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Christian porn addiction help – Should I tell my wife?

Christian porn addiction help – should I tell my wife?

My first response is ‘yes’.
My second response is ‘maybe’.
My third response is ‘never’.

Christian marriage as described in Genesis

Please let me explain.  A Christian marriage is supposed to be a loving, co-participating, and supportive union of two becoming one. My guess is that if you are having a porn addiction problem, then your marriage isn’t where it needs to be and not the way God intended. In the garden of Eden, the Bible describes Adam and Eve’s relationship in Genesis 2:24-25.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Forgiveness is part of deep intimacy.  God ‘s intention for us has always been a deep, unrestricted intimacy with Him and each other, with no walls between us. The reference above describes man and woman as one, no walls up, knowing and sharing all things with one another. When we screw up, we are to address our mistakes toward one another and inject the concept of forgiveness and continue to grow together.  If we are truly accountable to our marriage, there would be no secrets, no shame (hidden past) would exist within the hidden fiber of our beings.

Divorce and average Christian marriages

Now, let’s face the reality of our times and look at an average Christian marriage relationship. The divorce rate is very high in America. Much evidence shows that Christian relationships end in about the same rate as non-Christians. However, frequent attending church goers have a better chance of staying married, than do the occasional church goers.

Married adults now divorce two-and-a-half times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as they did 50 years ago… between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce. The probability within… the first five years is 20%, and the probability of its ending within the first 10 years is 33%… Perhaps 25% of children ages 16 and under live with a stepparent.

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Women see pornography = an affair

Understanding that is hard enough to survive in a marriage, it would probably be helpful to know that for many women the idea of pornography is just as bad as having an affair. The deception, despair, and devastation of this kind of news is demeaning, embarrassing and debasing. Trust will be a huge issue to address and overcome for the future for the sake of the relationship. Giving the wife a platform to express her emotions may be vital for healing to take place within the marriage. Professional help is advised.

Get guidance before confessing to your wife

My suggestion is to confront the issue of porn addiction with wisdom. From a counseling standpoint, I would rather have a client come in and address the addiction and ask for guidance than to first confront the wife with the raw facts that might blow her out of the water. It is not my intention to be the judge and jury for any man, but from my experience, spouses handle news very differently. Before addressing such issues, I believe It is important to consider the guidance of other Christians to gain wisdom from the Word on approaching this whole issue.

If a wife has shown verbal abuse or a lack of forgiveness abilities toward her husband in the past, then a careful approach is warranted. Depending on the state of the marriage and the family situation this kind of information could add additional elements to consider. The marriage might not survive without having a third party (counselor) to mediate the confession.

If a wife has shown a past history of being able to forgive and move on, then a straight forward confession might be best. If a husband is comfortable to follow the principles of the Bible (When you have wronged one another, go quickly to resolve and ask forgiveness, confessing your sins), then telling the wife in this scenario might be the best approach. Together, they can work through the struggles and plan a strategy to restore the husband, his addiction and their marriage.

Strengthen marriage with openness

A few years ago, I advised a client to bring in his wife and we would address the pornography issues. He refused to follow my advice. His fear of shame was too great for him to face. Eventually his wife found out everything on her own, and felt very deceived. She didn’t want anything to do with him or counseling, especially after he confessed seeking counseling and did not tell her. He lied week after week about where he was going, so she concluded he had been lying during their whole 12 years of marriage (which was true). She soon filed for divorce.

Without the kind of nakedness (openness) described in Genesis, any couple will struggle to develop a marriage to the level of intimacy that God intended.

At the beginning of this article, I said yes, maybe, and never to telling a wife about a pornography addiction. I say it depends on each individual situation. Things to consider are:

• Do you want the best God has for you for your marriage?

• Are you willing to address the issues and become naked and not ashamed?

• How will she respond when she finds out and you didn’t tell her?

• Do you truly need help from a counselor to address the addiction and confession?

I would love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment below.  Next time I’ll will address 7 Christian strategies to prevent pornography addiction.

Reference sources:
[1] —Brian K. Williams, Stacy C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2005

Photo credit: mynameisanna

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28 Responses to “Christian porn addiction help – Should I tell my wife?
Louis
3:55 pm February 1st, 2011

Hi Steve. Do you think that I should keep trying to reconcile with my wife if we don’t have that intimacy or trust you are talking about? What should I do if I want to cultivate this?

Steve
10:42 pm February 3rd, 2011

Hi Louis,
As long as there is a chance for reconciliation, then there is hope that the intimacy and trust can be developed, and ultimately, what God has intended for both of you in your relationship.

I have a worksheet that could be a great starting point for cultivating this kind of relationship. If you are interested, you can send me a quick email and a few more details of what is going on currently, and I will be happy to send you the worksheet with instructions.

