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What should I do about his porn problem? 8 First steps for wives

What should I do about his porn problem?
8“First Steps” for Wives 

Here you are, you’ve found yourself in that terrible place which has become a reality for countless wives across the world. You’ve discovered his porn problem. Maybe you’ve known for a while that he looked here and there, or that he “struggled,” but you’ve finally come to recognize that this is no small issue. You’re hurt and confused, and not sure what in the world you should do next. You need answers, but where do you look? Who can you trust? 

I wish the answer to the question which titles this little article was a simple one. I wish I could just give you a formula and this monster of a problem would go away.  What’s sad is, a lot of people will tell you there IS a formula, though the particulars of their solutions will vary greatly from “expert” to “expert.” But I’m here to speak truth to you, and the fact is, this issue doesn’t wrap up into a nice little box. There aren’t simple, A+B=C answers. A plus B will sometimes equal C, and other times it will equal Z, and then there will be occasions for every other letter in between.

The good news is, though the particulars vary, and though the solutions will almost never turn out exactly the same, there ARE some basic steps which I believe will lead to the best possible outcome as far as you are concerned. These aren’t solutions, they’re steps. They’re not answers, they’re ways to find answers. Here are ten steps you can take after discovering your husband’s porn addiction to figure out what you should do.

Step One – Find Your Identity in Christ  

Precious friend, I want you to listen to me for a minute.

THIS. IS. NOT. YOUR. FAULT.  

I have worked with and interacted with hundreds of women who find themselves married to a pornography addict. Many are breathtakingly beautiful. Most have had a very active and, as far as they were concerned, very healthy sexual relationship with their husbands before discovering the porn. Often the friendship aspects of their marriages have been very strong. These aren’t usually couples who are fighting all the time or wives who are nasty and nit-picky. (Though even if they were, it wouldn’t be their fault. The sin of one does not excuse the sin of another.) 

The fact is, your husband has a sin problem, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with you. A pornography problem is not a marriage problem, it is a sin problem. In fact, chances are pretty good he had this problem long before he even knew you!  

A pornography problem is not a marriage problem, it is a sin problem. If your husband is bound by this addiction, it isn't your fault! Click To Tweet

Still, it’s very difficult not to allow his sin to wipe out our own sense of self-worth. The first step we need to take is to understand who we are in Christ and what we’re worth to our Lord, and then learn to believe it.

It is God’s love that defines us, not our husband’s lust problems. 

If you need a little help, check out this post: Finding my Identity Through the Fog 
Or, if you want to go really in depth, check out this series: Identified. 

Step Two – Don’t Hide His Porn Problem. Come into the Light.

I know you want to crawl into a hole and die. I know it’s horrifying to think of anyone finding out about this problem. But the TRUTH you need to understand, precious friend, is that this sin LIVES in the dark. It feeds on ambiguity and isolation. It grows in hiding until it’s so big it will devour everyone in its way!

But the Light? Well, the Light kills it!

Even if you’re just now finding out about it, this sin didn’t just start. It has been growing for a long time! Probably since before you even knew your husband. It’s been hiding long enough. It’s time to bring it out into the open and expose it for what it is. The longer it hides the worse it will get. The longer it grows, the more people are in danger. It’s time to find the whole truth, no matter how much it’s going to hurt. 

Start with one or two safe people. A pastor, a trusted friend, or a counselor who knows how to deal with betrayal trauma. If you’re not sure there’s anyone in your life that fits the bill, feel free to reach out to us! Send us an email, and we’ll go from there. You don’t have to do this alone. 

Step Three – Surrender Your Pride and Your Idols to God 

This one is hard. This one hurts a little bit. (Or if you’re like me, a whole lot!) But it’s one of the most important steps for those seeking true healing. I’m going to ask you a few questions. They’re hard questions. Please take your time, seek God, and answer them as honestly as you can. 

1.) Does the thought of your marriage ending bother you more than the thought of living with this sin forever? 

2.) Are you more horrified by the idea of everyone knowing you “failed” at your marriage than you are at the idea of there being a secret sin in your marriage that no one knows about but you and your husband? 

3.) Do you believe God would prefer for you to be abused than divorced? 

4.) What’s more important to you, obedience to God, or the approval of Christians? 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve put some things in places they don’t belong. Most likely, these started with wonderful intentions, but marred by pride, stubbornness, and our sinful human hearts, they’ve warped into idols. Obedience to God doesn’t always look like we think it will, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to obey. An important step in true obedience is humility. Make sure you’ve humbled yourself before Him, and allowed Him to tear down any idols that may have crept in through the years. 

Step Four – Seek God for Direction 

This is the most important step on this list. In fact, we could probably get rid of all the other steps and just keep this one, and still find everything we need for success! (Though, I do believe He’d lead you to all the other steps in time.)  

This step sums up why none of the formulas out there will work. This step shows us why there are so many possible answers and outcomes to the question, “What should I do?” If there is anyone in your life telling you to disregard this step, or what you believe God is leading you to do, remove that person from your list of wise counselors. Don’t listen. 

We are, each and every one of us, unique. So are our husbands. So are our situations. But there is One who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows every fiber of our being, for He created each one. He knows what we’re going to think and do long before these things become a reality. He knew how our story would end before the world was created, and He knows what will and will not work in our individual situations. 

