What Porn Does to Relationships Pt. 2

Part 2: A wife examines what porn did to her marriage—and how they found healing.

[Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series. Click here to read the first part, written by Rachel's husband, John.]

A few weeks ago, my husband sat across from me and told me he had betrayed me by looking at porn.

It had happened innocently enough (if that's even possible)—he was surfing and ran across some inappropriate pictures. Stumbling across inappropriate pictures turned into looking for them and then actively seeking out pornography to watch while I was falling asleep in the next room, wondering why my husband hadn't come to bed with me on our four-month anniversary.

Not only was I shocked when he told me, I was also hurt, confused, scared, betrayed and angry. I felt like my world had just been turned upside down; my safety and security were crumbling away. His confession was overwhelming.

Within minutes, the foundation of our marriage was shaken. The trust we had built was destroyed. I no longer felt safe or loved. I was suddenly bombarded with lies—he doesn't find me attractive; it's my fault he strayed; I'm not beautiful; I'm not sexy; I am a horrible wife; I'm a failure; he is stuck with me; he doesn't love me ... these seemed to instantly go from ridiculous to quite possibly true.

Through God's strength (and only through His strength—my first instinct was to withdraw and never trust my husband with my vulnerability again), I met my husband's gaze and told him I forgave him and still loved him. And then we proceeded to talk about the crippling consequences of his actions to our marriage.

The conversation was eye-opening not only about the reality of lust, but also about its devastating effects. While I had known for quite some time that he struggled with lust, I had refused to really admit it to myself and deal with it, assuming it would dissipate with marriage. I didn't understand the reality of lust, and no one had ever openly explained it or been willing to talk about it. Even in the church, it was always glossed over: “Men struggle.” End of story. How far from the truth that is! That day, I listened to my husband tell me that he not only struggled with lust, but was also addicted to sex.

For those like me who don't know what sexual addiction is or how severe it can be, here is a definition. According to allaboutlifechallenges.org, "sexual addiction is, in its simplest form, a normal sex drive that has become obsessive to the point that behavior is out of control. … Sexual addiction can take on many forms, from the use of pornography and masturbation to repeated sexual affairs, patronizing prostitutes, and voyeurism. … The many forms of sexual addiction have one thing in common, the behavior is done in secret, and the sex addict becomes skilled in hiding this secret life from those closest to him."

This isn't just looking at girls in low-cut tops, and it doesn't go away when men can have sex with their wives, as I had assumed. In fact, according to my husband, it has nothing to do with wives and love. Also, what I hadn't understood is that it is an addiction—like alcoholism—and should be taken seriously.

Though I still don’t fully understand sexual addiction and lust, my husband and I talk about it, how he struggles and how it affects me and our relationship. We have both come to realize the importance of open and honest communication with each other, even when it isn’t easy to talk about this struggle. When I go to bed early, I ask him to be careful—a practice he says helps him fight against the temptation. In the morning, I ask him if anything happened the night before. This open communication keeps us accountable to each other; accountability is key in fighting this battle since it brings light to what was hidden. My husband is not only accountable to me, I know that he discusses his struggles with men in his life, which is incredibly valuable, in my opinion, since they can understand the temptation and struggle in a way I simply cannot. The struggle with lust and sexual addiction is not a battle that can be fought alone since sin thrives in darkness; shedding light on the struggle lessens its power.

Not only does open and honest communication help my husband fight this battle, it is also necessary for a healthy marriage. When my husband felt ashamed because of his struggle, he withdrew. Sensing his withdrawal, I would close off as well rather than trying to be open and run up against the wall I felt my husband building. Our lack of openness led to us not sharing life with each other, including not discussing the difficulties and trials we were facing. To be honest, the less we connected and communicated, the less intimate I wanted to be with him. So I wouldn’t initiate sex as much and was more likely to reject his advances, which caused him to not initiate sex as much either. It was a vicious cycle, because the longer we went without having sex, the harder his struggle with lust and sexual addiction became.