Be blessed.

Guyser
3:52 pm February 5th, 2011

Porn addiction is a hard thing to deal with. Unlike substance addiction, porn addiction is strictly a pyschological dependency and it makes people feel weak because they feel that they should be able to control it. When a wife is involved, the more open the relationship the better. As a couple, you can probably cope with the problem a lot easier.

Steve
10:45 pm February 12th, 2011

Guyser,
That is so true.
It’s been my experience that wives who really want a great marriage will go the extra mile to do whatever it takes.

Sarah
6:15 pm March 20th, 2011

Everytime I bring up what I have found, he turns it back on me

Sarah
6:17 pm March 20th, 2011

PS, how do you know if it is an addiction and how can I tell if he is not doing it? He gets so md when I bring it up. He says I am making it up. He has, in the past gone to adult sex date sites. he said it didnt mean anything.

Worried
12:54 pm March 28th, 2011

I had been freed from my porn addiction for a long time, then it came up again.. It’s been going on for over a year now, with my shame and fear of hurting her keeping me from sharing it with my wife, with whom I normally share a deep intimate relationship with. How do I tell her that I have been keeping this from her again?

David Lee
3:31 am May 20th, 2011

When your wife has a headache or is tired or whatever, all but four times a year, and she is shocked that you look at porn, you are the one at fault, you should be strong, resist that urge. Right?

mommajones
10:15 am May 22nd, 2011

Hello Dr. Jackson,
I have “caught” my husband watching porn, once accidently, he left the page open and any of the kids could have walked by and seen it!! I was furious. He now has a phone that can get any site and it’s my suspicion that he has gone from the computer to the phone to look at porn. I am deeply hurt. I wish he would just tell me. For one thing, our level of communiction with each other is nil, even on the small stuff. But another thing complicating things is that he hasn’t physically touched me in 10 years (1/2 our marriage). What to do? Help

Steve
9:42 pm June 2nd, 2011

Sarah,
He is most likely using coping and distracting tactics to keep you from the truth. If that is true, it will take you catching him and confronting him with his addiction. You can check out my website at 12dayrehab.com and check out the self-test for him. Unfortunately, you may not be able to answer the many questions for him if he has keep things from you successfully.
Remember, it is the shame that he lives in that will keep him in denial and from getting help.

Steve
9:54 pm June 2nd, 2011

Mommajones,
Unfortunately, for sex addicts, they will find very clever ways to keep things hidden. If you haven’t been intimate for 10 years and your communication is nil, then I would suggest that if you want to continue your marriage, but in a healthy fashion, then you need professional marriage counseling.

Sex addicts (pornography addictions) stay in fantasy realms to keep their addiction going. He is probably bonded to that fantasy realm which for him means it is safe and no chance for rejection.

Addressing feelings is very difficult for some people and the idea of dealing with his shame of pornography will probably only be addressed in counseling. I would suggest you don’t stress over his behavior of acting out and be willing to address the deeper problem of the marriage. If you don’t, then you must be willing to settle for the current condition and status

Steve
10:00 pm June 2nd, 2011

Worried,
“The truth will set you free”. The only way for you to deal with the addiction is to get help. I would suggest you get professional counseling and let that person guide you when and if the time is right to share with your wife.

I realize it is very hard for most to expose their shame. However, eventually, she will catch you and will feel greatly deceived and may really struggle to forgive you.
My urge quickly dissipates for pornography when my marriage is right.

Necessary?
9:09 pm June 21st, 2011

Should I confess to my wife that I looked at porn for a short period of time? It was about a year ago the last time I looked at anything, went on for a few months and I will never do it again. I saw immediately the destruction that came to my family, especially in the area of finances. To her, money is security and that is where God punished me for my actions (checks would bounce, etc because I spent time looking at porn and not paying bills). Recently she decided that she wants a divorce (though we have battled a divorce for over ten years). She has sought out male friends three different times with two different men. I feel like as priest of the house I opened the door to her to be tempted and she took the bait.

Six months ago, she removed me as her facebook friend and three months ago changed her status from married to nothing. She now goes out all the time with her unsaved friends to restaurants and bars and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.

I am just struggling with this because I have truly repented to God for what I have done. I turned away from that and am not tempted to go back and I choose not to lust after anyone.

I looked at porn because the women were WILLING and my wife was not. It was never about how less beautiful she is compared to them because she is a gorgeous woman. She would hold out on me for months at a time because I didn’t pay bills or bounce checks or get things shut off.

