Navigating Your Spouse’s Porn Addiction

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I’m not sure any of us are prepared for the major let-downs we will experience in our relationships, especially when it comes to a spouse’s porn addiction. Navigating life alongside other people—though absolutely beautiful and necessary—is unfortunately never going to be tidy. And those wounds we acquire from the most intimate relationship we have? I don’t think I have to tell you how much they sting.

Discovering your spouse’s struggle with porn addiction or habit is devastating.

What now?

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Porn addiction in marriage can be difficult to navigate. | The Dating Divas
Married couple experiencing shame and betrayal amidst a secret porn addiction.

I must let you know that my heart has never weighed more heavily on a task before me than in writing this message. I have wept for you, friend. Is it alright if I call you “friend”?

You are not alone in this. Sadly, you are actually in the majority. And it is my hope that somehow, in the vast unknown that lies before you, there is some small beacon of hope you might find today.

comfort for the spouse of a porn addict

If you were here sitting across from me, I imagine you would be stoic from the burden of carrying this secret day by day as it burned a hole deeper and deeper through your chest. I’m not sure how long this heavy circumstance has plagued you, but I also imagine that as you begin to speak, tears would well in your eyes and the emotions you’ve had to bury for days or even years would come erupting from the depths of your being.

And your question? Well, I have a feeling it might start somewhere along the lines of:

WHY?

And then would continue on:

I don’t know how to deal with my husband’s addiction – or my wife’s. How do I? How do you stop porn addiction? Where do these painful emotions end? When does healing from this betrayal begin? Will I ever trust my spouse again? Is recovery from this addiction even possible? Will our marriage survive my spouse’s porn addiction? Do I have hope that our marriage can thrive after enduring the recovery process?

your spouse’s pornography addiction is not your fault; but there are steps you can take to stop their porn addiction.

Unearthing your spouse’s porn habit is considered by many to be one of the most personal and earth-shaking addiction discoveries. While interviewing an addict, I found it interesting that the addict also feels the weight of the discovery, too. 

This recovering addict says,

This probably sounds crazy but I honestly would have rather come forward to my {spouse} as a heroine addict. Addicts of other kinds seem to get more help, are taken more seriously, and of course their partners know that the addiction is not related to them at all. But with porn… it’s different. There’s so much more shame and so much less research. Even though the studies we DO have suggest it’s even MORE addictive than these intense drugs typically associated with addicts. I fell victim to this, and telling my {spouse} felt impossible for so long, but the shame of it only dragged me further and further into the habit.

I’ve learned there is something deeply personal about porn or sex addiction–even though, at its core, the addict is actually typically motivated by an internal emotional void, a shame cycle, or acts out to numb pain. All of which need to be addressed and are not your fault. Often while we stand at the sidelines wondering how to stop porn addiction, the addict is asking the same question, desperate for an out.

Learning how to deal with a husband’s addiction – or a wife’s – is no five step program; but, to an extent, digging to the core of the issues that played a part in your spouse’s porn addiction is most of the process. It’s much easier to redirect brain signals out of their addictive patterns once you know why they were trained in the route to the addiction in the first place.

The hardest step of this recovery process though is your partner’s admittance to addiction. Once your spouse recognizes their problem and how it has impacted you and your marriage, then you can begin taking steps to recover together by seeking external help from professionals. Your husband or wife will need your teamwork as they overcome this habit, and learn how to stop porn addiction.

*If your spouse is unwilling to seek help, we still urge you to consider your own private counseling. A professional with expertise in addiction recovery can walk you through establishing healthy boundaries with your spouse, assist in navigating the fine balance of compassion vs. enablement, and can provide individualized advice specific to your situation.

your deep emotional distress has a name: trauma.

Woman crying in bed from feeling the effects of her husband's pornography addiction | The Dating Divas
Woman feeling effects of trauma from spouse’s porn addiction

When you first discover your partner’s struggle with porn, whether it was a singular event or a frequent occurrence indicating addiction, these are all valid questions. It is okay to feel wounded because you have been. In fact, Matt Frad writes in his book The Porn Myth that, “70 percent of wives fit the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, often manifesting symptoms of fear, depression, anxiety, obsessive thinking, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and nightmares.” This is called betrayal trauma.

(Please note: Though the particular study quoted above by Matt Frad focused on the wives of porn addicts, statistically pornography addiction does not gender discriminate. Wives can be addicts, too.)

As if discovering an addiction with this much stigma surrounding it wasn’t enough, now we see that the betrayed spouse is extremely likely to be deeply struggling with their mental health in the complex aftermath. What a dilemma.

Need I say more to support why The Dating Divas so strongly believe that pornography has NO place in marriage?

Just as it is important for your partner to admit that they are struggling with an addiction, it is VITAL for you to admit that you have experienced trauma.

As you look at how to stop porn addiction, I actually believe that confronting this trauma will be JUST as necessary for healing together, as it will be for your partner to confront their problem with habitual porn usage. It is highly recommended you each seek professional assistance for what you are enduring. If your spouse is willing, attending each-other’s counseling sessions can be so beneficial as you begin to (safely and cautiously) foster compassion for what you each navigate. Of course, this requires the cooperation of both parties. However, it can be a bonding experience for your relationship as you practice emotional connection through your healing.

