07062008071 © by gurms

If you’ve just discovered your spouse’s porn habit, you are probably angry and hurt.  If, despite that, you are wondering how to help your spouse overcome the habit and move forward, here are some steps you can take.

STEP 1: START WITH REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS.   There are a few things you can do in this situation and a lot of things you can’t do, because most of what needs to be done is up to your partner.

You can:

  • Point out to your spouse that his or her pornography use is unhealthy and unfaithful.
  • Express your feelings about your partner’s porn.
  • Recommend resources like this site, and suggest counseling and recovery programs.
  • Ask your spouse to stop.
  • Provide support and encouragement during the recovery process.

You can’t:

  • Make your partner quit.
  • Fix, heal, or otherwise change your spouse.
  • Serve as your partner’s only counselor, listener, or source of guidance.
  • Hold yourself responsible for your spouse’s struggles, setbacks, or relapses.
STEP 2: EDUCATE YOURSELF. As with any chronic illness affecting a family members, you should try to develop a working understanding of your spouse’s illness and its treatment options.  This will help you be a more knowledgeable, savvy source of support and give you some basis for evaluating what your partner tells you.  Understanding how addiction works may also help you in processing your own feelings about your spouse’s actions.  Learning about the implications of this disease can also empower you to make informed decisions about your own well-being if necessary.

STEP 3: TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE.  This is the really hard part.  You are probably still very angry and very deeply hurt, and our natural reaction in such an emotional situation is to yell.  Personally, my natural reaction is to yell a lot, but that is not a productive approach.

While you would be well within your rights to vent your anger at your spouse, yelling is not likely to get your point through to your partner.  Is your goal to vent your anger, or is your goal to get a particular response from your partner (an admission of guilt, an apology, corrective action, or another constructive response)?  If you want your partner to understand your feelings, recognize the problem, and address it, a calmer approach will be more effective.

With this advice for staging a constructive confrontation in mind, you will need to:

  • Let your spouse know that you are aware of his or her activities.  Be specific, as opposed to making vague references.
  • Express your feelings about these activities.  Are you angry?  Are you hurt?  Do you feel betrayed?  Do you find pornography sickening?  Do you question your attractiveness?  Tell your partner these things, as calmly as you can.
  • Make clear to your spouse that you consider pornography use unacceptable in the relationship you share.
  • Ask your partner why he or she has done these things.  This may give you useful information, and it may give your spouse something to think about.
STEP 4: RECOMMEND RECOVERY RESOURCES. If your partner is going to successfully give up porn and move forward, he or she will need help, more than you alone can provide.  Recommend that your spouse seek counseling or therapy to help deal with the issues that led to the pornography use, its negative impact, and the process of quitting and recovery.  Remind your partner that there is no shame in seeking treatment for an addiction or any other mental health issue, just as there is no shame in seeking treatment for a virus or a broken arm.12-Step and other kinds of recovery program are available in most areas, by phone, or online.  Encourage your spouse to seek out one of these programs and participate actively and regularly if possible.  If your partner is reluctant, encourage him or her to at least try the program with an open mind.

STEP 5: FOLLOW UP.

Recovery is a lifelong process, and your spouse will need your love, support, and encouragement for much longer than this initial phase, although the initial phase is crucial.  As a partner, your role in this process is important, and there are things you can do to help support your spouse’s recovery.

  • Check in with your partner periodically.  Ask how he or she is feeling, how counseling or the recovery program is going, and how he or she believes that he or she is doing with the recovery process (try to be casual and interested, rather than confrontational or nosy, and be sure you ask at at a good time).  Ask him or her to share insights or things that he or she is learning in these programs.
  • Take care of yourself.  Remember that you will be dealing with many negative feelings as a result of your spouse’s actions.  A professional counselor or therapist can help you cope with these feelings, process and express your anger in healthy ways, and repair the damage to your self-esteem.  Your partner is not the only one with a process of recovery ahead.
  • Focus on the positive when possible.  If your partner has been “clean” for a period of time, progressed in his or her treatment program, or made another positive change, make a special effort to express that you notice and appreciate the progress.  Tell your spouse that you are proud of him or her.  It will encourage your partner and help remind you that he or she is working hard and improving.
  • Hold your spouse accountable, and protect yourself.  Secrets and barriers are unhealthy in any marriage, but they are dangerous in a marriage affected by sex addiction.  Establish a relationship of transparency and openness with your partner: exchange passwords, and agree to allow each other full access to each other’s phones and computers. This will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing what your partner is really doing, and it will give your spouse the accountability he or she will need as part of the recovery process.
  • Create a healthy environment.  One of the most helpful things you can do for your partner in a concrete, practical way is to give him or her a home environment which is as free as possible of unhealthy sexual images or potential triggers.  Work with your spouse to block unhealthy content on your family’s computers and TV, and be careful about the media you bring into the home; avoid movies with scantily clad characters or heavily sexual scenes, etc.  You can also help head off the boredom and loneliness that sometimes trigger the addiction cycle by doing fun, healthy things with your partner.