I don’t know if I even need to tell her at all since I have recently come back to a rededication to God. I don’t know if it is Satan trying to get me to put the last nail in the coffin of my marriage or God prodding me to get everything out in the open. She is a stone wall to me right now. She has probably done some things wrong here also that I don’t know about. I know that I probably don’t want to hear about those things. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So do I need to tell her and blow out a marriage just to make MYSELF feel better? I will never go back to that lifestyle. I hurt ME.

Josh
10:40 pm August 28th, 2011

My wife knows I have a porn addiction and I try not to look at it, but when I do mess up and give in I always feel like I should tell my wife but she gets so mad and stops talking to me for a day or two but then she just cries about not being able to trust me for the next week. I really want to stop and have the best marriage I can with my wife. Should I still tell her when I mess up?

jason
3:53 am September 28th, 2011

I am 26. I have struggled since high school with looking at porn and I have tried to rely on God to take my addiction. I am not currently married. Never come close yet…THANK GOODNESSS. My question is should I seek professional help or continue to strive on? What do you think is the success rate of people that kick the habit with and WITHOUT professional help? I too also suffer from a fear of rejection from not my wife but the woman who will be.

Dr Steve
9:44 pm November 17th, 2011

Jason,
I apologize for not seeing your question and comments earlier.
Professional counseling definitely should help you more. First you could get an assessment and then ask the therapist their time line for counseling. Make sure the counselor has training in gambling addiction and find out if they have experience in treatment. Unfortunately, so many counselors have limited or no experience with addictions, but will try to counsel you anyway. You need someone who understands what you are going through and can guide you through the recovery process.
My best,
Dr. Steve

Josh
8:00 pm November 29th, 2011

I’m currently with my potential wife. I share literally everything I can with her. I told her once that I looked up porn and she put the blame on herself. She said stuff like,”I don’t feel as pretty to you. Am I not pretty enough?” which is not the case at all! I don’t know how to explain the “addiction” without making her feel insignificant. I want to tell her my fault, but I don’t want her to feel like she’s doing something wrong as well. Can you help?

Dr Steve
2:25 am February 1st, 2012

Josh,
Your potential wife sounds like she may suffer from Codependency and a lack of Christ-esteem. (the secular world would say low self-esteem).

I would suggest the idea, if you can afford it, to approach your potential wife to go to Pre-marital counseling and tell the counselor that you both have issues that you are concerned about. You with pornography and her with codependency. If money is an issues, I would suggest self help workbooks for both disorders and make sure you hold each other accountable to finishing the workbooks.

Garry
5:42 am March 20th, 2012

Hi Steve,

I am tired of returning back to the pornsites. We once looked at a pornsite but she told me that it would be good not to watch. I did not go back. But the thing is, most of the time, when we have an argument about a stupid thing, I end up watching porn. I do not like doing it but Do not know how to stop it. I want to tell her on a good and right moment but when it comes, there is something, again about a stupid tiny thing we are arguing about. and I am feeling really guilty not to be able telling her. She is a person who takes things sometimes too personal. How can I tell her?

Dr Steve
8:43 pm March 20th, 2012

A suggestion:

My guess is that your reluctance is more about shame than opportunity. No one loves to expose secrets about themselves when their is a risk of humiliation.

Approach your wife in a sincere and humble manner (look her in the eyes), and share how you sometimes struggle with certain things and tell her you would like her help and for her to try to be understanding. That you want to be honest and share your struggles, but are afraid of her rejecting you or judging you.

Share that together, you feel like she can help you overcome this struggle.

Quite often Garry, women will feel like their husbands are rejecting them when they look at porn, so it is important that you share how you love her the way she is and this is your struggle and has nothing to do with you finding her attractive.

My suspicion is that you are comforting or justifying yourself with porn as a way to cope with your wife not being please with you.

My prayers go out to you my friend.

andy
6:32 pm April 11th, 2012

Steve,

I’ve told my wife before that I’ve looked at porn and she has been totally forgiving and loving. She hasn’t been told the extent of it though- that I’m addicted. We have a great marriage, so far, but I can see that I’m ruining it without her even aware of what’s going on. She’s so amazing and loving and she’ll forgive anything. But I know it still hurts her. Why do I feel the need to view porn and act on those feelings? I’m unable to bring myself to tell her the extent of it- I don’t think that just telling her would change by behavior. Something’s gotta change in me.

3:16 am April 12th, 2012

Hi Andy. I just read a great book that might be able to really help you called : A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction: A Step-by-Step Plan to Rebuild Trust and Restore Intimacy. There are many possible reasons why you return to porn over and over, and one may be the way that you have internalized the mother role in your life. One thing I believe is for certain: the compulsion to act out sexually does not go away unless you work on understanding it and getting to the psychological root of the problem.