I can’t tell you whether or not your husband will ever choose healing. But God knows.

No expert can tell you whether you should stay or go, but God can.

There are hundreds of possibilities when it comes to methods: should you separate for a time, should you do a 90-day detox, should you read this book or that book, should you join a step-program, should you see a counselor, should you join a support group, which boundaries are most important in your situation? Only God can definitively answer these questions. Only God knows which steps you should take and in which order. 

God speaks to each of His children individually through His living and active Word. That is, the Bible. It is more than words on a page. It is alive. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer, God will lead us to every answer we need through the pages of Scripture. If you need answers, my friend, pick it up and start reading.  

If you need a little help getting started, check out this post: How to Get Started with In-Depth Bible Study. 

Only God knows which steps you should take and in which order. The most important step you can take towards healing is to seek Him for those answers. Click To Tweet

Step Five – Respond to His Porn Problem with Respect 

No matter what our husbands have done, we’ve been called to treat them with respect. It doesn’t have to be earned, it has to be given. TRUST has to be earned. We are capable of treating every human being that walks this earth with respect, and we should. We were all created in the image of God, and that alone makes each of us worthy of respect. This includes our husbands, and it also includes ourselves! 

So what does respect look like? Well, I believe treating someone with respect is treating him with dignity. In other words, we’re not going to be degrading with our words, or our actions. We won’t seek to humiliate him. We won’t condescend or talk down to. We also won’t treat him like a child and take on a responsibility that belongs to him. 

Our husbands are grown men, and whether they act like it or not, that is how they should be treated. It is not our job to make appointments for them, to clean up after them, or to babysit them through each step of recovery. That would be just as disrespectful as screaming at them or posting their sin all over social media.

Have enough respect for him to expect him to take responsibility for his own recovery. If he won’t, don’t do it for him, enact loving, Biblical boundaries.

Step Six – Educate Yourself on Addiction  

Until we need to, most of us know very little about addiction. We don’t understand how it sinks its teeth into its victims and refuses to let go. Maybe we’re not even sure if his porn problem IS an addiction. But then, it seems to us like a person should just be able to stop doing something that is causing himself, and the people he loves harm.

Healthy minds won’t naturally understand unhealthy ones. We’ll suggest, or even demand solutions that make sense to us, but have the potential to do even more damage to the addict.  

Take the time to learn as much as you can about this struggle. The more you understand, the more you’ll be able to offer the kind of help that is actually needed. You’ll be more likely to understand the importance of boundaries. You’ll start to see the fallacy in much of the thinking you’ve likely grown up believing. You’ll just be better equipped to make wise decisions moving forward.  

Step Seven – Make Strong, Clear, Biblical Boundaries 

I could write a whole book on the importance of Biblical boundaries… oh, wait. I have! 

What does the Bible say about relational boundaries? Find answers to that question and many others. Learn how to define, establish, and implement healthy, God-honoring boundaries in your own life with the Biblical Boundaries Workbook. Available now on Amazon!

You guys, second only to seeking God, this is the most important step on this list! And frankly, if you’re seeking God, He IS going to lead you to make strong boundaries that honor Him. 

If you have no idea where to start, check out this series I wrote: Biblical Boundaries, or just buy the workbook, which takes all the information in the series and adds tons of interactive questions to help you figure this issue out for yourself. If you know you need to make boundaries, but you have no idea where to start, or how to do it in a way that honors God, this book will show you where and how to find the answers! By the time you finish it, I guarantee you’ll have good solid boundaries ready to go and know everything you need to know about how to keep them. 

Step Eight – Speak Truth 

Much like our instinct to isolate, we also tend to keep our mouths shut in these situations. We don’t confront, don’t share our thoughts and feelings with honesty, don’t do or say anything that might cause conflict, and we do it all out of fear. This is not okay.

Truth matters. 

The truth is, pornography is not a victim-less issue. It isn’t something that is just between you and your husband. Pornography drives the world’s sex trafficking problem. It also escalates in almost every scenario. Someone who participates in pornography unchecked today will almost certainly begin to act out physically down the road. Whether by “hooking up” with people they know, or utilizing prostitution, or becoming a predator; pornography addicts become sex addicts, and sex addicts become criminals.

To stay quiet and let it be buried is to participate in that problem, to endanger your own life, and to compromise the safety of others. 

*You can read more about all of that in these two articles: Pornography and Marriage in a Millennial World Part OnePornography and Marriage in a Millennial World Part Two 

Apart from all that, as followers of God, we’re called to live in truth. So speak up. 

Conclusion 

My friend, I am SO SORRY you find yourself in this terrible situation. It hurts. It’s not okay. You don’t deserve it. It’s not your fault. 

The God who created you and loves you is aching right along with you. This breaks His heart too. I am sorry you’re facing this, but I can also tell you from experience that, if you let it, it can become the catalyst to the most intimate, life changing relationship with God you could ever imagine. Lean into Him. He’s right there. 

Finally, if you need support, please reach out. We’ve faced this monster and found victory. We’d love to help you find healing in the arms of our Healer. We have lots of resources available, check out our Ministry Page to find out if any of them might help you. We’d love to partner with you and join our mustard seeds of faith along with yours and watch together as our Lord casts this mountain into the depths of the sea! 


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***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Healing from Betrayal Trauma

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