Again, if your spouse is unwilling to seek help, we still urge you to consider your own private counseling. A professional with expertise in addiction recovery can walk you through establishing healthy boundaries with your spouse, assist in navigating the fine balance of compassion vs. enablement, and can provide individualized advice specific to your situation. Having support from an external source will help you navigate how to stop porn addiction and all the feelings that come along with it.

navigating “the messy middle” of your spouse’s porn addiction recovery

So much hurt. So much betrayal. So much insecurity. So much fear. So much anger. So much of all the things that are completely opposite what you hoped your marriage would be. And yet, here we are, sitting in what I’d like to lovingly refer to as “the messy middle” – a term I learned from an amazing Podcast resource I found that features real couples who are walking this path.

Here are 9 reminders for porn addiction help as you move forward in this journey to recovery:

Porn addiction can hurt relationships in marriage. | The Dating Divas
Couple disconnected after the discovery of porn addiction.

Please note: Depending on your situation, the resources you need may be different.

  1. Know that this habitual porn use must stop, and your partner will need accountability from you and from others. Find porn addiction help HERE.
  2. Know that your partner’s porn addiction is NOT your fault. Remind yourself of this truth often. You are enough. Your partner’s addiction is not relative to you.
  3. Know that your partner’s porn addiction is rooted deep and seeking wise counsel, resources to tackle, or even a recovery program to guide you both through the process of withdrawing from this behavior, will be necessary.
  4. Know that there is SO MUCH awesome and affordable internet software that you and your partner can choose to help guard your devices and online habits.
  5. Know that BOTH of you have deep-rooted pathways in your brains — attempt grace for these. Addiction physically alters the brain. So does trauma.
  6. Know that navigating recovery is no linear graph. Healing will ebb & flow. Though this can be discouraging, it is normal. As much as I wish they could be, neither addiction or betrayal can be healed overnight.
  7. Know that committing to be courageous in this long and vulnerable journey with your spouse opens the door to a world of beautiful and restorative possibilities.
  8. Know that the cycle of shame reaffirms addictive patterns. You are not responsible for their habits; however, as a spouse and when safe, you do have the unique ability and position to encourage them.
  9. Know that any compassion you have to offer your spouse as they reel from the addiction they are caught in will be more meaningful to them than you realize.

Fostering spousal trust again post-recovery

I know I can speak for every single member of our team here at The Dating Divas when I tell you that our utmost desire and unwavering passion is to see marriages strengthened. That includes YOURS — even amidst this sobering reality you are facing. We recognize that this format may not be possible for all couples, as some addicts do not wish to recover and/or abuse could be present in the relationship; however, it is our hope that a healthy relationship can be built and restored whenever it is safe and possible to do so.

Every porn addiction recovery journey is SO different. I’m sure this is what makes finding answers so frustrating for couples navigating this cavernous grey area.

please find a specialized professional to give you and your spouse individualized guidance towards healing.

We know professional help often has a cost — if you are unable to find affordable assistance in your budget, I have included tons of resources at the bottom of this post. For a place to start, I recommend this Podcast. It features real couples as they navigate their recovery journey from day one to year seven and on.

If I could have it my way, I would reach through this screen with all of your hurts and betrayals mended. I would package them up perfectly in a cute little gift bundle with a neat bow tied to the top. Along with a Dating Divas gift tag, of course! {wink!}

But alas, I cannot.

Please hear that your feelings of anger with the unfairness you’ve been dealt in this marital betrayal are valid. Not for a SECOND do I wish to minimize your experience.

I only hope to share a hope that lies beyond this long road ahead. There is healing on the horizon. With dedication and teamwork from both of you, porn addiction can be overcome, and intimacy can be restored. Your marriage may tell a beautiful story of just HOW FAR the love that two people have for each other can take them.

There is life after addiction. I can’t wait to see you get there.

Article Recommendations:

10 Signs of Porn Addiction by Covenant Eyes; Internet Accountability Company

Fighting Against Porn and Shame by Fight the New Drug

Best Protective Software for Porn by Robert Weiss; Digital-Age Intimacy Expert

Betrayal Trauma: The Side of Porn No One Talks About by Covenant Eyes

Betrayal Trauma in Addiction by The Gottman Institute

Real People’s Stories:

How Porn Almost Ruined our Marriage: Travis + Emily video by Fight the New Drug

Escaping Porn Addiction: Eli Nash video by TedTalk

The Betrayed, The Addicted, and The Expert podcast by Ashlynn & Cobe Mitchell

Book Recommendations:

Courageous Love: A Couple’s Guide to Conquering Betrayal

Aftershock: Overcoming His Secret Life with Pornography & A Plan For Recovery

The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography

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Mikayla

I am a 5'2" girl living in my 6'2" husband's world and loving EVERY second of it! I am the proud dog mom to our beautiful Corgi Australian Shepherd mix, Kobe. (Lovingly named by my hubs after his favorite LA Lakers Basketball legend Kobe Bryant.) I am the physical embodiment of the precise and vibrant intersection where the right brain meets the left. I am an introverted extrovert...or was it extroverted introvert?! I live for good music, challenging books, ALL forms of the glorious and ever-versatile potato, any DIY project that requires a big-girl powertool, daily quotes from The Office, every home reno show that exists on a streaming service, and moments in time that are filled by nothing but loud, lawless laughter.

Learn more about Mikayla
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Recent Comments

  1. This can be so helpful on many different levels. Whether it is a spouse, family member or friend! We can always be supportive!

  2. LOVE that there are articles and resources out there like this one!!!! Addiction like this is becoming more and more common and I LOVE that help AND hope is available.

  3. Cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this must be to navigate for BOTH spouses involved. Thanks for writing such a helpful post!

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