Does this help?

brad
10:32 pm April 16th, 2012

Hey Dr Steve,
I couldn’t agree with you more on if its best to tell your wife about porn (yes,maybe,never). In my case its never because my wife doesn’t really try to understand and is not forgiving I have to jump thru hoops for at least a week or two just to have a conversation in any uncomfortable situation. I been married for 3 years now.

I like looking at porn but I am a Christian and its not right for me to carry on doing so I feel convicted to stop. But before I made a choice to stop my wife found the porn I was looking at and is traumatized. She won’t speak she wanted to see all the porn I was looking and I let her didn’t put up a fight because she should know. I told her I’m ashamed and I do apologize and its difficult to talk about. She feels if I never got caught that me being sorry is not sincere. She now wants an email in detail of what I have to say. How do I handle this?

Dr Steve
5:15 am April 17th, 2012

Action speaks louder than words! It’s an old saying, but one that holds up to time. You will have to show her over a period of time that this is your struggle and one that you need help with. That means getting counseling; individual and or group. Show her you are willing to do what ever it takes to resolve her hurt and your addiction.

She will probably be very mistrusting at first and suspicious of your time alone. The more open you are about your struggles the more she will begin to believe you are making the effort for yourself and for your marriage.

Blinded
10:19 pm May 8th, 2012

I recently caught my husband emailing pornographic emails to a woman & after some investigation… I found that he was having a relationship with her. He denies anything physical, but I do not believe him. Once my eyes were open, I noticed some compulsions. I was devastated. I felt like I was going crazy, not myself, obsessed with finding out more information since he just kept on lying and I would catch him in his lies. For the 1st time in my life I felt like weak, I could not function, I had to lean on God 100% because I had no strength on my own. We are seeking counseling now and it is helping me heal. I want to go to a support group but I am not there yet – I am too embarrased. The truth is that, I know in my heart that if he had been honest with me about everything and I mean brutally honest – the trust issues would not be this bad and maybe things would be different but now all I can focus on is how can I get a divorce without my daughter suffering…

FDC
5:36 am May 14th, 2012

Hi Dr. Steve,

I started to experience porn ever since I was a child (through my father). After I gave my life to Christ (9 years ago) I felt the urge to brake the addiction and I was free for over 5 years. I have slowly gave in to the addiction until a point that I can’t control it anymore. I know I need help and I wish I could have a friend or someone that could hold me accountable, however I don’t have anyone close enough or that I can simply trust that could play that role. I thought many times about telling my wife (which is my best friend), but I am not sure how she is going to react. The worst part of this addiciton is that is affecting my life with Christ and my marriage. I don’t know what to do!!! I have tried to fight this addiction by myself and I always have failed. I am in a point that I don’t feel worthy even to ask God for forgiveness. What should I do Dr.?

Anthony R.
2:00 pm August 30th, 2012

May I recommend a book called Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing. It’s for those who are willing to follow a spiritually-based approach to recovery and healing. I’ve followed it and promise that, if you dedicate yourself to the idea of becoming a new person, it will work. However, it will not work if you go at it half-heartedly. I’ve seen people work to complete this for years without dedicating themselves without getting the results they wanted. You have to be ready to change your life, or rather, let Christ change it for you.

Dave
2:12 pm September 2nd, 2012

Hi Steve, my wife and I are separated over a year now. My wife sought attention of a male friend, but I do not believe there was a physical element. Emotional, definitely.He is married and has children.
I have quietly had a porn addiction for years. First it was my wife’s steamy romance novels. And we had some books. I did research on positions and techniques (they worked!), but our personal dynamic wasn’t good. I wanted to confess and get help. The guilt and shame are strong. I was on church council and other postions there, and didn’t want to blow Tue trust people placed on me. But I also didn’t know where to turn..I finally confessed to her durin
g an angry text exchange.Reading your article above on whether to confess, I now think that I did everything wrong. She is the argumentative type. There is nothing not worth arguing over. I was battle weary. I gave her and her young child a home when she was on welfare.and we had 2 more biological children. And I have security issues. Bad combination. I’m living w my parents and she is 30 miles away w our children. Children are very very reserved with me now. They don’t know.

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About Dr. Steve Jackson, DCC

Dr. Jackson received his Doctorate in Christian Counseling from Omega Bible Institute and Seminary in 2009. He developed the Christian recovery treatment programs for Calvary Rehab Center and the Genesis Center for Recovery. He has trained and practiced Christian Counseling in all areas of drug/alcohol/gambling/sex and relationship addictions. He currently has his own web based online program called 12 Day Rehab Systems, designed for those who can work on recovery while maintaining career and family obligations. Dr. Jackson has been clean and sober since 1984. Learn more about Recovery with Dr. Steve.

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