to young teens. (This, of course, does not at all minimize the depravity of that desire.)

  3. Che

    My wife left me because of my porn addiction. I know I cannot get her back. We still talk – are there any resources I can tell her about to her recover? She is alone in her recovery and I am afraid for her because she is doing crazy things – I destroyed her self-esteem.
    I am in a support group. I just want to try to help her even though we will not stay married.

    • Hi Che, there are several resources out there. For one, there are scores of books on this subject. Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means, is very good. She might try giving the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists a call. I would highly recommend looking for any support groups that might be meeting in local churches in her area. You can always download the e-book Porn and Your Husband from our website.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I pray you will reconcile with your wife, but more so, that both of you heal from this.

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