The struggle against lust and sexual addiction is serious and certainly not something to blow off or take lightly. It isn’t simple, and it doesn’t go away with marriage and the accompanying sex. It has far-reaching consequences that affect every aspect of life—from the physical to the mental and emotional to the spiritual—and not just for the partner struggling with lust and sexual addiction, but also for the other partner as well. It is a battle to be grappled with that cannot be fought alone. Vulnerability and communication, along with accountability, are crucial since they unite husbands with wives and/or with brothers in Christ that can fight alongside them. But most importantly, we have a fearsome warrior in God, who loves us, provides us with armor to withstand the schemes of the devil, and fights for us. This struggle against lust and sexual addiction is not an easy one, but it can be fought.  

Rachel Buckingham just returned to the States from living in China, where she gained an appreciation for tea while maintaining her love of coffee. She is married, writes freelance, blogs avidly, teaches English, loves connecting with people, and most importantly seeks after God to surrender her life to Him for His glory. Feel free to contact her at Buckingham.rachel@gmail.com or at www.rachelbuckingham.wordpress.com.

171 Comments

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Dan commented…

Pusser, I would respectfully disagree with your ideas on lust. My definition has always been a little less involved and a quick definition from the web says, "having a self-absorbed desire for an object, person, or experience". I think it's naive to think than when a man is viewing porn, lust isn't involved. By it's very nature, it's a completely selfish experience, only focussed on a narrow aspect of a man (his genitals). He's not thinking of the woman who he's watching in the porn, or all the people in his life he's hurting by doing it. That's self-absorbed. Lust shouldn't be limited to the level of addiction--that gives a whole lot of men a free ticket to have whatever perverse thoughts they want to about someone not their wife without labeling it lust.
On the side of grace, I want to say that Christianity shouldn't involve 'working harder'. On the contrary, because of Christ, I am set free. It's HIS strength in my life that gives me victory. Working harder in my own strength will only frustrate and depress me because I am a fallable human being. Only the grace of God can do it.
Finally, I think that many young, Christian women go into marriage without a full understanding of the struggle men face. I think that when he first confessed to her (leaving out the 'ugliness' as he described), he may have given her the impression (as he also thought/hoped) that this was not serious and not to be concerned about. I'll bet she never gave it a second thought and was thoroughly blindsided when he 're' confessed four months later. It's not surprising at all that this shook their trust and marriage.

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Lucy McBees commented…

Thank you for your honesty, courage, and the time you put into this article.I would like to know whether you really feel it in your heart that it is really true. I do not feel it.

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CTR commented…

Tim Herndon

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Tim Herndon commented…

THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR HEART. I NEARLY DESTROYED MY MARRIAGE TO AN AMAZING WOMAN GOD GAVE ME TO LOVE AND ENJOY BECAUSE I DIDN'T REALIZE PORN WAS FUEL FOR IDOLS OF SIGNIFICANCE AND COMFORT IN MY LIFE. I THINK EVERY GUY I'VE EVER MET STRUGGLES WITH ONE OF THE 3 DEEPER IDOLS: 1) SIGNIFICANCE, 2)CONTROL, AND & 3) COMFORT. GOD WILL REWARD YOU FOR CHOOSING TO FIGHT FOR THE MARRIAGE COVENANT THAT HE CREATED AND MADE SACRED. DON'T LISTEN TO THE HATERS - JESUS WARNED US THAT IN THE LATTER DAYS SCOFFERS WILL COME AND SCOFF AT TRUTH. JUST KEEP LOVING JESUS, LETTING HIS SPIRIT GUIDE YOU, AND STANDING ON THE TRUTH OF HIS WORD. :) YOU GUYS ARE IN OUR PRAYERS, SIS. THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR TRUE HOME.

A

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A commented…

He is truly blessed to be with you for being so loyal as you are for having an honest man. I'm struggling with porn and I'm not proud of it. I really want to stop and sometimes I think that when I'm around people I do stop but even so, I end up alone at some point and my purity goes away. I'm utterly disgusted with myself and I can stop if I motivate myself but I don't. Will I ever break this addiction? I really want to.

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